The Art of Trading[/center]
Hello everybody! I would like to talk about a topic that is very important to most Magic players: trading. Trading is something most people will be doing a lot unless (and even if) they have enough money to buy singles. If you know how to trade correctly, you can increase the total value of your cards, and improve the quality of your cardpool without attempting to make trades like "my two commons for your dual." This article is based on personal experience and observations. There will be a lot of basic stuff here, which many of you may already know, but there will be some tricky stuff too, so I think that almost everyone will be able to gain something from reading this.
But why bother learning ? The answer is simple! If you don't make the most of your cards and you want to be competitive at tournaments, you will be forced to buy singles. If you buy singles, you won't have money. If you won't have money, you won't be able to buy condoms. If you can't buy condoms, your girlfriend will probably get pregnant. Since lots of Magic players are under 18, this would be a big problem. So, learn how to trade to avoid unwanted pregnancy!
I wanna be a master of Poke... erm... trading
What do I have to do to become better at trading, you may ask ? You should go live in a forest for a month, taking only fork and knife with you. Learn to manage resources that are at your disposal, and then you will be set to start trading. If you can catch some Pokemon in the process, good for you
This 133t trader only had a Bonesplitter
This 133t trader only had a Bonesplitter
Ok, let's get a little more serious here. There really are a few things that you should know before you can really be successful at trading. This is just my opinion, but unless you start playing competitive Magic, you won't be able to recognize the good cards so often. You should not only know what cards are good now, but also know why they are good. When you know how everything works, you will be able to see which cards in the sets will become the chase rares.
You should constantly keep track what decks become competitive and which decks become bad. Stuff that was considered crap before and was at $1-2 usually doesn't go sky high. But they usually go up a few dollars. Still not a big profit, but it's there. Glare of Subdual would be a nice example. The card didn't cost much when it first came out, and didn't increase much in value after it became a tournament-worthy card. There are always exceptions of course. Tooth and Nail went from $1 crap to $10+ staple. But this is very rare. What is more important is that, when decks become noncompetitive, then cards that were used there can drop a lot.
The last thing is deciding why you're trading. Some people may trade to sell singles and make profit. In that case, I doubt that my article will be very useful to you. But if you want to know how to trade so that you will be able to get the cards you need when you need them, this should be for you.
The time to strike is NOW! KILL!! Or trade...
If you want to trade successfully, you must know what to do and when. There are two moments when it's always time to make profit. The most important one is when a new set is released. Then the hunt for staples begins! There are always underrated and overrated cards. Your main target at first are the underrated cards. A good example would be Loxodon Hierarch. When Ravnica was released, I knew that I must have this card. I grabbed a playset when they were $2.5-$3 each. Now they are at $7 each according to average MOTL prices. A $16 profit is quite good. Life from the Loam was another card that was unnoticed at first, but it didn't go too high, so I didn't feel too bad when I overlooked it. [It peaked at $10 on SCG at the height of Extended season, FYI. –Ed.]
The overrated cards are your second target. These are the cards you want to drop off as quick as possible while they are still hot. For Ravnica Grave-Shell Scarab is the case. The card was $7 at first and now it dropped to $3.5! People who gave it away for a good price can feel happy now. I'm glad to be one of those people. But don't forget that there is always a chance that something that seemed overrated to you might stay high and even go up more. You can't always be 100% sure. A good example is Pithing Needle I picked up a set when they were at $16 each. I thought that was a very high price then, but I needed them, so I ignored that part. Now they are at $20 each, which I really didn't expect. As I mentioned before, if you play competitive Magic, you will better learn to recognize underrated and overrated cards.
