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#followfriday: Read Into It

Quiet Speculation Submission  (Matthew Sedlak)

I was excited when I first discovered Quiet Speculation. A website devoted just to trading strategies was very exciting and a nice change of pace from the usual articles on the deck of the week, M11 limited, etc. Of course, I wasn’t the only person reading all these new articles devoted to trading. Fortunately I was able to observe something about a lot of these traders. While it was obvious that they had read the same articles I had it was also just as obvious that they didn’t read anything into those articles. In a way they were ‘netdecking’ their trade strategies.

As most of you can probably recall, Mind Over Matter and Lim-Dul’s Vault were two suggested cards to pick up. The main problem that I had with these two cards is that there aren’t very many local Legacy events that the people I trade with attend and I wasn’t planning on going to any big events in the near future. At the same time I really wasn’t convinced that Mind Over Matter was going to make much noise so for me they were pretty much trade fodder for EDH players. However now I had a situation where people were looking for Mind Over Matter in an area without a lot of legacy players, meaning supply was low, so I was able to trade them away to the speculators for a decent gain.

The situation with Lim-Dul’s Vault was slightly different. The price on those had already risen from about $1 to the $3-4 range on eBay by the time the article was published and some were trading for upwards of $7. The decision I had to make on those cards was whether or not they were going to continue to go up in price and if so by how much. They definitely have a strong effect but they are harder to cast than Mystical Tutor. On the other hand they are also rarer since they have only seen one printing. My guess was that it had already peaked or at the very least were close to peaking. I was able to pick these up at about $3-4 and trade them to the speculators for about $7. The nice thing about those trades is that I was able to trade casual and bulk cards for them then turn around and flip them for standard playables and staples.

The most recent card that I’ve noticed caught people’s attention was Armament Master, almost definitely inspired by David Heilker’s article. The spoiling of Sword of Body and Mind and the expectation that we will get a ton of good equipment in Scars block has caused everyone to think about which artifact-themed cards will get better post-rotation. Armament Master has already seen some play in block constructed in Kor decks but from my, admittedly limited, testing with that deck the Armament Masters generally were unimpressive. Now to be fair, David admitted that they were speculative and the fact they are so cheap now is what makes them a low-risk investment. I generally don’t like to invest in things I don’t know are going to succeed but fortunately this new rush of speculation gives me an easy outlet for those cards. I’m getting them now at about $0.5 and trading them away for anywhere between $1-2. While there is the chance that these will go up, I’m not worried about that since I am already at least doubling my value on each of these already. On the other hand, if they never see play then I’ll be forced to bulk them to a dealer.

So what cards do I think may gain value with Scars? In that mono-white Kor deck I tested the real surprise was Kor Duelist. That combined with an Adventuring Gear and a fetchland, or even just a basic land drop, lead to some very explosive turns. A Sword of Body and Mind on a Kor Duelist could be disgusting. The protection from blue and green could be very relevant as those seem to be the most powerful colors coming out of Zendikar block. While only an uncommon it could still end up hitting $2. It was also given out as a Gateway promo so you might want to pick some of those up now if you can get them as throw-ins.

