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.

Buying Magic is so much than just buying cards. In 2019 I finally got the indispensable Cubeamajics to make boosters for my cube

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.

2018–19 was like a never-ending Christmas; I have never bought as much Magic product as during those two years

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.

lance purelace
For years I thought that these were the worst white rares in Revised; in reality, Lance is only a crappy uncommon

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.

forest mountain plains
Since you could easily get multiple basic lands in Revised when I started playing, it is no surprise that these lands turned out to be the ones that I had most of in my collection — a sign of an early cardboard crack addiction

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.

MH1 box
If I find a Wrenn and Six when I finally draft my Modern Horizons box, I may regret not opening it earlier

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.

nykthos collective brutality once upon a time
One truly brutal moment was when Wizards announced the Pioneer format and prices of cards suddenly soared. Other cards actually ended up cheaper due to the many recent bannings

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.

perfect size
Seeing prices of possible Pioneer staples soar was not easy, but what I really missed in the daily dealings with my cards was to be able to just grab a fresh pack of perfect fits

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.


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sluggy10(04.02.2020 11:26)

I personnaly use UrzaGatherer, and have my 30K+ cards collection on it. It took me 3 full Week of 6h per day to register all of this, classifiy and get rid of useless things.
Now, i have a place for all binders, on per 2 extension (or 1 bloc of 3 extensions), and i know at every moment what card i have, what i need, in which edition, and if foil or not :).
Just took, at the very moment i get a new card, to add it in the app.
When you have a growing collection, listing everything is just…. Well it's necessary, 'cause like you, i'm bying a lot of stuff and can't possibly memorize all of it (trying to have all set completion).

Thk for the article, and for Cubeamajics especially :p
Just bought 50 of them for my UnCube

sanchonil(05.02.2020 22:56)

Sluggy10: Thanks for the tip on UrzaGatherer, I will look into that one. And good to hear, that you built a cube now, as far as I remember, you didn't use to have one.

sluggy10(05.02.2020 23:11)

You have a pretty good memory :D. No, i previously had a Tower (everybody draw into the same huge deck). Was fun, but too complicated to have a "good" game, the random aspect is way to high. But yeah, i built my UnCube for the past 6 month. I have almost every unhinged and unstable in foil version :3. Pretty prowd of it. The first test is this saturday :D.
The articles i saw here made me build this one :). Everybody have a "power cube", or "vintage cube". But i like stupid cards. (infinity elemental + fling

sanchonil(10.02.2020 10:55)

Sluggy10 : Oh yeah, that tower did sound quite cool even if it made for unbalanced games - I am a sucker for bling.

Hope you had fun drafting the cube.

sluggy10(10.02.2020 11:05)

Well, we tried saturday, and all player were happy, games weren't as complicated as i first thought so, and pretty fast. Just need to upgrade the "squirrel" gameplan, add a "mill gameplay", which is almost inexistant now, and a few things.

Tower were great in the "unobvious things". Like, Common graveyard, library manipulation (scry became overpowered in a game where everybody draw in the same library), but my players didn't like it as much as the cube so... :'(

sanchonil(11.02.2020 10:51)

Sluggy10 : Great that the group was happy. And thumbs up for the plan to support mill.

malinjacques(24.01.2020 14:13)

Nice article. I'd argue farmstead is worse than both purelace and lance... - how many of those did you find???

sanchonil(24.01.2020 15:14)

Malinjacques: Thanks.

I suppose Lance could find some use, but I believe that my Farmstead has seen marginally more play than my Purelace ;)

I have one of each and a single Lance too and I incredible as it may seem, I think I have played with all three of them.

malinjacques(24.01.2020 17:59)

Maybe white devotion is going to drive a farmstead spike!!!!

sanchonil(24.01.2020 18:22)

Malinjacques: That just made me laugh out loud. (And it triggers constellation too.)