Zendikar Expeditions: Good for the Game or Another WOTC Money Grab?

There are a number of opinions floating around about the Zendikar Expeditions, and for good reason. WOTC doesn’t do this very often. As Magic players, we have come to expect certain things in our packs (I’m still waiting for them to fold the $20 bills right…), and when WOTC doesn’t deliver on that, we begin to get uncomfortable and start complaining, sometimes without even thinking about it.

That was me when the announcement came. I didn’t like it because it meant my parents and other family members who help to feed my Magic addiction would probably have to pay more for the sealed product since that is what I told them I wanted for my birthday. In reality, the thing that is making the fat packs cost more this time around is the pack of full art lands that is included, and less so the Zendikar Expeditions stuff. Now, these I will probably keep sealed and look to sell in a couple of years. I don’t care much for any of the art on the lands, save for one or two, so it doesn’t make sense for me to open them up (yeah, I can get pretty particular about my lands when I want to… If I had all the money in the world, I’d be buying up Beta Islands like nobody’s business).

Now… back to reality. What is the big deal about Zendikar Expeditions? Well, they are exceptionally rare for one–slightly less rare than a foil mythic, according to MARO–which occur 1 in every 216 packs, approximately (here’s a Reddit post that breaks down–and argues in typical Reddit fashion–the numbers). They are foil ‘full-art’ versions of cards that see play in Modern and Legacy–Shocklands and Fetchlands are the big ones people will be after, along with foil versions of cards that occur in the block. My biggest fear was the increased cost of sealed product. Now, this promotion WILL do that. The people who want these premium lands will spend money hand over fist to get them, especially if they plan on dropping some serious money on a couple of cases anyway. Increased demand for the product will invariably mean an increased price. What does this mean for the typical FNM regular? Little to nothing. I MIGHT buy a booster box if I can scrape together enough loose change to do it (i.e. not likely… My LGS would probably ban me for life if I tried to pay for a booster box with loose pennies anyway), but I would not be terribly disappointed if I don’t, and here’s why.

Thanks to this promotion, the full-art basic lands, the new duals, and the new manlands, Battle for Zendikar will be heavily opened. Staples for Standard will be pretty inexpensive in the secondary market unless they have implications for Modern, Legacy, or Vintage (Monastery Swiftspear, I’m looking at you!). It would not be unreasonable to see some tier-1 or 1.5 competitive decks that sit around $100-$150 post-rotation when purchased from sites like TCGPlayer.com.

Many players fear this is a move towards a new Ultra-Rare rarity. This is not the case. All the cards in the Zendikar Expeditions are reprints, or available in other versions. They are not needed to play the game. They are valuable because they are dolled up versions of multi-format staples that are in high demand. Any version of those staples will do what any other version could do.

Some argue that this is Wizards ‘printing money’ with these promotions. Players are upset because this promotion creates artificial demand for the sealed product, which drives up prices of said sealed product. Here, if anywhere, I believe players have reason to be angry. Not being able to easily acquire product at or below MSRP for the first couple of weeks of availability because of speculators and people pre-ordering and then re-selling at a markup could be an issue. Hopefully, the print runs are large enough to account for this, and I suspect they will be. For the first few weeks of availability, expect to pay full-on retail unless you had some stuff on pre-order at a discount or you have special arrangements. As for the secondary market, new set hype should begin to settle down after a few weeks, and the cream of the crop will rise to the top in typical fashion. Aside from the ‘chase’ rares, things should be pretty cheap on the secondary market after that.

Personally, I am looking forward to the new set because I have never had any desire–and probably never will–to drop $300+ on a deck that I can only play for a year or so, and this is shaping up to be the cheapest Standard in recent history.

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