Insider: Branching Out

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It's interesting how often, and almost cyclically, I hear people complain about some format becoming "stale" (though usually aimed at Standard).

Thanks to one major retailer we now have weekly large tournaments with new tournament results all the time as well as a strong MTGO metagame to pull data from. The collective "hivemind" of tournament players tend to pull the best decks and tweak them to be extremely efficient. This occurs fast enough that the decklists become "stock" within a couple of weeks and the best cards legal in the format quickly rise to the top. Thus while Standard may have around 1500 cards available, only maybe 0.5%-1% might actually find a home in Tier 1 deck (assuming several are even available).

This means that we have a lot of cards that aren't doing anything but sitting in a box and taking up space. One easy solution for many grinders is to gather them all up and sell them at bulk rates to stores, thus clearing up some space for themselves and allowing the store to maintain a stockpile in case some card breaks out.

The normal bulk rates are about $3/1000 cards or 0.3 cents ($0.003) per card. Another strategy I've seen to gather up these bulk commons/uncommons and sell them as "instant collections" on Craigslist which can often go for more like $10-$15 /1000, netting a much better rate, but requiring a good bit more work. I know I enjoy buying cards at the normal store bulk rates and rooting through looking for 'treasure'. It's often time consuming and sometimes you spend two hours to get $10, but it's more about something I happen to enjoy doing than about maximizing my earnings.


But there are other less advertised formats that cause demand for some of these "bulk" commons/uncommons you may be unaware of.

  1. Pauper - This one is probably more well known than the others to follow. All sets are legal, but the card must have been printed at least once as common. A few months ago, you could see a lot of Travis Woo's brews on ChannelFireball were Pauper decks. This format is fun and surprisingly powerful. The banned list is small and this format can be played on MTGO.
  2. Peasant - Similar to Pauper except you can play with any commons or uncommons (though depending on the store/person promoting it there may be a limit to the number of uncommons).
  3. 1 Rare EDH - This is a format I recently got into (courtesy of one of our local players wanting to try it out) in which you can have only one rare/mythic in your EDH deck. Typically this is the commander as you have the most access to them and the rares/mythics tend to be the most powerful cards in your deck (though not always as Skullclamp is often the most powerful cards in a lot of these decks). This is the format that inspiring me to write this article as I was digging around looking for cards for my 1 Rare EDH deck (Damia, Sage of Stone), when I realized just how many awesome commons/uncommons would be played in EDH if it weren't for the fact that many times there is a rare that is slightly better and just pushes it out of the limelight.
  4. Cube - This format is becoming a lot more mainstream and is often a goldmine for trades. People who build their own cubes often want to make them stand out (the easiest way is to foil them out). This are the people who help drive the price of those weird old foil commons/uncommons and you can often turn a pile of weird foils into some highly liquid cards (or even cash).

Looking over decklists for these formats (especially Pauper, as decklists are readily available here) and looking up a lot of the cards in these decks we see commons going for $0.2-$0.5. While this doesn't sound like a lot, it means that if you were to pull out those cards from your bulk (where they are likely sitting) you can easily trade/sell them for 67x-166x what you would get for them selling them as bulk. Granted this takes considerably more time then just handing a box of cards to a store, but the payoff can be big. After all, if I learned anything from my experience buylisting at GP Atlanta it's that nickles, dimes and quarters can add up quickly.

Ironically, Pauper is similar to Legacy in that while there is a very large card pool, there are a few well known archetypes and only the best of the best commons make it into them. I bring this up because you can glance over these archetypal decklists and just pull cards you recall while you're doing your normal sorting. One of the biggest tricks when buying a big collection is efficient sorting of cards so you want to train your brain to pull out as much as possible.

I do realize that it's likely difficult to get full value on most of these cards; after all, if you have 20 copies of Chittering Rats you'd have to find five people trying to build Pauper Mono-Black Control. The good news about the format though is that it's still very cheap to get into which encourages people to build multiple decks (so that they can change up their deck choice if they get bored or want to try something new).

So now that you've got your cards set aside how do you get rid of them?

My first suggestion is to build a few decks of the format you want to try out. The next is to bring them with you to your card shop and ask people (who aren't busy playing something else) to try them out or post an advertisement on social media requesting that fellow players build decks (this is how one of our local players got about 8-10 of us interested in 1 rare EDH).

