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I know there exist people who collect more than play, but I want to know how people organize cards who frequently build new decks and therefore want to be able to find cards quickly.

After a few months of playing my family is already spending a considerable amount of timing organizing cards so we can quickly find cards.

In our specific case: We store cards (not in our 12-13 decks) in a shoe box, sorted into about 25 sections: Red creatures, Red Sorceries, Red Instants, Red Enchantment Creatures, and so on, with a few extra sections for creature collections like slivers, beasts, or minotaurs. Sections are divided by color-labeled index cards cut to poke up a bit. Within larger sections we sort by mana cost with identical cards clustered.

While this is working for our 2000-3000 card collection, I'm not sure it will scale.

What solutions have evolved to meet the needs of magic players at various numbers of cards? A good answer will divide into sections of < 1000 cards, 1000-5000 cards, 5000-10000 cards, etc. or whatever numbers are appropriate for common card storage techniques.

  • This question is primarily opinion based. You might store your cards in a cardboard castle. I might store my cards in a wooden tower that I built and painted myself, because cardboard is tacky. My friend just throws them into large plastic bins because that's what works for him. We can't possibly know what will work best for you. – Rainbolt Dec 23 '14 at 14:56
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    @Rainbolt While there are certainly multiple possibilities, I don't think the OP is asking what the outside of the box should look like, and I don't think cards jumbled in a bin are a method of organization allowing quickly searching for cards as the OP requested. Perhaps it is still too much of a poll, but it's not nearly as bad as you make it out to be. – Cascabel Dec 23 '14 at 15:20
  • @Rainbolt Yes it does have some component of opinion, but if you look at the storage tag there are around dozen other questions that all ask pretty much the same thing but for other games, do you think they should all be closed as opinion based as well, and if not why not? – diego Dec 23 '14 at 15:59
  • @diego I vote on questions, not on tags. I do not intend to retroactively close vote dozens of old questions. – Rainbolt Dec 23 '14 at 16:05
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    @Rainbolt I'm aware they aren't hard rules, but why exactly do you think it is a bad subjective question? There are clear guidelines from the question as to what will be an acceptable answer, yes there is some leeway within those guides for opinion, but your suggestion of 'throw them all in a container' obviously wouldn't fit what is being asked. – diego Dec 23 '14 at 16:27
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For more than 10k cards, a Card Catalog: Card Catalog

You can find them on CraigsList, eBay, antique stores ($$$) and occasional garage sales.

In my catalog I have one drawer per block. Separated in the drawer by set. In each set they are sorted with Rares & mythics in the front, as I have a lot less of those. I buy sets of commons & uncommons for each set from eBay, so those follow the rares, sorted by color then alpha, which ends up being in collector number order. Some more valuable/more frequently used cards get their own drawer.

For 2k-10k cards I'd stick with 1600, 4000 or 5000 count boxes, depending on which you can comfortably lift & fit on your shelves. You should label the boxes with sticky notes, not by writing on the boxes, as your collection will grow. Initially you should find a divider to use in each row that will hold up the cards, like this. Better dividers exist that clamp on to the cardboard, but I cannot find a link to them right now (they may be discontinued). At this size I would sort by set first, since some of your cards will probably have rotated out of standard.

For less than 2k cards I would use binders & deckboxes. There are some fancy ones that have 4 cards to a row instead of the traditional 3 here. They are not cheap, but the reviews are decent. Otherwise I would buy a few Magic Card Binders and Ultra-Pro pages. (buy them a box at a time to save $). I would probably sort them by color then card type, as you are likely to want to look them up that way (unless you build your decks in a computer, see below).

Buy these supplies at your Local Game Store if you can!

For any size collection, if you think it's eventually going to grow large, track it in software!

Currently I use MTG Studio ($20), which is a very full-featured windows desktop application. Upsides: it's very easy to do a bulk-add of cards, like 4x of a set, it's very fast to search for cads (just start typing the name). Downsides: doesn't get updates for new sets very quickly and uses non-standard set names, lacking most foreign cards. I am thinking of switching to Deckbox.org- Downsides: no easy way to add 4x of a given sets commons/uncommons in one action, requires internet access. Upsides: online access, facilitate very easy online trading, if that interests you.

There is an open source tool that I am considering moving to, Magic Assistant, which gets its updates straight from gatherer.

The goal is for it to be easy for you to find cards in the future, and to file new ones. If either are difficult then you need to change something. You may need to change your approach over time- I moved mine from alpha by block to alpha by set when I computerized my tracking.