The second moment when it's time to make profit is when Standard rotates. Actually, you could call this protecting yourself from losses rather than making profit. Type 2 has the biggest impact on card prices, and when it rotates you should expect big changes. Let's take Mirrodin as an example. What were the biggest staples there? I will give you a list:
2.Tooth and Nail
Those were the most chased rares from Mirrodin block. Excluding the Troll they all booked at $10+, with the Troll around $8. What has happened to these mighty ones? While most of them are still played and are good cards, the value is very different. The only card that could have realistically kept its high value was Chrome Mox. But it still dropped from $16 to $9. Owners of Arcbound Ravager received the biggest kick in the groin, which certainly made me happy because I got rid of them in time The poor guy dropped from a gigantic price of $18-20 to a pathetic $5. A similar situation was with Solemn Simulacrum. The card was very good in Standard, but was almost worthless in any other format. This once-$12 card dropped to $2.3, which is pretty pathetic. The same will happen to Kamigawa Block cards. I'm not sure about Cranial Extraction and Umezawa's Jitte, but they will probably drop a bit. But Kokusho, the Evening Star will probably suffer a big downfall. Pithing Needle should keep a good price, but still will go under the incredible $20 price at which it is now.
Remember that this will always happen. It cannot be avoided. Your only chance here is to look at the Extended decks and try and figure out which of the currently hot Standard cards are also staples in Extended. Those cards have a chance of only dropping a bit, but if you are not planning on using them in Extended, I wouldn't hesitate getting rid of them. But be sure that they will drop at least a bit even if they are played in Extended. I'll make another example. Ravenous Baloth was almost at $8-9 when he was Standard-legal, but was mostly played in The Rock, which was an Extended deck. And what about now? The card is as playable as always [well... -Ed], but now it only costs $3. Feel the power of Standard! If you like the cards, then sometimes it's possible to trade them away while they are still high, and then get them back once they drop. That's pure profit again. So remember, when Standard rotates, you can suffer a big loss unless you take proper actions. Most importantly, dump all the staples that are present only in Standard and consider doing the same with average cards(the ones that cost $4-6). I didn't have to regret doing so even once.
Those aren't the only possibilities to make some profit from your cards. There are two other possibilities which you should consider using. The profits here are less, but still rather nice.
The first thing is your local metagame. Different areas have different players, so the demands are also different. Try to get a hold of cards that people want most, and some people may give you more then they are worth or trade better cards for them. Timmy and Johnny are the main targets here. Those are the people who tend to trade down cards for something they want/like (to be honest, I still do it sometimes, but not too often). You should always know those people and never hesitate to ask them what cards they are looking for. If they remember that you like staples, you may become the first person they come to when they get a hold of something good.
The second way is trading good cards for good cards. Having a few extra staples is always nice, but there is no point in trading a $7 card that will just sit around in your binder for another $7 that you also don't need. But trading that $7 card and some crap rares/uncommons for a $9-10 card is work it. Improving card quality is always very good. This will be the next topic I want to discuss:
As we all know, quantity isn't quality. Having a few really good cards is better then having a bunch of average ones. We can divide the cards into Standard staples, which are in high demand at the moment and cost a lot; Extended staples, which go from average to high prices; and Legacy/Vintage staples, which are usually hard and expensive to acquire. Last but not least, there are foil staples. Before I talk more in detail about each of these, I must say that getting extra copies of staples is always good, but this is only true for the expensive ones (which are $9 and up). These cards have a magic property of turning into whole decks when you need them to. When you need, never hesitate to trade away those extra staples to get cards for your deck, because this is the main function of such cards. Just go find some other person who will gladly get a staple just because it's a good card and get that bunch of smaller stuff you need to finish your deck.
Now we can talk more in detail about staples from different formats.
Usually, these are the cards that most people want. When a new set is released, every Spike wants to get himself the staples so he can be competitive. Lots of people want to get those cards as soon as possible so they can kick some butt in the very first tournaments where the set will be legal. You mostly want people to downtrade these when you try to get them. You can also use these to get yourself some good, harder-to-get Extended cards, since those are in lower demand.
As I mentioned before these cards have lower demand. There is always a chance that when you get them, you will have a hard time trading them afterwards. Good ol' Ravenous Baloth will serve as a nice example again. I doubt that someone will give them away for crap, but I also doubt that it will be easy to find people who want them. Prices on some Extended cards change from time to time, so you may be able to turn some of the more volatile cards into the more stable ones like Pernicious Deed and Orim's Chant.
