The Staple Binder – Making the Most of Your Collection

This past week, @seantabares and @andyhullbone, the guys at The Commander’s Brew podcast talked about a really cool idea that I believe many kitchen table players could benefit from thinking about.  That idea is the staple binder (Episode 22). A staple binder isn’t necessarily a binder with plastic card protector sheets. It is simply a collection of cards that are moved back and forth between decks, designed to reduce the cost of building new decks.

It’s easy to lose track of what your money is worth when buying Magic cards on the secondary market. Most gamers grimace when forking over $50 for a new board game with tons of miniatures, new rules, a board, dice, and even set pieces including furniture! An entire Settlers of Catan game is less than $40 and can be used by multiple people for endless hours of fun. $50 for any Magic deck is considered budget, and is the line that The Commander’s Brew uses when making new budget EDH decks. In order to keep the money from hemorrhaging to the point of wallet-death, the guys at @commandersbrew propose sharing cards between decks and to organize them into a a personal set called the staple binder. Well, I am not one hundred percent sure that they came up with the idea, but I can’t find reference to it anywhere else, so I am giving them the credit. Let me also say that I love this idea, and I am reorganizing all eight of my EDH decks with a staple binder per their suggestion. I’d like to tell you why.

How It Works

To get started with a staple binder, use your tappedout or deckbox lists to identify all the shared cards between your EDH decks that cost $1 or more. Make a list of these cards (staples) for each deck. Pull all of those cards from those decks, and place one copy of each into a box or binder (Staple Binder). Be sure to organize that box/binder in whatever way makes it easiest for you to pull and return the cards quickly. Before each game of Magic, check the list of staples in the deck you wish to play. Pull the staples from the Staple Binder and add them to the deck. Play Magic. After the game, check the list again and remove all of the staples from the deck and put them back into the binder. It’s that simple. It takes between two to five minutes to pull and switch staples to switch decks.

To make the staple binder more convenient, you can sleeve all of your decks with the same color and style sleeves so you don’t have to sleeve and unsleeve your staples. This seems like a no-brainer, but if you are the type that likes your sleeves to match your deck’s theme, this might be a tough pill to swallow. It is also an initial cost to setting up the staple binder that should be cosidered when determining if a staple binder is right for you. You can organize your staples in a box or binder depending on your preferences. The guys at @commandersbrew also recommend to keep a card-sized list of staples with each deck to easily identify the staples needed for each deck. This reduces the time you need to swap staples between decks.

Staple Binder Bonuses

Having a staple binder allows me to make new decks for far cheaper than I could previously. I included all of the fetches, shock-lands, temples, tri-lands, and other utility lands in my staple binder. I’ve included many of the artifact ramp cards like [card]Gilded Lotus[/card], [card]Sol Ring[/card], [card]Chromatic Lantern[/card], and the signets. Commander keepers like [card]Lightning Greaves[/card] and [card]Swiftfoot Boots[/card] are also in the binder. Granted, each of these cards isn’t that expensive, but added up, they can be $100 or more for each new deck. With a staple binder, I just use the same copy for each new deck, and that allows me to either save money on each deck or spend a little more on the cards that make each deck special.

The cards that my decks share currently make up approximately $1,700. If I sold the extra copies of those cards for 50% market value right now, I could recoup $500! I’d like to turn my extra copies into Zendikar fetches or other cards for my decks, both new staples and cards that go in just one deck.

One of the best bonuses to having a staple binder is that when considering whether to buy an expensive card to add to a Commander deck, I know that I can include it in more than one deck with just the one copy! That makes purchasing things like old dual lands or modern staples more enticing and makes multiple decks better with just one card.

Be Aware of the Potential Drawbacks

The guys in my playgroup are open to the idea of using a staple binder, but they are leery of some of the negatives. First, once you have a staple binder, your decks might start to look more and more like one another. The other side to this is that you can make new decks more cheaply and that will encourage more diversity in a particular playgroup. If you find that the games get predictable because the cards in play tend to be the same no matter what decks are being played, it’s time to have a conversation with your group about setting ground rules for the staple binder. You can limit the number of cards that can be used from the staple binder in each deck or limit the number of decks that any particular staple can be included in. There are options to use the staple binder responsibly. No one wants all the games to look the same.

Second, If you can include the “best cards” in every deck, why wouldn’t you? Won’t the power level of everyone’s deck get out of control? I don’t think this will be a problem with my group because we check each other pretty regularly about the 75% rule. If a deck feels too overpowering or oppressive, we talk about it and the pilot takes a little off the throttle. I don’t think that the staple binder will change that for us, but for other groups this may be a problem to look out for. There is a hidden benefit here as well. One of the worst feelings in EDH is getting mana screwed. If you are able to play better lands because you only need one of each for all your decks, you are less likely to have this feeling. If everyone plays better lands, then everyone gets to play more Magic, which is generally good for all.

If you want to transform your extra cards into playable decks and increase the deck-diversity of your playgroup, introduce the idea of a staple binder. I plan to post again on the Brew after my group has adopted it for a few months to see any additional benefits or drawbacks, so check back to see the update. If you have any suggestions of cards you would include in your staple binder, post them in the comments.

