Category Archives: Conjured Currency

Blueprinting 101

Written By:
Douglas Johnson @Rose0fthorns

Welcome back

Hey there friends! I apologize for not managing to get an article out last week; final exams have been pretty stressful, but I’m almost finished with my last year of undergraduate college. I’m going to miss Oswego, mostly because my location is a big reason I’ve been able to become a little successful in this little niche of a community. I’ll still be able to visit the campus once a week for graduate classes, but it’s pretty clear that my strategies in making money through this little side hobby will have to adapt now that I can’t stop by the shop and buy collections, or restock the case on a whim.

So what’s changing?

Well, my locally famous 1k for $7 boxes  have died down a lot over the course of this past year. That’s partially to be expected, I suppose; there’s only so many thousands of bulk commons and uncommons you can force down a college town’s throat before they satiate themselves for a while.

This is the photo I’ve used for my Craigslist advertisement for the past year or so…

While moving to a new location approximately an hour and a half away means that I’ll have a semi-new Craigslist stomping ground, I do need to adapt and have a more consistent outlet for bulk commons and uncommons. This week (and possibly in the next few weeks depending on how long this ends up being), I’m going to go a bit more in depth on a topic that I briefly tossed out a few weeks ago; specifically referring to “The Blueprint:” an extremely in-depth common/uncommon  buylist created by Thomas Dodd “@Amistod” and Zach “@ZachSellsMagic”. I got a couple of questions last time I casually mentioned it about whether it was a secret #MTGFINANCE cabal thing where only the elite scientologists could join, and it’s not that at all.


I will put a disclaimer in advance though; the project I’m going to embark on in the next couple of months requires a significant time and decent monetary investment. I’m lucky to have a month and a half off before I start my graduate assistantship, and two close friends who are very eager to sort cards in exchange for trade credit. This article is less of a “how to make a couple dollars in trade at FNM” and more of “how to spend several days or weeks squeezing every last drop of lemonade out of 300,000 bulk commons and uncommons.”





So these are a few pictures of what my room at my Dad’s house looks like right now. I know one of the boxes has “RARES1” scribbled across the top, but trust me; it’s all glorious bulk. Some of it’s picked, some of it probably has Swords to Plowshares and Unlimtited basic lands. Some of it is sorted out by set, and some of the cards are upside down or backwards. I paid anywhere between $3 and $5 per thousand on all of this, paying more when I knew that there were probably unsorted treasures and less when I knew it had been picked clean. At this point I’m pretty maxed out on bulk for the moment, so I’ll probably have to dial back any current bulk purchases to between $3-4 per thousand while I deal with this pile.


So what kind of magical buylist is going to make this all worth my (and more importantly, your) time?  Well, let’s show you an example page to demonstrate what kind of cards we’re talking about. While there will hopefully be some Swords to Plowshares and Blood Artists in that bulk, I’m actually going to be picking out and sorting these types of cards….


Remember how people like me probably told you that Theros bulk wasn’t even worth picking cards out of post-rotation? Well, now you can get some sweet dollars for several of the individual cards in the set; three cents per card doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you think about it as $30 per thousand it gets a lot more enticing… we just have to put in the leg work of set sorting and alphabetizing everything, then shipping it all to our friends in Georgia. Now, what would be the best way to go about that…. Set sorting and alphabetizing has always been my mortal enemy because its’ so freaking tedious, but Netflix and Spotify should help with that to a degree.

Step 1: Sort by Set


This little project is something I worked on for a good chunk of spring break, and I’d like to give a shout out to John from Card Advantage and my fiancee’ Emily to helping out. While my scissors and tape skills are not exactly the most renowned, it’s certainly functional for its intended purpose. Sorting your bulk by set will make the following step much easier when you’re working with a bunch of individual smaller card pools.

If you’ve been playing for a while and have empty 1K or 5K boxes lying around, it’s a great idea to label these for each set or block; depending on how many cards you’re working with. Sorting by set and alphabetically will scale with the size of your collection much better than sorting by something like color, where your piles will grow to an unwieldy size.

