Grades and the “5th Products”
What do the grades mean?
This is where I get to tell you what the grades I give products actually mean. I should have done it in the first finance article, but just wanted to get things rolling. I don’t think it needed too much explanation, but not that we have some miles behind us it might be a good time to delve into it. These are for the sealed products I will/have gone over.
The 5th Product
We get our four sets a year, that has been standard since the start. But we have always gotten a 5th product as well. For the first three years it was a Vingolf set. Grimm Cluster (2015) was Vingolf 1, Alice Cluster (2016) gave us Vingolf 2 and the Magic Stone Lab, Lapis Cluster (2017) was Vingolf 3, Reiya Cluster (2018) was the 6th Starter Deck, Lost Tomes. New Valhalla was a bust year since the game transitioned to a new company. Finally, we got the Ghost in the Shell set in 2020 with Alice Origins cluster, they added a starter deck with that one, so kind of made up for a lack of one in 2019.
We’ll go over each product, but first the pricing breakdown.
Vingolf Engage Knights was our first extra product. A fixed set, you got 2 of everything in one box, except the 5 rulers. It retailed for around $35 and at the time is was an amazing value. All of the resonators were original, and the spells and stones were reprints. Some of the spells were solid too. Thunder (VIN001-029), Law of Silence (VIN001-054), and Stoning to Death (VIN001-073) topped the list. The best part for newer players were getting a set of Dual Stones cheap compared to buying the CMF and TAT versions at the time.
Vlad Tepes (VIN001-075) // Vlad Tepes [J-Ruler] (VIN001-075J) the ruler, was even a solid control ruler in that day. Other cards that stood out, Rasputin (VIN001-070), Mozart (VIN001-067), and Ryoma Sakamoto (VIN001-077). The latter was great to put in a Puss in Boots (CMF-074) // D’Artagnan, the Bayoneteer (CMF-074J) deck because it was a musketeer. It also has the only OG Valhalla reprint in Banzai Attack (VIN001-017). It is an interesting product. The other added value to this is the foil packs that came in them. Only the resonators had foils, but the art was slightly different than the regular cards. These were random packs and can go for a few dollars.
If this was 5 years ago I’d shout A- at least, but better cards have come. Though with the Dual Stones and cards like Thunder seeing new life in the current format, it’s not the worst thing ever. I’d give it a C+ overall, but if you can grab it for under $40 that becomes a B-.
Vingolf 2: The Valkryia Chronicles is only made slightly less bad due to the fact that Magic Stone Lab exists. This is by far the worst product Force printed with actual cards in it. It is all new cards, aside from the stones. There are literally only 5 playable cards in this set, aside from the stones, and that was when this came out. They aren’t that playable anymore. Bombardment (VIN002-018), Sniping From The Blind Spot (VIN002-042), Destructive Assault (VIN002-053), Schemes of the Empire (VIN002-072), and Class G’s Tank (VIN002-076) were it.
The fact that this item was printed into oblivion didn’t help either. It is a self-contained set that relies on the other cards in it to work, and it even does that badly. This is ONLY worth it at $10 or less each, since the 20 Dual Stones you get are worth that. They average .50 each online. This has foil packs as well that have versions of all but the stones, but there is less difference (if any) that those of the Vin 1 set.
I was able to recently grab a case of these for $60. That was a steal, since a case had 30 of these in them, so yeah, I got them for $2 apiece. To emphasis their value, I cracked all 30, pulled the Stones and the 5 useful cards from each as well as the foil packs and tossed the rest. That is what I think of them.
This product gets a D+, and that is if you can get them under $10. Otherwise, they are a D- at current market average.
Vingolf 3: Ruler All-Stars was a return to form and then some. It mimicked Vingolf 1 in terms of reprinting spells and additions but adding all new resonators and stones. The bad thing was that due to the total flop of Vingolf 2, it was severely under printed. Copies at the time would go as high as $200 online after it’s initial release. The cards were just that good. The new counter stones weren’t as good as the dual stones or the shock rock in Lapis cluster, but they added a third choice of two-color stones that meant perfect mana in 2 color decks was possible now.
