Quitting

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For me, it’s my Merfolk.

That’s the one thing I’ll never sell, unless it becomes a matter of absolute necessity for my family.

I’ve loved my Merfolk deck ever since I borrowed one to play in my first-ever Legacy tournament at a SCG Open and ended up splitting the finals of the event. From there I decided to build it myself, and these days I sling foil Fish in Modern every chance I get. Sometimes, I even do well enough to have a tournament report to write.

I’ll sell my dual lands. I’ll sell my binders, my bulk, my box of full-art lands, my Bazaar of Baghdad. Hell, if it came to it, I’d even sell my Mishra’s Toy Workshops that I received as a gift. It can all go—everything I treasure in a binder or a box in my office.

mishrastoyworkshop

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But I’ll never sell my Merfolk.

The reason? Because there’s plenty of wrong ways to do it but only a few right ways.

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To quit.

If you’re reading this, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. You’ve never felt what it’s like to have to give up the game you love—to watch someone else coldly take what you worked years to build and carelessly dump it into a box. You’ve never given up a piece of yourself for reasons beyond your control.

Or maybe you have.

I’ve seen people quit this game for all number of reasons. They can’t afford it. They don’t have as many friends who play. They need the money. They ragequit after the latest tournament. But by far the most common reason is that they don’t have the time, something that encompasses many reasons. Sometimes it’s work; sometimes it’s a new baby or other family issues.

I’ve been there myself. When I graduated from college, I began to work as a sportswriter, and that meant lots of Friday-night games and weekend tournaments. Save for a few weeks in the summer, FNM was suddenly not a part of my life anymore.

And that sucked, there’s no way around it. I’m nearing a point in my life where career opportunities will allow me to work a schedule more amenable to Magic, and I’m looking forward to getting back in the game. But after college, I took the job I could get, and while I do enjoy it, being so disconnected from Magic still came as a huge shock.

But I didn’t quit.

Instead, my experience with quitting comes on the other side: the backend of a dealer booth. I’m the guy sorting your beloved cards into piles of money, though I try my best to not be cold while I’m doing it. Because I buy and sell cards out of an LGS, I have a large number of what you would call “walk-ins.” That is, people who have Magic cards to sell but aren’t store regulars. They probably Googled “sell Magic cards” and ended up with me.

I hear a lot of stories this way. People sell me cards for any number of reasons, and that’s fine. I always strike up a friendly conversation as I’m sorting through cards: Why are you getting out of the game? Why are you selling all your cards? It is both a curse and a blessing that Magic cards are valuable. The same thing that makes it tough to break into the game makes it easy to get out—there’s always someone willing to pay you for your cards. But the more people I’ve worked with, the more I’ve seen this same story come and go.

“Well, I played Magic ten years ago, and I sold everything when I quit eight years ago. I can’t believe how expensive it’s gotten since then! Anyway, I got back into over the last year but it’s not going to work for [INSERT REASON HERE], so I’m selling my stuff again.”

This is a common story: a player who quit and came back later, only to quit again. I’ve heard a lot of stories from players as they quit, and I’ve heard a lot of stories from players who have come back. If you want to quit, I would advise against you making a clean break, but if that’s what you need to do, here’s some advice.

stopthat

Know What You’re Selling

Turning your cards into money is great. You never know what unexpected expenses are going to come up, and unlike a lot of hobbies, Magic is very easy to convert back into cash when you need it, whether that’s for an emergency or simply a gift. I was able to sell enough cards to buy an engagement ring for my now-wife, and I’m proud of the fact that I did it with Magic cards.

But remember this: sometimes selling everything isn’t the best option. Sell your Standard cards. Sell your Modern cards. Sell your casual cards. Sell your bulk. Maybe even move your nonland Legacy staples if you have them and you don’t think you’re coming back to the game. Because even if you do, that fancy finisher you have now may be outclassed by something by the time you get back, and that card is now worth less than it was when you quit.

But don’t sell your dual lands unless you have to. If you’re lucky enough to have any of the Power Nine, don’t sell them. These cards have only gone one direction since Magic was created, and while past performance is no guarantee of future returns, it’s also completely plausible that these cards will continue to climb. It’s a really crappy feeling for those of you who have come back in the last five years only to see the dual lands you sold a decade ago for gas money are often exceeding $200 now. Even if you’re out of the game, stashing these away in the back of your closet is simply a prudent financial move.

