Archive for the ‘Trading’ Category

Congratulations to wizards for keeping Worldwake so firmly under wraps, we have barely a smidge of the set available and official spoilers are starting this week, I believe. While Gwafa’s Bazaar was not lucky enough to recieve a spoiler I can offer the savvy traders out there some advice to prepare for the onslaught to come. Note that all cards and decks mentioned here are hypothetical and used only as examples of the sort of things that might happen in spoiler season.

1. Stay tuned to spoiler outlets

The MTGSalvation Rumour Mill collects every spoiler, official and unofficial – eventually. Those few short hours between a card being previewed on a blog or on twitter and it going up on the MTGS spoiler page can be the difference between an existing, undervalued card being in plenty of stock and it selling out – or, just as bad, it rising in price. This is especially notable on Magic Online where speculators can easily clear out bots in very short order, and some bots are programmed to raise prices in response to a run on a card. Keep your browser pointed at the mothership, SCG, ManaNation, MTGCast and anywhere else you expect to see spoilers posted. Twitter is also great for this as new cards are endlessly retweeted and discussed.

2. Get Liquid

Now is the time to sell off those moderately gaining investments that seem to have stalled and get some cash or tickets ready. In order to respond quickly to spoilers you need liquid assets – there is no point listing some ebay auctions or scouring buylists while everyone else is buying up all the foil Mindless Nulls they can find for that hot new deck people are talking about. Sell off now so you can afford a ticket on the wild ride of spoiler season.

3. Don’t believe the hype

Not every new card is going to be a winner, even though you will find segments of the community that will say that any new rare is completely broken. Check out my article on Quiet Speculation for examples of some mega-hyped flops that never lived up to their promise and lost a lot of value as a result. There are a few simple rules that can help you drive through the hype to find the real worth of the card, the easiest of which is – how does this compare to what we already have? For example, a hypothetical fat blue-red flying creature is previewed in Worldwake. The decks that this might obviously go in are RWU and RBU control – but these decks already have Baneslayer Angel and Sphinx of Jwar Isle, so unless our new toy fits into those decks better than the existing rivals it doesn’t matter how much the rumour mill rants and raves about it, it is probably not worth as much as they think it is.

4. Do believe the hype

Or is it? Sometimes mere hype is enough to set up a great deal. If the internet hive-mind has declared merfolk the new “best deck” but you’re not buying it, that doesn’t mean you can’t make a profit. If you can grab Merfolk Sovereigns early enough, then when the hype pushes the price up in the short term you can sell them off for some quick bucks. In this scenario you will need to keep track of all new spoilers though, as another spoiled card may make the hive-mind’s declaration correct!

5. Most cards go down after release

Following on from the points about hype, most cards go down in price from the price they presell at. This is inevitable – most cards are not tournament worthy, though people often think they will be. Don’t buy up everything you can on release as most of them will be losing investments – pick and choose carefully. It is usually better to miss one surprise hit, than to buy ten losers.

This is all pretty much common sense but it is good to be reminded, and this is the perfect time to do so. I’m as excited as any of you about the new set, I can’t wait to see whats in store! I won’t be posting on every spoiler, just the ones that catch my eye as good investments – or overhyped dud. Catch up with me on twitter for more spoiler thoughts.

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Beginning at the start of next year, PTQs for San Juan will be in full swing. These are extended constructed tournaments, and you should expect a lot of people to be talking, writing, brewing for and playing extended for the first quarter of next year. This includes – we presume – the first ever contructed PTQs on MTGO. So, given we know about this buzz one month in advance, how can we turn it to our financial advantage? Buying extended staples at their current depressed prices, of course!


"Hmm... maybe extended this month."



The Circle of Life

Formats are always changing. There are set rotations, rule changes, bannings and restrictions, meta changes and so forth that affect what cards people want to have. This change in level of desire is why prices change, and this change in prices is where we stand to make a few extra dollars through trading. The important change to consider now is the change in what PTQ format is in season. Currently it is limited, which means a lot of people are opening a lot of packs, and nobody needs to tune up their competitive decks for anything more important than FNM or States, both normally standard. Extended card prices are not as low as they might be thanks to PT: Austin and Worlds, but they are still lower than they were last time it was the PTQ format, and lower than they will be come January. How about some examples, to illustrate?


I’ve looked through the archive of Hamtastic’s brilliant State of the Program series over on Pure MTGO, and grabbed some card prices from back in January and February. I’ve then compared these to the current prices on Mtgo Traders. If I was clever I’d put this into a table, but instead you get plain text formatting.

.                                                                      Jan/Feb                    Now

Engineered Explosives                                   32                             14

Chrome Mox                                                    21.75                        11

Arcbound Ravager*                                         22                             10

Steam Vents                                                    11                              5

All numbers are in event tickets. The * against Ravager indicates that Affinity as a deck has taken some serious hits to playability in the new extended meta, so I’d be wary of buying the mighty Ravager even at this comparatively low price. I know this is not a very large sample size but it illustrates my point. Black Lotus Project‘s handy graphs shows the same effect for paper cards, though it unfortunately also shows us we’ve missed the boat for extended paper cards thanks to PT: Austin. I’ll leave the investigation of this as an exercise for the reader.

