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By: Cauchy, Cauchy
Jun 24 2015 12:00pm
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The other side of constructed prizes

The problem

A recurring issue for MTGO that frustrates players is the prize support. Naturally, players do not complain when the expected value (EV) of playing in a sanctioned tournament is satisfying or high. The problem is that the stale prize support system frequently renders some formats unplayable based on the EV. Furthermore, there is cyclicality in the EV which makes the problem predictable and therefore even more frustrating. If poor prize support and low EV can be predicted then why is it not being addressed by WotC?

The unwillingness of WotC to handle the prize support issues more dynamically stands in contrast to the number of suggested solutions posed by the community. Most of these suggestions have been repeated multiple times over the years. However, usually the problem is analyzed from the perspective of the constructed prize support. A simplified version of the problem could then be stated as: Sometimes pack prices become very low. Constructed tournaments pay out in packs. When pack prizes are low the EV of constructed tournaments becomes so low that it makes little sense to play.

The suggested solutions focus on how you can increase the EV, most commonly by increasing the secondary market price of the packs. Alternatively, WotC have called for suggestions for non-pack prizes. And the community has again suggested a range of non-pack prize solutions, so far without any significant change to the prize support system, although the renaming of phantom points to player points is the start of something. Whatever that is?

However there is a downside to the most popular suggestions for improved constructed prize support. The downside is that it will be the limited players who pay for the higher EV. Or that is what I will try to argue in the rest of the article.

Below I will address some basic issues that you need to consider before suggesting a new prize system for constructed; of course that is if you do not want the limited player to pay the price/prize. The following suggestions are the most persistent and they all come with a downside for limited players:

  •          Generic boosters
  •          3 tix floor on pack value
  •          Use boosters as entry fee
  •          Physical redemption of packs
  •          Point system or prize walls
  •          Tix prizes

 

The connection between online and paper set values

Card and pack prices are determined by supply and demand. Although true, that is not a very informative statement.

The most direct link between paper and online magic is redemption of a complete set. For a fee of $25 you can redeem a complete online set for the same physical set (plus some shipping costs). When people use redemption it is because it is cheaper to collect the set online and redeem it than it is to buy it directly in paper from a vendor or eBay or etc. You could also imagine the other situation that the value of the online set was higher than the paper set. Then people would not redeem. Instead you could sell your set for tix and then sell tix for offline cash through an online trustworthy person. And if you still wanted the offline cards, you would then buy it for cash and still have some cash left.

The current situation is that people do redeem cards. The cards are cheaper online for a set than for the same paper cards. This creates a link between the paper value of a set and the online value of a set (for those sets that are currently redeemable). The link is fairly simple:

Value of paper set = value of set online + redemption fee + something extra

If this was not true but you instead had a ‘>’ then someone could buy the cards online and redeem them and then sell them on eBay. They would then earn a premium slightly larger than the ‘something extra’ in the equation. The ‘something extra’ in the equation is the shipping costs and the minimum amount that you would like to earn for your trouble of doing this. The shipping costs can in principle be neglected because it is a fixed cost and not a cost per set. So if you just redeem enough sets they will not matter all that much.

To illustrate the effect I have collected some set prices and the selling costs on eBay. I collected them on the 14th of March, 2015, so they are not up to date, but that is also not the point (this other article also compares MTGO to eBay prices and explains the redemption process in more detail than what I do here).

 

Online

Paper

 

 

Set

Tix

Paypal

SCG

Ebay

Profit

Return%

BNG

68.25

64.84

149.99

107.99

18.15

0.17

FRF

100.25

95.24

249.99

143.99

23.75

0.16

JOU

107.68

102.30

159.99

150.99

23.69

0.16

KTK

72.80

69.16

249.99

123.99

29.83

0.24

M15

141.97

134.87

349.99

174.99

15.12

0.09

THS

104.99

99.74

299.99

140.00

15.26

0.11

 

I have taken the set values from MTGOtraders.com in tix and then if you buy with paypal. The difference corresponds to a value of $0.95 per tix. Then for comparison I have taken set value (selling price) from SCG and then the cheapest set value (sealed box from WotC) that I could find on eBay. It is not guaranteed that all of the eBay prices are trustworthy (unfortunately). So if you buy with paypal, then redeem, and then sell the set on eBay, you would make the profit which I list (I have subtracted the redemption fee). You then have to factor in the shipping costs and potentially also some sales tax. These two things should be covered by the profit you would otherwise generate. This analysis is very US centric, but that is because redemption works best (cheapest) within the US. Depending on state you would pay a 15% tax. With these extra costs the difference in value between online redeemable set and offline paper cards become very small. It seems to be a competitive market with little net profit.

