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Once a year, gamers instinctively flock to Indianapolis for GenCon which is truly a Mecca for tens of thousands who make the pilgrimage. Gamers gathered at the Upper Deck booth on a Friday morning to participate in the Marvel Legendary™ 10K National Championship Tournament with hopes of winning the grand prize and taking home the Iron Man trophy.

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We were fortunate enough to have participant Calvin Patten document the entire event from start to finish and we wanted to share the experience with Legendary™ fans who may wonder what it is like to compete in such an event.

“I Woke up and started the day just like any other big event day. Planned ahead, knowing that the tournament starts at 10:00 am. After breakfast I made my way back to the room to get a little prep work with the Villains set. So many things to take into account for the tournament. I have had my share of bigger events. Last year I had the chance to play in both of the Gen Cons 5K tournaments. I was able to make the top 10 the first one and top 25 the second one. This event is a little different as it is only (1) event and it is for $10,000. While coming in the top 5 would be great, I was really just looking to have fun as that much prize money brought out some serious gamers.”

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Round 1:
“After looking over the table, the breakdown that they went with for the entire 10K was the following…

Dr. Strange: Commander Build an Underground Mega-Vault Prison: Plot Adversaries: Defenders, Avengers, Uncanny X-Men, Asgardian Warriors and S.H.I.E.L.D. Assault Squad. The Allies Deck: Venom, Sabretooth, Kingpin, Magneto, Juggernaut and Green Goblin.”

“The pairings go up and everyone is split into tables of 5. I was at a table with four other guys that have not played the game a whole lot, but had played many other Deck Building Games (DBGs). I decided to try a different strategy for this round that I had experimented with at home. I decided to use my recruit points to buy the “New Recruits” cards which will allow you to keep your deck small and get anywhere from 3-7 attack a turn. Playing in a giant tournament it can only take 1-2 victory points to win. So if you are using 3-7 attack a turn it is very possible to get enough points to win the game before it runs out. After taking into account those strategies I was able to get first place in game one and earn five points. I was able to walk around a bit and see many of the same people that played in last year’s event, and see how they were doing. Most of them won the first round and will look to keep that momentum going into the next 6 rounds.”

Round 2:
“They kept the same set up and decided to keep it all day long. The strategy I used in game one seemed to work well but it was a little too close for comfort. I decided to use a different strategy this round and use the recruit points to get additional points to buy the “New Recruits” faster. Looking at the people that we got to us, Kingpin did assist in the recruitment and attack of those cards. We had five people at our table and after the dust settled the new strategy did not do me well. I was able to squeak out a thirdplace finish this round so I am sitting at seven points total. Not a bad start, but would have loved to be sitting at 10 points at this time.”

Round 3:
“This time I decided to go back to the original strategy and see if I could right this ship.  We did not even make it around the table four complete times and the game ended on turn 18. Good was able to clear the “Bindings” Stack quickly and we had the game over within eight minutes. I was not able to get out anything to kill so I ended this round in fifthplace for a total of zero points. Then we went to a showdown for third, fourth and fifth place, where each player still in it draws a new hand and then plays it out like normal, but you add the “Recruit Stars” and “Attack” on each card played. The play with the highest total gets next and so on. If there is another tie, then you showdown again with the remaining players. So after three rounds I am sitting at seven points still.

Round 4:
“Looking into this round I knew that it was only a matter of time that we would run into a table of 4 people. I was able to pull off a quick kill early on after drawing into the first position. That helped as the game only lasted 13 turns total. I was able to come in second that game with two VP. This was the second fastest game that I have seen or played this tournament. I was able to bring my total points up to 10. “

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Round 5:
“This round did not start out well for me. I had horrible draws and I had to go last out of everyone. This is not a good place to be if you are fighting for your tournament life. On to round six as I got zero points for this round.”

Round 6:
“I needed to get in the top two every game from round five on to make the top 25. This game went quickly as the set up they used allowed the game to go very fast and not linger. I finally figured out that a five cost Juggernaut is very good when you are able to pull him off. I was able to win this round after going to a showdown and winning to bring home the final Dr. Strange Commander card.”

