Last updated on January 10, 2022
Squirrel Dealer | Illustration by Bram Sels
Effectively buying Magic cards and figuring out what booster boxes are the best to buy are cornerstones of Magic finance. There’s one other aspect of MTG purchasing that comes up a lot, especially for players trying to organize their own home drafts.
Whether it’s during the pandemic or just a casual weekend draft at a friend’s house, there’s always one burning question about obtaining product: how much should you pay for a booster box of Magic cards?
Let’s talk about that.
What’s Actually a “Cheap” Price for a Booster Box?
Dark Bargain | Illustration by Scott Murphy
This is a big question to tackle without more details. Is this an in-print Standard set for draft? A special limited print run set like Conspiracy? How about a supplemental set like Modern Horizons 2?
While each of these questions change the base price you should expect, the process of finding the best deals on boxes doesn’t change. Let me walk you how I find the best deals on booster boxes and how these methods continue to evolve today.
Some of my favorite memories from college were dorm drafts where one of us would walk to our local game store, buy a box of the latest set, and we’d all gather that night to draft. As broke college students we relied on a combination of scouting out the lowest prices, using store credit, and saving any extra packs we had from events to make sure these drafts were as cheap as possible.
It’s been a few years since I was in college, but that same ideology sticks with me to this day. So if you’re like me and want to draft cheap, where should you look?
Let’s start with some frames of reference. When looking for a draft box of the latest Standard set, how much would you expect to pay walking into a random game store you found online?
Wholesale suppliers recommend selling boxes for a minimum of $115. This means you could find boxes for anywhere between that base price of $115 up to $130. This is what you want to use this as a baseline.
If you find a box that’s cheaper than $115 then you’re beating the baseline. While that’s not too exciting, you still need a baseline to compare what a cheap box looks like in practice.
Moving on from retail pricing, there are plenty of well-known Magic vendors like Star City Games, Channel Fireball marketplace, or TCGPlayer willing to sell boxes for under $100. Only Star City has consistent international shipping, but you need to cover any other fees associated with non-USA based shipping.
While these are some exciting prices compared to retail, they’re still a bit high, especially for the latest set. But paying around $100 for a box from a reputable store that guarantees quality shipping and timely arrival is enough of a bargain for most players.
But not for us!
Farm // Market | Illustration by Victor Adame Minguez
To get lower than around $90 will take some searching and a bit of timing.
eBay has auctions for boxes with a variable price but can sell below $90. Some “buy it now” pricings also sit around $90 and can have the same benefits as larger stores (assuming they have a solid rating and reputation) while still shaving off a few dollars.
You can also search local marketplace sites like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. These might drop the reputability another notch and are dependent on local players selling product, but the prices are unbeatable compared to traditional stores or online retailers when you manage to find a deal.
Even though most brick-and-mortar stores have a fixed price for product, you should regularly check for offers, discounts, and potential liquidation. Some stores try to move boxes that have been sitting on their shelves for years at a large discount. You can even find deals on boxes that vendors can’t move locally at large events like PAX. While these prices vary by box and vendor, you can sometimes find boxes below eBay prices for unpopular sets.
Vendors at large events like Grand Prix also offer great deals for cash to avoid bringing back unwanted product near the end of the day. Keep an eye out for vendors with prominent boxes out near the singles and don’t be afraid to ask the dealers about pricing and discounts. They want to sell you the boxes as much as you want to buy them!
Finding Deals in the Community
Deal Broker | Illustration by Cliff Childs
Another way to find cheap booster boxes that’s declined in the last few years, especially during the pandemic, is dealing with the judge staff at smaller events. Judges used to receive boxes of product as part of their compensation at Grand Prix. These would sell for between $80 to $85 cash and were some of the cheapest deals around.
Most larger tournament organizers pay in cash or credit, but smaller stores often offer credit or boxes to judges for smaller events. Talking to the judge staff will let you know if they’re receiving boxes or credit for the event. Most small stores won’t offer cash, so being able to turn credit into boxes and boxes into cash is a staple of the judge community.
Which Sets Are the Cheapest?
The cheapest booster box I could find on Amazon is a Kaldheim booster box. While the deal was for 2021’s Black Friday, a lot of similar deals will reappear on Cyber Monday and closer to the Christmas season.