Sorting by set is also much easier and faster when you hold the cards upside down. It’s not exactly intuitive, but it lets you see the set symbol first and foremost without looking at the rest of the card, put it into its correct section, and move on. As you may have noticed in my picture of all the sorting trays, I left the four deep pockets empty for each tray intentionally; I can save those for foils, foreign cards, rares, damaged cards, etc; we don’t want to accidentally sort a Flameblade Angel when we could actually sell it for 25 cents, do we?

You’ll notice that my sorting trays are chronologically ordered instead of alphabetically, but it will be much easier to add new sets along the way. When Eldritch Moon comes out, I can just print out the set name and symbol and tape it next to Shadows over Innistrad. Then we wait for the Blueprint to get updated, and start buying bulk once again.

In case you were about to scroll down into the comments section or hit me up on Twitter about where I got those dividers and sorting trays, I can recommend BCW supplies. While their shipping costs are absolutely ridiculous sometimes, it’s definitely worth buying from them if you plan on ordering enough materials to go above the free shipping threshold ($80).

dividers sorting trays

Step 2: Alphabetical Order

This is a method most of us are a bit more familiar with, so I can spend a bit less time talking about it. Alphabetize each set, so that you have your 40 Archetype of Aggressions first, followed by your 18 copies of Archetype of Courage (which is a 16 cent Magic card, by the way). Again, I prefer to use the BCW trays but there are a couple out there that work equally well. I know that CoolstuffInc sells a pretty high quality tray, but $31+shipping is a dealbreaker for me when this one works perfectly fine. I got the stickers from the video game store where I sell cards, but anything should work as long as its’ clear and distinct.


So now we’ve got several thousand cards worth at least .03 a piece, all set sorted and alphabetized, with each set in alphabetical order as well. What’s the best way to ship these to Georgia? Well, first I recommend making sure that the cards are packaged safely so that none of the cards are able to move or become damaged in transit. It would be a real downer if you ship several hundred dollars worth of cards just to lose a significant percentage because they weren’t tied down safely. Packing 1K boxes full to the brim should prevent any movement, and boxes that only have a few hundred cards should be filled with some other sort of filler to prevent them from moving around.

A USPS large flat rate box costs around $19, and holds around six 1K boxes, meaning we’re paying around $3 per thousand just to ship. Again, that’s definitely an unreasonable number if we’re planning on selling these via Craigslist or mailing them to SCG at bulk prices, but we’re not. We’re spending a few days to drain every ounce of value out of the cards, and the dried husk of un-blueprintable stuff can be bulked off later to a vendor like CSI or SCG to cover parts of our shipping costs. You can head down to your local post office and grab several of the unfolded boxes, then package them up at home and bring them back when you’re ready to pay and ship. Just remember to email Thomas first with a confirmation of the list that you’re shipping!


You may have noticed that there aren’t actually any cards in the process of being blueprinted right now. I have final exams until next Friday the 13th, and then the week after that will be buylisting season until July 1st. If you’re interested in this kind of mtg finance, I highly suggest tuning into my next few articles as I try this out first-hand and report my results. If you have any questions, hit me up on Twitter at or in the comments section.

If anyone is interesting in getting a copy of the Blueprint, please email send an email to He’ll be more than happy to help you out.

Disclaimer: I was not paid or given any sort of incentive by Card Advantage to write this article about them. The only incentive is the ridiculously deep buylist and friendly people who created the Blueprint!

End Step

  • I will be at GP New York City this weekend from Friday at noonish until Sunday, depending on if my friend day 2’s the event. I will be posting vendor hotlists on Twitter at @Rose0fthorns, so be sure to pay attention to that if you plan on going to the event or want to keep an eye on some cards that vendors are hot on.
  • It’s probably a little late to give this tip out for GPNYC, but it should come in handy for future Grands Prix that you plan on attending. I mentioned this a couple days ago on our podcast Cartel Aristocrats, but it bears repeating:If you plan on staying in a hotel and booking online through a website like or Expedia, I highly recommend doing your research into the price and fees of your stay, then calling the hotel directly to try and negotiate a price while avoiding those booking website fees. The hotel knows that they have to throw away a percentage of your money to those sites, so calling them directly and asking “What is the cheapest price you can give me if I book right now over the phone without” has a solid chance of cutting out the middle man and getting you a much better deal.

