Tangram's Blog

Magic the Gathering: Which pack to buy? Intro, Fat Pack, Booster Box, or Deck Builder?

with 5 comments

MTG LogoAs an older (43yo) new Magic: The Gathering player, who has only been playing for 8 weeks, it has been a steep learning curve coming up to speed with the underlying story of MTG and how the stories are represented in annual releases of card sets, and groups of card sets, called blocks. The information is out there … it just requires a lot of reading.

Having got my head around core set releases, block releases, and card rarity, the next question that occurs and that I have seen recurring on many forums is “Which pack shall I buy”.

Everyone wants to get the best possible deal for their money, and the questions arising are often:

  • “Should I buy a Fat Pack or a Booster Box?”, and
  • “Is the Intro Pack worth it”.

There is a lot of opinion thrown around, but little in the way of cold hard facts. So this post presents a cost benefit analysis of each of the types of packs availables:

Here is a direct short-link to the Google spreadsheet I put together: http://goo.gl/lFVBt
Below (hopefully) is the embedded spreadsheet.


  • The calculated cost per card for e.g. 27 Uncommon’s in a Fat Pack assumes that all you are looking to get from the Fat Pack is this type of card. This is the only way to compare the different packages to each other.
  • The 2011 Deck Builder’s Toolkit only has common’s and uncommons. Also consider that it contains 85 Fixed cards and is restricted to cards from M11ZendikarWorldwakeRise of the EldraziScars of Mirrodin and Mirrodin Besieged.

Spreadsheet conclusions:

1. If you are new to MTG and don’t know where to start, buy a couple of Intro Packs for you and your gaming partner to play with against each other. Do not mix up the cards between the packs until you have played a couple of games at least, so you can get a feel for how the packs are different to each other in the way the work. From a price perspective you get Uncommon’s at a decent price and the decks have been preconstructed to help you along your way.

2. You have now played a few games and want to add a number of cards to your collection. You might not yet be too sure as to what they all do, or why the Rare’s and Mythic Rare’s can be so useful. You also aren’t too concerned about having the latest cards. If this is you, then buy the Deck Builder’s Toolkit. It is the cheapest retail acquisition of Common’s and Uncommon’s. You also end up with more Land than you can poke a stick at.

3. So now you have moved on. You want to build your own decks with the latest cards. However it’s the first time you are doing this so you wouldn’t mind a little bling to go along with the cards like a card box with some fancy artwork, some flimsy deck boxes, and … ooooh a plastic D20 (fancifully called a spindown lifecounter or somesuch rubbish, but let’s call it what it is – a 20 sided dice). Sound like you? Then buy a Fat Pack. But be aware that it is the most expensive way to acquire cards.

3. So now you are down to cards, cards, and nothing but cards. You want Rare’s and a good shot at Mythic Rares. If you get Common’s and Uncommon’s you want them to be from the latest sets. It’s a no brainer – If you can afford Booster Boxes (A box of 36 boosters) then do it. Or split a box with a friend.

4. If you can’t afford a Booster Box, then buy individual boosters within your spending limit.

A quick recap on package types:

1. Intro Packs (60 Cards)

MTG 2012 Intro Pack Img

60 Cards: Core intro packs are a constructed, immediately playable deck of cards.

2. Booster Pack (15 Cards)
BoosterPack Img

1 Rare or Mythic (Mythics are 1 in every 8 rares)
3 Uncommon
10 Common
1 Basic Land
Also a token card (useful) or a rules card, or advertising card (useful bookmarks and game table stabilisers).

