Grinder Finance – Best Bulk Practices for a Player

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By now if you’ve been playing the game long enough to know what a “bulk rare” is you know the rest of pack is just “bulk.”  The reality of it is if you leave those cards on the table you’re probably incrementally costing yourself a bunch of money.

bulk

There are so many names for the other 14 cards in a booster pack.  Sometimes it’s bulk, sometimes more caustically known as “draft trash,” but most of the time it’s just a bunch of quarters, dimes, and dollars people often leave behind or throw in the garbage.  Picking bulk is a hard thing to do and people pay for bulk because they assume it hasn’t been picked to it’s fullest potential.   I’m not going to teach you how to pick every card out of bulk that can be sold for some amount of money.  What I will suggest is just picking your own bulk for cards you know you will probably need at some point in a set’s lifetime in Standard.
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Saving Some Dollars 

So I took a look at the orders from my LGS (I usually buy them online and then pick them up in store) is over the course of the 15ish months that Fate Reforged was in Standard, I spent close to $5 on Arashin Clerics (mostly due to losing them).  It might not sound like a lot when  Standard had $200 mana bases but a few dollars here and there can make a big difference at the end of the year.  If you’re a serious Standard player that doesn’t play the same deck for it’s entire life in Standard sometimes you need a pile of commons and uncommons you weren’t using.  Sometimes those are cards you already owned and forgot where you left them.  Laziness is a real problem and cost me at least $5.  Picking your bulk cards can help ease the problem with finding the right cards to play with while also not costing you a ton of time or money.

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What To Pick

The biggest question is what do you pick.  If you don’t want to sort literally every card you own there must be a threshold for a card to be worth setting aside.  I have a few rules of thumb that I follow when figuring out what to pick:

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  • Is it first pickable in draft?  A lot of very powerful limited cards find there way into Standard.  The poster child for this is rares like Pack Rat and Citadel Siege.  In more recent sets even commons have become constructed all stars.  How many people expected the top 8 of Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch to include Eldrazi Skyspawner in Modern?
  • Does it cost 3 or less?  Cards that cost 3 or less are more likely to be constructed playable.  When they cost a low enough amount of mana, even basically vanilla creatures like Dragon Hunter and Expedition Envoy become constructed playable.
  • Does it do some situationally relevant thing very well?  Commons and uncommons that I’ve found myself unlikely to have are weird niche sideboard cards.  This is the category for cards like Clip Wings, Arashin Cleric, Negate, etc.  When they’re good, they’re very good.  But when they’re bad, they’re almost unplayable.
  • Is it a land?  Lands are always playable in some capacity. Although you may never play most of them, it’s a small price to pay to own a bunch of weird lands just so you don’t have to spend a few bucks to buy them.  This is also especially important when a land is in it’s first print cycle (like the Shadows over Innistrad enemy colored tap lands and Warped Landscape).
  • Is it an uncommon?  I’m much more liberal with pulling uncommons than commons because the more playable uncommons are typically much more expensive.  While most constructed playable commons from recent sets don’t typically get more than $0.50, very good uncommons can be $3 or more (like Monastery Swiftspear).
  • Does it kill things?  Cheap, efficient removal is almost always one of those things that finds a way into constructed formats.
  • Does it do a similar thing to a card you already know is playable?  I know this is a little hard to describe so I will give the best analogy.  Flaying Tendrils is a lot like Drown in Sorrow.  Drown in Sorrow was very playable when it was in Standard so I would assume Flaying Tendrils has a higher than average chance of being played.  Biting Rain would also be picked under the same context.

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What does this all look like?

To give you a better idea of how I pick my bulk, I’ll give you the list of cards I took out:

Commons:

  • Catalog
  • Deny Existence
  • Just the Wind
  • Nagging Thoughts
  • Pieces of the Puzzle
  • Alms of the Vein
  • Dead Weight
  • Murderous Compulsion
  • Shamble Back
  • Dual Shot
  • Fiery Temper
  • Insolent Neonate
  • Tormenting Voice
  • Clip Wings
  • Fork in the Road
  • Loam Dryad
  • Root Out
  • Vessel of Nascency
  • Angelic Purge
  • Thraben Inspector
  • Vessel of Ephemera
  • Warped Landscape

Uncommons:

  • Biting Rain
  • Call the Bloodline
  • Indulgent Aristocrat
  • Olivia’s Bloodsworn
  • Pick the Brain
  • Sinister Concoction
  • Compelling Deterrence
  • Essence Flux
  • Invasive Surgery
  • Ongoing Investigation
  • Pore over the Pages
  • Rise from the Tides
  • Topplegeist
  • Groundskeeper
  • Weirding Wood
  • Dance with Devils
  • Geistblast
  • Gibbering Fiend
  • Incorrigible Youths
  • Lightning Axe
  • Ravenous Bloodseeker
  • Forsaken Sanctuary
  • Foul Orchard
  • Highland Lake
  • Stone Quarry
  • Woodland Stream

The last thing I picked was all of the double faced cards.  I’m not sure which ones will be good or bad but there are so few that if I ever need any of them I will likely be short as it is.  As the case was, I didn’t have 4 Duskwatch Recruiters to make the Bant Company deck.  At any rate, I figure I will find myself taking these cards out of the fatpack box they now reside in and thanking my lucky stars I picked them.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go through my sorted picks from Magic Origins and get my Bounding Krasi (Krasises? What’s the plural of krasis?) and feel good I won’t pay $1 for them.

