In 2015, Wizards of the Coast trialed an innovative new packaging solution for Draft Boosters. Appearing only for the Modern Masters 2015 set, the new packaging was made out of entirely recyclable material. Made of 100% Forest Stewardship Council-certified paperboard, this booster packaging could be recycled like any other piece of cardboard.
Despite being an eco-friendly alternative to traditional flow wrap packaging, this experiment was met with widescale criticism. Before boosters were in players’ hands, Wizards were inundated with complaints about the security and safety of the new packaging. Wizards quickly issued a statement claiming that the packaging is “subject to rigorous security, safety, and quality testing.”
Regardless of this statement from Wizards, the recyclable paperboard packaging went down like a lead balloon. While Modern Masters 2015’s packaging experiment may have failed, Wizards hasn’t given up its goal of being more eco-friendly. Before too long, the traditional flow wrap packaging may be completely done away with once again.
What Went Wrong?
Unfortunately for Wizards of the Coast’s altruistic ambitions, Modern Masters 2015’s recyclable packaging was a blunder on multiple fronts. Most prominently, players were concerned about the security of the new packaging. With no plastic security seals to indicate that a product hadn’t been tampered with, repackaging was seen as more of a problem than ever before. Once in players’ hands, it was quickly realized that the security problem was far more significant than first envisioned.
The boosters were shamefully easy to open and repack because Wizards used weak glue and poorly designed packaging. With barely any effort, players could warp the paperboard and remove one side of the booster packaging. As seen in this video, packs could be opened and resealed in less than a minute. This left many players doubting the authenticity of any Modern Masters 2015 pack they couldn’t thoroughly inspect first.
Besides security concerns, Magic players also complained about the eco-friendly boosters not protecting the cards inside. Thanks to Modern Masters 2015 boosters having the slightest amount of wiggle room, shaking them resulted in a delightful rattle. While it may have sounded nice, it wasn’t suitable for the cards inside. Obviously, it would be best if you weren’t shaking boosters that retailed for $10. However, this still sparked concerns about cards being damaged. Whether it’s damaged in transit or by a careless store employee, no one wants to open a Mox Opal that’s already marked.
To make matters worse, Modern Masters 2015 also suffered from printing and collation issues. While not an issue isolated to Modern Masters 2015, complaints about this problem were exacerbated thanks to the new packaging. This left many players even more dissatisfied with the product, despite how enjoyable it was to draft.
Personally, despite the fringe issues, Modern Masters 2015 was some of the most fun I’ve had in a Draft. Not only was the set brilliant fun to play, but the paperboard packaging was a unique twist that made the set even more special. Peeling open packs with the perforated strip gave the cards an added reverence over just cracking a pack. Since first playing Modern Masters 2015, I’ve eagerly awaited the return of unique packaging.
What Can Be Done?
While Wizards of the Coast are yet to experiment with new booster packaging once again, they’ve not forsaken the environment entirely. Instead, Wizards has been minimizing their plastic packaging in some of their less popular products. Released earlier this year, the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Bundle significantly reduced the amount of plastic used in packaging. While not entirely plastic-free, this was a significant step forward and a potential glimpse into the future.
In the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Bundle, Wizards did away with the traditional shrink-wrap and instead used a cover box with security seals on both ends of the package. This offered a significant step up in security over Modern Masters 2015’s ill-fated booster design. Alongside removing the shrink wrap, Wizards also changed the packaging for the bundle’s land packs. Rather than being encased in a tomb of plastic, the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Bundle used a new paper packaging. Sporting a similar design to traditional flow wrap booster packs, this paper alternative kept cards safe while preventing tampering.
The bundle for Streets of New Capenna also used the new paper packaging for its land packs. As a result, we’d expect this more environmentally friendly packaging to appear in future set bundles. While this isn’t the most significant change, it’s still one that we welcome seeing and hope to see more of.
Thankfully, our hopes for more environmentally friendly packaging are more than a pipe dream. Recently, Magic: The Gathering’s head designer, Mark Rosewater, stated on Tumblr that Wizards is “working towards being more ecology-minded in our packaging.” In response to a simple Tumblr question, Rosewater didn’t go into detail about what we should expect or when it might arrive, but there’s reason to be excited.
While we would be pleased to see this paper packaging used for Collectors and Draft Boosters, if possible, Wizards isn’t putting all their eggs into one basket. Alongside experimenting with these new packaging techniques, Wizards partnered with a US-based recycling company, TerraCycle, earlier this year. Offering a way to recycle typically non-recyclable items, such as booster wrappers, TerraCycle furthered Wizards’ effort to “explore sustainable goals for our stores.”
Unfortunately for environmental enthusiasts, the scale for this test left much to be desired. Only Wizards Play Network stores in the US were sent a single box that can be used to recycle Magic booster wrappers. Once full, this box would have to be shipped back to TerraCycle for the contents to be recycled appropriately. This initial test has yet to be expanded on.
Whatever environmentally focused solution Wizard wants to pursue, it’s clear there are still some kinks to work out. We can only hope that whenever Wizards unveils their next grand scheme, it’s better received than Modern Masters 2015 was.
All that remains is to ask, what’s more important, the environment or the security and safety of cards inside Magic: the Gathering boosters? Keep in mind there is a correct answer here, but we’re not going to tell you which one that is.