There are some obvious cards to pick up right now. Steel Overseer and Stoneforge Mystic are probably the best things to pick up now and Stoneforge Mystic is about at the lowest price it has been since Pro Tour San Diego. Lodestone Golem is also another cheap pickup and since it seems some Eternal play it should at least hold its value. People have already begun to play around with mono-artifact decks at the FNM level and these are quite good in that deck. One card that people have told me they are speculating on is Thada Adel, Acquisitor. I happen to collect that card so often when I’m looking to get it as a throw-in people will tell me they are speculating on it. I don’t think it has much potential although I’d be extremely happy if it did since I have close to one hundred of them already. A legendary 2/2 for 3 is pretty unexciting. Islandwalk makes it slightly more appealing but I just don’t feel that this card will do enough. Thada Adel seems like it would be at its best in a U/x mirror match as a way to generate some card advantage and proactively remove threats from their library and turn those against them. I think the best strategy for this card is to wait until spoiler season starts and hopefully a few powerful artifacts are revealed early on so you can generate some hype about how powerful Thada Adel’s ability would be and how great it would be to steal that from your opponent. My guess is that you could talk it up to $2-3 if the spoilers work out in your favor. With Alara block rotating out soon the prices on those cards are set to drop. While many of us see this as a bad thing there are quite a few players that look forward to the price drops so they can pick up cards for their casual decks. Take a card like Broodmate Dragon for example. While it isn’t an expensive card to begin with, and while it has lost some value because it has been cut from many Jund lists it still has one thing going for it. It is a dragon. Casual players love tribes and dragons are certainly one of the most popular. If you have a store that has an open play day stop by and throw some in your binder. I can’t count the number of times I’ve asked a casual player if they had trade stuff and been asked, “Do you have any <insert tribe>?” Go through any sets that are about to rotate out and look at cards that would fit well in casual decks but may have been priced too high for those players to acquire them. Even if all you can get for these are some playable uncommons you will still probably make out better than if you held onto them.

Another place you can take advantage of this kind of trading is online. So far the only site I have traded on has been mtgsalvation and I can tell you now that it is hard to get value out of your cards online. Everyone has instant access to all the pricing information they could want. The good news is that you can still easily trade up if you know what you are doing. Unless you live in a huge magic community you may have a hard time finding people who want your Dark Tutelage, Summoning Trap or foil Sphinx-Bone Wand. The internet is a great place to dump those cards. I was initially surprised at just how many bulk cards could be traded but it really is all about finding the right person. I don’t really know anyone locally who goes crazy for foils or promos. I’ve met a few people trading online that really go nuts for these. I can generally get these for cheap in person then come home and offer them up for a substantial gain.

Before I finish I want to talk about two strategies I use. One has to deal with trading and the other with acquiring cards. First, when haggling over values I see a lot of people play the “let’s meet in the middle” game. If a card is valued around $1-2 this is how it will go. You will ask, “How much do you value this at?” If it is a card they want they may say “A dollar?” to which you respond, “How about two?” and finally they say “$1.50?.” Now they feel subconsciously as though they talked you down and they might not want to give up that ground later on. If you respond to their “A dollar?” by saying, “How about 1.50?” it is pretty rare that they will try to haggle you down to one and a quarter. I’m not really sure what the reason is for this but I see it happen all the time. Now later on if you are looking to get something thrown in you can mention that the haggled-over card “does go for $2” on whatever website you can quote from and in that way get more value out of something. I wouldn’t use this often but sometimes it can go a little way to making a trade look a lot nicer for you.

The second strategy I use is one way I build up my collection. While I love to trade I also have this obsessive need to get four of every card no matter what it is. I don’t always want to spend a ton of time trading for cards I can easily crack from packs; I prefer to trade for older cards that I need and that are harder to find. However we know that unless you open a ridiculous number of boxes it will be hard to get good value from it. Here is one strategy I use from time to time to help lower my cost. Generally I like to open a case of a new set for myself. That will generally give me most of everything that I need and I can pick up the few remaining cards from drafts or trading. I’m fortunate to be a grad student right now so I spend a lot of time on a college campus with a good number of magic players. What I do is this: I purchase two cases, open one for myself and use the other to sell for drafts or as single packs. I can sell the draft sets at a pretty good discount but still make enough to cover the box and give me a little extra. When all is said and done I’ll usually end up with a playset of an entire set for about $250. If you are a player and a collector this is a great way to get everything quick and fairly cheap.

Finally I would like to recommend some reading for anyone who wants to be able to get better at trading. Dale Carnegie wrote a famous book entitled, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” that I think should be required reading for pretty much anyone who ever wants to interact with someone else. I hope you enjoyed reading this and you got some new ideas on how to approach trading.

