The Preconstructed Deck Buyer’s Guide: An Introduction

By Jay Kirkman | 07 April 2011 | Feature, Free, Timmy | Preconstructed | 9 Comments

I haven‟t always loved preconstructed decks. Although I‟ve come to be almost inextricably linked to them now through writing here and on Ertai‟s Lament, my passion for collecting and playing them has a rather pedestrian origin. The more I‟ve thought about it, the more I‟ve concluded that it stems from something that many (if not most) of us have done at least once: quit the game. This is the third time I‟ve taken up Magic: The Gathering as a hobby, and it‟s certainly after the longest drought. I began at the very start of the game and continued on through Legends, quitting when I left home and moved on my own out of state. I fell into it again somehow right around Mirage, and stuck with it a little longer this time, quitting right before Mercadian Masques. Returning once again for Zendikar, it seems that a fair part of the reason that I fell in love with preconstructed decks was because I had missed so much of Magic„s history in my time away. Whole blocks had come and gone, new mechanics surfaced and submerged, stories were started and finished their telling. Entire worlds had passed me by.

I would have liked to have had some sort of guide or advice as I began my collection. You‟re highly likely to get anything you need whenever you want it for Extended. Another factor adding to the difficulty was scarcity. This presented some rather unique challenges. and as the proud owner almost 150 precon decks I felt it might be time to create one for others who might be starting to do the same thing. Tezzerets.000 burning a hole in your pocket. Although I‟d only owned a single theme deck in my time before (Deep Freeze from Tempest). You can go on eBay at any time and you‟re all but guaranteed to find Stoneforge Mystics. We‟ll begin today with an overview of the series to come. and one only had to check a few pulses and read a few articles to get a feel for what was the fair market value for a card. it was largely unexplored country. And if you happen to have a spare $100. Were some decks better than others? More valuable? More scarce? It wasn‟t too hard to gauge the price of Magic singles as there are always scores of dealers out there vying for business. and what was a rip-off. but in the age of the internet those resources are obsolete. what says „sound investment strategy‟ quite like a BGS-10 graded Beta Black Lotus? But when it comes to precons it‟s not quite so easy. and I‟ve never been all that partial to any format other than Standard. . and anything else you might want for Standard. We may no longer have access to standardised pricing like Beckett for sports cards or Scrye for Magic. I really had no idea what was a „good‟ price for a precon deck.I had neither the time nor inclination to go chasing down scads of booster packs to catch up on lost time. Vintage and Legacy? You‟re probably good. I suddenly discovered that they made the perfect little windows into the sets I had missed. Having the interest kindled. the next step was to go about collecting them. For one.

Here‟s an important observation: you can buy most precons for between $5. when all else fails. I wanted to retch. and they‟re waiting to be found. a figure that includes shipping. it helps to be one of three things. If you are able to manage the impulse to buyitnow. Rich This is the easiest way to assemble a collection:just buy ‘em all and damn the cost. that leads us to our next characteristic: 3. this category probably doesn‟t cover a great many of us. one of which was The Slivers. most of the expensive precons contain something in demand beyond the precon itself. As cruel fate has it. The deals are out there. though. There are a small number of decks you‟ll rarely see at this price point. right? But to dig a little deeper. To my disgust. effectively trading time for money. I once missed bidding on an auction for two sealed Tempest decks. Crafty Know that most precon decks hold the value they‟re assigned for one of three reasons. Patient This is the one I‟d recommend.00 and $8. you can slowly and steadily amass a very solid collection for a relatively modest amount of money. Of course. The best example is the Betrayers of Kamigawa deck Rat’s Nest.00. 2. One of the most expensive theme decks to acquire is Tempest‟s The Slivers. 1. When I saw the closing bid was $10. which typically sells for $60-80. It certainly doesn‟t me. Obvious. Nobody .In order to build a good precon collection. but that‟s where the patience comes in. One is demand.

where inertia can be death. Finally. but they tend to stick around that level. but her intro deck‟s price often stayed right where it was: too high. For a more modern example. we‟ve got the wildly-popular Avatar of Woe to thank for this one. and Sliver varieties. and you can find her at your card-merchant-of-choice for around five bucks. Unless you‟re an absolute purist who absolutely must have the original box and insert. outside of a few tribal enthusiasts whose dreams contain waterfalls of Relentless Rats. this boosts the price of decks as varied as Scourge„s Goblin Mob and Legions„s Sliver Shiversto Lorwyn„s Elvish Predation. This is a characteristic generally found in tribal decks of the Elf. we have Reason Three: cult status. Goblin. That $60-80 The Slivers? How does less than $24 on CoolStuffInc sound? That‟s using Tempest versions . How many Students do you see burning up the tables in Standard? She faded. Our friend the Avatar is a nice transition to Reason Two: inertia. Unlike the singles market. you can bypass these ridiculous prices altogether by assembling the deck from scratch out of singles.cares much about the Rat nezumi anymore. which retails for the distressingly large sum of around $40? Hint: it ain‟t the Maggot Therapy. As we‟ll see ahead. So what does this have to do with crafty? Simple. the precon market is marginal enough not to demand the fastidious attention that a singles inventory does. The Avatar of Woehas since been reprinted twice (and again as a Pro Tour foil). Prices can spike. All three (and others) punch above their wight because they offer players a readymade tribal experience. the prospect of a foilStudent of Warfare spiked the price of Rise of the Eldrazi‟s Leveler’s Glory. How about Prophecy‟s Distress. but this deck typically clocks in at the $20-25 level. No. as folks from all stripes of the game do love their tribes. The reason?Umezawa‟s Jitte.

