[Here is the first offering from Ryan Bushard, in Kelly Reid's own words "a damned good trader." Please let us know in the comments what you think! -Dylan]
Magic is a diverse culture of players, as there is a format for nearly everyone and each has their own unique trading style as well. This column will be devoted to understanding how to approach each trade, with everything from how to organize your binders to what cards to look for. This week I will cover how to maximize values when trading with an EDH (Commander) player.
Whether the long box filled with eight different decks or the odd fascination with every obscure card gives it away, the EDH (Elder Dragon Highlander) player is always fairly easy pick out. Typically these trades are a great chance to unload a lot of your bulk rares. EDH has become a major driving force in the market today, and it's a great way to make money without having to break the bank on a large investment. Many cards were long forgotten until this format was created, and the announcement of the release of the Commander preconstructed decks has been helping staple cards rise to impressive prices. Most people missed out on the initial surge in prices, but there are still a host of ways to make profit, and this article will show you how.
This is one of the best binders you can have put together. It should feature a good mix of staple cards and flashy, hard-to-find cards. Foil Generals as well as obscure cards from hard-to-find sets are always a good investment. You may sit on the same card in this binder for a month or two, but picking up a bulk rare from someone could net you a good amount in value if you find the right trader. EDH has a strong following from both the casual and competitive crowd, and from what I have seen, the judges enjoy it quite a bit as well. This diversity makes almost any unusual rare worth more than just bulk prices. For this reason, leave your binders filled with the high end cards such as Time Spirals and Mana Crypts and get a few fat pack boxes to fill with bulk. One key about EDH players is they can never have too much to look through. The more bulk you bring the more they will find, and those two or three dollar rares add up quickly. I have six to ten Fat Pack boxes filled up with mostly rares and staple/hard-to-find commons and uncommons. I frequently find myself trading what I acquired at just above bulk price and turning that into competitive type two cards.
I personally enjoy EDH, as do most people I know, and EDH players love nothing more than, well… a game of EDH! If you have time play a game while trading, this eases the sometimes-tense trading process. The game not only serves as a way to relax the players, but it also reminds them of cards they need for their decks. This of course requires you to have an EDH deck, and if you don’t already have a deck I would suggest a strong Aggro-themed deck. This will allow you to stay in the game versus the more competitive decks while still allowing the casual players to have a chance to play. No casual player wants to lose to your eight minute long turn three win every game.
The casual player is looking for the cool cheap rares, and you should always let them start pulling cards out first. It is a lot easier to convince them to part with their [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Mind Sculptor[/card] when they are looking at a pile of the forty rares they want for EDH decks. Picking up competitive cards for a lot of bulk is ideal for making quick liquid trades. Most of the casual players don’t spend a lot of money on the game, so though they know how much Jace is worth, they will more than likely never see much if any competitive play because they can't afford three more for a deck. I also keep lists of any cards these casual player are looking for so when I am trading with a competitive player I know what to look for. I can obtain cards that I know will be getting 4-5x in trade value for a quarter of the price when I know what people want. I highly recommend keeping a list of cards people want in your local area before going to a major event. Most of these players don’t go any farther than the card shop or a local PTQ so they are only exposed to certain binders constantly. Keeping your binder ever-rotating allows you to trade more frequently, because if one thing's true about an EDH player… they can always find something they want!
The competitive EDH player is a whole different crowd. These players come in two varieties: the ADD designer and the pimped out deck builder. The ADD deck builder is looking for that tenth or eleventh Sol Ring for his new creation. This guy refuses to tear a deck apart, and if someone doesn’t have a deck, he is always willing to oblige. These types of traders typically have a good idea of what they are looking for, as this isn’t their first time around the block after all. With that in mind have your binder stocked appropriately; these players have no problem parting with competitive cards as long as you have what they need. At the end of this article I will include a short list of cards that are highly sought after and can allow you to maximize profits while still being able to fulfill trading needs. You should always remember the uncommon and common staples as well when devising your EDH trade collection. Keeping a healthy box full of Brainstorms and Lotus Petals can really even up those final few dollars it may take to close a trade. On top of the format's staples, this player may be looking for new deck ideas, and as with any great idea you have to start at the base. This is where having a solid collection of unique generals such as Cao Cao, Lord of Wei can pay off, and having cards that can be hard to find will always be a boon when trading with the competitive EDH player.
