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Conjured Currency #8: The Definition of “Need”

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Do we need it or want it?

Let’s be honest. We live in a society where we exaggerate a lot. Our ancestors would be absolutely baffled if they saw us Magic players exclaiming our “need” for foil copies of Misty Rainforest to finish making our deck of cards look fancy. Hell, they’d be shocked at our “need” for anything but the bare essentials of consistent food, water, and shelter. If you’re reading this, I’m going to safely assume that you have the financial stability in your life to afford to spend at least some amount of money on a trading card game, and free enough access to the internet to be able to spend your time browsing this website casually. If we boil it down to the bare essentials, we don’t need to play Magic to survive. We want to play it for fun. Whether it’s to pass the time, hang out with friends, win money, get on the Pro Tour, become a recognized face in the community, or even just escape the real world for a few hours, it’s a hobby. Magic is a customizable hobby to suit your own financial budget, interests, and schedule. (Yes, I understand that there are some players who technically play for a living, or those who work at SCG/CFB/other stores. Most of us aren’t those people. For the sake of the article, bear with me.)

One of the larger topics within the Magic community as of late has been the dramatic price increases for cards in all of the major formats. Players have pointed accusing fingers in every direction as a result of being financially restricted from playing Modern or Legacy (the two formats where these price jumps have had the most impact). Speculators are blamed for hoarding thousands of copies of Birthing Pod in their basements, stores like Star City Games are being accused of manipulating the market on Scalding Tarn and Volcanic Island, and even Wizards of the Coast has been blamed for not taking to the skies in a blimp and dumping duffel bags of reprinted fetch lands all across the country 24 hours a day. Whether or not this blame is rightfully placed is another issue entirely. We should not be wasting time pouting and blaming others for what we can’t afford. We should try and figure out alternate methods so that we can get these expensive decks if we really want them. Or maybe just decide if wanting them is even the correct decision.

Picking a Deck (and Sticking to It!)

When this piece was just an idea on my notepad, I found a post on the MTG finance subreddit written by user “HaplessMagician,” where he mentioned the term “Deck ADHD.” I didn’t have a term for it at the time, but the idea is basically what you would expect if you understand what ADHD is: a mental disorder where individuals have issues with focus, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior outside of a normal range. In Magic, I know several individuals who constantly change entire decks after playing theirs for only a week or two. If you’re a Standard grinder at SCG Opens and always want to play the best deck for that particular week, then it’s more understandable to eat the costs of selling or trading a deck into a different one every single week—if you can justify it with results.

However, Modern and Legacy are different animals. The much higher barriers to entry into these formats prevent most average players from being able to hop from owning one deck to another every single week. When picking a deck for an eternal format, I strongly suggest playtesting the hell out of it to ensure that you’ll get a good amount of use and fun out of the deck. Goldfish your opening hands with proxies, and play against most other competitive and popular lists at least once or twice. One of the main benefits of being decisive about your deck choice is how proficient you will become with the list. Eternal formats in Magic are much less forgiving than Standard when it comes to knowing your matchup and decision trees. You’re less likely to need to switch decks every week if you know how to play your bad matchups better than your opponent.

Many professional players have been quoted as saying Modern is much more of a format about knowing your own deck inside and out, instead of recognizing what the “best deck” in the format is and picking it up for the first time at a particular event. Alex Majlaton is a good example of this: he has been playing Affinity since its debut in the original Mirrodin block, and manages to put up consistent results with it by knowing the deck inside and out. Brian Kibler can usually be seen casting Knight of the Reliquary or Noble Hierarch if they are legal for the format in question, because his experience with these strategies in particular allows him to gain every little edge.

How Much Utility are You Getting?

One last thing to consider when building a Modern (or more likely, Legacy) deck is, in reality, how often are you going to use it? I made this mistake when building my Legacy Lands deck a year and a half ago—I wanted a Legacy deck just to say I had a Legacy deck, and “just in case” an event popped up locally. I ended up never playing the deck in an actual tournament for the 18 months that I had it sleeved, and I probably could have made better use of the trade stock that went into putting the 75 cards together. In my mind, I needed a Legacy deck, simply because I didn’t have one. I did not take into account the number of tournaments or even casual games that I would get out of the deck. In the same vein, is it worth jamming hundreds of dollars into a Modern or Legacy deck if you’re only going to FNM once a month? I’m not saying that it’s not—that’s your decision to make. I just think that it’s best to ponder these decisions before tossing money around.

In the end, it’s best to remember that Magic is (to most of us) just a game. It’s always fun to have the coolest toys at the table, but it’s also important to know the difference between needing and wanting something. If you can’t afford Misty Rainforests right now, so what? They’ll probably be reprinted by this time next year, and until that day, there are at least a dozen cheaper formats that are fun if you allow them to be. If you hate current Standard with a burning passion, then maybe it’s best to take a break from it and spend your FNM trading into Modern stuff that’s less likely to drop as the year continues.

I understand that this article may not apply to many people out there, and I think that’s fine. If I can help at least one person, I’ll be happy. Have comments? Let me know. Until next time!

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Douglas Johnson

Douglas Johnson

@Rose0fthorns     -     Email     -     Articles
Douglas Johnson is a 20-year-old MTG player who goes to college courtesy of a scholarship from Gamers Helping Gamers. He is currently found writing a weekly finance column at MTGprice.com, and you can always feel free to contact him on Twitter, Facebook, or Reddit.
Douglas Johnson

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About the author

Douglas Johnson

@Rose0fthorns     -     Email     -     Articles
Douglas Johnson is a 20-year-old MTG player who goes to college courtesy of a scholarship from Gamers Helping Gamers. He is currently found writing a weekly finance column at MTGprice.com, and you can always feel free to contact him on Twitter, Facebook, or Reddit.

4 comments

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  1. Jason Alt

    I would have called this article “The N-word’ but that’s why Wizards of the Coast Human Resources doesn’t reply to my e-mails.

  2. Vincent Pascoe

    “Many professional players have been quoted as saying Modern is much more of a format about knowing your own deck inside and out,” this made me think the best value you can get is build the cheepest terr 1 modern deck and know it well.

    sadly I had the same experience with standard that you had with legacy… My goal was to have 4 of every card in standard and I almost got there I realized in two years I only played 2 standard events.

    1. Douglas Johnson

      Investing that much money into decks that you don’t play at tournaments isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as you recognize and consider your investment and realize that you are losing opportunity costs and potential equity in order to upkeep those decks. If you’re fine with jamming Standard decks against each other without worrying about the competitiveness of a serious event, then so be it! If it’s costing you $$$ though, it might be a good idea to get out and save that cash elsewhere :)

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