Saturday, 23 July 2011

Booster Box Madness: M12 Edition (Pt1)

Being fairly new to Magic cards (4 months now I guess) I’d never appreciated the distribution of cards in a booster box.  I understood that (excluding foils) you couldn’t get two of the same card in a booster pack.  I understood that each back consisted of 10 common, 3 uncommon & 1 rare card – and that there was a 1 in 8 chance the rare would be replaced with a mythic rare.  Also there is a 1 in 68 chance that one of the common cards is replaced by a foil (and that foil card has an equal chance of being any of the 249 cards in M12 – including lands).  This is where I thought it ended – but it seems it does not.
You see like all trading card games MTG cards are cut from a large sheet.  This enables them to cut the cards in such a way that you don’t get repeats in a pack. I didn’t think about this too much, but it seems that the sheets thing goes further. The number of repeats of a card you will get in a box is also limited (excluding foils).  If you open the packs int he order they were in the box you even get a pattern of the lands that come out so that you get an even number of each type!  Now I’m basing this on the incredibly small sample size of my first M12 box (the second is still sealed ready for a games night in a month or so), but looking back at the New Phyrexia stats I kept (which was one sealed box with an added 8 more boosters from sealed deck events) it holds true.

From the opening of 36 packs from the same M12 box I have:
Common – 352 (not incl. 3 foil cards)
4x           52
3x           46
2x           3

Uncommon – 110 (not incl. 2 foil)
2x           49
1x           10
0x           1              (Cudgel Troll)

Rare – 32 (not incl. 2 foil)
2x           1              (Bird of Paradise)
1x           30

Mythic – 4 (no foil)
1x           4

Foil – 8
3 Common
2 Uncommon
2 Rare                   (Monomania & Redirect)
1 Swamp

As anyone who has even walked past a probability distribution this is unnatural.  It’s like the random sampling has happened to set rules that are hiding in the background – the sheets are probably large and with a non repeated pattern and the start point for a box probably varies dependant on where they come in the run.  This leaves me with the rather odd position of having bought a box of cards and having no real ‘swaps’.  It also means I can guarantee what I’m going to see in box two – 3/4 of every common, 1 or 2 of every common, mostly singletons of rares and some random mythics. 
This means if we play sealed deck with the other box and I have 3 copies of a certain common spell (say ‘cancel’) then I know that the rest of the group only has access to a maximum of one copy of that spell.  At large public tournaments I’m guessing this doesn’t matter at all, but in single store events playing from one box it may distort things a little.
Either way, I’m going to either have to sell the box without having the fun of the sealed/packwars/draft night (unlikely) or end up with a spare of all the commons and a full playset of the uncommons (likely – afterall 4 more mythics may await!).  I don’t mind the predictability of the contents of a booster box – in fact it means I can budget better around and know that any extra packs added on afterwards as impulse buys are far more likely to cause repeat cards.  It does make it far less likely that i’ll buy a 2nd box in future, but I had my own reasons for not wanting to ‘play as you open’ on the first box this time so in future it’ll be less of an issue.
The mythics I pulled were Gideon, Primevel Titan, Time Reversal & Primordial Hydra.  3 out of 4 are ones I’d play so not bad.


  1. Boosters are really fun to open, but you end up with too many of the same commons, and not enough of others.

    If you want to learn more about card distribution, you might find this thread interesting:
    And perhaps this blog:

  2. If you open all the boosters from one box it does seem you get a fairly even distribution - much more than if you opened random packs.

    I love Ross Edwards stuff, but I think that him going public has had EXACTLY the effect he desired, WOTC changed their methods so the dealers can't card extract so easily. With Dual Face cards having their own sheet box mapping may be dead for the whole next block.