3. Fat Pack (135 Cards from Boosters + 80 land cards)

MTG Fat Pack Img

Stuff: Players Guide, Card Storage Box, 2 x cheap 60 Card Deck Boxes, D20 (e.g. New Phyrexia Fat Pack)
Cards: 9 Boosters + 80 Land =
9 Rare or Mythic, 27 Uncommon, 90 Common, 9 land + 80 land

4. Booster Box (540 Cards)

MTG Booster Box Img
36 x Boosters = 36 Rare or Mythic, 108 Uncommon, 360 Common, 36 Basic Land

5. 2011 Deck Builder’s Toolkit (285 Cards)

Although Semi-Random, the 85 fixed cards are listed here: http://wiki.mtgsalvation.com/article/Deck_Builder’s_Toolkit_2011
Contains: 100 land cards, 125 semi-random common and uncommon game cards, four 15-card booster packs from current magic sets, card storage box, and a guide containing deck building tips

4 Boosters: 4 RareMythic, 12 Uncommon, 40 Common, 4 Land
85 Fixed Cards: 75 Common, 10 Uncommon
10 Cards each from 4 “deck building strategies”: 16 Uncommon, 24 Common
+Land: 100

Total: 285 Cards
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Written by tangram11

5 October 2011 at 9:31 pm

5 Responses

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  1. what is your opinion on getting a duel deck vs. 2 core decks – to start playing immediately with a friend?


    24 October 2012 at 7:14 pm

    • By 2 core decks, I assume you mean 2 of the intro-decks i.e. One of the 5 two-colour decks that come out with each core release.

      I think this comes down to a matter of experience.

      The core intro decks have been criticised in the past for not being particularly well balanced, so deciding which 2 of the 5 to get is the challenge, because you may find that one of those decks tends to overpower another. However since Core 2012 I think they have been reasonably good for fun gameplay, demonstrating how a deck can be built up around a particular mechanic, and overall have thought they were quite good.

      The Duel Decks, however, are very specifically focused and constructed to be played against each other. Consequently I think there is much more certainty around the balance and enjoyment to be had. Furthermore, they are nicely themed such as Knights vs Dragons, or Izzet vs Golgari in the latest Ravnica set.

      One difference to note though is that if you buy core decks, you are buying cards that are specific to that release e.g. In the 2013 core decks all cards are M13.

      However in the Duel Decks, cards can be reprints from across the history of MTG.

      Given a choice, personally I would go with a Duel Deck because the card pool used to create the decks from is so much larger than the pool used to create the intro decks.


      25 October 2012 at 9:45 am

  2. Thanks a lot for this post. Exactly what i was looking for, as an “older” player just starting out myself. Your calculations will certainly help me build some good decks a lot faster and cheaper than what i would have thought!

    Christian Wilde

    26 July 2013 at 1:06 am

  3. although an older post was interesting to read as buying my son magic cards and was unsure if i should buy a selection of intro packs / decks or splurge on the booster box for his birthday 😛 as i only plan on buying him card in bulk for Christmas / birthday presents want to try and get him as many good cards as possible so he doesn’t get tired of the game (with the odd booster pack thrown in here and there for good behaviour :P)


    12 February 2014 at 9:07 pm

    • A Booster Box (36 x booster packs) has a greater chance of yielding rare cards because the distribution of mythic rares is 1 per 8 booster packs. Furthermore, the booster box appears to be guaranteed to have a particular distribution of cards across the packs.

      As noted in this post (http://forums.na.leagueoflegends.com/board/showthread.php?t=3026302):

      1.) There is always a foil rare/mythic in a booster box, but not more than 2 foil rares/mythics.
      2.) There is always at least 3 mythics rares, but no more than 7 (discounting foils).
      3.) There will not be duplicate rares/mythics (discounting foils).

      If you are buying as a gift, Fat Packs are quite nice because you get the following
      Good quality booklet that has a complete visual encyclopedia of all the cards in the set.
      The whole booster box makes a good storage box.
      The cardboard wrapper around the booster box should be unfolded carefully (don’t rip into it) because the revers side is a pretty cool poster.
      Nine booster packs
      Eighty-card basic land pack
      Special edition Spindown life counter (this is just another D20 with a nice symbol for the #20 that matches the set symbol)
      Two cardboard deck boxes

      If you just wanted to buy 9 booster packs, then wrapping it all up with some bonus items into a Fat Pack is the way to go.


      13 February 2014 at 6:14 am

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