Welcome back readers!
Today's article will focus on commons and uncommons. I always enjoy DJ's articles on pulling cards from bulk—my methods are a bit more complicated than his, so I'll give you a look into my sorting procedure. Then I'll cover some of my favorite specs right now on "not quite bulk" commons and uncommons.
Pulling the Less Obvious from Bulk
One thing you will learn when sorting through bulk is that, like most endeavors, practice really does make perfect. You could hand identical stacks of 1000 random cards to 10 different store owners and they would all likely have slightly different "not bulk" piles. The reason is because the more you deal with players and buylists, the more random cards you may learn are worth more than bulk.
With a lot of experience and information it's likely that an experienced picker would find all the cards that buylist for more than $0.50. They might even find everything that buylists for more than $0.25, or if they are really good, $0.1.
But there's another thing to consider. What about cards that are currently bulk but might eventually become not-bulk. The challenge here is that this metric is not well defined. Potential one person sees could easily be dismissed by another. However, we can look for patterns in cards that have gone from bulk to not-bulk and see what types of factors we should look at.
In an ideal situation we'd have a sort of algorithm we would use to determine a card's potential. Unfortunately, I don't have one available (yet, as it's something I might work on if I ever find myself with a plethora of free time). But for now I'll at least leave you with the factors I do consider at this time when looking at potential future not-bulk.
Obviously, blue is the most powerful color in Magic. For some reason that color got Counterspell and Ancestral Recall. So because of blue's prevalence in eternal formats (except maybe Modern) I always give a bit more thought to blue cards.
Converted Mana Cost
Again, when we look at eternal formats, we often focus on converted mana cost first. No matter the power level of a card, if it comes at too high of a cost it won't see play (save finding ways to cheat on said cost). One would typically give order of preference in descending order (i.e. zero is at the top, then one, then two, etc.).
Typically, I ignore anything that costs more than four mana for Legacy/Vintage playability, and five mana for Modern playability.
Commander playability is a bit different as most of those games do go longer, so CMC is less of a concern (though still relevant). For Commander I put more emphasis on "power level." Would you want to play this at its cost if you knew you'd survive another turn? There are no guarantees, of course, but you're more likely to live longer in Commander games than in Legacy/Vintage.
If it's a creature, is the type a heavily supported tribe? This one more often than not focuses on Elves, Zombies, Angels, Vampires, and Dragons because they seem to be the tribes most popular to collect. For instance, how many of you knew that Scattershot Archer is not a bulk card?
The point is, there are a lot of oddball cards worth more than bulk because there are a ton of casual players out there who still get excited searching Gatherer for cards that will defeat their friends at the next kitchen-table throw-down. These are the types of players who look at a card and ask themselves, "Will it fit in my deck?" If the answer is yes, they'll buy or trade for it regardless of its competitive pedigree in constructed formats.
One additional caveat (especially for Elves) is whether the creature taps for mana. As Magic grew as a card game, people realized that casting your spells ahead of the expected turn (when one relies solely on lands for mana) allows you to do more powerful things faster. Mana dorks serve as a great way to do this, so I always pull creatures that make mana out of true bulk and set them aside.
Does it ramp your mana? While this often gets attributed to green and artifacts, that isn't always the case. Remember Generator Servant? While that card is still bulk currently, I always pull them out when sorting because without a reprint that card just seems "not bulky" to me. It ramps you into bigger creatures and can even provide haste—two great abilities.
As I mentioned this is typically attributed to green and artifacts, so I also pull green cards that mana-ramp you. Even the low-level cards of this type often tend to be good additions to a Commander deck when players want to add some fixing or speed.
Does it draw cards? Card drawing is another extremely powerful ability (typically attributed to blue). Since Magic's early days it has proven to be a good way to win games—he/she who has more cards typically has more options and resources. So I'm careful to look at cards that provide some form of card advantage (typically via drawing cards).
What is the foil multiplier? This refers to the percentage difference between a regular copy of a card and a foil. Standard staples typically have around a 2x multiplier, so if a Standard staple is worth $5 then its foil might be $10. Eternal foils, however, can have much larger multipliers.
For example, look at Predict. While the price has jumped recently from bulk to $5-$6, the foil is worth more like $40—over seven times the value of the regular version. So it's important to see which commons/uncommons have high foil multipliers, as that may prove a decent lead for recognizing the ones primed for a price increase.
The card's rarity can also play a pretty significant role in its potential. With the explosion in the playerbase starting around Zendikar block, there are just so many more packs opened now. That makes older uncommons in some cases rarer than new rares (and some may well be rarer than the latest mythics). So I do have a tendency to favor uncommons because they themselves are rarer than commons.
"Not Quite Bulk" Picks
In a nutshell those are the factors I look at when trying to determine if a bulk card has potential to move out of bulk status. This list isn't all-conclusive, and I'm sure there are other factors you might think up (if you do I'd love to hear them in the comments), but I think it covers a lot of the bases.
So I've shown you the factors I use when filtering through bulk. Now let's look at some "not quite bulk" picks.
Throne of Geth is a single-printing uncommon from Scars of Mirrodin (which came out while the playerbase was still expanding). It did not show up in any supplementary products like Contagion Clasp did. Proliferate is a very powerful mechanic, as it scales upward with larger board states, and the ability to proliferate repeatedly is powerful.
Foils of this card are already pushing $5-$6, while regular copies are under $0.25. It has a low CMC and being an artifact can go into any deck. I always pull these out of any bulk I ship off to stores.
Buylists on Simic Charm have been as high as $0.3 before and all the Return to Ravnica block charms have some potential. What I like the most about Simic Charm is that despite Simic being the guild for both an event deck and an intro deck, no Simic Charms were included. So the only way for any to have entered supply was via packs.
I have seen it occasionally used in sideboards in some Modern Temur decks as it can protect any permanents from targeted removal, pump creatures, or act like an Unsummon. Foils only have a 4-5x mutliplier currently, which is still decently high but nowhere near what it could be.
This is a more recent card (from Battle for Zendikar) and copies are sitting under $0.25. That's typical for an uncommon, but the foil multiplier is over 15x (foils are almost $4.00).
Before Crumble to Dust was printed, I buylisted a lot of Sowing Salts for over $1.50 each. This effect was already in high enough demand in Modern for a double-red solution to be worth nearly $3, despite two printings (Urza's Destiny and Betrayers of Kamigawa).
Crumble to Dust is a strict upgrade as it's easier to cast and more splashable. Tron decks are still very good in Modern right now, so powerful hoser cards are always something to give a second look at when filtering through bulk.
I do a lot of sorting and filtering through cards, and my "not quite bulk" factors have allowed me to buylist a lot of cards for far more than bulk. It's simply a matter of sitting on them and waiting for their time to shine. If you have other interesting picks or additional factors to suggest, I'd love to hear them in the comments.