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-Dûl'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-Dûl'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.