Morality and Ethics, the N00b Quandary

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In my last article ( I briefly touched on the topic of trading ethics, and the code of conduct that I hold myself to when conducting trades. Interest was expressed by a reader in seeing a full article on the topic, and having decided that it was probably a good idea to expand more fully on my philosophy, the article was written!

The simplest, yet perhaps most important place to start is the “n00b quandary”, i.e. you see a new player about to get ripped off in a trade with another person, or you yourself are the person doing the lopsided trade with a newer player. In these scenarios, do you feel the need to inform the n00b that he’s getting the bad side of the deal, or do you plow ahead, and let the other trader, be it some other random guy or you, make some extra money.

Personally, I have almost no experience with this type of problem. In fact, you could probably say that I had a relatively spoiled Magic n00b phase. At my first FNM, a good Samaritan at the store (Lee Cote) randomly gave me a complete common playset of Champions and Betrayers of Kamigawa, which happened to be the first cards actually legal in an FNM I had ever owned. It goes almost without saying, that without Lee’s help, I would not still be involved in Magic to the level that I am today. And the only way I’ve ever come close to getting ripped off in a trade is swapping 2 Damnations that I had opened just after Planar Chaos’ release for 2 Umezawa’s Jittes, for a total loss of maybe $10 max. And this is low enough an amount that I don’t hold any grudges for this, and am still friends with the guy that I did that trade with, oh so many years ago. But I understand, not everyone is so sheltered…

Ah summer camp, the world of waterskiing, tennis, and, of course, Magic. Now normally, Magic is not a very large activity at summer camps, but at mine, it was surprisingly big. My camp director, in his quest to insure that no campers paid money for Magic cards ever, actually gave me money to buy booster boxes of the latest sets to draft with, supporting 8 of the best camp players, with prizes. And let’s be honest, I usually came out on the top of those. I was the only person at camp that had ever been to an FNM, and so when a foil Fauna Shaman came around to me 8th pick, It was a bygone conclusion that I would snatch it up, even though I wasn’t in Green, and then promptly win the draft with my 6 Doom Blade, 3 Corrupt, Liliana Vess, 5 Liliana’s Specter deck. But what amazed me most about Magic at camp was not the play, but instead the trades. Planeswalkers commanded a premium, going for upwards of $20 in trade value OR cash (done secretly of course). Darksteel Colossus reached $25 at one point, with Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, topping out at an astounding $45. I’ll be honest, there were times that I took advantage of this, and I’m not too proud to admit it. My first year at camp, I was allowed to use my computer to send off articles to the different Magic sites I worked for, but also used this time to order cards from ebay for resale among the camp’s players. I made over $500 in three weeks, not to mention the card stock I acquired. While none of the players had the fabled original duals sitting in their collection because “they’re just lands”, I got Onslaught fetches and Ravnica shock for a pittance, getting multiples for a single Chandra Nalaar. So while I’ve never had the experience of being ripped off, I’ve clearly made more than my fair share of money on the inexperience of other players.

Now to jog back on to the article’s actual topic (yeah, I know you’re disappointed to not hear the rest of my MTG biography, but Kelly doesn’t pay me the big bucks to be a historian, take it up with him yourselves). What has my story taught me about ethics and morals in trading?

Well, let’s start at the very beginning. I’ve learned that a little help can go a long way. Lee’s selfless gift to me at the very beginning of my tournament Magic life kept me in the game. It gave me cards I could actually compete with. And even when the store moved to another location farther away, the game kept enough hooks in me that I migrated with it. My first FNM win, PTQ top 8, and hopefully, first PT appearance, will all be due to the one generous player at my first FNM. And I’ve tried to mirror this experience with other players I’ve met. At the last Extended PTQ in Chicago last year, I was approached by a player I’d never met before, Mehran Latif, looking to borrow 2 Jittes for his Faeries list. I had no idea who he was, but Zach Jesse, another friend, vouched for him, so I lent him the Jittes without any hesitation. Now, Mehran and I are friends, mainly built on that one interaction. On many occasions, I have lent cards to Lee, the guy who gave me the cards all those years ago, without any need for collateral or references. If I had had a less favorable beginning to my Magic life, would I have been willing to do that? Maybe, maybe not, but this does show the benefits of generosity to newer players.


One of the things I most often use Mehran for is a repository for my stuff during tournaments. It’s a trend of mine that when I lend some of my things to other people, I do extremely well in tournaments:

--Lent Jittes to Mehran, top 8ed PTQ

--Lent headphones to Mehran, top 4ed a GPT, lost when he gave them back

--Lent headphones to Greg Ivey, 9th on breaks at a PTQ after he left.

