Being a dedicated drafter presents some interesting conflicts as a Magic player. In my case, I play very little Constructed Magic, but Draft at my LGS at least once a week. This leaves me with several hundred new cards each month, and most will likely never be played (by me) again. It can be time-consuming and overwhelming to figure out what to do with all of them. In this two-part article, I’d like to discuss some of my strategies to help you maximize value from not only the Draft, but also the Draft leftovers.
There’s No Shame in Rare Drafting
Look, I want to win every Draft I enter. Does this mean passing a Sphinx's Revelation I may open because it’s off color? No way! Opening a card with significant value is winning the Draft, as far as I’m concerned. And when it really comes down to it, no one pick (or even two) makes or breaks one’s Draft, no matter how good a playable is passed. If your deck is bad, it’s for more reasons than the on-color Stab Wound you passed for a shock land you’re not playing.
I should say that the heading of this section isn’t completely true, you shouldn’t just blindly pick every rare you see. Make no mistake: there is great shame in picking Biovisionary over Drakewing Krasis. But don’t let players at your LGS convince you that taking a card for its monetary value is wrong. These players are misguided at best, or at worst, trying to get you to pass money rares to them.
For me, I always consider things from thing angle: will I be kicking myself more for passing the money rare or passing the playable? It’s not feasible to set a rule-of-thumb dollar limit, because each situation is unique. For example, if I open Loxodon Smiter (online mid at $4.28) and I’m drafting Izzet, then I’m windmilling Frostburn Weird or Annihilating Fire and not worrying about the $4. But if my options are more on the level of Runewing or Pursuit of Flight, that $4 card starts to look pretty appealing. Sometimes a playable is worth giving up a few bucks, but I personally can’t imagine ever passing a card worth more than $10. That’s almost the cost of entry!
Bulk Rares Need Love, Too
Bulk rares are sweet. They’re a dime at minimum, and dimes add up quickly. Late in packs when pickings are slim, I will happily take that very same Biovisionary about which I shamed you earlier. I will never take it over a playable that will make my deck. But I will take it over marginal sideboard cards like Naturalize or Shielded Passage, and I will take it over off-color playables (yes, even Drakewing Krasis). It’s generally accepted that hate-drafting is not really the most advantageous way to Draft, and if I’m given the choice of adding another bulk rare to my collection or keeping a fellow drafter from getting a stupid vanilla six-drop, I’ll probably just take the bulk rare. I’m not likely to face that six-drop, and if I do, it’s not like I auto-lose to it. In the meantime, I just turned the half-penny value of a bulk common into a dime, profiting 9.5 cents. Now if I could just do that three or four million times…
Winning is Everything
If you play at a store that accepts pack-ins for Draft (providing packs instead of paying cash), there is virtually no excuse to opening any prize packs you win. Have some patience and save those suckers for later. I paid cash for two Dragon’s Maze pre-releases and have drafted all but one week since without spending another dollar (except on candy, beverages, sleeves, etc.—it’s important to support your LGS). If I had opened my prize packs, I would have ended up spending more than twice than I have so far. And to what end? To maybe open Voice of Resurgence? Think of it this way: you’re probably going to take any money cards you open, right? So you get those either way. But opening a card like Stolen Identity is great in a Draft and disappointing when you’re cracking for value. Don’t you want to be happy with your packs more often? I know I do. Save your packs for drafting, people.
Turn Off the Lights, the Draft is Over
Many drafters sell their money cards back to the store at a deep discount, throw away the uncommons and commons, and don’t think about it past that. I’m not going to say this is an incorrect practice. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it offers immediate results. But it leaves a lot of value on the table.
I will happily pick up abandoned Draft decks (always confirming, of course, that the cards really are unwanted). Sometimes you’ll find constructed-playable uncommons or bulk rares. Most of the time it really is just junk, but that has value, too. I’ll even pick up the abandoned basic lands within arms’ reach. Why not? Many sites pay more for bulk basics than for standard bulk commons.
Let’s Sit Down and Sort This Out
Some people might consider how many cards I end up sorting a downside to this system. That’s a valid point if you generally don’t have the patience to manage your collection, but I’m the type who finds an unreasonable amount of joy in organizing things, so I actually like this part.
Still, it takes a lot of time to organize hundreds of cards, but there are ways to make it happen during normal downtime. Watching the Daily Show? Sort some cards. Waiting for an MTGO round to finish or a load screen on League of Legends? Sort some cards. Spending the weekend marathoning the newest season of Mad Men on Netflix? This leaves plenty of time to sort some cards, not to mention go through the junk mail that’s piled up, do some pushups, and pay your bills. I like to double-task, but your mileage may vary.
When going through my Draft leftovers, I have several categories I sort into:
1. Cards to go in the trade binder
These are rares, foils, or valuable uncommons that I believe are currently overpriced or at peak price. These are usually in-demand Standard or Commander staples so they are not hard to move quickly. I slot these into my oft-used and always-handy trade binder.
2. Cards to hold for future trading
These are cards I am unwilling to trade at current prices because I believe they are too low. I throw cards like these into a box (please don’t put cards that aren’t for trade in your trade binder) until they rise in price to a level at which I feel comfortable trading them. Many of these are bulk rares and mythics that don’t ever pan out, but given the already-low price point on these, I’m not losing much value by sitting on them.
3. Bulk rares and bulk foil commons/uncommons
Cards I have no faith will ever be more than bulk are thrown into a bulk box. I consider bulk foil commons/uncommons to be on the same level as bulk rares and keep them all in the same box. This also includes foil basic lands.
4. Bulk uncommons/commons
I have a shoebox that I consistently fill with cards, with two columns for commons and one for uncommons. When it gets full, I out the cards (discussed in detail in part two of this article).
5. Basic lands
Another shoebox is filled with basic lands. This box fills slower than the commons box as I really only end up with five to ten new lands per Draft.
Tokens also get tossed in a box. Ones worth a few bucks, like Planeswalker emblems, are put in my trade binder.
So Now You’re a Legitimate Expert
Now that you’ve read this, your next Draft night should go like so: get in there, open one or more money cards (completely within your control if you just believe), draft awesome cards when available, and snatch up bulk rares and foils when the pickings are slim. After you win the Draft (surely inevitable), make some trades. At all costs, save your prize packs to pack-in to the next one! When you have a moment in the next few days, sort your cards into your exquisitely and intuitively structured collection.
Then join me in our next installment where I will discuss strategies for maximizing value out of your neatly sorted Draft leftovers, including which types of cards to trade into and out of, best ways to out bulk, and more.