Take the Time to Do It Right

I see people decide to quit, and they take their stuff, unsorted, to Star City Games or even their local LGS to get rid of it all at once. I’ve found so many expensives rares in boxes of what I was told was common and uncommon bulk. If you take the time to go through your cards one last time and set these aside, you’ll be able to get real buylist values on these rather than losing them in the junk.

It’s really easy to dump your cards onto one dealer’s table and simply be rid of them all, but it’s almost always worth your time to break it down to a few different buyers or to sell your big-ticket items to another player, whether in person or through eBay.

One more thing—the most important thing—don’t sell your Merfolk.

merfolkofthedepths

Don’t Sell Your Merfolk

As I explained, there’s not much that could happen to make me sell my Merfolk. The day might come I have to sell all of my Magic cards. Despite our best plans, life has a funny way of happening, and I don’t know what might come up down the road.

But I’ll never sell my Merfolk.

This is the single best piece of advice I have. I literally cannot count the times I’ve talked to someone who’s recently come back into the game and has nothing. They have such fond memories of their favorite deck “from back in the day,” even though it’s probably terrible by today’s standards. But it’s precisely those memories that brought them back to Magic in the first place, and no matter what they may go on to build or accomplish in their second (or third or more) stint, it won’t replace that first love for their own personal Merfolk.

You’ll Be Back

No matter how far you distance yourself from the game, it’s hard to make it disappear completely. You’ll be surfing Facebook or Twitch a few years from now and see it pop up, and you’ll get that familiar twinge.

It’s only a matter of time until you give in. If you’ve played this game for any length of time, it’s impossible to get away forever. Most players know exactly how many times they’ve quit and come back, and they wear it like a badge of honor. That’s fine, but maybe try not to cost yourself some long-term money in the process.

With that in mind, here’s a short list of things you’re going to store away in the closet, even if you have to quit for a time.

Binders

Sure, your binder may be empty now after you unload all your rares from it, but when you come back, you’re going to need one again. Good ones runs upwards of $20 today, and will probably be even more expensive when you come back. I have a ton of extra binders I’ve gotten from people selling me collections, and they just rot away in a box in my home. You might as well let them rot away in a box in yours to save yourself some cash down the road.

Lands

This depends on your level of play in the game, but it’s worth noting. Sure, maybe you want to sell your expensive Standard or even Modern lands, but if you’re a more casual player who isn’t worried about the latest tournament decks, maybe just keep back some of the more simple stuff. Khans of Tarkir trilands, for instance, are commonplace to those of us in tournaments, but absolute gold for a new players trying to build casual or EDH decks. That could be you if you decide to return in a few years.

Deckboxes/Sleeves/Dice

Along the same lines, these are something you’ll eventually need again, even if you have no use for them now. A pack of sleeves may not seem very important when you’re up in the middle of the night with your baby son, but trust me, you’re going to wish you had them when that kid is spilling his drink on your cards when you teach him to play years down the road.

What If I’m Wrong?

I’ve written this article with everything predicated on the belief that you may return to the game someday. If you do, these things can make that transition back in easier.

But maybe that never happens. You leave the game and never look back. You save some of this stuff and it’s lost in your garage for years. Maybe you’ll dig it up and find out that the cards you saved have appreciated nicely in your absence from the game. Or maybe your now-teenaged kid will find it and make fun of you for being such a nerd. Either way, it’s worth it.

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

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22 thoughts on “Quitting”

  1. Great article. I think many people understand the reasons. One thing some people seem to forget is that to truely be on top of the game and competitive, you have to have a fair amount of time on your hands. It is amazing how much of a time sink a baby can be. Being a new dad, I kinda figured a drop in free time, but now I frequently find myself choosing between sleep or whatever else… sleep always wins.
    Anyway.. last time I “quit”, I sold off all my modern collection, but I am perfectly fine with that, even now. The only time I get to play nowadays is pre-releases because they are the most fun and I am perfectly fine with that too. I miss the days when I used to play daily, but everything changes. For that, I agree with you saying if one quits, don’t quit completely. Funny you also mention a merfolk deck because I still have an old falcon deck. It is a crappy deck by todays standards, but I have too many memories attached to it to sell it or pick it apart.

