Box to Extended – The Birth of an Idea

Ryan Bushard premiered on with the 'This Week in Twitter' column, but I ended that series as interest in the column fell dramatically. A few weeks ago he pitched me on a grand idea: 'Case to Completion' - which I asked him to scale back to 'Box to Extended' as the first leg on his journey so that we can take one big step rather than one grand leap. I'm excited to see this ship launch, and I think you all will agree that he's got his work cut out for him. -- Trick

Back in the land known as Zendikar, a man emerged to raise the bar for traders across the floor. His name was Jon Medina, and he did what at the time seemed unthinkable: He took a pack of Rise of Eldrazi and, after a number of uptrades, turned it into a Mox. This feat set the bar for trading accomplishments over the past year and in turn has brought many copycats. Since Jon’s initial accomplishment, it seems that almost a quarter of the people I have traded with at major events have started their own “pack-to-Power” challenges. While I give these people credit for trying to uptrade and make a name for themselves, I also find myself growing weary of the idea. Frankly, at this point, we know it can be done, again and again, over . . . and over . . . and over.

There are some major issues I have with Pack-to-Power traders that inherently make me more hesitant to trade with them. The first and probably the biggest issue is the fact that you almost always have to give them a trade up in their favor; no one wants to be that guy who rips off the kid on his quest for greatness, and while this is fine and good, it gets tedious. The second issue is the startup; the first couple of trades are almost always going to be charity trades with friends in order to form some semblance of a respectable binder. How do we fix these problems? Keep reading, because what I have planned scares even me.

What’s Your Plan to Shake Things Up?

So now that you have a better understanding of where this idea stemmed from, it’s time to reveal the plan I have set in motion. Case to Completion: It’s as simple as it sounds, and yet so much more complicated. When I first came up with this idea, I jotted down a few base rules so as not to be able to “cheat the system,” and as I spent more time on the idea, I realized just how difficult this will be. As I pitched the idea to the man behind the scenes, he was slightly skeptical as well; this is, after all, a huge undertaking, and not something I can just stop if I get bored. After a few messages back and forth, it was clear I needed intermediate goals rather than just taking up the entire task at once. Originally, we had the idea of box-to-Standard, and from there add another box into the mix and work toward Extended. I asked the opinion of some of my local guys, and though they still liked the idea, they said it seemed too safe; after all, in the trade world, a set of Standard is comparable to many pieces of Power—and I am starting from a whole box. After some more discussion, we decided the place to start would be box-to-Extended; this will bring a level of difficulty while still giving some direction for the project. With the semblance of a plan in place, it was finally time to unveil this idea to you, the readers.

What Does a Set of Magic Entail?

That was my first major issue when I devised this plan, and though I initially figured I would acquire one of every card in Magic history, I eventually settled on a smaller goal to start (Extended), and if achieved before the deadline, I would continue with the rest. To begin, I will be collecting one of every nonfoil block printed card outside of a select number of sets. This means the following will not be included:

Alpha/Beta: This is due to both financial and availability. I already have to collect one set of Power; three seems nearly impossible. Some people collect for entire decades to complete these sets, and given the time limit I have set, this is just not feasible.

Portal 1, 2, 3 / Starter: This is due primarily to availability and the fact that they were not printed in a regular circulation at any point for competitive play.

Promos: These cards are not printed in regular sets and some are nigh impossible to find, making this even more of an astronomical challenge then it already is. Promos include standalone box sets such as the From the Vault and Premium Deck series.

Silver Border / Gold Border / Non-Tournament-Legal Cards: These cards add nothing to the collection except a headache. International Editions and the Un- sets are hard to complete, and finding the Worlds series gold-border cards in people’s binders is very unlikely.

English Only: I will not be collecting any other language; though I may pick them up during the quest, I may not include them in the complete sets.

Tokens: I will not be collecting the tokens; most people do not have any with them at major events, and attempting to find them all, though cheap, is just not worth the time.

