How to Sort Your MTG Cards

Brian Cooper  By Brian Cooper | Updated on January 18, 2024

Organizing a Magic: The Gathering card collection can be as enjoyable as playing the game itself. With the ever-growing variety of cards released across multiple sets and expansions, it’s crucial to have a system that allows you to locate and access any card efficiently. Proper organization not just streamlines deck building and gameplay, but it also helps in maintaining the condition of our valuable cards.

I begin by gathering all our Magic cards into one place, from the loose ones tucked away in drawers to those stashed in boxes from the latest draft.

To make the sorting process manageable, I tend to categorize cards by set or edition, which allows me to approach our collection methodically. Categorizing cards by characteristics such as color, rarity, or function further enhances our ability to find the right card at the right time.

Once sorted, implementing a storage solution that provides both protection and accessibility is essential. For completed decks, using deck boxes ensures they are ready for play, while other cards might be kept in binders or cardboard storage boxes, with dividers indicating categories for quick reference. This keeps my cards in good shape and my collection organized.

Sorting Basics

When I sort my MTG card collection, I’m basically laying the foundation for efficient deck building and management of those thousands of loose cards. It’s not an easy task to say the least.

I’ve found that it’s crucial that I categorize cards in ways that align with how they are used in the game. Let’s focus on sorting by set, color, and rarity, which will enable you to access your collection with ease.

By Set

Organizing cards by set involves grouping them into the different expansions or editions they belong to, such as Alpha, Beta, or more recent ones. This method is particularly useful when we want to construct a deck that adheres to a certain set’s theme or when playing limited formats like Sealed or Draft.

So in a nutshell, cards from the Alpha set are kept separate from those in the Zendikar Rising set. Makes sense, right?

By Color

Sorting by color is one of the most intuitive ways to organize your collection. Magic cards come in five different colors—White, Blue, Black, Red, and Green—along with colorless and multicolored cards. Grouping them this way helps me rapidly find cards that fit the mana base of the decks I’m crafting.

As an example, place all Green cards in one section and all Blue cards in another. Multicolored cards can have their own category, further sorted if necessary. Makes sense too, right?

By Rarity

Rarity indicates the distribution frequency of cards in booster packs, so when we organize by rarity, it means separating cards into commons, uncommons, rares, and mythics. This is useful not only for collectability and trade value assessment but also for finding powerful cards for your decks.

Keep mythics in a different section from commons and uncommons, with rares stored separately as well. I find I do this more often with cards I’m sorting for resell. It makes it easier to pull out and separate the oftentimes more expensive rares and mythics from the less expensive commons.

Organization Systems

When I organize my Magic: The Gathering card collection, I’m trying to set myself up for easier deck building, selling or trading. The right system can save time and effort when searching for that crucial ramp card or the commander staples necessary for your next winning deck. Here are some ways to do that….

Alphabetical Order

Alphabetically sorting your cards is one of the simplest and most intuitive methods. Here’s how I do it:

Card Type and Function

Organizing by card type and function allows you to tailor your system to our deck-building preferences. Here is a good approach:

Again, sorting by type and function is more for the player than the collector. It can be so much easier to build a deck when you have a box of cards sorted by how they work in the game. 

Importance for Gameplay

Lastly, I would recommend considering the importance for gameplay when sorting. This is sort of like sorting as Card Type and Function but narrows down separating cards a bit further for your deck. Here are some examples:

By implementing a comprehensive organization system, you’re able to keep your collection orderly and efficient, significantly enhancing your trading and deck-building abilities.

Storage Solutions

In managing your Magic: The Gathering collections, you must consider both physical and digital solutions to keep our cards organized, protected, and easily accessible. Obviously you cannot digitally store your cardboard cards, but keeping track of them with software can help with organization.

Physical Storage Options

When it comes to storing your cards, you have several options to safeguard them from damage and wear.

The first line of defense is often plastic card sleeves. These plastic covers shield individual cards and can be used in conjunction with other storage methods.

For bulk storage, cardboard storage boxes are cost-effective and come in various sizes suited to our needs. I have used the white slotted cardboard boxes for years and they are a staple with card collectors across the world.

For more extensive collections, binders with plastic sheets allow us to categorize cards in a visually accessible way. I often use binders and 9-pocket sleeves for cards that are more a part of my collection rather than cards I use for playing.

Deck boxes offer a portable solution for keeping decks safe and ready for play. They range from simple plastic cases to premium boxes with added features.

Dividers within boxes or binders help us maintain order by separating cards by set, color, or type, making it easier to locate specific cards when necessary. I’m a big fan of the hard plastic card separators and often use them in my white cardboard boxes to separate by set or color. See one of my boxes with dividers below:

Magic Cards needing to be sorted

Digital Cataloging

Collection manager software provides a modern approach to keeping track of our MTG collection.

Software systems like MTG Studio and enable you to digitally catalog your cards, monitor their value, and even facilitate trades with others. By entering your cards into these platforms, you ensure that your digital inventory reflects your physical collection accurately.

This method also simplifies the process of finding cards, building decks, and analyzing your collection’s strengths and weaknesses. Although I don’t personally use software to track my collection, these are great options if you’re super into tracking each and every card.

For my purposes, I find the using Google Sheets is an easy and free method to tracking some of my more expensive cards. I don’t track ALL of my cards in Sheets, but I do keep track of single card investments and unopened booster boxes that I keep in my collection as well. 

Maintaining and Updating Your Collection

When talking about maintaining your MTG card collection, I think it’s important to keep some sort of inventory system. Whether it’s your entire collection or just the important singles and boxes like I do, keeping track of your investment just makes sense for many reasons.

First, this ensures you’re aware of our collection’s current state, including which cards you possess and their specific conditions. It’s not just about knowing what you have but also about managing duplicates and keeping your stock organized for play or trade.

Second, it’s important to know values. Every once in a while I’ll go into my Google sheet and look over my ‘investments’ to see if there were any dramatic changes. It’s nice to do that every few months to ensure you’re up to date on the market value of your cards.

Regularly scheduled check-ins help you to avoid the chaos of lost cards or missed opportunities. Here’s a simple approach you can follow:

  1. Review: Every few months, go through your cards.
  2. Record: Update your digital inventory with any new additions or removals.
  3. Rate: Assess the value and condition of each card, noting any changes.
  4. Remove: Decide which duplicates can be traded or sold.

Storage is another key part of maintenance. I always opt for a combination of binders and boxes, separated by set, color, or personal preference (see above.) Place cards of higher sentimental value or worth in more protective cases and consider binders, boxes, card sleeves and hard plastic cases for your more important cards and boxes.

I always emphasize efficiency when maintaining your collection. But let’s not forget that we’re not just protecting cards of monetary value. We’re protecting cards that have sentimental value in many cases. Some of my original cards from the early 1990’s mean more to me than their dollar value so all the more reason to sort those cards and try to maintain their protection the best I can.

All for now. If you have any questions about or recommendations on sorting MTG cards, please let me know as I’m always looking for new and better ideas. Take care!

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Brian Cooper has been a part of the trading card scene since the 1980s and is the driving force behind MAGIC CARD INVESTOR. His mission is to help bring back the fun and nostalgia of collecting Magic: The Gathering cards and other Trading Card games to everyone young and old.