Once upon a time, and by that I mean almost two years ago, NM was a different place. Packs were not as many, sets had numbered prints and a set could go out of free packs in less than a week. You got bonus packs if your friends joined and those bonus packs gave you access to Prequel sets, so getting those finished was a big deal. Trading was a necessity, almost as necessary as an internet connection, if you wanted to play the game and the Facebook group was blooming with lively discussions on trading strategies, desperate searches and joined efforts. Let me tell you the tale of my experience and let others join in…
When I first began I had no idea about what I was doing, I just wanted to open packs but I didn’t understand the immense variety. Giant Monsters was the first set that caught my eye, but little did I know my journey had just begun. Sets worked differently back then, you see… When a set was released, there was no way of knowing how much time you’d have to pull packs from it. You had a limit, like today, but it varied ever so slightly. There where sets in which you could only open one pack a day (like in Watercolor, still available today) and sets in which you could open four (like Daydreams, also still available). 80% of the total packs created for that set could be claimed with the free packs you got each day (you only got packs once every 24 hours and at first it was only 6, they increased that number to 10 up until the beginning of this year, but legend says, at the very beginning, you got less, four if I’m not mistaken), the last 20% of the packs could only be bought. Once the paid packs ran out, the set was Out of Print. Some creators did free only sets (like Small World or Without Details) which meant that you could only claim free packs from that set and you couldn’t get an advantage even if you could afford one.
The little amount of packs made you put your priorities in order, and many users started classifying the sets accordingly. You had to choose carefully or else you might not have been able to complete a set before it went out of free packs. I didn’t know all this back then so, Giant Monsters did exactly that and my highest card was a rare. The odds of getting high end cards were tougher than what they are now. They were determined by the fixed size of the set and how many prints of a certain rarity there were. Today, sets are more balanced and you can’t break the mold (except with the chases), but back then all those things were up to the creator’s appetite. Some artists created well balanced sets and others made A LOT of low end prints (commons and uncommons) and only a few VRs and ERs. The amount of copies per print was determined by the artist as well and this was particularly important with variants and chases. Those special and very much sought after cards could be a real pain to pull. Sometimes there was only a single copy available, or five, or 1200. As you can imagine by now, some sets were impossible to complete without interacting with people.
I set out to complete Giant Monsters by trading but I found out it wasn’t as simple as I thought. As I discovered the world of card rarities, equivalencies and cross trading I met incredible people, I even attempted trading with a Legend before knowing what I was doing was nuts. I learnt to trade though, and became some sort of a treasure/bounty hunter for a while. I have a knack for getting very hard to get cards, which I discovered trying to compete Tall Tales, so I started helping people get their most wanted cards.
Some sets were so anticipated you just knew it was going to be a bloodshed. The cards would be so hard to get you had to use precious fodder, especially saved for moments like that. Dragons was such a set. THEM only had free packs for about a week and was the fastest Out of Print set I’ve seen.
Print number mattered and, since the size of the set was previously set, it was randomly assigned to every print you got. Some people tried to collect low print counts so sometimes a #1 common would be considered to be more than just a common. Now, the print number reflects order so you can get many low counts depending on how fast you started opening packs after the set’s release.
I don’t know if I’m leaving too many things out in this tale, but I’ll write again if I can come up with other differences… If you have specific questions, feel free to ask! It might help with the remembering process