The beaten path

“There is no book or teacher to give you the answers, to show you the path. Choose your own way.”

— Ezio Auditore, in Assassin’s Creed II

So, you guys remember the time I confessed my affection for repacks, right? Well, I was on Black Ninja’s website, as I sometimes am, and I saw . . . well, probably you can guess what I’m about to say, if you followed that link. If you just run the numbers, do the ratio, 4,000 Magic cards for $97 is a ridiculous deal. I’d probably take it right now if I were closer to done sorting my current collection.

There is, as we know, a love-hate relationship with repacks among Magic players. Some people use them to start their collection, but then “graduate” to buying single cards for their decks from retailers. Others ignore them altogether, deriding them for the characteristic lack of power cards (the last large set I bought had not a single copy of Incinerate, an old, often-reissued, and iconic red card); and if they buy unsorted sets at all, it’s only from new sets (ZOMFG Standard!!1). Still others presumably buy them frequently – these people are not represented in the online community, but their existence can be inferred from the fact that so many online retailers offer repacks, and many different kinds of them too.

If that last statement is a surprise to you, try to consider it from such a buyer’s point of view. Someone who had a playgroup that wasn’t interested in tournaments or Standard in general could find this very appealing. To someone who started recently but is interested in Magic’s history, a 4,000 card Black Ninja repack is rather like the TCG equivalent of one of those “Sounds of the 60s” compilation albums. Or maybe – and in this age of economic collapse, I suspect this is more common than any of us think – they’ve had the experience of looking up a card in the Standard section of a site like Troll and Toad, multiplying the price by four, and coming up with a number well over $100. Maybe they’ve gone to buy a “junk” rare after it was mentioned in a casual-play article on a popular website like MagicTheGathering.com or Star City Games, only to find that its price has doubled over the weekend because 15,000 people read the same article they did.

Money is more like time than it is like any commodity or resource: if you enjoyed the result, spending it wasn’t a waste. Which are you likely to enjoy more: four cards that have a “use-by date” in the eyes of the so-called community, or 4,000 cards that, in effect, last for ever?

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