- 30 Kaldheim (KHM) Set Booster Packs
- Best booster for opening packs just to see what you’ll get
- 12 Magic: The Gathering cards per pack
- MTG set inspired by Vikings and Norse Mythology
The second cheapest booster box is Zendikar Rising, which is a full draft booster box and contains the full 36 packs rather than 30. These prices of under $100 are great deals for full boxes, especially for drafting or speculating, since the prices will rise given more time.
While these deals may expires soon, there are always more deals on sites like Amazon, eBay, and more during the holiday seasons.
- 36 PACKS + 1 BOX TOPPER. Get 36 Zendikar Rising Booster Packs plus 1 “Expedition Land” box topper—a celebrated land card with alternate art and a special frame inspired by the sky dungeons of Zendikar.
- THE BEST BOOSTER FOR DRAFTING. Open a box and draft with up to 12 friends for an unforgettable game night. (Note: Booster Drafts require more land cards than are included in a booster box.)
- FULL-ART LANDS AND DOUBLE-FACED CARDS IN EVERY PACK. Zendikar Rising brings a special kind of double-faced card to MTG: play the spell on one side or flip it over and play it as a land instead.
- INTRODUCING “PARTY.” Assemble a party from four adventuring classes (Cleric, Rogue, Warrior, Wizard) and become stronger together with rewards for each class joining you on the battlefield.
- LANDFALL AND KICKER RETURN. Two of Magic’s most popular mechanics are back! Landfall rewards you for playing land cards, and Kicker makes your spells more powerful—if you have enough mana.
What Affects the Price of Booster Boxes?
With few exceptions, booster boxes increase in price as they go out of print. Older sets that have expensive staples, were exceptional draft sets, or were smaller print runs tend to see an even higher spike in costs. Battle for Zendikar boosters are now worth well over $200. The original Innistrad boxes sell for around $800 by comparison, one of the most expensive non-Reserved List sets. Each block back tends to raise in price, with boxes of Ravnica: City of Guilds reaching over $1,100 market price on TCGPlayer.
There’s no real way to get these boxes on the cheap. In the same way I’d caution against taking any deal for a Black Lotus that’s unreasonably undervalued, don’t trust someone offering to sell you an expensive booster box for half the market price. You’re more likely to get scammed than find the deal of the century.
Some other elements that can heavily affect price are non-Standard bonus cards, foreign languages, and time before rotation. Sets like Kaladesh that have inventions see a faster rise in price since they have limited edition elements. This holds also true for expeditions and invocations.
As sets near Standard rotation, their prices drop before rebounding with the next set’s release. This happens every year as previous staples fail to find homes in Modern, Legacy, or Pioneer. This is an ideal time to grab a box or two to draft or speculate on. The prices on newly rotated boxes follow the same trajectory as Standard staples, dipping before rebounding indefinitely.
Which Booster Box is the Best?
First Pick | Illustration by John Thacker
With all this information in mind, now it’s time to figure out what set you want to buy. Do you want something with the best value? What about a set that heavily impacted Modern or Legacy? Are you looking for the newest cards for a tournament in the next few weeks? Are you just looking to get in a fun draft with friends?
All of these questions should factor into your decision, and luckily you’re not alone in trying to figure all that out. If you’re wondering about the best sets to buy and why, want some high level overviews on the new normal of set boosters, draft boosters, and collector’s boosters, are looking for more info on premium boosters and other unique sets that may cost more, we’ve got you covered.
Finale of Eternity | Illustration by Daarken
You always have options to minimize your cost when it comes to buying booster boxes. You can pay for convenience or availability, but Magic is an expensive enough hobby as it is. Use online stores, your local communities, vendors at large events, and even local marketplaces to get good deals on all the packs you need for speculating, drafting, or playing with friends.
You should also understand what you want out of your set and how that directly effects the price you’ll pay. The more you explore your options, the more avenues you’ll find to lower costs. Every box you buy at a discount is part of the way towards the next draft!
The Draftsim blog has tons of resources for buying Magic boxes, cards, or accessories. Be sure to leave a comment down below with the best deal you’ve ever snagged on a box! I’m curious if anyone can beat $70 for a Standard legal set.
Thanks for reading and I hope to see you in the comments again soon!
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