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Card Wizard’s Black Book – Friend or Foe? March 12, 2009

Posted by Norm in Casual.
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cwbbThis morning I got a heads up from reader Lunashine regarding The Card Wizards’s Black Book, as seen on YouTube. I stumbled across this video a few months ago and thought, cool a way to beat the system. I also need to give Ross Edwards some props because he probably spent a lot of time and money trying to figure that out. However, after hearing other voices online and giving this information some thought I realized this could be a bad idea.

As for me and most players we are at the consumer end of the game, meaning we buy the cards and open them. Hoping to get that chase rare or whatever we need for the decks we are playing. But if store owners or retailers are opening booster boxes in advance and pulling out the choice rares this leaves the consumers at a great disadvantage and will actually raise the cost of cards since they will be even harder to open.

I suppose if you look at it from the other end, as a consumer, you could go out and buy a booster box and open the cards you only need. Saving the rest for draft or another format.

Anyway I wanted to put up this post and see what you think? The Card Wizards Black Book – Friend or Foe?

Here is the YouTube video for your connivance.



1. CopySix - March 12, 2009

It does go without saying that there is a card collation algorithm. I am unsure whether individual MTG products could be mathematically mapped with any accurate probability – again it is stressed that this is only a probability. Understanding the mapping of booster boxes heavily favours only the retailer as it is they that ‘consume’ the greater volume of booster boxes. . . . interesting – – very interesting.

2. Ben Carlson - March 12, 2009

Yeah, seems not super useful if you just buy a box or two, but then again it could still work. I think it’s OK so long as retailers don’t do it. I know I talked to my FLGS guy and he said he has almost gotten into fist fights with shop stands at events because they would do this and sell the good rares off, while selling the boosters as boosters. He’s 100% against it. Just have to know who you’re buying from I guess…

I would totally do this if I bought a box or two, like you said, pull the good rares and then draft the rest, but then again why not draft w/ the good rares in there anyway? You’ll get them eventually…

3. Gemini6Ice - March 12, 2009

I can’t see youtube at work. What’s the gist? Figuring out which packs have the rares by the serial numbers? By opening up a few packs? How do they do it?

4. Ben Carlson - March 12, 2009

@Gemini6Ice Basically rares come off their own sheets in a print run, and they follow a pattern. So with enough boxes and documenting orders of rares and packs you can figure out that print run order and know “where in a box” a certain rare will be after you open a pack or two in order to “locate” yourself in the print run. Make sense?

5. Duncan - March 12, 2009

The thing about this book being public knowledge is that you now know retailers can do this. They knew how to do it before, the only difference being that it’s now public knowledge that they do it. Now that you know of the book, if you want to go into a store and buy a non-searched pack, ask the dealer to open a new box so you can buy from that. If he refuses, go to another store that will. It’s basic capitalism.

Most smart buyers buy boosters in boxes anyway so this whole argument is moot.

6. Ben Carlson - March 12, 2009

@Duncan Yeah, like I said, make sure you know and can trust your dealer (if it’s a FLGS then often you’ll develop a relationship / friendship w/ the owner if you’re in there enough), otherwise do like you say and make them open a new box or you’ll shop elsewhere.

7. Gemini6Ice - March 12, 2009

Ah, thanks for the explanation. That does make sense. If this is the case, I hope that Wizards starts shuffling the packs themselves to some extent before boxing them.

8. Duncan - March 12, 2009

@Gemini6Ice That’s financially impossible. Wizards doesn’t own the printer so they aren’t in control of the printing. If they asked the printer to have someone(not a machine which wouldn’t be random) shuffle the packs up, the printer would have to double their staff as machines could no longer pack the boxes. This would make the cards cost much more(probably about $6 a pack) and less people would play. With less people playing, the game dies out and Wizards collapses.

It’s far more profitable to keep the current process.

9. Jon - March 12, 2009

I bought the book back in early January. I was intrigued by the process of mapping out the rare distribution, as it was something I thought about trying a few years back but figured I would never open enough boxes of product myself.

While I was impressed with the author’s effort into figuring out the mappings I was disappointed with some simple aspects of the book and ideas brought forward.