Hope to see some of you at GPNYC!
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Natural Crit

Hey there, you! I recently reached out on Twitter asking for article ideas, because I’m at a bit of a loss for words. Final exams are coming up, so I’m trying to juggle the whole “school” thing with staying on top of the Magic finance market for your benefit. I appreciate all of my readers who sent me great ideas, so I’m going to splurge this week and try on touch on a little bit of everything instead of saving these up for multiple article ideas like a rational human being. If I end up hitting my head against the computer next week on the night of my deadline, I’m sure I can just fart out another piece of god-tier penmanship about how I should be swimming in Mayor of Avabruck right now if I knew anything about this game. Let’s roll.


The Little Boar that Could

So this little piece of ham is something I’ve been wanting to write about for a while, because it’s just so innocuous at first glance. Is it Modern legal? Nope. Legacy playable? Not even close. Commander appeal? Basically none. The trick here is that it’s actually legal in the Magic Online Pauper league, where it’s printed as a common and sees a little bit of play in Green Stompy lists. There was a Reddit thread on the mtgfinance subreddit about a week and a half ago that gave some excellent insight into why a card like this can appear to be at $7, so I’ll just link that here instead of paraphrasing and regurgitating it up here. /u/another-reddit-guy had some excellent insight into a format that none of the rest of us “financiers” really pay any attention to, and its’ absolutely worth keeping your finger on the pulse of the trends in Pauper if you want to make sure that the next Brindle Shoat doesn’t slip through while you pick bulk.


However, a slight bump in pauper popularity obviously isn’t enough to cause this kind of increase in price. Supply is absolutely a factor, and we can talk quickly about just how low that number is for Planechase. You know that stupid joke I always repeat when mentioning the scarcity of a card? I say that there were basically six packs of Coldsnap or whatever opened, so the supply is extremely low and easy to dry up if even a small spark of demand appears for the card. That holds especially true for all of the cards from Planechase and Planechase 2012, where even the uncommons can be treated as super mythics considering how low the print run was.


Even Amazon has no idea what that card is. That’s not to say Amazon is the hotbed where all the Pauper aficionados buy their “battle boxes” (a new term I learned recently), but you know that supply is a barren desert when there’s a combined total of less than a dozen copies on eBay, SCG, TCGplayer, Coolstuff, Amazon, Cardshark, and Channelfireball combined. Normally I just say “Oh, wait until people start pulling these from their bulk and listing them online, the price will settle at a degree between the pre-spike price and the post-spike price.” This time, I’m not sure there are enough of these in bulk to satisfy that growing Pauper demand. If you’re in the market for these to build your battle box, I’d still avoid paying anything over $4 though.

This is how much play the little boar sees, at most. Yes, that’s enough.


Planeswalking Segue

So if an uncommon that sees play as a two of can hit $7, surely the planes from the same set are equally as popular…. right? Well, not exactly. I mentioned this week on Cartel Aristocrats that you should probably go through any of your old oversized Commanders or Planechase cards, and see if any of them are worth anything. After doing a b it of digging, it looks like the real money is in the 2009 and promo planes, not so much the 2012 versions. While this information probably won’t be relevant for the next few collections you buy (I think I’ve only bought three or four collections in my life that had Planechase planes or Archenemy schemes), it’s definitely something that should encourage you to go through your own old stuff if you’ve been playing since these were released. The same goes for the 2011 Commander oversized cards; Kaalia goes for around $8-10 for the supersized version!

