Last updated on May 26, 2023

Sin Collector - Illustration by Mike Bierek

Sin Collector | Illustration by Mike Bierek

The experiment of the Magic theme boosters, which began with Dominaria in 2018, is coming to an end with Dominaria United. They’ll replaced by a more regular release of Jumpstart boosters, another experiment that started in 2020.

For Magic players who’ve missed both of these products in the last few years, this is a good time for a retrospective comparison and a look at which individual boosters you might want to pick up, if you can find them. So today let’s take a look at theme and Jumpstart boosters, and the differences between them.

Ready? Let’s get started!

The Difference Between Theme and Jumpstart Boosters

Adrix and Nev, Twincasters - Illustration by Andrew Mar

Adrix and Nev, Twincasters | Illustration by Andrew Mar

Theme boosters and Jumpstart boosters are very different products with very different uses. What they have in common is that they each contain a different kind of card variety than regular booster packs.

Theme boosters are packs of 35 cards wrapped around a theme and designed as a resource for deckbuilding. Jumpstart boosters are packs of 20 cards wrapped around a theme designed to be an out-of-the-package playable deck when two packs are shuffled together.

Theme Booster Contents

The 35 cards in theme boosters are all cards from the premier set they’re associated with. There’s a changing ratio of commons and uncommons as well as one rare with the possibility of a second.

The theme in these boosters was originally by color, usually mono-colored, but it pivoted to guilds for the Ravnica sets, schools for Strixhaven, and family for New Capenna. There were also more specialty theme boosters, like the Vikings packs for Kaldheim. These packs were designed to provide players resources for building decks. They’re a casual player’s product.

You can imagine that these cards plus 25 lands would get you some level of playable deck. Players have tried this head-to-head as a nice casual battle, and some local game stores run that kind of event with maybe a regular booster thrown into the mix.

Jumpstart Booster Contents

Each Jumpstart pack has 7 or 8 lands and 10 to 12 common and uncommons at various rates for each deck, with at least one rare and the possibility of a second. Two of the lands will be foil basics and there’ll be one rare or mythic and one unique Jumpstart rare starting with Dominaria United.

Most of the cards in the original Jumpstart products were reprints, with 37 brand new cards that aren’t legal in Standard, Pioneer, or Modern. The cards will be from the concurrent premier set except for the mechanically distinct Jumpstart rare starting with Dominaria United.

This product is designed as a kind of gateway Magic product. You get two packs, shuffle them up, and you’re ready to play. These are still fun for casual players and the themes allow for some deckbuilding foundations, but the unique rares also make them into a bit of a chase product for experienced Magic players.

An easy-to-use product for new players that can support LGS play which is also at a power level interesting enough for experienced players seems like a good idea. And obviously it’s a good enough idea to supplant theme boosters.

Which is Better? Theme or Jumpstart Boosters?

Jumpstart boosters are a better product than theme boosters. Theme boosters have 35 cards while Jumpstart boosters have 12 or 13 (not counting lands). That’s about 20 common and uncommons for the extra dollar the theme boosters cost, which isn’t usually worth it.

There were only two theme booster runs with unique cards slotted into the packs: Theros: Beyond Death and for Kaldheim. But Jumpstart packs have cards from across Magic’s history, including some key commons and uncommons newer players may not own, as well as unique rares.

Best Theme Boosters

Theme boosters are generally the products that are best when they provide the most aid in teaching newer players how to play Magic, or to make deckbuilding lessons easier. There aren’t a lot of other reasons to seek these packs out.

Here are the top twelve:

#12. Zendikar Rising

MTG Magic The Gathering Zendikar Rising All Six Jumbo Theme Boosters Packs!
  • Zendikar is a dangerous world of lethal risks where brave adventurers delve into ancient ruins in search of priceless rewards!
  • These larger booster packs are full of cards all based on a single theme, like a color or set-based premise
  • This listing includes 6 packs (1 of each version). 35 cards per pack.

#11. War of the Spark

Magic The Gathering C63040000 War of The Spark-Theme Booster Display of 10 Packets
  • Helps players to build a deck on demand for the way they like to play Magic.
  • Each booster pack includes 1 rare or mythic rare.
  • 35 cards per theme booster.

#10. Core Set 2020

Core Set 2020 theme boosters

#9. Dominaria

Dominaria theme boosters

#8. D&D: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms

MGO MTG Magic Adventures in The Forgotten Realms Theme Set: All 6 (35-Card) Booster Packs
  • The D&D team worked with the Magic team on every aspect of this first-time D&D tcg set, with extensive input on the visuals and lore of the cards
  • Experience the long awaited crossover between Magic the Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons.
  • This product is packed to the brim with mystical artifacts, magic spells, and fearsome monsters straight from your tabletop campaign.
  • This listing includes all 6 Theme booster packs.