The conclusion that I want to draw from this is that the online set value is determined by the paper value. The causality could also go the other way, that online set prices determine offline paper prices. But I will assume that this is not the case. The offline magic economy dwarfs the online economy so much that the paper market dominates. This could also be seen when the redemption fee was increased from $5 to $25. The fee increase caused the online sets to decrease in value (when comparing equal sets with high and low redemption fee). It did not increase the price of offline sets.

 

Decomposing the value of an online booster pack

Before I return to the suggested prize solutions, we also need to agree on the value of a booster pack. The value of a booster can be decomposed into two elements (for this analysis or else you could probably do even more elements):

Booster price = expected value of the cards + something extra

You can basically do two things to consume a booster. You could open it and get the cards or you can use it in limited play. In both cases you would get the cards from the booster. Since the cards have value (ultimately derived from the redemption possibility, although they would also have value without the redemption possibility - but a different value!) this is part of the value of the booster. Limited player also get to have some fun and a chance to earn prizes. This increases the value of the boosters above the expected value of the cards. This is what I call ‘something extra’ in the equation.

Note that the ‘something extra’ is a price paid by limited players. It is a cost of playing limited over and above the 2 tix entry fee. If we forget that you are willing to pay for the entertainment then you can only recover the ‘something extra’ if you win more packs than you use. You need to have a pack surplus from playing limited (not generated from constructed) in order to profit from the ‘something extra’. Hence, those players who are infinite and with a pack surplus from limited thus benefit from the ‘something extra’. For the rest of us it is an additional cost of playing limited.

It is easy to calculate the expected value of opening a pack and from that we can deduct the value of the ‘something extra’. Below I calculate the expected value of the cards from a booster by multiplying average set value of mythics, rares, uncommons, and commons with the probability with which they appear (this creates at least a couple of errors. First, I do not consider foils. Second, you cannot open two identical non-foil uncommons or common, which my calculation implicitly assumes. Third, I also ignore that you can get fetch lands in a FRF booster. Finally, I use MTGOtraders.com sell prices as of June 16th).

 

 

M15

DTK

FRF

KTK

JOU

BNG

THS

Retail price

2.91

3.32

1.71

1.99

3.37

1.82

1.09

Card EV

1.21

1.29

0.83

1.07

1.66

0.73

0.76

Limited premium

1.70

2.03

0.88

0.92

1.71

1.09

0.33

 

What I call the ‘limited premium’ in the table is the same as what is called ‘something else’ in the equation. The table illustrates why you should never crack open a booster outside a limited event. If you do that you should on average expect to lose the ‘limited premium’. But if you really like opening boosters then go for the THS. The equation could now be restated as:

Booster price = expected value of the cards + limited premium

Below is the value of the FRF booster over time. Mid-April 2015, the payout in certain constructed events switched from DTK to FRF. This had an impact on the supply of the FRF boosters and the price felt as can be seen in the graph. The value went from around $4 to $1.8 after 2 weeks.

FRF booster price 

Fig 1: FRF booster price

However, the drop in value was not related to the set value of FRF. Whereas the drop in booster value is around 50%, the drop in set value is only around 8%.

 

Fig 2: FRF set price

The increased supply of FRF decreased pack value or pack price without affecting the expected value of the cards opened all that much. At the same time the change in constructed payout increased the price of the DTK packs without affecting the DTK set value all that much.

Fig 3: DTK booster price

 

 

Fig 4: DTK set price

Between mid-April and the start of May the set value slightly decrease despite the shift in supply (that is a new-set thing where the new set is over-valued initially). The value of the booster hit bottom mid-April at around $2.5 and then increased shortly after the shift in constructed prize structure to $4.0.

