Will Rieffer wrote an article about how Extended was too expensive, that the rotations were uncertain, and the dual lands were too risky to buy. He recommended using T2 and T1 as formats for PTQs, instead of Extended. I disagree with all of his points. Let’s look at each of those, starting with some history.
Extended was created in May, 1997 and included cards from Legends and Revised edition through the expansions then current – Mirage and Visions. Over time, the other sets became legal. After the problems with Black Summer and so forth, Wizards (okay, technically the DCI) announced the first set rotation in 1999. The rotation removed problem cards (like Hymn to Tourach, various Legends staples, and Lightning Bolt) and changed the format. Wizards created a specific exemption for the dual lands – even though the basic set they were a part of rotated out, the duals stayed because they were a defining part of the format.
They still are.
Wizards understands that the reason that the format is so exciting is that the dual lands make multicolored decks possible – without being broken. They make the format interesting. They are one reason that people who have been playing for a while keep playing. Type 2 may suffer from sets like Masques, but Extended is always interesting. I am convinced that Wizards understands this, and that Extended will continue to be all about several expansions, plus the duals. Blocks may rotate out, although Wizards has not said when this will necessarily happen… But the duals should stay. I would hope the next rotation will happen only when the format has problems, so I don’t have a problem with not knowing when that might happen.
There is another reason that Wizards rotated the sets as they did, and it is the same reason that T1 cannot be a PTQ/Grand Prix format. There simply are not enough cards. Stephen D’Angelo has some interesting statistics on his site. What they show is that the number of cards in existence is not large enough to support all the PTQ players – if they were trying to play T1, where having the Power Nine is a huge advantage. Here are the approximate numbers of each card ever printed:
Each Power Nine card: 23,000
Each dual land: 312,000
Each Legends rare: 19,500
Each Ice Ages rare: 202,000
Is it any surprise that the cost of power nine is much higher than the cost of the dual lands, or that most large dealers have lots of duals, but far fewer Power Nine at any given time?
Now let’s talk about the cost to play competitive decks in the various Constructed formats.
I am going to compare the costs if the cards I needed to play in the last couple years of competitive T2 and Extended play. I’m going to total the costs of new cards that I need, including those from past expansions and the dual lands, but ignoring the costs of any cards in the basics sets, like Birds of Paradise, the Ice Age painlands, and Wrath of God. That compromise should reflect the fact that most players already have some cards, but not everything. Finally, I am ignoring the block Constructed seasons, which would complicate this even more, since Will just talked about T2 and Extended.
I’ll start this two years back, at the point that Saga Block and Mercadian Masques were legal for T2 play, and list the rares and costly chase uncommons that I needed for the decks I played. Note that the decks in T2 change every time a new set is released, but that Extended changes are much slower. Nonetheless, I listed two Extended decks for each Extended season, although I did not list the multiple T2 decks in played in any given T2 season (for example, at one point, I rotated among Bargain, Replenish and Tinker decks on a weekly basis). Anyway, here’s a list of the decks, with their expensive cards, followed by the costs each year.
T2 with the entire Saga block and just Mercandian Masques:
I played, as I recall, a Tinker variant. I needed four Processors, four Grim Monoliths, a couple Masticores, Morphling, Mishra’s Helix, Crumbling Sanctuary, Karn – Silver Golem, and so forth. I think I had one or two Stroke of Geniuses in the deck, too.
T2 with Nemesis added:
I switched to Replenish. For playing Replenish, I needed four Parallax Waves, four Parallax Tides, four Replenishes, four Opalescences, four Attunements, two Worships and two Masticores in the sideboard.
T2 with Prophecy added:
I switched to Rock and his Minions. I needed four Deranged Hermits, four Phyrexian Plaguelords, two Dustbowls, two Vampiric Tutors and four Rapid Decays. The rest of the deck was either old rares (Birds of Paradise) or commons and cheap uncommons.
In short, for T2 in that period, I bought or traded for over fifty rares – and at least half of those cards were in the $10-$20 range. Replenish and Rishadan Port may be cheap now, but when those cards were hot, they cost as much – or more – than a dual land. Total cost of the cards, at then current prices, was probably over $500 – although I used some tricks to cut the cost. I’ll discuss those tricks below.