Round 7:
“The final round and the game lasted a total of 7 minutes. We hit every bad situation that we could and the bindings went away too quickly. We ended our game before most people made it around the table once. I came in fourthplace this time and overall it was not bad. “

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“Looking back on the last seven rounds it was a fun way to spend 10 hours. The event was run really well and it seems like players and Upper Deck are getting more comfortable with these events. The judge staff worked very hard this year and did everything they could to keep the event running smoothly. The tournament finally got the Top Five cut. I decided to stick around for the final five finish where savvy players who performed well in previous tournaments assembled to do battle once again.”

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“The final table all decided to split the prize money so that each player walked away with $1800.00. The trophy was a very cool Iron Man trophy and did light up as well. Over all the event went very smoothly and everyone had a blast. Thanks to Upper Deck for a fun event and I look forward to taking part in it again next year. See you in Indy! “

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There are over 7,000 characters in the Marvel Universe and that number continues to grow. When it comes to Marvel “characters” however, not many are more well known that Stan Lee. He had a hand in creating some of the most beloved characters in the Marvel Universe and spun stories that are beloved by fans around the world.

As Upper Deck continues to work with Marvel, it is important to us to deliver fans autographed cards of this Hall-of-Fame talent. Check out an image of the great Stan Lee signing for the Upper Deck Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy release.

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Males make up the majority of the sports trading card and gaming card categories. While there certainly are some die-hard female sports card collectors and gamers in the hobby, there really are not many offerings geared directly to young girls to get them involved with trading cards.

“I know a lot of female collectors who are just as savvy in the world of collecting as their male counterparts,” said Chris Carlin, Upper Deck’s senior marketing and social media manager. “Females make up a small segment of the collecting community and as an industry, I just don’t feel we have done enough to engage girls. That is something that has really been missing, to offer products that will show them how much fun the hobby can be.”

“I think the biggest problem with previous female-focused products was that they were produced just like the male-focused products, just with female oriented subjects,” said Mendy Cady, girls category brand manager for Upper Deck. “Girls have different interests than boys who collect, and the offerings we put out should take those differences into account.”

When Cady came on board with Upper Deck last October, that strategy was something she definitely wanted to change going forward. At that time, Upper Deck had experienced some success with Hello Kitty® offerings that were different than just normal trading card releases, but Cady worked to really make these releases have interactive elements that girls would love.

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The Upper Deck team made Comic Con a memorable event with a variety of promotions with Hello Kitty at the show.

“For Upper Deck’s latest Hello Kitty® 40th Anniversary Fun packs, we wanted to make them just that; fun,” said Cady. “There are some traditional trading card elements, but this product is much more than that. There are miniature figures that girls will love to collect and play with along with albums, puzzles, stickers, trivia, timelines and much more. These cards are an experience that cater directly to young girls. It’s about time girls had a line of trading cards made specifically for them.”

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Upper Deck saw the results of the paradigm shift in strategy first hand at Comic Con where the company produced special Hello Kitty® 40th Anniversary bundles (blow-up cards from different decades with figurines) that sold out incredibly quickly. Hundreds of bundles were gone before the show was over.

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Upper Deck’s Comic Con promotion for Hello Kitty was extremely popular with fans pushing to get their hands on limited-edition collectibles before they sold out.

“Our learning from Comic Con is that for the next show, we should probably create a lot more,” said Cady with a smile. “It is a good problem to have however. You want there to be interest and demand for the collectibles you are creating. We are excited to bring other unique offerings to future events like Hello Kitty® Con which runs October 29 – November 2 in Los Angeles. Upper Deck will have a solid presence with offerings and experiences that girls of all ages will love.”

One of the elements that makes the Hello Kitty® property so compelling for Upper Deck’s girl-focused marketing efforts is that the age range of fans for Hello Kitty® fans runs the full spectrum. The company is finding it is not just young girls who are excited about new releases, but teens and adults as well.

“One of the elements we added to the Hello Kitty® 40th Anniversary fun packs was original artwork from the different decades (1970’s, 1980’s, 1990’s and 2000’s) which really seems to be striking a chord with older Kitty fans,” said Cady. “She has definitely evolved over the years, but there are moments in time we capture in this set that help bring adult fans back to their youth. That is one of the powerful aspects of a product like this.”

