Tag Archives: bulk commons and uncommons

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 thomas@cardadvantage.com. 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 booking.com 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 hotels.com?” 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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Bulk is Like Play-Doh

Does anyone else remember playing with Play-Doh when they were younger? That stuff was a child’s best friend. You could live out your wildest six-year old imaginations from the highest chair in the house, while Mom watched out for the four-year old brother crawling around beneath ready to eat up any of the delicious clay that fell to the floor.


Of course, it was never actually anything like the picture above. That was a cold, hard, sweet-smelling lie; similar to Play-Doh after it hardened because you didn’t touch it for like five minutes. The real stuff wouldn’t mix without turning into grotesque colors, ruining your idea of a rainbow or multicolored house. Other than that though, it was a wonderful blob of molding clay that you could turn into anything your heart desired.

I find bulk to be a lot like unused Play-Doh. I mean, it’s a lot harder to make rainbows and ice cream out of Magic cards, but the core concept is still there. You can mold it into any number of different shapes and sizes to fit the needs of your customer base. While the majority of competitive players don’t really care about the Suture Priests or Jace’s Erasures of the world, we can be thankful that the invisible and silent majority of players really could care less about bulk. In fact, they’re one of the main sources where we’ll be acquiring the recent bulk. I’ve mentioned this in previous articles so I won’t go too into depth on bulk acquisition this week, but phase one is just putting your name out there in the local scene and being “that one person” who wants to fill their house/apartment with Magic cards.

My Preference

If you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you know what I’ve been molding my bulk into. I pick through it for the Rancors and the Blood Artists, even snatching out the Ajani’s Pridemates. Those were alphabetized, while the remains were randomized and packed into 1,000 count BCW boxes (Disclaimer: These actually hold approximately 1,200 cards, so don’t pack them to capacity if you’re trying to sell 1ks). I sell those out of my small display case in town for $7 per thousand, and continue to be surprised at their enduring popularity.


This method certainly doesn’t take a whole lot of effort, but you can scale the amount of money you squeeze from a thousand cards up with the amount of effort and time you want to put in. For those of you who are true masochists  grinders and actually enjoy sorting cards by set/alphabet, there are a few select buylists out there that will pay you handsomely for your Netflix+sorting multitask skills.

If you’d rather not turn down the dark road of becoming a real “Magic Financier”, then don’t worry. We have some other options available that involve a significantly lower time investment. If you can set up a consistent stream of “old” bulk from NPH or later, certain stores like Coolstuff are willing to pay a solid amount of coin.

Sorting of old/new


It’s a lot easier to sort rarity colors and set symbols than letters in the alphabet, so this might be up your ally if you get all of that NM Revised bulk that has been stripped of all its’ dual lands. I’ve also found CSI helpful when I bought bulk that was already sorted by common/uncommon, and I didn’t feel like randomizing it or increasing my volume of 1K boxes at the shop. Once you pick out all the Mindcranks and Vapor Snags, Coolstuff will take the scraps without you needing to put in a whole ton of brain power or effort.

My Future

While I pick relatively thoroughly, I don’t pick down to the nickel. At least, I didn’t before visiting Card Advantage in Athens, GA. After having a few conversations with the owner, I am now (well, I will be over the summer when I actually have time) a certified Blueprinter. What the hell is a Blueprint? Just one of the most extensive buylists for common/uncommon picks that you’ve ever seen, created by some of the most amazing people in the industry. (Disclaimer 2: Thomas Dodd did not pay me or MTGprice for this advertising space; my high recommendation of them comes only from my own personal experience). While this style of buylisting is certainly not for the faint of heart, you can pick your bulk absolutely bone dry with methods like these, then ship the rest off to CSI.



Oh, you didn’t know that you can get almost a dime a piece for common Sludge Crawlers? That’s twice as much as an uncommon Retreat that actually sees play in the Modern deck. If you thought Sylvan Scrying was dead after the reprint, you’re dead wrong. Card Advantage will pay you a dollar for five of these things, which later equals ten more bulk rares in your pocket when you buy someone’s collection. See where I’m going with this? Once you get used to the extensiveness of the buylist and the types of cards that people on Amazon buy, it will only get easier and faster.

