The Cost of Playing MtG

The number one question I get asked by people, who are looking in from the outside, is how much does this cost. Of course, there is no simple answer, so I’ll give you what I’m paying for it, which isn’t going to be normal. I’m definitely on the upper end.

First things first, this is a hobby and hobbies are often expensive. Unlike most other hobbies, you have a lot room to adjust the hobby to your needs and your resources. Yes, you can do pauper cube drafts with your friends in the communal area of your dorm, or you can travel to different continents to play your as-much-as-possible-foils, altered art legacy deck. It all depends on what you want from the game and how much money are you able or willing to put into it.

The key is that it you can do well without paying too much. You just cut down on the most expensive stuff and you need to dig a little deeper.

Cards

Yes, there are very expensive cards. The most expensive one I own is the expedition version of Misty Rainforest, which I’m looking to get rid of. Its an alternative version of card that’s pretty important to many legacy and modern decks, so its valued around 200 euros.

I do own a few cards simply for their collectability, although one of them was a gift and another was a prize for participating in an invitation only tournament (RPTQ or Regional Pro Tour Qualifier), for which I had to win a PPTQ (or Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier) to attend. These are all versions of Liliana, my favorite Planeswalker and range from 80 to maybe 140 euros.

Whenever a new set comes out, I use around 150 euros to get certain cards I want. I usually go overboard and many of the cards I get I never actually use, but those are generally cards that cost less than a euro, which I get just in case. I recently changed my approach and went for a strategy where I settle on a deck in Standard and stay with it until the next set. This does have a drawback though. If I go with this strategy, I usually need some of the more popular cards, which is expensive. For example, this time around (Battle for Zendikar) I only needed to get a few Canopy Vistas and Gideon, Ally of Zendikars, the latter of which is about 20 euro card.

Also, this way I don’t get the high of designing my own decks, which is part of the allure of the game for me.

I also use 30-40 euros on EDH cards from each set. I usually get all the cheap cards I think I might want at some point. I buy the other cards later on when their price falls or move from my Standard collection once rotation comes around.

For Modern, I have one monoblue faeries deck, which cost around 25 euros for me (no Vendilion Clique here), one monogreen infect for about the same amount of money, one monogreen aggro with a pricetag of about 80 euros and three monoblack decks that share plenty of cards (Liliana of the Veil, Inquisition of Kozilek, Thoughtseize or example) with a total value of maybe 500 euros. However, these decks don’t need much attention anymore, so they don’t cost me anything, or you could even see them as investments, because they include plenty of cards that will probably gain value over the years.

All in all, I’d say I use around 1000 euros on cards each year, which I think I’m going to cut back on in the near future.

Events

I try to play in an FNM each week. If there’s a PPTQ in Finland or a GPT in my hometown, I’ll play. I’ll take part in at least one prerelease for each set. There’s plenty of opportunities to draft in my hometown, so I’ll often do two in a week. I’ll play as many WMCQs as I can and I’ll take part in other Finnish tournament series if possible. GPs are a different animal and are at least 50 euros or so, depending on what kind of package I get. The most expensive was something like 115 dollars.

To break that down a bit, the FNMs don’t cost me anything, as I judge them and get some store credit for that. I also pay most of my Prereleases that way. I’ve paid some of my drafts with cards for a long while now, so that’s pretty cheap for me as well.

That leaves me with maybe 60 euros for drafts each month, plus around as much money for all the other events.

Travel

During the 2014-2015 season, I went to six GPs. Some were just quick trips, while others were week-long vacations. The cost of each trip abroad was maybe from 500 euros to 1200 euros. Of course, some of these are my vacations and as such I would have spent the money on travel anyhow, but I’ll count it here anyhow.

I also travel within Finland quite a bit. Unfortunately, using railways in Finland is pretty expensive, but on the other hand, you can cut on that cost by buying the tickets when they are at their lowers price, usually a week before the trip, in which case its about 10 euros or 20 round trip.

That’s about 5000 on trips a year.

All the Other Stuff

Then there’s sleeves, snacks, drinks, actual meals and so forth. Since I would eat anyhow and I use a lot of money on food on any given day, this doesn’t really affect me, but its usually a bout 15-20 euros on food per bigger event. Also, I resleeve my decks before all major events, but that’s only a minor cost overall.

All in All

That’s around 7000 euros per year. Yes, that’s a lot, but I also am in a pretty good financial situation.

You definitely don’t have to use this much money…

How to Save Money?

Cultivate a network. Almost all Magic players cultivate a collection of cards and they don’t need them all most of the time. So, if you need a card, ask around to borrow one. Do return them afterwards, be ready to borrow cards to other people and in case you win, share your winnings (if appropriate). It will save you a lot of money in the long run.

Share expenses. How do I manage to use so much money on the trips? I often get my hotel rooms alone and I often don’t skimp on the quality of the hotel. If I always shared my room with other players, the cost would be much more manageable. I know plenty of players who do it.

Be ahead of the curve. Buying cards before they are popular is a good way to save money on them. Also, you don’t need to play the most popular deck. There are always options you can brew yourself or you can find cheaper, but effective decks by digging around.

Don’t open product, meaning boosters. Its never cost effective. It does have its own fun factor and a rush when you do open something great, but its still not cost effective. I try to do something with boosters when I do open them. I play some limited format or at least build limited decks from them.

Seek out alternatives. There’s always a way to make a cheap deck and there’s always a way to play the game very cheaply. You can get a preconstructed EDH deck for about 30 euros, and if you do your research beforehand, you can get one that’s both good and enjoyable for you. You can buy duel decks with your significant other and just play those. You can build a cube or hang out with someone who has one and only play that. You can play extremely aggressive, monocolored decks in Standard.

If you want to play the game, you can find a way to do it on the cheap. Of course, this depends largely on the people around you…

One thought on “The Cost of Playing MtG

  1. Aki asked comments on this on our forum so I might add my (very much) limited budget as a comment. Be advised that I have a bit smaller paycheck and a family and I only play EDH (and occasional “sixty” where you can pretty much use any cards you have since we only play it during summer at a cabin while drinking beer).

    Events – I have only recently found out the fun that is organized events. I do not have the time to attend that many though. Pre-releases are about 25€ + food + transportation. That’s actually quite a lot on my standards (no flying to other countries here, just the local events). So it’s a about 40€ a few times a year – tolerable.

    New sets – When a new set comes out I usually use my “cultivated network” (mostly that just means Aki) to get the new cards he has no use for and cannot gain money from. I tend to also spend about 20-40€ to get a few “must have” cards for my EDH collection. When the new commander deck are released I might get one if there are cards that I would need/want anyway.

    Lottery – When we have our EDH games I usually visit the local gaming store and buy at least one booster. I know this isn’t that sensible but I just like opening the boosters. It’s like scratch lot cards. The number of times I have got my money back isn’t that high but the price of these is still about 10-20€ per month.

    Other stuff – I usually buy consumable I really do not need (energy drinks, candy etc.) while playing and that comes up to 20€/month. I also happen to think that this is a “instrument sport” so I buy new sleeves, token, etc. every now and then. This sets me back about 10€/month (yearly) at the tops.

    This sums up to about 600€ year – and now that I see the number I’m not sure if I could actually spend that much. But at least it is a lot less than a few years back when I occasionally enjoyed too much whiskey and ordered too much cards for too high price.

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