Friday, July 31, 2009

Magic 2010 (M10) is here!

I just finally last night finished fully processing my Magic 2010 (M10) cards. I had 4 boxes' worth of Common cards sitting around waiting to be sorted, and I finished them off and made 8 more complete Common sets last night (to replace the 8 sets that were purchased yesterday by a customer in Italy).

M10 is as exciting as I was hoping it would be when it was first announced (read my post from back then if you need a refresher). There are many cards to be thrilled about, but for me one of the biggest "hot dang" moments was when I learned that this lovely card was being reprinted:

Lightning Bolt is back! As I explained in an earlier post, Lightning Bolt was one member of the one of the earliest Cycles in Magic, the "3 for 3" cycle that included Healing Salve, Ancestral Recall, Dark Ritual and Giant Growth. Of the 5, Giant Growth was the only one to survive all the way to 10th Edition, and in fact is in M10 as well. Lightning Bolt was decreed too powerful a card after 4th Edition and hasn't been in a set since. Until now, that is!

Other cards I'm excited about are Serra Angel (back at Uncommon where she belongs). I got many copies of this card (including 2 in foil) which is cool for me, because it's the only card I personally collect. The only disappointing thing about her being at Uncommon is that when I put together complete Uncommon sets, I have to include a copy of her as well! Agony!

The coolest of the new cards is this lovely lady:

Baneslayer Angel is a Mythic Rare for a reason, she has the exact same casting cost as my favorite Serra Angel, but is 5/5 against S.A.'s 4/4, and has First Strike, Lifelink and Protection from Dragons & Demons (the only thing S.A. has on her is Vigilance). She is the hottest card in the set right now, and I was fortunate enough to get 4 copies among the 10 boxes of M10 I opened up.

Nearly every single card from M10 is currently available at - and my eBay store includes unopened booster packs, and complete Basic Land, Common, and Uncommon sets.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Alara Reborn is here!

I have just finished getting all of the Alara Reborn singles up on Don's Magic and Sundry. Over at eBay I have booster packs, complete Common sets and complete Uncommon sets available. After opening 5 boxes' worth of booster packs, I obtained at least one copy of every card in the set except for 1 Mythic Rare card (Uril, the Miststalker), although I did get a copy of that card in Foil.

Alara Reborn is a rather different expansion. It's the first set ever that's "all gold" - that is, every single card is multicolored. In the past multicolored cards (first introduced in the Legends expansion way back when) have been a part of most sets, but usually only a small percentage of the cards. That means this set has no Land cards at all (Land cards, to date, are all colorless) which is rather rare these days.

My favorite card in the set is hard to pin down. I think it is most likely this lady:

This probably has something to do with my aforementioned fondness for the Serra Angel, since Jenara is an Angel herself, but she's also a kick-butt creature in her own right, and also one of the most popular cards in the set. The fact that you can, any time you have a leftover 1W in mana lying around, put a +1/+1 counter on her, so she grows over time....nasty! And, as you can tell from the red expansion symbol, the card is a Mythic Rare, so it's going to be much harder to get your hands on than most other cards in the set. As of this writing I have three copies available.

Another popular card in the set is the Meddling Mage.

This is actually a reprint of a card first introduced in the Planeshift expansion. I noticed last weekend (the weekend of the Pre-release, when the complete spoiler list for the set was let out) that I was getting more "hits" on the store's website from people searching for "Meddling Mage", and then someone finally bought the two copies of the card (in Japanese) that I had available. Then I looked at the spoiler list and found out why! Now that the card has been reprinted, it is once again "tourney legal", and those older cards (which were always pretty popular anyway) are now viable in a lot more decks, so they should show a marked rise in popularity. Too bad I have none of the older ones left - but (right now) I do have 4 copies of this new one available.

In other news, I continue to hack away at the large collections (including one of over 100,000 cards) that I have recently obtained, getting rares & foils listed in the store, and preparing to make a large number of complete Common & complete Uncommon sets for many different expansions. I should be busy for months getting these cards processed!

I have abandoned by Google Adwords experiment. While it was undeniably increasing traffic to the store (I had a few days where the total number of page loads went over 1,000), practically none of this traffic led to any sales (I think only 1 or 2, maybe). I just can't justify paying $0.20 or more per click when these clicks aren't generating any money. I'll just have to rely on word-of-mouth and regular Google searches to bring people to the store.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Oh, my gosh - I'm DONE!!!!!!!

The "Great Shift" was just finished. All of my single card inventory has now been moved over to (with only a few Conflux cards that I feature on eBay as an exception).

I cannot believe this! How long have I been working on this? Okay - I just checked my own blog. I announced my decision to move all the inventory over on January 1. Here it is almost the end of March, so 3 months.

Actually, it feels like a lot longer!

Anywhoo - this is AWESOME! My wife is quite sick of my happy dance, however.