  2. I absolutely love your writing style. Fluid and easy to read. Ok, enough sucking up.

    I’ve never fully quit Magic, but I HAVE decided to sell a lot of my money cards multiple times in the past. Once while in college and I wanted some spare cash for living – the only thing I remember was selling my 3 Force of Wills on eBay and being thrilled that the auction ended at like $26. Ugh….

    The other time was after my son was born, and I sold out of Legacy to open up a brokerage account for my son to begin saving for his college education. That was…not the worst choice, I suppose…but I think Dual Lands have appreciated more than stocks. And of course, now I’m back into Legacy again with a single deck which I should have kept in the first place!!!

    So yeah, your article is spot on and resonates with me.

  3. What you write is so true, and it still hurts.

    Started playing Magic with Antiquities. First time I quit was when Chronicles were announced, which destroyed the Magic community in my home town because everyone wanted to sell their cards as long as they were still worth something. That’s when I got rid of cards like Candelabra of Tawnos, Mishra’s Workshop and most of my Legends collection for pocket change (compared to the prices they have now). Probably also a few dual lands. I remember that I sold Revised, Antiquities and Legends commons and uncommons in 200 card packs for $1. Pretty sure there were Chain Lightnings, Lightning Bolts and lots of other really good cards inside.

    Started again during Onslaught cycle and quit only about one year later after Mirrodin, when I was disappointed that most people were looking up decks on the Internet instead of developing their own. That’s when I sold all my remaining Revised dual lands and some other great cards. Again more or less for pocket change.

    Now I started again a few months ago. Still have a few thousand cards at least, some of which are worth quite a lot to my surprise (Ensnaring Bridge a $15 card? Can’t even remember what I paid for my playset, but it was certainly less than 10% of that price).

    But it still hurts. I can’t even play Legacy properly because it would just feel so weird and wrong to spend $1000+ on silly Revised dual lands that were worth half as much as a Shivan Dragon back in the day.

  4. Jumping on with Sig to say that I really look up to your writing style, and It’s still surreal to think that I’m among your ranks as a colleague now.

    One “philosophical” Magic question I’ve thrown around while on the 9 hour car rides to Grands Prix is as follows; “If you could sell every single Magic card you currently own right now (you’re not allowed to write down everything you own so you can buy it back immediately), for TCG mid, would you do it?” Every single thing. Exactly for TCG mid. Every card just instantly vanishes, and you get the money in your bank account that day. All of your foiled out EDH decks, all of your Merfolk, all of the 300 copies of Glissa, the Traitor that I own.

    Would you be willing to do that? You’d be getting full value for literally everything, and could almost assuredly piece together another foil Merfolk deck for a little above TCG low in the next few weeks.

    1. Snap-yes! I would sell any card out of my binder at any time for TCG Mid. For the cards I wish to keep, I’d just buy them back again. And I’d start speculation all over again with the newly earned profits.

      You offering? 😛

    2. I would, yes (except for my Merfolk). But then again I run a store so I had to come to terms with this a long time ago.

  5. Love this article!
    I quit in the early 2000s and loved my U/W mill deck. It was easy selling everything else, but that deck was the hardest to let go. Got back into the game in Zendikar and of course, now I’m kicking myself for not hanging onto that deck, which had the playset of Tundras that I bought for $5 at the local store. Hindsight eh?

    1. I feel really lucky that this was a lesson I never had to learn the hard way. When Zendikar fetches came out everyone was talking about how they used to have Onslaught fetches “back in the day, look at them now!” I was fortunate enough to see the parallel and get in early.

  6. I’m quitting … temporarily. *Puts bag full of cards in closet*

    I’ll come back to it sometime.

  7. Corbin..loved the article Would love to hear from other collectors who if faced with severe money problems what is the last item of magic you would ever sell?Myself my complete foil mythic rare binder.

