Insider: The Great Machine: The Cogs

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After months of writing articles and divulging information to you, the readers, it occurred to me that I had missed one of the most important elements in the trade world. The trading community is a very tight knit group: similar to the high level pros, we work together to ensure that we stay on top of our game. Keeping up with pricing can be a daunting task for anyone, and it is even more so for someone who makes a living, or at least a part time job, out of this. When you sling cards to put food on the table you best be sure to know what you are doing, and having a group of individuals to converse with can certainly be a huge boon. This article will explain the basics, including why a community is so important, as well as what you can expect from attending a major event attended by a plethora of backpack traders.

The first obvious move is to actually attend an event. This can appear to be a very expensive venture at first glance, but if you know how to carpool and can pack into a room like sardines, it is actually extremely cheap. This past weekend in Kansas City cost each person in my carpool a total of approximately ninety dollars. Knowing where to look for cheap hotels is a great asset, and with the help of The Internet you can find a room for almost any price range. We traveled from Michigan, which was about a twelve hour car ride, meaning we needed to pack a car in order to keep the individual expenses down. In this scenario we see the first example of where a community of traders working together can be so beneficial. As of Wednesday afternoon we did not have a fourth person in our car and with us leaving in less than twenty four hours, it appeared we may have to suck up the cost. Due however to the fact that I know people in the trading community I sent out a few messages seeing if anyone was interested in being our fourth. Kelly, the owner of and a good friend and trader got contacted me, and within a few hours I had indeed found our fourth. This benefitted both parties and in turn created an equally enjoyable weekend with a friend I see only at events.

The Day Before

Once you are actually at the event, the real work begins. The first and probably the most important thing you can do is to memorize your stock and brush up on your prices. The Magic financial market can be volatile at times, and even though you think you may know all your prices, it never hurts to double check. If someone requests a certain card, you want to not only know if you have it, but also be able to locate it quickly. This will streamline your trades and make you appear more knowledgeable to other traders. I almost always attempt to show up at an event the evening before in order to make sure I have times to prepare before I hit the floor the next day. This will provide you with some time to adjust as well as a good night’s rest before a long weekend of trading.

Day One

Usually, the first day of a large event is slower than the rest as many of the players have not yet arrived. Those that are there are usually grinding for byes or entrance into the main event the next day, so utilize this time to interact with other traders. In addition to trading and conversing with other traders, Friday is also the best day to sell to the vendors. For starters, vendors have not adjusted their buy list for that particular event so you can at times sell cards for more than what they will be by the end of the weekend. Additionally, vendors come to pick up stock so if you hit the tables early they will typically be looking for a greater array of cards than near the end of the weekend. This will also help you gauge what cards are hot so you can proceed to acquire those throughout the weekend. Knowing what cards are high on a vendor’s buy list is one of the most important factors on the trade tables, and memorizing these lists is crucial. After a few hours with the vendors you can hit the floor; many people have finished with their pods and some of the main event crowd has begun to show up by then. In addition to finding players to trade with, Friday is ideal for stock trading with other player vendors. I will go more into detail in the follow up articles on how to go about introducing and conducting yourself ,but for now we will stick to the basics. Usually Friday is an early night, so enjoy the city, find a nice place to eat, and relax with some friends. You will be busy all weekend so a period of relaxation is certainly welcome.

One of the best parts of Magic is traveling, so if you get the chance, take a tour around the city!

Day Two

This is probably the busiest and most stressful day of the weekend, so be prepared for 12+ hours of trading. The early morning is usually dead on the trade floor due to everyone being in the main event, so utilize this time to do any dealering you weren’t able to finish the day before. After rounds two or three people begin dropping from the main event: this is where your day truly begins. There are a few different ways to proceed on the trade floor, any of which can be successful. The first is to walk around looking for trades, asking anyone you see with a binder to trade. The second is to set up shop at a highly visible table where you can let the trades come to you. I will usually place my binders on the table to signal to others that I am available for trading. Another great part of working with other backpack dealers on the floor is shown using this method. Sitting near other backpack dealers and having your binders out, even if not to trade, often makes people feel less intimidated on the approach. If you have a group of three to four people already trading, or at least what appears to be trading, you are more likely to have people gravitate toward you. Bringing the trades to you can be a huge boon, saving you both time and energy, allowing you to get the maximum out of your weekend. This method also allows you to see what is in someone’s binder and how their pricing is without having to trade with them. Once you get the chance in line you will already know what cards to look for and what they under- and over value, again saving you time. There is a lot more to this process, as well as with the actual trade circle itself, that I will again be covering later in this series over the next few weeks.

The key, as I am sure you have figured out by now, is to save as much time as you can. The more trades you can grind, the greater your margins will be, and that is the mutual end goal of all the backpack dealers at the table. After a long day of trading you will usually find yourself leaving the venue after the tournament has wrapped up for the day meaning you will probably just be grabbing some food and heading back to the hotel. I usually suggest getting an early night’s sleep if you can because Sunday you want to be up and around as early as possible.

