Tag Archives: Eldritch Moon

Grinder Finance – WTF is Printing and Collation?

I’ve decided to start a little mini-series, appropriately titled “WTF is _” to take some time to discuss some topics that might not necessary be the most important finance topics but tangentially related to the cost of cards as a whole.  The first topic I’m going to talk about is collation.

Well if you go look up the word collation, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in the way it’s used to describe Magic product so I’m assuming someone made the stretch to fit at some point in time.  I don’t know the etymology of the phrase but I know what it means.  Collation in Magic terms refers to the distribution of cards in a booster pack (or packs in a box, etc).   But before we can really dive into Magic’s collation process and what it’s doing today, we need to talk about the printing process first.



Since the dawn of time Magic cards have been printed on huge sheets of card stock and cut down into the much smaller cards we all play with today.  It’s not uncommon to see foil uncut sheets like these available at Grands Prix’s prize walls.  Generally each set has 3 sheets for each of the 3 rarities.  Generally…


As a young upstart company without presumably a ton of financial resources it’s no surprise Alpha was a huge source of printing problems.  You ever want to make a vendor roll their eyes?  Ask them if they have any Alpha Volcanic Islands for sale.  Alpha was missing two cards that were part of Beta (Volcanic Island and Circle of Protection: Black) and that’s not even the worst part.

Here is a picture of Mark Rosewater standing in front of an uncut sheet of Beta rares.  You might not notice it quickly but I count 4 (FOUR!?) basic islands on this rare sheet and I can’t even see the whole thing!


In this second picture (of presumably a common, rare, and uncommon sheet) there yet still more basic lands on the uncommon sheet.


The short version of this story is don’t buy an unopened pack of old Magic.  You could get some very bad cards as your rare.

Experimental printing processes:

Have you ever heard someone say something’s rarity is “U2?”  No they’re not talking about the band, but rather another experimental and now defunct printing process (kind of).  Most people assume that the Legends Karakas is an uncommon and so is Mana Drain.  They’re from the same set, right? Well yeah but technically, Karakas is a U2 and Mana  Drain is a U1 which means there are twice as many Legends Karakas in existence than Mana Drains.  The U1/2 distinction is how many times each card appeared on the uncommon sheet.  That also happened with the common sheet which lead to some weird situations.  Hymn to Tourach is a C1 in Fallen Empires but it has 4 different arts so it’s on the sheet 4 times…  Some commons only had 3 different arts (this different art experiment was also a bad idea) which means despite them both being C1, there are more of some than others.  But Fallen Empires also has other problems like it only being printed on two sheets (the other sheet had U3, U2, and U1 cards – which were Uncommons, Slightly more Uncommons, and Rares).  Wizards has since learned something from these mistakes.

Modern Day Printing:

Today, there are 3 sheets.  Commons, Uncommons, and Rares.  But wait, what about mythics?  Well it’s pretty simple to explain.  With the introduction of the colored set symbols to denote rarity, it became imperative that each card at the same rarity was the “same rarity.”  Some cards, like Mythic rares appear slightly less often than other cards in the same slot so they have a new symbol but they are printed on the same sheet.  The rare sheet for modern sets has 2 of each rare and 1 of each mythic – making mythics twice as rare as rare without the confusing R2/1 notations. But wait, there’s more!  Flip cards can’t be printed on the same sheet as normal cards because they don’t have the same backing.  Thus we have sheets that contain only flip cards and they are cut and inserted into the packs later as well.  BUT WAIT – there’s still more!  With Shadows over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon I am going to go out on a limb and make the assumption that they have split the flip cards into two sheets.  One with commons and uncommons (1 goes in every pack) and one with rares and mythics (1 goes in some packs but doesn’t replace the other flip card).  This printing process is different from Innistrad and Dark Ascension where there was only ever 1 flip card in a pack.


