Building On a Budget
Kenny Wisdom teaches you how to get the most bang for your buck!
12/27/2014 by Kenny Wisdom
The question I am asked the most, by a very wide margin, is "What is the most cost-effective way to play the Pokémon TCG competitively." While a lot of players are interested in building a cost-effective deck, I've found that in the long run, the majority want/need to know how to build a competitive collection without breaking the bank. After all, playing budget decks can be fun, and they're certainly a good starting point, but eventually you're going to want to fully invest. Today I'm going to share a few tips and tricks that will hopefully save you some money in the long run!
I know that the idea of buying singles is tough for some, after all, you're spending a lot of money for what ends up being very few cards (as compared to a booster box, or even a theme deck). However, over the long-run you'll learn that buying singles is the most cost-effective way to stay competitive in the game. Spending $100 per booster box and cracking packs, while fun, is usually not going to earn you your $100 back, and will typically leave you with half-complete playsets and a bunch of useless cards.
However, if you absolutely cannot bring yourself to buy singles, there are some advantages to buying sealed products. I would recommend that you separate your box contents into two piles, one of playable cards that you will add to your collection, and one of cards that you are going to sell at bulk prices using buylists. For those unaware, most card websites will buy any card in good conditon for something between $.05 - $.10, depending on rarity. While this doesn't sound like a lot, once you've got a few thousand cards in that pile (it'll add up quick, believe me) you've got a relevant amount of money on your hands. Recycling through your cards like this is a good way to ensure that you're getting at least a little value back from your booster boxes.
The Red Genesect Collection
I know that I just spent a paragraph explaining that you shouldn't buy sealed product. However! The Red Genesect collection is absolutely one of the best purchases a new player can make. In addition to receiving a half-decke pre constructed deck, you'll also open the following...
2 Ultra Ball
2 Professor Juniper
2 Energy Retrieval
1 Silver Bangle
1 Silver Mirror
Buying two of these ensures that you will have playsets of important cards like Professor Juniper, N, Skyla, and Ultra Ball, which are absolutely crucial to competitive play. Not to mention that all of the cards in the deck are reverse foil! Which brings me to my next topic...
Play Lowest Rarity
I love foil cards. I play with the highest rarity cards I can get my hands on. Everything is Full-Art, Secret Rare, reverse foil, etc., etc. I have sort of an obsession with the art of my cards, and the aesthetics are important to me. However, if you're aiming to play Pokemon on the cheap, you need to avoid foils and full arts at all costs.
All isn't lost, though! A player on a budget will be able to use any FAs or foils that he or she comes across as great trade value. Often times, the value of a single full art copy of a card will be enough to buy an entire playset of the non-premium version, with a little bit leftover!
Additionally, I do believe there is some value in acquiring full arts and other premium cards, but only once you've amassed a suitablle collection. Having premium cards lying around means that you always have some value, whether you're in a bind and need to sell some cards, or whether you just want to turn your pretty cards into usable ones, foils are not a bad buy at all once you've got a little wiggle room.
I used to be a pretty active trader. I had an organized binder and knew the values of all of the cards off the top of my head, and would spend time between rounds scouting other players binders, trying to leave the event with as much value as possible.
Unfortunately, that is a lot harder to do now. The high majority of good, expensive cards are going to be very obviously good, and therefore expensive and sought after right out of the gate.
Still, it's entirely possible to make value trades, especially once you've built up a solid base of staples. The great thing about the Pokemon TCG is that, while there are going to be a few expensive cards in every deck, some amount of your deck is going to be made up of cheap Energy, somewhat cheap Trainers, and sometimes Basic Pokemon, Stage Ones, etc, many of which can be swapped out between decks, leaving you only the responsibility of making sure you have whatever expensive EXs you need for that particular weekend's tourament.
I should note that I do not believe in scamming players, whatsoever. While I do think that you should try to extract as much value as possible from any given trade, it is important to be honest and fair with price evaluations, and to never be aggressive or otherwise intimidate players into trading with you. Be calm, be fair, and try to make sure all parties are walking away happy.
In the Summer of 2011, my good friend Amelia Bottemiller and I were testing decks for the newly-announced HGSS-on format, when we discovered that Cleffa from HGSS was very good and very inexpensive. We ended up buying one of the largest retailers out of reverse foil Cleffas for $.50. We bought something like 200 of them, like I said, everything they had in stock. I don't remember what Amelia ended up doing with hers, but I waited two months and re-sold mine back to that same vendor for $2.50 each!
Speculating is a lot harder now, though. Like I said above, most of the cards coming out nowadays are very obviously good or bad, which makes finding underrated cards and hidden gems pretty difficult. Not impossible, though! I think the key at this point in the game is to do what we did for Cleffa, not necessarily looking at new cards, but studying the format deeply and trying to find inexpensive cards from older sets that you think could have a real impact in the future. It's going to be a bit harder to track down, no doubt, but I fully believe there is another Cleffa HGSS out there, waiting to make someone a lot of money.
That's all I've got for today, thanks for reading!
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