Sylvan Scrying

Let me repeat this for those who are going to scroll to the bottom and write an angry message about how I’m wasting my time sorting cards for pennies on the hour. This industry pays off depending on how much time you put into it. People like Ryan Bushard built a full-time job out of bulk, and there are some people out there who actually enjoy sorting cards. If you want to go out and find the next underpriced Shadows Over Innistrad Standard staple, I think you clicked on the wrong article.

Am I going to be spending the next week working on my Blueprint with the 150k cards in my dorm room? No, I don’t have time for that. I will, however, use my last summer break before starting graduate school to grind value out of this, learn the .03 cards to pick, and practice speeding up the process of set sorting/alphabetizing while watching Netflix or professional League of Legends streams. While the remains that didn’t get Blueprinted won’t be up to par to be sold as 1k boxes in my display case (I don’t think my non-competitive customers would appreciate if half the cards in the set were missing), those leftover Play-doh droppings can be molded into cash dollars from another vendor like Coolstuff, and be sold as true bulk.

No, those are not World of Warcraft cards.

End Step:

Can someone explain to me why the pre-release foil of Lotus Bloom is the same price as either non-foil? I feel like there are only a couple dozen people in the country who went to a Time Spiral prerelease, and Lotus Bloom certainly isn’t getting another printing anytime soon considering they pumped out Suspend a few years ago and it’s extremely high on the Storm reprint scale. Do people not like the Christopher Rush artwork on the promo? Someone help me understand.

Screenshot 2016-03-16 at 3.14.24 PM

Started from the Bulk and Now We’re Here

So has anyone found interesting lots on Facebook as a result of last week’s article? I’m curious to see if anyone found some nice decks, piles of staples, or anything else at a significant discount while using the methods I described.  That article was a sort of flashback/addition to one from almost six months ago, so I figured I might as well repeat the trend. Does anyone else remember this personal anecdote that I wrote up back in June? I wanted to explain my evolution from “random high school student and FNM grinder” to “that one guy who buys all of your Magic cards and has most of what you need for your deck.” I felt that it was successful in doing so for the most part, but it lacked in a pretty significant area that I’m surprised nobody called me out on.

Starting from (Almost) Nothing

I never really actually explained anything in detail with hard numbers about how much cash flow I started out with, how I used that initial cash flow to get cards, and the methods that I used to recycle that money into more cards and money, then into more money and cards, and slowly build a house of some sort. Almost like a house o—oh, forget it. I actually got the idea to write this article thanks to @LengthyXemit on Twitter, who just recently  put out a floor report of GP Madison for us. The afterthought at the end is actually what sparked this for me: what would you do with $100 if it was all you had to start your MTG finance portfolio?

Bonus Question:
If you had $100 to start your MTGFinance portfolio what would you buy?

“Collection at buylist” – Ogre
“Original Zendikar Lands at a quarter or less” – Ryan Bushard
“Bulk Rares at 10 cents as long as I had an out”- CoolStuffInc Buyer
“Bulk C/U at 3 per K” – Floor Grinder.
“A collection from a local player” – This editor

“Most of the above.” –Douglas Johnson

Personally, I’d try and diversity my investment a little bit, but my answer incorporates most of the above responses. I’d want some bulk commons and uncommons at $3 per thousand, a good chunk of bulk rares at a dime a piece, and a couple of small starting local or Facebook lots at approximately  buylist prices. I disagree with Ryan on the Zendikar lands, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Now let’s hop back in that time machine to when I was an FNM grinder in high school. I was lucky and had literally zero bills to pay, so any income from my unpleasant job at Kmart went straight into my only hobby.

Let’s say for argument’s sake that I only had $100 to spend on cards back then, and was starting from absolutely nothing.  We have to try and grind this $100 into $200, while keeping both cards and cash liquid at all times. Nothing loses a returning customer faster than the phrase, “Sorry, I don’t have cash at the moment. I can’t buy that.”

If we start at $100 cash, then we want to stick to getting as much bang for our buck as we can. We might not want to jump in the big pond by buying Force of Will from a local higher-end player for a buylist of $70 (even if he needs the money)—that runs the risk of the same guy coming back with another Force or equally high-end card while we have almost all of our initial hundred tied up in a single card. While there’s a chance that  we could flip the Force for $90 on TCGplayer (or more likely, Facebook) for instant return, I think it’s much more wide to go wide instead of tall with our initial investment.