Okay so now that we’ve had that history lesson on what printing is – let’s talk about collation.  In the oldest years of Magic there was no collation.  The cards were printed, packed, and shipped.  Many cards appeared in the same order in booster packs and the same rares in the same order.  I vaguely remember in my earlier years, while drafting Onslaught, that there were some cards that often appeared before or after Sparksmith on a sheet.  With this information I was able to tell if a Sparksmith was likely in the pack and base my further decisions on that.  If you didn’t draft Onslaught you probably don’t get why Sparksmith is so important.  Basically it’s like opening a Pack Rat at common.  Maybe not quite that bad, but whatever – I’m getting off topic.


There have been strides made in order to limit the ability to know what rares would be in what packs.  This is also called “box mapping” and while I don’t do it or endorse it, many people try.  Some boxes are especially susceptible as a few years ago there was an app you could download to help you do it.  I don’t want to say it was box mapping for dummies, but it was.  As you can see here, it only took 8 packs to map out the entire box’s contents.  This is obviously very unsettling to people and had gone on through Gatecrash and Dragon’s MazeTheros introduced new colation processes that had some packs shift and/or columns move that made it much harder to do.  As far as I can tell, going forward it has been pretty hard to map boxes.

Problem Packs

On more than on occasion we have seen some colation failures and it’s almost always at the expense of the player.  Modern Masters 2015 had a comical number of errors.  I experienced two different drafts where the number of cards in the packs was not correct (missing foil, missing rare, extra foil, or extra rare).  Then you have weird stuff like this box where every pack had a mythic.  This also happened in Fate Reforged where there were a number of people that opened a fetchland in every pack.

Eldritch Moon

So we have another problem this time.  “Box Mapping” has become too easy for the average player.  As you can see in this video, you are able to tell which art packs in a case has all of the non-flip mythics in that case.  While it’s not quite as bad as knowing where every card is in a box of a set, you can find most of the mythics pretty easily across multiple boxes with this technique.  In fact, after you find one mythic you are very likely on your way to finding them all.  This is a big colation problem and might be a result of using a different colation process from Oath of the Gatewatch which weirdly had 4 booster wrappers instead of the usual 3 of a small set.  It might also be a problem with how they decided to package flip cards from this set and it was masked by the 5 booster wrappers in Shadows over Innistrad.  The short version of this story is don’t buy loose packs.  The long version of this story is all of the words it took to get here.

Final thoughts from Last weekend

  • So, Spell Queller.  Who’s ready for a year of this guy?  I’m not sure what’s going to happen in the next few days since it’s already a $10+ rare but man there are so many Spell Quellers in the T64 of SCG Columbus.
  • Moving forward I think there will be an uptick of 1 mana ways to kill Spell Queller (Aerial Volley, Fiery Impulse, etc) but I feel they may fall short of killing the rest of the Bant Company deck.
  • Not a big splash of Eldritch Moon cards in Modern.  I wouldn’t give up on your Allosaurus Riders / Eldritch Evolution deck but I’m not saying it’s likely to happen.
  • Pro Tour is a few weeks away.  If you see cards under performing don’t ditch them yet.  You have a good chance to cash out during a weekend of spikes.  Last Pro Tour I was able to sell all of my Dark Petitions for far more money than I should have been able to get for them.

Grinder Finance – Eldritch Moon Spoilers

As I contemplate how many times on repeat I can play Flo Rida’s “My House” at my house warming party, I am investigating the Eldritch Moon spoilers.  Unfortunately, we will not find any cards with Investigate in this set.  Returning are double-faced cards, madness, and delerium.  New mechanics are meld, emerge, and escalate.  We haven’t seen any rare cards with emerge or escalate yet but we have some sweet meld cards.

brunathefadinglight giselathebrokenblade

Okay so now after you pick up your jaw off the floor, you can continue to ask what white did deserve to get all these great cards.  Gisela draws an obvious comparison to Baneslayer Angel.  And a lot of people know how good that card was.  Gisela is pre-ordering for $26 right now which may end up being close to her price in a month based on how Archangel Avacyn looks now.  Really at this point pre-ordering Gisela is just a gamble that it’s another Archangel Avacyn and is all over the pro tour or shows up just enough to keep her price tag.  I’m not a fan of buying in now.

