So you decided to come back. That is great news. You are well on your way through Cube detox. Last time I went through Step 1: Defoilize where I talked about taking foils out of your Cube. In Step 2a: Bring on the ICE, I detailed the savings of replacing expensive Dual lands and/or Power 9 with ICE cards. Today we are going to dig down and get ourselves a little dirtier. Warning, the suggestions I am putting forth today are pretty drastic.
Boxed sets in the old days of Magic are much different than what we get today. Almost any prepackaged deck that WotC makes for us has a specific market or decent monetary value to back it up. In the old days of Magic, this was definitely not the case. Boxed products were pushed out randomly with little hype and not much reasoning behind them. Some products had very small target markets so they were doomed to fail. This brings us to the other boxed set(s) that can now save us money, the World Chamipionship Deck series.
Step 2b: WWCD (What Would a Cheapo Do)?
The World Championship Deck (WCD) series was a great idea but in the real world it was basically doomed from the start. From 1998-2004, decks from the World Championship tournament, usually picked from the top 16, were reproduced as single deck products. They were basically commemorative decks to celebrate the World Championships. Because reprinting a Constructed deck will ultimately either destroy the value of the secondary market or be to expensive to purchase at a retail price, WotC ended up creating cards that are visually distinct from regular cards.
They have gold borders instead of the regular black borders and the card back has an entirely different back from a regular Magic card. This created a product that no one actually wanted. Tournament players didn't want cards they couldn’t play with in a DCI sanctioned environment. Casual players didn’t find ultra competitive tournament winning decks something they wanted to play. They also were not able to tweak the decks very much because they couldn’t easily integrate them into decks with other cards of theirs.
Luckily for us many things have changed since the early years of Magic. Sleeves for one have come a long way. I remember penny sleeves were the only product other than top loaders that you could buy to protect your cards. Now we have sleeves of all kinds. Pictures, holograms, reflective and even the horrible concept of round cornered sleeves. In the early years of Magic, the WCD cards could not be played with regular cards but all we have to do now is put them into opaque sleeves and you can use them in any setting except for Constructed. From there all you have to do is get past the gold border and the almost always ugly signature plastered on the front of the card. If you do get past it, there are some big discounts on extremely playable Cube cards.
The most expensive cards you can replace with WCDs are Force of Will, Gaea’s Cradle and Wasteland. If you switch only these three out for their World Championship counterparts you are saving $140 retail as well as taking out some key cards that are easy for thieves to spot. Imagine what you could do with that $140 knowing what you know finance wise.
I rarely see these in trade binders and that is most likely not a regional oddity. They are actually somewhat hard to find even on the web. It is probably a combination of low print runs and a very low demand for these that stores and players a like don’t even bother paying attention to them. I personally have two decks that have been sitting in my CCG graveyard box and I never even thought that they could be worth some money over the years.
Aside from lowering the attraction thieves have to your Cube, there is an actual investment opportunity with gold border cards. The smartphone era of trading has taken the art out of trading. Finding out what someone wanted and getting value out of that need was really what separated a good trader from a great trader. Nowadays you can still do that but it is much harder to come out ahead if every trade is just equalized using SCG’s retail prices.
Prices for these cards cannot be found easily through regular means like SCG or TCG player. They currently do not have listings for them on either site and I am not even sure if they have ever had them listed in their inventory. They are basically impossible to find on MOTL because using their search tool will bring up everyone asking to not trade for Gold Border cards. Most websites don’t list them either or don’t have stock. The only store that I have found that has a surplus of singles in stock is ABUgames. They are even hard to find on eBay. So in the end WCDs will save you money but being a savvy trader can turn them into assets that you ultimately control the price of.
Gaea’s Cradle goes for around $15-$20 on eBay, but I don’t think it is out of the question to ask for $25-$30 when the original is pushing $80. Wasteland is around $5 but could easily be traded for $10 - $20, especially for a Commander player who has too many decks and not enough Wastelands. I personally don’t consider this sharking or lying to your trade partner because these cards are really niche and rare enough that the average trader will probably never see one of these again, at least in a trade binder. I would imagine you could make a killing at a GP if you had good stock on these and you knew how to sell them properly to people. It all comes down to understanding the people around you on the trade tables.
Selling someone on why and how they can use the WCD cards is great but it does highlight that there really isn’t an actual demand for them. You have to create the demand. This may mean you can get stuck with some of these if you are not careful. The profit opportunities on some of the higher end cards is high enough that it is pretty easy to cover your initial costs with one or two trades
To me the Cube community seems like it is where the Commander community was before the Commander sets were released. I do believe Cubes are getting more and more popular so I am optimistic that the demand is actually growing enough for there to even be some increases to the value of some of these cards, most likely in the lower priced cards because I do think there is a pretty solid ceiling to cards you can’t actually play in Constructed formats. MTGO Cube has helped bring focus to the format and now that we have Modern Masters coming next year which sort of acts like a Modern Cube the focus will hopefully grow even more.
Step 3: Did you say Heavenly Played?
The last step to devaluing your Cube is a doozy. I warn you, it may not be for the faint of heart. Actively seeking out heavily played or worse cards. I’m not talking about your run of the mill slightly played cards. Shuffle creases, white nicks on borders and even slight creases are not what I am looking for. I’m talking full on holes that you can see through, Cards that look like they were put through the washing machine, ripped cards and my favorite, cards that have been bitten, human or animal, it doesn’t matter as long as there are bite marks. These are cards that are so badly damaged that you may get them as throw ins or at worst you are getting them for 50% of their retail value.
As long as the cards are not marked in sleeves I think a heavily played Cube is actually an interesting feat to achieve. Every card becomes a conversation piece. It almost becomes like that car crash that you can’t help watch while you are driving down the highway. It will make your Cube ugly yet loveable because everyone loves an underdog. People may even ruin cards for you just for the sake of a good laugh. Just talking about a Cube full of horribly damaged cards is currently putting a smile on face. If you think of it, a heavy played Cube is really one of the most memorable Cubes anyone will ever see.
The funny thing is, it actually may be hard to find a lot of cards in this condition. People who trade don’t usually take bad care of their own cards. You can sometimes find a real winner on eBay but they sometimes still sell for amounts I personally would not be willing to pay. The key here is to get big discounts on a significant portion of your Cube. Mixing this step with one of the previous steps could save you even more money. Just imagine how much a heavily played ICE Black Lotus could potentially end up saving you.
It may have started out as a defensive move vs the growing problem of thieves in our community, but like most things in life it really turns into something else by the end of it. I have a very foiled Commander deck that is very dear to my heart but the more I think of it I can see the adventure of searching for a Heavily Played Umezawa's Jitte may be just as rewarding as any foil I got for my good friend Wort. Its all about the journey at this point. So even though the value you'll get by devaluing your Cube is a great reason to do it if you take it as a challenge to hunt down all your replacement cards it will be an entirely different and fulfilling experience.