High on FOMO: Six Months of Cardboard Crack Withdrawal
What happens when you stop buying Magic-related products for half a year? Sancho went cold Turkey so you don't have to, and in this article he shares the ups and downs of the experiment and the background for his decision to sit out the end of the hitherto most product-rich year in the game's history.
Ravnica Allegiance, War of the Spark, Modern Horizons, Core Set 2020, Throne of Eldraine may not sound like a lot of releases. But add to that Guild Kits, Mythic Editions, a Signature Spellbook, Commander, Game Night, preconstructed Brawl decks, and Collector Boosters. That's a lot, and it's not even going into various third-party products such as the arrival of Cubeamajics reusable booster packs for Cube curators.
2019 – The Year of Wallet Fatigue
And I probably left out something, because 2019 was a crazy year for anyone trying to keep up with the Joneses when it comes to purchasing Magic-related products. Too much for some, and a strong contender for the Magic phrase of the year should definitely be "wallet fatigue."
I spend a lot of money on Magic in a typical year, and I spent even more in 2018–19, both on sealed product as well as single cards. This is fine with me, because Magic gives me a lot of joy. It is also a hobby where you can set your spending to match your budget for entertainment: from zero euros a year for the casual Arena player to whatever crazy amounts it takes to build your own competitive paper decks for Vintage or even Pioneer — let's get back to that format later.
Wasteful Purchases – Déjà Vu
So, being a content consumer of the addictive cardboard rectangles from Wizards of the Coast, what would make me give up the joy of expanding my collection for a full six months? It was not product overload. Although a certain numbness kicked in trying to familiarize me with yet another release, this was not the reason. So many new exciting cards were printed this year, and so many old cards that I had flirted with the thought of purchasing were still eluding my collection.
What made me even consider such a drastic step was opening a shipment from a seller on Cardmarket and discovering that some foil uncommon was the very same card already sitting on top of a stack of unsorted cards right next to me — also as a foil. I don't remember exactly which card it was, but it was a card that between all my decks and my cube I did not need an extra copy of. I realized that I could have spent the same money getting something useful instead of just more stuffing for a bulk box. If only my collection was more ordered, this would not have happened, and I could perhaps even consider beginning to sell some of my surplus singles on Cardmarket myself.
Playing the Catch-Up Game
The problem here was that my collection was growing too fast for me to keep track. Stacks everywhere littering the shelves in a room dedicated to storage and new stacks appearing with every new booster box drafted. I knew that this episode of accidentally buying a card I already had was not a first-time offense, so I decided it had to end. My first thought was to finally get all my cards sorted and put into some sort of database. This way I would be able to check my inventory quickly before ordering more singles.
I knew I definitely had way more than five thousand cards in my collection to sort and register. Even dedicating all the time available between fulltime and freelance work, family life and normal housekeeping would probably take a month, since I did not plan on giving up sleep.
Stopping the Cardboard Tsunami
First step would be to stop the collection from growing more. A moratorium on further Magic purchases was necessary. As I didn't want to add further confusion and new stacks while sorting and registering my collection, the suspension also had to include opening of sealed product. I had a box each of Core Set 2020 and Modern Horizons on the shelf along with various loose boosters from Unstable, Battlebond, and even a single Ultimate Masters pack that I had saved to crack for fun — something I rarely do, since I really like to play Limited formats.
In the end I came up with the rather extreme idea that I would not buy any Magic cards or related products for six months beginning September 1st. My final purchase was three 1,000 card long-boxes bringing me up to a total of nine, which I hoped would be enough for my commons and uncommons. If not, I would just have to get creative. Then I deleted all my wants lists on Cardmarket to make sure that cards put on them were something I really needed and not something that I already had.
Getting Everything Sorted Out
First step in sorting the cards was to separate all the rares and promos from the genpop. This is quite easy with newer cards beginning with Exodus from 1998 and forward. But since I originally began playing Magic with Revised Edition a good portion of my old cards are from a time when the cards themselves bore no indication of rarity.
