This is a review for a new Magic: the Gathering startup called Spare Deck, which rents constructed decks to Magic players. I’m going to give them a 9 out of 10 rating, and I highly recommend that players use their service in the future. What follows is a review of my experience with the service.
On October 31st, I went to Denver, Colorado to play in the Modern RPTQ. I went 3-3, which put me one win away from making the top 8. I was really nervous, and I’m pretty sure I could have made the top 8 if I was more used to playing Constructed generally and Modern specifically.
This was the first Constructed tournament that I have played in real life for 15 years. The only decks that I own for constructed are a couple of mediocre Commander decks made almost entirely from Precons. The last time I played in Constructed was just after the release of Urza’s Legacy. When I won my PPTQ in sealed, I realized that I was going to need a Modern deck to play at the RPTQ.
I was worried. I have a lot of Magic playing friends, but all of them live very far from me, and most of them are limited junkies like me. I was concerned about how I was going to get together a Modern deck that would probably cost over $1000. I knew that I couldn’t just buy one, so it would come down to borrowing a deck from someone else. One of my big worries there was that I would be very limited on deck choice, and I didn’t even know if I would be able to get someone to just lend me their deck. My friends that do play Modern live thousands of miles away, and I didn’t have enough time to just suck up to the local players and get them to like me well enough to lend me a modern deck.
At about this time, I came across a Reddit post talking about a new service called Spare Deck. I went to their website and read up on them, and realized that I had found what might be a good solution to my deck problem. Here is a link to Spare Deck’s website. Basically, it is a website that allows you to rent Magic decks. You choose the cards you want for the deck, they send you the cards and you play with them, and then you mail the cards back.
I found this idea intriguing. I had heard of stores renting out decks for people to play at tournaments in their building, but I hadn’t ever heard of a website that would rent out cards. I was a little bit worried about the company, since they were so new, and I was worried about what kind of availability they would have for cards. But I realized that this would definitely be my best option, so I logged onto their website to give them a try.
I decided after the tournament to do a write up and explain how my experience with Spare Deck went.
Starting Out – Ordering a Deck
Spare Deck has very robust account creation. Beyond simply signing up for an account, Spare Deck also requires that you provide several methods of contact information. When I first logged in, I felt a little strange when Spare Deck asked questions like “what store do you play at?” but after thinking, I realized that not only are they giving themselves a relatively non-invasive way to recover their merchandise, but that it also provides a sort of secondary method of identification. Spare Deck wants to know the place you play in the Magic community, both for their protection and for my own. It does makes a few extra steps in making an account, but I tend to love extra security in any account.
There are two main methods of finding a deck, which fits in with the needs of many different players. Option A is choosing a prebuilt deck from their extensive list of decks. They have all the big players in Standard and several important decks in Modern, and you can just pop onto the site, open the deck, and add it to your cart. Once you’ve done that, you can easily move the quantities of cards up and down depending on your preferences. Option B is just building a deck in the card search engine. You just type in the card you want, and add quantities to your shopping cart until you have built your deck, and you are reading to order.
I used Option B, and it was easy to find the cards I needed for a Grixis Twin deck, especially since I had made several tweaks to the maindeck that made it a little bit different. Spare Deck had no trouble with availability; I picked one of the most popular decks in Modern, and they didn’t have a shortage of anything that I needed.
Spare Deck uses two directions to determine the price of your rental. The first is that each card has a base price, depending on the cost of the card. None of these prices are exorbitant; I chose a deck that currently runs $1100 in paper, but I was able to establish a base price of $79 for the rental. Spare Deck then adds an amount to the rental depending on the length of time that you are going to have the deck. I rented the deck for two weeks, so the price was $14. Finally, you pay for the shipping and handling, which includes sending and returning the deck with insurance. Overall, my order came to $100.
It’s an interesting choice to decide whether it is better to just buy a deck or rent it, but the huge benefit of Spare Deck is that I could turn around and choose a completely different deck for my next tournament. If my goal is to grind a lot of local paper tournaments, then obviously this isn’t the best option, but I was trying to prepare for a specific tournament, so the price fit my budget perfectly. Dark Jeskai runs about $50 right now, and you could rent the deck for an entire month for a grand total of $88 after adding in the shipping. That’s about 1/3rd of the life of the format, and you aren’t buying a $700 standard deck that you’ll just have to update with rotation anyway.
Once you’ve chosen the deck, you decide when you would like to receive the deck and how long you would like to hold on to it. I was a little bit worried that the deck I wanted would get sniped off by other players, so I chose my deck two months in advance. You can reserve the deck several months out, or you can order it to arrive in three days, and having that flexibility is really useful. When you reserve the deck, you can make changes to the list at any time before the deck has actually shipped, and I took advantage of this option myself when I decided to change up some of my sideboard slots. It was quick and painless. You also are not charged until the deck actually ships, so it would have been easy for me to cancel my order for several weeks.
During this process, I did run into one annoying snag. After a few weeks, Spare Deck made some behind the scenes changes that resulted in them losing my account information and the information about the deck that I had reserved. I’m not sure what happened, but I assume some kind of software or infrastructure change. Obviously no one wants that to happen, but I do think it’s excellent to see how a company works to resolve such a crisis. Spare Deck emailed me to let me know that there had been a problem, and one of their employees worked with me individually to make sure that I could get everything squared away and that I would be able to get the deck that I had originally reserved. I was quite impressed with their customer service during this crisis, and it was nice to be treated like a valued customer even though it was my first time ordering. The crisis means that I took one point off of my rating, but they still handled it perfectly, so I can’t even really fault them for a mistake that could reasonably happen with any service.
Getting and Returning the Cards
I received the cards exactly on the day that Spare Deck had promised they would arrive. The cards come in a box that is about the size of a Commander product from WotC. The cards are in their own case and encased in bubble wrap and the return postage is included in the box, along with a receipt and list of cards, along with a message from Spare Deck.
The cards I received were not all in pristine condition, and several of them came from odd editions, but they weren’t any problems with them. For any card that I had multiples, I had all the same edition, which as a nice little bonus that I didn’t expect, including three Japanese Tasigurs. Several of the cards were printed in different languages, so players that need to look at the specific wording on the card would probably need to spend some time learning the oracle text, but luckily I’ve had plenty of time playing with all these cards on MTGO, so it wasn’t ever an issue.
Returning the cards was incredibly easy. It was a simple matter of taking the cards out of the sleeves, putting them back in their plastic case, putting the case and bubble wrap back in the packaging, and sticking the return postage on the box. I drove over to the post office and they shipped it off without any problems. The package got back to Spare Deck a couple of days later and I got notification that it had arrived, and everything was perfect.
I recommend Spare Deck to anyone that needs to pick up a deck for a Magic tournament. It is an especially good service for anyone that likes to try out a lot of different constructed decks or for limited junkies like myself that occasionally need an IRL constructed deck for a tournament. I encountered almost not problems, and with the only problem I did have, I was contacted quickly and personally by a courteous and professional staff that went out of their way to make sure that I was taken care of. I would rate Spare Deck a 9 out of 10, but I could imagine that number going up to 10 out of 10 after repeat business. Check them out for your next Magic tournament!