#7. Throne of Eldraine

Magic The Gathering MTG-ELD-TBD-EN Throne of Eldraine Theme Boosters-Set of 5
  • Helps new and casual players expand their collection.
  • All cards themed around a single colour.
  • One rare or mythic rare.
  • Item Package Quantity: 1

#6. Theros Beyond Death

GET All 5! MTG Magic the Gathering Theros Beyond Death Theme Booster 35-Card Packs (1 of Each Color)
  • Theme Boosters are perfect for players looking to expand their collection with a specific strategy in mind.

#5. Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths

Magic The Gathering MTG Ikoria Lair of Behemoths Theme Boosters All 5 Colors + Monster Pack!
  • Theme boosters are perfect for players looking to expand their collection with a specific strategy in mind.

#4. Strixhaven: School of Mages

#3. Guilds of Ravnica and Ravnica Allegiance

Magic The Gathering Ravnica Allegiance Theme Guilds Booster Box: 10 Jumbo Packs!
  • Darkness is coming to Ravnica. A conflict with Nicol Bolas that could tear apart the world itself looms large, and the fragile peace between the guilds is strained to its breaking point!
  • This listing includes 1 brand new factory sealed Themed booster box.
  • 'Theme' boosters are a new unique type of booster: each box has 10 packs, each pack has 35 random cards.
  • The cards inside each pack are all related to (that pack's) 'Guild', which could be any of: Azorius ({W}{U}), Rakdos ({B}{R}), Gruul ({R}{G}), Simic ({G}{U}), and Orzhov ({W}{B}). This is a great way to get random cards but tailored to the Guild you are trying to build.
  • Release Date: January 25, 2019

#2. Innistrad: Midnight Hunt

MGO MTG Magic The Gathering Innistrad Midnight Hunt Theme Set of All 6 Jumbo Booster Packs!
  • Get ready for more Werewolves, Devils, and Witches that inhabit Innistrad! In this set Magic has returned to a fan-favorite world steeped in gothic horror, monsters and death. This listing includes all 6 jumbo theme booster packs!

#1. Streets of New Capenna

MTG Magic the Gathering Streets of New Capenna Theme Boosters: All 5 Jumbo Packs
  • Each of the five families that vie for strength and profits in New Capenna take more than just one or two colors. This listing is for one of each theme booster pack: blue, purple, red, white, green. Each pack has 35 cards.
  • English (Publication Language)

Best Jumpstart Boosters

Jumpstart booster box

In terms of game play, the best Jumpstart booster to pick is not an easy question. Picking a pack that seems more flexible with whatever your second pack could be seems wise. And there are some very valuable cards in these packs, all of which are legal for Commander. But there’s also some risk and randomness built in.

The rankings below are based on the most reasonable chance of opening value.

#12. Dinosaurs

One quarter of the Dinosaur packs have Selvala, Heart of the Wilds, valued at just over $10. Half of the packs have Ghalta, Primal Hunger, which isn’t in the same monetary ballpark but it’s a nice card to have for your green EDH decks if you don’t have one. And it turns out to be one of the easiest to get to wincons in Jumpstart if paired with another creature deck.

#11. Minions

One fourth of the Minions packs have Phyrexian Tower, a key card for black in EDH worth almost $15. Half of the other packs will give you Kels, Fight Fixer, a cool card that’s become a bulk rare. And a quarter of the packs have Ghoulcaller Gisa, which is a fine but not very valuable card.

These are surprisingly high curve for a deck called “Minions,” so don’t expect this to be the fast creature deck you’re looking for in a Jumpstart game.

#10. Vampires

Vampires is a hunt for Exquisite Blood, the $20 combo piece. But that’s in one of four packs. Half give you Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose and one quarter have Drana, Liberator of Malakir. Great cards, but not exactly high value.

Otherwise this is an effective deck that pairs with almost anything else in a Jumpstart game.

#9. Discarding

Tinybones, Trinket Thief is the discard commander you want if your table has banned Tergrid, God of Fright. This Jumpstart exclusive is in half of the two Discarding builds. Although there’s not a lot of value in the other build and discard isn’t a very competitive Jumpstart deck, the odds are good here.

#8. Angels

Half of the Angel packs have Linvala, Keeper of Silence, a control and stax winner at just under $15. The other half have Baneslayer Angel, which is a less valuable but obviously good card. The curve on angels can be pretty high in Jumpstart (just like in all formats), and that’s not always the right pick in a game of Jumpstart.