Extended for the 1999-2000 season:
I played Enchantress and Counterslivers. For Slivers, the more expensive deck, I needed four Crystalline Slivers, three Tundras, four Underground Seas, two Misdirections, two Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrublands[/author], two Undiscovered Paradises and two Honor the Fallen for the sideboard. The rest were uncommons, but Force of Will are $5-$10 cards, and the uncommons like Gemstone Mines and Swords to Plowshares are a couple bucks more, so buying the deck outright would have cost me about $250. For Enchantress, I needed four Savannahs, four Argothian Enchantresses, four Auratogs, three Serra’s Sanctums and three Gaea’s Cradles. Part of the reason I played Enchantress was I got the cards really cheap… But call it $200 for this purpose.
Extended was cheaper than T2, despite the fact that I used two decks when I could have played one all season. However, some of the cards in both decks were from past sets, which could skew the results. Let’s continue this for a couple more years and see whether the trend continues.
T2 with Masques block and just Invasion:
I played CounterRebels. I needed four Lin Sivvis, four Rishadan Ports, two Misdirection, four Mageta, the Lions, and one or two of some other rebels (Sky Marshall, Jhovall Queen, etc.), four Absorbs and a Rout.
T2 with Masques, Invasion and Prophecy:
I played Machine Head, and needed four Urza’s Rage, some Obliterates, four Skizziks, four Blazing Specters, and four Voids.
T2 with Masques through Odyssey:
I played Probe-Go or Nether-Go. I needed four Undermines, three Nether Spirits, four Tsabo’s Webs, three Tsabo’s Decrees, one Dromar, the Banisher, and some chase uncommons, like Fact or Fiction.
For the season, call it fifty-five rares or rare equivalents, and most are chase cards. I would have spent over $650 for the cards needed for these decks – and that is a conservative estimate.
I played Trix and a G/B Survival. For Trix, I had to get four Donates and four Illusions of Grandeur – I already had the Underground Sea from Counterslivers. For Survival, I had the Plaguelord and Deranged Hermits already. I added four Bayous, four Survivals, four Spike Weavers, a Krovikan Horror, a Yavimaya Ants, a Phyrexian Negator, two Oath of Ghouls, one Recurring Nightmare, one Living Death, and two Volrath’s Stronghold. (And one Partridge In A Pear Tree – The Ferrett) I had an advantage – I had played a Donate deck casually, so I had bought four Donates from somebody’s $1 binder before Trix appeared. But assuming I had bought all of the new cards at market prices, gearing up for Extended would have cost about $300-$350.
Now T2 with Invasion block and Odyssey:
I played SnakeTongue last week. In addition to what I had listed above, I added four Mystic Snakes, four Shivan Reef, four Yavimaya Coasts, four Calls of the Herd, four Blurred Mongoose, three Diverts. That is at least $250 in new cards, and Torment and the third part of the set haven’t even been introduced.
Extended, this season so far:
I have played my variant of Rock. I played the same dual lands, and many of the same nonland cards, in Rock that I played in G/B Survival. I had to add two to four SpiritMongers (I, and I’m pretty much alone on this, play two Mongers and two Hermits) and four Pernicious Deeds. Call it eight chase cards, costing a total of $66* as of today’s StarCity prices.
So, a simple comparison – the cost of cards to play tier one decks in these formats over the last three years:
Type 2: $1,400, $2,000 by the time the block is done.
Extended: About $650.
So, is it any cheaper to play T2 than Extended? Not in my experience.
Let’s look at the cards one more way: Cards still have some value even when they rotate out of a format, and one way of paying for the new cards is to sell the ones you are not using. However, that value is closely tied to how good the card is in the sanctioned formats being played. T2 has a smaller card pool, so marginal cards have value, provided they are better than the available alternatives. The Extended card pool is far wider, so the value of the marginal cards when they stop being T2 legal and have to compete with the good cards in Extended drops precipitously. For example, Jeweled Spirit was a beating in Masques Block Constructed, and had a high value during that season. Prices fell immediately once the block was over.
I’m going to compare what I paid for the cards when the decks were hot, and what Star City sells them for today.
Cost to Buy Then
Mageta, the Lion
So what’s the point? Simple: Cards you buy for Extended are more likely to retain their value over time. A few may fall to bannings (Survival and Replenish both lost over 75 percent of their value when banned in Extended), but most will stay good. Moreover, the staple cards will still be good, so long as they are legal. Cards like Swords to Plowshares, Duress, Force of Will and Morphling will be solid until they rotate out. That cannot be said for T2.
