Remember me? I’m the one that didn’t make it to GenCon. Real life gets in the way sometimes, and I was unable to make the trip on short notice. Sadly, I’ve also been unable to get much playtime in for the same reason. Between work, two kids, and two weeks vacation spent on the road visiting family, it’s been a month or more since I’ve sat at a table.

Don’t get me wrong, my summer is kind of fantastic, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but I’m missing the feel of sleeves in my hands, the sound of shuffling, and the general banter of a Commander table. I’ll be getting back to that shortly, but for now I want to focus on something else. It’s not specifically related to the format we all love, but something that hit me personally the morning I left for vacation.

First, some details. The table where I build decks, my desk, is in my bedroom. There’s a small table in front of a shelf which holds a lot of books, which is a flat surface where I set cards as I pull decks apart or thin lists. There are often cards on that space. This is a story about some such cards.

That table is set out from the window that houses an air conditioner. The week before we left for vacation, my wife said she wanted the AC units out of the windows, and the windows locked.

Completely understandable. It was the morning of the day we were hitting the road for vacation, and in between packing and gathering the kids’ stuff and basically making sure the children were not tearing things apart as we were trying to get them together, I removed both AC units—including the unit that sits near where I leave cards out. I was hot, and tired, and just wanted it done. And AC units hold water.

I think you can see where this is going.

The amount of water in the average AC unit would surprise you until you’ve seen it. When you move them around, no matter how careful you are, you’re going to spill some water. As I was tired, and hot, and just wanted it done, I was not as careful as I should have been, and spilled water on some of my cards.

The list is not long, but it’s painful.

Warning, sads ahead:

[cardlist]
[Water Damage]
Argentum Armor
Assault Suit
Azorius Signet
Boros Signet
Burnished Hart
Darksteel Ingot
Ghostfire Blade
Izzet Signet
Loxodon Warhammer
Mask of Memory
Masterwork of Ingenuity
Ring of Evos Isle
Ring of Thune
Ring of Valkas
Azorius Chancery
Battlefield Forge
Boros Garrison
Clifftop Retreat
Command Tower
Glacial Fortress
Hallowed Fountain
Homeward Path
Izzet Boilerworks
Minamo, School at Water’s Edge
Sacred Foundry
Slayer’s Stronghold
Swiftwater Cliffs
Temple of Enlightenment
Temple of Epiphany
Temple of the False God
Tranquil Cove
Wind-Scarred Crag
[/Water Damage]
[/cardlist]

Bad, but not that bad. There is some sentimental value here, and some minor real value. But this is nothing to freak out about. What really upset me, though, was the following:

[cardlist]
[Sads]
Maze of Ith
Tropical Island
[/Sads]
[/cardlist]

These are from The Dark and Revised, respectively. That is $225 worth of cardboard, right there. I traded a lot for that Tropical Island, and it is my favourite dual land. The Maze is not worth a ton, but it is far and away my favourite land ever printed. The damage on both is not bad, and they’re sleeved you can’t even see it.

But it’s there.

I knew when I was moving the unit that there was water in it, and that the water was going to spill out. I remember thinking as I reached for it, “I should move those cards.” And I also remember thinking, “Nah, it’ll be fine.”

And then I remember swearing. A lot.

I immediately pulled both from their sleeves, dried them quickly, and placed them in a cloth under a stack of hardcover books. There they sat for the week that I was on the road, and when I got home they are the first things I checked on.

Like I said, the damage is minimal, but it still sucks.

Which brings me to the poin – take care of your cards. I don’t play expensive cards just because they are expensive, and I am perfectly fine running a deck with cheap alternatives. The monetary value of these particular pieces of cardboard is secondary to me, but it’s still important. I should have listened to the voice that wanted to move them. And I should have stepped on the voice that said I didn’t need to. I knew this was the case even then, yet I ignored it. Even now, I STILL have those cards on the shelf beside me. I’ll be moving them in a few minutes, but that doesn’t change what happened.

Instead of culling cards from decks and then just stacking them beside me, I take the extra five minutes to slot them away in their boxes when I’m done with them, well away from any danger. I should take care of them, because at the table, they take care of me.

I’ve sunk a lot of time and money into these cards over the years. I’m never going to make a living from playing. I’m nowhere near good enough for that. So the physical cards themselves, and the things I can do with them at the table, are the only rewards I’m getting out of that time and money. That’s fine. I went into this game knowing that, and I am still 100% happy I did all those years ago. So if they’re not going to allow me to replace them as needed, they are a finite resource.

I need to take care of them, and so do you. Because let’s be honest, most of you are in the same position I’m in. You spend real money on cards, and you enjoy them. You may be taking down pods left, right, and center. But chances are you’re not a pro player. You’re probably not hitting the top eight at an SCG Invitational or a Pro Tour.

So when you scrape up and trade in for that Revised dual-land cycle, and you finally get all ten lands together, and you’re just as pleased as punch every time you think about it, take care of that pile, people. If you think it’s at risk of damage, trust me – it is.

-James