SCG Planechase

SCG Planes2012

So you ran into your basement, pulled out twenty Stairs to Infinity, and you want to turn them into crisp dollar bills. I understand. I was in your situation not too long ago. While I was doing some cleaning last year, I found a pile of schemes and planes from my days as a casual player, and decided to buylist them all to save myself some trouble. While you can technically sell them on eBay or TCGplayer, I can’t speak for how quickly they’ll actually sell. There’s also the added trouble of shipping single oversized cards; They obviously don’t fit into a regular toploader, so you’d have to get creative with the packaging to make sure the card doesn’t get damaged in transit. I had success selling all of mine to ChannelFireball, as they paid the best prices out of all the stores I looked at.


While we’re on the topic of supplies, I’d like to talk very quickly about spindown dice; the kind you get From a Vault of Some Kind, or perhaps a week before a set releases. In my experience, I saw a lot of people throw these away at the last prerelease I went to. I know because I threw mine away, forgetting that it even came with the box. Whoooops. Anyway, that’s okay. The D20 spindowns that come with the prereleases now aren’t really worth anything; most buylists will pick them up for 25 cents each, so don’t feel bad if you can’t find them.

The real fun comes if you have any of these lying around that are from pre-Innistrad era. Most of the spindowns that you see in the picture are $4 or $5 if you check on SCG or Coolstuffinc, except for a couple that I mispriced (can you guess which ones?). I ended up getting around $40 for this lot when I sold them on Twitter, which was a nice buffer to the collection that these came in around a month ago. If you’re an old timer and were around for the “good old days” of Magic (or so I’ve heard, I was like eight years old at the time), you can sell the spindowns from Apocalypse, Onslaught, or  Judgment for around $25.

Just another side note about shipping before I take off for the week; Ship spindowns in a PWE at your own risk. While I’ve talked to a few friends about their experiences mailing dice in envelopes, they’ve had mixed results. Some post offices will be comfortable mailing it as a non-machinable letter with just a stamp or two, but my local USPS made me ship it as a small package so I ate $2.50 shipping a single one of these at $5. Gross. Thankfully I was able to ship the rest to a single individual and save a ton on shipping, so find that one guy in your local area who wants to catch ’em all.

Until next week!

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A (Pun)ishing Article Title

A Conditioned Response

So has anyone found any sweet deals on damaged cards by messaging the seller first and asking for pictures? If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can get caught up by reading last week’s article on played cards, specifically damaged/heavily played stuff. If you missed that article, this entire sentence is willing to take you there for free! Thankfully, I was able to have at least one person give me a shoutout on Twitter saying that everything worked out great.


Fortunately, CFB is a reputable dealer and managed to get David some pictures of the card in a reasonable time frame so he could decide whether or not he wanted to buy the card. I’ve been trying to find a cheap foil copy of Seedborn Muse for a while now, and I narrowed down to a store on TCGplayer that had a damaged one listed. A few quick Facebook messages later, and we had this to look forward to.


Unfortunately, this store hasn’t been as fruitful as I had hoped. I’ve messaged them again since writing this article, but I’m not super hopeful about getting another reply back. I’m also not too concerned about the price of foil Seedborn Muse jumping astronomically in the next few weeks, so I’ll be content to let this one sit for a while until I find another copy that I know I’ll be satisfied with.

Good Omens (or some other bad card pun subtitle)

On the other hand, Prismatic Omen is much higher on my foil bounty list for the angry mana baby. The suppy on eBay and TCGplayer has been dwindling steadily over the past few weeks, and it looks like most people were too busy worrying about the next big Standard tech to notice that Scapeshift won the Modern open last week while running four Prismatic Omen. I was waiting on a reply from this other store for almost a week, but I decided to bite the bullet and gamble again for $12 on a damaged foil. Hopefully it comes out similar in appearance to my Petrified Field, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take this time.



SCG Foils

While we’re on the topic of me buying foils for my Child of Alara deck (and showing you some of the cheaper ways to do so), let’s talk about Star City for a second. While they often get a reputation of having the higher priced singles available online ($20 for a Collected Company? No thanks.), their sales are usually worth looking into. A few months ago I barely missed out on the opportunity to buy 43 SP Boundless Realms at $1 each, and I now make it a point to check out every time they update their sales. Last week, the hot topic item of the week was MP foils.

