Drafting is the most social form of competitive Magic. There’s often a lot of discussion about picks and builds, a lot of rail-birding matches, and simple joking around. Drafts really are a networking opportunity for the avid trader. The more you’re able to know about your trade partner, the easier it will be for you to strike up a deal. Networking is a very important skill, to maintain and upgrade your image in your local community. People that see you as a positive force in the community will be giving you breaks on trades, that you couldn’t otherwise get. If you are seen as a negative contributor to the community, people may not want to give you good value on trades, or worse yet, not trade with you at all. Especially if your community is smaller, maintaining this image becomes more important. In a smaller community, you have less trade partners, and therefore less opportunities to gain some value.
At most live drafts I’ve been to, there is a variety of players in attendance. Some are the regulars, who draft multiple times per week, and don’t play much constructed. Some are Standard players who dropped from a constructed event. While others, are traders/dealers who want to crack some packs and network with players. Dealing with these types of players each takes a slightly different approach, and your success will depend on which of the three categories your trade partner thinks you fall into.
Dealing with the regulars:
Because I’m known as a regular in the drafts, who only plays constructed occasionally, I’m able to form an unspoken relationship with the other regulars. It is easy for me to approach a player who drafted a card I want, and say, “Would you be willing to look at a trade?” This has a number of advantages. First, many of the drafters I know, stick to drafting exclusively. They either collect the cards, or dump them for more drafts, which means they probably don’t have an immediate need for any particular card. I’ve made a habit of trading a junk rare I’ve drafted for desirable uncommons and commons, such as Trinket Mage, Go for the Throat, even Myr Galvanizer. Drafters don’t have much of a need for these constructed cards, but I keep a handy list of all the commons and uncommons that my local dealer buys. Even if they have a rare that is worth quite a bit, you are in a decent position to negotiate with them. I always start by letting them look through my draft deck for anything they are interested in. If there’s nothing there they want, I’ll offer them store credit for the card. The reason I do this, instead of handing over my trade binder, is to maintain the drafter’s image.
Drafters operate on store credit, and if I trade them card for card, they are typically the one who loses value, when they look to trade that card in for store credit. If I can offer them store credit now, at a price that is fair, they’re likely to take it. There is also a camaraderie that forms between drafters who have been drafting together a few times per week for a while. They want to help you finish of that constructed deck, or fill the last hole in your set. Because they don’t have a need for the card, they’d rather see it go to someone who needs it, than just dumping it to the store. The drafters who are regulars, tend to be very analytical people. They won’t want to lose a ton of value on their cards, but they probably are only familiar with the store’s buy pricing (which may in no way reflect the actual value of the card). You will need to get a feel for each person individually to know the best way to deal with them, but ultimately that’s what this article is about. If you are a regular at your LGS drafts, you will naturally build this relationship with the other drafters around you. Just don’t forget to keep your eye on any commons and uncommons you may want to trade for. Some drafters pull the rares out of their decks and leave the rest on the table, when the event is over. Pulling out these dimes and quarters out of their leftovers can reward big dividends when you attend the next big event. I keep a long box of staple commons and uncommons in my car, because when there’s a shortage at an event, I want to be able to dump as many as I can for the temporary inflated price.
Dealing with the Traders/Dealers:
Dealing with other players who focus on trading, is usually okay, but not quite as profitable. While you both may value cards differently, its possible both parties walk away happy, but it is not likely. These players will likely overvalue their staple commons and uncommons, either because they know they can be good trade bait, or because they have the same intention of carrying a stock of them to the next big event. Dealers on the other hand are a great resource to have around. If you don’t have any dealers that come draft at your LGS, I would be surprised. (It may even scream ‘opportunity’ for you). Dealers are your outlet for any of your junk rares and foils you aren’t able to trade away. Often times they will give you cash for a stack of cards, or let you dig through their trades and trade up to constructed cards or trade bait. This is not only a great way to trim down the quantity of cards you’re carrying around, but also upgrades the quality of your trade binder. While Dealers are certainly making money on the transaction, they must have another outlet for the junk rares that you don’t. This is why there is a win-win possible. Those junk rares are deemed junk, because you can’t get rid of them, but the eBay PowerSeller can.
Dealing with the Constructed Players:
Dealing with constructed players, is probably the least advantageous at your draft, and I try to avoid it. There are some times when it makes sense, but it usually involves a higher ticket item, and a trade out of your binder. This fits the model that most of your trades do, find some cards that your trade partner values lower than you do, and offer him cards he values higher than you do. The only leverage the draft scenario has ever gained me in this situation, if after a match with that player I say, “Can I take a peek at your deck?” I use that opportunity to talk to them about the draft, what cards they picked in what order, and how certain cards performed for them. This is somewhat disarming, and allows you to try and pick up some cards from them. Perhaps they see you as a superior limited player, if this is the case, chat them up, make deck building suggestions, and work your image. Keep in mind the constructed player has the most use for these cards of the bunch, so knowing what deck they play, or archetype they prefer, will help you know which cards they will value higher than others. It also means, you know what cards to trade up to with the dealer, so you can re-trade them to the constructed players.
I can’t tell you how sick I am of the standard trade offers, and approaches I get on a weekly basis. As much as its a good tactic, the “What do you value this at?” has really started to wear on me. I know the drafting regulars at my store feel the same way. Why not wear a t-shirt that says, “I will buy things you undervalue, and sell you things you overvalue, would that be something you’d be interested in?” I take a different approach on my trades, based on building relationships with these people. I KNOW what they value cards at, without having to ask it so bluntly. I know what their priorities are, and what they have a need for or not. I’ve had a lot of success with this model, and I suggest you add it to your repertoire. While only helpful in your local community, where you can see the same faces every week, its also where you have to play your weekly events, so making social connections with the players around you, simply can’t be bad. I'd love for some of the value traders to comment below, about how they go about trading with drafters (if any different than another trade partner), and if they recognize how that persons image has affected they way trades go down.