Tag Archives: Douglas Johnson

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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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 zeerbe@gmail.com 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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A Grab Bag of This Week: GP Vegas and More

I was planning on writing this article on the morning of June 2nd while I was at the airport on my way back from the largest Magic: the Gathering tournament in history. Unfortunately, I realized upon opening my Chromebook that I had forgotten to charge it. Damn.  That leaves me scrambling to come up with a succinct way to pack the events of this week into a short finance-centered column, in only a few hours. I actually took my finger off the pulse of the finance machine during my time in the desert so that I could play more Magic in one week than I had done in the past year and a half, but I reluctantly managed to pick up some information that I’ll spill out through this column in separate little topics.



Now that the 1970s are firmly behind us, can we stop labeling every slightly controversial issue in any community ever with the suffix “-gate”?  If you haven’t heard the news, I’ll do my best to quickly fill you in on why that particular Tarmogoyf is being auctioned off for ridiculous amounts of money (Unfortunately at this point, the auction is likely being ruined by fake bidders who have no plans on paying the number).

After Pascal Maynard rare-drafted a foil ‘Goyf in the Top 8 of the Grand Prix, several other well-respected names in the community lost respect for him and felt that he had damaged the competitive integrity of the game, copping out for a theoretical $300 bill over the Burst Lightning that was obviously the better pick for his deck. Everyone has their own personal struggles and situations that they’re dealing with in life, and it was later revealed that Maynard would likely be selling the Goyf in an auction on eBay in order to pay for future Grand Prix trips.

The really cool part about this is that Maynard is donating 50% of the proceeds to a charity that holds dear to my heart personally, called GamersHelpingGamers. It’s a group of people who have been playing Magic for almost as long as I’ve been alive, who have been giving out scholarships with donations to Magic players who are trying to afford college. I received one of their first scholarships back in 2012, and I try to encourage everyone I know to apply. If you’re in college (or planning on attending college in the next few years), here’s a Magic finance tip above almost all others: Have foil Tarmogoyfs and the likeness of Dark Confidant help you pay for your college degree instead of selling your collection to do so.


This foil Goyf from Maynard’s pile of 45 cards is special for more than just the story of being picked. It also has the GP stamp that the judges used to mark the cards, to prevent any additional unwanted cards from joining the pool. While a majority of vendors and sellers would consider the mark as a damaging aspect of the card, there is definitely a niche market out there who collect the stamped product for use in cubes and EDH decks. Foils are the big targets here; Although I’m not suggesting you should start grabbing foil Simic Initiates to make your Day 2 draft pool a bit more attractive to a niche market, maybe that’s what I should have done considering how bad I am at Limited.




I wouldn’t go hunting down stamped foils in order to speculate on a big spike, but if you have a choice between a foil cube playable card and a non-foil ten cent Vampire Lacerator for your UR Elemental deck…  it’s definitely worth picking up and finding the person who wants to pay extra.

Box of Shattered Dreams

Although there were a few hiccups with side events starting late on Thursday and Friday, the Grand Prix as a whole was overwhelmingly smoothly run. Product was distributed at a reasonable pace, players didn’t have to wait in a two hour line to acquire their promos or playmats, and Day 1 ended by 10:00pm local time, making sure there was enough time to get sleep for the draft the following day.

One of the key aspects of making sure the product was moved from the judges to the players quickly was packaging playmats, life counters, promo packets, pens, packs, and deck registration sheets inside the 800-count long boxes that I talked about last week, so that every single person in the room had an easily accessible container of all their GP swag. It was easy to tell if someone hadn’t received their box of products, and everything was kept neat and clean.

If you’ll remember to last week, I was complaining about the price increase from BCW Supplies on the boxes that I regularly ordered. As I traversed the floor of the event, I watched hundreds and hundreds of people throw away their boxes into the garbage. I didn’t bring a large enough backpack to fold them up and take them with me, and I sure as hell didn’t have the room to take them back on the plane with me, even unfolded.

Maybe I’m being a bit too frugal here. but I would have loved to collect as many boxes as possible from those who weren’t using them, and bring them back by the hundred to my house if the GP had been local. I would have saved so much money, and I had to just watch my potential deals get thrown away. If ChannelFireball continues this method of product distribution (or if another vendor smartens up and decides to use the idea for themselves), you might be able to cash in on some cheap or free card storage if you brought the space to move a large quantity of boxes.


At some point over the weekend, someone decided to buy out all of the copies of Omniscience off of TCGplayer and eBay. While I have no idea how many copies there actually were before the buyout or how much money it cost the person to do it, the cheapest available copy I can find right now is $30, several days after the spike.

Screenshot 2015-06-02 at 9.37.38 PM

Aether Games’ Goyf buy prices were the talk of the town over the weekend, but they were also extremely aggressive on a significant other number of staples, targeting cards that were safe from a reprint anytime soon and poised to go up. They were paying retail prices on Creeping Tar Pit, Omniscience, and other staples that would continue to go up in price due to their exclusion from MM2015. If you’re on the floor at the next GP that Aether is vending, I recommend snapping a picture of their hot list and using it as a guide for trades, as an easy way to turn cards into cash for full retail, or hold onto the cards on their list in hopes for a steady increase. Personally, I’d be selling them all of my Deathmist Raptors, but joining them on the Cavern of Souls and Tar Pit bandwagon.

Retracting after a Buyout

Following its ancestors Fist of Suns and Sylvan Safekeeper in “cards that spiked in price due to an artificial buyout and have yet to prove themselves at a competitive level in an actual event,” we have Retract, a rare from Darksteel that is an integral piece in a fragile Modern combo deck called “Cheerios,” presumably due to all of the 0-drops that would be of a similar shape to the cereal. While the deck has been a very fringe player on MTGO for months now, someone decided to make the move over the past weekend. I’ve owned copies of these for a little over the month, at the advice of my co-writer Travis Allen:


While buylist prices haven’t caught up to the hype, now is your time to get out if you like locking in profits, or holding if you’re more of a risk-taker and expect more of the deck. Remember that Amulet of Vigor spiked several times over the course of a couple years, every time it saw coverage at a large Modern event. If you bought in at the floor with Travis and I, you might want to hold off a bit and see if you can sell into another hype wave later on. Either way, I definitely don’t think buying in now at $2-3 is the correct answer.

End Step

Normally I have some sort of coherent theme throughout the article, and this is where I add in random tid-bits of information about what happened last week, where to plan for next week/month/year, or something to that effect. Considering I spent an entire week’s article on one giant “End Step,” I’d like to instead open the floor to do some sort of mailbag article, or “Ask me Anything” style article, where I take questions from readers and provide in depth answers as to what I would do in your situation.

If you would like to have your question answered, please provide at least some degree of context. Letting me know what type of player you are, how often you play, what your usual methods of acquiring and moving cards are, and what your goals are in Magic can help me answer your question more thoroughly. Questions can be sent to my email at djohnso5@oswego.edu, or hit me up on Twitter if you can somehow pose it in 140 characters or less. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next week!