While I’ve touched on SCG’s grading system in this column before, I’ll reiterate that they have some of the harshest grading I’ve ever seen when purchasing cards. I’ve bought a ton of SP cards mixed in with NM, and half of the SP looked identical to the near mint ones. I’ve bought cards from SCG at moderately played, and successfully sold them on TCGplayer as slightly played. With this in mind, I decided to do a little research and make a few more foil upgrades for myself.


While I highly doubt I’ll be able to move that second foil Summer Bloom at any reasonable pace, it was just too good to pass up on. The next cheapest MP foil on TCGplayer is $26 right now, and 9th edition foils are rare enough as it is. I’m confident that I’ll eventually find a home for it at double what I paid, even if it takes me a while. As with the Omen, I’ll provide updates of these cards on Twitter and in my next week’s article so you can judge for yourselves whether or not you think they’re MP or SP.

The Article Title



So I was originally going to write most of this article on Punishing Fire, until I realized that I wanted to delve deeper into the whole damaged/condition thing. If you’re a frequent visitor to my little neck of the #mtgfinance woods, then you know that I almost never buy cards at retail for the purposes of playing with them. The above paragraphs are an attempt to explain my thought process and procedure when I do buy cards to play with, as a way to get the best prices available.

Anyway, let’s talk about why I spent $19 whole dollars on a stack of 100 Punishing Fire. In my personal opinion, Punishing Fire is one of the most fair cards on the Modern Banned list today. I have no intent to rekindle the inevitable political debate that is “Make Jace Great Again” or anything like that, but Punishing Fire certainly seems pretty low on the list compared to all of the turn two and three combo decks that are currently sitting behind bars. If (and that’s a bit if) Punishing Fire gets unbanned, what happens?

While I doubt it shoots up to the $10 that Thopter Foundry managed to climb to, I could be completely wrong. It has a comparable number of printings (Commander 13 was printed significantly more than the original Commander set, but Fire also got a Duel Deck), and they’re both played as multiples in their respective decks. If Wizards is trying to slow down the format, Punishing Fire does exactly that, with an extremely low buy in. Hell, it even does a decent job of countering the Thopter-Sword combo by itself. I got lucky by finding a store that had 140 copies listed on TCGplayer to make my life easy, but this is still a card that you want to own in your Modern gauntlet just in case Wotc decides to turn the other cheek.

End Step

  • Pretty much every edition of Birds of Paradise has steadily crept up to at least a $7 minimum over the past two months. Melira is another deck with a ton of medium value rares that serves as a reasonable entry point to Modern (The biggest barriers being Verdant Catacombs and Voice of Resurgence). Remember that Viscera Seer is no longer a ten cent card, and you can trade them out at $1-2.
  • Volrath’s Stronghold appears to have stabilized at $30, so the price correction wasn’t too drastic overall. I’m happy to unload mine at $27ish and take the $7 bump, even if the card didn’t double up like I was hoping for.

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Damaged Goods

Yes, I actually play Magic Sometimes

So most of  you reading this article will know of the existence of my Child of Alara Lands Commander deck, mostly because I incessantly talk about it whenever a new card gets spoiled that could be played in the deck. It’s my favorite deck that I own by a fair margin, and I’ve been working to foil out as much of the deck as possible. I’m even trying to foil out the cards that don’t exist in foil, with the help of TheProxyGuy (NOTE: Do not ask him to sell proxies. I traded cards for the below custom proxies, and you should contact him at if you’re interested in trading.)


So where am I going with this? Oh, right. So I was hanging around on TCGplayer a week or so ago, looking for a card to ruthlessly buy out  a foil for my Child deck. I forgot that Petrified Field had just spiked, and I was on the hunt for any foil copies that hadn’t been bought out yet. At the time of my purchase, there were a couple NM foils at $30+, and one damaged foil at $15. The nonfoil had just spiked to $10, so I decided to take a gamble. Now, most of you have probably taken a peek at TCGplayers’ (or another similar store’s) grading guide at some point in the past, so we’re going to skip past the initial paragraphs and check out the relevant one.



