The most direct way to essentially pay nothing for Magic cards is to find preconstructed decks with individual cards that add up to more than the suggested retail price of the deck. The most obvious example in recent memory of this is the Magic Origins Clash Pack. Touted as perhaps one of the best values that Wizards has ever produced on a mass-market product, it contains 4 cards that see play in the growing (and eternal) Modern format. They are Windswept Heath (the popular “fetch” land), Collected Company (the lynch-pin of a popular and competitive deck), Dromoka’s Command (a very useful sideboard card), and Siege Rhino (one of the best creatures ever printed).
If you combine the retail price of those 4 cards, you get a number close to $25, or the price you can commonly find the deck for online and at local stores. Were you to list them on eBay or TCGPlayer, even after fees and shipping, you’d pretty much have a free deck, give or take a few dollars.
So what would you be left with?
(Price mentioned is lowest retail minus 15% for fees and shipping)
Windswept Heath - $10.25
Collected Company - $7.25
Dromoka’s Command - $2.00
Siege Rhino - $1.50
Total - $23.50
(These prices are as of late-January 2016. The good thing is that these prices will probably creep up over time.)
Avatar of the Resolute $1.25
Valorous Stance (foil promo) $1.25
Sandsteppe Citadel (foil promo) $1
Honored Hierarch (foil promo) $0.50
Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit $0.50
Abzan Ascendancy $0.25
Ultimate Price x 2 $0.25 each
And a bunch of bulk rares, uncommons, and commons
Roughly you’re left with $5+ of leftovers. But they cost you less than $3. Plus, these leftovers are far from being the worst. Avatar of the Resolute is played in Mono-Green Modern decks. Valorous Stance is a pretty useful card, although it really has only seen play in Standard. Sandsteppe Citadel is mostly used in Abzan (White/Black/Green) Commander decks, but this foil is definitely sought after. Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit is a major combo piece in Modern Collected Company decks, and the only reason her price is so low is her supply is so high. Abzan Ascendancy is a bulk rare but one that some people want. Ultimate Price is a popular removal card, so you can probably always squeeze a quarter or two of value out of them.
The other way to break even, and perhaps even profit, from this deck is to send out the more valuable cards on the popular trading site PucaTrade. By adding the top cards in the deck and shipping them out to players that want them, you essentially buy points to get other cards. Not only does this eliminate seller’s fees but it allows you to trade them for other cards.
On PucaTrade, this is what you would end up with value-wise (after taking off $1 for shipping - as of January 2016)
Windswept Heath - ~1350 points ($12.50)
Collected Company - ~875 points ($7.75)
Dromoka’s Command - ~450 points ($3.50)
Siege Rhino - ~275 points ($1.75)
2950 Pucapoints ($25.50 net)
The best part about PucaTrade is that you essentially make the ~$4 shipping back with using the points to trade into other cards that you want. You never pay shipping costs on cards you receive so essentially you’ve bought almost 3000 PucaPoints by sending out four cards.
Yes, this isn’t exactly getting free cards. But there is one special thing about this particular deck.
Wait on it.
Because all four of these cards that would make you break even on this deck aren’t only played in Standard, their value will be retained in the future. It’s quite likely that Windswept Heath breaks $20 as soon as new copies aren’t hitting the market. Collected Company could reach $15 as it once did. Dromoka’s Command will probably stay between $3-5 for the foreseeable future. And Siege Rhino is going to be at least $5 some day. Anafenza, Kin Tree Spirit isn’t going to remain $0.50 forever, either. You’re looking at perhaps $45-50 in future value just from those 4 cards.
Sure, this deck was a much better quick-flip when it first released than it is now. But this example goes to show that it is possible to play Magic for essentially nothing if you identify the cards that will retain their value and perhaps even gain in price in the future. While it may seem a bit boring on the surface, having guaranteed value in your collection means that if you ever need to sell your cards, you know you have put your money in the right place.
There are other decks out there with similar returns on investment. We’ll be covering them more in the future as we continue this “How to Get (Mostly) Free Magic Cards” series.