Now before you chastise me for leaving out the most challenging, think about what is included. I still must acquire a full set of Power and dual lands in addition to complete sets of some of the hardest-to-find and most expensive cards in the game, such as Antiquities and Legends. This is not something I am taking lightly, and have only decided to do this knowing that with the increase in Grand Prixes and events in general next year, I will have a chance to trade nearly every weekend.

With the idea being narrowed down to Extended, the guidelines will still apply; however, a new problem comes to light. Rotation will be coming up later this year, and with but a few short months before that occurs, it is unlikely I will be able to complete an entire Extended set before then. So I pondered the problem and decided that I will still include the sets that are to be rotating out and include Innistrad block as well. This allows me to still pick up cards from the older sets while not leaving each new set that is printed to be left out. This means I will be collecting sets as they come out as well, so if I have not finished this by the time the second set in Innistrad block drops, that will be added to the list.

When Will This Start?

My first trades will be at GenCon 2011; I will already have the box prepared and bindered before then but will not begin trading until that point. From that starting trade, I will give myself two years to complete this daunting task, meaning succeed or fail, I will be done at the end of GenCon 2013. During this time, I will be continually updating you on my progress, first with the box-to-Extended and then forward, assuming all goes as planned. I have already ordered the box and expect delivery within a few days, so the next article will give you an idea of both what I am starting with and how far I have to go.

What Will Be Included in Your Articles?

In each edition of this article series over the next two years, I will be including tips and tricks to a successful trading game as well as giveaways and mini-challenges within the grand task. I will be including many of my trades, as examples and updates as well as a way to inform you about how to maximize trade value. I will also be requesting ideas about what you would like to see from the articles, even taking requests on mini-challenges, such as a pack to Power. I want this to be a community project; I am doing this not only as a trader but as a member of the Magic community as a whole. In the next edition of this article, I will explain in more depth what I mean by a “community project” and not only how you can help, but how you can claim a piece of the treasure as your own.

What Does This Offer Over Pack to Power?

First, there is no need for charity trades; unlike opening a single pack, opening a box ensures that you will have a reasonable stock of good, solid, tradable cards. This makes the venture feel less like a charity case and more like a quest. In addition, unlike pack-to-Power, I won’t be collecting a binder for a sole card that upon completion will be added to my binder. Instead, the quest will continue beyond the first piece, meaning I won’t be willing to trade my entire binder for that Power; instead, I must manage my resources to ensure I can continue. This holds true for every card I receive; though I eventually hope to have one of every card, I may trade for them and then trade them away many times before I keep particular cards. Resource-management will be the key to the success or failure of this journey.

What Are the Rules?

As I stated earlier, over the course of this idea’s life, I have come up with a set of rules to ensure this will be run fairly while ensuring I have the time I need for completion.

  1. I cannot trade with myself. I have a large collection of cards, and having the ability to trade within my collection seems foolish.
  2. I can buy cards; however, I can only do so with the money that I’ve earned from selling cards from this challenge.
  3. I cannot trade with someone else while offering them cards from my personal collection; I must keep these two collections separate, for obvious reasons.
  4. I can buy collections from people who are no longer in the game. Any good trader will tell you part of the key to success in the trade world is acquiring large collections, and as long as the money comes from the project, I’ll allow any financial acquisitions within reasonable limitations.
  5. I can use any resources normally available to a trader, including a mixture of both real-life trading and online. I can also buy and sell cards through any website, including but not limited to major retailers and auction sites.
  6. I have to pick up all currently included sets as well as any future printings, until the challenge is completed. This is not only encouragement to complete this quest quickly, it also means nothing will be left out when I reach the end.
  7. This last rule will be revealed next week when I discuss the most exciting part of this whole idea. This is truly what makes this a community project. Stay tuned to find out!

So the groundwork has been laid and the plan is in motion; now all I can do is wait and see how this unfolds. I will be revealing more in the next article, including the rest of the rules and a few exciting twists that should stir things up. If anyone has any feedback or ideas, feel free to share them with me in the comments below. I will have the box in my possession within the next week, so I can begin the long process of recording its contents. Stayed tuned for what should be one of the most entertaining and informational trade articles around!

Until next time, this soldier of fortune is checking out!

Ryan Bushard
Follow me on Twitter @CryppleCommand