The Revenue Review – 5 ways to kill a trade

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Everyone knows “that guy.” You avoid him, but he’s always at your FNM trading with the new players and trying to take them for all they’re worth, quoting imaginary card prices or just otherwise being generally annoying.

No one wants to trade with that guy. In an attempt to help you avoid ever resembling that guy, I have five tips to make sure your trading partners don’t develop any hard feelings and kill a trade.

Never pull a card out of your partner’s binder without first asking if it’s for trade.

Everyone has different “rules” for their cards. Some people don’t like to pull out their cards to avoid any possible damage to the card or their binder. Or they have a sentimental attachment to a particular card and don’t want to trade it. Personally, I have a few cards that were loaned to me for a deck, but are no longer needed. I haven’t yet been able to return them, so I keep them in my binder because it’s the best way to ensure I don’t lose them. It’s a little annoying to tell traders what isn’t for trade when they open my binder, but it’s better than having the cards pulled out every time when I can’t actually trade them.

The point is, you never know what your partner’s personal “rules” are, so the best idea is to just ask them about each card as you go. It’s a good way to start the trade off on the right foot by asking them if their Gideon Jura is for trade before you start making a pile of their most beloved cards.

Another benefit to this is that you can watch what they pull from your binder, and that gives you a lot of information about what type of player they are and what they’re looking for. If he’s pulling out your Awakening Zones, then you know to leave his in. It also gives you a general idea of what prices the cards they want are, and you can make your selections accordingly.

Don’t brag about your last trade.

So many players who think they’re trading sharks just can’t help themselves but to brag to their friends after making a particularly profitable trade. Doing so makes it a lot harder to get anything out of that guy one table over who overheard your posturing. This will immediately put him on the defensive, and even if you have what he wants, you’ve made your life 10 times harder when you sit down to trade with him.

Another common mistake is for people to tell their current trade partner how much they have been trading all night. While not quite the same as bragging, it will flag to your partner that you aren’t new to this trading game. This fact alone will turn off many casual players since they tend to lump heavy traders into the “win at all costs” crowd. For many casual players this roughly translates to the “jerks” crowd.

I’m not advocating lying, and sometimes you can’t hide the fact that you’re a serious trader, but there’s no reason to dig your own grave by talking about it.

Never talk about how you have infinite copies of a card.

Many casual traders and collectors view trading cards on an entirely different axis than many of the people who I imagine read this site. They value even the same card very differently. For collectors, it’s the first copy of Baneslayer Angel that is the most precious. For some players, that number is four. Anything past that is considered as essentially worthless because it’s “extra.”

This can work for you as well as against you. You should use this to your advantage as often as you can. But what I want to focus on today is the flip side – when their reasoning can actually significantly hurt you. Since they value cards on either a one or four-card basis, they expect you to do the same. As a savvy reader of Quiet Speculation, I’m sure you know that every copy of Steel Overseer, from the first to the hundredth, is worth $4-5.

The important thing is to try to avoid announcing this to your trade partner. When they ask for your Steel Overseer, don’t respond with “sure I can trade that, I have like 10 copies.” To them, this means you’re willing to trade it at a lower value, because you already have all the artifact lords you’re ever going to need. This leads to issues when a few minutes later you’re demanding a fair price for the Overseer and they get upset that you’re asking so much for your third playset.

A few weeks ago, a player wanted a Reflecting Pool from me and saw that I have 13 copies (I’ve been picking them up like they’re candy). When I told him I valued it at $7-8, he became very upset that I wanted to trade for it at that price. I explained to him that since I’m not trading for a particular deck, I really have no incentive to value the Pool any lower. He ended up storming off because my line of thinking just didn’t make sense to him. That kind of response is rare, but you can avoid causing similar feelings in your partners if you refrain from talking about how you have infinite copies of a particular card.

Don’t talk about how you want a particular card because its price is only going up.

I watched this happen just last weekend with a player trying to pick up Phylactery Lich, talking all the while about how the Lich’s price was going to double in a few weeks. He may be right (and I do suggest trying to pick some up), but it’s a poor idea to tell your partner how you’re essentially undervaluing his cards.