In other news, I have recently signed up with Google AdWords, and have an ad campaign going on various and sundry (no pun intended) websites as a result. They offered me a $50 credit to try them out, so what the heck. The way this works is that I pay per "click" from the ad, whether that "click" leads to a sale or not. I've bid a maximum of $0.20 per click, and capped my bill at $15 per day - we'll see what happens. As of this writing I've had the ad running since last Tuesday (so not yet a week) and had 31 "clicks" for a total of $4.70. To the best of my knowledge none of those clicks has (yet) resulted in a sale.

Which leads me to another project (minor in comparison). I need to "jazz up" my home page so that people have more of a reason to search and (of course) buy. A lot of people are getting to the home page and then leaving, not even searching for a single card. I'm not sure yet how to fix this, but I'm working on some ideas.

Got to go and clean up a little bit of the "color" field for searches. I decided mid-way that I needed to keep "multi" color cards listed in WUBRG order (that's White, blUe, Black, Red, Green for you non-Magic readers), but some of the earlier entries say "Multi Green White" instead of "Multi White Green", for example. To make searches consistent, I need to standardize all of those. That clean-up should only take a half-hour at most, I'm estimating. I'm right now downloading my entire inventory as a spreadsheet, then I'll sort by the color field, and just find the ones that need to be edited, chop the rest, make the edits, upload those files, and "Bob's your uncle" as they don't actually say in England.

Then tomorrow I need to focus on some other things. My Brother-in-law and Mother-in-law each have given me items they'd like sold on eBay and I've been putting that off to get my stuff done. I need to switch gears and work on the other stuff for a while.

But, for tonight, I will bask in the glory of BEING DONE! Did I mention that?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Magic's 11th Edition - whoa, baby!

I just last night got around to reading this article on the Wizards of the Coast site that describes the major changes that will be coming for Magic's latest Core Set, which everyone assumed would be called the 11th Edition. Here's the main reasons why I am excited/interested/shocked from what I gleaned there:
  1. The name. Instead of calling it 11th Edition, they are instead calling it Magic the Gathering 2010 Core Set or just Magic 2010 for short. While this is odd and unexpected, it is not unprecedented to have an un-numbered Core set. The first 3 sets, in fact (Limited [consisting of Alpha and Beta], Unlimited and Revised) had non-number names. Only with 4th Edition did the numbers start. People sometimes retroactively refer to Revised as "3rd Edition" but that wasn't its official name.
  2. New cards. For the first time EVER (unless you count the very first Core set that introduced the game), a Core set will have brand-new, original, not reprinted from a previous set cards. This is HUGE! And the idea to make cards that are steeped in non-MtG fantasy roots is very cool. I love the idea of the card Silence, a card that hearkens to my days as a D&D cool!
  3. This lady: Serra Angel is my all-time favorite Magic card. I collect them. I'll often trade for them. And I never have them for sale on my site, because I keep each one I get my hands on. I somehow managed to get more 10th Edition Serra Angels than any other Rare card from that Core Set, I believe (I have 15 of them, and 1 in Foil). And while they were originally (in Alpha through 4th Edition) an Uncommon card, they were promoted to Rare in 7th Edition (after being retired from service for 5th and 6th Editions). And, if this photo from the article is to be believed, they are back to Uncommon again - meaning I should get more than ever! Woo-hooooo!
  4. Smaller set. This is going to be the smallest Core Set in quite some time. This will make it easier to complete my "virtual collection" of photos of the cards, and hopefully allow me to have enough duplicates of cards to allow people to purchase 4x playsets of the cards they're after from me.
  5. New Dual Lands. I'm chomping at the bit to find out new idea they have for Dual Lands that don't have the "drawback" of losing a life like the "Pain Lands" currently in the Core Sets.
  6. More frequent. For quite some time now the Core Sets have been released every other year. Now they plan to release a new Core Set annually. I hope they can keep up quality Core Sets on that kind of schedule.
  7. Black borders. In the past, since all the cards were reprints, the Core Sets had white borders in keeping with WotC policy. Looks like they are abandoning that entirely, and taking a clue from the popularity of the black borders used in 10th Edition they will keep printing the Core Sets with black borders. Awesome.
  8. Planeswalkers. These have been crazy-popular with the customers, and some of the most sought-after cards in recent sets have been Planeswalkers (Jace, Chandra, Garruk, Sarkhan and Nicol Bolas to name the biggest). And all five of the original Planeswalkers from Lorwyn will be reprinted in this set, as Mythic Rares.
All in all, a lot to be excited about. Now I can't wait until July 17!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Thoroughly spanked

That's how I would describe me after my latest Friday Night Magic (FNM) experience.

Last night I went to Dream Wizards for their weekly FNM tournament. This week's style was "booster draft", which was a style I wanted to see in action. I paid my $14 + tax entry fee and signed in, then awaited instructions.

