What Would You Do?

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I need your help.

Nothing sparks controversy when you’re discussing value trading quite like an ethical quandary.

Very generally speaking, there are two schools of thought on this issue. The first is the “every man is responsible for himself” viewpoint, as propagated here by Jon Medina. The other end of the spectrum is the “Trading up is stealing” argument, most recently made by Peter Jahn (I refuse to link his particular article, but you can see my thoughts on it here).

Of course, most people fall somewhere in the middle, and there are endless shades of gray. It’s within one of these shades that I come to you today.

The situation

The incident occurred about two months ago (we’ll call it March 15). I’m trading with a regular at my local store. We don’t trade often, and I consider him a friend, more than just a trade partner. He lets me borrow decks on occasion, and is not someone I’m looking to make much of a profit on. I think he had some EDH cards I wanted, and he was looking for a few things I had.

The trade goes fine for a while, with both of us pulling out 4-5 cards and lining them up. At this point he’s up a few dollars on the deal, so I ask him if I can look through for another small card. He agrees, and I get to work. I start by asking about some $4-5 (probably Celestial Colonnade or the like). He politely declines a few suggestions like this and I keep looking.

I had just seen Tombstalker pop up in a few lists that had Top 8’ed an SCG Open. I admit I really wasn't a huge Legacy buff, as far as prices go. I just started playing around the release of Eventide, so there were literally hundreds of older cards worth money that I didn’t know about (I’m becoming more educated in this area), and Tombstalker was one of them. I honestly didn’t know if the card was worth $20 or $2, but I asked about it, and he agreed to the trade. We shook hands and it was good.

When I got home and checked out Tombstalker’s price, which at the time was just under $8 on Black Lotus Project, I realized that obviously this worked out in my favor. I chalked it up to good instincts on my part and moved on with my life.

Last week the guy I traded with shows up for the New Phyrexia pre-release. It’s the first time we’ve seen each other since the trade, since we were both very busy with school. We start catching up and a few minutes in he tells me about he’s upset about the trade we made. It took me a few minutes to even remember what he was talking about, since the whole thing was such a non-event to me. Obviously it wasn’t the same for him.

I explained to him my thought process as we were trading, and that I knew Tombstalker was played but had no idea about its price. He didn’t seem to buy it, seemingly convinced I sharked in some illicit manner. The issue is exacerbated when I see he has a Kira, Great Glass-Spinner that one of my friends needs as his EDH general. I’ve been on the hunt for Kira for months, and it’s the first one I’ve seen in my area.

To my dismay, he refused to trade with me. This came as a personal blow for a few reasons. Firstly, I was losing out on a potential Kira, which sucks. Secondly, I take it personally when someone is scared to trade with me. I work hard to maintain an image of easy-going guy who isn’t out to steal your cards, and I don’t make a secret of my views on sharking.

The next week, Kira (and her owner) show up to the New Phyrexia release. The first thing he says to me is, “Hey! you know Kira is worth $15, right?”

“Yeah, I do, that’s what I want to trade for it at, and it’s all my friend still needs for his EDH deck,” I say to him. (Note that telling someone you “need” a card is a bad idea, but helping out a friend by getting something they “need” garners a lot of good will when trading; Most casual traders want to help out.)

“Yeah, okay. I don’t know, maybe we can do something later,” he replies.

“Okay, sounds good. It sounds like I owe you a few dollars, so let me make it up to you.”

Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to trade that night, so this is where we stand currently.

My question to you is, what do I do now?

Do I trade straight across for Kira? The other trade is long finished, and he hasn’t said that I owe him, nor has there been a specific agreement to do so. On the floor of a GP or other similarly-sized event, I wouldn’t be interested in making up with a jilted trader, especially over something that amounts to like $5 in cardboard. The situation changes at FNM, or does it?

The options I see are:

-       Trade straight across. Don’t acknowledge the past trade directly, but don’t turn the screws on him either. Chances are this will net me a small loss, but it may help mend the situation.

-       Purposely give him increased value. This hurts, and gives him the opportunity to try and guilt me into a worse trade. Chances are this helps the situation, but it could also go the other way if he sees it as weakness on my part and tries to gouge me while playing on my guilt.

-       Trade as usual. As a rule, I don’t like making concessions like this, because if you set a precedent of fixing every trade you’ve ever made where your partner doesn’t know what their own cards are worth, you’re in for some headaches.

-       Pass on the trade entirely. Go elsewhere for my Kira, and hope things return to normal between us. Remember, I’ve borrowed decks from this guy in the past, so I have an increased incentive to repair the situation. Does this make it better, or worse?

Chances are I’m going to see him tomorrow night, and how this situation plays out is going to be important. I would love to hear what you guys think, and what you would do in my situation.

