How Do You Approach Allocating Cards for Decks?

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When I first started playing in tournaments I hardly knew anybody who played Magic. I owned every card in every deck that I played and that was the only way that I knew how to do it. Then something strange happened when I started college. I started showing up to FNM and immediately people were willing to loan me cards. I went from being able to play one barely serviceable Standard deck to being able to play whatever I wanted in multiple formats.

These days I know very few people who own their own decks. I know a number of people who frantically borrow from those with large collections, a few that pool collections together in order to have access to everything, and some who are more or less sponsored by vendors so that they have access to whatever they need.

For a long time my personal approach to getting the cards I needed to play was to own the most expensive cards in decks that I wanted to play and then to scrounge for the cheap ones. I bought my set of Tarmogoyfs, Zendikar fetches and Jace the Mind Sculptors when they were Standard legal and I borrowed Raging Ravine on more than one occasion.

This approach worked great for me. There was some scrambling for cards, but the phrase, "I have everything but the Jaces" didn't phase me at all when borrowing things. I wasn't sitting on many rares that cared about rotation either. The only downsides were that they buy-in was high and I relied heavily on a small number of people with large collections continuing to play the game and lend me cards. I've never had problems borrowing from the same person more than once, but I have had the issue of friends with large collections selling out of the game.

Owning more cards would be the obvious way to get out of the need to borrow, but this comes with its own downsides. Larger collections are harder to manage and having more cards to move when rotation rears its ugly head is problematic. They buy-in cost is also higher by a fair margin. These costs buy you convenience though, which is always nice.

My friends who are sponsored by vendors have a pretty sweet set up, as they don't have a buy-in and their source, to my knowledge, has everything that they need. The only real downside is that sometimes you can be at the mercy of a card selling out. This option obviously isn't available to everybody, though it does provide some added incentive to go into the vendor business.

Pooling collections is a fine way for several people to get together and own multiple decks, but pooled collections can be hell to manage. Such collectives will generally be able to provide everybody with a deck, but things get very awkward when somebody decides to cash out. Depending on where you live and who you know, this might be your only option. Just make sure you know what you're getting into before you set something like this up.

And then there are those who show up to a tournament and figure out how to get cards later. This behavior is mostly exhibited by high profile players who ultimately are able to find what they need. Even still, I can't imagine the stress of showing up and still needing to find a deck. Some people, however, strive under such stressful situations. Grinders gonna grind.

So what's your approach to putting decks together?

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Ryan Overturf

Ryan has been playing Magic since Legions and playing competitively since Lorwyn. While he fancies himself a Legacy specialist, you'll always find him with strong opinions on every constructed format.

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One thought on “How Do You Approach Allocating Cards for Decks?

  1. I just grab the cards from my own collection. In the casual world that’s just what you do, people would be amazed if you borrow.

    I sometimes lend cards to a friend for when he intends to play in a tournament, but recently some of them were returned in considerably worse condition. I’m not as enthusiastic about the prospect of lending people cards anymore.

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