Whinston’s Whisdom – Reader Questions and Bonus Tips

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What a whirlwind of a week. With school starting up again for me in just a few days, and quite a few AP Summer assignments not completed, it looks like I’ll be quite busy. But not too busy to bring you another installment of Whinston’s Whisdom, here on Quiet Speculation! While last week I talked about the basics of trading on MTGO, today I want to go into much more detail, talking about specific cards I’ve been speculating on online, as well as doing my best to answer some reader questions from last week. Let’s start off with those:

Corbin Hosler: “Having a Mac, I’ve never jumped into MTGO…”

While Corbin did not phrase this as a question, I still feel this is an important topic to address. Many people shy away from MTGO, because they have operating systems that are incompatible with the software. However, there are many programs available on the market which allow you to run a Windows program on your Mac.

The Good

Boot Camp: Though I do not have personal experience with this, many associates have assured me that it works. Essentially, it allows you to restart your computer, except rebooting it with a Windows operating system rather than a Mac. This then allows you to use Windows programs, including the most important of all, MTGO.

Parallels Desktop: This is what I personally use to run MTGO on my Mac. Parallels partitions your computer, allowing you to run Windows and Mac software side by side. While it does cause the computer to run a bit slower, I feel this is a worthwhile sacrifice in order to be able to access all of your documents already present on your computer, as well as not having to reboot your computer everytime you want to grind some games. While it can cost you up to $90, not including the cost of the Windows software itself, Parallels is still a great tool, and would be my pick for anyone who wants to run MTGO on their Mac

The Bad

Wine: Wine is supposed to be able to run windows software on a Mac without needing to purchase a Windows operating system. I downloaded a free trial to test it out before I purchased Parallels, and was unable to use it. The instructions were nearly non-existent, so either I did something wrong, or it just didn’t work. Crossover is another program that should let you run Windows based games from a Mac. Unfortunately, it does not support MTGO. Not a good use of $40, I can tell you that.

While it may be inconvenient to run MTGO on a Mac, there are several ways to do it without having to go out and buy a whole new computer.

MtgVeteran: “I’ve been wanting to set up my own bot for a while, but most sites that sell them look sketchy. I want to be able to take care of bug fixes and know how to properly operate the program before dumping a few hundred dollars blindly over the internet.”

I have to say, I agree with this sentiment completely. I would never endorse putting your entire MTGO account, and likely a significant amount of value, in the hands of an automated program unless you can be 100% sure that nothing will happen. Before picking a bot, I talked to several friends who have used, or still use bots. However, bot websites will almost never hand over the code that is used for their bot. if you want to have a more hands on approach to your bot, and you are skilled enough with technology (which I personally, am not), feel free to try and build your own. If you are successful, you may even be able to turn this into an entirely new way to create profit: by selling or renting your bots over the internet.

Andrea: “what is the cost of setting up a bot? how much will weight the cost of electric energy? how long it will take to determine price variation? is it possible to speculate over few low cost rares if bot’s buy prices are so low?”

To answer these questions one by one—

1)   Personally, I rent a bot (I’m going to leave out the name of the website so as not to endorse a particular vendor over another) for the cost of $60/month + 4% of tickets made+a fraction of a ticket whenever I download a new price list. This bot is able to buy, sell and trade all cards, and has a downloadable price list, which I can then adjust to my preferences. From the same site, it is possible to rent a “bulk” bot, i.e. a bot that sells X rares for 1 ticket, Y uncommons for 1 ticket, etc. my decision to rent a bot vs. buying one is influenced by the fact that I am rather new to MTGO selling, and if I decide to become more heavily involved in MTGO dealing then I will look into purchasing a permanent bot

2)   To be honest I don’t know the answer to this question. As I do not pay my house’s electricity bills, I have no idea what it would cost to run the computer for long periods at a time. I would direct this question to some of the other well informed writers on this site.