Card calls

Speaking of Kira, Great Glass-Spinner, she’s been going nuts on Ebay, and SCG is sold out at $15. I would pick these up in trades if you can from anyone who has them floating around in their binder. Chances are anyone who doesn’t play Legacy is going to undervalue her, and you can do well for yourself picking them up. With Merfolk seeing even more play due to Mental Misstep, I would also suggest picking up Llawan, Cephalid Empress, which is a huge card in the mirror.

Dump your Splinter Twins and Spellskites. I’ve been suggesting picking up Spellskites for a few weeks, and the card predictably spiked in price after a strong showing at the Star City Games Orlando Open. I would still pick these up, but not for more than $7-8 in trade value. Flip them at $10 now, because its price, having already spiked, is going to head south as more New Phyrexia is opened. As far as Splinter Twin is concerned, the price has started to level out on Ebay around $7.50, and I don’t think it has much higher to go. Again, flip them at $10, preferably for something that will hold long-term value, like Zendikar fetchlands or Ravnica shocklands (preferably Blue ones).

Another card to be on the prowl for is Spell Snare, which appeared in Gerry Thompson’s UW Standstill list that put two players into the Top 4. With Missteps running around everywhere, the format will begin to adjust, which means more two-drops. Spell Snare is near the lowest price its been in years, so now seems like a very good time to pick up the uncommon.

Update on the Prediction Tracker

Last week, I announced the Prediction Tracker, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. There’s been progress made since then, and it looks like we’re going to be able to go live next week.

We also added a section in the forums to discuss it week-to-week, and once a week I’ll be writing a short piece reflecting on the changes and interesting notes from week to week.

Let me know if you have any suggestions for the Prediction Tracker, and don’t forget to let me know how you think I should handle the Kira situation!


Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter


Sorry to tack this onto the end, but I'm making this update in the wee hours Thursday morning to keep you guys as up-to-date as possible.

Wizards of the Coast announced the New Phyrexia Event Decks today, and there are some things included that demand action. Most importantly, the War of Attrition deck contains two Stoneforge Mystics. Mystic had already plateaued on Ebay (has come down about $.50 in the last three weeks), and this is only going to introduce more into circulation. I suggest moving your extra Mystics now before they began to lose value, but I would be very interesting in picking them up post-rotation (and looking even farther ahead, after their rotation from Extended).

This deck also includes Puresteel Paladin and a copy of Mirran Crusader, so be aware that there will also be more of those floating around. The effect won't be as great because they aren't as in demand in the first place, and there's only one each in the deck.

The other deck announced, a Poison brew, includes a copy of Green Suns Zenith and a copy of Blinkmoth Nexus. Same principle as above applies, but I don't have any trouble at all moving Zeniths now, and I don't expect that to change. I also wouldn't expect too much of a change in Nexus' price either. I imagine most people buying these will be doing so for the Mystics, since pretty much everyone who wants to play Infect already has a deck nearly identical to the Event deck.

15 thoughts on “What Would You Do?

  1. I say trade for the Kira as usual, but also throw in a card to patch things up. I would be clear to him that you're throwing in an extra card because you're a nice guy, don't want him to get the wrong impression, not out to shark him, etc… You'll still be up on the trade, and it seems like a small price to pay to maintain good relations with people that you will see again.

    I know you don't want to do this every time you come out ahead on a trade, but I can't imagine this sort of thing happening often 😀

  2. I Second what q said. It soulds like you get intangible continuing value out of a good relationship with this person- borrowing decks is no small perk- and continuing that relationship is well worth your loss of a couple bucks in cardboard.

    Plus if others see him refuse to trade with you, that can hurt your reputation too. Don't look at the couple bucks throw-in as a loss, but rather an investment. But I'd reiterate your position, which he's more likely to accept once he's been bribed back into line.

  3. Start the trade off by handing him back the Tombwalker. No harm, no foul, let it go. Do not ask for a replacement, just let it go. Say something like ‘just a game, man, take it’ It was a throw-in anyway, which means by returning it you’re only down a very few $$ in the original trade. Maybe enough for lunch? So u just bought him McDonalds because you’re such a nice guy.

    Anyway, then trade as normal for the Kira and watch him give youb a great deal on it for being cool. Probably enough to make up your loss. Or if he just takes it and walks off, at least your karma is repaired. Karma will follow you to the next trade as well.

    Set it free. If what you’re saying is true, you just wanted a throw-in and he handed you a meal ticket. Correct his mistake, humbly take the loss on the original trade, and the good will you just purchased will pay off in tangible and intangible ways.

  4. I haven't read the entire article yet, just the introduction and the quandary you're in. As a trader, I'm of the "every man of himself" calibre. However, when it comes to friends, I do not practice the same way. Sadly, it sounds like your friend, misperceived your intentions for whatever reasons and is unfairly placing blame on your shoulders. Honestly, it's his fault that he's trading around cards without understanding their value. That's his mistake as, what sound likes, an up and coming trader. However, given the fact that he is a friend of yours, I would attempt to reiterate that it was not your intention to snipe him and that you'd like to even the trade. If it was anyone else, I would walk away.

