Hi, and welcome to my first article on mtgUK.
For those who don’t know me I am apparently one of the more well known players in the UK Magic Community. I have competed twice at GB Nationals in 2010/2008, was Runner Up at Senior Nationals 2010, Won a Grand Prix Trial which took me to Paris 2009 and I run the Grimsby Magic Club. My love of the game was such that I did previously win a writing competition on MTG Twincast which led to me being a Feature Writer for around a year until the Sponsor sold up but still did the occasional article. There is also a verb â€œTo Pinderâ€ colloquially used in northern Magic communities which means â€œto gain lifeâ€, I was a solid fan of Martyr of Sands / Proclamation of Rebirthcombo and many players have heard those fateful words, Sacrifice Martyr of Sands, gain 21 life against me to see the game go out of their reach with lethal damage available to them next turn.
Magic is a game that we should enjoy and the reason I prefer paper Magic over MTGO is that you do have the cardboard in your hand so it can become a talking point. When I first returned to Magic I loved the new â€œShinyâ€ magic cards, when I stopped playing in Tempest things were a lot different. I also like to have cards that were different in some way so even then when at Gencon 1997 Wizards were doing Asian drafts I was signing up for side events as soon as eliminated from the last one to get some more funky foreign cards, even if at times we didn’t remember the exact wording. Those were the days before Fat Packs and the essential card guides.
So the focus of this article is on the ways you can make your deck that little bit more special, it can also lead to a few subtle changes in perception of your play or perceived wisdom of your ability. There are two ways to make you deck look unique in my opinion â€œBlingâ€ which is adding Foil cards and â€œPimpingâ€ by adding a more unique version of a card to your deck, this can be a really old version of a card or a foreign version. In some cases you can do something really funky I have a black bordered early edition Korean Lightning Bolt, Korean being a language that is no longer printed these cards are quite difficult to come by and can command a reasonable resale value if you decide to cash in.
One thing I would like to mention at this point is that playing with some “Pimped Cards” can lead to confusion and potential tournament legality issues. So too hopefully set a few minds at rest I believe the following to be true. Foil cards are not illegal, however, the deck they are in may be deemed ‘marked’ based on the type and amount of foils which would display a pattern or reasonably know what you would be drawing e.g. if all your basic land was foil and no other cards were Foil it would rapidly become obvious you could know you would be drawing a basic land or not. Foreign cards are not illegal either, it is the responisibility of the Head Judge to be able to give a ‘Gatherer’ wording on the card, however, don’t think by playing a Foreign language card you can ‘fudge’ what a card does as that could come under the auspicies of cheating. Finally their are altered cards, some are something simple like an artists signature or a customization on the card itself, more recently their has been trends to completely alter a card expanding over the text box. There are very strict limits on how much modification can be made and where to on a card, it may well be cool playing at home with your mates over the kitchen table but might get you a heavy punishment at a PTQ.
When I went to GB Nationals in 2008 I went with a fully foiled out deck to compete with, it was a lovely mono white control life gain deck that was ideally suited to the metagame of the time Red Deck Wins indeed most of the field was the red deck and in my seven rounds of Standard I faced just one in the last round of the two days. This was my first real experience of top level magic and also brought something new to my attention, â€œFoilâ€ cards can be considered marked cards. Several players got game lossed from mixing foils and non foils in the same deck, I was even wary when kindly judges advised me even that I had an all foil deck some cards bend more than others so I should monitor my deck every round just in case cards were bending more than others so could be cut to more regularly. This little bit of maintenance wasn’t an issue to me and I’d still run a wholly foil deck today if I had the opportunity, unfortunately â€œMythic Rare’sâ€ were soon to follow and the inevitable price spike, I always loved Blue White Control but short of a lottery win cannot see myself with four foil Jace the Mind Sculptor.
Apart from your usual foils that come with your packs, there are always other Foil cards on the market and this can make it much easier to acquire what you want. Who remembers the glut of Eventide Figure of Destiny’s and now it has been reprinted again in Fire and Lightning. More recently playable cards have been finding their way to be the Pre Release cards, can anyone truly say they have not seen Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle (Zendikar), Sun Titan (M11) or Wurmcoil Engine (Scars of Mirrodin) in a deck ? Then we have Gateway Promos e.g. who can forget Hellspark Elemental and Path to Exile from Conflux, FNM Cards e.g. Bloodbraid Elf or Mulldrifter anyone and various Gameday cards for Top 8 Doran, the Siege Tower, Emeria Angel and Kalastria Highborn have all seen play. Also, keep an eye out for limited edition foils that are in the mix, did you know their was a Promo Skinrender that higher ranked TO’s were given to hand out, rare cards like these can be a nice talking point.