There were 16 of us signed up this time (as opposed to 30+ at the sealed deck FNM I attended last month), and we were split up into 2 "pods" of 8 people. The 8 in each pod were arranged around two tables set up lengthwise against each other to form a square table space, with 2 people per side. The judge asked if anyone was there for their first draft experience.

I raised my hand.

I was the only one who did.

Of course.

So, the judge quickly ran through the idea for me. We would each be given 3 booster packs of Magic cards. 2 from the latest large set (Shards of Alara) and 1 from the most recent set (Conflux) [side note: presumably before Conflux was released this would have been 3 decks of Shards, and after the last set of the block, Alara Reborn, is released, it would be one of each]. Upon being told, we would each open up one pack of Shards, toss the basic land and insert card into the center of the table (they not being "draftable") and then look at the remaining 14 cards to decide which one card from that pack we would want to "draft" for ourselves, with the eye towards building a 40-card minimum deck to compete with later. Then the remaining 13 cards would be passed to the person on our left, and we would therefore receive 13 cards from the person on our right. This process continues, with one card being drafted from each set passed to us, until all 14 cards from each pack had been "drafted". Then we would open the second Shards booster, and repeat, only passing to the right instead. Finally the Conflux booster gets opened, and passed to the left again.

I wish I could tell you what I drafted each round, or what logic there was to my picks. The truth is there was not much logical thought involved. I picked cards that I could easily see how to play, without much thought on how they would play together. I focused on Red and Black, with a smattering of Blue. I got stuck with a couple of Green and White cards at the ends of packs, when there wasn't much to choose from. I quickly decided that I had no clue what the best method for drafting was, and that I was probably not going to do all that well. Still, I hoped it wouldn't be a disaster.

Basic Lands were made available to round out our decks, but I had brought my own. So, I picked the 32 cards I thought best, added 18 basic lands, and had a 50-card deck ready to go. The exact contents of the deck I'll post at the end like last time.

In Round 1 I faced off against someone I recognized from my first FNM (one of only two I can say that about). She had also been one of the "final 6" in Round 3. Unlike me, she won her last Round that night, and was one of the three top winners. This made me nervous to face up against her this time. She had been sitting to my right during the drafting. It turns out she had drafted an "Esper" deck, focusing on White/Blue/Black with a great deal of Artifact Creatures. She had cards that worked very well together, allowing her to regenerate her Creatures, gain life when she summoned an Artifact (or worse, take life from me while gaining life herself).
  1. in Game 1, while I did some damage to her, I never got her life total below the starting 20 life. She, on the other hand, drop my life steadily, 20 to 18 to 16 to 15 to 13 to 10 to 9 to DEAD.
  2. In game 2, I struggled mightily, held on for a MUCH longer time and finally defeated her. It wasn't easy, but I had the advantage of a Shore Snapper which I could give Islandwalk, and therefore it was unblockable since she had Islands in play. I whittled away at her life total, often only 2 points at a time, until she was finally defeated. Towards the end of this game the judge announced only 5 minutes left in Round 1.
  3. My opponent asked if I wanted to try a third game, since we had so little time left. Foolishly I agreed. We had a speed match, and while I manage to get her down to only 10 life, mine dropped 20 to 18 to 16 to 14 to 12 to 10 to 8 to 3 to DEAD. If I hadn't agreed on the third game, I believe we would have had a "draw", and each gotten 1 point towards the nightly total. Instead, she got 3 points for a win, and I got 0.
In Round 2 I faced off against the gentleman who had sat to my left during the drafting process. This was the fastest Round of the evening, and was extremely pathetic. Although he has lost his Round 1 (which was how we ended up against each other - we each had 0 points entering Round 2), he thoroughly trashed me (I'd say "ripped me a new one" is an appropriate expression in this case).
  1. Game 1: I never got in a point of damage against him. Meanwhile my life total: 20 to 19 to 14 to 6 to VERY DEAD.
  2. Game 2: I actually got a few licks in this time (I had had mana problems in Game 1), and got him down to 11. Meanwhile, I was 20 to 18 to 16 to 14 to 12 to 5 to DEAD.
  3. There was no need for Game 3 - the Rounds are best 2/3.
So I sit for a LONG time waiting for Round 2 to end, as mine went so quickly. I don't really know anyone at these affairs, and I'm not the greatest person in social situations (at least the initial getting to know someone part) so I sat alone, eavesdropping on conversations, toyed with my deck a little (you can modify your deck between Games & Rounds) and waited for everyone else to finish. Finally the Round 3 opponents are posted. Only two people in the tournament have 0 points at this time, me and my opponent for Round 3...

