Two’fer Tuesday: E-valuations – Balking at Bulk

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MTGO expansion set release, the bulk way.

I love online set releases, don’t you? Of course you do. So does everyone else on MTGO. I think the feelings we get from the anticipation of a new set are one of the greatest aspects of our beloved game, both as a player and someone who likes to sell cards for a profit. Today let’s learn how to capitalize on this mindset by utilizing time.

Why time you ask? Because time is money. When a set is released online, everyone wants to play it. The best way some folks see to get acquainted with all the fancy new cards is Limited Release Events – Draft & Sealed. This is great for those of us that will kindly take cards off the hands of limited players for a few tickets so they can make some cash to jump in their next event. It’s a win-win for everyone. What you must understand is that for some period of time, Release Events are what a good amount of people on MTGO live for. In the next few steps I will show you the best way to purchase bulk cards from said players and turn them over for a profit.

  • Planning & Time Management

    Time is on your side.

The first thing you need to do for your plan to work is know when sets are going to be released. You can find this information all over the web, but your two solid sources are the Wizard’s website, and the MTGO client itself. Let's say, for instance, that you were going to try and purchase some Scars of Mirrodin bulk when the set is launched online. The only information we have now is that the set will be released October 18th, 2010. That is, packs will go on sale on the scheduled date - a Monday. We can use the schedule from M11 to get a ballpark structure of how Scars release events will be set up. Casual drafting began on the Monday of release, with Booster Draft Queues and Swiss Sealed Flights firing after the next scheduled downtime (Wednesday). The release events were scheduled to run for approximately two weeks. This is our bread and butter, the time where we want to reach out and grab as many bulk cards as possible.

  • Target Sellers

In the aforementioned timeframe limited players seem to get addicted to a new set. All they want to do is finish their tournament and head directly into the next, if money permits. After spending their original budget on entry fees and packs they end up with an excess of cards and not a lot of cash. The best way for them to continue to play is to dump their cards for enough tickets to try and get their "fix". You, my friend, will be able to necessitate their needs. Most players of this type will be ready to wheel and deal with you so they can offload the cards they cracked in draft or sealed. I'm not talking sought after Mythics or Rares, unless you are willing to shell out the extra dough, but you will definitely be able to pick up entire playsets of Commons, Uncommons, and a good amount of Rares.

  • Setting Up Your Classified Add & Acquiring Cards

Now you want to buy cards, a lot of them. Any of them. If they’re in your target set then you need them. Having friends that are heavily into limited formats is great, but I’m going to assume you don’t. Fear not, as a carefully placed classified ad will net you plenty of interest. First off, you want to portray yourself in the classifieds as what you really are…Human! I know there are a plethora of automated online stores these days but you’re going to use this to your advantage. Just about everyone knows they can offload their bulk to bots, but I guarantee there are a ton of players that would prefer selling to a human. This is you! You are living, breathing, and able to communicate. These characteristics are going to allow a broad range of clients, some that would probably not be willing to trust "some guy's" bot.

That being said, let's go over what an effective classified ad could look like. Keep in mind; you want to put the point across in a simple fashion, one that will capture an eye but be straight to the point. You can insert a little "flash" at the beginning of your ad by simply entering a mana symbol. To do this you can use the keyboard shortcuts by pressing Control > Q > U, R, W, G, or B. Whichever suites your style. So hit "CONTROL" and "Q" at the same time, then let off and press the letter that corresponds to the mana symbol you wish to create. If you're jotting down your classified ad in notepad so you can copy and paste later, create mana symbols by typing [sX] - where X is your symbol of choice. So [sR] will get you a red mana symbol. I told you earlier that we wanted to portray that you are human so emphasize this with caps. An add I would submit without hesitation if I was trying to pick up some M11 bulk would go something like this: [sR] HUMAN Buying Bulk M11 Commons, Uncommons, Rares. Pm me what you have! [sR]

Leaving price out of your add will let you have some flexibility in your buying. It’ll also get you a little more interest as some players just want to know what your bulk rate is. You're going to want to feel out potential sellers after they've contacted you to see what they intend. When someone PM’s you and asks how much you are buying bulk cards for, this is a big step. A friendly greeting will go a long way, so make sure to do this! Also, ensure you know how much your competition is buying cards for. You'll need to be cautious about which lots to purchase as some players may have either sold off the speculated staples or made them untradeable. Don't be afraid to ask someone if they have sold their bulk off before, and for how much. This can get you in the right ballpark for a trade. Sometimes giving someone a deal at a slightly higher rate than bots will work wonders, and you may get added to the "buddy" list for when they need to sell more cards. I'm not going to delve into actual prices in which you should be buying. Every set is different and this article is meant as an overview for the future. I can't stress enough how important it is to know what your competition is buying for, as well as how many cards are in a set, color, and rarity. Quickness is something that people appreciate, so if you can promptly and effectively scan over someone's tradable collection and give them an offer, you're winning their business over already.

  • Speculation
    Decisions, decisions...

What to do with your newly acquired cards is going to be a matter of personal preference, but in the end you want to make some cash. Speculating what cards are going to rise in value significantly can be a double edged sword. On one hand, if you are knowledgeable about the market you can make some big gains here, but it's going to require a good amount of time for your investments to mature. I would suggest if at all possible keeping a playset of each card locked away for future trading. You never know what will be hot two weeks from now. Although this will depend how many of each rarity you purchase. You may be interested in only dealing with bulk commons, and the next guy may have the budget to pick up large amounts of more expensive rarities. Either way, you can make some money by tucking away a few cards; it just depends on your game plan and how long you want to be in this investment.

