The conflict between the haves and the have-not’s is one that plagues modern capitalist societies. The struggle between those who have everything and want more against those who have little and want a fair share. Within the Magic Community we have a microcosm of this phenomenon and it can be seen in the juxtaposition of two boxed sets which were announced in the past few weeks. The first box is for the elite and the other box is for everyone, and while both are in high demand they help to highlight the plight of the commons.

From the Vault vs. Holiday Box

It never fails. People will always want what they can’t have. When I was young, my parents taught me two valuable lessons about capitalism. First, it’s good to want. It motivates us and drives us to do great things. Some people want power. Some just want to put food on the table. As a twelve year old I just wanted packs of Magic cards. The second lesson was that the value of a thing in a marketplace is what someone else is willing to pay for it. I collected Magic cards, baseball cards, comic books, and so on. Learning the intrinsic value of these objects was important to my parents so that I would make smart decisions.

It’s good to want but it’s not good to act like you’re entitled to the thing that you want. Entitlement is a very real issue within the Magic community and it finds its spotlight in the sunshine of From the Vault: Angels. This is the eighth annual offering of From the Vault, and every year we go through the same song and dance. The suggested retail price for this year’s set, as recommended by Wizards of the Coast, is $34.99. Our local game store here in Brooklyn offered them on a first-come, first-served basis for $79.99, a markup of $45. I don’t know how many they actually had to sell, but 228% is a pretty good mark-up. I also don’t know if $34.99 is what my local game store paid to their distributor.

This seems to be the going rate for this set. The cheapest Buy it Now price on eBay (and granted these are all pre-orders because the set doesn’t go on sale until the 21st) is $74 with free shipping. That’s $5 per card. However, these items tend to be a good investment, because anyone who can’t pony up $80 now is going to be paying much, much more in the future. Here is the current Star City Games value for five of the previous seven sets:

  • FTV: Annihilation – $60
  • FTV: Dragons – $200
  • FTV: Exiled – $250
  • FTV: Legends – $130
  • FTV: Relics – $200

Wizards could set the price at whatever they’d like, and they could print as many of these as they wish, but they choose to print the limited number that they do for two very specific reasons. First, it’s important to them to create products specifically for high-end collectors. Second, it’s important for them to use those products as a way to reward local game stores that have done a good job of promoting the Magic brand. They do not create From the Vault: Angels because they think everyone should have shiny angel cards, or because they think the price of Avacyn or Iona is too high.

From the Vault isn’t for you. It isn’t for the average player or the average collector. It is only for Magic’s very own 1% community. But here’s a product that is for you:


The annual holiday gift box (which I might be buying for a certain nephew this holiday season) will come out sometime in November with an MSRP of $24.99. My local game store will very likely charge me the reasonable price of $24.99 to acquire this box, a value of 100% the original value. Why not the 200%+ markup that From the Vault gets? Because Wizards will be printing tons, and tons, and tons of these. This box is for you, and your friends, and your family, and literally everyone you know who is interested in Magic. It may not be full of shiny angels but it has five booster packs (a value of $19.95 on its own) along with the box, dividers, a sticker sheet, and an alternate-art promo.

But no one really gets excited for the gift box. They don’t want the gift box. They’ll buy it because it’s a good value, and because it does in fact make a great gift. But what they really tell themselves that they want is From the Vault, or the San Diego Comic Con planeswalkers, or the RPTQ Liliana of the Veil, or GURU lands. Everyone wants what they can’t have and no one is happy with what they get. Welcome to Magic’s own little microcosm of capitalism at-large.

One final note, so that no one thinks I would extend this logic past Magic the Gathering. Playing Magic and owning Magic cards is an incredible privilege. Though a set like  From the Vault is only for the Magic Community’s very own economic elite, virtually all Magic players come from their own society’s economic elite classes. Getting your grubby hands on some shiny angels because you want them is in no way, shape, or form anything remotely close to social welfare programs which are necessary to help poor people get what they are actually entitled to.

Entitlement is a complicated thing in the real world, but in the Magic Community it is very easy to paint a picture. Everyone is entitled to the Magic Gift Box. Not everyone is entitled to From the Vault.

But it’s good to want.

The Quick Hits

  • Mark Nestico shares some life lessons for the uninitiated among us. Basically a few helpful tips for new players [Star City Games]
  • Mike Linnemann presents the complete list of Magic cards that produce tokens for which no physical token has yet been printed [Gathering Magic]
  • The Community Cup 2015 teams have been revealed and there are two, count them, two girls on each side [Daily MTG]
  • John Dale Beety talks about the realities of turning your hobby into your career (I can relate somewhat) [Star City Games]
  • Ant Tessitore takes a deeper look at the changes to Magic storytelling that were unveiled at SDCC [Gathering Magic]
  • Some simple but sage advice from Ryan Overturf on making sure you can uniquely identify your Magic collection in the event of theft [Quiet Speculation]
  • Travis Woo shares the personal saga of his Magic Pro Tour origins alongside his older brother [Channel Fireball]

Wallpaper of the Week

It’s nice to see Nissa getting a more well-defined character with actual stories other than “that mage who ruined Zendikar.” Animating the land was kind of Koth’s thing before it was Nissa’s but since Koth has been AWOL for some time I think it’s fine to have Nissa fill that role and it makes more sense in green anyways. This piece is nice because it shows a more mature and well-rounded Nissa who better understands her responsibilities and her mission to save her plane.

Grade: B

What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

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