Out of the 3 tournaments that’s 2.5 top 8s, not bad, so I’ll continue with this trend of lending stuff out for my own self serving interests.


Looking back over what I’ve written, I feel most of it has been essential towards setting a backdrop, and explaining why I have most of the opinions that I do, but I haven’t really touched on the issue at hand yet, even over 1000 words later. So I’ll start some discussion of morality when dealing with the n00b quandary here, but then set a max limit of 2000 words for myself so this one article doesn’t balloon out of control, then either go back and cut down on some of the fluff, or split this article up.

But yes, on to the actual topic of this article, ethics and morality in trading. Or, more specifically, the n00b quandary, what do you do?

This is one of the more delicate situations you’ll have to handle as a trader. Let’s take a first scenario in which the n00b is being ripped off by another trader. Do you take action here? There are a lot of factors you must consider. First of all, the other trader may feel you are trying to poach the trade, because more often than not you will often then trade with the n00b after protecting him from the unscrupulous trader. This will not endear you to him. But I feel in this scenario, the only thing you can do that maintains both your desire to profit with your desire to see Magic prosper (which is inherently linked to the first), is to inform the n00b that the trade is not in his favor, and in fact, that he’s being ripped off. If this new player is ripped off, he’s extremely unlikely to return to the competitive Magic scene, and may quit the game altogether. This will cut into your profit, because as this new player develops into a more competitive one, as most do, even if it only means taking FNM more seriously, he will turn to you for help seeking out cards for his decks. And the profit comes knocking at the door. Also, as a trader, you have a vested interest in making sure Magic prospers. If the brand fails, you are suddenly left with a lot of useless pricing information in your head, and cards in your binders. And while one player is unlikely to bring down an international brand supported by Hasbro, even something smaller like the store needing to cut events to make ends meet because they lack the money they would have made from this player will eventually cut into your own bottom line. And so, for the most selfish of reasons as well as the best of them, I feel it’s only right to take the high road in this scenario, and inform the new player that he’s being ripped off.

The same applies if you are the one doing the trade. In the Damnation/Jitte trade I told you about earlier, I was completely enthralled by Jitte. I had heard all about how good it was, and was desperate to own one. If pushed, it’s possible I might have traded both Damnations for just one Jitte, more than tripling the profit on my trading partner’s end. Yet would this have been a good thing for him? I venture to say no, because it would’ve meant that, once I realized how I had been ripped off, my interaction with him would have ceased, and I wouldn’t have been willing to trade with him again. Yet because my trading partner was able and willing to take less profit on that trade, we can now maintain a mutually beneficial relationship between the two of us. The same goes for when you encounter a newer player looking to trade. Though I might be tempting to ravage his trade binder, pace yourself. Don’t only think of profits in the present, think ahead to the future, and the relationships and reputation you try to cultivate for yourself as a trader.

Ok, that’s approaching my word cap, so I’m going to cut this off. Next week I’ll shortly summarize the conclusions I drew about trading with newer players here, and then talk about some of the other ethics of trading.

Regarding the comment contest, last week’s winner was Wade, so if Wade wants to contact me either through the comments section or email, just send me your mailing address and I’ll get your cards out to you.

The comment contest will stay in place for this week, though any ideas provided by readers for future articles won’t necessarily be used right away. I also want to open up this contest to Twitter, so you can now tweet me your comment contest submissions. Remember, one positive comment, one constructive criticism, and one future article idea must be included in your entry, and a hint, if you format your entry as “good:… Bad:… idea:…” I probably won’t pick that as the winner. Don’t be formulaic! You can see Wade’s comment from last week for an excellent example of a submission. The prizes for this week’s contest will be an FNM promo Wild Nacatl and 2 Swans of Bryn Argoll, so get your submissions in.

Until next week, flipping cards and taking names,

--Noah Whinston

nwhinston on Twitter

arcadefire on MTGO

Baldr7mtgstore on ebay

Posted in Finance, Free, Free Finance

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3 thoughts on “Morality and Ethics, the N00b Quandary

  1. After you inform the noob of the unbalanced trade, how do you handle the shark? Would like to hear any anecdotes you have. Would also like to read about your preparation in regards to trading for a large event like a GP or SCG Open.

  2. will definitely cover both those topics in the future. dealing with the shark will be in part of this article next week. be sure to include positive comments and constructive criticism if you want to win the contest though.

  3. Thanks for the article and the nice comments regarding my post. I emailed you with my info. I have nothing but good things to say and you will read some in my email but as far as what else I am curious about on Brandons topic how do you prepair a trade binder for a large event? In an attempt to be evently balanced for as many situations as possible.

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