  8. Whatever your reason to sell, and this applies to all price levels, you need to have a purpose.

    Don’t have time to play anymore? But don’t need money either? Sell cards that don’t hold value well or have the potential to be reprinted to recoup back some costs. Keep reserved list cards or cards that hold value well as an alternative investment/Magic card pool to restart once you get the itch again.

    Don’t have time to play AND need the money? Why aren’t you selling out everything except certain sentimental pieces (such as the Merfolk decks) to pay for whatever you need the money for? This is irresponsible behavior especially if you have loans to pay for.

    Have time BUT need the money? Keep a deck or two and sell the rest. Practice more to be a better player so you can restart your collection through winnings. Practice with proxies before buying new cards.

    As for me, I don’t have time to play but don’t really need the money. But I sold $50,000 in 6 months to upgrade my Beta P9/duals and recoup some of my expenditures. Did I need to sell all of the $50,000? Nope. But everything that I sold have a purpose. Don’t sell just because you don’t play anymore. If you do sell, then do it smartly.

  9. I’ll never sell my fully powered completely foiled out Cube.

    Too much time and money invested in that thing, and it’s a completely self contained game of Magic that I can always pull out and play again if I ever get the itch.

  10. First time I quit, I learned my lesson. I was a 16 year old kid with a ton of duals and a lot other good cards. I when to a prerelease to sell them and a dealer asked me what I wanted for the entire lot. I snap said 800 (probably was worth more then but was very modest). That collection would easily be work several thousand today. It included over 50 various duals, and a ton of staples. I took the money and dumped it into a car stereo.

    I wound up rebuilding a few of my treasured decks of the day (casual decks) as most of those cards dwindled in value (cards like rotlung reanimator, serra avatar etc). If I ever quit again, I’ll likely consolidate my modern into legacy / vintage reserved list or judge foils (something unique) until I return to the game again. Quitting and coming back to the game in a few years with vintage and legacy cards make it easy to trade into what you want to play. I would say it’s very easy to turn a tropical island into a legacy burn deck or a couple of underground seas into a modern affinity deck.

  11. I invested in complete block sets with enough commons, uncommons, and rares to play and draft sealed effectively. The buy in was pretty high, but not impossible with some some extra cash. When I’m with friends who play (infrequently), I just deal out packs, build, and play. Filing cards is a bit of a hassle, but can be done with relative quickness once you have a system in place. Because I want my sets randomized, I only have to file cards into 7 or 8 categories (W,U,B,R,G, mult, art/land, rar) . Complete sets can be bought new for around $130+-, and common/uncommon X4 sets run $50+-. You can get blocks for around 700 dollars while they’re coming out. If you spend 3K on cards this way, you will have a collection that with remain fun to play for a long while.

    This being said, I probably would have built a cube instead, but I started with no base, and I kinda like the shitty cards to be in the game too. I’m more college basketball than NBA, I guess.

    And this being said, I probably should have just bought a motorcycle.

  12. Another nice read. I am getting really fond of your narrative-style articles.

    Once a Magic player, always a Magic player. The Magic never dies. I’ve been through the whole quit and return cycle multiple times myself. I’ve quit for the usual reasons: high school exams (we take those a little too seriously in Malaysia, or rather our parents) and moving to a different city with nil Magic scene.

    And it’s so damn easy to get back on the Magic habit, even after going Magic-less for more than half-a-decade. All it took for me to get back the last time it happened was seeing a stack of cards in a friend’s room when I was dropping by his. Four hours of Standard games later, I was hooked and still am now.

    Thankfully, I did not sold off too many expensive cards when I quit back then. It was before the mythic era and way before the $50 chase card era. Ironically, a lot of the bulk common/uncommons I had like Sensei’s, Serum Visions and Remand actually appreciated. Which reinforces what you’ve mentioned about taking the time to sort out cards before selling them.

  13. I started playing during unlimited and remember having a binder with 4 of each dual land and some power 9 (didn’t have all of it but had a black lotus, ancestrall, mox emerald, mox pearl and mox ruby) and then sold them to buy a Chevy Beretta and pay for car insurance. At least I got a vehicle out of that but I also remember when I got back in a little later and was trading Force of Wills for Balduvian Hordes because who doesn’t like having 5/5 red creatures lol. Oh the feels *facepalm*

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