In Round 3 I think my deck and I gave the best showing of the evening.
  1. Game 1: this one was pathetic. I had massive mana problems, and should have mulliganed at the beginning to draw a new hand. I only got 3 damage in against him, while my life went 20 to 18 to 16 to 12 to 6 to 4 to DEAD.
  2. Game 2: big turn-around. He only got in 3 damage on me, while I picked him apart, finally hitting him at the end when he had 6 life left with a two-punch Blightning (for 3 points) followed by an attack of a Skeletal Kathari, which he couldn't block as it has Flying for 3 more points.
  3. Game 3 was a close match, but I got a slow start, which allowed him to pick at me initially. One more round and I would have had him (I had gotten Elder Mastery on my Undead Leotau so it was 6/7 and I could give it +1/-1 for R, but I only had four R available, so I could only hit him for 10, dropping him from 14 to 4), so while he was left with 4 life, I went 20 to 18 to 16 to 14 to 9 to 2 to DEAD.
So, I was the only person in the tournament to finish with 0 points. Really very sad. I held out a slim hope that I might win a random booster pack or special FNM foil. But, no, not even that. (My last opponent, however, did win one of the random foils - congrats to him). So, all in all, a pretty pathetic performance.

In case you would like to reconstruct my deck to see for yourself how truly sad it was, here's what was in it as of the final Round:
If it's Store Updates you're looking for, consider following me on Twitter. The 5 latest "tweets" are available over to the right on the Blog, but for the full story you should be following me. I'm less likely to post long Store Updates on the Blog from now on.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker the most popular (or at least the currently highest priced) card from the new Conflux set which was just released. Let's take a look, shall we?

Rather a nasty looking character, isn't he? He's the big bad evil genius behind the problems facing the Alara planes in the back-story to this set.

The card is a Mythic Rare, and if you remember your lesson from before, that makes it 8x more rare than a Rare.

And somehow I managed to pull 4 copies of it in less than 5 boxes that I opened. What are the odds? Let's see...I opened 177 packs - that's 177 Rares/Mythic Rares. If 1/8 are Mythic Rares, then I should have pulled ~22 of them. There are 10 possible Mythic Rares, so theoretically I should have averaged just over 2 copies per by random distribution. I did, indeed, pull 22 Mythic Rares (that much worked) and I got 2 copies of most of them. However two of them I only got 1 copy each of, and two I got 4 copies each of (Child of Alara being the other one besides Nicol himself).

Nicol Bolas actually has a bit of history in Magic: the Gathering. He first appeared as an "Elder Dragon Legend" (later renamed "Legendary Elder Dragon") in the Legends expansion. That card was reprinted in the Chronicles expansion, and again as a Timeshifted card in Time Spiral. The original Nicol Bolas looked like this:

He doesn't look quite so menacing in this one, does he? In the back-story for Time Spiral, Nicol Bolas gained the "Planeswalker spark" and left Dominaria to find some other plane to take over - and he has set his sights on the Shards of Alara.

In other Conflux news, I also got 4 copies of the second-most pricey card in the set, a regular Rare called Noble Hierarch (and got 2 additional copies of the Foil version). This just amazes me. I think I got VERY lucky with the case that I ordered. And there are (at the moment) still 39 booster packs left of that case available for sale at my eBay store! So you, too, could partake of the lucky case!

I opened enough packs to make 21 complete common sets and 8 complete uncommon sets and still have cards left over to stock the singles section in the "branch store" (which is fast becoming the main store, actually, so maybe I should stop calling it that?). And I have at least 2 of every Rare available (and more than that for most of them).

Conflux is the first set that I have put ALL of my singles for up in the regular store. The last couple of sets I put Rares, Mythic Rares and most Foil cards up on the eBay store initially. But in keeping with my new policy (and the Great Shift project), I am no longer listing singles on eBay unless to put them up for auction or Buy It Now. No more Store items for single cards.

I love my customers!

Josh, a return customer of mine, just let me know yesterday that he's a graphic designer, and he wanted to make a new store logo for me as a gesture of appreciation. Here's the result:

Is that cool or what? I've already got it swapped out at the main store pages, and will swap it out at the top of this Blog as soon as I figure out how to do so :-)

Thanks, Josh!

On another note, I'm now on Twitter - so if you'd like to follow me there, go to and you can start following the fun. I was giving running updates during my crazy Conflux opening party (only one guest: me!) yesterday.

I'll give a more detailed report on Conflux later (either this evening or tomorrow, hopefully), but I have to spend the day taking photos of the new cards and processing them, and getting them listed. Fun, fun, FUN!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I'm Google-icious!

So, the exciting news is that ProStores has a system in place through which one can upload their store's inventory into Gooogle's shopping system, so that their items show up in Google shopping searches. So, naturally, I have (finally) done this, and the store's web traffic has increased as a result. I am very excited about this. I even had my first sale this way this morning, where a customer bought a $0.40 card. It's not much, but it's a start!

If you'd like to see such a search result (the one that actually lead to my sale this morning, actually), then check out this Google search.

