I don't know about you all but I've also been noticing this problem in specialty products not just Standard products at my own Local Game Store (LGS) recently. After Zendikar Rising there was this sudden shift of behavior with the employees there where when I tried to pick up the card singles I was wanting to purchase from Modern Horizons 2 I'd assumed they'd crack boxes of it during Pre-Release Weekend but they didn't have the cards available yet apparently. Little did I know that they were only relying on people actually placing Buylist orders to carry the new card singles from these sets instead of doing mass box openings to place them in stock which I found to be very suspicious. I'm guessing it had to do with the EV of Modern Horizons 2 tanking in price to where Local Game Stores didn't think they'd get any money selling card singles for it.Quote fromAre mass box openings dead? Obviously there's a couple of ways to address this. We can discuss this in respect to sets like Modern Horizons which are specialty sets or we can address the mass box openings with Standard products. Now in the past, mass box openings were normally done by Local Game Stores (LGSs) by using Standard sets cause that's when customers would come in and want to be able to have inventory on all the new Standard releases especially with the big Secondary Market values and that's where they would recoup a lot of their money with cash transactions at their local store. Mass box openings were not really invented or targeted or supposed to be for specialty sets like Modern Horizons or Masters sets in the past, Conspiracy / Battlebond type sets. Aside from that lets talk about Strixhaven. So because we're on the back of the new Dungeons & Dragons set for Magic: The Gathering I know a lot of the regular player base is very happy that sealed product is very cheap and expected value is very low.
The player base segment of the game is very happy with it. Now of course everything in life is a teeter totter, the more they're happy with it that means the prices are very cheap. The cheaper you tilt that way that means well unfortunately stores are aware of that and stores are ordering less of it from their local distributors and they're also not cracking boxes at the rate they used to which is also not absorbing as much of the supply. This has been one of my theories for awhile that Wizards of the Coast not only do they notice less stores are cracking the boxes and stocking card singles in their inventory, I feel this is one of the many long list of reasons that they're using Amazon as the future for selling card singles via direct-to-consumer online. It's complicated. The original idea was to keep Standard cheap and insert really high end lottery cards or really high end chase cards that would help dilute the value of the base set and keep the players happy by keeping it cheap.
That was the original intention of like Expeditions and Masterpieces and Invocations. I was actually very critical of that at first. I looked back at that and got that wrong. I think that was actually the right way to go about it. I wish they would return to that business model because I think that's healthy, it adds more excitement, and it provides an incentive for stores to really go back to cracking lots of boxes to REALLY hunt for those 1 in 1,0001 to 2,000 booster pack type of chase cards. I do think Wizards of the Coast will return to that eventually. Unfortunately again it takes a very long time for them to react because I don't think they're very happy with the overall sales of Draft Boxes. I think as they continue to push all this to Set Boxes because again they charge more wholesale and they put less booster packs in. So they get paid more per box as there's less cardboard in each box so they "win" on both ends of the spectrum. So for them that's a positive financially sound decision.
I really think the reason as to why the market isn't factoring it in enough is because people aren't cracking boxes and flipping card singles, the economy behind a Standard legal booster box is VERY VERY weird. This could be caused by the Set Boxes and the Collector's Edition Boxes diluting, there's a lot of variables that go into it as I don't have an easy clean answer to how to solve something like this. You can argue in so many different ways I'm just presenting to you all as to what I see going on. One of the ways that Mass Box Opening Stores' Secondary Market has remained very healthy for a long time was the Foil Multiplier. Back in the day getting a foil Rare or a foil Mythic was two or three times the price. If you had a $10 Mythic you could sell the foil version for like $30 which could pay for half a box 10 years ago. It was very different because now not only is there almost a zero foil multiplier or a premium for a foil price of a specific card variant (etched foils, extended arts, showcases, and retro frames).
It's so much now that even people selling the cards actually have a hard time identifying which type of card they're selling, buyers are upset because they're getting the wrong version or the wrong variants and the wrong types of foiling, it's so extreme now that to me it's just feels and I HATE to use this analogy where it feels like the Sports Card World of the 90's where it's becoming so many versions of the same Baseball card and so many versions of the same player. There's so many special versions that they're all useless. I think Wizards of the Coast will adjust unlike the Sports Card World where 20 different companies were printing the same Baseball card player. The only printing in Magic: The Gathering is by Wizards of the Coast so we're not gonna go in the same direction as the Sports Card World because the dynamics and the number of companies printing is very very different. Still doesn't mean we can't have a different problem with a type of crash as far as that particular example.
