Magic: The Gathering has spent the majority of 2023 celebrating the popular trading card game’s 30th anniversary, kicking the party off with the now notorious $999 collection of booster packs full of effectively proxied cards.
As the back half of the year looms and MagicCon: Las Vegas draws closer, MTG publisher Wizards of the Coast might have accidentally offered their best replacement to that exorbitant box of tournament-illegal cardboard with the Festival in a Box. But even at $250 (in the US - sorry, Europe), it’s a far cry from the open invitation to the big birthday tent that Magic: The Gathering wanted to offer its massive player base.
The Festival in Box promotion provides players who can’t attend the various MagicCon events and tournaments a chance to snag exclusive promotional cards and highly sought reprints, alongside a mess of booster packs meant to recreate special draft events. The Las Vegas version of this product is no different - the $250 price of entry will net the purchaser 48 booster packs and various quality (more on that in a bit) along with four cards that will only be printed in conjunction with this event.
Three of those reprints are Mana-generating artefacts - Mox Tantalite, Mox Opal and Sol Ring - featuring new illustrations from famed artist Dan Frazier, the man responsible for the six famed Mox artefact cards that comprise a majority of MTG’s Power Nine. He’s since defined the aesthetic style of jewellery-based artefact designs, which have cropped up as Secret Lair alternate art treatments and various promotional offerings. The last card is an extremely cool version of Relentless Rats illustrated by Graham Yarrington that is ominous, psychedelic and oozes an alien beauty.
For many players, new Frazier cards would be enough to justify the price of entry, but the box will also include 48 total booster packs, half forming a convention version Mystery Booster draft while the rest are a rough smattering from MTG sets spanning the past two years. Mystery Booster was specifically designed for Chaos Draft, a limited format where the players have no idea what the cards inside each booster might be. The format has become a staple for conventions and events for its unpredictability and casual gameplay environment.
It’s hard not to look at the other chunk of ostensibly random booster packs and not think that Wizards of the Coast is taking advantage of a prime opportunity to unload some warehouse stock under the guise of a second, slightly-less-Chaos Draft. Here’s a breakdown of what each box will contain:
- 1x Dominaria Remastered Draft Boosters
- 3x Modern Horizons 2 Draft Boosters
- 1x Dominaria United Draft Boosters
- 1x The Brothers' War Draft Boosters
- 2x Streets of New Capenna Draft Boosters
- 4x Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Draft Boosters
- 3x Wilds of Eldraine Draft Boosters
- 4x March of the Machine Draft Boosters
- 1x Phyrexia: All Will Be One Draft Boosters
- 2x Innistrad: Crimson Vow Draft Boosters
- 2x Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Draft Boosters
Four Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty boosters are a welcome inclusion, as that set was one of the most popular draft environments in recent years, and the three Modern Horizon 2 boosters will add both value and power to the pool. The rest are random assortments of recent sets that are no longer filling the displays at local game stores or mass retail locations. Call it cynicism, but players shouldn’t think Wizards of the Coast are doing them a favour by clearing out their own inventory space.
At the end of the day, the Festival in a Box is a fine purchase for those who want to experience a truncated version of MagicCon: Las Vegas. For everyone else, it feels like a consolation prize - a compromised collection of big-ticket cards papering over so much product glut that can’t even be saved by its relatively cheaper sticker cost. And if that’s not an emblematic - if unintentional - celebration of where MTG finds itself in 2023, I don’t know what is.