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Upper Deck’s Hello Kitty® 40th Anniversary fun packs are available at select retail locations like Target, Walmart, Toys ‘R’ Us, Sanrio.com and Upper Deck’s online store (www.upperdeckstore.com). Pick up some packs today for your daughter, niece, granddaughter or yourself!

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A lot has changed from the Civil War era when sports cards first debuted to today, but none has had more of an impact on the industry than the internet. Initially many feared the internet would signal the end to the way trading cards are bought and sold, but for the most part, it has been a positive tool for collectors, hobby shop owners and trading card manufacturers who have chosen to embrace this technology to find new levels of engagement in this hobby. It is clear that Upper Deck has done a great job of engaging their fans through online tools like this Blog, their company website, their Facebook page, their YouTube channel and their Twitter accounts for sports, hockey and entertainment. The tools Upper Deck provides make it a lot easier to be a trading card collector and to stay up to date with the latest happenings with the company.

There used to be trading card clubs where collectors could get together to trade with each other and share their latest trading cards. That is all done online nowadays as there are a variety of online communities where collectors share their great pulls and trade with each other on various forums. And how awesome is that to see the internet bring like-minded collectors together to experience the hobby on a whole new level no matter if they live in Topeka, Kansas or Moosejaw, Saskatchewan.

Arguably the biggest change from before the internet era was how cards are bought and sold. Instead of walking down to your local hobby shop, today you can buy or sell trading cards with a few clicks of the mouse. Unfortunately with internet sales of collectible items come unscrupulous buyers and sellers looking to make a quick buck by taking advantage unsuspecting collectors. Upper Deck has definitely adapted to the times by creating their Authorized Internet Retailer group as a way of protecting consumers from these online predators. If you live in the United States and purchase sealed product online, make sure you are only purchasing your Upper Deck cards through these Authorized Internet Retailers.

OC Dugout is an Authorized Internet Retailer for Upper Deck that routinely brings athletes in for signings. Here Reggie Jackson signs at the popular Southern California store.

Dave & Adams Cardworld Tonawanda, NY 14150 (888) 440-9787 www.dacardworld.com
East Coast Connection Lyndhurst, NJ 07071 (201) 438-4327 www.eastcoastconnection.net
Fox Sports Cards Marion, IL 62959 (618) 997-3800 www.foxsportscards.com
Legacy Sports Cards Las Vegas, NV 89117 702-341-6525 www.legacysportscards.com
Legends Sports and Games Grand Rapids, MI 49512 (866) 975-2518 www.legendsfanshop.com
OC Dugout Anaheim, CA 92804 (714) 527-6319 www.OCsportscards.com
Republic Jewelry & Collectibles Auburn, ME 04210-6150 (877) 422-7979 www.republicjewelry.com
South Bay Baseball Cards Inc. Lomita, CA 90717 (310) 530-5818 www.sbaycards.com
SportsCards Etc. McKees Rock, PA 15136 (412) 787-3235 www.sportscardsetcpgh.com
Steel City Collectibles McKeesport PA 15132 (412) 672-6200 www.steelcitycollectibles.com
The Hobby Box Wilmington, NC 28403 (910) 350- 2858 www.cardsinfinity.com

And if you live in Canada, make sure to check out these Authorized Internet Retailers for your Upper Deck purchases.

D&M Sports Cards in Canada is a huge retail sports store that also has a strong online presence.

