Saturday, December 19, 2020

Box Break: 2020-21 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey

Upon realizing that the market is going crazy over Alexis Lafrenière rookie cards - in a "Pro Set signed Patrick Roy mask card" kind of way, not just a "hey, it's a fun year", which makes me think the bubble will burst soon - and that Upper Deck's 2020-21 Series 1 boxes might not be around for long and may see a dramatic increase in price, I shelled out the $129 for one, of the "Retail" variety. My first thought was that this was the best-looking flagship set in a long time:
I really like the full-frame pictures with the silver foil column with the player and team names and the fact that the backs show the complete career statistics.

As usual, Upper Deck used an array of cool photography, including their classic wide angles:
There are also ice-level shots with regular lenses that capture the action well or make Alex Ovechkin look like he weighs 350 pounds:
There are players in cool or awkward positions:
And there are nice, fun celebrations:
As a jersey enthusiast, I appreciate the chance of looking at the pretty ones that mark special occasions like outdoor games or milestone seasons:
Which means I have to suffer through the terrible ones as well:
But it's all worth it for the vintage jerseys:
As for as the usual chase sub-sets, just about one in every five packs had a Young Guns rookie card, so I pulled Olli Juolevi, Nick Robertson, Alex Belzile, Reid Duke and Jake Oettinger:
There were also three Canvas cards, of Nikita Gusev, Elias Pettersson and Jakub Vrana:
And because UD loves to mix-and-match, a Canvas Young Guns card of New York Rangers prospect Vitali Kravtsov:
As is customary in my boxes, I pulled both Checklist cards:
But at least I also got the Young Guns Checklist, featuring teammates Lafrenière and Kravtsov:
I was also lucky enough to get an UD Game Jersey card of Viktor Arvidsson:
The design is pretty neat this year, incorporating the jersey swatch into the image of a stick, as if it were the tape, giving it a purpose of sorts.

The Portraits are a bit of a mess, with O-Pee-Chee-levels of ugliness, but instead of harking back to the 1960s and 1970s like OPC is wont to do, this is chock-full of 1989-1991 pretend-lasers and bright colours, making Connor Hellebuyck, Quinn Hughes, Auston Matthews and Matthew Tkachuk seem like they're in Sixth Grade:
A new sub-set is Dazzlers, with firework/departtment store TV section foil designs meant to act as an epilepsy detector, here with Tyler Seguin putting himself at risk to protect us (just kidding, UD, but there is a lot happening there):
Had that been all, I would have graded it as a near-perfect set, but the collation was awful. Apart from the insert which changed in every pack (a handful of packs did not contain any), no fewer than five of my packs had twins, which means that out of the 192 cards I bought, 35 were doubles, so 18% of the box. To put it another way, only 122 of the cards were unique - or 63.5%. Those are shitty odds at over $100 a pop, especially if the doubles are of Jeff Carter wearing the ugliest Los Angeles Kings jersey ever and similarly hard-to-appreciate cards.

That being said, I did get half a Lafrenière card, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked the cards and how happy they made me feel.

This one is a solid 8.5/10.

Good job, Upper Deck!

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