3)   Price variation on the bot I use is fairly easy to manipulate. Every 12 hours, the bot website publishes a price list which is downloaded onto the bot. However, as the dealer, I can set a percentage by which to vary the price. For example, I can sell Primeval Titan for 10% above its official buy list price and buy it for 20% below that price. This percentage will remain constant through any price changes and updates. This can also be set card by card or applied to sets and rarities as a whole, which it makes it quite hands-on and efficient to use.

4)   This is one of the major problems with speculating on MTGO if you don’t want to make the investment of a bot. Because it there is no Ebay like function in the client, you must be online if you want to trade with other users, and without a bot, this can involve long hours in front of the computer screen. However, bots’ buy prices are very low, partly because the number of online “Draft only” players is so high. These players are only looking for a way to convert their drafted cards to cash quickly before hopping back into another draft. They really don’t care about half of a ticket here or there. I’ll put this as straightforwardly as possible: in order to make a significant profit on MTGO, you have to be selling to players. While there are rare occasions where you can still make a profit selling to bots, this requires an unusually large jump in price (such as the price jump in Bitterblossom and other Lorwyn cards when the new rotation of the Extended format was announced), which doesn’t come around very often. even looking at current hot cards like Serra Ascendant (which I will bring up later) or Avenger of Zendikar, if you were to use bot buy functions to try and liquidate your stock, the profit would be less than a third of what you would make if you sold to players.

Well, those are all the questions I received from last week’s article, and it turns out that my answers took up much more of my article than I expected. So I’ll just round out this article with some MTGO tips of the week:

Tip #1: Titans

All members of M2011’s Titan cycle have been shooting up recently. Primeval Titan has gone up by 4-5 tix over a week and a half, Inferno Titan doubled in price after US Nationals, while Frost Titan increased by 50%. The 2 members of this family less affected have been the Grave and Sun varieties. Frankly, I would not be looking at investing in Grave Titan at the moment, as Black is quickly becoming the worst color in Standard. Especially after the rotation of Jund, I just can’t see Grave Titan fitting in anywhere unless some truly heroic Black cards are printed in Scars.

Sun Titan on the other hand, should be commanding more than its current 4 ticket price. While U/W Control may not be the top dog it once was, it’s a more than playable deck which will conveniently enough carry over through the rotation, so Sun Titan could be a worthwhile buy

Tip #2: Steel Overseer

Ah, the sweet smell of speculation. With Scars of Mirrodin almost certainly being another artifact centered block, Steel Overseer’s price has been getting a nice bump from people sure that it will be the next Vampire Nocturnus: utterly useless in the context in which it was printed, but becoming infinitely more powerful with a future set. While I am not a member of R&D, I would still call it a safe bet that Steel Overseer will be worth a significant more once Scars of Mirrodin is released.

This is where having separate MTGO and paper markets can be profitable. In paper, this speculation has made Steel Overseer’s price too high (around $5) to reliably make any profit unless it is the next Arcbound Ravager. On the other hand, on MTGO, Steel Overseer sits at a cheap .6-.8 tickets, the perfect level to make some cash once Scars is released. It’s extremely possible that the Overseer will get a boost with Scars even if it never sees competitive play, just because the hype just prior to the release will artificially inflate the price.

Tip #3: Serra Ascendant

On last week’s article, I was just a day or two off Serra Ascendant becoming the new “it” card. Because of Conley Woods’ success with his Mono White Weenie Lifegain deck, Soul Sisters, at U.S Nationals, many people in love with this archetype have been trying to get their hands on Serra Ascendant. While the archetype cannot reliably survive Shards rotation (the loss of Ranger of Eos removes the deck’s only source of card advantage), it is wildly popular at the moment, mainly because of the public’s infatuation with anything off the beaten path that can also win.