Also, somehow when we restructured the store so that everything was through the URL, the items became more "search-friendly" as far as Google is concerned, so my items are showing up more readily in regular Google searches as well. An example can be found in this Google search.

Please note that both of these searches work as of this writing, but who knows what the results may be days/weeks/months from now, so if you're clicking these a good deal of time after January 25, 2009 then don't be surprised if they don't work.

Here's hoping increased traffic leads to increased sales as it should!

As for The Great Shift (the name I've given to the major project I have moving my singles inventory from the eBay store), I have finished the last 5 expansion sets now and just today I got Coldsnap moved over. I'll start on Alliances and Ice Age next to finish the "Ice Age Block". After that I'm not sure yet - I've decided to bounce around a bit instead of just heading backwards or forwards through the sets. A lot of hits to my store over the last couple of days have been for non-English cards, so I may get more of those listed before I do more English ones. We'll see.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Friday Night Magic and me (warning - a long one this time!)

A day earlier than promised...

So, last Friday (Jan 16 for those keeping score) my wife made sure to be home on time from work so that I could make it to Dream Wizards in Rockville by 6:30 for the beginning of my very first tournament. So, off I went, armed with pen, score pad (that I had obtained as part of someones collection - "Lot 42", I believe), life counter, small glass beads for counters and several Shards of Alara token Creature cards that I believe may come in useful.

SIDE NOTE: I decided I could "pimp" Dream Wizards even though we are (strictly speaking) competitors because they don't do a whole lot of selling online, and that's all I do - so most reading this are unlikely to go to them instead of me. And, also, they seem like very nice folk.

Anyway, I arrived about 5 minutes early and after a little confusion over where to go finally found out I needed to register at the register (cash, that is). So, I signed up, got my DCI card filled out, and paid my $21.20 (it's $20 + 6% MD sales tax). Then I proceeded to the back 40% or so of the store which is dedicated to playing tables.

The geek factor was pretty high. Being a geek myself, I can say this. Lots of long hair, unwashed bodies, pale skin, and (to put it kindly) nonathletic physiques. But, really, this is to be expected - many stereotypes exist for a reason. And, being bald, I'm probably just jealous of the long hair.

Anyway, many people there knew each other (or so it seemed). There was showing off of Magic collections, trading of Magic cards, and playing of Magic games all going on. At about 6:45 or so the 2 judges (one "in training" and running parts of the tourney for the first time) really started getting the ball rolling. The participants were shown to a select set of tables and given our "product" - one unopened Tournament Deck and 2 unopened Booster Packs of Shards of Alara (the latest expansion). We tore open our packs and took a look at what we had available to arm ourselves with for the coming battles.

In a deck you get three rares. In a booster you get 2. So, total, I had five rares to work with. Two were copies of the same card, Hell's Thunder:

Not a bad card to have in a deck, because it's quick (it has Haste so it can attack the turn it's summoned) and it has Flying - a very useful ability. At 4/4, it's fairly powerful. And, while it is sacrificed at end of turn, it also has Unearth, so you can pull it back from your graveyard for a second attack before it leaves the game. And having two in your deck means that you can, potentially, get four 4-point sneak attacks in against your opponent.

Rare #3 was Sigil of Distinction, a sneaky card that gives a nice +X/+X bonus to the Creature it Equips, and I planned to use it on the Hell's Thunder if I got a chance.

Rare #4 was Vicious Shadows, a nasty card that deals damage to your opponent whenever a Creature goes to the graveyard. Like, say, when your Hell's Thunder is sacrificed at end of turn.

Rare #5 was Invincible Hymn, a card that can potentially boost your life total if you play it early enough in the game. But as this was a sealed-deck tournament, with a minimum deck size of 40 cards, this card didn't have as much potential as it could have.

So, 3/5 of my Rares were Red cards, making me lean towards a chiefly Red deck. Also, I had more Red cards in the Uncommons & Commons than any other color, so that clinched it. I considered playing the Shard called "Jund", centered on Red, with Black and Green assisting. While I had a fair amount of Black cards, I had very little Green from Jund (I had a fair number from other shards that would have required White, and I didn't have enough White to justify that). So, instead, I decided to go "Grixis", the shard centered on Black with Blue and Red assisting. And since I had more Blue and Black than Green and White, it all made sense.

I pulled out all my Red, Black and Blue that didn't depend on White or Green (some Blue Creatures have abilities that require White mana, for example), I found I had ~34 cards. I decided to drop one, and add 17 basic Lands, for a total of 50 cards, with ~1/3 being basic land mana. I also had some non-basic Lands and artifacts that could produce mana, so I wasn't too worried about getting the dreaded "mana screw".