#7. Lands

There are two versions of the Lands pack, one of which has the $15 Cube staple Oracle of Mul Daya. The other has the much less valuable Ulvenwald Hydra. The decks both ramp nicely, which make this a useful choice to pair with any non aggro deck in a Jumpstart game.

#6. Reanimated

Half of the Reanimated packs give you what may be the most important card in the archetype, the namesake Reanimate. One of the others gives you Rise of the Dark Realms. So that’s a 75% chance to nab one of those, each worth almost $10. The other option is still a powerful deck for Jumpstart itself but doesn’t give the same value.

#5. Well-Read

There may be no more important card for blue in Commander than Rhystic Study. It’s how you dig up your other candidates for best blue card. The trouble is that you’re looking at a roughly 25% chance of opening it, and the other blue rares in these packs aren’t great.

But the Study is worth over $30 if you’re feeling lucky. This is a good backbone to pair with other spell-heavy decks in a game of Jumpstart, even if you don’t pull the chase card.

#4. Unicorns

There’s one deck for the Unicorns pack, and it has Emiel the Blessed, $12 blink all-star. It’s also a plausible unicorn tribal commander and the deck has quite a few unicorns you’d need for that EDH deck if you happen to love magic and equines with dramatic hairdos.

This is a bit underpowered in a game of Jumpstart, but there’s also a Cloudshift to lean into blink if you have another ETB-oriented deck to pair it with, like the Rogues or Legion decks.

#3. Phyrexian

There’s one Phyrexian pack with reanimator staple Sheoldred, Whispering One, coming in at a lucky $13. A sure thing is a sure thing, and this deck is also a great pick to actually win a game of Jumpstart since it has Entomber Exarch and Phyrexian Reclamation to keep the graveyard churning.

#2. Milling

Ready to be the bad guy? There’s only one decklist for the Milling pack, which means you’re guaranteed to pull Bruvac the Grandiloquent, a $25 card that’s also a key part of any successful mill deck in EDH, perhaps even as commander.

The curve on this deck is pretty high if you’re trying to win a game of Jumpstart, so maybe pick a different deck if higher stakes are on the line than the Bruvac you’re taking home.

#1. Elves

Would you rather have Craterhoof Behemoth or Allosaurus Shepherd? You can’t go wrong really if you play elves, and both cards are two of the three most valuable cards in the set, each over $30.

The Shepherd is the most difficult to find as a unique Jumpstart card. Craterhoof is perhaps the classic green wincon, but a turn 1 Shepherd really improves your chances of surviving to find the Behemoth. And both elves decks work just as smoothly as you’d expect them to in a game of Jumpstart.

Jumpstart 2020 Booster Box | Magic: The Gathering | 24 Booster Packs | 20 Cards Per Pack Including Basic Land Cards
  • Grab two boosters shuffle them together and you’re ready to go. Jumpstart is a unique way to play Magic The Gathering (MTG) that lets you assemble a 40-card deck and start battling in minutes
  • The Jumpstart booster box includes 24 booster packs each with 20 cards—enough for you and your friends to open your packs and get straight into the action again and again
  • Each booster pack has 20 cards and a theme Will you get Cats and Dragons vs Elves and Unicorns. Pirates and Angels vs Dogs and Dinosaurs. Open your boosters and find out
  • Each booster pack contains one of 121 possible card lists so there are over 14 000 possible 40-card decks.
  • Jumpstart booster packs are loaded with cards from throughout Magic The Gathering (MTG) history plus 37 cards that get their first-ever printing and dozens of cards from Core Set 2021 (M21)

Wrap Up

Dramatic Finale - Illustration by Steve Argyle

Dramatic Finale | Illustration by Steve Argyle

Will Jumpstart decks be stacked with chase rares and mythics with a pretty decent odds of acquisition when Dominaria United packs drop? We’ll find out soon enough, but for now there are a lot of great Jumpstart boosters to grab if you can find them. If you didn’t get the chance to play Jumpstart when it rolled out in that first pandemic summer, in paper or on Arena, it’s a pretty fun way to play some casual Magic and introduce friends to the game.

Compared to theme boosters, Jumpstart boosters are better for players at all ranges of the Magic spectrum. I for one am looking forward to a more consistent release cycle of the product to be able to crack into at my LGS.

What are your thoughts on these two packs? Do you wish theme boosters were sticking around, or are you happy to see Jumpstart boosters taking the spotlight? Let me know in the comments down below or over on Draftsim’s Twitter.

Happy cracking!

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