The other type of competitive player also likes unique cards, just of a different variety. These players are looking for the latest and greatest of everything, and the only thing better than a foil is a signed altered art foil with a Pro Tour stamp and signed by their favorite pro. Too much is never enough for these players and the sky is the limit on profit potential. These players are few and far between at my local shop, as the investment it takes to invoke this level of EDH madness is rare. These players will more commonly be found at major events peeling through everyone’s binder looking for a few select cards to finish their pimped out version of Zur. The best way to prepare for these trades is to acquire any rare cards you can when you are in your local area, and to be ready to unload them when you travel. A foil Chandra Nalaar may not be worth more than a few dollars to your local players who never travel, but if you can pick it up and catch the artist somewhere that year it may be worth the investment. These investments can be risky if you're looking for short term profit, and certainly not as guaranteed as trading staples or bulk, but they can have great margins if you can sit on them for long enough. A great example of one of these trades involved a Pro Tour foil Treva, the Renewer. I picked the card up in a trade for about 10 from a PTQ player the year it released, and though I sat on it for a good few months, without any added work I flipped it to a player who had been trying to obtain one for his EDH General at nearly triple its value in trade! Promos and foils are a great market if you are business savvy and know how to bargain, as you stand to double or triple your investment just by knowing how to pitch a card and how to bargain properly. I don’t advise this market to anyone who hasn’t had a lot of trade experience as you can tie a lot of your collection up on cards that you may sit on for a long while. If you have a large collection or run a store this can be a great area to get into but it requires constant attention as foils can shoot up in value or plummet from something as simple as Conley Wood’s latest scheme to the latest EDH banlist.
This section will be included in every article, and it is key in how to conduct your trades. Everyone acts differently based on their surroundings. As a good trader you must learn how to adapt and interact with the crowd you are surrounded by. Casual players don’t want to hear about the 4 PTQ’s you’ve won and the GP you just t16’ed. On the same note competitive players don’t want to talk about how awesome Avatar of Woe is in your EDH deck. Knowing your crowd, pacing the conversation, and knowing what your trade partner is looking for is key for fluid trades that are both quick and profitable.
With the EDH trader relaxed, this is probably the least competitive player out there; I have met causal players who can still be cutthroat, but a real EDH player is playing the format for fun. Talking about the pricing right off the bat can make them feel uneasy and rushed, so talk to them about what decks they have, and keep a small list of cards that come to mind when they give you information on what they are running. People always want to make their EDH decks better, and with such a large card pool many of them don’t even know some of the best cards for them exist. Like I discussed before, sometimes you will run into the more competitive EDH crowd and, though the trade style is probably going to be more formal with that group, it is still good to keep a steady conversation going. If they know what they are looking for, help them to that section, and if they don’t have any interest in looking through cards, don’t make them! That’s why you have an organized binder: quick smart trades. Most EDH trades however run slightly more casual, since many don’t even know what they are looking for until they see it. Ensuring your EDH boxes are diverse will give everyone something to find and create a good chance for you to snag some of those hard to find competitive cards at good prices. As I stated earlier, always let them pull things out first, and tell them you're interested in cards but want to see what they find first. Once you pull a card out, they begin to pick and choose what they want instead of going on impulse and pulling out anything that catches their eye, and that’s fewer cards for you to move. The most important things to remember are to stay casual (It is, after all, a casual format) and to allow them to lead the trade. You don’t usually have to try very hard for this one to end up in your favor.
Cards to look for
Cards to look for, as stated earlier, include almost any colorless mana producer, as with the [card Mox Sapphire]Mox[/card]es and [card Black Lotus]Lotus[/card] banned in EDH people will settle for what they can get their hands on. These investments are always sure if you can get them for the right price, cards like Sol Ring and Mana Vault will only continue to rise with the demand from EDH players. The below list is a great start at the high end cards that every EDH player wants at their deckbuidling disposal.
In addition, any foils you can get your hands on are never bad investments, and buying foils in bulk from people can be a cheap way to get into the game. People will unload them for cheap, and with a little bit of organizing, they will make a nice addition to your EDH trade fodder. This also goes for bulk rares. Many players would be willing to sell you their bulk as opposed to mailing it and having to pay shipping, if they never travel you may have a reliable outlet for more EDH fodder. Never overlook the large stacks of junk rares, many of them may just find their way into an EDH deck someday.
Cards to pick up
EDH players typically only need one to two copies of most cards so there is a good chance that they wont have playsets of many things, but picking up a lot of singles that are more useful in other formats is ideal. Even at a fair value of most rares being at least a dollar in trade, if they pick out ten junk rares that can quickly turn into a fetchland, and if you look at the margins on that it's very impressive. Get a good idea of what you want the first time through and filter from there based on their picks.
Well that’s it for this pilot article. If you like the information or just want to know more, please leave me a comment. If anyone has any particular recommendations for the article or things you would/or would not like to see in the future, please let me know! Next week when I return from Atlanta, I will be covering the topic of how to approach a trade with a player vendor, the unique combination of a currently or previously competitive player with a business mindset out to make money at the game. Most of the people reading this article, myself included, may fall into this category, and you may be surprised at how you can both make a good trade that can turn out to be profitable for each party.