For the folks who REALLY want to know, here's deck configuration I entered into Round 1 with:

I was pleased with some of the possible combinations in this deck. I REALLY hoped that I would get a chance to bring in a Hell's Thunder, equip it with Sigil of Distinction to boost it up, then cast Soul's Fire on it after attacking with it. Thus doing 2x its pumped-up power in damage to my opponent in a single turn. If the Sigial had 6 counters on it, that's 20 damage, and bye-bye opponent!

A nice gentleman who was sitting next to me during deck building asked if I wanted to play a practice game before the rounds started (we were both done before time was called) so we started off. I relearned some stuff (and learned new other stuff) just in that practice, so I'm grateful to him for suggesting it.

In Round 1 I faced off against someone who hadn't played for quite some time (although not as long as me!). He came with a friend that he had, judging by their discussions, only just recently taught the game (or refreshed his memory). Said friend drew an Ajani Vengeant, one of the most popular cards in the Set - a Mythic Rare Planeswalker - then asked "what's a Planeswalker?" Oh, boy.

Anyway, my opponent and I had a die roll, which he won. He chose to play first (the first player to have a turn does not draw a card that turn, so a decision is made as to who will "play first" and who will "draw first"). He was not happy with his initial hand, and declared a "mulligan", allowing him to shuffle his deck and draw 1 less card than he had to start. Again not happy, he mulliganed. And again. Finally, with only four cards in his hand, he decided to play with what he had. He couldn't really recover from this set-back, and I was able to win - although the game did take a while. Somehow the second game went MUCH faster, as he had really bad luck with his draws, and I won that one in short order. At this point he thought we were playing best 2-of-3, and I thought we played three games, so we decided to go ahead and play a third. I won this one as well, and he took the report slip up to the judges. Whereupon it was brought back to us for correction, as my opponent had been correct and we were only supposed to play best 2-of-3. Whoops!

Round two: I noticed that I was now pitted up against another player who had 3 points (you get 3 points for a win). He was a friendly and cheerful sort (he actually reminded me quite a bit of my friend Alan - the gent who sold me "Lot 4" oh so long ago). He was also a fan of the mulligan, and started all three of our games at a deficit. I won the first game, and barely lost the second. I should have won, as I had a Fire-Field Ogre in my graveyard that had Unearth, and I forgot about it and didn't bring it into play when I could have (and should have) which would have allowed me to bash him for his last remaining 6 life (I had the Sigil in play and could have Equipped the Ogre with it). I think I was still in awe of his extremely well-played prior turn, where he zapped the two weenie 1/1 Creatures I had in play, then cast a Fleshbag Marauder that forced me to sacrifice my Ogre - which is how the Ogre got into the graveyard in the first place. The third game, however, I was able to pull out a win on, so 6 points total, and off to Round 3...

At the beginning of Round 1 there were ~33 people competing. By the beginning of Round 3 there were 22 left (you have the option to drop out, of course, which I guess if you lost two rounds in a row you may want to do). 6 of us had 6 points - and we were paired off against each other at tables 1-3. My opponent I had noticed earlier - he has a spectacular British accent. He is also, I believe, one of (if not THE) best player at the event. Not so lucky for me. He beat me soundly in two games (although, to be fair to myself, I had LOUSY luck in my draws). I had him initially in game 1, but after a shaky start he stepped up and finished me off.

I had thought that there was to be a Round 4, but at this point the tournament was called and the prizes announced. The top three people (9 points each) each got one of the fancy Foil FNM prize cards and several booster packs of Shards of Alara. Those of us in the next tier (6 point, I guess) got a single booster pack each. One random person (not me) was drawn to receive the fourth FNM foil.

So, all in all, I think it went far better than it had any right to go, given how long I've been "out of the game" as it were. Handling & selling these cards just isn't the same thing as playing the game. I had a blast though, and I'm looking forward to going back. I need to experience a "booster draft" tournament, which I think the run on FNM the first Friday of the month. Also, at the end of January is the big Pre-Release party for Conflux, which I would like to go to. There they have booster draft tournaments with packs from the new set the week before it's released, and participants get the cool foil Pre-Release card for the set.

Store update - computer woes

Last week on Monday I was advised that it might be a good idea to back up my important files off-site, and a company called Carbonite was recommended. I signed up for their free trial and started the initial backup process, which can take several days, since it runs in the background while the computer is not in use.

I decided to leave the computer on all Monday night to let the backup continue and maybe speed things up.

I then proceeded to run the computer hard all Tuesday, as I am trying to get all the single card inventory out of eBay and over to the "branch store" (as you may recall from an earlier update).

Somewhere in all of this I must have overheated something, and when a Windows update came in Tuesday night requiring the computer to be restarted, it decided that it had had enough, and died.

A man who runs an e-store, with a dead computer. This is definitely in the NOT GOOD category.