Weekly Tidbits

  • Shardless BUG won SCG Baltimore and while the decklist was pretty stock the sideboard did include a copy of Null Rod. While a known Vintage staple, Null Rod hasn't seen much play in the Legacy scene for quite a while. We also see a copy in the 6th place BUG Delver deck.
  • 10th Place was taken by a different Shardless BUG deck with the Thoptor/Sword combo ,which is an interesting take.
  • We're finally starting to see Toxic Deluge find a home as one- to two-ofs in some Legacy maindecks and/or sideboards.
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David Schumann

David started playing Magic in the days of Fifth Edition, with a hiatus between Judgment to Shards. He's been playing Commander since 2009 and Legacy since 2010.

View More By David Schumann

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8 thoughts on “Insider: Branching Out

  1. 1% of 1500 = 15, 15 * 4 = 60, decks will play a minimum of about 10 different cards (9*4 + 24 basics of the same type), but, chances are there will be some non-basics and cards that aren’t played as a full playset so 15 different cards in a tier 1 deck seems likely. This is assuming there is a single tier 1 deck, which is unlikely, because in that situation a deck designed to beat it would quickly become a 2nd tier 1 deck, adding more cards (the deck that beats it is likely to play different cards). I believe your math’s a little off here.

    1 Rare EDH sounds interesting. I’ve tried Pauper EDH too (with a single uncommon to use as your general) and that was pretty fun, I would imagine this would be too.

    I’ve played All Common (Pauper) before MTGO got created. Had a lot of fun with my common decks. My Spring Tide deck is very strong, potentially able to do a turn 2 kill (with turn 4 being very likely).

    1. Pi,
      Fair enough. I had meant it more as hyperbole, but to be fair that’s difficult to convey in text. You are definitely correct. It’s probably closer to 5-7% of the card pool.

      1 Rare EDH is a LOT of fun. I’ve heard of Pauper EDH, but our local player base wanted to have a lot of different options for generals (by my count there are only 35 uncommon legends if you don’t count “flip” cards and about 40 if you do, most of them are very lackluster (often being vanilla “gold” creatures with a basic ability or two).

      I definitely built a pauper deck or two before knowing it was a format on MTGO (though I built a Mono-black control style deck…not nearly as tuned as the one’s topping MTGO, but still powerful and fun).

      1. We played pauper EDH with any uncommon creature as general. That didn’t stop me from choosing Gerrard of the Closed Fist as my first general for the format. I also went with only cards from before I started playing, Weatherlight and before, so I was limiting myself pretty severely. Still had fun with the deck though (even if it didn’t win much at least I could admire my Elvish Ranger and Bird Maiden ;)). Unfortunately the group broke apart, otherwise I would have built a deck around The Fallen next.

        Does the pauper format as you know it allow Un-sets? Framed! is very strong in Spring Tide if it does. I actually researched which Basics would be least likely to lead to me untapping another player’s cards (turned out Saga Islands were a good choice). If not Snap, Cloud of Faeries and Frantic Research still works very well, my deck aimed to play 4 High Tides, then set up a Snap / Scrivener loop, draw my deck with Train of Thought and Capsize / Scrivener / Sapphire Charm them to death. Tides were found with Merchant Scroll, Dizzy Spell or Muddle the Mixture into Merchant Scroll and brought back with Scriveners so getting to 4 was not very unlikely. I’ve once dropped several Scriveners and Clouds to go into beatdown mode when the combo petered out, but I was able to re-assemble it before I would win through damage.

        Of course this was created a while ago, there may be some improvements to be made. Also this was not my first Pauper deck, I realize this has cards released after MTGO got started. The very first tried to loop Spore Frog using Undertaker. It didn’t do very well. The 2nd one had me sacrifice creatures for profit (think saccing Blazing Effigy to Carrion Feeder) and it’s still one of my favorite decks, it came in 2nd at a local all common tournament with 16 players.

        1. As far as I know the Un-sets are NOT allowed in Pauper, I’ve certainly never seen any referenced in decklists I’ve read over. The mono-blue style deck you built is a known pauper archetype, but to be fair you likely built it before Pauper archetypes were really existent (so kudos on that).

          1. Perhaps it was Peasant that originally allowed every common. I liked that idea, so when we organized a local All Common tournament I suggested we should just go for everything that ever was a common. I do now keep a build around that has no Un-cards, but the original build with them included was a bit stronger. My friends were no fans of me using Un-cards, though they agreed it fit within the rules. It made little difference as the non-Un version also would’ve won easily.

            The one archetype I was aware of was Walls that ping, which was the only deck I lost to in the earlier mentioned 16 player tournament (because the Wall’s were too big to kill with damage and there were too many to handle with Abyssal Gatekeeper alone; some were taught to ping through Hermetic Study). I was warned about that deck beforehand, but the description had not been clear enough so it didn’t help.

              1. I think it was blue/white, but yeah, that’d probably be worth changing the deck around for. If I remember correctly Onslaught was the most recent block at the time of the tournament.

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