Mythic rarity has driven the prices of certain Magic cards completely out of control. $50 [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card]s. $80 [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card]s. There’s no way to argue that those prices aren’t completely ludicrous. But Event Decks, in addition to being a brilliant way to introduce new players to tournament Magic, also offer Wizards a sneaky way to drive prices down.
To understand why it’s difficult for Wizards to control aftermarket prices of single cards, you have to realize that legally, they can not directly influence those prices or sell individual cards themselves. They would start to run afoul of gambling laws if they did. Thus, when a card’s price starts to get nutty, there’s little they can do.
We’re also operating under the assumption that Wizards thinks $80 in-print Standard-legal cards are a bad thing. Maybe they don’t. Jace obviously drives pack sales, but I think a lot of that is parasitic — people choose to buy Worldwake packs instead of other sets in hopes of opening an $80 card, but don’t necessarily buy more packs than they otherwise would have. And I know for an absolute fact that a lot of prospective players reject the game out of hand when they see those kinds of prices. High-cost mythics are a barrier to entry into the game. We’re going to operate under the assumption that Wizards agrees with me, although I don’t think they (or at least, the handful of people who make such decisions) do.
This brings us to Event Decks. They include only cards legal for the current Standard environment. Their price point is $25, much higher than other preconstructed decks, but still a reasonable cost for what you get. The inclusion of a card in a preconstructed deck affects its price on the secondary market — in the old theme decks, they were rarely top-notch tournament quality cards, but when they were, the price for the individual card obviously never topped the cost of the deck you could buy it in. Foil [card]Malakir Bloodwitch[/card]es are pretty budget-friendly, for instance.
What happens if we stick a budget breaking bomb like [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] in a $25 preconstructed deck? I’m pretty sure people are going to stop paying $80 for them.
There’s the law of unintended consequences to consider here — this is by no means a no-brainer even if we’re all unified on the concept of bringing card prices down when they approach three figures. For one thing, dealers are going to be ticked off that the cards they invested in to sell at peak prices are suddenly devalued. That was the source of all the controversy surrounding the Chronicles reprints and the ensuing reserved list. If dealers get used to the fact that a high-priced card may show up in an Event Deck, there will be an overall suppression of card prices in the future. People will be less likely to buy cards at prices well above $25 if they think there’s a good chance the price will come down to that level in a month (although this isn’t 100% true — next time a set comes out, look at preorder prices for single cards compared to what they sell for three weeks later). Dealers will not want to buy or sell cards at high prices, knowing they could be cutting their own throats if it leads to the dreaded “Event Decking.” (Although sellers without an investment in large backstocks of cards will be immune to this suppression).
In reality, the price of a Jace won’t drop to $25 even though you can get him in a $25 Event Deck. It might approach that, but it depends a lot on the supply of the Event Decks. I have a feeling Wizards isn’t printing tons of these, so an Event Deck containing a money bomb will get scarce fast. The price of the card will drop, but the price of the Event Deck will end up rising well above the retail price at the same time. Dealers will capitalize on the chance to sell a guaranteed Jace at some price higher than what their distributors charge, and the supply at retail prices (at Amazon, for instance) will dry up almost immediately.
At that point we have a product intended for new players becoming almost impossible for new players to acquire because it’s being purchased by veteran players. That is obviously not a positive outcome.
Did I just talk myself out of this idea? I think it’s clear that it could cause problems. I still think it’s a good idea if Wizards were to do it whole-heartedly — once they decide to stick a big money card in a preconstructed deck, they also have to commit to printing and releasing tons and tons of those decks. A plan like that could bring a card like Jace down into the “reasonable” $30 to $40 range.