Wednesday I get by on borrowing my wife's laptop for the day. Thursday I resurrect an old Gateway PC we have lying around the basement that was still running WINDOWS 98! and used it for the day. Finally on Friday I obtained a newer, faster, nicer computer (upon which I am writing these words). I have nearly filled up the hard drive trying to get all my old files transferred over - so I'm looking at turning the hard drives from the old computer into external hard drives for this one, or just getting a nice external myself...we'll see (there's no room inside the new computer for a second drive).

On a more positive note I am on a roll with getting inventory transferred over. I have now completed all Core Sets, so everything I have available from Unlimited Edition up through 10th Edition (I don't have anything in Alpha or Beta right now) is now for sale at I have decided to work my way backwards through the expansion sets, so I have already gotten the most recent expansion, Shards of Alara, up (just finished earlier today) and will attack Eventide next.

I still haven't managed to get the kinks out of the search process, so although it looks like you can search for multiple colors you can't really just yet, unless you enter them all on one line and it happens to match the same order I entered the keywords in (in other words, searching for "Multi White Blue" does not produce the same results as searching for "Multi Blue White"). Anyone reading this a programming guru who can tell me how to overcome this problem?

Tomorrow look for my report on my first tournament - on Friday I went and signed up for my DCI membership and participated in Friday Night Magic. And if I do say so myself, I didn't do too badly for my first time out!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Another bold new direction...

Or, perhaps, a foolish one?

The local comic shop where I get my weekly "fix" (come on - you already know I read comics or you haven't been paying attention!) also sells Magic: the Gathering booster packs. [Most comic stores have to also sell gaming and various sci-fi & fantasy stuff to stay afloat.] Free Plug for the gang: Beyond Comics in Gaithersburg!

I was approached by the owner, who knows I run my Magic store, to see if I would be interested in running a series of Magic tournaments at the shop. I'd be allowed to sell my singles there (but not my boosters - wouldn't want to compete with the host, now, would I?) and it would help the store by bringing in a regular clientele (theoretically, anyway).

So, I will soon be embarking on a fact-finding mission to attend a tournament at a gaming store that's a few towns south of here. They run regular Friday Night Magic tournaments, as well as more major pro-tour qualifier tourneys and even host Magic pre-release parties. I'd like to attend a FNM shindig, and also attend their Conflux pre-release party at the end of the month (Conflux is the next set to be released, to come out the first week in February - the pre-release events are the last week in January).

I've never been to any kind of official Magic event before, despite being in the business of selling cards, packs, etc for years now. Since I don't play too often any more, I've been a little nervous. But if I'm going to be running one of these things, I think I ought to see how they run at a place that's been doing it (and doing it well from what I understand) for a while now. I'm not sure yet if they are deserving of a Free Plug so I will refrain for now (especially if I find out they deal in Magic singles also - I can't advertise my competition!!!).

I will, of course, report back once more is known....

Okay - one other note. Is anyone else saying to themselves "WTH?!?! Not only is this the fourth post in one month, but it's the second in one DAY?!?!" Yeah, I know, I'm freaking myself out too......I guess I just am THAT excited about all this stuff!

I'm so excited!

And I just can't hide it!

Okay - enough of the lyrics (but now that song's stuck in your head, isn't it? Bwa-ha-ha-ha!).

This weekend we relaunched Don's Magic and Sundry.
  • The whole site got a major overhaul, with a new "Theme". I think the new layout looks MUCH more professional. There's a "Shopping Cart" button, many more cards show up per line on a search, the colors are SO much more attractive than the old look....
  • The old Abilities and Shipping pages (along with this Blog) were brought into one site [they used to be housed on a separate server from the Store itself]. This allows the Abilities & Shipping pages, for example, to have the Catalog links in the left-hand margin like every other page, making the place feel more like a cohesive unit. Also, hopefully, making it more likely that people who find the site through a Google search for a Magic Ability will then proceed to go shopping!
  • The new, stronger, Advanced Search (see last post) continues to become more useful as I get more and more inventory updated with the proper tags that the search can recognize. As of this writing I've made it through 8th Edition in the Core Sets. Once I get through 10th Edition I will start the expansion sets, and I think I'll start with the latest (Shards of Alara) and work my way backwards.

If you haven't yet, PLEASE pop over to and take a look. You won't (I assure you) be disappointed.

On a related note: My wife (who usually prefers to hide in the shadows here and will probably not be thrilled with the mention here) dedicated many hours of service in this endeavor. She is my webmistress, and while I continue to learn more and can do more myself, she is the one who worked so hard on getting the theme to work, getting the Blog moved over, setting up a new mailing list process (the old one had to be sacrificed in the move - thankfully only 8 people were registered!)...I owe here a HUMONGOUS debt of thanks, and so here, publicly, I give it. Thank you my dear, I really appreciate your time and effort (especially for what you no doubt still think is just a silly hobby. ).

Okay, enough sappy stuff. Go look at the site. Ooh, aah, buy something...

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Excitement abounds - new search at The Sundry

[Yeah - I know - two posts in one month. Can you believe it??!!!!!]

