"No worthwhile reward is easily gained" - Nicol Bolas - Font of Agonies, Ravnica Allegiance
What's the deal with themed boosters? Themed boosters are booster packs with 35 cards inside, 1-2 of which are rare or mythics. The big difference between these and normal boosters are they are guild specific (at least in these latest Ravnica sets). I thought these seemed like a great idea! Finally, I can get some big demons and burn spells without any of those boring white soldiers! However, I’ve heard some lacklustre things about these booster packs recently so I thought I’d grab myself a Rakdos themed booster and 2 standard Ravnica Allegiance boosters for comparison.
In the UK the themed boosters are a little cheaper than 2 standard boosters, and they even have 5 extra cards. Cheaper and more cards, what value, right? Well but the value doesn’t just come from the sheer amount of cardboard. When you buy normal boosters there is the thrill of the hunt, chasing those foil mythics or shock lands. For a casual player like me, opening boosters is almost like a pseudo draft. I get some random cards in my boosters then build weird jank decks around the rares I pull. The themed boosters lose a bit of that feeling. You lose a bit of the "true random" feeling as you've predetermined what colours you're getting.
The thing that these boosters really get right though? Flavour. When you crack open these packs the cards are wrapped up in a cardboard sleeve with the guild symbol on it, and I love it. I know for many it’s seen as a bit of a waste, but for someone who really digs the themes and lore, it’s just a little bit extra that makes these feel so cool. Am I a sucker for thinking this adds a little value? Probably.
Onto the cards. My pack had 26 commons, 8 uncommons and 1 mythic, a Skarrgan Hellkite. I would have loved a Theater of Horrors or Spawn of Mayhem, but I’ll take the Hellkite. I managed to get a playset of Skewer the Critics which I was pretty excited about, but that doesn’t hold a lot of monetary value. Chasing the mythics I needed for my deck gave me a little rush, but seeing as I knew I couldn’t pull a foil Jellyfish, the excitement of a normal pack just wasn't quite there.
The 2 standard Ravnica Allegiance boosters gave the exact feeling we all know when opening packs, the complete random outcome we expect. I didn’t get any great pulls from the two normal boosters, and I have to say in comparison, the cards I got in the Rakdos themed booster felt more relevant seeing as I’m on a hype train for the Lord of Riots. Even the commons in the Rakdos pack felt semi-useful. I guess no one really buys packs to find specific cards though. The themed booster even had more uncommons in!
Overall, I feel like the Rakdos themed booster actually had some value. Being a few quid cheaper and having a few more uncommons, the real trade off between 2 standard boosters and these themed packs is the POTENTIAL value. The average value of a standard pack is a little higher, seeing as you can pull the foils and chase cards, but is that really worth the price difference? Don’t forget, I’m a casual kitchen table player. I like to build thematic jank decks and just see what happens. These boosters really feel like they have a place, just not necessarily for those people who like to win. I think their place is in the hearts of those players who love thematic decks and get excited about the artwork. Obviously, the best way to get specific cards will always be to buy singles, and I’ll always love the feeling of opening a load of boosters at release just to see what I open, however, I really do think these boosters have a place bang in the middle, especially for casual players like me.