Months have gone by since I last played a game of Magic against anyone other than my 9-year-old son. He and I dust off a casual deck now and again. Otherwise, like an aging set of silverware, luster of battling on Arena, shuffling up an Old School deck, or playing in any sanctioned event has truly faded.
Even Magic finance has lost its grip on my attention lately—in fact, many of the Magic personalities I follow on Twitter haven’t even been tweeting about Magic! It’s interesting to see how my newsfeed has evolved over time. Nowadays, I see more commentary on politics, video games, Pokemon, and an array of other games and experiences than I see about Magic finance.
I’m not sure if this is temporary (I’d guess it is), but it’s an interesting observation nonetheless. In order to motivate me to make a Magic purchase, there has to be something unique about the product. While it has been infrequent, I have actually made a couple of purchases recently. This week, I’m going to review my (admittedly brief) recent purchase history on TCGplayer to highlight where my mind is at within the hobby as a way of emphasizing how I’m currently engaging in the game.
Don’t worry, I’ll touch on some Magic finance tidbits along the way!
I Collect White Cards But Don’t Play Them
There’s a minor sense of irony to my love/hate relationship with White cards. Currently I maintain three Old School decks: an Ehrnam and Burn’em Red/Green deck, a mono Black Discard deck, and a mono Blue aggro-control deck. Across these three decks, the total number of White cards I play are exactly zero. I used to play White to incorporate Old School powerhouses Swords to Plowshares and Disenchant, but I was never impressed with how they performed.
As I mentioned before, I haven’t really touched my Old School decks recently. My primary engagement with the format has been more on the collecting side. With this perspective, I’m not really interested in a card’s playability. Instead, I merely purchase cards whose artwork I appreciate, so that I can place them in my Old School binder and enjoy the aesthetic of flipping through the pages.
This would adequately describe my most recent Old School purchases, and many such cards turn out to be White. This includes Spiritual Sanctuary, an absolutely terrible Legends Reserved List enchantment. I still cannot believe this is a $30 card—I used to own a copy of this card a few years ago, back when it was worth just a couple bucks. But when I saw it climb in price I was quick to sell my copy to Card Kingdom’s buylist for a modest profit.
Fast forward to the present, and suddenly I had to pay $20 plus tax and shipping just to purchase a heavily played copy!
I love the card’s artwork—there’s something about the depiction of a sanctuary that resonates with my own definition of the word. I can see myself bathing in the water pictured, and then admiring the stars while resting in utter peace. Amy Weber and I were truly on the same wavelength with this card.
If I had purchased this card months ago, I would have had to pay even more! I waited a while to see if this card’s price would retrace some. Fortunately it has, but not enough for me to feel happy about the price I paid. The only reason I finally pulled the trigger, in fact, was because I had some store credit from TCGplayer’s 15% bonus bucks special.
I purchased the former because I appreciate (what I interpret to be) the Biblical depiction of the three wise men within the artwork. I’m not sure if that’s the true intent of the artist, Julie Baroh, but that’s what I see. In general I’m not super religious, but I find religious depictions in Magic an interesting subsection of the game (and also something Wizards tends to avoid nowadays, making older cards like these special). The copy I purchased was “Damaged” and cost me $4.50. I played the “damaged” lottery in this case because the seller had very positive feedback, some of which indicating they graded favorably to the buyer.
The seller, Good Games USA, did not disappoint and I would grade the card as a solid HP myself. The other card I purchased from the same seller, Fasting, was a throw-in for free shipping. I overpaid on the card (it cost me $0.93) but considering it saved me $0.75 or so on shipping cost, I view the true price I paid as roughly $0.18. This is another White card with religious overtones (there’s even a cross in the background…this is definitely more obvious). The card is awful, but the artwork is neat, a common theme with the cards I like to collect.
Where Did This Store Credit Come From?
The three white cards I purchased were all covered (almost completely) by store credit. So what did I purchase in order to obtain the roughly $24 in credit via TCGplayers 15% kickback deal?
I fear I overpaid a little bit, but I have been wanting an Alpha or Beta Fungusaur for quite some time now. Since reasonably priced Alpha copies were much harder to come by, I decided to purchase a Beta for my collection.
But I didn’t just go out and buy any Beta Fungusaur. I was tempted by the BGS 6.5 graded copy sold by MTGCCG and More on TCGplayer. Obviously, the grade itself adds very little value to the card. The reason I wanted Fungusaur was because I appreciated the art (once again). It reminds me of the Rancor from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Can you see the resemblance?
By purchasing a graded copy (even one graded just 6.5), the card came in the secure, hard plastic case that I could stand up on my shelf for display. This was why I was OK paying $145 plus tax for a moderately played copy. Considering I received 15% back in store credit, it felt like I wasn't overpaying quite as much. In any event, in five years this card will probably be worth twice as much anyway since it's a Beta rare!
There was one other purchase I made during the TCGplayer kickback sale, and it has nothing to do with Old School. In fact, it has to do with the fact that my son has basically been my sole Magic opponent for the past few months. I purchased him the Zendikar Rising – Land’s Wrath Commander Deck for $19.22 shipped.
Why did I make this purchase? At face value, it’s a complete money sink as I’ll be lucky to get $5 in value out of the singles. In this case, the motivation had nothing to do with money. I received a different Commander deck for Christmas last December and for the past ten months, I haven’t been able to play the deck as it was meant to be played—in games of Commander—because my son didn’t have a Commander deck. Rather than piecemeal a terrible deck for him, I decided I would buy him his own Commander deck. This way our two decks would be on relatively equal ground in terms of power level.
In hindsight, I probably could have gotten him a cheaper deck, but he wanted one that included Green cards. What better way to embrace Green than to play a landfall-themed deck? It seemed like a great match, and he and I have already had fun playing our first true game of Commander. To me, this is $19 well spent!
Wrapping It Up
This basically sums up all my Magic purchases over the past couple of weeks. The only other thing I bought was a random Floral Spuzzem on eBay in order to spend the meager dollar and change I received in eBay bucks for the last quarter.
I’m not sure when I will be re-inspired to continue purchasing cards or playing competitive games of Magic again. Perhaps not until the holidays. Perhaps next year. My guess is I’ll get excited about the hobby again the next time I can attend a large in-person event, which I’m hoping will happen in 2022. Until then, I’m content making small purchases here and there to fill out my collection, battling my son in casual and Commander games, and selling the occasional card for modest gains. This “treading water” of sorts is a fine way to maintain a baseline amount of engagement in the hobby while also enjoying other pastimes.