Part of the experience of any Trading Card Game is Cracking open your packs and trying to find the cards you want; the random chance of finding the chase rare or the card you need for a deck is part of the excitement.

On the flip side, as a player, you want access to the cards you need when you need them, and waiting to pull them from a pack can be a nuisance. That's ideally what trading is for; two parties see that they hold cards the other wants and negotiate a swap. But if one of your goals is to complete sets of cards, how you acquire and store your collection is a priority.

This week on Black and White: I touch on a not-usually-discussed aspect of the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG: collecting the cards!

First Question: Why Bother?
And this is a fair question for those who have never considered it. And to answer this question, I'm going to look at the TCGplayer.com price history for Vanity's Emptiness.

Vanity's Emptiness was first printed as a common in Starstrike Blast. If you weren't playing back in 2010, Starstrike Blast was initially thought to be a very lackluster set coming immediately after the ground-breaking Duelist Revolution which debuted Effect Veiler, Scrap Dragon and other tournament staples. Starstrike Blast didn't have that same impact, so almost everything fell by the wayside. Speaking specifically to Vanity's Emptiness, players thought it was simply a worse Royal Oppression, so it saw zero play until Oppression landed on the Forbidden List in September 2011.

September 2011 was also the true competitive debut of Xyz Monsters in Generation Force, but ironically, it would be the follow-up booster Photon Shockwave that packed the bigger punch: Rescue Rabbit push Xyz-based strategies to the fore, and with Rescue Rabbit came Evolzar Laggia and Evolzar Dolkka. At that point, players figured out that setting up a Laggia or Dolkka backed by Vanity's Emptiness was as good of a lock as Stardust Dragon and Royal Oppression was in 2008.

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The problem was that while Vanity's Emptiness was a common, it wasn't desirable until long after Starstrike Blast was already sold out at most retailers and game stores. As such, the supply was low and it wasn't getting better, while the demand steadily increased when the decks running it proved superior to those without it.

If you're looking at the price history, you can see where things got ridiculous: at its peak, the median value for Vanity's Emptiness, a common, was anywhere in the range of $30-$35 in 2014. You read that right. Imagine Cracking a box of Starstrike Blast in 2010 and casually discarding a pack of eight commons and a Chain Dog because the pack didn't contain a Glow-Up Bulb, or cursing your luck because you pulled another useless Dragunity Knight – Vajrayana (a card that suffered the same problem as Vanity's Emptiness, overlooked because there were no Dragunity monsters to Summon it until Dragunity's Legion came out months later in 2011).

Vanity's Emptiness is an extreme case, but it shows that even if you secure just a single playset of every common, it can really pay off. That card stayed at its high value until its first wide-release reprint in The Secret Forces last year. Even if Vanity's Emptiness never happens again, you don't want to get caught unprepared. Having sets of cards ready to go means you won't have to scramble to a vendor or a trade group to find cards that you may have pulled at some point somewhere, but can't find when you need them.

Organization Of Cards
So now that you've seen the value of holding onto some cards, you'll need a way of organizing them so you can find them when they're needed. There are many ways to do that, but I'll share my current system as an example.

For main booster sets – those are the 100-card releases that drop four times a year – I put six copies of each common card sorted by card set number into a 300-count cardboard box with the set abbreviation written in permanent marker on all sides of the box except the bottom. It gets stored on a shelf where it sits until I need to throw a deck together. The rares, supers, ultras and secret rares go into a 3-ring binder with each page containing nine slots that can hold either Yu-Gi-Oh-sized or standard sized cards. I space out enough room to hold all of the rare and higher cards in the set, filling in the holes as I acquire the missing cards. I'll usually put three copies of each card into this binder with the rest going into a trade book that I bring to events.

I've started putting the smaller releases like Wing Raiders and Hi-Speed Riders into the set binder alongside the main releases. As these smaller sets only contain Super and Secret Rares and the total size is smaller than a normal booster, I keep everything in the set binder instead of putting some of the cards into a cardboard box.

Tournament Prize cards like Astral Packs and the OTS Tournament Packs go in another binder set aside for them.

At the moment, I'm still sorting through an array of older cards I've built up over the years. Legendary Collections and Collectible Tin cards are a bit of a pain because they have their own set number so they don't fit with main boosters but they're mostly reprints of existing cards? I'm still trying to find a home for those. The Legendary Collection sets are huge, clocking in at over 250 to 300 cards each. They'll likely need their own binders and will have massive holes in them since a single Legendary Collection purchase is nowhere near the amount of cards in the set. The Collectible Tin Super Rares will likely get their own pages in a binder.

Structure Deck cards have a cardboard box of their own, with each deck grouped together for easy retrieval. That's also good for finding reprints of cards in common rarity, which is something I value because common cards don't warp like foils do. In a tournament environment, I'll usually go with low-rarity choices when available to avoid the possibility of my cards becoming marked due to warping.

The Downsides
I've gone on about how great getting your collection in order can be and how it's advantageous to do so. But there are drawbacks.

Organizing cards takes time and effort. It's not something that's automatically done just by wishing it true. I can crack three booster boxes and separate out cards by rarity in around an hour. It usually takes me another 15 to 20 minutes to allocate space in the set binder for the rares and file them in their necessary places, but the most time-consuming task is sorting and filing the commons, which makes sense since the pack is made up of mostly those.

It's really easy to simply pile them together and put off doing anything with them, but there will come a time when someone will shock the dueling world and top a Regional with a pure Melodious deck and all of a sudden Aria the Melodious Diva is the new hotness and you can't find your pile of Duelist Alliance to save your life (and your wallet). But, if you set aside the time needed to get the amount of cards you want to hold on to and trade off or sell the rest to an interested party, there will be less upkeep in the future. The trick is, you have to put in the work up-front, and a lot of people aren't interested in doing that.

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Another cost to consider is space. You need to put your cards somewhere. Figure out where they need to go, and how they can easily be stored where they won't be disturbed. If you own pets, you know the struggle of making sure the animals stay away from the cards. Because if a cat finds out something can be shoved off the table, the cat will make sure it gets shoved off the table multiple times.

Finally, assuming you assemble the amount of cards you need, finding a good use for the excess commons is another task. I sell off my excess commons and rares to a local vendor and while I might be able to get a better value trying to sell the cards myself on my own, I value the space in my apartment and time saved more than I do getting an optimal return on my expense. If you have kids at your local that are just starting, the extra commons can give them better options which will keep them in the game, and as I've said multiple times before, more people in the game means more chances to play the game, and that benefits us all.

If you have any questions regarding collecting, tournament policy, game mechanics or card interactions, send your question (one question per e-mail please!) to askjudgejoe@gmail.com and your question could be answered in a future edition of Court of Appeals!

-Joe Frankino


Joe is a Yu-Gi-Oh! judge and player from Long Island, New York. By the time you're reading this, Joe will have played in a Regional Qualifier with DracoPal Counter Fairies. If he did well, he'll write about it. If he didn't, then not so much.