Picture the following…
You are hanging around with a couple of friends at a GP having a great time. The trading tables have pretty much dried up. Most of you scrubbed out of the event hours ago but are still up to game. Someone suggests a Cube draft. You smile.
In the world of Cubes, your Cube is your favorite. It is your fingerprint on the Magic community. It acts as an extension of your personality and highlights everything you love about Magic. So you happily bust out your pimped Cube, the pride and joy of your collection. You’ve had your Cube for several years now. You’ve watched it grow and mature just as much as you have over the years. It started out as a simple spreadsheet of cards delicately pieced together by you over days of pouring over the entire Magic card pool. It was so long ago you can’t remember what it looked like then. You can still remember some of the trades that lead up to your current masterpiece. Some involved groups of cards worth more than the car you drove to the GP in.
After the packs are made, the draft is done and you start to battle you look around to find your cube so you can put away some of your cards. It isn’t where you thought you placed it last.
No worries, one of you friends probably pushed it to the side, or put their jacket on top of it. You ask around the table, no one says they remember moving it. Everyone was too busy having a great time.
You feel the world slowly blurring around you.
You look under the table. Nothing. You check your backpack. Nothing.
You ask your friends if you can check their bags just in case someone, anyone, put it into their bag by mistake to get it out of the way in the minutes before everyone started to draft and have a great time. One by one you open their bags. You see binders, boxes, bottles of water and heck even Crown Royale dice bags but not your Cube.
Your head feels like it is on fire, your heart feels like it is in your feet. The life of your cube flashes before your eyes in an instant. Is this really happening?
Reality starts to sink in. Your Cube is gone.
Stories like this are sadly a reality that we have to live with in today’s world of Magic. With the rising cost of cards and the trend towards pimping out Cubes and Commander decks you can easily have over several thousand dollars worth of cards sitting in a simple, portable cardboard box. Vintage decks can be worth more than some cubes and can fit in a jacket pocket!
Thieves really understand this and are targeting Magic players and their cards at large events. These are not scummy players who would steal someone’s cards here or there if the opportunity came up. They are professional thieves with a plan. They are organized and experienced. They know what they want and know how to get it. Simply watching your stuff better is not a foolproof way to stop your things from being stolen by these professionals.
The only real defense against them is to not take expensive things like your Cube of Commander decks to a big event. Submitting to the enemy and letting them effect how we enjoy Magic is a solution but I don’t think anyone wants to actually do that. In the end we all want to play Magic and the only way to do this is to swallow the risk and bring our cards to events.
There is however a compromise which I am more than ok with because it has some pleasant benefits. In our current culture of ultimate pimping, what I am about to say may be blasphemous to some but in the end it is a choice we all have to make on our own. Depowering, Depimping, Cheaping out or whatever you like to call it should be the new trend. It is a great way to lower the cost of your Cube without lowering the play value you get out of it; however, I wouldn’t go as far as proxying an entire cube unless it is high end proxys like this guy makes. At that point the cards stop being proxies and become labors of love and no one can look down at someone’s Cube for that.
There are a few steps to depimp any Cube. You can take any or all of these steps. Whatever you are comfortable with. Be warned though, once you depimp in one aspect you will probably start to realize that how much value is actually sitting in your Cube that can easily be used elsewhere in a much more efficient manner. Depimping could end up growing your collection and taking it to places you never dreamed of. It could also get you a new computer/laptop/tablet or heck even a car depending on how much you actually pimped out your Cube.
Step 1: Defoilize
We’ll start off with the easiest way to significantly cut the value of your Cube, cutting out the foils. You will never foil out an entire cube without making some sort of sacrifices to card quality so instead of looking at your Cube as half foiled, look at it as half non foiled. This makes it easier mentally to accept the depimping.
Foils on average are worth close to double what their normal non-foil versions are; however, this is only a rough general rule. Most foils actually break this generalization, or at least Cube playable foils usually do. Older foils can be worth three to four times more than their counterparts. It really depends on the card, the set, the era of Magic it came from and definitely if it is playable in Legacy. With all that extra value sitting in a shiny metallic layer of the card, it is pretty much a no brainer: stop foiling your Cubes people! If you are still hesitant, just calculate how much value is sitting in the foil portion of your Cube. I am sure the number will be over what you thought it was.
Step 2a: Bring on the ICE
Stopping at foils may be enough for some people but there are definitely more ways to lower the value of your Cube. Using the lowest versions of specific cards in your Cube can drastically decrease the value sitting in your Cube. It really depends on what cards are in your cube to begin with. Changing from a Revised Sol Ring to a Commander Sol Ring won’t really do anything so keep those as they are. But changing from a Beta Sol Ring to a Commander Sol Ring is exactly what you should be doing. Pretty much anything from Mercandian Masques going forward should be fine to use any version. The differences in price between something like 8th edition (white border) Bribery and a Mercadian Masques (black border) Bribery is zero or close to zero depending on what price scale you are using. The real opportunity is to use International/Collector’s Edition cards as well as World Championship deck cards.
Collector’s Edition and International Edition, or more commonly known as ICE, were produced as boxed set versions of the original Core set: Alpha, Beta, and Unlimited. There were over 9000 Collector's Edition printed and 5000 International sets printed. They have square borders but other than that they look like Alpha/Beta cards from the front. On the card back they have either International Edition or Collector’s Edition printed on them as well as a gold border instead of a black border. At a glance if they are in a black sleeve it is very hard to tell the difference between ICE cards and Alpha/Beta cards because the only real visual cue is the squared borders. These cards are not worthless but they are the cheapest option of the most expensive cards in the game.
The main cards people turn to ICE for are Dual lands. They are generally half the price of Revised Dual lands and significantly less than the price of any Alpha/Beta Dual. The bonus is they look just as good as any Beta with their black borders. Plateau has its original artwork, which is also a plus in my books. Most ICE cards you find are pretty mint because for the most part these cards have never been played with. If you have a powered Cube, ICE Power 9 offers significant discounts as well.
Here is a price comparison between ICE cards and their counterparts. ICE cards move in price a lot slower than the regular playable versions but, in the end, they pretty much operate as a percentage of the Revised versions. This means there are similar opportunities to invest in them as there are in constructed playable Duals, but the market is much smaller.
They still do put a dent in your wallet but if you want something cheaper than Revised Duals but something that looks as good as a Beta card these are the cheapest options you have.
Other than Duals and Power 9, I would only downgrade cards like Berserk that are in Beta but not in Revised. The majority of ICE cards that are available in Revised are actually more expensive than their revised counterparts. Not by much but if you really want to get every penny out of your Cube I wouldn’t go changing from a Revised Sol Ring to a CE Sol Ring.
There is also a far-fetched, yet plausible factor that comes into play. Conveniently, Ben Bleiweiss wrote an article on the matter a while back. In it he detailed the “what if” scenario of allowing ICE cards into the constructed card pool. With the provisions in the rules regarding Dual Faced Cards now in place, the ability for WotC to change their take on the legality of ICE cards in tournament play could actually change. I have my doubts that it will ever happen, but if it does ICE cards will all skyrocket above their Unlimited cousins but somewhere below their Beta brothers.
Join me tomorrow when I dissect the other end of Gold cards and ask the age-old question, What Would a Cheapo Do?