Look at that work of art. Someone at TCGplayer probably had to paint their driveway with that card before taking that picture for a stock photograph. So technically, I’m risking getting that thing in the mail when I open up my foil Petrified Field. Considering this deck is my pride and joy, I’d rather my foils not look like they were used to whet the anime sword held by new Olivia. Considering the foil was half the price of all the other copies on the market, its’ safe to say that it was infected with leprosy and no other buyer wanted to touch it. When the package came in the mail today, I honestly expected something in this condition.


Instead, we ended up with this. I’m going to warn you, MTGprice has no way to tag an article with NSFW. This image is not for the faint of h-



Oh. Uhhhh…. alright then. Neat. Did I get lucky? I probably got lucky. That wear on the bottom right corner of the backside is pretty noticable though, and the card might have been more correctly labeled as Heavily Played. TCGplayer’s grading guideline says that damaged cards may not even be sleeve playable, but it’s certainly better than the mutilated corpse of a Magic card than I was half expecting to receive. I’ll be completely happy to jam this into Child, and no one will be the wiser that it had a little accident in the corner.

This got me thinking though; what if we take most of the risk out of the equation? While there’s no way to contact a seller directly through TCGplayer without buying a card from them first, we can use the power of the internet to ask exactly what these “damaged” cards look like before picking them up. If I as a player could get a 40-50% discount on the NM price just because a seller is an extremely harsh grader, then I feel like I’d be a lot more likely to purchase the card. Considering some damaged cards sit on the storefront for extended periods of time before disappearing (I assume due to fear of the cards looking like they were cooked over an open flame for an extended period of time), then we might just be able to get a message back from a seller at an email address with a few pictures.

Unfortunately, I’m sitting at my computer at 11:47pm and just came up with this article idea not two hours ago, so I don’t exactly have a paper trail of conversation with a TCGplayer vendor about damaged cards ready and raring to go. However, I can provide you with an example of a card that I’ve had my eye on for a little while. Remember how I wouldn’t shut up about Volrath’s Stronghold for like a week or two? Well there’s currently a damaged one sitting on TCGplayer for $21 shipped, sold by The End Games.




Less than a dozen clicks away, and I’m on their web page ready to ask them about this particular Stronghold that they have listed on TCGplayer. I’m going to take a slight risk and assume that there is only one store called The End Games in the state of Virginia, but bear with me here. As long as we provide an email address and use our please and thank you’s, I don’t see why we wouldn’t be able to get a bit more specifying information on the card that’s been on TCGplayer for multiple weeks now. If it just has a couple creases on the corners or has slight water damage, you could easily pick up the copy you want for your Commander deck at a much lower price than the other copies currently available.

One of the downsides to this method is of course that you probably won’t be able to contact a store if they’re not actually a Certified Hobby Shop. Some of the stores with fewer number of sales that just do this on the level that I do won’t be Google-able, and as such would be more difficult to contact if you wanted to inquire about the exact status of their more heavily worn cards. Still, the goal of this article was simply to show that not all “damaged” cards will be ripped in half or dipped in chocolate syrup. I took a gamble and it paid off, but there could have been ways to remove the risk from the equation and safely end up with a nice discount on a pretty looking foil that I wanted to add to my Commander deck anyway. See you next week!

End Step

  • As a couple of you mentioned in the comments of my previous article, yes I was probably wrong about Mayor again. As much as I want to justify buying them at $3, I just refuse to buy into a card after it already spiked the first time. I would much rather put my money elsewhere, like into collections.
  • I definitely missed the boat on Always Watching. It turns out that calling Glorious Anthem with upside a bulk rare is a bad idea. On the plus side, I can still be right about 80% of the rest of the set because I call almost everything a bulk rare, and maintain that sweet, sweet, batting average of pure pessimism.


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