Sunday, April 2, 2023

Blaster Box Break: 2022-23 Artifacts

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I made a series of bad decisions today at Toys 'R' Us, including purchasing my kids clearance Ghosbusters and Incredibles plush toys that they ended up wanting noting to do with, but mostly having to do with knowing I had $35-40 of expendable money to put on hockey cards or McFarlane figurines, ending up deciding between blaster boxes of two Upper Deck products: 2022-23 O-Pee-Chee and 2022-23 Artifacts, at $43 plus tax apiece (essentially $50, above my target limit).

I should have steered clear, or at the very least gone with OPC, which was sure to get me double the amount of cards, and have them be easier to get signed as well. But no, I essentially played the lottery of 7 packs of 5 cards and paid more than a buck per card, got maybe three that I might be able to get signed (I'll probably end up aiming for ten, but I'm not confident at all), and was not giddy about any of the players I pulled. No Edmonton Oilers, no Colorado Avalanche, no Montréal Canadiens, no Calgary Flames, a single Ottawa Senators player.

Let's take a look at what I did get. First off, the set's theme this year is "blue". This used to be a set that had embossed textures, Egyptian-esque themes and colours relating to lost treasure and sand, like tones of grey, beige, light/nearly pastel versions of more traditional colours, with a classy bit of white to tie it all together. Not this year. It gets tackier every second I look at it, pretend British Royal drapes and a cheap design that a high schooler would have gotten down better:
At first glance, they look alright; the style is relatively reminiscent of past editions but definitely new, and the scan doesn't do the silver foil (ARTIFACTS brand, team logo and brand name), although the scan provides a depth to the blue artwork on the sides that the eyes can't even begin to see, kind of like when Advanced Stats had Benoît Pouloit as one of the best play-drivers in the league and yet everyone except Oilers GM Craig MacTavish knew that was absolute rubbish. this is worse than that. The backs feature five years of basic statistics as well as the player's height, weight, shooting side and birthdate (but neither birthplace, hometown or nationality).

Upper Deck having been infected by the O-Pee-Chee coloured variants/parallels virus since 2006-07, I did land three "Turquoise" parallels of Moritz Seider, Patrick Kane and John Carlson:
I exaggerated the green hue and put a bit of extra brightness on the filter to show that the foil is indeed a bit greener than just 'blue", but not all-out green, as that is probably reserved for the "Emerald" parallels.

The "one true hit" I got in this box is this "Indigo" parallel of Nicklas Backstrom, numbered 2/10:
Two things: the ink bled through its spots in both zeroes of the "02/10", which makes it look dirty, and the "/10" actually looks a lot more like "/18". I also don't know of diehard Backstrom fan communities where a member would take it off my hands at a decent value. If any ready knows of one, please, send them my way, it would be a shame if I let this one get destroyed out of neglect.

The entire set is comprised of 200 cards: 100 regular base cards, 35 "stars" (#101-135; short-printed at 599 copies each), 20 goalies (#136-155; also just limited to 599 per), 15 "legends" (#156-170; also limited to 599), and 30 rookies (#171-200; of which there are 999 of each, for some reason).

Please, please, please. PLEASE. STOP WITH THE RETIRED PLAYERS, and for fuck's sake, PLEASE DO NOT REFER TO ALL OF THEM AS LEGENDS. I pulled three, cards #160, 161 and 162 in the set, conveniently:
That is Matthias Ohlund, Teemu Selanne and Bernie Nicholls.

Selanne is a no-brainer Hall Of Famer. Consistently among the elite over a couple of decades, clutch both in his prime and in his decline, a decorated Olympian and Stanley Cup champion. He truly is a Legend.

Nicholls once scored 70 goals and twice scored 40 or more, and he has a 150-point and a 100-point season to his name. His peaks were high but he was merely very good compared to his peers for more than half his career, and he had a run with each team he's played on save for the Los Angeles Kings where he looked like his offense had completely dried up. He would need his lawyer to convice a panel of hockey experts that he belongs on a list of "legends".

Ohlund was the best defenseman on a Vancouver Canucks team that was in transition between the West Coast Express and Sedin Twin years, essentially holding the baton between two perhaps better defensemen in Jyrki Lumme and Alexander Edler. He did an admirable job, but unless I'm forgetting something, he pobably would have been a second-pair defender on a contending team.

Which brings me to this: Artifacts in a 200-player set in which the stars, rookies and goalies are relatively short-printed; 1004 skaters and 119 goalies suited up in at least one NHL game last year. Why waste ANY cardboard and ink on players whose cards can be found on Ebay for under a dollar at most and more commonly in penny bins at flea markets when half the players who actually suited in an NHL game in 2021-22 will not have their likeness on a 2022-23 product?

The colours on the "Legends" cards were spot-on, though. This should have been the main set's design.

For all these reasons, this box is the most disappointing one I've opened in a very long time.


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