A while ago I wrote about the current cost of Magic and some things to watch out for. I hate to just complain about an issue without working on a solution. So today I want to talk about building your collection, and how you can mitigate some of the costs and still play what you want. Over the past 20+ years I have learned that building your collection is really a three-part process: planning, acquisition, and liquidation.
This is the stage that is most important and we generally don’t spend enough time with it, and if we do spend enough time planning it we don’t adhere to it. I mean how many times have you walked into a store or started a trade and then your eye catches something and now you’re the proud new owner of a card you didn’t need. I break planning down to three parts: format, staples and decks.
First and foremost you have to decide what formats you want to play, as each format has certain cards you will want to have. On top of formats, how many decks do you want to have? I choose one Old School (93/94, because that is when I started), two Legacy, Two Modern, and eight EDH decks (down from 28!). I won’t cover Standard, because admittedly my process is not as efficient for a rotating format. Though you might change how many decks and maybe even what formats you want to play in, this step will still help you plan to get to your initial goal.
Staples is the key to being able to either switch decks or update a deck for the metagame. The perfect example of this for someone wanting to play blue and black in Modern and Legacy would be Polluted Delta. This will cover me if I am playing only one of the two colors or both, and no matter what deck I play it will have this in it. Just be careful you don’t fall into having no deck in mind, and just getting every black card possible. Still, a staple will be a card you should be able to get out of for around the cost you have put in, if not more.
Last, decks are the final part to the planning piece, but maybe the most important part of the process. If you break it down, the decks I listed above only equal 1475 cards, and quite a bit of them are lands. Here’s how I go about evaluating decks in the non-EDH formats I listed above. Start by proxying a deck and play the shit out of it. When I first got into Modern I jumped around between decks, and often lost value. All said and done I went through eight different Modern decks before deciding on the two that I wanted. (By the way, they are the decks I always lean towards.)
Don’t make the mistake I did. Find the deck you really like before you start buying. EDH is a bit more complicated but fairly similar. We change our decks a bit more, but cards like Command Tower and Sol Ring tend to find themselves in a few decks along the way. Find the color combinations you enjoy and get at least the staple lands as a base to work from. Again, create a list before you start buying cards or you will have a bunch you don’t use.
Acquisition has to be one of the funnest parts of the game. Between buying and trading, this is one piece that draws people in. So many people say it, not many people listen to it, but I still have to put it out there. DON’T BUY SEALED PRODUCT! Sealed product is almost always a loss, I opened a box of Modern Masters 2 (retail $240) and I average $1.58 per pack, losing $8.42 per pack. Instead, buying singles would have gotten me every card I wanted and kept a few bucks in my pocket. Buying singles ensures you get exactly the cards you need, and it eliminates a bunch of cards sitting in a box you have no intention of using.
Buying singles still takes some planning as you can easily spend more than what the card is really worth. One of the best times to purchase a single is a few weeks after a Standard rotation, although that has become quite interesting with the rotation changes lately. Watch out for buying cards the weekend of PT’s and GP’s as crads often spike and dealers often cancel orders. You can also watch for cards that are over-hyped as when they correct it’s often lower than they are worth. Presales can often be good for EDH cards as SCG proved with $.50 blade of selves presales. I look at a set as it is spoiled and determine if it is a card I would need for a deck, then buy presale if I find it under priced, or add it to my list if I feel it will be cheaper later.
Buying collections can be by far one of the best value deals you can find. I have often found that players who are leaving the game want to get rid of everything at once, and that leads to them giving up value for convenience. When I buy sets I tend not to look towards the cards I want, but instead the cards I don’t want. I evaluate cards at 30% under TCG low to make sure I can sell them to recover my expense and make money after fees to purchase the cards I want (or trade for). Anytime you are over the 30%, you will be able to get great value and really move your collection forward.
Trading can be hit or miss depending on your area and what others have as trade stock. With Internet prices so available, it’s pretty easy to get even value. That being said, you can often ask for something small thrown in that helps you to build towards your lists. There are also sites like Puca Trade or Deckbox that can help you increase the range of your trading. I personally feel like the issues with those sites make it hard to get what you are looking for without losing a lot of value. They are complex so we won’t dive in, but it’s something to at least look into.
When I talk liquidation I don’t mean selling everything and getting out of the game, I just mean liquidating cards that you won’t play again–cards that have been upgraded to something else or just don’t perform how you’d like them to. Rotating cards out can keep your collection more manageable as well as keep the cost down as you can use those as trades or funds for what you want to play with. The key to this step is to ensure you have really worked the planning step out as you don’t want to be selling cards you will need to get later. Once you know what cards you are looking to acquire, the next step is to make sure you get them at the right cycle. If you are playing EDH and you see a cool card spoiled, you can first check the pre-order price to see if it’s under valued, or you can wait until the price drops. On the flip side, if you open something sweet in a draft, you can sell out when it’s expensive in Standard and buy back in when it rotates.
Although this game is and can be expensive, there are ways to keep it more reasonable. The key to that is careful planning and staying focused on your goals, now those can change, but the less they do the cheaper things will be. Proper planning prevents piss poor performance. Now let’s get out there and build some decks!
Until next time this is EDH.Ghost out!