It’s not a big jump for the other player to say “well, I can just hold onto these then if they’re going to be so valuable.” It’s fine to let people know that you’re speculating if they ask why you want a particular card, but don’t flaunt how you intend to double up on his cards in just a few weeks.

During the last two months when I’ve traded for Phylactery Liches and Steel Overseers, my line has been “I think they could be cool when Mirrodin comes out.” That’s a long way away from “This card is worth $5 now, but in a month I’m selling it for $10!” Even though the base logic is the same, it makes a big difference how you frame it because you don’t want your trading partner to feel like you’re cheating them. The truth is you are taking a risk speculating on cards, and you don’t want to hide that fact.

Don’t put any unnecessary pressure on your partner.

Most people think of this as presenting a standoffish take-it-or-leave-it approach, but there are actually a myriad of ways besides this that you can pressure your partner and risk killing a trade.

A common way people do this is by treating card prices like they infallible. Telling your partner that their cards are worthless is a bad way to go, even if they are (Instead tell them that they just don’t have anything you’re looking for). Most players just aren’t going to trade you 20 bulk rares for a $3-4 card, even if the prices work out to the same.

Another ill-advised approach is trying to take cards that are sentimental to them. You might not care that their Jace, the Mind Sculptor is the first mythic they ever pulled, but they sure will. Even if you get them to trade you Jace, it’s likely they are going to regret it afterward, and that will kill any future trades with them before they even happen. If someone tells you they care more about a particular card, you’re generally better to just let them be.

I know most of these tips seem like common sense, but I see traders making these mistakes week in and week out. I know that won’t be any of you, but feel free to direct “that guy” to Quiet Speculation to clean up his act.

Because nobody likes “that guy.”


Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

Ninja edit (sorry editors!) - I almost forgot to include the Jace trade I previewed last week. Here’s the trade:


Misty Rainforest ($12)

Marsh Flats ($11)

Destructive Force ($3)

Jace, the Mind Sculptor ($82)

Total: $108


3x Fauna Shaman ($15)

Grave Titan ($30)

Captivating Vampire ($4)

Eldrazi Temple ($4)

Lotus Cobra ($22)

Total: $105

Net: $3

The first is always the sweetest

At first glance, this is not a trade I would suggest for my partner, Russ, to make. However, Russ is just getting back into Magic after a number of years away and is trying to grow his collection. Trading down like this is a great way to start expanding a collection, as Noah Whinston detailed here.

When I saw Russ (an avid QS reader) a week later, his binder had grown to nearly four as five times as large as it had been at the time of our Jace trade. He credited a lot of it to the knowledge he’s gained from this site.

I was glad to see someone using what we write about here to grow his collection from the ground up. At the rate he’s going, I expect that Russ will have plenty of cards I’ll be looking to trade for in the future.

For me, this trade marks something of a milestone. I’ve always traded for value, but didn’t kick it into high gear until about six months back, and picking up Jace, the Mind Sculptor is a nice moral victory after pulling zero in two boxes of Worldwake.

Thanks (again),

Corbin Hosler

3 thoughts on “The Revenue Review – 5 ways to kill a trade

  1. This is one of those posts that should probably go into a kind of "New to getting serious about trading?" type archive or list. This is stuff that if you've been trading for a quite a while(or have experience in any other arena that depends on barter and haggling) seems like second nature, but can often be something that new entrants to the scene may not even know they are doing.

  2. Hey that trade seems familiar 🙂

    I haven't been in the trading game long, but this was a great way to kick it off. The Fauna Shaman were added to my deck and helped me do well at what was only my second constructed tournament (placed 2nd, woo!), and the Grave Titan and Cobra have both been traded down in a similar fashion to help me build a start to what I hope will be a respectable binder.

    Definitely looking forward to trading with you again, as well as reading more here on the site. I liked this article… Hopefully I don't do any of these things, but it's nice to see it spelled out.

  3. This article is all about me.

    I never let a person know that I am trying to pick up their card so I can flip it in a month. If your doing that then your just shooting your self in the foot.

    So four out of five is for me, but the real reason people won't trade with me at my local area is cause I actually use a price guide and strictly follow it. They expect me to give cards to them for practically free so now I just trade online.

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