Last updated on October 3, 2022
Dreamstealer token | Illustration by Yongjae Choi
I believe that every player eventually has a pet deck. It’s that one deck that you play whenever possible, that deck you upgrade as new sets come out, the deck you update to peak form slowly or quickly (money dependent). You’ll usually start making your pride and joy look fancy by foiling the whole deck out, including borderless or alternate printings of cards, or even getting cards altered to make them actual pieces of art. But what’s left once your deck’s all blinged out?
Tokens allow another method of “fancification” and creative expression. There are a lot of different sources for tokens that go far beyond Wizards’ official ones. It may be difficult to know the type of token you’d actually use until you hold one in your hand, so let’s look at some options and see which brings the best product!
MakePlayingCards.com is by far the best for the money and control that you’re offered. The quality of the cards delivered is top notch and you’re given the ability to decide all the features: the artwork on both sides, the card stock used, holographic treatments, card finish, and even packaging. You’re also able to get a deck of cards printed with the same image or different images in different quantities.
The level of freedom and straight bulk pricing is very difficult to beat.
Quality of Print and Card Stock
You’ve all seen, touched, and otherwise interacted with Magic cards, so you have a general idea of what good versions of quality look like (sans the foil Pringles). But what does bad quality look like?
For the print, it shouldn’t look smeared, blurry, or pixelated. These are dependent on the quality of the image you upload if you’re given this option. The print quality is usually subpar if you’re choosing a pre-selected image.
For the card stock, it shouldn’t be too thin or too thick, or have any rough edges. Likewise, you shouldn’t be able rip it like you would a typical piece of paper. Most offerings come on the same blue core stock that Wizards uses (S30) or a superior grade with a smooth finish, but some might use a cheaper card stock that doesn’t hold its rigidity as well and folds with little play.
When it comes to measuring the quality of these, the website reviews help a lot since they come from people who bought and handled the product. You can also ask for feedback from people at your local game store or in your playgroup who ordered tokens from that store. I was able to personally inspect some tokens from two sources that I talk about today and was pleased with the results of both. One felt very much like a Magic card and the other actually felt much more study.
This is a subjective piece because it depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re making the jump to custom tokens you might also want to be able to make specific design choices beyond what the token represents.
You might like working with a printer who will have a wide variety of options, from the paper they use to the finish on the card. If you prefer something more showy, you might want to work with the artist who created the image and allow them to make the choices that fit their artwork best.
The price varies depending on if you’re going for something standardized and plentiful or unique and limited. If you’re supplying images to a printer to run out a deck for you, the price will most likely be whatever the cost of materials is for that job. In that case you’ll spend less per unit the more you buy at a time. I’ve seen everything from <$1 per deck if you’re ordering mass quantities up to $15 per deck for more individual runs.
You’ll spend more for the pack/deck if you’re working with an artist who creates the cards, especially if they’re direct art pieces or are personal runs of the tokens. They’ve done almost all the design work for you, after all. I’ve seen prices for these vary between $10 for a pack of 10 up to $25 for a pack of 15. It all depends on the artist and what they feel is a reasonable price for their wares.
The “Cadillac” Tokens
If money is truly no object there are tons of artists who run their own webstores for their art prints, including tokens.
Aaron Miller is a portrait artist who creates beautiful renders with an oil paint detailing. These include fantasy characters, animals, and scenes to represent the tokens’ form with very simple names and markings denoting the power/toughness. I’m rather fond of his “Trash Panda” Food token.
Ashley Gates is a fantasy character artist with a pearlescent quality to her work. Each of her works are vibrantly created no matter the concept. I was struck by a lot of her offerings but particularly liked her Faerie token.
rk post illustration
RK post is a line artist who creates tokens with the feel of an electrotype used in Washington hand presses with a very bold frame. He also sells tokens printed on other mediums than paper, like aluminum and acrylic. I’m a fan of his Lovecraftian inspired Germ print.
TokensForMTG is a collection house of artists’ prints to be used as tokens. You can buy them one a piece or mix-and-match and order from several different artists. A good option if you like multiple styles and want each angel from your deck to look different.
The Budget Options
If you’re more price-conscious and are willing to do some of the work yourself, it’s hard to beat under $10 for 180 tokens.
Blank Dry Erase Playing Cards
Blank playing cards are pretty much just small dry erase boards. You can draw the art on it yourself (or if you’re like me, a bad scribble with a name and numbers) and erase it away when you’re done. You can also store your custom drawings in penny sleeves to preserve them for use over several games.
- Count: 180 Blank Dry Erase Playing Cards that can be used over and over again
- Sturdy Cardstock: High quality 310 gsm (16pt.) card stock and rounded corners
- Multiple DIY Uses: Blank index cards can be used as multiplication flash cards, game cards, for sketching, message cards, memory game cards, greeting cards, thank you cards, gift card, business cards, and more
- Easy Write and Wipe: Both sides have a gloss finish for use with a dry erase pen; please don't use the permanent marker
- Standard Size: 2.5" x 3.5" standard Poker sized cards
If you still like the idea of cheap but don’t like the idea of drawing the cards yourself, you can also download and print token art from websites like Psycat Games. Print them at 300 dpi, cut them out, and either glue them to a sacrificial Magic card or just slide them into penny sleeves.
The Standard Option
If straight artist prints are out of your budget, your dry erase tokens don’t pass muster, and DYI tokens sound too complicated, you can also purchase packages of art tokens from online distributors.
While they’re known for their resealable cube pack storage solutions, Cardamajigs also has a clearinghouse for artist tokens from their internal artists and artists that have done tokens for Magic. All the styles you could ever want are represented.
Card Kingdom Tokens
The tokens that Card Kingdom tosses in with every order are always a welcome little bonus, but you don’t have to place a bunch of orders to get them. You can order almost any of their designs at $0.25 per token, just like a basic common.
CustomTokens.eu is a European token clearinghouse that will ship worldwide. Some can be a bit pricy, but they also sell full-art lands.
Growing Ranks | Illustration by Seb McKinnon
While Wizards has been throwing tokens into packs for years, you don’t have to be restricted to the ones they print. They can be highly customized and artsy or done on the cheap.
I have a stack of dry erase tokens that I use for when Adrix and Nev, Twincasters or Scute Swarm go wide just so that I don’t have to bring 1,000 cards with me if I want to play. My opponents aren’t happy about it, but writing 1/1 x86 is perfectly viable. If you go the route of getting something special, they can show some a personal touch to your decks and be a conversation starter with a neighbor or opponent.
What other artists or markets have you found that look good or that you’ve gotten good products from? Let us know on Twitter, in Discord, or in the comments below.
That’s all from me for now. Stay safe, stay healthy, and wash your hands!
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