For Standard legal sets I wouldn't recommend anyone doing mass box openings. I just don't see the point in why you would engage in that much risk and labor and time to lose money or break even or to even have less than minimum wage style returns. Not to mention the rising cost and problems associated with online selling like on eBay and TCGPlayer in regards to their fee structure AND the actual shipping costs which continue to go up. I've been starting to hear rumors now that we're going to have a FOURTH price increase from the United States Postal Service in August 2021. A fourth price increase within 12 months. This is the fastest rate of increase for shipping costs in HISTORY! So I also expect Wizards of the Coast is going to continue to raise prices on all their Paper Magic products. I am expecting to see more super high end $100+ booster packs coming. Overall I think mass box openings are dead. As of in the current environment it's dead.
Now when we have specialty products like this Modern Horizons. Now Modern Horizons 2. I feel like they were so concerned with the high price they were attaching to it with the fear of an Iconic Masters type of erosion or crash that they overdid it. They overdid it so much that If you open 30 or 60 boxes of Modern Horizons 2 Set Boxes or Draft Boxes that people were averaging from $400 to $500 Expected Value (EV) where the box prices are dropping and the singles for the set aren't. I don't know how long it's going to stay this way. So do I think Wizards of the Coast really cares about mass box openings in this new era? I don't. All they're focusing on is the sales numbers and I don't think we're going to see a return to that. The way I see this going is very bearish and a little aggressive. So recently there's been a drop in supply for Strixhaven and Mystical Archive products. Is it out of print or is there a supply problem?
What's going on with some of the card prices for Strixhaven for certain single cards and Mystical Archive that's holding up good while the supply is going down? Well I think it's a combination of Local Game Stores (LGSs) not cracking booster boxes. Why? Because they're tired of losing money opening new Paper Magic products being diluted so much that stores are not updating their card singles inventory whenever there's a new set release. After this initial release where all the money has been made during and shortly after Pre-Release Weekend, nobody's opening boxes anymore. Therefore Local Game Stores are not ordering as many booster boxes unless it's just to sell sealed to customers and whales but they're not actually cracking and stocking Standard card inventory. This is leading to the slow erosion of the quantity of card singles that are available online because as the Local Game Stores sell them they're not restocking the Card Singles even by refusing to accept Buylist orders for them.
Wizards of the Coast limits their Standard product releases very tightly to make sure that the set releases for them goes smooth, to make sure that the cards within the Secondary Market don't collapse, and they really bottleneck that to make everyone feel that the set was a success. So don't get the wrong idea right now, just because you see the quantity of a certain card in Standard dropping be aware that it's not because the card is rare or out of print it's probably because the Local Game Stores and the employees who work there just aren't touching the product. Magic: The Gathering isn't dying, it's doing very well, it's just that we don't like the direction in which they're implementing it. But they are doing very well. Final thoughts though? The more things change the more things stay the same. The trend will ALWAYS be our friend.
There is one factor that Rudy forgot to mention for why Local Game Stores aren't as reluctant to do mass box openings for carrying card single inventory nowadays and that's because a lot of competitive players are patiently waiting for the next Standard rotation before these stores feel more "incentivized" to do mass box openings again. As we all know Standard is a mess right now due to all the unchecked power creep from Ikoria onward with no one being able to play In-Person due to the global pandemic which has also caused a lot of Local Game Stores to go belly up and out of business for good. What Local Game Stores don't realize is that while they may be losing more money doing these mass box openings they're still helping out players who play in other formats outside of Standard with EDH / Commander being the most popular format in the game.
Not only are they making it hard for EDH / Commander players to get the card singles they need but they're making acquiring these singles less convenient by forcing their customers to purchase most of their card singles online via eBay or TCGPlayer where they have to wait weeks on end to get the cards they need instead of having instant access toward it. They're under the assumption that the majority of EDH / Commander players play at home more than at their Local Game Store (LGS) where it's much easier to meet up with playgroups without having to rely on Social Media without getting associated with the everyday toxicity we see on Facebook and Twitter. Local Game Stores don't want to live with the reality that EDH / Commander is the new lifeblood of their business more so than Standard nowadays and that's what frustrates them the most.
Only problem is that without Standard you won't have as many new players entering into Paper Magic with less interest of them getting into other formats like EDH / Commander, Modern, and Pioneer to a lesser extent. Arena is already causing an exodus of players not wanting to have anything to do with other formats outside of Standard for In-Person play at Local Game Stores probably because the sound of a digital card game not being tied to a Secondary Market appeals to them more which is understandable I get it. If Richard Garfield had designed Paper Magic what that future aspect in mind 30 years ago knowing that his game would stand the test of time then we could've seen an alternate version of Magic: The Gathering that's more consumer friendly that doesn't cater solely to those who only want to play the stock market or treat the collectibility of the game as a 401k retirement plan.