Recently, my co-author Sherif published the interesting article "Staples Versus Your Wallet" in which he argued that Konami should make staple cards more accessible for the community. As a university student with a limited budget and an unlimited passion to take part in tournaments all around Europe, I can emotionally relate to that argument. But here's a hot take: making staples cheaper would in the long run create a greater financial barrier for the largest parts of this community.
In my first article, I introduced the concept of expected value and how the value of sealed product relates to the value of the individual card in the average box. When a new product first hits the market, the prices of the cards and the sealed product are in balance. Right now, Triple Tactics Talent, Forbidden Droplet, and Ice Dragon's Prison are some of the most sought-after staples in the game, and they're all in the same booster box—Rise of the Duelist. They have another thing in common: If you bought them at release, you actually made a profit while having them available for eight full months of gameplay.
Let's just imagine an alternate reality in which these three cards were printed at more accessible rarities. They would still see the same amount of play, they would still be as good in your favorite deck but simply easier to pull. An increase in supply with no changes to the demand results in lower prices for our staple cards—as seen in the diagram above. Isn't that good? Yes, but actually no. The value of the cards in Rise of the Duelist would simply shift to other cards in the box.
Some fan favorite decks such as Fluffal and Melffy received very accessible support in the same booster box, and the rarity distribution has also been very favorable to Infernoble Knights given their impact on the competitive scene during the last summer. Both casual and competitive players would get the short end of the stick if the best support cards of their archetypes had been printed in secret rare instead. Deck building packs such as Mystic Fighters Booster Box do not introduce new staples to the game and their value is carried by essential archetypal cards such as Primathmech Alembertian. That's exactly what would happen to other archetypes if staples were printed in more accessible rarities.
Key cards of archetypes cannot be replaced. If they are expensive, you have to bite the bullet as there is no way around it. However, even the trendiest new meta staple can be replaced by more accessible alternatives. Playing Pot of Extravagance instead of Pot of Prosperity is more budget friendly but will still give you the full Dragonmaid experience. A Dragonmaid deck without Chamber Dragonmaid, however, is simply not the same.
Some of the distinctive features of Yu-Gi-Oh! compared to other card games include the longevity of cards and the diversity of archetypes. Torrential Tribute is arguably still one of the strongest trap cards in the game and the "Other" category almost always overweighs the most played decks in all tiers of tournaments play. Most players switch their decks on a regular basis or keep a collection of multiple decks. These habits would become more expensive, if Konami were to switch their product design from expensive staples to expensive archetypes. Right now, competitive players are able to switch between multiple meta decks without breaking the bank. Once you own a full Eldlich Zoodiac deck, it's easy to build a Virtual World deck as well: a Virtual World deck consists of mostly the same staple cards and very accessible archetypal cards.
In terms of longevity, expensive staples come up on top yet again. The original print of Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring, released in Maximum Crisis back in 2017, is still maintaining its value. Even staples in the lower price segment such as Nibiru, the Primal Being and Called by the Grave exhibit a very stable price development. There is very little risk involved for players who invest early. In contrast, archetypal cards risk falling out of fashion. The price of Sky Striker Mobilize - Engage! is at 20% of its peak. Konami tends to address archetypes instead of staples on their Forbidden and Limited List. More generic cards like Emergency Teleport, Allure of Darkness, and Machine Duplication bounce in and out of competitive play every few formats and should be part of everyone's personal collection.
We have to consider the wish for more accessible staples from a holistic perspective and take the economic realities of sealed product into account. Simple adjustments to the rarities could easily result in higher entry barriers for players. I want to close this article by proposing a compromise in which cards are available in multiple rarities and artworks within the same product line. This model is successfully run in the OCG and other card games such as Pokémon. Konami has already taken steps into this direction by introducing new rarities such as collector's and starlight rare. There have been various changes to the rarity design in recent years, which shows that Konami is willing to experiment with new ideas.
Take care of your staple collection!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.