Breakaway Sports Cards Hamilton, Ontario L9C 2Y6 (289) 755-0966 www.breakawaysc.com
Cardboard Memories Brampton, Ontario L6Z 1R3 (905) 846-1058 www.cardboardmemories.ca
Cartes Timbre et Monnaies Ste-foy Sainte-Foy, PQ G1V 4P7 (418) 658-5639 www.imaginaire.com
Clouts’n’Chara Kitchener, Ontario N2H 5G3 (519)-954-8278 www.cloutsnchara.com
Collector’s Avenue Montrea, Quebec  H3W 3C2 (514) 488-8881 www.collectorsavenue.com
D & M Sportscards Moncton NB E1G 1A6 (506) 852-3244 www.dmsportscards.com
Maple Leaf Sports Calgary, Alberta T2E-2T9 (403) 338-0668 www.mapleleafsports.ca
Red Nails II North York, ON M3L 1B2 (416) 242-7899 www.rednails2.com
Superstars Winnipeg, MB R3J 0H3 (204) 831-9001 www.superstarssports.com
Wayne’s Sports Cards Edmonton, Alberta T5T 1L6 (780) 483-3177 www.waynessportscards.com

The trading card industry was slower to adapt to the internet, but it is clear Upper Deck and others are using other industries as a blue-print for what works best in this digital age. I’m not sure what new online invention will be next to blow customer’s minds, but I’m sure it will serve to make the hobby better and keep the industry alive. How do you think the internet will change the world of sports card collecting next and how else to you think it has changed the hobby?

Make sure to look for the Upper Deck Authorized Internet Retailer logo when purchasing sealed UD product online.

Sam is a young writer from Minneapolis, Minnesota. When’s he’s not watching sports he’s tweeting about it. You can follow Sam on Twitter @Chinookverify.

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We are excited to share an exclusive interview with two of Upper Deck’s top sketch card artists. Today we want to shine the spotlight on artists Mick and Matt Glebe. They have worked on a multitude of projects with Upper Deck, including the recently released Marvel Premier set.  Recently we were able to sit down with Mick and Matt to talk about their journey to becoming artists, their inspiration for their artwork and what fans can expect from them next!

Mick and Matt hard at work

Mick and Matt hard at work

UD Blog: What was life like growing up for Mick & Matt Glebe?
Mick & Matt:Honestly, it was quite adventurous—being twins we tend to stick out like a sore thumb. We feel like just average brothers, but outside of that, people tend to pay attention to us more because it’s so unusual to see two people so alike. Our friends refers to us as “The Clones” and it has stuck with us ever since. We started drawing at a very early age—our minds would always drift to galaxies far, far away—filled with mutants, magical powers, and fantasies of epic adventures. In turn these visions would come pouring out onto paper as our mind escaped to our creative side of life, we remain big kids at heart to this day, with enjoying cosplay and working on all the awesome comic books, films, and T.V. characters we grew up loving!”

UD Blog: How did you two get your start in art? Did you each have your own strengths?
Mick & Matt:Actually, our grandmother and mom used to take us to the local comic book stores where we discovered inspiration in the pages of Marvel and DC comics—our favorite illustrators were Frank Miller, Jim Lee, and Alex Ross. Much of our free-time was spent mimicking the art of capturing what we saw—line for line and shade for shade. By the time we started Jr. High and High School we were inspired by more realistic art like the works of Norman Rockwell and the old masters of the Renaissance. This was a great transition from traditional line-art in comic books to the realm of super-realism which helped develop our skills into our own unique style. We were very meticulous to get every detail just right—we were always pushing each other to do better—and both mentored each other in our techniques — we enjoyed competing for the next big art contest through local or national competitions.”

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2014 Marvel Premier Ironman Artist Sketch Card

UD Blog: You were self-taught, but you must have had some help along the way. Who helped you from either an inspirational or educational standpoint become the artists you are today?
Mick & Matt:Yes, we are completely self-taught, we tend to get this trait from our mother who is a jack-of-all-trades in artistic creativity and our dad who has amazing photography skills—in the genes, we guess. They would always tell us to do what we love as a career and you will never work a day in your life! Our parents were a huge push in providing us with the tools and support to expand our creativity. Once we started doing portrait commissions in school, our parents became even more involved with a stronger business model— helping build knowledge of what would become our family company as it is today, Twynsunz, Inc. Doing portraits gave us a ton of practice in capturing people’s likenesses—human features still remain one of our favorite subjects to illustrate in the entertainment industry. Our Jr. High art teacher recognized our skills and would open the doors to the school art supplies closet and say, “Have at it!” She once told us that she felt the need to feed a passion and that it would only grow. She was, and is, so very right.”

