With Guilds of Ravnica around the corner it’s almost time to dig into multicolor goodness and all the amazing cards we’re getting for half the color pairs.
Believe me, I am hype.
New #MTG sets are always exciting, but #MTGGRN previews hitting plenty of strong commons has me hyped for all the updates coming to https://t.co/Ae648xwyhF this week—including the first live Q&A for patrons a week from today! pic.twitter.com/hhf56MkPFL
— Stybs, Jumpcaster Slayer 🗡 (@the_stybs) September 16, 2018
Today is a quick look at how well the Patreon side of things is going. While you’ll never need to be a patron to get the update information or see all the changes, supporting the community that loves the Pauper Cube and giving back to everyone that gives their feedback and ideas is important to me. The cube wouldn’t exist without the contributions of the community, and striking a balance so the Patreon is healthy for costs and as inclusive as possible is what I’m after.
Last time we looked, the Dominaria update led to a significant net negative of -$97.04. With corrected ordering (no mistakes by me), a better shipping process to reduce costs and kind patrons volunteering patience to help ease some costs meant the Core Set 2019 update was the best yet and earned me a cool -$65.80!
Oh. Well then. How did we get here?
Shipping continues to be a significant thorn in my side. While my domestic shipping (inside the United States) is obviously efficient, the cost to ship to patrons around the world is absolutely absurd. Some countries (Canada) aren’t totally unreasonable with the process I use, many others (Australia, those in the EU, etc) are generally $10 per package in shipping cost along. For a few cards it’s totally unfair, but my theory that as shipping costs go down the overall shipping per package would even out is holding true. I mailed three times as many patrons for Core Set 2019 as I did for Dominaria, but shipping was only twice as much.
What’s surprising is that there are so many international patrons! Here, in the United States, the Magic community seems massive in size compared to elsewhere in the world but the numbers just don’t pan out. The England, Germany, Sweden, Australia and more are represented in my shipping list is humbling: the Pauper Cube is officially global!
The most common change here would be to tweak the tiers so international patrons would need to give more for the same rewards as those in the United States, but that’s against the spirit and philosophy of what the rewards are. We’ll see how the Guilds of Ravnica update rewards go, but any change would apply to all patrons and be announced well in advance of the Ravnica Allegiance update in 2019.
Other costs are pretty straightforward. Packaging, the first-time patron gifts and acquiring cards are fairly inflexible as everyone gets secure, safely packed rewards. Non-foils are a much smaller piece of the puzzle than foil cards. Most non-foil cards are $0.10 to $0.15 each, but foils vary widely: $0.25 to $0.40 each is typical but there’s always a few commons that trend significantly higher. For Core Set 2019 this was Elvish Rejuvenator and Viashino Pyromancer. The Rejuvenator was over $2 each on average to pick up, and the Pyromancer was around $1.50 each.
This is where the challenges of foil cube updates are clearest. Most cards are entirely reasonable as a common, but new sets with new commons that may be new staples in formats always lead to price spikes. From Battlebond, foil Jungle Wayfinder was between $2.50 and $3 each to acquire when the set released. (It’s currently around $0.50 two months later.)
While simplifying getting all of the cool cards for updates is one of the goals of the Patreon for patrons, dealing with pricey cool commons is a challenge only solved with more money or more time: cards will always be the price they are and to be timely it isn’t reasonable to “wait out” until the costs drop as they may never drop. Thanks to the year-and-change every set stays in Standard (at least!) and the popularity of Modern there’s no guarantee a card, even a common, will drop in price. Most do (see Wayfinder above) but waiting two or ten to eighteen months to mail the Core Set 2018 update rewards to everyone seems like the worst kind of decision here. In the interim, the tier cap of 40 patrons for foil rewards means the quantities for the expensive flavor of rewards can’t suddenly jump immediately before the update (which happened during Battlebond).
Non-foil and foil rewards already have a differential between tiers, but this is a strong (recurring) data point that the difference should be larger. As always, any major changes will come after the Guilds of Ravnica update and well before Ravnica Allegiance.
The final result is better than Dominaria‘s rewards push but still net negative. Without major mistakes in ordering on my side it looks clear that the current tiers are set a little too low, but my full-time job isn’t mailing cards to awesome people. If you have suggestions to improve or change the current structure I’m all ears over in the Pauper Cube Discord community or as @the_stybs on Twitter.
For now, keep your eyes open for the latest Guilds of Ravnica previews!