Magic the Gathering can be an expensive game, which is why I have written before about Magic on the cheap.
I mostly play Commander, and while individual cards might cost real money you only ever need one of them for a deck.
But what if you have multiple decks?
The decks I’ve built over the years generally have pretty distinct themes. The -1/-1 counter deck is in black and green so it doesn’t share a lot of cards with the blue/white fliers deck or the mono red goblin trick deck. But there are cards that fit into all of these decks, and there are other decks which compete for cards they need (I have three big creature decks that all need green ramp spells, for example).
So what I have started to do is to build a card library. I have taken cards that could be reasonably shared between decks and put those in a special kind of sleeve that I don’t use for anything else, and replaced the original card with a proxy.
In play, you have a proxy in the deck and that is what you draw into your hand, then when you play it you place the original card on top. This is exactly the system I use for double-faced cards – it means I don’t have to continuously hoik the card out of its sleeve to flip it, preventing damage to the card. And this is an officially approved approach: Wizards prints checklist cards which act as substitutes for double-faced cards in draft games.
The proxies I use are black and white printouts of the original art for a card (ideally using the same art as the card I have). I make my proxies this way for two reasons: first, they are very obviously not real cards so there’s no question of trying to pass them off; and second the rules are readable on the card so if the original card is not available (eg you are playing two decks that contain the same card) then the deck can still be played. I back these with the ad cards you get in booster packs.
I like this system because it allows me to play the best cards I have for a purpose in all the decks that need them (although not necessarily simultaneously). I like building tribal decks which use lots of creatures of the same creature type* and most of them would benefit from cards like Urza’s Incubator or Cavern of Souls, so this way I end up with these broadly applicable cards being in all the places they are needed rather than having to pick one deck to get the good card.
There are downsides to this system:
- it only really works for singleton formats. If I needed a playset of (say) the latest Chandra for a Modern deck this wouldn’t help because I would still need four copies of an expensive card.
- there’s a very good chance this is not tournament-legal. But then Commander is generally a casual format, so this shouldn’t be an issue. If you happen to be playing in a tournament you might just have to put the original card into the deck, or at least substitute out basic lands for the ad cards.
- you have to use sleeves, and they should be opaque. I noted above that I used ad cards to back the proxy which do not have the standard Magic card back. This means that if your sleeves are not substantially opaque then you can see the ad image, which amounts to a marked card.
- some play groups may not be cool with this. There are players who are sticklers for using real cards at all times. Those players might insist that you substitute in the original card.
Those players are gits.
If you encounter this kind of inflexibile attitude, point out that you are saving time. Substituting actual cards for the proxies is a lot slower than getting them as you need to, and as long as you can show that you do, in fact, have the card then there doesn’t seem to be a reasonable objection.
I recommend this approach if you find that the quality of your decks is suffering because the cards you need are somewhere else in your collection.
[*] the logical conclusion of this may be the deck I have planned based around djinns, which I intend to call Djinn Palace.