Could the Battle for Zendikar Fat Pack Shortage Happen Again with Oath of the Gatewatch? What Can We Do About It?
Spoiler season is underway for Oath of the Gatewatch, the second and final expansion of the Battle for Zendikar block. The prerelease is this weekend, and with the rapidly approaching release date on its tail comes a single question from Magic players across the world:
What will happen with Oath of the Gatewatch fat packs?
It’s no secret that Battle for Zendikar fat packs nearly sold out completely before it was even released. It’s a long and complicated story which Ben Cottee covered in an excellent article here on Manaleak about a week before the set’s release, but it is important that we take another brief look at what happened before we move on.
The Battle for Zendikar Gold Rush
In August 2015, Wizards of the Coast confirmed that Battle for Zendikar fat packs would include 80 full-art basic lands. This was big news, as at the time the full-art basic lands from the original Zendikar expansion cost an average of £0.70 a pop ($1.00 USD). Immediately people began to do the math, surmising that a fat pack purchased for roughly £30 (or around $40 USD) could easily double the investment through the full-art lands alone. Pre-orders poured in at retailers around the world. Many speculators pre-ordered inordinate amounts of fat packs, and Magic players around the world found themselves out of luck when retailers stopped accepting pre-orders.
Then the bad news came in. There weren’t enough Battle for Zendikar fat packs to go around.
It’s important to understand that Wizards of the Coast only makes fat packs in a limited print run, when an expansion is released. Most hit the shelves immediately but some are held until they are needed later down the road. When pre-orders started to come in for BFZ fat packs, it quickly became apparent that the resale stock that had been printed would not be enough.
Wizards then forfeited their restock amount, hoping to stem the tide of pre-orders. It still wasn’t enough.
Supply and Demand
The news trickled down, slowly at first, that there weren’t enough fat packs to meet the amount of pre-orders that had been placed. Battle for Zendikar fat packs were taken off the product reorder list. Local game stores had to apologize to customers and determine who would receive the few fat packs that had been sent. Many accused Wizards of the Coast of grossly underestimating the demand on Battle for Zendikar fat packs.
Others pointed to the fat packs from previous expansions that gather dust on retailer shelves as a possible explanation for the seemingly insufficient amount of fat packs printed this time around. Why increase the size of the print run when fat packs from other sets always struggle to sell? The response from upset players was that Wizards should have anticipated the rise in demand due to the addition of full-art lands.
Nonetheless, the fact remained that there was an unprecedented scarcity of Battle for Zendikar fat packs. Retailers marked up the price on the few that remained. Players complained again. Many YouTube videos were uploaded, some by prominent members of the Magic: The Gathering community, denouncing retailers for increasing the price of fat packs. Slowly over the next few months, as more and more fat packs were purchased online and at local game stores, their price continued to rise in proportion to the increased scarcity.
Many retailers are now selling fat packs for more than the price of a booster box. No clearer indicator is needed to ascertain just how few fat packs remain in circulation.
The price of a Battle for Zendikar full-art basic land? The same as an original Zendikar full-art basic land, which has somehow managed to retain its original price.
What About Oath of the Gatewatch?
Shortly after the release of Battle for Zendikar, Mark Rosewater confirmed on his Blogatog that Oath of the Gatewatch would also have full-art basic lands. 66 of the 80 lands included will be the same basic lands as those in Battle for Zendikar, complete with the BFZ symbol. The final 14 basic lands will be two different artwork versions of the new [card]Wastes[/card] basic land, which will be much sought-after commodity for players of all formats (especially EDH players seeking to drastically reduce the price tag on colourless Commander decks).
To recap, not only will fat packs for the upcoming set include 80 full-art basic lands just like Battle for Zendikar, 14 of them will be a brand-new basic land that many players will be clamoring to get their hands on. Pre-orders are well underway with prices ranging from £27-35 ($40-50 USD), depending on the retailer. Is history doomed to repeat itself? Will we run out of fat packs again in the mad dash to obtain printed money?
So far, there is no indication that the amount of pre-orders outnumber the amount of fat packs that have been printed. Distributors however have warned that in terms of availability we should expect the same figures for Oath of the Gatewatch Fat Packs as there were Battle for Zendikar Fat Packs. Just to be safe, some retailers have taken the cautious approach and are limiting pre-orders, including Manaleak.com. It may be that speculators have learned their lesson by now, or that there are enough full-art basic lands in circulation now that fewer players are in need of them.
What If Fat Packs Run Out Again?
It is important to plan ahead should Oath of the Gatewatch fat packs approach the level of scarcity as those from Battle for Zendikar. What do we do if this happens?
First and foremost, we should show a modicum of respect for our fellow players when pre-ordering or purchasing large quantities of fat packs. If fat packs are running out, how will this purchase affect other local players who just want to buy one or two fat packs to begin their collection of full-art basics?
Perhaps just as important, remember that the full-art basic land market has already been flooded in the past few months. Fat packs will not yield the same investment return that they did last time. Wizards of the Coast wanted more players to have access to cool looking basic lands, and with the new set they will be much closer to their goal. This means an eventual devaluation of full-art basics, or at the very least, a drastic decline in demand.
Magic: The Gathering is a game that is meant to be played, not a market designed purely for retailers and speculators. It’s meant to be fun, and let’s face it, full-art basic lands are fun. They add an element of excitement to the game. They stand out from other lands, which makes them easier to spot (an argument that has been made many times, such as in this blog post pointing out the importance of being able to easily spot basic lands whether you are a beginning player or in higher levels of competitive play).
Be smart with your money. Show respect to the game and each other. Enjoy the game for what it was intended to be.
And have fun tapping those basic lands!
Community Question: Do you think there will be a shortage on Oath of the Gatewatch fat packs? If so then what is your plan? Let us know in the comments below!
Thanks for reading,