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9 thoughts on “#followfriday: Read Into It

  1. I wrote this article long before Scars was spoiled so it is interesting to go back and see what I had said now that the set is out. I had updated this article with some online trading examples and I kept meaning to resubmit it but kept forgetting so I guess the best thing to do is just insert it here as a comment. These paragraphs were inserted right before the "Before I finish I want to talk about…" paragraph.

    One recent trade I made really highlights the benefits of trading online. The trade went like this:
    My: World Queller foil
    Thought Gorger foil
    Doomsday
    Volcanic Hammer promo
    Marshal's Anthem foil 
    Plains: 4 Unglued, 7 Unhinged 
    Island: 7 Unglued
    Swamp: 3 Unglued, 6 Unhinged
    Mountain: 6 Unglued, 12 Unhinged 
    Forest: 4 Unglued, 5 Unhinged 
    His:
    Decree of Pain 
    Vampiric Tutor 
    Demonic Tutor 
    Swords to Plowshares 
    Kjeldoran Outpost 
    Strip Mine 
    Sol Ring 
    The value on these cards is definitely in his favor however I was trading up for some great EDH cards that I will be able to move fairly quick. Non-foil Un-lands usually go as throw-ins for a dollar tops and the foils were just sitting in the back of my binder. I could have sold the lands on eBay but to get the most value from them I likely would have had to break them into smaller lots and I really didn't want to go through that much work. Plus EDH is starting to pick up in my area, which means people need staples, and I should be able to trade these away for a decent profit. The only questionable card is Sol Ring due to the coming release of FTV: Relics. This will probably lower the local demand for a few weeks so I will try to either move it quick or hold onto it for my own use. Trading up basic lands for EDH staples is not something you can find often, especially if your trading is limited to local stores and the occasional regional event.
    Another great thing about online trading is that it gives you a place to get rid of other Magic-related items that you would have a hard time getting rid of normally. A short while ago Evan Erwin retweeted a drawing that was giving away an MtG 15th Anniversary life counter. The site pointed out that a popular eBay dealer was selling them for $160. I instantly remembered seeing them at a store about thirty minutes away for $25. I drove over there and picked up the two they had for $50. They had been in the case for some time so normally I would have tried to get a discount but I didn't want to risk them looking it up and raising the price.
    After I purchased them the first thing I did was contact the dealer selling them for $160 and see how much they would buy them off me for. While the price they gave me for each would have been a profit I felt like the trouble of trying to get rid of these on my own was worth the extra I would get. I knew from looking them up before driving to the store that most people listed them on eBay for around $100. Most of the time they don't sell. I just checked eBay again and one recently sold for as low as $50.
    In addition to trading you can also buy or sell cards on the popular trading sites. I decided to make a sale thread for these as well as list them in my trade thread. I also tried to see if any local players were interested in them but no one was willing to give me the price I wanted. In the end I was able to sell one and trade the other. All told it took me about a week after listing them to get rid of them both which is a pretty decent turnaround time for something like this. The one I sold was for $75 shipped so I recovered all my cash costs, which was important to me, and made an extra $20. The other one traded for the following:
    Celestine Reef plane
    Tazeem plane
    Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
    Flame Javelin (textless)
    Incinerate (textless)
    Consuming Vapors
    Coralhelm Commander
    Pyromancer Ascension
    Goblin Guide
    Stoneforge Mystic x2
    Empyrial Archangel
    Uril the Mistalker
    Slave of Bolas promo
    Deep Analysis promo
    Obelisk of Alara promo
    Tidehollow Sculler promo
    Infest (textless)
    Siege-Gang Commander
    Wren's Run Vanquisher promo
    I should probably explain to you guys that I am a promo whore. I love promos and feel the need to have four of everything (well at least everything that was mass-released…no 1996 World Champion for me) so this ended up being more about a trade for my own collection. I also ended up giving SCG prices on the promos which I usually hate to do but I already had the cash from the other life counter and I was still getting some decent trade stuff to throw in my binder. Normally I would have passed on the promos and went for staples but I was completing a bunch of playsets with this trade so I was happy.

