Back to the real world, there is nothing that can compare to playing a real opponent. Even if you are not super-competitive, the interaction cannot be truly replicated on-line. People will make facial gestures when they get certain cards, allowing their opponents to read them. So, to be competitive, but without spending the full amount, I am suggesting this:
- Approach your local MTG hobby store with 5 other friends, and ask him that if you guys buy and crack open the booster packs in a booster box, can you guys casually play with the cards you get.
- If the owner agrees with that, ask them if you can use their spare basic lands. Most card stores that have space for casual gaming will have an abundant supply of basic lands. If the shopkeeper does not agree to it, then you can take the booster box to another location, and use one (or many) of the players basic lands - if you have been playing for some time, then most people will have a cache of basic lands.
- Divide the price of booster box 6 ways, and buy an additional booster pack - to represent the "grand prize", or isolate all the foiled cards, rares, and mythic rares at the end of the tournament, and run a "pick 'em" where the person who won the most can pick the first card, followed by the next most winning player, all the way down to the last. Repeat until all cards are gone.
- With (usually) 36 packs per booster box, allocate each person 6 booster packs.
- Each player opens up their booster packs in isolation, and creates a 40 card deck with as many lands as required. This is a form of limited format in MTG tournaments.
- After making their cards, each player plays each other opponent in the best of 3 games. Score each match with 3 points for an overall win, and 1 point for a draw. If everyone who plays agrees to no time limits, then the likeness of a draw is lower.
- All players are allowed to "sideboard" (ie. swapping cards in and out of the deck) between games and matches. They are not limited to the amount of cards with "sideboarding", but they can only do it from the pool of cards they obtained from opening up all the booster packs.
- After 5 matches, the top person gets the additional booster as the prize, or the first pick in the "pick 'em" portion of the tournament. Everyone else keeps what they have opened. If there are two people on the same amount of points for the "grand prize", they can choose any way to resolve this - sudden death match (best of 3 games).
Currently the average booster box can cost around AUD$150 (for the new Innistrad release). A new booster pack is AUD$6. So for AUD$156, or around AUD$26 per person, you have simulated conditions, as well as the cards to keep. If every match drags out to 3 full games, you may be looking at around 5 hours to complete the event. In comparison, for a simlar style event, you would be looking at around AUD$40 per person, totaling AUD$240 - an additional AUD$84. Greater savings can be made by buying cheaper booster boxes, and the "grand prize" booster does not need to be in the same set. Additionally, you may also get promo cards thrown in, which may be used as the prize for the ultimate winner.