As Battle for Zendikar looms before us, I’ve had to engage in some serious contemplation. Zendikar was the first set I drafted regularly, and truly marks my return full force to the game. This has put me in an odd position. The previous nostalgia blocks I’ve visited, specifically Time Spiral, Scars of Mirrodin, and Return to Ravnica, were all bringing me back to blocks that occurred either before my break or in the casual buildup that brought me back to the game. It felt natural for me to have nostalgia with those sets, because I didn’t get the full experience the first time through.

I was barely sentient back when I was collecting Ice Age. Seeing Jaya when I was old enough to appreciate her really hits the spot.

Zendikar wasn’t like that. In many ways Zendikar shaped my play style. As a result, my strengths have always included combat math, fetchland usage, and an ability to maximize the value of Jace, the Mindsculptor.


It’s been a fun trip, but it’s also been years of sustained Magic play, which has resulted in an explosion of cards across my household. This past weekend, in a premeditated fit of pique, I decided to do something about it.


I say premeditated because I had acquired supplies for this project earlier last week, though I had no specific plan or timeline for them. I had started simply, getting two sets of Ultra Pro Platinum binder sheets, some of StarCityGames’ new Insiders, and two generic 3” binders.

While having these things are awesome, proper storage is fraught.

This wouldn’t be the first time I tried to put cards in binders, since a while back I made a point to put my old-school duals into a binder. While I feel safer with what must be a thousand dollars worth of cardboard living in a binder, as opposed to being loose somewhere, my sort method for that project had been fairly haphazard. It was also weirdly hard to use, since I had moved on to Legacy-relevant cards once I got past the land section, and my definition of what constitutes Legacy-relevance tends to be rather loose.


I like having the ability to play weird decks like Nic Fit.


Anyway, having learned my lesson, I thought to look at the massive pile of Fat Pack Player’s Guides that I’ve acquired over the years. I’m missing one or two of them here and there (like, I think I’m missing Lorwyn proper and original Ravnica), but for the most part they’re a resource that was incredibly important before the internet showed up on my phone, and incredibly inefficient after that point. What they were good for, though, is having an easy-to-access visual spoiler for the cards in the set, and that’s what I honed in on.


Since my biggest issue with my collection has always been restoring pulled cards to their proper home, I wanted to make sure it was simple to do that. As such, I decided to go set by set, first putting the mythics on one or two sheets in order of their collector number, and then doing the same thing for the rares. Notable uncommons and commons would fit in where they could, usually at the end of the mythic or rare sheets. This way, due to the modular nature of the binder sleeves, I could continue with this scheme well into the future without running into capacity issues, like I would with any lesser organizational system.

I should have scoured my collection for relevant cards, but alas, I did not.

I missed a step while I was organizing, but I did what I could to make the process run as smoothly as possible. My first step should have been to collect all the miscellaneous rares over the period, to make sure the pool from which I was drawing was as complete as possible. Without that step I could still do my big sort, but there were more blank spaces than was convenient.


Step two was to sort my rare-sets by rarity, then collector’s number. Now, I don’t think about this one in terms of collector’s number most of the time; to me, it makes sense that the cards should be by color, then subsorted in alphabetical order. It’s basically how I keep my cards whenever they’re sorted. But technically this is by collector’s number, and I was referring to the fat pack guides a lot, so it seems appropriate to describe it as such.


Step three was the work. In this step I went through each set by rarity, first putting in my sheets for mythics (which tended to be chock-full of holes) and then my rares. While I didn’t have this problem with my mythics, my rares often would overflow their slot, forcing me to choose between throwing the rest into bulk or making a second pocket. I made this determination card by card, because I was stacking them six deep in a pocket, and there are some cards that no one needs more than six of. Like Treasury Thrull.

This card is so close to being amazing, but all its numbers are slightly off. maybe if it had been a 3/7?

Now, the Ultra Pro Platinum sheets were really solid, allowing me to feel comfortable putting most of the rares six to a pocket. That having been said, whenever a card was valuable I made a point to sleeve it in a perfect fit. I could get four perfectly fitted cards in a pocket without worrying about damage to the card, so for some of the more populous rares I made sure to assign extra slots if I had a double playset. The Khans of Tarkir  fetchlands are the obvious example… although I faced another test with them, i.e. should I sort the Onslaught versions with the Khans versions?


I decided on yes. I wasn’t making it to Onslaught, I was barely playing during Onslaught, and I wouldn’t think to check Onslaught first when trying to pull these things. Perhaps I would have made a different determination if I had a full playset of the Onslaught fetches, but my collection of them is oddly spotty; I only have two original Bloodstained Mires and three original Polluted Deltas, and I despise asymmetry in my organizational efforts.


Side note: as a person who could reasonably be called a collector, and yet who plays Modern and Legacy from time to time, I definitely was happy to see the fetchlands reprinted. Who cares if my old ones took a little hit in price; I wasn’t planning on selling them anytime soon anyway.

Plus, I ripped a foil copy of this one. That’s going to be pretty sweet down the line.

In a wonderful bit of synchronicity, the 400 sheets (with nine pockets each, for a total of 3600 potential card slots, or a max capacity of 21,600 cards) took me nicely to the end of Return to Ravnica block. I say end because I didn’t keep to strict reverse chronological order; I put the blocks and core sets in order, but then I sorted each block with the first one first, if you were leafing through it. It sounds weird when I say it out loud, but it makes a lot of sense when you look at it.


Having put it all together, I ran the system through a test run with all the rares I should have found in the missed step one. It worked like a dream. I just sorted the stack of missed rares in the appropriate format, and then I flipped through the books, filling in holes or supplementing stacks of cards. I have high hopes that this method will keep me more organized going into the future; after all, I’m only going to be getting more cards over time.


Jess Stirba believes in the sacred and the profane, and appreciates both when in proper fucking balance.

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