Bye-Bye Tournament Packs

23:58 Fri 09 Jan 2009. Updated: 16:50 28 Jan 2009
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It looks like Wizards of the Coast are going to stop printing tournament packs, the 45-cards-plus-land boxes of MTG cards, and leave only booster packs as the way to buy cards.

While I don’t think this is that big a deal, certainly a much lesser issue than their eliminating the Worlds decks reprints or changing the set size for large sets, it does feel strange to me. I have a lot of nostalgia for tournament packs, partly because they always felt like a meaningful set of cards to open, a respectable chunk, whereas any single booster is just a small number of cards, and once you open more than one, it’s hard to stop at any point.

They formed the basis for most of the Sealed Deck tournaments I’ve played in, including the one time I made top eight at a PTQ (Champions of Kamigawa sealed), and I do think that Sealed will be quite different now—while numerically a tournament pack is about the same as three boosters, the tournament pack print runs are designed so that there are no repeats in them, whereas there will likely be several repeat cards between three boosters. So far, commenters seem split on whether this is an improvement (the booster print runs are generally regarded as more balanced, and with three boosters it’s harder for a single one to be ridiculous enough to give a player an unfair advantage) or not (with repeats over three boosters, it’s entirely possible that players will get repeats of the killer commons or uncommons, thus gaining significant advantage).

There are practical considerations: no tournament packs mean no handy boxes that the deck and decklist can be put into after deck registration at Sealed events; land may be harder to come by for tournament organizers; and if multiples can be present in decks, it may be easier to cheat (although I don’t think this is that likely; if you were engaged in cheating that way with the current system, you could just add a bunch of different but synergistic commons to your pool).

Apart from my nostalgia, it’s also the case that tournament packs are most convenient for the casual style I play most often right now: (tennis) sets* of a plus-sized Sealed, where I have one tournament pack and four boosters, usually chosen for some kind of synergy, but not always. For example, a Shadowmoor tournament pack with one booster each from Eventide, Ravnica, Guildpact, and Dissension. The tournament packs make it easy on land, so that if I forget to bring extra it’s rarely a problem, and switching to boosters will make that a little more annoying. On the other hand, a switch to boosters lets me balance things a little differently—that pool I mentioned a moment ago could be altered so that instead of swapping in three Shadowmoor for the tournament pack, I could go with two boosters each of Shadowmoor and Ravnica, and then one each of Eventide, Guildpact, and Dissension.

We’ll see how that plays out; at the moment, I have quite a few tournament packs to get through in any case, so it’ll be a while before it really affects me.

* A set is first-to-six, must win by two, first four games unsideboarded, free sideboarding after every game past the fourth. It’s really a far better match format than best-of-five, although it obviously takes a lot more time.

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