As part of the move to get the "branch store" busier, I have decided that the Advanced Search function needs to be more user-friendly, and more useful as well. Towards that end, I am, as I go along getting the eBay inventory moved over to, adding four "tags" to each inventory item. These will be searchable, and should increase the flexibility of a customer's quest to find the perfect card. You can check out the new search page at:

The four "tags" (technically called "Custom Fields" in the ProStores jargon) are:
  1. Color: This has five search fields, and a user can enter into each of the fields any of the five colors (White, Blue, Black, Red and Green) or "Colorless", plus "Multi" if the card is more than one color. So far I haven't been able to fine-tune the search process, and if you enter "White" for Color 1 and "Red" for Color 2 you get all items that are White and also all that are White and Red. What should happen is you only get the items that are White and Red. I need to work out this kink.
  2. Card Type: This has two search fields (I may add one more later) and a user can enter into each of the fields any of the eight card types (Artifact, Creature, Enchantment, Instant, Land, Planeswalker, Sorcery, and Tribal). As with color, a card may be multiple types (a "Tribal Sorcery" for example), so this should, if Tribal is entered as Type 1 and Sorcery is entered as Type 2, produce only cards that are Tribal and Sorcery, but I suspect that doesn't work right yet either.
  3. Card Sub-Type: This has three search fields and a user can enter into each of the fields a Creature type (like "Goblin" or "Elf") or several other sub-types that distinguish one card from another (some Enchantments are "Aura", and some are "World"; any type of card may be "Legendary").
  4. Rarity: This has only one search field, and a user can enter any of the five rarity types (Basic Land, Common, Uncommon, Rare, or Mythic Rare). This is a somewhat redundant search, since I include this information in the title of each inventory item (example: "Llanowar Elves - 10th Edition - Common") but just in case it's not obvious that the rarity is searchable within the name, I am including it as its own Custom Field.

What has me baffled at the moment is that searching for two different Custom Fields produces a Boolean relationship I would expect. In other words if you search for Color: White and Card Type: Creature you get all the cards that are labelled as White and Creature, but not cards labelled White that aren't labelled Creature, or Creature but not White. That's what I want if you search within a single Custom Field as well (Color: White and Color: Red yields only things that are White and Red) but I haven't gotten it licked yet. I may not be able to.

So now, in addition to moving over 3000+ items from eBay to the other store, I also need to edit the 50,000+ items already over there. I may be done before 2010. Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A New Year, a New Direction

I can't believe I'm doing this to myself....

I have decided, due to various factors including eBay's crazy changing of rules all the time, that what I need to do is take all of my single cards down off of my eBay store and move them to the "branch store" at instead.

I am staring down the barrel of another great "culling" by eBay of my inventory. As you may recall, last year (October?) I lost about half of my inventory as eBay took down any items that were listed at under $1. Well, eBay's latest policy change is that personal checks and money orders (in short, non-electronic payments) are no longer acceptable for eBay transactions.

The problem is that for the last who knows how long, my boilerplate "checkout message" has said that PayPal is preferred, but that checks & money orders would be accepted. If eBay lives up to their promise, then come January 16th any of my items with this wording will be taken down, and I'd have to relist them all at that point.

My only other option would be to edit 3000+ items one at a time, because the checkout instruction message is not one of the things you can edit by a bulk edit. And even if I could, I would be unable to edit the message on any item where even one of them had sold (you may recall me hitting that problem last year when the USPS got rid of "Air Mail Letter" and replaced it with "First Class International").

So, essentially, I have finally had it with eBay as far as having a massive inventory over there is concerned. I will still leave up my booster packs and complete common sets as they are more easily dealt with over there. But the bulk of my inventory will move to the "branch store". The big pluses include:
  • Easier to control inventory (adding/subtracting cards)
  • Easier to bulk edit if need be (I can download my inventory as a spreadsheet, do a massive "Find/Replace" and upload the file back up and there you go!)
  • I can still move selected items over to eBay, but if purchased they will be taken to my branch store's checkout, and may then go further shopping over there
  • Fees on successful sales MUCH lower through ProStores than at eBay (or as some have taken to calling it, "feeBay")

This decisions brings with it some pains in the butt, however:

  • The branch store's website needs some revamping to make it more attractive and user-friendly to encourage more people to buy there
  • I have 3000+ items that need to be moved (UGH!) - which means modifying the old photos to the "branch store" standard, typing the descriptions, etc.
  • I need to increase advertising and the like to bring customers to the branch store, because it doesn't have as many purchases as I need to justify it

All in all, I now have my work cut out for me again. And to think I was wondering what I was going to do with my free time now that I finally got all my English cards up!

I'll try to make regular updates as I can to let you loyal readers (all 2 of you!) know how things are progressing. Hopefully I can get a large number of cards moved over before the forced purge from eBay later this month.