The lesson from these kinds of prize shifts is that the set value, which is almost the same as expected value of the cards opened in the booster, is not very correlated with the corresponding booster price. When the online supply goes up or down as with the FRF and DTK packs it affects the pack value online (no surprise). But is does not affect set value because the set value is linked to or derived from the paper value (plus redemption costs). The result is that the shift in supply affects the ‘limited premium’ from the above equation. The ‘limited premium’ for FRF packs went down and it went up for DTK packs (whether or not they balanced out in this specific case is irrelevant for the analysis below).

 

Suggested solutions for fixing constructed prizes

I want to use 2 assumptions in the following analysis. These are the assumptions:

1) Online set values derive from paper values through redemption.

2) Limited players pay a ‘limited premium’ for boosters which is the part of the booster price that does not come from the expected card value. The premium is a cost to limited players unless you accumulate a surplus of boosters (and not many… if any… players do just that from limited).

I have tried to motivate these two assumptions in the above analysis. But they are still assumptions and not formally proven or something like that. Of course if you disagree with my assumptions then tell me where I go wrong?

Next I am going to argue that most suggestions which have been put forward to fix constructed prizes will have the effect of increasing pack prices. But the increase will stem from an increase in the ‘limited premium’. Constructed players should then be happy but it will increase the cost of playing limited, again, this is because set values will be more or less fixed.

Let us look at the suggestions in turn:

 

3 tix floor on pack value

The suggestion is that WotC should buy back any pack for 3 tix. Since they have sold it for $4 then they still make a profit and it increases the value of constructed prizes. There is nothing sacred about 3 tix as the lower floor it could be Z tix instead. The lower floor should just be large enough so that maybe 2-mans constructed queues would fire regularly which they do not with a prize pack price below 2 tix (no wonder). The suggestion is easy to implement and you would of course never see a pack trading on the secondary market below the floor. A common modification of this suggestion is that WotC would only buy back packs which are currently trading in the store (the redeemable sets). Since constructed events usually pay out in these boosters this would be sufficient to keep constructed players happy. Having WotC buying back 10th edition boosters would not do anything to constructed prizes anyway.

However, who will pay the price of a 3 tix floor on boosters? Maybe WotC unless you make some argument about that it will increase sales/event participation beyond the cost of buying back the boosters. However, if we still believe in the initial 2 assumptions, then the 3 tix floor will not change set values, because set values are determined by paper prices. Therefore the increase in pack price (for those boosters which used to trade below the floor) has to come from an increase in the ‘limited premium’. The lower floor will increase the cost of limited events and decrease the EV.

The conclusion is then that the lower floor on booster prices will harm the limited players.

 

Generic boosters

“Why do I get these cheap boosters when there are these other packs trading at a far higher price? It is frustrating that WotC do not shift to the booster pack with the higher value. A solution could be that you get to pick the booster that you want to have when you win Z boosters. Then you could pick the booster with the highest price (if you are smart) or the one that you need (if you are less smart). This is equivalent to generic boosters or interchangeable boosters. Again this could be implemented to only be generic for the booster currently in store (excluding X-Masters set). What will happen if we get generic boosters? People will use the generic booster in place of the highest valued booster (which is the same as an increase in supply for the high value booster) and there will be less supply of the low value booster. The lower supply will happen because some of the events which used to pay out in low value boosters are now paying out in generic boosters (which are converted to something else than the low value pack). In equilibrium all the boosters which the generic pack could substitute for will have the same value.

If we again assume that this will not change the set values then it will change the ‘limited premium’. Some of the limited will increase while others will decrease. In the end we cannot say that the limited players are better or worse off.

What would the equilibrium price of a booster then be? It would be a value in between the highest valued booster and the lowest valued booster. Using the same booster prices as in the table above then it would be something in between $1.09 and $3.37. It will almost certainly be strictly lower than the $3.37. Whether this is a good solution or not depends on the exact level which will be attained in equilibrium. But there have been points in time during recent years where all booster prices were below $3. The equilibrium price with a generic booster would then also be below $3. It is not clear to me that a pack price so low would satisfy constructed players even if they did get a generic booster. It would probably be a good start but not a final solution and not a solution at all to low pack values.

 

Use boosters as entry fee

“Why do we need to pay tix to enter an event? The store value of a tix is $1 and the store value of a booster is $4. Then why can we not choose between these two alternatives when paying for entering a tournament since they both have a fixed store price? Maybe the suggestion could be modified so that you also pay a conversion fee, so that the implicit value of a booster would be $3 when used as an entry fee etc.