I expect to use my dual lands until I quit playing Magic, at which time I expect to be able to sell them for a reasonable price. I cannot say the same of my Mystic Snakes and Tsabo’s Decrees.
Okay, a summary – it costs more to get the cards for T2 than for Extended, even in the first year. Extended cards hold their value better than T2 cards. Duals hold their value better than anything else. The conclusion: Don’t be afraid to buy duals and get into Extended.
Now, I was going to add a quick primer on how to get and afford cards, but I did that already; see my article on playing Magic on a Budget. Skip the decklist at the top, the advice starts a page or so down. I would not change anything***, except to add that when Ingrid and I playtest, we generally use proxies made by scanning our cards, then cutting out the scan and putting it in a sleeve with a random common for backing. Not tourney legal, but it does mean that we can have a dozen Extended decks together and ready to play at a moment’s notice, even though several of the decks use sets of the same dual lands, and even though we only own enough real ones for one deck. I like those proxies – there is an advantage to having played games seeing the actual pictures on the opposing cards, as opposed to seeing”Illusions” written on the back of a spare Escape Artist.
I would also note that, of all the proxies we have created for playtesting T2, block, and Extended over the last few years, the dual lands are the ones used in our test decks every season. Most of the others proxies end up getting pulled apart so we can reuse the sleeves.
Okay – one final comment on cards and prices. Magic is a hobby. Hobbies cost money. Being serious about a hobby means you will spend more money. Have you priced downhill ski packages and lift tickets lately? How about sailboats and mountaineering gear? Sorry about that, but that’s the way it is.
Here’s a bonus: Something I wrote about this a while back in response to an email asking how to win with a limited card pool:
> The basic question: How do I make a winning deck out of my cards?
Build the best deck you can and play absolutely perfectly, and you might win. It depends on who, and what, you are playing against.
Imagine this: You have a stock 1994 Saturn sedan and you want to race NASCAR quality stock cars. If you cannot afford the parts to upgrade, can you race? Probably. Can you win? Probably not. A Saturn just cannot compete with cars designed and built to run at 200mph. A great driver in the Saturn might beat me in a NASCAR racer, but it isn’t likely.
But in playing for fun, you don’t need a $2M NASCAR special, nor a $200 deck. I have played, and even won, with an all commons deck.
At small store tourneys, I frequently play lesser cards. For months, I played Purging Scythe and Karn in an artifacts deck, because I had them and did not have enough Processors. Ingrid played two Acridians in her Stompy deck, because we were short two Albino Trolls. In non-tournament games at the store, I often bring out decks with proxies. I just tell my opponent I have some proxies – because I don’t have the cards – and ask if she minds. Most don’t, especially since I print scanned paper proxies that look the same, so everyone can tell what the card does.
Even larger tournaments (e.g. GenCon) had plenty of players with decks full of assorted, almost random commons and uncommons. They had fun and won some of their matches. A fair number of those who had a lot of practice with their admittedly awful decks did pretty well. Expensive cards are a big help, but in the end, it takes skill to win.
But if you are planning on playing, and winning, at the highest levels (e.g. PTQs), you need decent cards. Skill plus good cards will beat skill and garbage. I expect to spend about $50-100 for a PTQ: $25 for entry fees, $10 for food and the rest for cards to fill out my deck. If I’m lucky, I can borrow them from friends. If not, I buy or trade. That’s the price of entry at that level.
That was a few years ago: Now I have a bigger card collection, so I pay less at Extended events, but about the same at T2 and block event. The nice thing is that entry fees have dropped a bit.
Okay, enough for now.
* – I used prices for the”excellent” condition cards, not near mint. When I buy cards for play, I need playable, not Mint. I would buy”good” condition cards, but I didn’t use prices for”good” condition, since StarCity only lists a few”good” condition on the website. However, if you hit the StarCity booth at Grand Prixs or conventions, you can usually get beat up cards for much lower prices.
** – I bought some of these well after the cards were popular in T2, so these may not have been peak prices.
*** – I might add that the prize for an article which wins the weekly prize is now $50 in store credit – meaning that would buy three good duals and a Spike Weaver.