Bruna is another beast entirely.  She could be an easy $5-10 card based on play in a few decks much like Westvale Abbey,  While she won’t be as ubiquitous as a colorless spell land, she does a nice job of forming voltron with a Gisela that hasn’t been turned into stone.  There might be a reanimator deck that stars Bruna if we get some good ways to self mill or reanimate in white. If you want to order her now, I wouldn’t fault you but I want to see more spoilers before I make a decision.


Thalia is the legendary human that just keeps on giving.  If there was a power level list of legends that got more than one card, Thalia might be the top of it.  Thalia pre-orders have already sold out several times on most websites making her price rise astronomically.  I don’t think I’d buy her now because she is the buy-a-box promo and she is legendary.  If you got in early you probably made out well.  Thalia looks to be an 3 mana creature that will easily slide into existing collected company and human decks to add some more power (because we needed it, right?).

hanweirbattlements hanweirgarrison

I think the Hanweir meld card might be the best and most likely meld card to see standard play.  It all depends on how or if Wizards decides to make Red good again.  A lot of the problem it faces right now is the red removal spells just don’t match up as well as white and black removal.  They’re not cost effective versus werewolves and don’t have the tempo boosting power that Declaration in Stone does.  That being said, Hanweir Garrison seems like an insane amount of value for a red 3 drop.  It reminds me a lot of a more forgiving Goblin Rabblemaster.  It will end the game quickly if it is allowed to attack a few times and leaves some bodies behind if you eventually find a removal spell.  The land is an easy inclusion in a red aggressive deck and it combos well with the Garrison (haste allows it to make value the first turn).  I would be surprised if we don’t see some Hanweir, the Writhing Township at the Pro Tour.

niblisoffrost thaliaslancers

These are long shots, maybe….  Niblis of Frost is an intro pack rare which are generally not very powerful.  Every once in a while we get a Pia and Kiran Nalaar which are better than expected.  Niblis has the potential to be pretty busted with it’s instant speed ability to “frost” creatures.  It isn’t embarrassing at attacking and can clear the way of any Archangel Avacyn shenanigans.  The fact that we don’t have a common place 3 damage red spell really makes it shine.

Thalia’s Lancers is far more appealing.  It’s fairly aggressively costed.  A 5 mana 4/4 first strike that draws a card is a pretty reasonable card.  The fact that this lets you tutor for a card instead of just drawing a land is big game.  It also doesn’t do the obnoxious thing that some cards do and put it on top of your library.  I would not be surprised to see Thalia’s Lancers go find an Archangel Avacyn or Bruna to keep the value train running.  Kind of amusingly, you can reanimate Thalia’s Lancers with Bruna to go find another legend (like another Bruna for when they die).  This card could be very good if the format breaks the right way.   That being said, because white is so good it might have a hard time finding a home.

Final Thoughts

  • We haven’t seen any planeswalkers yet, which is odd for the first few days of spoiler season
  • We have seen a lot of double-faced cards.  We might only have a few more rares and maybe 1 more mythic before we’re done with those.
  • Cards will get better or worse depending on what is spoiled so always keep an eye on new cards as they get spoiled.
  • We haven’t seen any rare emerge or escalate cards yet.  I expect some of them to be standard staples.

Grinder Finance – Building on a Budget & Eldritch Moon

*Ding ding ding* It’s all over folks.  I bring to you, the back to back StarCityGames.com Open series champion, Boros Humans!  While this deck has been piloted both times by the Boss of aggro himself, Tom Ross, it is clear it’s a contender to win any large tournament.  I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that Tom Ross doesn’t build decks with a shoestring budget and his card choices are just because they are the best.