Say that boosters could be used as an entry fee instead of tix. You would then choose to use the least expensive option so if tix was the cheapest option then we would all use tix. In that case boosters as entry fees would never be used and it would have no effect (and would not solve anything?). If boosters were the cheaper option then we would use boosters to pay the entry fee. This would increase the value of a booster up to the point where we would be indifferent between tix and boosters once more. This last statement is a little too strict. If boosters increase in value because they can be used as entry fees then equilibrium could be a price which is lower than at the point where we would be indifferent to using tix.

But no matter how big the increase in booster price would end up being then there would need to be an increase in booster value for this suggestion to satisfy constructed players. If booster values stay the same then you have not achieved an increase in constructed prize payout. The increase in booster value could come because boosters as an entry fee will consume some packs thereby lowering the supply for limited play. But in either case the price increase for a booster would come from the ‘limited premium’ not from an increase in expected card value. Therefore the limited players would still pay the price for increased constructed prize value.

 

Physical redemption of booster

Another away to increase booster prices is to allow for physical redemption of boosters. The usual counterargument is that it will interfere with the vendor system for paper products. I don’t agree with this argument. But let us try to look at a different counterargument for physical redemption. In-print paper booster boxes sell for $99.99 at large vendors. You then get 36 boosters. So the value of a single booster is down to $2.78. If you on top of that add a redemption fee and shipping costs, the value becomes even lower. If the redemption fee for a booster box is also $25 then in order to match the $99.99 you would need to buy the 36 boosters online for $99.99-$25 = $74.99 which would give an online pack price of $2.08. Hence, physical redemption would give a floor to the price of boosters but the floor would be lower than 2.78 or maybe as low as 2.08. This floor is simply too low to satisfy constructed players or move constructed prizes.

On top of this, if physical redemption did increase pack prices then it would be the ‘limited premium’ component that would increase and not the value of cards opened. So in the end it would still be a cost for limited players.

 

Point system or prize walls

Constructed events could pay out in player points instead of booster packs. The player points could then be redeemed for singles (cool cards), boosters, or whatever you can imagine. Collect more player points and redeem for something of higher value. Clearly this could be made into a non-pack prize system and it has been applied to similar games other than Magic. Such a system comes with a set of problems of its own. First and foremost, it is very difficult to come up with enough interesting (tradable) prizes without having their value immediately crashing. But let us ignore this kind of issue for now and look at the limited events.

I will assume that the prize wall system is only in place for constructed events and that limited events continue as we are used to (for simplicity). Once constructed events stop to pay out in boosters then the supply will fall and the price will increase (just like with the DTK boosters from the earlier example). Assuming that set values are fixed by the link to paper prices then the increased booster price will again come from an increase in the ‘limited premium’. A prize wall for constructed would then be a cost for limited players. But what if the prize wall also contained boosters? The supply would still decrease. It would remain unchanged only in the case when picking boosters from the wall is the highest valued option. In that case we are back to a scenario where constructed effectively only pays out in boosters which would be the same as without the prize wall (or the situation with generic boosters). Decreasing booster supply without decreasing limited demand will negatively impact the limited players.

What if limited events also paid out using a prize wall? It would still decrease the supply of boosters thereby increasing the price and the limited premium. You would have to imagine a situation where the prizes from the prize wall had such a high value that it cancelled out the increase in booster pack prices. I have a hard time imagining such a situation? But maybe you can? You could do phantom events with a prize wall, but that would be something completely different from the current system.

 

Tix prizes    

What if constructed events paid out in tix directly instead of booster packs? Rumor has it that this would be in conflict with gambling laws (in important countries = US). I don’t know about that?

It would decrease the supply of boosters but it would also flood the market with tix which would reduce the dollar value of a tix. In the end it is not clear what would happen to the dollar value of a pack. You would need more tix per pack but fewer dollars per tix.

 

Alternative solutions without harming limited players

Even though some of the suggested solutions to fixing constructed prizes have been around for years and years they have never been implemented. The reason could be that Wizards thinks like me and that they do not want to impose additional costs on limited players. Limited players are likely to be a cash cow for Wizards. From a player’s perspective the optimal solution would be Pareto efficient so that no one will be worse off but someone will be better off than before e.g. the constructed players. This could be done by increasing the value of cracking open a pack.