Aside: if you don’t understand my slight cynicism, it is only because I respect Conley too much to abide hearing his deck’s called “bad” when they fail to win after their original tournament. From reading Conley’s articles, it is evident that he builds decks to win specific tournaments, and does not expect them to become staples of the metagame afterwards. All the “rogue spikes” who copy his decks and fail to win with them blame the deck itself rather than their faulty interpretation of its purpose. End aside

As such, the Ascendant has gone up from 1 to 2 tix on MTGO, not a huge price increase, but in paper, the Ascendnt has shot up about %400-500, up to $5. Personally, I picked up about 60 copies for $2.50 each, and plan to double up on them as soon as possible. For anyone who has also speculated on them, I can only recommend turning them over for profit as soon as possible, because I don’t expect this bubble to last for long.

And we’ve come to the end of yet another article here at Whinston’s Whisdom. I hope this one was as informative and enjoyable as the previous ones, and I’ll be back with another next week.

At the moment, I’m looking into establishing a full MTG dealership for myself, but am just in the information gathering stage. If I’m able to talk to enough experienced dealers between now and next week, I may devote next article to putting some of their thoughts and advice down on paper (figuratively at least).

Also, a new feature for those of you interested, if you have any questions, longer perhaps than you would feel comfortable putting in the comments, feel free to email me at, and I’ll be happy to answer them. While I can’t claim to be as experienced in the world of finance as some of the other august writers here, I think I can bring a new viewpoint to certain topics.

But until then, keep your head straight and avoid the hype,

--Noah Whinston

16 thoughts on “Whinston’s Whisdom – Reader Questions and Bonus Tips

  1. Just a note on Parallels: it does not require you to partition your hard drive. Your Windows disk image is just one big giant (My Windows XP virtual machine is 13GB) file on your hard drive.

    Boot Camp, however, does require you to partition your hard drive.

    Parallels can turn a Boot Camp partition into a Parallels virtual disk, but you can't go (easily) in the opposite direction.

    Max out your RAM if you're going to use Parallels — I have 4GB and sometimes it can act up, depending on what else I have going on at the same time.

  2. I bought Ascendants at 1 tix from bots and sold them back to bots for a bit more than 3 tix, wish I could have gotten more, but time constraints make dealing on MTGO hard, so i really should look into getting a bot.

  3. RE: Power supply costs.

    Add the power supply wattage to your monitor wattage and multiply by your cost per kilowatt*hr from your electric company. This is your cost per hour.

    For example, a 450W power supply + 50W monitor = 500W. If your electricity is $0.08/kWh, you're spending $0.96 a day to run your computer continuously.

    1. Keep in mind that's going to be your upper limit. A computer (almost) never uses 100% of it's power supply's potential output. When idle, big power hogs like graphics cards go idle, while harddrives get to spin down and CPU's speed-step (not sure if they still call it that?).

      I would guess with MTGO minimized (to alleviate the GPU load), monitor turned off, and nothing else running, you're probably looking around 50-100 watts. If you're using a laptop, even less (they're designed for low power consumption), if you're using a Mac Mini, they advertise around 15 watts.

  4. I have no idea where you are getting your "bots pay low" thing from. A GOOD bot has a 8-10% profit margin. compare that to paper where dealers pay half price to 65% of their sell price on average. Do you actually have any idea what you are talking about?

    1. Yeah, I am wondering too. Everytime I look for players to sell my cards I see that they pay worse than the bots, then i turn around and sell to a bot.

      Of course, if you have your own bot…

  5. @CATS: usually, players will buy at 1 or 2 tickets higher than a bot, there are exceptions though.

    @theDude: while this may be true on higher priced items (baneslayer, Jace TMS, etc.) on the lower priced items, there usually is a march large profit margin. for example, bots will usually buy temple bell for .08-.15 and sell for .5+ which is at least 330% of their buy price

  6. Maybe I am thinking about this in the wrong way, but once Path, O-ring, Pulse, and Terminate rotate, aren't black creatures suddenly hard to deal with? Doesn't that give Grave Titan (and presumably Persecutor) a chance to shine? Black could get any number of tools in Scars, as WoTC knows it isn't a heavily played color right now. I wouldn't count it out just yet. Memoricide could be a sign of black to come, after all.