Then there were the solid reprints of cards like Charlotte’s Water Transformation Magic (VIN003-032) and Wind-Secluded Refuge (VIN003-060). Even more amazing was that these cards were full art. The common and uncommon foils at the time weren’t full art, so this was a way to get them. The foil packs had version of all the new cards to boot. Value upon value. The singles market loved the set as well. Some cards were so in demand, they were made into promos fast. The basic lands are even in demand, as are their reprints in Alice Origins 4.
The combination of great design and limited quantity forced the price up on these. Sadly, that means there are few out there currently and there were no copies for sale on any of the platforms. There were opened ones for $999.00, but that is unrealistic. I would say the current value, if you can find them, should be between $200 and $300.
If copies were available in that price range, I would give it a B-. if you can find them at $200 or less sealed though it is worth the purchase. If you just need certain cards, buy the singles. As buying all the singles to get a playset would be below the price of one sealed box that only has 2 of each.
The Lost Tomes Starter Deck was the 6th Reiya cluster starter deck. There are some good cards in here. With only 18 cards (including 5 basic stones) that is a good portion. These include Venus, Magus of the Metal Star (SDR6-001), Viola, Treacherous Maiden (SDR6-007), Blazer, the Legendary Thief (SDR6-008), and Forbidden Arts (SDR6-010). This item even included foil versions of the cards.
Sadly, this too was short printed and sealed versions are rare. The TCG average is $42.78 and was the only place I could find sealed. That is a good price if you bought it back in 2018. For current value though, not a good price to buy at. I don’t think picking one up for $40 would be a loss, so I’d give it a C-. If you can find it for under $30 I would definitely get it.
The Ghost in the Shell Starter Deck is almost an oddity. It is still essentially in print and easily obtainable at and below retail. The MSRP is $20, but the average price is $17.55. There are copies available for under $15. At that price I suggest you grab a couple. Why you may ask. Because of 5 or 6 cards. Aramaki (GITS2045SD-001), Batou & Kusanagi Motoko (GITS2045SD-002), Bombarding (GITS2045SD-004), Batou, the Motoko’s Buddy (GITS2045SD-003), Optical Camouflage (GITS2045SD-008), and Tachikoma C (GITS2045SD-011).
The ruler works well with the Dive mechanic, remnant, and runes (for Epic Stories) and this is the only place to get him. The second card has the ability to give a resonator swiftness and has been used in some combo decks. Bombarding has an alternate cost that is easy in Wanderer due to the amount of machine type resonators out there. Motoko’s Buddy lets you search for 9 different cards, 4 of which are playable. Optical camouflage is currently seeing play and gives bounce to colors that normally lack it. Finally, Tach C is a 600/600 thunder on a stick for 3. Not the best priced, but pretty evenly costed and can be ran in anything.
This product got some hate when it first came out but has shown it has some useful tool. As they become harder to get, I only see value going up. Not a lot mind you, but enough to grab it at the current avg. I give it a B.
Our last product for this time is Ghost in the Shell SAC 2045 set itself. The current average is $64.84 and MSRP was $60. This was a small set at 78 cards, but they are all colorless and has a lot of machine resonators. Most of the set is borderline unplayable, Maid Robot (GITS2045-039) anyone? But there are a few gems in it as well, the two secret rares are worth as much, if not more than the average price. That alone makes this worth grabbing sealed at the average.
It is only a 20-pack box, but again it is a smaller set. They main thing here is that the dive mechanic is handy, especially when it offers options that some colors don’t have access too. Yes, the art is a big ugly, but we’re talking about utility here. Ishikawa, the Experienced Crew (GITS2045-030) lets anyone destroy an addition. Tachikoma A (GITS2045-062) is a quickcast dude that buffs anyone. Togusa, the Competent Investigator (GITS2045-067) is in demand because he can look at three and draw 1. Aramaki & Togusa (GITS2045-004) kills a dude. Borma (GITS2045-017) is a sought-after card, because he can get value buy killing a lot of little guys. The winner is Kusanagi Motoko, the Major (GITS2045-037) because it can look at a hand and stop cards.
The essential fact is most of these are done with an activated ability that only a few cards can stop and most of those are in Wanderer. This product is a solid B. If you can get it for $50 or under, it’s a real deal.
This one was a little longer, but we got all those 5th annual products out of the way. I will cover Grimm cluster next time. Until then, have fun slinging.