Increasing the expected value of the cards inside the pack is one possibility. This would benefit both limited and constructed players. Another possibility is to attach some other external value to cracking open a booster. The following suggestions are meant to illustrate this (they are not the perfect and ultimate solutions):

 

Reduce the redemption fee

If the redemption fee is reduced the value of the online sets would increase. This is again a consequence of the online set values being linked to paper set values. The higher set value would increase the expected value of the cards inside a booster. That would then give a higher booster price and both limited and constructed players would benefit. This is not really rocket science from the players’ perspective. The question is then if the reduced fee will increase online gaming to such an extent that it would pay for itself. In order words will it result in a profit for Wizards?

 

Player points for cracking open a booster

You can also increase the value of a booster by giving a player point for each time you crack open a booster. Then you could have a prize wall for these player points. Depending on the prizes on the wall, this would then increase the value of opening the booster and increase the price of boosters. Again both limited and constructed players benefit. However, I will be the first to admit that this is not a bullet proof suggestion, but at least it is a new kind of suggestion?

 

Random coupons

Switch the basic land in a pack for a lottery ticket. Or switch the basic land in a pack in 1 out of XXX packs with something of value. It could be a tradable redemption voucher (which would have a value close to $25) and would effectively decrease the redemption fee with the side-effect of increasing the online set value. This suggestion would probably be a nightmare to implement but it would again benefit both constructed players and limited players.

 

Conclusion

Most players agree that there often is a problem with constructed prizes having too low value. A range of solutions have been suggested to solve this problem but none of them have been implemented by Wizards (yet). One potential side effect of the most popular suggestions is that they would impose a cost on limited players. Roughly speaking the higher prizes for constructed events would be paid by the limited players. The main assumption behind this analysis is that online set prices is derived from paper set values through the redemption process. If you believe in the arguments then a good solution should focus on raising the value of cracking open the booster. This is most easily done by increasing the set value which can be done by reducing the redemption fee. There are alternatives but no straight forward or obvious solutions. Unless you have the perfect solution? Then tell me about it!

9 Comments

The 3 tix floor on pack value by TugaChampion at Thu, 06/25/2015 - 10:59
TugaChampion's picture
4

The 3 tix floor on pack value is out of question (as are some of the other solutions) for several reasons. It would lose Wizards a lot of money. Even if they did it so that it starts only in the following set, it would decrease the tix sales because it would be a new way to add tix to the system. Wizards would sell less tix and the secondary market tix value would also decrease. This meant that while we were getting paid 3 tix per booster, those tix would be worth less than before. Sure, the entry fee would decrease as well but everyone's collections would be worth less and cashing out or selling tix for money would be much worse. This would end up being bad for everyone.

Using boosters as entry fee might also create gambling laws problems. In limited events those boosters are opened but if you could use them in constructed events it meant you were paying boosters to try to win more and that might some problems, especially because MTGO is played Worldwide and it's really hard to be safe from gambling laws everywhere. However, there is actually a place where this can be used. I remember playing Release events where I could join with 6 packs + 4 or 6 tix. The value of the packs wouldn't decrease much during the release weeks. Now, most people are paying 24 tix and trading whatever packs they win and valuable cards for more tix so they can play more of those. This makes the pack value decrease much more during those weeks. Keep the Pre Releases with store bought items + tix for those who really can't wait for the new set but let thos who wait play the Releases with packs. It would also help if they brought back the 4packs sealed that allowed you to join with only boosters because that was a great booster sinker.

There are two ways to do Generic boosters: either make you choose which booster you want it to be before trading/opening/entering a limited event with it or allowing you to trade it as a generic booster (it's mainly the trading that is important because turning it into pack X and entering an event or using it directly in place of pack X is basivally the same). If you are allowed to trade it as a generic booster, it would always retain a slightly higher value than the most expensive non generic standard legal pack. But we don't really know what effects would this have in the long run. After about 2 years, every standard pack would be from a generic booster era and it's not easy to predict how that would work, especially because people could hold the boosters for years and the system could end up having a pack flood when people finally decided to cash out as prices weren't getting better. Obviously they could limited how each generic booster could be converted, but that would end up being very confusing.

