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When one MTG deck costs $400, can we admit there’s a problem?

Another in-demand Magic the Gathering set, another round of wildly expensive Commander precons - does anything justify the absurd cost?

Collector's Edition Eldrazi Incursion MTG Commander deck

Demand from MTG players and collectors has driven presale prices for the upcoming Eldrazi Incursion Commander deck over $144 dollars on MTG trading site TCG Player – and the blinged out collector’s edition is close to $400.

Forget that you’re an MTG fan for a moment and think real hard about that figure – four benjamins for 100 sheets of cardboard. What does it say about us that we could even consider that a good deal? You could get a Steamdeck – a handheld gaming PC – for $399. A Boss Quartz chronograph watch is $380. $400 is enough for a very solid 3D printer.

It’s easy enough to explain why, in market terms, an MTG Commander precon deck could be this expensive. Wizards of the Coast doesn’t provide an MSRP for its products, but it does set a wholesale price, the floor which retailers must charge above to make a profit. Prices rise from there as sellers respond to market demand, whether that demand comes from players who want the deck, collectors who are speculating on future resale value, or scalpers buying decks to immediately markup and resell.

MTG card art for Greed, a man sitting on a throne vomiting gold, illustration by Izzy

Never mind what the market says the price is, though – the way that value scales on Commander products is whack. Precons start at $25 for beginner decks, though most retail around $40. The other three MH3 precons are around $50-60. Eldrazi Incursion is selling for around $140, which means it costs $80 to swap out the ink on the 100 cards for ink that has better in-game effects. And for just another $250, you can make the cards reflective and pringle shaped.

My best theory is that the collector’s edition Commander decks are a veblen good – a luxury for which rising prices result in increasing, not falling, demand. They’re expensive because people want them, and people want them because they’re expensive. Maybe that will last forever, like the aura of luxury around diamonds and Champagne, or  maybe it’s a bubble that will burst and leave a lot of collectors out of pocket.

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I would be a massive hypocrite if I suggested people shouldn’t spend their disposable income however they want. I just wonder if people really do want what they’re paying for.

As YouTubers like Tolarian Community College and Commanders Quarters demonstrate, repeatedly, you can make a fun Commander deck for under $50.

If you do have $400 to spare, you could buy a high quality home printer, good quality card stock, a pair of scissors, and have funds left over to buy a booster box of Thunder Junction from your friendly local game store to run a draft with your friends.

If want to get into the MTG Commander format without proxies, many older Commander products are still on shelves, and cost half as much less compared to the new shiny stuff. Check our guide to the best MTG Commander precon decks for some recommendations, and stop by your friendly local game store to see if they have any gems gathering dust.