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14 thoughts on “Grinder Finance – Best Bulk Practices for a Player”

  1. Maybe my advice will be wrong or useless because i buy very few singles and very very few standard singles but i have to react to this article :

    If we take the last sets, there is very few uncommons > 1 € (or $), from khans to now, i only see monastery swiftheart, which is a 4 of in modern AND legacy top tier deck AND is a casual all stars. Maybe the khans 3lands would be a quarter in a few years, meaning they won’t be printed again for several years. it is he same for charms.

    I’m convinced there is no money to be made picking up those bulk, as the supply on uncommons (and even more on commons) is very important since several sets.
    To me it is just a waste of time and money. Thoses bulk will remain bulk and will never be desirable.

    If you see some valuable (non foil) co / unco in the 3 last widely opened sets, please list them ! (khans, BFZ and SOI).
    If we have to get something co/unco, i would rather look at OGW, FRF and DTK.

    1. I would have to disagree, Don. Last night sitting in front of the TV with my wife I sorted through about 500 bulk co/undo and pulled about $30 worth of stuff from pile. I picked up bulk for about $20bin trade for 2k bulk. This doesn’t include the gold rushes I find in the bulk. So if saving your cards means added value down the road you might as well save the bulk you have left over from a draft. What’s the point of leaving it on the table? LGS love draft trash as most of there income on magic comes from casual players picking up $1 commons that they can sell.

      1. From whick set ? I’m only talking about the 3 most récents and widely opened.
        I don’t play draft, it may be fun from a game perspective, but i think it is a waste of money from a finance perspective.

        1. You are not the intended audience for this article or any of the articles that I write. My goal is to help players pay the least amount of money for their hobby, not to make money. Picking the cards you draft or booster boxes you open is an important way to save money when you need the cards to play in tournaments later.

          1. Yes i’ve realized i’ve missread the article, you were not talking about picks but you were just saying keep your cards after drafts.

            Sorry for the wrong comments.

  2. Plenty of good pickups in KTK/BFZ/SOI, just because they’re not over $1 doesnt mean they cant be sold

    1. Ok, please let us know which cards ! I mean cards that will be sellable for a profit in the future.

  3. Commons and uncommons to save from the most recent MTG sets:
    Duskwatch Recruiter
    Heir of Falkenrath
    Skin Invasion
    Reflector Mage
    Stormchaser Mage
    Warping Wail
    Wastes (184)
    Drana’s Emissary
    Stasis Snare
    Transgress the Mind
    Vile Aggregate
    Zulaport Cutthroat
    Dwynen’s Elite
    Sphinx’s Tutelage
    Fiery Hellhound
    Mind Rot
    Plummet

  4. Hi Jim,

    Thanks for the great article. I keep my collection well sorted and organized but constantly find myself not being able to find the cards I want to use for deck construction. I am a player and heavy trader, and have only recently begun separating my collection for these both purposes.

    I used to try and keep 4 of every common and uncommon from every set separate from my trade stuff, but have found that to be an agonizing amount of work. Now I have simply been seeking to set aside just those cards that I might need to play with.

    You went so far as to provide a list that I personally will find invaluable and I hope that you could make such a list moving forward (though I know that’s asking a lot).

    In any case, thanks for the great content!

    1. I can definitely try to do that more often but realistically I probably won’t have picked everything. I don’t know what cards you are likely to play but I’m hoping to educate people to make their own decisions. It’s one of those “give a man a fish” vs “teach a man to fish” kind of ordeals.

      1. Clearly you can’t make all the choices for any one person, but you have provided a fantastic starting point.

        I really hope to read more of this sort of thing. Getting insight into how you make your choices is great in the abstract, but seeing that along side the actual choices you have made in a framework that I can actually put my hands on and work with is the best.

        Thanks for the hard work!

  5. Not attempting to beat a dead horse with the one commenter who was saying this has no financial relevance to making money, but it is if you’re more of a player than a fancier. This is a way to save money by coming up with a system to evaluate what cards are probably standard playable, and therefore needing to be set aside for your personal play collection should you make a deck.

    I agree, good article for someone like myself. I personally also like Expedite, the R, give a creature haste and draw a card, card. While it may never be super valuable, it has the potential to be a good cantrip in a standard or perhaps even modern rdw.

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