For $15 I didn’t expect a masterpiece of writing but when I looked at his first example of a box of Tenth that he opened only specific packs in I was amazed to find an error in it. He had drawn his 12×3 grid and showed the handful of packs he opened and where they were located and I cross-referenced the listing of Tenth he provided and figured, well I’ll just fill in all the other packs in the box that he didn’t list. In doing so I kept coming up with the answer that where he said 1 rare he specifically opened was, was not where it could be. (If I had the book in front of me I could be more specific on this but its sitting somewhere hidden in the back of my car.)

I banged my head against the table for a little while and then moved on to the other boxes and filled out their information and it all worked out fine, but when I went back to that first example I realized it was wrong. Now what bothered me was that this was a guy that stressed how important it was to be accurate with writing down exactly how you opened your product, so I expected a certain level of meticulousness.

After that I found myself unimpressed when it came to the parring system. There really isn’t a wow factor to that process. I was really hoping for more maps than were provided.

Other simple things like a lack of labeling tables, not listing the order of packs opened in a box for all the packs (skipping numbers), and typographical errors just started adding up with each page I read and started to annoy me. Now I really can’t fault the author too much on this though since I don’t imagine he had an editor, it was cheap, and he was likely trying to get this book out as fast as possible to make it useful to Magic players.

I did take my copy to my local Magic store and the owner and I opened up the only new box he had just to give it a shot. We did open Elspeth and Tezzeret exactly where we expected (one happened to be the first key pack checked), so I do have to say from a small sample size I’ve seen it work.

I agree with the author and a number of people out there that it is nice to have a book explain what a number of dealers have known for awhile.

The thing that concerns me in having print runs out there is that it allows Magic players who draft at stores where you can bring your own packs to set up a deck before they even crack their first pack. Yeah you have no real control what the people passing to you take in that first pack, but setting yourself up with 3 bomb rares in the same color and then forcing that can work at a number of stores where the competition skillset may not be the greatest. The simple solution to avoid this is if you run a store and someone brings packs just have them trade them in 1 for 1 before the draft starts.

10. Norman Huelsman - March 13, 2009

Jon, Thanks for the review and synopsis of your experience. I wonder how difficult it would be to make your own map and list. If you opened a case of cards? maybe two?

Thanks everyone for the great discussion. We’ll see if this becomes a greater issue in the future.

11. Lunashine - March 14, 2009

Im pretty sure most dealers had those infos, so its only somekind of justice that the end consumer can do it too. Its some matter of trust regarding where you buy the boosters, but after opening 4 copies of “conflux” (the card), when buying less than a display single boosters and not having anything like progenitus or nicol in them, that seems suspicious now. only bad luck maybe?

alltough he cant be really blamed for not providing more maps, as he said some sets are like “unmapable”. conflux, for example, as he stated. nonetheless, Id really love to get a map of ravnica if it exists, I was able to get my hands on some boxes for a truly fine price ^^

I also dont think this will change the future in the way everyone will notice it. print runs are nothing new, and wizards is informed about those facts, so Im sure there are plenty of countermeasures. still, in the end, realizing that theres a system meant to be “random” that someone can exploit and use “against” you, is a fact I absolutely cant support.

12. qqq - March 17, 2009

If nothing else, this makes me very cautious about buying from dealers on ebay who sell only booster packs, or dealers who sell singles who also sell boosters in top-loaders… not in boxes.

13. Mark - April 28, 2010

My dealer used to tip them all out and price each booster individually before putting them back in the box, so no issues there, he was running a hobby shop where CCGs were just a small part and he didn’t sell singles.

Buying a part box from eBay must be the biggest give away!

Buying cards from Electronics Boutique (Australian computer games shop) or a toy shop is probably the best way of getting unsearched cards because unless the staff are players no one has time or inclination to search through to pick out the good boosters.

If shop keepers or eBay sellers push it to the point where you simply can’t buy a booster with any hope of getting a good card then the public will just buy an unopened box. I used to split a box with friends as I couldn’t afford to buy a whole one myself.

I have yet to buy the book but it is very interesting to hear that someone has gone to the effort to map the boosters, I did something similar with boxes of IKON Star Wars Collector Cards boosters fom Australia to find the Gold and Silver chase cards, it is interesting to see the repeating patterns but I only opened 3 boxes and haven’t used the information for anything useful.

14. jtgt - February 22, 2011

As you will notice, this is a fake!

Notice the packs with the alledged mythics leave the camera for a short time. The common on top is flashed for a second there and turns from green to white. You will also notice, that he shuffles the common to the bottom at the sharkan pack because he is aware of that.

Do not buy the book, you will be disappointed.

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