17 October 2023
The new 'Play Boosters' will replace both Draft and Set Boosters next year
Magic: The Gathering will forever be remembered as the first trading card game, where players buy their cards from randomised packs, using them to create their own custom deck of creatures and spells to battle one another.
The design for these packs has changed a few times over the years, expanding the contents and even releasing new forms of booster packs along the main 'draft pack' variant, but Wizards have now announced that as of 2024, the Draft Booster that has been in the game for over 29 years will be retired.
Why are Wizards getting rid of Draft Booster Packs?
The main reason why Wizards are getting rid of Draft Boosters is that people aren't buying them. In 2020, Wizards released Set Boosters, a new type of booster pack that contained less cards, but have a guaranteed foil card and were more likely to contain more expensive rare cards. Advances in printing and randomising packs (such as those used to make Jumpstart packs that are designed for immediate play) meant that Wizards could have a greater amount of control in creating packs that could group cards into themes, allowing them to create a product which were designed to be more fun for players who enjoyed collecting.
Because Set Boosters were more likely to contain alternative or even sometimes exclusive cards not available in Draft Boosters, they became the more popular choice for players to buy, especially when a new set was released and people were eager to snatch up the most expensive rare cards as soon as possible.
However, that semi-randomisation meant that Set Boosters were not suitable for limited formats (games where players use only cards they've just opened from packs), so if Draft Boosters were to go, they needed a replacement that combined the fun of opening Set Boosters with the playability of Draft Boosters.
What is a Play Booster?
The newly announced 'Play Boosters' seek to combine the best of both products into a new pack that contains randomised commons and uncommon cards (so that the game would be playable in limited formats) as well as a guaranteed slot for a foil card and a 'wildcard' slot (expanding the possibility of multiple rare cards appearing in a pack.) Rather than a reduction to the number of cards in a Draft Booster, this product is being pitched as an 'extension' to set boosters, offering more cards at the same price.
From a store perspective, this will also help with sales by reducing the amount of different products to be stocked, letting stores focus on buying Play Booster boxes to appease both customers who enjoy opening packs and those who want to play with the contents in their own format.
The downsides are in costs; with Draft Boosters basically being dropped, the current £5.50 average price per Set Booster will likely become the price for Play Booster, increasing the costs of limited formats.
How will Play Boosters change Magic: The Gathering?
This change in how products are released will have a knock-on effect for future sets. Mark Rosewater, Head Designer of Magic, has been responding to fans concerns on his Tumblr 'Blogatog,' addressing as many major queries as possible.
The main query ('Why are you getting rid of draft') had a simple response. "Had we not done anything, draft boosters would have gone away." says Rosewater. "Play boosters are a means to keep draft (and other limited formats) as part of the game."
He also explained how this was changing overall set design, with less commons and more uncommons to ensure vital game components would show up more consistently in packs to fuel limited decks. "Commons will be more generally useful." says Rosewater. "This means “sideboardable” effects [cards that only work well against specific opponents] will either be part of more modular effects or will get moved to uncommon." Bad news for fans of commons-only format Pauper, given that their new card options will be considerably reduced.
When will Play Boosters be released?
Play Boosters won't be showing up for a while yet, as the next two sets, Caverns of Ixalan and Ravnica Remastered are both confirmed to retain the current standard of Draft/Set boosters. The following set, Murders at Karlov Manor, will be the first set to feature Play Boosters, releasing in February 2024.
How do you feel about the news of Draft Boosters being retired for a brand new design? Let us know on social media