  2. Great article Matt. I'm glad you commented to prompt readers that the article is slightly dated. If it wasn't for this I might of scolded you about " Stoneforge Mystic is about at the lowest price it has been since Pro Tour San Diego" as it's now selling for about $4.50 and I was picking them up from 2.75-3.00 about a month ago.

  3. d00d, you got destroyed in the first trade you posted. The one with the Unglued lands. Next time you want to do a trade like that, let me know, i'll take you up on it! Same for the second trade. You got owned pretty bad.

    Otherwise, the article was a fun read 🙂

  4. I don't know how bad you would have had to break up those lands. Most likely just split the unglued and unhinged and list. I just sold two stacks of unglued lands and got about $0.80 average and they were Ex/SP. The demand for Unhinged is considerably higher where I'm at since players want to set their decks apart from all the Zen full art lands running around. $3-4 in trade value is not unheard of.

    Props on the rec for Dale Carnegie. I would add to it a tiny little book by Les Giblin, "Skill with People". I swear those two books should be required reading in all schools.

  5. @Mr. C: I admitted in the post that the trade was definitely in his favor if you just priced everything out but I still feel it was a good trade and here is why. The biggest reason is that I was able to turn around and move the cards I traded for (except the Decree of Pain which I wanted for an EDH deck) at a great value. For one example I was able to trade the Sol Ring and a couple of small throw-ins for a Grim Monolith and a foil M11 Voltaic Key and I doubt I ever would have been able to get that trade if the Sol Ring was a bunch of Un-lands. At best they were being used as throw-ins to even up trades but no one locally ever expressed any real interest in them so moving them even at a loss ended up being better for me than just having them sit in my binder.

    Also I'm pretty sure the 12 Unhinged Mountains should be 2 and that is just a typo on my part. Ebay may have been the better option but I generally try to stay away from selling on there unless it is a high value item and even though only when I have exhausted all my other selling options because of the fees involved.

    On the other hand the second trade I don't see how I lost anything at all. Looking at the most current recent listings on eBay all of them have gone unsold and no one was even willing to put a minimum bid of $50 on them. As for current auctions there are a bunch that have bids on them ranging from $10-$35 so it will be interesting to see what happens with those but it still looks as though these don't sell very well (or at least for very high). Even using today's prices on the cards (which in most cases is lower than what they were when I made the trade) I still got over $50 which is double what I paid for it.

    @the_cardfather: $3-4 for non-foil unhinged is nuts! If I thought I could ever get anything like that locally I definitely would have held on to them but there isn't much interest plus my LGS has a bunch of them in their case at $1. I've always liked the Unglued lands more than the Unhinged and I feel like if you really wanted to set the deck apart from the ones with Zen basics they would be a better way to go but most people still seem to prefer the Unhinged. I guess I just really like the tap symbol! Lol

  6. Fantastic article! You gave some great pointers, at first I thought of was a little out of date until I read your continuation. I too am a collector had want a playset of everything. I appreciate when those who are obviously great collectors and traders are willing to share their advice. Write more articles dude! Ill definitely read!

  7. I think I just found a new favorite author. I've been playing magic for awhile but I'm new to trading for value. I like your style. What do you suggest when trading with casual players. For example many casual players are holding on to their baneslayers for dear life and valueing them still at 50 when realistically they aren't that high. What do you so for causal players as reading with them is often very different than trading with collectors? Quiet speculation should give you your own article series!

  8. Great article Matt, very insightful. As someone just getting in to trading as a way to increase my overall card value, not just to directly trade for the cards I want, it's interesting to get your take on turning profits both in the short and the long run, as well as how to consider the market you are working with. What's very interesting is using the hype around a card to find your market – I like the idea of using the metality of 'this card is supposed to get big' to turn a profit, regardless of if the card actually does go off.

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