If I’m a young teenager with a hundred dollars in a pool full of larger fish with big pockets, I want to attack a smaller market that they’re not bothering with. Don’t be the guy chasing after everyone else’s Expeditions lands. There are tons of competitive players with thousands of commons and uncommons sitting in their basements from sets and blocks in the past. Does your LGS even buy bulk rares? What about bulk commons and uncommons? These are common blind spots of some tournament grinders, because they just don’t want to take the time and effort involved in picking, piecing, and sorting out their cards. There’s a physical space constraint on bulk, as well, and some significant others don’t take kindly to their living rooms being full of white boxes of cardboard.

This makes bulk one of your more attractive options when starting from a low cash level. Instead of sitting on your hands for four months waiting for your Mantis Riderto jump from $.50 to $3, you could be processing thousands of cards over and over again.

Immovable Object

Another reason why we’re sticking with bulk is that there’s really no risk of it ever going down in price. Unlike buying singles, a thousand bulk commons and uncommons literally cannot go down in price. The invisible non-competitive players out there outnumber us financiers and grinders on a scale that’s probably somewhere around 10:1. Those players just want a bunch of cards to jam decks with, and you can be the one to help them do that.

How much bulk can you get for $100? Well most larger vendors at Grands Prix only pay $3 per thousand, so you’re going to want to beat that to at least be an attractive option. I personally pay $4 per thousand as long as it’s a mix of commons and uncommons, mostly English, and near mint. I know, I’m a stickler for details. If you have an out ready and waiting, you can pay $5 per thousand, like Xemit, in order to aggressively accumulate as much bulk as possible. At that point, though, people will start bringing you more bulk than you can handle. Remember that we’re on a budget here and only want as much as we can handle without having infinite number of people try to overload us. Let’s stick to $4 per thousand.

So that’s 25,000 cards, assuming we do decide to burn all of our allowance on non-rare bulk. What do we do with that many cards? Well, first, we pick them. I’m not going to go over how to pick because that’s another five articles by itself, and a lot of picking ability just comes down to first-hand experience. I will go over one of my favorite ways to get rid of bulk though, and that’s the ever so useful Craigslist.

Easily Movable Objects


The above picture is my personal listing, which reminds me that I need to update it because it’s about to expire. My rules are very clear, and my customers knows exactly (well not exactly, because it’s 1000 randomized cards, but you get the point) what they’re getting. I realize now that I’m writing this that if you want to mirror my strategy exactly, then you need to invest a bit more in additional 1000-count boxes, but you don’t really have to use the white BCW boxes. You can use old Fat Pack boxes (they hold around 600 cards each), empty cardboard booster boxes, or even make your own out of scrap cardboard.

Did you notice that my binders, pick boxes, and that 12K-count card house are in the picture? That’s not on accident. Non-competitive players who buy your bulk commons and uncommons want to make their decks better, and you can use your own personal collection to sell cards out of to help them with that goal. This is why I believe combining bulk rares with your C/U is ultimately the best starting point, because you give your customers so much more cards per booster pack than they would have experienced at Wal-mart, and they even get to customize their decks before dropping the cash.

Alright, so let’s say that instead of buying just 25K in bulk, we only found 15K and spent $60. We also picked up a hundred or so bulk rares from BFZ and Khans block and spent $10, leaving us $30 or so for random cheap singles that we might happen to come across. We throw up a Craigslist ad and get a hit, someone looking to return to the game with three other friends without breaking the bank. If we sell them 10K of the bulk and 30 of the rares, we get $76 assuming we sell bulk rares at five for a dollar, like I do. Now we have $106, 15k left, and 70 or so rares, and that’s assuming we picked the bulk clean and found literally nothing. Simple math aside, you can see where we start to ride the value train and grow a collection. If we rinse and repeat this process several times, we can start grabbing singles that are worth selling on eBay, Facebook, and TCGplayer.

End Step

While we’re on the topic of bulk rares, sometimes you end up getting lucky once a rotation happens when you re-dig through your boxes of cards you once paid a dime for several months ago. I managed to find seven copies of Hidden Dragonslayer in my white bulk rare box, and that’s a multiplier you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. The same thing happened with Crackling Doom and Mantis Rider, so be on the lookout for potentially playable bulk rares from BFZ that could do the same. I certainly don’t hate buying Blight Herder or Felidar Sovereign for dimes if you can find competitive players looking to pawn off the remnants of their non-Gideon lottery tickets to support trading for your fetch lands.