I sure hope so. Oh, hello, and welcome back to Conjured Currency, the MTGFinance article for socialists. This week we’re going to talk about the new Challenger Decks and how they’re the greatest thing for hashtag-em-tee-gee-finance-haters since Modern Masters.

First off, check out the official announcement of the decks over at the mothership (does anyone else still call it that). The four decks will MSRP for $29.99 which immediately got the #mtgfinance community in an uproar. Why? Because the secondary market value of the decks was much higher than that.

Thanks to this sweet infographic we can see that the secondary value of the four decks when they were announced was roughly $80~$100. As of Tuesday morning, a few days later, the prices haven’t dropped too much, but they’re certainly coming down. So should we be excited? Wizards is basically selling us $80 worth of cards for $30. Thanks?

I like these decks. I think the concept is sound and in-line with our principles. We want more people to have access to Magic cards without having to rely on random booster products or their ability to trade, or access to an economic status that’s otherwise out of their control. Creating a product with a fixed price that gives a fixed set of cards is a solid start.

But we have one problem: Why stop at $80?

This is where, once again, the secondary market and the world of #mtgfinance becomes a problem. Wizards is willing to undermine the market, but only to a certain extent. Why not put four copies of Hazoret into a deck? Why not three? One copy of Fatal Push? Really?

It’s disappointing to see underpowered decks be marketed, once again, as competitive. Are they good? Maybe. A few years ago Wizards released the Modern Event Deck which similarly had a market value well over its MSRP. When tested against a real Modern metagame however, the deck showed that it was at best mediocre, and that was even with roughly another deck’s worth of money put into it.

So for $30 Wizards is selling you the first hit and getting you into competitive Magic. You take the deck to Friday Night Magic. You lose all your matches but you have fun. So you cough up $20 to buy a second copy of Hazoret, and things get a bit better.

Eventually you have built the entire $300 Mono-Red Aggro deck and you only had to spend $250 to do it because you got $80 of value out of the Challenger Deck! You’re winning aren’t you? Didn’t think about it that way, did you?

I’m not going to tell you not to buy these decks, but I will tell you that if you want to play competitive Standard at a high level, these decks are not likely to get you there without a significant financial investment to “complete” the deck. If your goal is to collect cards for Commander or to build Cubes then you’re probably going to be a big fan of Wizards attempt to undercut the market here. Otherwise, maybe not so much.

Could Wizards sell a $300 deck for $150? It’s basically the same amount of value-to-cost but the effect would likely be very different if the Hazoret deck had four copies of Hazoret instead of just one. Wizards could, but they won’t, and the reason why is a topic for another day, but here’s the main point:

Game stores cannot survive on the sale of sealed product alone and instead rely very heavily on the buying and selling of singles. Products like the Challenger Decks intentionally only provide a fraction of a deck because they allow stores to facilitate the secondary market that keeps them in business. So Wizards is left in the unenviable position of wanting to balance their attempts to undermine investors who needlessly inflate the cost of entry into the game against the very real threat that reprints pose to the sustainability of your local game store.

So, buy the decks, if you want them, and please buy them from your local shop so you can support small business. But don’t fall under the delusion that these products are somehow actually undermining the secondary market or creating an actual competitive starting point into Standard because neither of those is true.

Rich Stein is a retired Magic player, an amateur content creator, and a Level 2 Social Justice Sorcerer. He hopes to eventually become a professional content creator and a Level 20 dual class Social Justice Sorcerer/Bard but he’s more than content to remain a retired Magic player. You can follow his musings on Twitter @RichStein13.

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