UD Blog: Talk to us about how you developed your unique style of artwork rendered in traditional mixed medium?
Mick & Matt:Our absolute favorite artist has always been Frank Miller—everything from his pencils to inks. We started by trying to render character poses from the pages of his masterful works like The Dark Knight Returns, Daredevil, and the X-men. Again, we were pretty strict in our very beginnings of drawing—if we didn’t like it, we threw it away and started over. We wanted it to look like what it looked like. As we got older we loosened up and realized that it didn’t need to be per exact—as we were doing things in our own style. Our discovery of the classic works of Norman Rockwell and modern-day Alex Ross was hyper-realism capturing shadow, light, and various tones of color. We just found our way purely through experimentation and understanding just what each medium could do. Our college professor said that “We draw with our paint, and that we paint with our drawing.”—many times he claimed that we had fooled him with what mediums we used. Many of our fans and collectors find it interesting that they are actually getting a painted drawing…or vise-versa.”

Guardians of the Galaxy's Rocket Raccoon Artist Sketch

Guardians of the Galaxy’s Rocket Raccoon Artist Sketch Card

UD Blog: You guys seem like a lot of fun, embracing all the industry has to offer, what are your favorite events to attend and any favorite memories?
Mick & Matt:We have a blast partaking in all the fun—both as professionals and huge fanboys. This actually goes back to being kid’s at heart—part of our creative outlet as youngsters was dressing up in costumes. And now that we’re older attending community events as superheroes has become very rewarding along with the fun. Our most memorable moment would have to be when we scored our first big job in the industry…while in costume! It was quite the interview and experience when we got to show off our portfolio, getting hired on the spot, and then just getting to geek/nerd-out with our newfound colleagues. But hey, dress for the job you want, right?”

UD Blog:You also have a long history of working with Upper Deck. What are some of your favorite projects you have worked on and favorite Marvel characters you illustrate?  Also, there are quite a few projects coming down the pipe for Upper Deck you have created content for. Which projects are you most excited about and what do you think Marvel fans will enjoy seeing from you?

Mick & Matt:When working with Marvel characters specifically we tend to gravitate toward our favorites: Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Wolverine— it really is hard to choose because there are so many great characters in that universe. Our history of working with Upper Deck has been an exciting experience that’s brought us to cover a wide range of diverse Marvel projects. The Marvel Universe has a vast range of characters, settings, and stories that have been thrilling to explore and reinterpret in our own style/take for each product’s theme. It’s impressive that the projects for Upper Deck promote for both the comics and movies. Hopefully one of these days artists will get to start illustrating some of the actor likenesses on some of the movie sets! Our favorite product for UD is the Marvel Premier sets—this is a very unique product for this section of the collector market. Not only does the card stock take well to most artist mediums, but it’s such a professional and quality product. With Premier’s layout and design—and the brilliant artist’s work—it truly is a prestigious product as a whole—and the best of Upper Deck.”

Sketch of Marvel's Antman

2014 Marvel Premier Antman Sketch Card

UD Blog: What tips do you have for those hungry youngsters looking to become professional artists?
Mick & Matt:Our advice would be to work hard at honing your skills, and be dedicated at be being an artist. Create a professional, diversified portfolio, go to conventions and get your work reviewed by as many talent scouts as you can! Always do your best work from the beginning to the end throughout your career. You will benefit yourself and the business that carries you with it, it is the perfect ‘yin yang’ balance of thriving successful business opportunities.”

UD Blog: Anything else we should know about the Glebes?
Mick & Matt:One of our latest thrilling projects has been illustrating comic book sketch covers for the CGC! This is a really exciting opportunity for us and we love doing this. Our next big step in our career is to eventually be working in the comic book end of the industry—this is an entertainment medium we have always enjoyed. We ourselves have several original comic book projects in the works, The Revenans and The MITH. Both of these comics are available for purchase at our main website twynsunz.com, where you can also find a free downloadable fan-fiction Star Wars comic!”

To view more of Mick and Matt’s unique work, or for more information on their artwork, please check out the following links:

Like us @: www.facebook.com/glebetwins
Email: twynsunzgraphics@cox.net

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