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The Traveling Trader – Tournament Prep for Traders

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by Blaine Rybacki

After a surprising conclusion to Worlds, the topic on the minds of many magic players is what to play at the upcoming State Championships. Many players are going with the current top dog - Jund, while some are going with the new hotness, Naya Lightsaber. Others have just thrown their hands up in the air and refused to decide on a deck. However, for the players more focused on the trading aspect of upcoming major competitions, the question is what to do while waiting for the big day.

Do Your Homework

One of the first steps that traders should take when getting prepared for trading at major competitions is to take the time to check up on the current dominant deck lists. Not only to get familiarized with what they may see at the competition itself, but what people will most likely be looking for. Take the time to look over both the big finishers and the odd little decks that did somewhat well. My personal advice when looking over these lists is to take note of cards that seem to be played in more than one deck (Fetchlands, Baneslayer, Maelstrom Pulse, Day of Judgment, etc.). Those cards will be easier to trade off and are usually valued higher. Next, try to take note of what cards seem to be critical niche cards that are quintessential to the function of certain popular decks (Jace, Eldrazi Monument, Nissa, Lotus Cobra). Additionally you should check to see if there are any cards that are currently valued low but seem to be rising quickly (Monument circa 3 weeks ago, Emeria Angel, etc.) These kind of cards are what should become your main acquisition goal if they are not already.

This kind of activity should be come habitual to most serious traders. At least twice a week if not nightly you should spend a few minutes updating your prices and checking relevant tournament results to keep yourself in the loop. Now that you've taken the time to compile a list of desirable cards, start actively trying to pick them up at your local tournaments. Although this sounds obvious, I've seen many traders waste their time picking up cards that have some sort of value but are relatively unplayed in the current competitive metagame (Silence, Liliana Vess, Darksteel Colossus, etc.). Now, while these cards may be valuable, they are usually harder to trade at larger events due to the fact that most of the players present are looking for tournament staples. Cards like Silence and Liliana may be played in either casual formats or older formats but are largely unwanted by the "Spike" crowd. Those are the kind of cards you can pick up cheaper from competitive players and bring back to your local store to trade for a profit. There've been many instances where, other than making a good amount of money selling to the dealers, my biggest profit from a large tourney was the massive stack of casual candy I've brought back home. To give an example - at the October Seattle PTQ I traded for six Chandra Nalaars from a Spike player for roughly $2 each. I later traded all of them off at my local stores for around $6-8 due to the desirability of Planeswalkers in my area. In preparation for a large event, don't waste your time picking up casual cards or less-played cards. Instead concentrate on tournament staples that you can trade off for a higher margin at a large event where they will be in huge demand and usually more difficult to find.

Next, check up on what dealer will be present at the event you are attending. This information can be easily attained either from a judge in the area, local forum, or by contacting the tournament organizer. After finding out who the dealer will be, check their buy lists to see what you could potentially sell to the store for easy cash. Usually at these events the dealers will buy cards at higher margins in order to restock quickly in preparation for the next tournament. The dealer at my local tournaments told me bluntly that at these events they rarely sell all that many cards, they are mostly there to buy cards to restock for their online site. Although the buy prices may be different in person (from my personal experience they are usually higher) print off a copy of the list to keep on you while trading at your local stores. Other than tournament staples and other high in demand cards there are usually some cards the dealer is looking for that should be relatively easy and cheap for you to acquire that he will buy for a surprising amount. Don't forget to check over any uncommons the dealer may be buying as well. During the last Standard PTQ season I sold my extra Vivids (I drafted a lot and had around sixty assorted extras) for a dollar a piece to the dealer.

Get That Binder In Order

Everyone has a personal preference for how they organize their binders. Some like to have separate binders for different formats. Some like to have binders for each color. Some like to have one big binder divided into colors and formats. Others seem to just throw cards in their binder half haphazardly. Some don't even use a binder, but have a loose stack of cards in either a deck box or a cardboard box. For the people who are not using a binder, get one! Binders are convenient to carry, easy to organize, and give the firm impression that you are a seasoned hand at trading. A big box of cards, unless spotted with carefully sleeved Tarmogoyfs and Force of Wills, only communicates to the person you are trading with that you either don't care about your collection or are unaware of the value of your cards. When using stacks of cards to trade, you are putting yourself at a massive risk. Stacks of cards are ridiculously easy to steal from, since they are usually in random order and one missing card is hardly ever noticeable. In short, if you haven't already got one, go get a binder and protect those cards.

On the topic of binders, from what I've experienced, having separate binders can be convenient and easy to handle but just as equally easy to lose if you start taking too many out of the backpack at a time. Additionally, big binders can become cumbersome and boring to look through for someone that is just looking for one card. Either system is fine, and I will go into more detail about the positives and negative of using these two systems in my next article. No matter what system you use, before you go to that tournament take the time to re-organize the binder and make it easy to look through. This will expedite trades and please the people you are trading with. Nothing is more frustrating than searching through a three inch binder that is not organized by color, rarity, set, or format for one stupid card. Additionally, much like the random stacks of cards, if your binder is unorganized it makes it harder for you to keep track of your cards to see what you have traded or if anything has been stolen. At the Portland PTQ this last weekend I re
ceived several compliments on well organized and easy to look through my binder was, and several commented that they had on occasion refused to trade with people who had unsorted collections.

