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Which Magic: The Gathering Sets Should I Buy?

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With so many products coming out almost at a monthly rate, the best way to decide which Magic products and sets are best to buy is by figuring out what your goals and needs are as a player.

Magic: The Gathering has blown up in popularity over the last decade. When I first started playing during Scars of Mirrodin block, back during 2010, Magic's product lineup was pretty easy to digest. Every few months there would be a new Standard expansion (with only one type of purchasable booster box). Over time new draftable and Commander products began releasing. The concept of out of Standard Magic product was pretty groundbreaking for me as a new player, with the first Commander precons in 2011 and the first non-Standard draftable set in Modern Masters in 2013.

Since then, Magic has seen an explosion in product releases, ranging from print-to-Modern sets like Modern Horizons, expansions in partnership with other intellectual properties in the Universes Beyond products, and various draftable products featuring reprints in the Remastered sets, like Dominaria and Ravnica Remastered. Each year we receive almost eight large product releases, not including Secret Lairs. While it can definitely be overwhelming to figure out which Magic products you should allocate your time and money on, hopefully this article will give you some clarity on what the best bang for your buck is, depending on the type of player you are.

Best Sets for Beginners

If you're totally brand new to Magic, or are trying to convince your friends to play the best game ever designed, there are a couple of options of what to purchase. While a lot of players get into Magic to play Commander, I personally believe it's more important you learn the basics of gameplay before diving into buying a 100-card deck and wrapping your head around the multitude of cards and mechanics that are the cornerstones of Commander gameplay.

Instead, I'd look at the older Core Sets and consider purchasing packs or boxes to build decks out of. Core Sets used to be the yearly summer Standard set release for Magic. They acted as almost a reset between the yearly three-set Standard blocks, and would provide both powerful new cards and reprints for Standard Constructed. Core Sets were designed with new players in mind, providing reminder text for mechanics on cards, limiting the amount of multicolored spells printed, and overall trying to keep games simpler to understand than with playing a more complicated mainline Magic expansion.

Runeclaw Bear
Cancel
Lightning Elemental

While you don't have to start with playing Draft or Sealed, I think Core Sets are a great way to help brand new players easily digest Magic's gameplay and basic mechanics. You can crack packs and build decks out of the cards, and learn at your own pace without feeling the pressure of having to join a playgroup or play at a store right away. This will help you and your friends bridge the gap towards more complicated sets and formats.

Best Sets for Commander/Casual Players

Commander and Casual players have a unique set of products allocated to them each year that are vastly different from sets Limited or Constructed players might buy. For example, earlier this year we saw the release of Universes Beyond: Fallout.

Universes Beyond: Fallout is a uniquely Commander/Casual product. With the only products being four different Commander pre-cons and Collector Booster boxes, this product is reserved for Commander players and collectors alike. While Universes Beyond sets vary in legality, Fallout is only Commander, Legacy, and Vintage-legal.

Even for sets that are Draftable, like Outlaws of Thunder Junction and Modern Horizons 3, Wizards prints Commander set-specific pre-cons and Collector Boosters that contain cards that are only legal in Commander. While anyone is free to purchase whatever Magic product they choose, it seems that Wizards wants more casual players to make these one-time pre-con or Collector Booster box purchases, while they allocate draftable products to players less interested in Commander or higher-end collectable products.

If I were a Commander player I'd look at the various Universes Beyond sets released each year, such as Fallout or Assassin's Creed, as the products I should buy. While I'd probably purchase some Collector Booster packs or Boxes, I'd refrain from buying every single Magic product that's available. This can lead to burnout and less interest in Magic as a brand. Overall, I think the best way to engage with Magic with so many products is to pinpoint what sets seem the best for your goals as a player or collector, and to engage responsibly.

Best Sets for Limited Players

If you play mostly Draft at your FNM and Sealed prerelease you might be asking "why would I need to worry about buying extra product if I play only Limited?". As someone who mainly Drafts outside of larger competitive events, something that really brings me joy is Chaos Drafting and playing with older sets. Earlier this year I wrote about the benefits of building your own Limited community and putting together house drafts. Putting together drafts with your friends either at your LGS or somewhere relaxing like a brewery are great ways to play with various draft sets or pool together your various loose booster packs and Chaos draft. Here are a couple of sets you should consider buying to draft at some point:

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty is by far one of my favorite draftable sets of the last few years. With development led by Dave Humphreys (one of the best Limited set designers of all time) and a slew of fun mechanics and themes, including sagas, enchantment creatures, and artifact synergies, leading to good deck diversity Neon Dynasty remains one of my favorite draftable sets in recent memory.

