As anyone who has opened Magic: the Gathering packs will know, MTG can generate a lot of waste. Not only is the practically unusable draft chaff a concern that clogs up collections but the plastic packaging itself is a serious problem. As Wizards of the Coast discovered in 2015, changing MTG’s longstanding packaging isn’t an easy feat. Subsequently, in the going on eight years since then, MTG has defaulted back to its classic crinkly unrecyclable plastic packaging. Recently, however, Wizards of the Coast have renewed their climate-conscious efforts to implement greener packaging for MTG once more.
As we alluded to above, MTG previously attempted to revolutionize its packaging back in 2015. Designed specifically for the launch of Modern Masters 2015, this packaging threatened to change MTG’s packaging for the better. In reality, however, the launch of this plastic packaging was fraught with issues, leading to the packaging being somewhat disastrous. Not only were players concerned about the eco-friendly paper packaging’s wiggle room damaging cards, but security concerns were paramount. Without plastic security seals, Modern Masters 2015’s paper packaging was worryingly easy to open without showing signs of tampering. Subsequently, repacking became a huge concern for Modern Masters 2015, killing much of the desire for single packs.
Thanks to the controversy that concerns that surrounded Modern Masters 2015’s paper packaging, Wizards hasn’t attempted a repeat since. While it’s technically possible, we’d be very surprised if new packaging is how Magic is being “changed forever” in March of the Machine. While a repeat of little cardboard boxes for packs likely isn’t the way forward, WotC hasn’t abandoned its green ambitions. Starting with the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Bundle, Wizards began steadily ditching their traditional plastic packaging. The product’s shrink wrap, for instance, was replaced by a cardboard sleeve and security tags to ensure the product’s safety.
Additionally, Wizards replaced the packaging of the land pack with a new style of paper packaging. Sporting a waxy feel, this paper packaging utilized the design of the traditional flow wrap booster packs. This ensured that the cards were safe during transport, as well as safe from tampering.
Since first being introduced in February 2022, Wizards has kept this new packaging contained within the Bundle products. Recently, however, it appears that Wizards is expanding the applications for the new waxy paper packaging.
Sustainable Secret Lairs
Following on from their surprisingly successful reception in Bundles, the newfangled paper packaging is branding out to new products. Namely, Secret Lair drops are now arriving to customers in the new packaging style. Showcasing their Kozyndan: Another story Secret Lair drop u/Payton_IV posted to Reddit to highlight the packaging change. As you can see above, the new packaging utilizes the same flow wrap style that MTG booster packs currently use. Additionally, thanks to the packaging not using dye or ink for some funky designs, the paper is translucent. Obviously, this makes this packaging far from ideal for traditional MTG Booster Packs in its current implantation.
Thankfully since you, mostly, know what you’re getting with Secret Lair drops, the translucent packaging is hardly a problem. However, in the comments of u/Payton_IV’s post, several MTG players expressed their concerns about the new packaging. Reddit user u/nekronics, for instance, commented that the paper-packaged cards they received were of a notably different, worse, quality.
“My December drop had a mix of paper and plastic. The quality of the cards is different. Paper cards feel thicker and also weren’t cut very good, the edges of the card have a lip and don’t fit Dragon Shield Sealables as good. It’s like they are too big but that’s probably due to the bad cut. Plastic-wrapped cards just seemed normal.”u/nekronics
Alternatively, however, u/Rivenite claimed that the paper-packaged Secret Lair drop they received fixed a frustratingly frequent printing problem. As they note in their comment, however, just like u/nekronics, these printing quirks may be due to different print locations. Since MTG is printed all over the world, where cards are printed can have a significant impact on their quality.
“Anecdotal experience, but the foils I have received in this packaging have been flat, versus the foils I have received in plastic always being super curled. Not sure if this is due to the packaging change or just different print locations.”u/Rivenite
Despite the printing quirks that may affect the product’s quality, MTG players were surprisingly supportive of this change. Reddit user u/lrrc49, for instance, commented, “I actually really like this. The plastic waste in the TCG world needs to be reduced ASAP.” Similarly, following u/tmdblya pointing out that the waxy paper is actually the recyclable material, glassine u/451-137 shared their thoughts.
“As many others have pointed out, it is obviously a positive change regardless because it will at a minimum degrade a lot more quickly than the previous packaging would have :)”u/451-137
The Paper Packaging Push
While paper packaging expanding to Secret Lair drops isn’t a monumental change, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. It is unclear, however, where Wizards of the Coast takes this new packaging technique from here. In a recent Drive to Work podcast, Mark Rosewater discussed the difficulties in refining printing and packaging techniques, so any packaging changes won’t be taken lightly. Subsequently, we don’t expect that MTG’s traditional plastic Booster Packs will be going away anytime soon. Even if it would be the right thing to do for the planet.
That being said, it does appear that Wizards is conscious of their environmental footprint and all the plastic waste. Speaking on Blogatog last year, Mark Rosewater stated that Wizards is “working towards being more ecology-minded in our packaging.” Hopefully, this means that new, more sustainable packaging will happen sooner rather than later. Even if it’s just for MTG’s numerous supplemental products.