These are the cards with the most stable value. Most of the staples here are very expensive. I'm not Vintage expert, and I have never traded for Power/Drains/Duals and other such high-end cards, so I will only mention Legacy. Dual lands are probably the most in-demand cards in Legacy. [I think Force of Will is right up there, too. -Ed.] But not all of them are the same. There are crappy duals like Savannah, and then there are the good duals. We could consider the good duals all duals that have Blue in them like Underground Sea. Legacy staples are hard to get and many people wouldn't trade them down. Some traders refuse to trade Legacy cards for Standard or even Extended cards, but some are willing to trade down their Legacy cards if you give quite a bit more than they are actually worth. I remember when I traded away my set of Force of Wills, I got around $26 for each of them because I took Standard staples for them. If you ever get the chance to trade Type 2 staples for Legacy ones for the same price, do it. If you are patient enough you will be able to get those cards back plus extras.
I decided to make a special section for foils. Trading with/for foils is not always easy. To get most of your foils, you have to be patient. Some people will give a lot for foil staples. Here, you can sometimes cancel the no Standard for Legacy rule. One thing I would like to warn you about are Standard foil staples. If those aren't playable in Extended or some other format, and you were unable to trade them before Standard rotates, then you will suffer gigantic losses. What cost $30+ before can go down to as low as $6. Losing $20 per card will be possible and you don't want that, right? I like foils, but I prefer not to overkill with those. If I have a chance to trade a foil staple for other staples for the same value I almost always will. Foils can be much harder to trade, so you can get stuck with them.
The evil trader
There is a little price when you become a good trader. Your soul. People will hate you for owning lots of good cards, and after you trade your little sister/brother for that foil Chrome Mox that you always wanted, they will probably tie you up and burn/hang you.
It's not like somebody actually uses
his soul anyway...
It's not like somebody actually uses
his soul anyway...
Hope you didn't get scared and didn't stop reading. You can make your profits and still not become a horrible, evil bastard. When I first started trading more seriously, I didn't feel too guilty after trading some crap uncommons for a Nantuko Shade, but later I understood that you will make things easier for yourself if you're nice when trading. When Timmy or Johnny wants to give something really good for something small, you should always offer them something in addition to that. Maybe it's still not 100% honest, but I prefer just saying "The card costs more then you are taking. You can pick some more cards." After the person takes some more cards, he will feel happy with the trade since he got more than expected. Timmy and Johnny don't value cards like Spike, so everyone is satisfied in the end.
I don't really know what people think of my trading ways, but I don't really think that someone hates me. Or at least, I hope no one does. It's always nice when people come to you and ask your advice about trading. Once, someone actually phoned me and started describing a trade he was doing and asked if that sounded fair to me. That's a good feeling. Don't be a total bastard! Never try to say that your cards cost much more then theirs if you know that it's the other way around. If you are unsure how much something costs, then say you're unsure. A good strategy is asking the person what would be a fair price in his opinion. If he names a small price, you can always say that you would like to get more, but if he named a bigger price than you expected . . . well, he offered it himself, so you aren't doing anything wrong. It's business. Also, when someone wants some good cards from you that you don't use in a deck, and he only has stuff of about the same value which you don't need, don't just trade them 1:1. The person is getting what he wants and you get absolutely nothing. Explain that you don't really need those cards and that there is no point for you to trade like that unless you are getting a good deal. If the person agrees to value his cards lower, then you can trade. This wouldn't be ripping the person, since he is informed that he is trading his cards away for less.
In conclusion, I would like to say that trading should be a fun process. It's not good if one side is thinking that he or she is getting ripped. And when you have made a reasonable profit from your cards, you will also be able to trade your soul back. Sometimes, you can even do that with some profit. So good luck with trading, and don't forget to visit my trade thread so I can cheat all your staples from you.
Editing: Dr. Tom