Timmy. Johnny. Spike. Vorthos. Melvin.
The player psychographics represent an interesting way to think about how different people approach Magic. We’ve all lost to Spike, had an epic game with Timmy, and been in awe of Johnny’s combo. Many players I know have embraced their psychographic, using their identity as a way to narrow in on what they enjoy most about the game.
But while knowing someone’s player psychographic is somewhat helpful during a trading session, I believe that each player has something even more valuable to think about: a trading psychographic.
While your trading psychographic is related to your player psychographic, it can often be quite different. And identifying each trader by their psychographic will give you an edge in knowing how to best make a deal with them.
Let’s spend this week exploring the different trader psychographics that I’ve identified. How many more can you think of?
I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of Gordons at GPs and prereleases over the years, sporting multiple tiered binders and boxes full of juicy staples. He’s the first one to pull out his cards, and the last one to put them away.
Gordon has little to no attachment to his cards. To him, they are all a means to an end. All are expendable for the right price…oh, and there’s always a right price. Why?
Gordon trades in order to gain value.
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably a Gordon, too.
The Two Gordons
Uber Gordon will always seek out the highest value trade he can without thought of consequence. If a ten-year-old opens a foil Koth, Uber Gordon will have no qualms giving him a playset of Orggs for it. After all, four-for-one is always a good deal, right?
Moderate Gordon is always on the lookout for value, but tends to be more fair and ethical about his trades. This is the guy who is most likely to attempt to use their trading partner’s values as a way to find cards they undervalue and grind for profit.
Moderate Gordon will often see the value in taking the occasional loss and sometimes throwing in more than he has to, but that doesn’t mean he won’t lie in bed that night and wonder if he couldn’t have gotten a little more out of that one deal right before round three.
How to Trade with Gordon
First off, do not attempt to trade with Uber Gordon. He’s the jerk that gives our community a bad name, and once he realizes that he can’t fleece you, he isn’t likely to give you a fair deal anyway.
Moderate Gordon, on the other hand, is one of the best people to trade with. All you have to do is let him gain value!
The best way to win a trade with Moderate Gordon is to make sure he ends up on top financially while you gain value in other ways. Often, this gives you an excellent chance to “cash in” some of your money rares that have been sitting in your book for months with no takers. When I trade with fellow Gordons, I often look to snag interesting foils, low-end standard staples, and EDH cards at MagicTraders (or less) prices. By giving him a healthy 10%-20% gain in value, I can turn a pile of snoozer cards into liquidity and everyone ends up a winner.
Trading with multiple Moderate Gordons from other stores is one of the best reasons to attend a large event. This allows you to make huge deals where both parties end up getting cards that trade at a premium in their own stores.
Sheldon is primarily a constructed player. He is either constantly building decks or tweaking his favorite brew.
He has a trade binder, but it either contains a couple thousand random, unplayable rares or the twenty-five high value standard staples he’s currently not using. No matter how big your trade stock is, chances are you’ve only got a couple cards he wants. Why?
Sheldon trades to get cards that he has a specific need for.
Sheldon is the most common psychographic among competitive and semi-competitive players. Sheldon’s approach to trading is the same as a kid’s approach to eating her vegetables: it’s a necessary evil. Unless Sheldon calls out, “does anyone have a Mimic Vat?” at the beginning of FNM and you’ve got one, you may not see his binder for months.
The Two Sheldons
Standard Sheldon wants your hot tech. Frost Titan? Abyssal Persecutor? Gaea’s Revenge? If it’s causing a stir at the top tables, he wants in. Chances are his trade binder is quite small and filled with yesterday’s hot cards; stuff like Gideon and Sun Titan that he traded for over the summer but have since fallen out of favor.
Casual Sheldon is building a new EDH deck. Or maybe he’s got a cube going, and he specifically needs three more oddball rares from Urza’s Legacy to finish off the blue cards. Casual Sheldon probably has a giant binder full of junk, but since his mouth is watering over your Azami, you’re probably in good shape.
How to Trade with Sheldon
Standard Sheldon know exactly what he needs, and he’s willing to pay a bit of a premium for it. It’s best to seek him out right when a set is released, as he’ll be very interested in trading his older stuff for your brand new rares.
Standard Sheldon is a good person to get casual cards from at reasonable prices, as well as speculating on staples that have recently fallen out of favor but you think have a chance to go back up. If you hear enough people saying Gideon Jura or Grave Titan are the next big thing, go ask standard Sheldon about them first.
Casual Sheldon is really fun to trade with, and often you can help him with 10-20 pieces of a deck. Even though Sheldon usually knows exactly what he wants from you, that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities to trade him cards he’s never heard of. If you know a card that fills the same role as the one he is looking for, throw it out there! The worst answer you can get is ‘no.’