I have an inbox that all cards go into before they get filed. They sit there until I put them in the computer system. Then they go to a 'to be filed' drawer. Once that drawer reaches a critical mass, I sort it by block & set, then put away each set.

  • If Magic Assistant ever becomes popular, they will probably get a Cease and Desist order from Wizards for breaking their Terms of Service, which explicitly prohibits using automated means to scrape data from the Gatherer. But until that time, have at it! – Rainbolt Jan 28 '15 at 19:38
  • think you mean magiccards.info – dmikester1 Mar 12 '15 at 16:29
  • Good catch, yes, I meant "I hope they move to magiccards.info.". I've deleted the erroneous comment. – VolleyJosh Mar 12 '15 at 18:48
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    Took me nearly 3 months to accept this answer as it took me that long to realize how good it is. TRACK IT IN SOFTWARE should be in boldface. I have my 4000 card collection in deckbox.org and can now very easily see subsets of my collection based on type, subtype, color, etc. using deckbox.org. – Joe Golton Mar 13 '15 at 4:22
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There are several different ways to organize a collection of Magic cards. Some of them have some advantages over others, but ultimately the one you should pick is the one that makes the most sense to you and is easiest for you to work with.

  1. Sorting by set. This is personally how I organize my cards. I have each set separated and ordered by collectors number, which means they end up in Colorless-White-Blue-Black-Red-Green-Multicolor-Artifact-Land order, and then alphabetically within each category. I then have dividers between each set, and in the boxes the set are in chronological order.
  2. Sorting by color. This is the other main way I see people sort their cards. With this each color has its own section. Within each color you then need some way to organize the cards, the primary ways I've seen to do that are alphabetical order or card type > converted mana cost > alphabetical order.

I'm sure there are other ways of organizing cards since there are many different attributes you can choose to sort based on, but the previous two are the only ones I commonly see and they have the advantage of keeping cards you might want to use together close to each other. Both of the ways I've listed scale well from small collections up to very large ones (I currently have well over 10k cards and when I actually get them organized finding cards is easy)

As for how to store your cards you can find boxes like these that come in sizes from 100 cards up to 5k cards. Another option would be Wizard's Holiday Gift Box these boxes hold around 2k cards and have a few other goodies in them as well, though if you can find either Theros or return to Ravnica versions I would recommend those since the Khans boxes aren't very good quality. Also if you decide you don't want to use index cards as dividers you can but plastic dividers like these but I have used index cards in the past and the are perfectly fine.

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I'd recommend to not sort by edition. It will drive you mad. I put all of my rares and mythics in binders. The commons and uncommons are separated and are then sorted by color then by creatures or spells. I can quickly find what I want with this system. I would occasionally cull through the cards and see which ones haven't been played for awhile or if they have printed a better version and move those to my trade binder. This is probably the most effective and sane system I've come up with and I've been at this for almost 20 years.

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I have a lot of cards (10k+ I'd bet) and I keep it simple. I keep the rares and mythic rares sorted by colors in a binder (Red, Green, White, Blue, Black, Colorless, Lands, Multicolored - I try to keep the multicolored ones of the same colors together too, like all the RB ones together, etc.) I keep all the rest (commons, uncommons) in boxes divided by color, similar to the binder. I will make exceptions and pull commonly used cards into the binder that would normally go in a box (like Skullclamp for example).

When I build decks, I usually figure out a theme or mechanic I want to play around and then choose colors that are going to support that. Recently I've been working on a Golgari themed commander deck. So I know I need to just worry about cards that are black, green, black and green or colorless. Therefore I only need to look at those parts of my collection. Since I can never remember all the cards from all the sets, I will pull those cards out and just look and see what might be viable before I make my final selections. Keeping the rares separate helps speed this up because they are typically powerful cards that I will want to use in a deck.

Ultimately my storage strategy is what makes deck building the easiest for me, since that is what I do most with my collection. If you trade more and want to be able to find specific cards quickly, my strategy would be horrible. Best thing I can recommend is to look at what you do with your cards the most and decide how to organize them to make that activity as painless as possible.

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We use the 'monster storage boxes' that hold 5000+ cards, and store them in IKEA Expedit shelving units (now called Kallax units). Our collection is 70,000+ cards at the moment, and we have multiple monster boxes for each color, sorted alphabetically. We originally had cards sorted alphabetically within sets, but that became too tedious so we took the set sort out. The most important tool for a collection this large is an inventory, we use deckbox.org and have been very pleased with the system and its recent improvements and updates. Plus, it's free and online, therefore is accessible from our phones or iPads anywhere. Others can view our collection and propose trades, as well.

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