Most solutions, are very similar to having a short blanket and pushing it to cover your feet while uncovering your chest. Sure, your feet might be colder than everything else but eventually your chest will be colder. And while some things actually help a bit in the short term, they change nothing in the long term and they should only be used while a permanent solution isn't found/implemented.

The are only two ways to permanently fix these problems:

1) improve the online-paper connection

2) improve MTGO

1) is mainly redemption but there are also PTQs and MOCS. I don't know what else could be done in PTQs and MOCS. Those events already attract a lot of players and if the number of PTQs increases, the number of players in the PT also increases so there's a limit on how many they can do. As for MOCS, the only thing that really needs an improvment is choosing the promos better. They should be cards that are currently very high (Liliana of the Veil, Wasteland, etc) and clearly need more copies in the system. They should not be Birds, Elesh Norns and Vengevines. This doesn't increase the value of packs but at least it gives a better EV to the events (if you are able to sell the card for 30 tix, every QP is worth 2 tix, maybe more because being able to play the events has value but also maybe less because getting 14 doesn't do anything). But if they actually want things to get better for real, there is no way around it: they have to redude the redemption fees. Maybe not to $5 but to $10 or $15 at most.

2) There is a lot to improve in many ways. And it's not gonna change soon. I think they need to start by changing their overall atittude towards the players and start treating us like paying costumers, because that's what we are and in many cases they treat us like we will stay in MTGO no matter what. I won't talk about what I think is needed because that would be very long but having a better program overall would bring in more players, everyone would have more trust in MTGO and it would affect prices in a good way. If the numer of players increased significantly, the online-paper connection (mainly the redemption) would matter less, because people would have more reasons to want their cards online and not in paper.

tl;dr: Start by allowing Releases to be joined with packs and bring back one event that takes only packs. Follow it up by reducing the redemption fees in the following set and as soon as possible. Improve MTGO and treat players better.

I agree with most of your by Cauchy at Fri, 06/26/2015 - 03:12
Cauchy's picture

I agree with most of your analysis and arguments. I try to mostly focus on constructed versus limited, whereas your arguments are in some sense more directly concerned with the profits of WotC which is ultimately the only thing that matters (for them).

Bringing back a booster sink like nix-tix 4 pack sealed would increase demand for boosters and increase pack prices. However, it would not increase the set value if it is still being determined by paper prices through redemption. Therefore it would increase the cost of playing limited. The cost increase would be countered by the nix-tix entry but only for the 4 booster sealed. Drafting and other sealed events with a tix entry fee would become more expensive.

I think that releases are usually allowed to be joined with packs? I guess that you are thinking about pre-releases? It would benefit limited players to be allowed to enter with product during the pre-release, but it would not affect constructed players since the rotation in prizes for those events happens at a later time. And allowing packs as entry fees during a pre-release is also likely to affect the profit of WotC?

It would be interesting if, as you suggest, MTGO and customer services improved to such a degree that the online-paper redemption link became redundant. If they could create a strong casual environment then that could be a way to break the link. And that also has the potential to benefit the EV of sanctioned tournaments.

Yes, I know the nix tix by TugaChampion at Fri, 06/26/2015 - 07:10
TugaChampion's picture

Yes, I know the nix tix sealed would increase the "something extra" but not that much and it would provide another type of limited events as well. I maybe biased because I play much more constructed than limited but limited will always be "playable" while there is a point where constructed is "not playable". What I mean is: there is a point when packs are so low that most players won't bother playing constructed but there is no pack prices that make limited unplayable. If packs for some reason were so expensive that they would go above 4 tix, there's always the option of entering limited events with tix and if they are very low (1 tix or less) a draft will cost 5 tix to play. Sure the cards and packs will not be worth much but since most limited players lose money in the long run, this way they lose it slower.

No, releases can only be joined with tix (I mean sealeds not drafts). I think it would have a positive effect on constructed because it would delay the price decrease. Yes, it's one of those "pull the short blanket" situations but it helps a bit. If the packs are at 3 when releases are over it's worse for constructed than them being at 3.5.