  • Target Buyers

Now the fun part. Turning the bulk you bought into event tickets. More than you started with. Concerning time, you've probably been picking up cards for a week or so, deciding what you want to keep, and now you're ready to start selling. After release events start to wane there’s generally a large influx of a new set's cards to the market. Right before this is when we want to jump in. More than likely it will be the beginning to end of week two.

Fortunately for us, large online stores are going to be selling their cards for top dollar. Because of this, there’s a small window in which you can make some nice gains from the stuff you picked up. "The Big Guys" as I like to call them, the large MTGO stores, are going to be in need of your cards. Sure, they may have cracked hundreds of digital packs to try and acquire as much as possible, but with the magnitude of constructed players, they will be in need. Use your judgment when selling cards to "the big guy." It's a great way to make some quick cash. You can normally dump 5-10 of each card for far more to them now than you could later. Some of the biggest gains I've made selling to stores have come in the form of Uncommons & Commons. There always seems to be 4-5 of each that take on early price points, so I suggest you keep on the lookout for these, and if you can push them out and turn over your purchases early you’ll be in good shape. There's been numerous times when I buy a bulk lot using the exact tips I gave above, and turn around and sell less than half of the cards to a dealer for more than I paid for the whole lot.

Another avenue to sell cards is one I touched on briefly in the last paragraph, and that is Constructed players. The constructed player doesn't necessarily need to Draft or play Sealed to get their kicks out of a new set. They simply want to either add new cards to their existing decks or try and build around them. I also mentioned how the big guy is going to be selling these new cards for some pretty hefty prices. Since we've managed to pick up product for significantly less, we can afford to sell for lower than they are. This is again where classifieds will come in handy. Constructed players often need their cards in playsets, so make sure you let them know you have them. Advertise a certain card or two in your title to spark some interest. Tell them you have playsets of cards in the new set for cheap. When trading, never be afraid to sell a group of cards without making a set price for each. Tell your customer to go ahead and pick out a few playsets of what they need and you’ll work out a deal when they’re done. Remember, you bought these cards at bulk prices, and you can afford to give away some throw-ins here and there. Either way, you’re going to be selling cards for more than what you paid for them. You can easily get networked with buyers when they tell their buddy how great of a deal they got from you on some new cards. More sales = more profit!

  • What To Do With The Rest

Inevitably you’ll be left over with some amount of cards that you are not going to be able to get rid of right away. In this section I will cover what you can do to push the rest of your stock out. The easy way out of this predicament would be for me to tell you:

"Just get yourself a bot and throw everything on there. It'll sell eventually!"

I wouldn't do that to you. Of course, if this is a possibility, take advantage of it. But managing your own bot is a subject for another place and time so I won’t get into it. By now I'll assume you’ve been able to make a profit selling the majority of your stock. The rest is icing on the cake. One of the most important things to realize here is that there are always going to be junk cards. Cards that you don't have the time to get absolute 100% value out of. Since we've already made a profit, we can afford to dump these cards off. Bulk buying bots, the ones you see advertised as "Buying Rares X for X tickets, Uncommons X for X, and Commons X for X” will be the final step. These bots are set up by individuals that have the resources to take in cards for cheap and spread out their sales indefinitely. Something I'm assuming you don't have. If you don't want to sit on 30 copies of Goblin Piker, there's no shame in offloading them to a bulk bot. If you can do this with all the left over stock you have, it will add up and help you squeeze out those last few tickets. Now you can focus on using your profits to start the cycle all over again, or use other techniques in between set release.


Today we’ve been facilitators. We’ve assisted the progress of three unique groups of people on the MTGO client. We’ve made it possible for the strictly limited release event player to continue doing what he loves. We’ve necessitated the needs of card stores searching for new product, and we made sure the constructed guys can build around their new favorite mechanic. What’s this all mean for you? You’ve made a profit, and you’re likely set up for even more gains in the future. I hope you enjoyed this journey as much as I did and good luck Balking at Bulk!

-Rusty Young

(Follow me: @Skeletoy on Twitter!)

Posted in FinanceTagged

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3 thoughts on “Two’fer Tuesday: E-valuations – Balking at Bulk

  1. Although you stated that you can’t give a price point of where you are comfortable of buying bulk at I’d still like to have a ballpark figure.

    Is it possible to give us some type of bare minimum to maintain margins figure? For example, is it reasonable to expect people to give you bulk rares at the “normal” bulk rate of 0.10 or will you end up paying 0.30 or 0.40 for a bulk rare just because its a “new” card?

    I’ve sold commons and uncommons to bots before when a new set was released but what is a good range to buy them in bulk at? This set is a little different and I feel like there are a lot more cards that will appeal to casual players over dedicated Spikes.

    Great read though.

  2. @ Luke: Thanks for the compliment! I intend to continue writing MTGO centric articles for Quiet Speculation, so stay tuned!

    @ Hawaii: First off, great comments. Thank you for the feedback.

    I’m a huge fan of throwing out an offer on each “lot.” What I can tell you is that most players know their newly released cards are worth more, but they don’t have exact or up-to-minute pricing. The bottom line deciding factors when I buy bulk cards are:

    1. Which cards are “The Big Guys” reselling for a higher rate than other cards of the same rarity?

    2. How many of these cards does this particular lot have?

    My best case buying scenario on a new set and what I shoot for is:

    Rares 10 for 1 (~ .10) Uncommons 30 for 1 (~ .03) Commons 200 for 1 (~ .007)

    This is flexible. I have bought bulk for more and less than these prices on new sets. Again, you must keep it all in the context of what the entire transaction of cards looks like.

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