So what to buy? Well, a quick study of the top Extended decks from Worlds will be educational. The two biggest decks are various Thopter combo decks, of which LSV’s Gifts Ungiven version seems to be the strongest; and Rubin Zoo piloted to PT glory by Brian Kibler. All in Red was also quite succesful, and seems like an easy deck for new extended players to pick up. Expect all of these decks to be popular on MTGO come January, though perhaps Thopter less so than the other two for the intimidating complexity of the deck. Rubin Zoo, unfortunately, plays a ton of well known money cards already, like Tarmogoyf, Baneslayer Angel and hundreds of dollars worth of nonbasic lands.

One thing I noticed about the other two lists is how often Chrome Mox and Chalice of the Void show up in both, despite them being virtually opposite decks – one a slow, grinding control deck and one an ultra fast aggro/combo deck. We can see how low Chrome Mox is by looking at the figures above, and Chalice of the Void is currently under 4 tickets from stores despite being one of the most powerful disruption tools in the format. Blood Moon is another powerful disruptive tool that features in Rubin Zoo and All-In Red, and though it has never been a high priced card it could be ready for a breakout PTQ season. Blood Moon is one for the gamblers among us.

If I were looking to double my tickets in a months time without knowing much at all about extended, I’d be investing in these two powerful cards on Magic Online. Dark Confidant is also a mere 4 tickets, however it seems to have fallen out of favour with the metagame, especially now Zoo has moved largely to 3 colours. The only advice I can offer to paper players at the moment is to rewind time two months and invest before PT:Austin, but with any luck I’ll still be writing in a year’s time and I can warn you about the same plan then 🙂


Buy: Magic Online extended staples, especially:

Chrome Mox

Chalice of the Void

Blood Moon.

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Accepted Value

Since this is a bit of a dead week for deck-tech in the lead up to Worlds, here’s a post about one of the very basics of trading that a surprising number of people don’t get. I trust that if you’ve found your way here this will be revision, but hopefully it is still entertaining, and it will be built on with more trading theory in the weeks and months to come.

An important concept when doing any buying, selling or trading is what the accepted value of a card is. This value is a rough estimate based on what a card could presently be resold for, or what it would cost to buy easily, and it is by definition a value most traders can accept. It is by no means a definite figure or one that is recorded anywhere, and it is constantly fluctuating. The applications of accepted value when buying or selling cards are obvious – if you find a store or ebay auction with a price below the accepted value of the card, its a good deal. Similarly when selling your cards to dealers or on ebay, you should expect to get something near the accepted value. When trading accepted value can be used to figure out if a trade is fair for both people – for example the accepted value of Nissa Revane today is something like $14 and that of Rootbound Crag is $7-8, so trading one Nissa for 2 Crags is a pretty even trade.

This might seem like a pretty intuitive concept but I’m constantly amazed by how many people have no idea of the value of their cards or of the cards they’re looking for. You wouldn’t go into a magic tournament with money on the line without knowing what the cards in the format do, so why would you trade without knowing what the cards are worth? This elementary mistake can make you feel silly when you realise how badly you got ripped off. Let me illustrate with an anecdote.

A friend of mine was at a games convention with his trade folder, and a stranger wanders up with his own. They say hello, swap folders, and my friend finds two Scalding Tarns he wants. He asks the guy what he wants for them, and the guy exclaims, “Oh wow! Death Baron! Oh man is this for trade? I need this guy for my Zombie deck, he’s so sick.” My friend shrugs and says “Yeah sure, what else?” The guy replies he doesn’t want anything else, he’s so stoked to have a Death Baron he rushes off with it to show his friends how his zombie deck is going to smash them. Now, I don’t know how his friends recieved this news – maybe they were impressed he had traded his crappy lands that cost life for the almighty Death Baron. But if they had any idea of the accepted value of the cards involved, they’d know he’d traded $30 of cards for a $3.00 one and call him a dingus.

Determining Accepted Value

As I said above, accepted value is only an estimate and it is never precise, so how can we determine the accepted value of a card? Well, there are several resources available to help. The easiest way is to pick a store like Star City or Troll & Toad and look at their price for the card. This only takes 30 seconds or so and will give you a vague idea, but stores tend to have higher prices than the broader market (due to their higher costs – wages, rent, power etc) that we’re willing to pay for the convenience.

On the other hand we have the Black Lotus Project, a site that uses data collected from ebay auctions to graph the average price of a card sold at auction. This is a great resource but it seems a bit slow to react to changes, for instance, Eldrazi Monument is still at $3, while in Ebay’s completed auctions they’ve been going for around $9 each since the $5k. Completed auctions is actually one of the most accurate ways to find accepted value, since it shows you what people are actually paying for the cards in question. It can be accessed through the “advanced search” options on Ebay but only if you are a member, and it also involves a bit more work than the other methods. So, with these figures in hand we can have a good guess at the accepted value – a bit lower than the store price and a bit higher than the ebay price, usually. This is because some players use store prices, some use Ebay prices, and the average trading partner will fall somewhere in between.

Pretty Straightforward, Really

This is probably the most basic concept you need to get a handle on before you start trading. If you don’t know what your cards or the ones you want are worth, there is no way you can be sure you’re getting good deals from your trading partners. Staying up to date on the current value of cards will clue you in on chances to make some bucks off traders or stores who are behind the times. A combination of store prices, Black Lotus Project and Ebay is the best way I’ve found to figure out what cards are currently going for.

The pros out there are keeping their Worlds tech secret, so don’t expect much in the way of hot new decks this week. I may do another post Thursday or Friday if a topic catches my fancy, otherwise check out some of the links to the right and tune in again on the weekend for the latest financial news from Rome!

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