Don't Stress, Get Sleep

Lastly, this may sound simple, but get some good rest and eat well before a competition. Even if you are only going to trade it's vital that you are refreshed and alert for the event. Both to get the most out of your trades and so you present a good image to the people your trading with. If you stay up the night before agonizing about your deck, doing last minute organizing, or just plain old partying you will most likely regret it the next day. The days that I have gone to a major event with only a few hours of sleep are almost always the days that I don't get as much accomplished trading and I drop out of the tourney early due to simple stupid play mistakes.

Oh, and for the love of god, please take a shower and wear some clean clothes. We all know how funky it can get inside an enclosed tournament room after a few hours and it's only made worse by poor hygiene. Not to mention that people are way less likely to stick around to trade with you if your breath reeks of Cheetos and Mountain Dew.

Kelly Reid

Founder & Product Manager

View More By Kelly Reid

Posted in Uncategorized

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9 thoughts on “The Traveling Trader – Tournament Prep for Traders

  1. One thing I did at the last GP I attended – which was a Zendikar Sealed format – was have a single Zendikar folder. It was sorted by card number. This allowed anyone who specifically wanted the new Zendikar cards (whether common, uncommon, rare or mythic) to (a) go straight to the right folder, and (b) immediately find what they wanted, or (c) if they didn't know the set, browse it completely. I found this technique to be pretty good, even though the folder was pretty cumbersome.

  2. How do you decide what to include in your trade binder? Do you only include the best of the best? The better stuff from all formats? Only the most desirable cards? I've been torn about what to include in my binder and still keep it managable to carry around.

  3. —Blaine Here,@Wrongway, That's a really good technique, especially as you said around the release of a new set. Not only does it expedite finding the cards that individuals need, but it conveys to the person you are trading with that you are an organized competent trader. On the topic of the cumbersome collection – I totally feel you there, right now I carry around two three inch D ring binders and I'm getting ready to upgrade to a roll around suitcase basically for carrying my collection in.@Blodugr — I'll cover what to include in more detail in my upcoming article (most likely up tuesday, I'm going through finals right now and I've had to donate alot of time to studying/final projects) but a quick bit of advice is to try to take into account the crowd of players your going to be encountering at a major level event like a ptq. At that kind of event your not as likely to run into the type of individuals hunting for Death barons or elvish champions. Rather you're going to mostly encounter the hardcore spikes that only want your competitive level cards. As such if your looking to slim down the binder, make sure to take out what I like to refer to as the "casual candy." At an event like this is where you should be bringing mostly tournament staples. If you need to cut for additional space try to only bring cards that are A) new and desireable (this is obviously refering to the month after a new set release) B) Currently type 2 legal and C) being used in the next competitive season. Since right now we are getting near the conclusion of sealed format with extended most likely coming around the corner your binder should consist of competitive type two and extended cards. If you follow this premise your binder should still be manageable while also being chock full of golden trade material.Thanks for the comments guys!

  4. I sort my binder by color and format. All the front cards are standard, while the rest are etc. This does work good. And I appreciate the author pointing out that cards are much more attractive in a binder. When I want to trade with someone, but they pull out a stack of cards from the box (usually with a rubberband around them) it automatically reduces the chances I will make a good trade with them. A little respect for your own cards goes a long way!!

  5. All of this article is relevant, but one thing I found most important, and needs to be stressed again and again; TAKE A SHOWER!Man, some folks who come out to compete just smell like the "hey, I am 31, live in my mom's basement, bathe once a week and never brush my teeth" types.It is very discouraging to deal with and when I trade with these folks I know I am less inclined to be fair or patient.

  6. I like what you've got coming, and would like to add another suggestion. Would you mind including what is considered a tournament staple, identifying such a staple, and what your process of idenification goes through. I remember Steven Menedian going through a list on SCG about tournament staples for vinage and legacy. Would you recommend a process similar his?

  7. blodugr, Standard moves around just a bit too fast for a comprehensive "staple" list. What does work reasonably well is to go to a dealer site with a good search function, and find all rares costing >$2, and any uncommons >$1.This won't help you find any diamonds in the rough, but it'll let you know what's worth more than "bulk" at a given time.

  8. Steve has good advice. Starcity Games is overpriced on most cards, IMO, but they have a good search feature that will let you narrow down the prices on the cards you want to see. So, as Steve pointed out, you can find all the uncommons in a specified set/block or format that cost over a certain dollar amount.If you want a price list you can print out and stick in a binder, check out http://ark42.com/mtg/pricelist.php — click on a card name to see its price history. Anything less than $1 doesn't make the list. I think their prices are also a little on the high side, but it will help you avoid being screwed in a trade. And it covers ALL sets, which is helpful, because it's not easy to memorize constantly shifting values on every card in existence.

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