Hey all, and welcome back to Whinston’s Whisdom on Quiet Speculation. In my last article, I started describing the most basic steps of a trade, and left off on the types of tournaments that people trade at, and the relative advantages of each. Let’s continue from there…
Pick a target:
While I know the age old adage of “never judge a book by its cover” is critical when interacting socially with others, I am not ashamed to admit that I do judge prospective trading partners by appearance before inviting them to trade. Engaged in an intense playtest game? Probably a Spike interested in the hottest new competitive rares. Playing a game with a casual Sliver deck? That Timmy binder will come in handy. Playing with a pimped out Eternal or EDH deck? It’s not hard to guess what they’ll be looking to trade for. While obviously these assumptions aren’t always true, by scoping out a trade partner quickly before the start of trading, you can gain some insight into their card evaluations and what kind of stuff they’ll want to get from you.
If there is one step out of this entire series of articles that I had to pick as the most important, it would be this one. A trade will not go through in your favor unless you can make the other trader feel good about it. Your persona and your interaction with the guy on the other side of the table is critical toward building yourself up as a good trader. Adopting a persona is but the first step in this. Take people like Kelly Reid or Jon Medina. These are guys that have street cred. They have the experience to back them up. Their persona will often be one of intelligence and superiority, but never arrogance. Obviously, for a less experienced trader that hasn’t played as large a part in the MTG financial community as these 2 have will be unable to adopt this same persona. And this is where your own personal judgment must come into play. Depending on who you’re trading with, the persona you adopt will have to adapt to fit the situation. While Kelly’s persona might work with a shark trader, or someone who’s been around the trading scene for a while, it might scare newer or more casual players away. Likewise, too softhanded an approach will make you seem vulnerable to those more experienced, while benefiting your interactions with those that are newer. The very best traders can swap their persona according to the situation, which is something that I’m working on right now. When I trade, I often take an aggressive role. I’m always the one proposing trades rather than letting my opponent gain the upper hand in our negotiations. And while this can be effective, it also pushes people away part of the time. There is one person at my store who will always open up his binder to me, but is never willing to make a deal with me, while I see others trading with him and making much more profit off of him than I had planned to. Sometimes, a persona and a target will simply not mesh. When this happens, you must switch. While I’m slightly worse at taking the role of a newer, or at least meeker, trader, just a small amount of effort in this direction can pay off big.
Of course there are other ways to build this rapport as well. Persona isn’t everything, though it is admittedly the biggest part of rapport. Simply making the other trader feel comfortable can go a long way towards building rapport. If he’s unsure about a card price, don’t cite a site’s price from memory. Instead hand over your smartphone and let him check for himself. Ask where he’s from, how he’s doing in the tournament, how long he’s been playing. Find common ground. Worst case scenario, you both play Magic! If that isn’t the best way to find common ground I don’t know what is. For Spikes, tell that hilarious story about your buddy forgetting to target his opponent with Sign in Blood. What a chump! Regale Johnnies with your EDH 5 card combo tales, while awing Timmies with turn 4 Progenitus. In Next Level Magic, Patrick Chapin talks about in-game rapport, and how to build a similar connection to an opponent while in a game rather than a trade. One of the things he said that struck me the most was when he talked about the brain being more willing to accept suggestion when it feels that it itself is suggesting an idea, rather than a foreign power. When you establish rapport with another trader, make him understand the similarities between the two of you, he is more willing to go with you during the trade, and while there are obviously some limits, will give up more value to you because he feels like you're on his side.
Obviously there are some that look down on this sort of behavior as psychological warfare. While this is not always the most popular tactic, especially when money is on the line rather than a game of Magic, it is yet another tool for your arsenal. But why is there such a distinction between playing the game and trading? If you mind trick an opponent during a game, causing him to throw away the game, in a match that will put one of you into the money and one of you out of it, is this unfair? There’s money on the line here too, as the winner will make infinitely more than the loser, yet why do people find it more acceptable to use rapport as a tactic in game rather than in a trade?
Begin flowery soliloquy
To those opposing this, I say “Nay!”. Trading is a match, just as a match is a trade. Why distinguish such between the two, when both require an assertion of dominance over a lesser being. Your opponent, be he slinging spells or swapping them, is the enemy. Those who hunger for victory, let you not be content with any amount of profit, any amount of match wins. Let the score tally up more and more in your favor until none dare stand before you. Carpe diem, seize the day! And lest you be diverted from your true course, hold your path true, but not rigid. “Aut viam inveniam aut faciam” (Hannibal), I will find a way or I will make one. Those that oppose you know not the falsity of their words, but rather attempt a hopeless stand, that will surely fall to your skill and discipline.
Begin caveman speech
Trade is game. Game is trade. No different.
This distinction between game and trade must be done away with. I conduct myself in a game identically to the way I do in a trade. In both, the end goal should be victory, no matter the tactics (disclaimer: if something would be considered cheating in a game, it is in a trade too! i.e. lying is a no no).
With this all said, rapport is the most important in-trade, if not overall, tactic necessary to a trader. Uncharismatic traders never prosper, while those that can make their opponents love them even as they destroy them (thank you Ender Wiggin) are the ones that make the big time.
So you’ve made DI profit trading. From your paltry investment, you have enough cardboard cash to buy a horse, if not a house. But unless your landlord takes cards as payment, they’ll still be knocking on your door waiting for rent at the end of the month. You’d better cash out quick! In my experience there are really only 3 ways to do this.
Ebay—the simplest and most common way of turning cards to cash, yet ultimately, my least favorite. Your sell price can never be exorbitantly high because the market will determine its value, yet you then lose +12% to Ebay and Paypal fees, then have to wait for payment, and then have to take the trouble to ship out the cards. While a fine outlet if there’s little demand for a card in your area, I would look to other options first.
Store buylists—sweet and easy. Stores consistently buy cards for MUCH less than they sell them for, yet sometimes it doesn’t matter. A sudden peak in price can leave buy prices high enough for you to still make a profit, but without the hassle and fees of Ebay. Perhaps more importantly, you get cash, for all the places where Paypal isn’t accepted. I will use this option when available and economically sound (remember that taking a lower price on your cards can be ok if it’s significantly faster because of opportunity cost as I mentioned two articles ago).
Sell to the players—there are two ways to exploit this option. You could be a dealer, in which case you probably shouldn’t be taking much advice from my articles as I try and address the smaller trader, but of course if you are there’s a very easy way to sell your cards. Just...sell…them. As a small trader you can also do the same. While some stores, especially those that sell their own singles, frown on and may even ban the selling of cards, you can always step outside with a client to do so, or sell them at much below dealer pricing to your friends. You both end up well by doing this, but make sure not to price gouge them. It’s quite a good way to not have friends anymore.
That’s all on financial content for today. I’m not 100% sure what my plan is for next week, but I’m sure I’ll think something up.
I have noticed that there are few or no comments, so I’ve decided to do something that worked well the first time I tried it on Blackborder. It’s comment contest time!
Comment on this article before Wednesday, January 19th with one thing you liked about the article, one constructive criticism, and one topic you’d like to see covered in a future article. I’ll pick a winner, either the one whose topic I like best or one randomly, and send them a free card, shipping at my expense.
This week’s card will be a copy of the Unhinged card R&D’s Secret Lair, so get those comments in.
Until next time,
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