Casual Sheldon is a good person to pick up value and higher-velocity cards from, because he’ll be happy getting whatever obscure card he needs from you without having to go to an online dealer. To him, there is usually a lot more value in not having to purchase a card than there is in the playables they’re giving up.
Maggie’s binder changes a lot. Sometimes it gets better and sometimes it gets worse. The one thing you know is that if you want one of her cards, you better trade for it now.
Maggie is often drawn to foils, but that is not all she desires. What she really wants is something new and different. Is it a Portal Three Kingdoms card? A mis-cut Brainstorm? Seventeen copies of Sorrow’s Path? A full set of white uncommons from Ninth Edition?
Maggie trades for the joy of collecting new things.
While there aren’t a ton of pure Maggies out there, every store usually has one or two. Many Gordons are actually just Maggies that learned they could make a profit while doing their thing. Maggie enjoys trading for the sake of it, and is even more likely than Gordon to end up with dozens of trades at the end of the prerelease. Be aware that Maggie may also have a bit of a Sheldon streak in her from time to time when it comes to completing collections.
How to Trade with Maggie
The bigger your binder is, the better your chance of making an awesome deal with Maggie. You’ll never be able to predict what she wants, and a card she pooh-poohed last week might be on the top of her wish list next time you see her. The more you rotate your stock, the better chance you’ll have of being her go-to trader. And believe me, this is where you want to be. Most Maggies have someone they go to when they open a new money card that they don’t really want, and if you become that person than you’ll get the inside track to her entire standard collection.
If you have a local Maggie you like dealing with, make sure you pick up some funky stuff for her at large events. She will likely be so thrilled with you getting her something cool that you’ll get an awesome trade in return.
Maggie is also a great person to recommend obscure cards that you haven’t been able to move to someone else. That playset of Bloom Tenders you have sitting around might be just the push she needs to build a cool new extended brew that she would have otherwise never thought of.
Sméagol’s binder never changes. The front page has the Floral Spuzzem that he opened in his very first pack of cards in 1994. He loves the Spuzzem. You can’t have the Spuzzem. He needs the Spuzzem. He needs the…the…precious.
Sméagol is very attached to his cards. He does not like to trade, because each of his cards represents a lifetime of awesome memories as well as countless untapped possibilities. Unlike value traders, who are taught to think of every card as a commodity that can be re-acquired, Sméagol believes that once the cards are traded, they’re probably gone for good. Since he rarely ever trades, he’s probably right.
Sméagol doesn’t trade if he can help it. He is very attached to the cards he already has.
Incidentally, I believe that all Sméagols have a little bit of another trading psychographic buried underneath their Sméagol-ness. Gordon Sméagol never quite feels like the value he’s gaining is worth giving up a card he might want to use in the future. Sheldon Sméagol might be afraid of losing value, and knows he can just buy the cards he needs. Maggie Sméagol likes novelty, but not at the cost of familiarity.
How to Trade with Sméagol
Sméagol is a tricksy guy to trade with. He won’t pull out his binder (or often box) without provocation, and he’ll often eye you suspiciously after asking him if he wants to trade.
If you are at a large event, it is probably best not to waste your time trying to work out a deal with Sméagol. Life is too short, and there are probably tons of others who will be more than happy to trade with you.
If Sméagol is at your local store and you want to develop a relationship with him over time, you might find that your effort will eventually pay off. Make sure that you don’t gain any value in your first few trades with him, and certainly don’t try to pressure him into making any deal he isn’t comfortable making. I’m not going to lie to you, chances are you will never develop a fruitful trading partnership with Sméagol, but if you want to try your best bet is to approach him cautiously and don’t make any sudden moves.
Think back to the last few trades you’ve tried to make that fell through. How many were with a Sméagol?
As you can see, the trader psychographics don’t match up 100% with the player psychographics. While most tournament Spikes are going to be some breed of Sheldon, there are also plenty of pros who are Gordons – Tomoharu Saito, for example. While some Timmies are also Maggies, most of them have a big Sheldon streak as well.
The human element of trading is absolutely crucial to get right. It is always important to know how to present yourself in order to give you the best chance of making an effective deal. While these psychographics may be broad, they are very useful as ways to quickly identify who you are trading with. You don’t want to find yourself trying to grind value out of Gordon, presenting Sheldon with too many options, showing Maggie another boring book of standard staples, or wasting time with Sméagol.
Next time you’re trading, think about these psychographics. I am curious if they hold true for everyone!
Join me next week as we, uh, take a Portal somewhere.