Boros Humans is the best competitive deck to play on a budget

The entire main deck of Boros humans costs approximately the same amount as a playset of Archangel Avacyn.  When was the last time you could spend $100 on a main deck that has won two SCG Opens?  In fact if you wanted to skimp early on Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Secure the Wastes you can build the whole sideboard for less than $13.  This deck is an insane amount of power for how cheap the cards are.


It’s future proof

The main deck only contains 11 rares that will rotate in the fall.  Kytheon, Knight of the White Orchid, and Battlefield Forge are the only causalities and it’s unlikely to really cause that big of a drop off in the deck.  We’ve already seen strong green and blue human strategies that can pick up some of the slack of the rotating cards when Kaladesh comes out.  It’s important when you have a small budget to spend on Magic to pick a deck that the majority isn’t rotating soon.  That makes it a lot harder to keep up with the game when you need to buy a new deck every 6 months.

Starting Small

Don’t have $200 to drop on a new deck right now?  No problem.  You can buy the bulk of the commons and uncommons for a few bucks and focus on the chase rares as you can.  I’d strong recommend getting the Shadows over Innistrad rares first because those are the best investments long term.  When building decks that are not “quite” to spec it’s always best to get the newest cards as they will last you the longest.  Thalia’s Lieutenant, Always Watching, and Declaration in Stone are all your army of 2/1’s really need to rattle off a few big wins.  Getting them earlier will greatly increase your win percentage at local tournaments.

Eldritch Moon

We got some spoilers yesterday, let’s talk about them.


13 mana 13/13 on the plane known for it’s love/hate relationship with 13? Triskaidekaphobia indeed.  Ok let’s break down this card to see it’s financial relevance.  Currently in Standard there are 7 card types (Enchantment, Planeswalker, Creature, Artifact, Land, Instant, and Sorcery) so best case scenario this will cost 6.  The power and toughness alone makes it a bargain at 6 mana but more likely it will cost 8 to 10 mana.  Still not bad for a 13/13 creature with Flying and Trample.

The next important thing to realize is protection from Instants is especially good at keeping it alive for your opponent’s Mind Slavered turn.  Many people have pointed out that Stasis Snare gets a lot better because it is an answer that you can play at instant speed that is not actually an instant.  At three card types in your graveyard, Emrakul becomes a lot like Ulamog in terms of stabilizing and winning the game.  She’s larger and flies and has the potential to cost less mana but has more trouble killing permanents that can’t kill themselves or aren’t creatures.  She kills similarly fast (two attacks) to Ulamog and has some build in protection (Protection from instants).  I’m not honestly sure which is better.

If you’re trying to kill someone with damage (say with a Nahiri) then the 13/13 flying trample is obviously much better than a 10/10 indestructible.  All I can say at this point is it’s not clear cut which is better.


So this is the new Spawnsire of Ulamog?  It’s rather lackluster and will likely end up a bulk rare.  The only thing I will mention is that this wish is not templated like the other wishes from Judgement or Future Sight.  The older Wishes were originally able to pull cards from exile because it was called the “removed from the game” pile at the time.  This card functions the same way as those cards used to.  It will allow you to coax Emrakul out from a Stasis Snare or bring an Ulamog back that had been exiled by Nahiri.

ulrichofthekrallenhorde ulrichuncontestedalpha

Ulrich is a really interesting card.  It’s the new Huntmaster of the Fells in a way.  It rewards deck building that can flip the card back and forth.  Ulrich naturally synergizes with instant speed cards (like Collected Company and Moonlight Hunt) as well as cards that can find a use for your mana that isn’t casting spells (like Duskwatch Recruiter and Eldrazi Displacer).  This sounds like he could be a good fit for a more aggressive Collected Company style deck but it’s hard to top Reflector Mage’s power level.  We need to see more cards from Eldritch Moon but there is definitely potential for him to be a Standard power house.  I’m also cautiously optimistic in his ability to combo with Commune with Lava.  It allows you to pass the turn to flip him and then cast 2 or more spells on your next turn to flip him back.  But again, it’s really hard to make any real predictions until we’ve seen more than 3 cards.