In the coming weeks I‟ll be looking in great detail at the preconstructed marketplace. The answers might surprise you. Opt for more genericCounterspells and Dark Banishings and you save even more. or just looking to start. that leads into the “Modern Era”. you may be interested to know that we‟ll be checking every step of the consumer experience. which began with Time Spiral. we‟ll also be looking at the Core Set decks from each era. and finishes with Coldsnap. you‟re something of a traditionalist who at least wants to preserve the feel of the deck. Naturally. See you next week. from 2006. like me. get one and you‟ve got „em all. from buying through an online retailer versus eBay. You‟ll still save a bundle. when we begin with the Modern! Jay Kirkman . and how much you really should (and should not) be paying for your precons. If you have any specific areas of interest or concern. and ends with 2002′s Judgment. The “Classic Era” picks up from there with Onslaught. throw in a little extra for some Tempest Islands and Swamps at about thirty cents apiece. Thanks for joining me today. Here‟s another pro tip: the old inserts used to be standardised booklets that were the same for each theme deck. In other words. I‟ve divided Magic„s precon history into three broad periods. Finally. If. and will also be taking a critical eye on other releases such as Beatdown and the Duel Decks. For simplicity‟s sake. The “Vintage Era” begins with the advent of the theme deck way back in Tempest. please don‟t hesitate to make a suggestion in the comments below. If you‟re a collector of precons. which decks will save you the most to make yourself. The documentarian nature of the Internet means that the insert manual you‟re sacrificing is probably excerpted on some Wiki somewhere.of each card.

. web8970· 1 week ago Oh. Since I. it depends whether you want those precons for fun reasons to see how they play out or whether you are a real purist collector needing to have each and every one sealed as they come shipped.. building theme decks out of singles is somewhat a stroke of genius . I don't actually need the box. like COMMENTS (9) Sort by: Date Rating Last Activity Stric9· 1 week ago Jay. The only reason for a sealed. Given the ease with which an almost identical deck can be made through an online retailer.. want to relive all those moments I missed during my extended hiatus.@ErtaisLament www.. I should be able to generate some really large savings. looking forward to the next one. eotfofyl· 1 week ago Great article. never intending to opening . I haven't recently bought any older precons because I now realize. I open the boxes anyways so I can play and get a feel for the sets. :-) However.. deck is for purely collecting reasons..ErtaisLament. you've already saved me money when you pointed out some of those same things on Ertai's Lament. new-in-box. you sneaky wizard adept .

it's being filled with life. Another alternative for the modern decks is buying them without the booster pack inside.. they're opened and played with. take any reasonable advice on doing so and curiously take challenges on creativeness . really! DrJones· 1 week ago This was a great article. play them. . I want to have fun out of my Mtg-Collection . I remember when I bought Exodus' Groundbreaker just for the 3x Diabolic Edicts it included.. I've done that for a few. ertaislament44p· 4 days ago I like to think of myself as being somewhere in the middle.. (There are a bunch of toy collectors out there that need their Star Wars figures originally packed . A bit of an archival treatment. DrJones· 1 week ago I've also bought Theme Decks with the prize card missing. that's the motto and amongst others thanks to Ertai. ertaislament44p· 4 days ago I usually don't seem them broken up. but also lovingly sleeved and double-boxed for organised storage. just admiring the collection on your shelf. tweak them. so open those packs. but this is a good idea and the kind of creative thinking that can really help build a collection for less.. Yes. and then bought the ones from Tempest and Stronghold for the story snippets.them...) This is as well something I find myself considering every once in a while: I do not run a museum. These are pretty cheap and you can replace it later for much less. and saved good money in doing so.

In essence. where can I read about it? Not following precons too closely. quite arbitrarily! This is one of those times where in the absence of any real definition in the game. . ertaislament44p· 4 days ago As it happens.Andy· 1 week ago Have you talked about the Vintage era/Classic era/Modern era distinction before. and each "Era" will get its own column here. and if so. I'm curious about how you drew these lines. I took the deck pool and divided it into three. you make one up that best breaks your articles into reasonable length.