Now there is an interesting thing about Foil cards in that on average they can cost twice to three times as much as their non foil equivalent and this can certainly be true of a really powerful card e.g. Bloodbraid Elfs were not cheap and also it depends on how playable the card is in multiple formats. At one stage I was searching up a foil ponder and shocked to see £5.00 quoted for a Chinese Foil Common until I was informed, yes, it is played in this Legacy Deck and well that made sense once I knew the background to the cost. However, don’t let this worry you as whilst cards may cost a little bit more to purchase it does not mean everyone actually likes foils. I have people locally who track me down when they have a Foil as they just don’t like Foils and want rid so much they’ll cut a deal to get hold of a non foiled version, sometimes they get a sweetener as well but other times as we’ve a good relationship we could just do a swap one for one. This isn’t always going to be the case and ever since the recent stream on online articles on how to be a trader so many people think they are in business with their trade folder valuing their cards at full retail sale price and yours at a shop trade in price. Just remember you can always walk away from a deal, chances are if someone senses you are interested in a card they will come back to you with a more realistic offer. Once people know you are interested in a type of card many will tell you they have them so you can work a deal out for them.
Land can also be a way to make your deck look that bit special, some players will use Alpha/Beta basic lands as they have gritty old school look to them, also many players I have seen fall into the trap of if someone is playing with old cards they must be a good player as they have been playing so long, I have even been the recipient of such good fortune. It is something that should not be replied upon but can sometimes be enough to make you opponent pause, second guess themselves and ultimately make a mistake. My personal favourite though is full art work basic land from Unglued and Unhinged using a mixture of each, the latter even has Foil versions too. For newer players the Zendikar full art lands are still fun to play with and do tend to look that bit better than normal land. Zendikar land can also be pimped by getting Foreign, Foil or maybe even a Foreign Foil.
Textless cards or Full art cards have been extremely popularm, I love my full art Doom Blades and these promos from the now defunct Player Rewards or from Gameday participation still look good.
More recently my taste has been for Foreign Cards, they serve the purpose to make the deck look and play a bit special. You just have to know exactly what every card does or you can look a bit of a fool. When I first got the Foreign Card bug I was playing a card]Ghost Husk deck and managed to play a second Ghost Council of Orzhova, shame they were Legendary but that doesn’t show too easily in Russian or Chinese. More recently I’ve been playing Eldrazi Green Ramp and with Mirrodin added Wurmcoil Engine, I was blissfully unaware as running a foreign language Eye of Ugin that I could search up the Wurmcoil Engine too for weeks. This year I qualified for Nationals using a Jund Deck fully made up of Foreign Cards and by the end of the season had each card in a different language. One curio for playing with Foreign Cards, artwork can be decieving. In China the depiction of skeletons is frowned upon so in X Edition you have new artwork in English but an older version of the artwork on the chinese printing of Terror and Drudge Skeletons.
So are Foreign cards more expensive ? Well they can be, Japanese and Russian are certainly a struggle to find. However, I have a really cheap Jace, the Mind Sculptor. The listing on E-bay had the spelling of Mind Sculpter so was incorrect and I got a steal on a Spanish Jace :-) . Bargains can be found on the most exclusive of cards. Much like Foil cards many players are not keen on Foreign cards or they have just got hold of a card as it was the cheapest they could find, they’ll usually let it go if they can get a replacement for it or no longer wish to play the deck the acquired it for. At this point you can get something you will really enjoy playing with. Just remember though that sometimes the UK Market can be artificially high on its prices and the rest of the world can actually be more competitive, I know I get a Chinese play set of Commons and Uncommon’s which rarely costs me a significant amount.
Your card traders are always a good source of cards but beware, most don’t list them on their main website. Most will only have them in folders for when you turn up at an event or will decide to sell them via an on line auction service. So, if you do buy some different cards from a trader let them know you do it regularly. Most are glad of the business and will email you with what they have. Many traders don’t buy foils or foreign cards individually but get them from buying collections or opening product. I have heard there is a certain trader who adores Blue White Control and has a Foiled up deck, who knows what you could leverage out of him for a play set of Foil Spreading Seas :-)
I am going to mention Ebay now, sure it is the easiest way to find any card as you just need to type in what you want but the prices can be somewhat erratic. Just because it is ‘Foil’ or Foreign may not make it that much more expensive, I’ve picked up foil versions of a card for the same price as a non foil version just by shopping around and a few auction bargains. Just use the normal common sense approach of checking the sellers Feedback and never spending more than you are prepared to lose if things go wrong, I usually like to buy a few cards to save on combined shipping, but that is just a personal choice. Likewise, don’t just look where you would expect and pay over the odds. One of the best places to get French cards is apparently Canada as they also speak the language and generally offer better prices, it may take a bit longer to ship but you can still get your cards. After some Ebay purchases you can find that some sellers have their own shops and you can purchase from them direct. Most have language translation options too if you cannot recognise a card by artwork alone.
I usually go to at least one continental Grand Prix a year, this is probably the most expensive way to gain cards but is by far the most enjoyable as I spent a lot of my weekend in Bochum trading cards between rounds and after the matches with my opponents coming home with an awesome amount of cards. My play that weekend was not up to par but my trading certainly was with Foil Foreign Eldrazi’s in my deck now. When I don’t manage to make a trip myself I will usually see if a friend can bring me back a draft set or two. Ripping packs is fun and foreign booster wars/Winston drafting can be a pleasant piece of entertainment. Of course if you can’t get abroad then you can always talk to your local players, lots of foreign students are in the UK and many go home for holidays, some will even bring you stuff back when they visit their local store back or home.
Hope you enjoyed the article, don’t forget to keep your Fat Pack guides in your bag in case your draw me in a Constructed PTQ and if you want any more specific advice on people I use then you can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.
Thanks for reading,