Thursday, September 29, 2011

MTG: Sorting System

Many people have asked me how I sort our Magic The Gathering cards. We have well over 10,000 MTG cards and I can find any card in our collection in less than ten minutes, usually less than five.

As I have been asked so often how I sort our cards and keep them that way, I shall outline for you my sorting system. Hopefully this helps you to keep your life a little more organized and those grey hairs a few more months at bay. :)

What you need:

  • 1-3" three-ting binder (possibly more than one depending upon the size of your collection)
  • Card sleeves (available at local comics/gaming stores, but also frequently found at Wal-marts and Targets)
  • Card Boxes (If you buy "fat packs" you can use those boxes, or buy boxes at collectables stores or online)
  • Index cards or slips of paper (If you have deck boxes that come with those little dividers, you can use those as well)
  • Time
To get started you need to make a few choices:
1. Do you want your sets to be mixed together? For instance, M12 cards next to Rise of the Eldrazi? If you're sorting for your gamer, ask his/her preference.
2. Do you want rates/foils mixed in with commons/uncommons? I recommend keeping rare and mythic rare cards separate because of their increased value. My system has them sorted separately. If you choose to keep them together, adjust accordingly.


If you are going to keep your sets separate, sort your cards by set before continuing.

To get started, separate your rare and mythic rare cards from the rest. These will be going into the card sleeves in the binders. Sort as following: (1)By set. (2) Then by card number, (3) Place foils with regular cards. Place the cards in the card sleeves in that order. Place foils on top of regular cards so that they are the card you see. Do not place cards front to back. One card per slot. Continue until all are in the sleeves.

Rares/Mythics in Binder



Next step, sort out your land and token cards. Include "special" lands such as Drowned Catacombs or Glimmerpost.

If you wish to keep your token cards, sort those by type and set aside. Sort out the regular lands (e.g. swamp, island) from the special lands. Sort the regular lands by type and the special lands by card name. Place the lands in card boxes using the index cards to create dividers between types. Place token cards behind lands.

Lands and Tokens


Now you're ready for the time-consuming part. To begin sorting your common and uncommon cards separate them by color (blue, white, green, black, red, colorless). You will then sort each color one at a time. 

Commons/Uncommons by Mana Color


Cards within the same color will be sorted by mana cost. This is easiest to do with colorless cards. Sort them just by the number. 

Colorless Cards by Mana Cost

For colored cards, it becomes slightly more challenging. Sort first by total mana cost. 
Blue Commons/Uncommons sorted by total mana cost


Then you will sort from the most specific cost to the least specific. For example (b) (b) will go before (1) (b). In the same way, (2)(b) will go after (1)(b)(b). 

Blue Commons/Uncommons by Specific Mana Cost


Cards with variable mana cost (x)(w) will go after the cards with a set mana cost. See the picture below for a better example. 

Cards with variable mana costs to go after other cards of the same color.


New Phyrexia provided a new challenge to mana-based sorting with the new game mechanics. I decided to sort the cards with the Phyrexia symbol in the mana cost after the cards with the original mana costs within the same color. For example, after finishing the regular red cards in the manner listed above, I would then start with the Phyrexian mana cost cards in the same way behind the regular red ones. Refer to the next picture for more information.

Red Cards with New Phyrexian Mana Mechanism


Once cards are sorted by mana cost, sort them alphabetically. Then, if you are including your foil cards, place them either at the front or the back of that particular card. If you are combining sets, sort the card by set within its place in the larger sort.

What if all the cards of one color won't fit in one box? Continue into the next. Use paper dividers to make where each color begins. If you have a lot of boxes, write the number of the box on the bottom in pencil.

Multiple boxes numbered to keep in order


You should now be able to find specific cards as well as cards to fit a need in any deck!

I think that's it. If there's anything I've left out, and situation I haven't answered, please leave a comment or e-mail. Don't hesitate to ask questions either!

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