The starter packs are only $10 more than the portal owner's packs and contained all the figures necessary to get the 1000G. If your collection was that tiny, you really should have gone that route instead.
As for the character's usefulness, all 4 of those are quite useful. Tree Rex becomes a juggernaut when upgraded, Trigger Happy is a great crowd clearer, Gill Grunt is highly maneuverable, and Spyro is a solid, all-around fighter.
Also, you say about how they want you to spend money rather than play the game how it should be played. Here's the thing: The game should be played with as large of a skylander collection as possible. It's just like with most trading card games. Yes, you can play with just a single starter deck, but players are supposed to build their collections and make their own decks.
Last edited by EmporerDragon; 11-24-2012 at 11:32 AM.