The Long Reach of Night // Animus of Night's Reach
Flame Discharge
Greater Tanuki

The set also has solid value, with the five channel lands and The Wandering Emperor, and boxes are still around $100 to pick up. I would grab a box of this set soon if you're interested in drafting it at a later point.

Boseiju, Who Endures
Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire
The Wandering Emperor

Shadows Over Innistrad

Mechanically, Shadows Over Innistrad- isn't my favorite set, but thematically it's by far my most beloved. Shadows Over Innistrad is the perfect blend of classic horror elements (featured in the first Innistrad set) with the boost of Lovecraftian horror, with the impending Eldrazi emergence on the plane. Delirium and Investigate make for grindier games, and lead to interesting deck-building decisions. While not having the best financial value, Shadows Over Innistrad makes for a really inexpensive and well-designed set to play around Halloween, featuring one of Magic's most iconic planes.

War of the Spark

Another draftable booster box that is only around $100-130 is War of the Spark. War of the Spark is both an iconic set for its story implications (end of the Bolas saga) and powerful mechanics. Each booster pack includes a planeswalker card, making these packs pretty powerful to draft with.

(Teferi, Time Raveler, Liliana, Davriel, rogue shadowmage, Arlinn, voice of the pack)

Teferi, Time Raveler
Liliana, Dreadhorde General
Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage
Arlinn, Voice of the Pack

There are a lot of solid Magic sets to choose from to draft. Here's a shortlist of sets that are around $100-250 that I'd consider picking up boxes up of. All of these (except maybe Kaldheim due to snow lands) also make for great Chaos Draft packs.

  • March of the Machine
  • Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty
  • Shadows Over Innistrad
  • Khans of Tarkir
  • Modern Horizons (1 and 2)
  • Time Spiral Remastered
  • Kaldheim
  • War of the Spark

Best Sets for Constructed Players

It's hard to gauge what products to buy for players that are mainly Constructed aficionados. Being a Constructed player first means that you're purchasing singles more often than buying Booster Boxes in bulk and cracking packs to hope to open cards you need for your decks. I do think Constructed players benefit from Drafting at the start of each set's release - this gives them some opportunity to open packs and pick up cards they need. While I don't think it's the best financial decision to crack a Play Booster Box at each set release for Constructed players, doing so with the intention to Draft it with friends is way more plausible.

That being said, I'm definitely going to pick up a box of Modern Horizons 3 Play Boosters. While I'm primarily picking up a box to Draft with friends, I want to continue building my Modern collection over time. Sets that are printed straight to Modern that aren't Standard legal (Modern Horizons, Lord of the Rings) are sets that Modern players should be investing in, as they'll need cards from these sets to stay relevant in the format. While Modern doesn't see as big of an influx of cards each year as Standard does, these summer releases keep the format fresh, but also come with the caveat that you'll need to purchase new cards each year to keep your decks updated.

Conclusion

Overall, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what Magic sets you should buy. At the end of the day, it comes down to what you want as a consumer, and what products meet your goals. As someone who enjoys Drafting and building a solid Limited play group, I focus on purchasing Draftable Boxes and Packs of sets that are well-designed and make for a fun experience. I also allocate some of my purchases to cards for my Cubes or Constructed, but my main Magic purchases besides event entries are Draftable boxes.

It can be intimidating for new players or even long-term casual players to figure out what products are right for them. Gone are the days you roll up to your local game store on release day and see each of your friends purchasing their one or two Booster Boxes for the set and cracking packs. We now have so many products in a fiscal year (this year it's eight!) that you actually need to think heavily about where your money is going.

Magic is the best game around and I know I'll enjoy it for many years to come, regardless if they release three sets or twenty per year. What matters most is enjoying the game with the people you love and knowing what works well for you. Engage with the game as best you see fit, and do what makes you happy.

Happy playing and collecting!


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