Even knowing the rarity of most cards from memory, I sometimes get surprised at a card being rare instead of uncommon or the other way around. Finally having the rares that were not in use sorted out, I could begin the work of shuffling around binder pages and moving cards to accommodate the sorting I have been using for decades: color, expansion, alphabetical.
Registering my 720-card cube, my Innistrad-themed battlebox, my seventeen Commander decks, a single Legacy deck, and various preconstructed decks along with the surplus rares was the easy part. Within a few weeks I had that part done.
Then came the big work of everything else: commons, uncommons, basic lands, and tokens. Before the job of sorting and registering those cards was done, I was three and a half months into my break, and it turned out that 17,241 cards had been through my hands at this point. That still only added up to little more than ten thousand unique cards with Revised Edition basic lands accounting for the most copies with nearly 50 of each illustration.
Time for Pet Projects
Even all this effort still left me with a lot of time to dedicate to Magic without spending any new money. Luckily, going through my collection had me discover quite a few cards that I thought worth considering for my cube. Cube being an ever-evolving project, some cards that had been cut in the past had become interesting again, as the environment changed. Finally I had the time to look into for example strengthening the option for aggro drafters. In my bulk boxes I even found foil versions of cards in my cube.
Updating my cube, and to a lesser extend some of my Commander decks, I was met with another challenge, which I had suspected could come up when not buying Magic products for such an extended period of time. While I had had the foresight to buy long-boxes — and they had more or less met my needs for storage — I had known that I was out of perfect-size inner sleeves when beginning my adventure, and now this became an issue.
A lot of those cards I wanted to include in my cube and Commander decks did not have inner sleeves and I had no intention to harvest those from the cards I pulled out, since many of them were foils or otherwise blingy cards. In the end I had to look for less valuable cards that for some reason were sitting in the bulk boxes in a perfect sleeve and de-sleeve them until I had enough for the revisions.
Rolling Up the Sleeves
However, not buying inner sleeves was a minor thing compared to not buying cards and not opening boosters, right? First off, I had to begin compiling several new wants lists on Cardmarket. I made separate lists for Modern Horizons and Core Set 2020 because I did not want to end up buying singles that might already be in my sealed booster boxes.
This also meant coming to terms with the fact that neither the cube nor various decks would be updated with cards from those two sets before the passing of the moratorium plus however long it would take after that to draft the boxes. And it would be the same for Throne of Eldraine, since that set was released about a month into my abstinence.
I watched my wants lists grow to almost 40 cards each for Horizons and M20 and to more than 50 card for Eldraine. My fingers itched to try Once Upon a Time, Deep Forest Hermit, and Rotting Regisaur in my cube. Waiting to add Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord, Soulherder, and a bunch of other cards to various Commander decks truly was a trial.
Pioneer – My New Arch-Nemesis
The worst part, however, was when Wizards announced the creation of a new format, Pioneer. I had expected to save a lot by waiting for the hype of the three aforementioned sets to die down a little. And that was indeed the case, as some cards begin at ridiculous prices when they are first released.
But another group of cards, those that had left Standard in past rotations, suddenly went up again after steadily decreasing in price. Now, from one day to another at the end of October, I had to contend with the fact that I missed out on getting cards such as Mana Confluence, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, and Collective Brutality at reasonably low prices.
The announcement of Pioneer was definitely a low point. Much worse than sitting during a 24-hour slot around December 3rd putting the Bitterblossom Dreams drop of the Secret Lair Drop Series into my shopping cart, knowing that in the end I would not press purchase.
It's the Final Countdown
At the time of writing this, I think I have faced the worst part, and that the final month of abstinence will all be smooth sailing. Perhaps I even took one for the team, so you all don't have to make too crazy new year's resolutions for 2020. I also realize that this experiment is only something a noncompetitive, casual, and mainly kitchen-table player would ever be able to try. In other words, this was done by an amateur at home — aspiring pro players shouldn't try this while grinding their way through half a year of tournaments.
Currently there are 655 cards on my wants lists on Cardmarket. Besides shaving a good portion of that number off the lists when I begin making all my orders on February 1st, I plan on finally getting my customary box of all sets released within the period – Throne of Eldraine and Theros Beyond Death. But before anything else, I seriously need some packs of perfect-size sleeves.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.