  7. The monitors are the big cost when it comes to power. You want to turn those off. I suspect most multi bot owners are using a virtual connection to monitor several computers running the software without a monitor plugged in to any of them. Keep in mind that you do want this computer running all the time. If it goes to sleep and the hard drives shut down you loose your connection to the client. Most bots have a "no sleep" function but it doesn't always replicate user input well so newer operating systems will put the computer to sleep if you don't stop them.

    Power costs in my area put running a midrange PC w/out monitor at $10 a month. (I was paying $40 a month several years ago to play WoW 30+ hrs a week on gaming pc with a 21 inch CRT).

    If you buy the price list every 12 hours it costs you $12 a month (at 0.2/download). If you are paying $60 a month to the bot for rental you really need to be moving some cards to recover that. The problem with selling cheeper cards like your Temple Bell example is that you need enough of them for someone to get thier whole tickets worth. I went to a bot last night that had 12 rares for 1 which is 0.083 ea, but either they were so picked over that you couldn't find 12 you wanted. The reason certainly was that he couldn't buy sustainable rares for that price since there are many bots that will buy them 12-15 for 1.

    Most likely with prices that low he's just unloading his draft trash and trying to get a little bit more for it than he could get selling to an established chain, but it doesn't seem like he's putting enough into it to make sales.

  8. "how much will weight the cost of electric energy? "

    Electricity costs you different amounts per kilowatt/hour depending on where you live. There isn't a basic rate that is charged everywhere in the world. Also, every appliance, built to different standards, consumes electricity differently. If you have a water heater, A/C unit, or something else fairly large, you can probably find a yellow sticker on it somewhere telling you how much electricity it uses to function over the course of a year. Find an electric bill or call your utility company and you can find out just how much you are paying per kilowatt/hr of electricity. From there you should be able to consult a calculator 🙂

    Don't even bother though unless for curiousity's sake. It doesn't cost enough to matter, trust me. You'd have to have the worst bots on MTGO, or your electricity would have to cost you so much that you would have never stayed on your computer long enough to ask these questions.

  9. Meant to include this: Different computers consume electricity at different rates, just like the mentioned appliances, you can find out by calling the company that makes your computer, or checking the manual, or website, or something… might even have that info somewhere on your computer… but if you built your own rig, that might be tricky… no idea if you could like, add up all your hardware… lol, the bottom line is, it doesn't cost enough to matter. My household has gone from 3 to 8 computers running almost 24/7 over the past year, and our bill is barely higher on average if at all. The changes in electric cost from winter (140-180) to summer (220-250) are exponentially greater for me, due to increased use of A/C.

  10. Well I am trying to get a bot working, but I am asking myself if it is worth the investment. I mean right now there are many established bots where you can find any cards you want, can you compete with that? will you need to invest 200+ to get 4x of all the playables in standard and even then how will you get your bot known? with so many out there I feel like I am trying to open a grocery right next to a supermarket. How much tix do you make per month?

  11. The issue with the bot software that is mentioned being used is that you must have the bot running on a screen in order for it to work correctly. The bot software must be able to read gestures & text. Running more than one bot via virtual environments is possible, but you must be able to have each client on screen at all times. Theoretically one could run any number of bots at once on one machine as long as you have the screen real estate and resources. I can tell you from experience that some bot programs out there are fairly taxing on a system.

    Oh, and if you are trying to sell bulk, normally humans are going to pay less than bots. Selling by specific card, however, you can normally net some gains by throwing up a classified add of your own or even replying to someone else'. There's no way I would sell "X" card for a ticket less to a bot, when I could potentially sell to a human for a decent amount with little to no work/wait. It's worth more to me to hold off selling if all I can find is a bot that buys for 1/4 of a sell price.

  12. Well hello there! I came to this article and found it to be pretty interesting but your HTML wouldn't completely load. It only seemed to load about 75% of the page. Are you aware of this?

    Anywho, I don't completely agree with all that I've read so far from a dubstep genre perspective, but I'll swing through later to see if everything is fixed to finish reading.

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