Maybe it would affect proft a bit but in my opinion only things like PTQs and Pre-Releases should be tix only because those are special events. One connects to real life, the other is a way to play sooner so people have to pay for it (although this sooner is already later than in paper).

I approve of cheap pack prices by pcjr at Thu, 06/25/2015 - 16:22
pcjr's picture

Being the selfish limited player that I am, I quite like the cheap pack prices. If limited players are where Wizards makes most of their money, why would they want to do something that messes with us? And, the more of us there are cracking open packs in limited, the more that drives down the prices for singles.

I don't see writers complain that singles are too cheap and that Wizards needs to do something to drive up those prices.

Limited players should like by Cauchy at Fri, 06/26/2015 - 03:19
Cauchy's picture

Limited players should like cheap packs. It is hard to find a reason why limited players should not like having cheap packs?

If I am to stay true to my arguments above then I disagree with the statement that cracking open more packs should drive down the price of singles. I would argue that for redeemable sets the price of singles is linked to the total set price which is derived from the paper set price through redemption.

In fact Wizards should drive up the price of singles online (for example by reducing the redemption fee). But you are right that this would then be a cost for constructed players which should hopefully then be balanced out by the increased EV of events. Ideally singles are a one-time cost for the constructed players whereas higher pack prices would benefit them over and over again for every tournament they play.

I don't really care if by TugaChampion at Fri, 06/26/2015 - 08:22
TugaChampion's picture

I don't really care if singles were more expensive as not only that is a one time cost, but it should not be looked at as a cost anyway. It's more of an investment. I didn't mind paying 80 for each copy of Jace TMS at the time because not only it was expected to retain value but since the card was so good, it was part of my decks the whole time. I sold the card before the ban and lost a couple tix on each copy but it allowed me to play a lot of matches and win a lot of packs. If prices were halves, I'd have lost 4-6 tix instead of 8-12 tix total in the Jaces but I would also have lost much more if each pack was worth 0.1 less (and the real decrease is much higher than that).

So the cost of singles doesn't really matter if you are able to get back a big percentage of your tix back by selling your deck when you are done with it (sometimes you get much less because you sold it at the wrong time but other times you get even more). The value of the packs you win matter much more.

Cheap pack prices seem good for limited players, but I think you are looking at it the wrong way. When pack prices were higher, limited and constructed both worked fine but now that pack prices are lower, only limited works fine. So an increase in pack prices doesn't really mess with limited players (if done the right way), it just sets things on track.

Let's see if pack prices really affect limited players:

Let's assume a 50% winning percentage and let's do it for 3 of the same pack and a swiss draft to make it easier.

pack = 4 tix, open pack EV = 2 tix:

The average draft costs 14 to enter and gets 6 tix back from cards as well as 1.5 packs so in this situation the player loses 2 tix per draft.

pack = 3 tix, open pack EV = 1.5 tix:

The average draft costs 11 to enter and gets 4.5 tix back from cards as well as 1.5 packs so in this situation the player loses 2 tix per draft as well.

pack = 2 tix, open pack EV = 1 tix:

The average draft costs 8 to enter and gets 3 tix back from cards as well as 1.5 packs so in this situation the player loses 2 tix per draft.

Obviously it depends on the open pack EV and someone with lower than 50% winning percentage is better with pack prizes lower but the difference is minimal and pack prices affect constructed players much more than limited players.

Your example may work for a by Cauchy at Fri, 06/26/2015 - 14:29
Cauchy's picture

Your example may work for a between set comparison where card EV can variate. But you assume that card EV and pack prices are perfectly correlated which they are not. As I argue in the article most suggestions for increasing pack prices will not increase card EV.

If you look at a specific pack, say, FTR, then the pack price is around 1.5. Constructed players want that to be higher. But since the card EV is fixed then higher pack price will be a 1:1 cost for limited players. In this case pack prices matter exactly the same for both group of players.

Yes, if only the "something by TugaChampion at Sat, 06/27/2015 - 07:03
TugaChampion's picture

Yes, if only the "something extra" increases, obviously limited players lose out but what I'm saying is that comparing to $5 redemption times, the lower pack prizes do not benefit limited players.

Yes. It sounds like we agree. by Cauchy at Sat, 06/27/2015 - 09:30
Cauchy's picture

Yes. It sounds like we agree. And I get your point(s) from above as well.