About the Author
David has been an on and off Magic player since the very 1st set back in 1993. He is an active card trader on PucaTrade and Deckbox under the name Rheebus, a name he used for 7 years on Dungeons and Dragons Online. He produced the longest-running segment to DDOCast called Rheebus the Rogue's Top Ten, and now aspires to contribute actively to the Magic community through writing.

6 comments on The Staple Binder – Making the Most of Your Collection

  1. Mike says:

    Yea this works pretty well, I’ve been doing it pretty much since I started playing commander 2 years ago. It’s actually one of the things that attracted me to commander. When I used to play magic I always wanted to add the expensive cards I knew the deck needed. But it drove me nuts that not only did I need a whole bunch of them, I really needed a full playset. I immediately latched on to the commander format because a) it’s a blast and b) as I want to level up my decks I only need one copy of the expensive stuff.

    Now I don’t actually have a binder, I just have an additional deckbox I carry around that has staples. My group plays after work a lot and I walk to work so everything I need has to be able to fit in a backpack along with all my work stuff. A binder isn’t a bad idea but i think it might be too big for me.

    Also when I started I tried the checklist idea you are talking about. It worked great for the first one but it always bothered me how long it took to switch decks. Going through the deck I was playing with and double checking with the list to track down the staples always seemed to take forever. And then I had to pull the ones out for the new deck. And then repeat later if I wanted to switch again.

    Anyway I felt really bad making my group wait that long. So I came up with a new system.
    1. I set a minimum for staples to reduce the number of them. If a card is $3 or less I buy it. If it’s $3-$5 and I don’t have a playset yet then I try to buy it although it depends how much the necessary new cards cost. If it’s $5+ it gets shared.
    2. I realized the slowest part was going back and forth to the checklist, especially as it got long. So what I did is make every deck the full 100 but the staples are replaced by proxies. Then to play a deck I quickly sort out the proxies and swap them one by one with the real cards from the staple pile. I then invert the process to put a deck away since the only proxies in the staple pile are from that deck.

    I know the proxy thing is essentially a different form of checklist but I like it better because I have a physical thing to check in and out and can visually match them up. It goes easier and faster for me that way. Also one of my main groups really doesn’t care if people play with proxies as long as they are images of the actual cards. Naturally this was the group most annoyed by the swapping since they didn’t really get the point. This way I can simply play with that group, no swapping needed.

    1. Jared says:

      I love the idea of doing this with proxies. Who did you buy your proxies from?

  2. David Beedy says:

    Thanks for reading, Mike!

    @Ketjak from Commanderin’ MTG Podcast and The Five Commanders uses proxies too. He swears by it. I’ve been using a sorted checklist. I have the cards on the list sorted by color and then alphabetized. My staples are organized the same way. I find that it takes two minutes or less to swap cards out of deck 1 and then into deck 2. It takes a bit or organizing work at home to keep this system fit, but it’s quick during game night.

    I’ve taken to replacing nearly all shared cards in all decks. Sharing the lower priced staples isn’t so much about saving money as it is about quickly recognizing which cards to take out when swapping staples. Cards like Arcane Lighthouse, which are cheap, but are shared among many decks still get swapped, because I can quickly shuffle through the deck and pull all cards that I recognize as shared. Even though it is more cards to switch, I find it takes the same or less time because there is no confusion. If it’s a staple, it gets swapped.

  3. William says:

    I only get to play a couple of times a month and my finances can’t keep up with standard and my pet modern deck got banned when birthing pod left. So I have switched to commander because I can afford one expensive card instead of a play set and I find the multiplayer aspect a blast. It’s like opening Settlers of Catan and playing with a group or we play commander. Either way I’m hanging out with my friends enjoying a game.
    I have been slowly moving towards this system in the past couple of months. I have been selling off all my expensive duplicate cards and just keeping one for the binder. This has allowed me to buy more cards and more staples to put into my decks.
    One way I have found that helps me keep the games from getting stale from switching out commander stables and the time to switch out the stables is the night before I know I’m going to play I put together 2 or three different decks with my staples and collection. This way each deck is complete and different enough that I can have a variety to play. Since commander games usually last awhile I can get a game in with each different deck that I have brought. Then the next week I can bring a couple of different decks with some staples. This has been a fun way for me to play and add variety to my decks so I don’t get board of one I am playing.

    1. David Beedy says:

      Hello William,
      That is awesome! Creating variety in your Commander games is essential. My playgroup is having this conversation right now. We have a couple decks in our Meta that consistently win with tutors and a two to three combo in the early game. While that is fun for the pilot, it tends to lead to feel-bads for the other players. We are creating a list of values that we share when it comes to playing Commander in order to develop some house rules in order to reach a more enlightened Meta. We are casual through and through.

      Great to hear that the Staple Binder is working for you. It has opened up a lot of possibilities for me as well.

      Happy gaming!

  4. Matthew says:

    I am going to try this. I already swap out cards between decks but do not have a good system and always forget what i took out of one deck to add to another. I have gotten in the bad habit of buying multiples of cards under $10. I have already started converting all my cards to the same sleeve color and have binders of cards but do not have a staple binder yet. I think once organized this would work very well. I like the idea of using proxies of cards you have to save time but I know everyone feels differently about proxies.

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