The Basics of Trading Part 1

Are you a Quiet Speculation member?

If not, now is a perfect time to join up! Our powerful tools, breaking-news analysis, and exclusive Discord channel will make sure you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.

Hey everyone, and welcome to Whinston’s Whisdom on Quiet Spec. I have to say, I am very excited for this new Insider launch and the way that QS has really taken off since I started writing for it, let alone reading it. Today I wanted to act like I had a fresh slate to work with (a Tabula Rasa for those of you more familiar with psychology), and try and teach the most basic elements of trading to someone who had never tried it before, but not just the trade itself, the tactics of which card stock to own, which tournaments to attend and how to keep your collection mobile enough to stay secure through rapid market changes and also be able to cash out when cards are the hot new tech. And so, with no further ado…

The Beginning Investment, or, Your Cardstock:

Obviously, the first thing necessary in order to trade, are actual cards to trade with! Choosing how to divide up your investment is going to be different by your area and local community, but here’ roughly how I like to do it.

--50% Standard Competitive Staples. I don’t mean turn half your money into the Big Bamf Jace. These staples don’t even have to be rares. But they should all be cards that will trade easily to anyone who plays Standard even at the semi competitive FNM level. Because Standard is the most populous format by far, these are the cards that you are going to turn around the quickest.

--5% Extended staples. This is one of the sections that will depend a bit on your local scene. I play and trade at Pastimes, one of the largest stores in the Midwest, so there’s a strong crop of competitive players. These are the only people who will want Extended stuff, and they will only want it when the season draws close. Extended has never been popular at all outside of the PTQ circuit, so that’s pretty much the only area you’ll be able to unload it. Thankfully, Extended staples drop WAY down in price during the offseason, so if you’re willing to wait a few months, you can usually pick up an easy 15-40%

--15% Eternal staples. Again, slightly dependent on your local area, but Eternal definitely has a larger following than Extended, so it’s not as risky. Two important things here are pimp and condition. Because Eternal players will often play the same deck for years, they are willing to spend a bit more to get a cool copy of a card, either foreign, or foil, or signed, altered, etc. Therefore eternal pimp cards have a higher difference between the non-foil and foil price than do cards for other formats. Condition is also very important. Because Eternal cards are, well, ETERNAL, they tend to not always be in mint condition. Be aware of this and adjust your pricing accordingly.

--10% Casual cards. This might be the most underrated section of a trader’s collection. I love carrying around some cards that I know any new or casual player will love. From the oldie-but-goodies like Sliver Queen to newer stuff like Kalonian Behemoth or Hellkite Overlord, the cards that these players want are not ones that will fit into any of the other categories. Often, these players won’t have much in the way of money rares to pass your way, but I tend to use these opportunities to bulk out a card. Let’s say I have a 25 cent rare that a player at my local store wants. He’ll give me 4 crappy rares in Standard, and I can sell those for 10 cents each, meaning I just made a 60% profit on that card.

--20% liquid assets. THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF A TRADER’S INVESTMENT. If you don’t keep a sizable amount of your investment liquid and ready to be used, I promise you, you will regret it (Ebay doesn’t tend to accept Magic cards as payment). I’ve been guilty of skimping on this myself, and it’s always come back to hurt me. I was on Magic Online at the moment of the new Extended rotation announcement and was able to make about 200 tickets with just the spare 50 tix I had in my account, because I had no money on Paypal. But if I had thought ahead, I could’ve profited much more from my foresight, because I would then have more resources to pump into this new and profitable investment. Never leave yourself optionless, and keeping some of your investment in cash form gives you the liquidity needed to succeed.

One final note before we move on, always try to keep your collection modern. By keeping up to date on new decks, you can then shift those cards into your binder to try and trade them off (such as Jwari Shapeshifter from the rumored but never confirmed Japanese ally deck).

Pick an area:

Pick your turf. Where will you be spending most of your time trading? Where do all the players hang out to game? You always want to be at the hub of activity, as that is what brings in the profit.

--FNM: The staple area for trading. Almost any serious store will hold good sized tournaments on Fridays, usually Standad though some will be Drafts. FNM is the most diverse scene because the most types of players play in it, and also provides a convenient way to pick up hot cards before going to a big tournament on the weekend.

--Prerelease/Release tournament: Here I’m referring to the larger regional tournaments, not the local ones that have become more common since Wizards started putting the emphasis on them. But the regional tournaments still pull players in from surprisingly far. I tend to think of these as super FNMs, where you’ll be able to pick up some new stock that your local scene might not have, as well as speculate and trade for some of the new cards.

--Local Eternal tournaments: I count these as separate from FNMs even though they can be of a similar size because of the massive difference in the type of players at these two events. Personally, Eternal tournaments are my favorite to trade at, because this is where you'll get to unload all the Eternal stuff you picked up off of Standard players at FNM. It's worth keeping in mind though that Eternal players rarely if ever have type 2 cards for trade, so in the situation where we can't work out a deal that I like swapping some Eternal cards for others, it's often possible to just get cash for them.

--PTQs: Ah the sweet smell of the blue envelope. I'll be honest, every time I'm at a PTQ, I came to game, not trade. But, after a poor performance, there's no better way to pick yourself back up than by turning a profit trading. PTQs are much like Eternal tournaments in that they give you a chance to offload a subset of your collection, in this case the higher end Standard staples and the Extended staples when they're in season. Very few people at FNM are going to be interested in plunking down $80 worth of cards for a Jace, but at PTQs you'll be dealing with a more competitive crowd, who needs that last Jace for their U/W deck when they PTQ again next week. They're also the only people who care about Extended at all. At limited PTQs, I never manage to trade away very much, but picking up new cards there is always very easy because so much product is being opened, and I then like to hold that product until the season has switched and prices have risen.

--GPs/PTs (or open series tournament like Starcity Games and TCGPlayer): the cream of the crop. These are the largest Magic events that anyone can attend, and give you a huge market for cards. There's no way to determine ahead of time what kind of players will be in attendance, so bring everything you have, and play the field. Don't get too desperate and make a bad deal, but don't get too greedy either and let a fair deal fall through.

That's all for this section of looking at trading, but I'll be back with part 2 next week. A quick tip for you Extended speculators, a RUG Pestermite combo deck made the top 4 of the most recent Extended PTQ on Magic Online. This is a rogue contender, but continued success for the archetype could easily send the price of Splinter Twin through the roof, when compared to its current price of course. Otherwise, that's all for now, and I hope you'll join me again next week, but until then, be sure to check out some of this other amazing content here on Quiet Spec!

--Noah Whinston

Arcadefire on MTGO

nwhinston on Twitter

baldr7mtgstore on Ebay

Join the conversation

Want Prices?

Browse thousands of prices with the first and most comprehensive MTG Finance tool around.

Trader Tools lists both buylist and retail prices for every MTG card, going back a decade.

Quiet Speculation