  5. Regardless of what you end up doing about the trade, you should definitely update in next weeks article. Nice article. A few different topics but quite a good read.

  6. Go with option 1; trade straight across.

    If he had gripes about your previous trade, the time to seek a correction on it was the next time he saw you. He was in a strong position as it was the first chance he had to express his displeasure of the trade and the first chance you had to explain yourself. The correct thing to do if you wanted to do right by the guy was to make another trade slightly in his favor.

    But he passed on that opportunity and seemed like he wanted to be bitter about it instead. At that point I feel he surrendered his claim to have grievances redressed.

    Either you fix it or go home and sulk. He chose option 2.

  7. This guy is annoying.

    A) $8 vs $5 vs $3 isn't a massive ripoff. It's a question of a few bucks. The fact that you owned up to the mistake should have been enough.

    B) When someone apologises to you for making a mistake, just accept the apology and get on with your life. This guy is sitting around holding a grudge, all butt-hurt, about a friggin' tombstalker.

    C) Refusing to trade with you then waving a card you need in your face is bush league. Don't bother trading with this idiot.

  8. Trade straight. Emotionally, he’s over it. If you give back the Tombstalker or trade away the three dollar difference in your second trade, you won’t fix the bad feeling he had. You’ll only reinforce it.

    He felt angry, not because you deceived him, but because he thinks it’s wrong to trade for value. If you don’t agree with him, stand up for yourself. You were honest and he consented. We’re all adults here.

    It’s not your trading reputation that takes a hit in this exchange; it’s his. His reputation now reads: “I want a takeback clause in my trades and I’ll cry foul if I decide later that I don’t like the trade.”

    Your relationship with him will best be repaired through future honest trades, not by giving him appeasing gifts you don’t think he deserves.

  9. Way to many people out there that think they should be catered to because they take little to no time investing the same amount of time and energy studying the market. Not only should you not placate to this, you should remind him to study before his tests not after. Doing nothing, or simply giving into his ignorance only hurts you as a value trader.

    The fact that some people think they can act this way without any repercussions is appalling.

  10. A lot of interesting different views on this topic. I don't feel like you are going to find a perfect solution, because one doesn't exist. Ultimately he is upset over the fact he feels you took advantage of him. You clearly didn't and he should have known the value of his cards. OR you probably had the option of looking anything up. I know when I trade if someone says do you want to look this up to be sure (about a card they want from me) if I say "Nah don't worry about it I'm cool with it either way" that I may lose or make money in that situation. You apologized and tried to fix it, there is ultimately nothing more you can do. He will get over it or he won't.

  11. Obviously a situation where there's no black and white solution. I work in sales and when an issue like this comes up it falls back on the relationship I have with the individual customer. There's a lot of talk about building "goodwill", but goodwill is only good so far as you can turn it into value later on. That's not necessarily monetary value. If he lets you borrow decks, or tells people that you're a fair trader, this has it's own value.

    It sounds from your post, this is someone worth maintaining a strong relationship with. I'd suggest some measure of recompense. I would certainly not give back the card, or make any trade that puts you negative overall. Fact of the matter is the deal was made given the knowledge available at the time and no one is at fault. However, on the follow-up trade offer an extra throw-in. I'd say of extra value equal to half of what you gained on the first one. This closes the gap to something easier to swallow without having wasted your time.

    Basically it sends the message, I didn't mean to screw you and I feel kinda bad about it, I want to make it up to you, but this was your mistake too, I didn't force you to make the trade.

    Keeping strong relationships with your clients is important, but letting them walk all over you can have far worse repercussions then letting them walk away.

    Looking forward to hearing how decide to move forward.

  12. I like option 1. Just trade straight across, not because you owe it to him, but because he's your friend as you stated. If he's you're friend you certainly don't want to hose him on /every/ trade, but you also don't want to directly compensate him for the Tombstalker. I have a friend who complains to me weekly about, "What SCG did to him." They, apparently, waited until he specifically, got out of Legacy, to start SCG opens and drive Legacy prices up. When people feel like they missed out on financial opportunity, they'll blame anyone but themselves. Now that he doesn't feel at fault, he can move on, but I doubt he blames you as much as you might think. Just swallow it, move on, and just make a friendly trade with him to keep the relationship as positive for both parties as possible.

  13. Thanks for the input everyone. I'm about to leave to go to FNM, and chances are I'll end up making him a decent deal (giving up a few dollars myself), and try not to mention the incident unless he brings it up. I appreciate the opinions, and it's given me a good range of options to work with.


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