Day Three

The final day of the weekend is usually a hybridization of the other two. You want to get in as many trades as you can in; however you must also make sure you have time to go dump what you have obtained during the weekend to the vendors. Knowing a set dollar amount you want to obtain before the beginning of the weekend is helpful, and Sunday is the day to reach that number (or more!) if possible. In addition to selling and trading, Sunday is also the day for buying. Many vendors will lower some of their prices near the end of the weekend, hoping to unload some of their product before going home. Use this to your advantage and pick up cards you need for people back home, for your own decks, and for speculative called shots. One of my called shots from last week’s article, Dark Confidant, has been steadily climbing so I picked up a set this past weekend for ninety five. I saw some vendors by the end of the weekend selling them as high as forty each. Though that may sound outrageous now, I guarantee Bob has a long ways to go before we see him cap off. I am predicting a rise as high as sixty or seventy by the end of the year so a set for approximately one hundred seemed like a deal I could not pass up. Once you have concluded your business with the dealers, hit the trade floor for a few more hours to restock your binder and dump anything you suspect may be on the decline.

Tracking Our Progress

This is a new segment I will be including in each article in order to give you a good idea of what cards I believe to be on the rise and fall. This week we have had quite a change to Standard with the bannings announcement Sunday evening. We have already seen the decline of both cards as well as some key players in those decks such as Splinter Twin, Batterskull and Swords. All hope is not lost however, and in fact, this is a great opportunity to make some long term cash. Everyone will be looking to unload their Stoneforge Mystics and Jaces in an impulse move to potentially gain some value back. Take advantage of this and pick them up cheap. Both cards are players in Legacy and I expect both to reach at least seventy five percent of their old value within a year.

Next we have a called shot I made a long while back and was one of the first few to place stock in, Consecrated Sphinx. This weekend the card went from selling at vendors for six to being bought by vendors at the end of the weekend at seven. Due to the banning of Jace the popularity will only grow so jump on the train at eight to ten while you still can, this guy will be a major player in the next Standard. I expect the price to spike at some point during its life in Standard to upwards of fifteen to eighteen as Frost Titan did. Jumping on the card when I mentioned it weeks ago could have already netted you a healthy margin.

As I mentioned earlier Dark Confidant is on the rise. I placed the sell price at thirty five two weeks ago and people felt that may be lofty, but already we see the price over that at some major retailers. This card still has a lot of room to grow so if you can find them under thirty I would trade heavily.

Urabrask, the Hidden is one of the more playable Praetors, yet it is still overlooked. With the return of Valakut expect this guy to show up in some seventy fives, speeding up their clock by a turn and providing another solid beater while slowing down midrange decks. I expect this guy to also trend like Consecrated Sphinx in where he will start low until he sees mild play then spike heavily within the coming months. Picking these up at three to four is an absolute steal!

Dump your Batterskulls! This is one of the more obvious things to come out of the bannings and probably doesn’t need to be said but in case you lapsed and forgot why this guy was so good, now is the time to unload if you can for a solid price.

Sheoldred is one to watch out for. Like Urabrask she has a lot of room for growth, although as I have mentioned before she does have some downsides which now also include the reprinting of Grave Titan. Even with all of that the current price tag is cheap enough that I feel the risk is worth the reward and would recommend picking any you can up at four or less.

Precursor Golem is going to be a player in the next Standard. With the announcement of there being no Lightning Bolt in the M12 Core Set, expect this guy to reach the four to five dollar mark if he finds a solid home.

Jace Beleren is one nobody else is talking about and I feel like that is totally incorrect. With a probable return in M12 and now with his Big Brother gone baby Jace appears to be the go to guy for blue card draw. I expect a slight rise to just over ten before the release of M12.

Well, that’s all for this week. Join me next week as I discuss more in depth on the topic of trade circles and how to join a community already so tight knit. If you have any questions or comments I am always looking for constructive feedback so please feel free to contact me on here or Twitter.

Until next time keep the sharks close and the fish closer!

Ryan Bushard

@CryppleCommand on Twitter

11 thoughts on “Insider: The Great Machine: The Cogs

    1. Yea, that is the unfortunate part of writing these a few days before publication. On the plus side I don't expect my numbers to be to far off, I can certainly see a rise in playability before rotation and he is better than the new one so he will see play all the way til Innistrad.

  1. "The more trades you can grind, the greater your margins will be, and that is the mutual end goal of all the backpack dealers at the table."

    The margin isn't affected, your volume is. There are three ways to get profit trading:

    * Margin: Trading $5 for $10 instead of $5 for $6

    * Volume: Trading 100 times instead of 10

    * Speculation: Trading $5 for $5 that later turns into >$5 (which is basically Margin with a delay)

    Your total revenue is your Margin times your Volume.

    1. And the more trades you conduct in groups the larger your margins will be due to the fact that you will know what is over and undervalued in peoples trade binders….its in that same paragraph if you don't take it out of context.

      I know how the equation works i'm an accounting major lol, but perhaps it is not worded well enough thank you for pointing this out for future reference.

      1. sorry it WAS in the same paragraph, my editor was making up for my terrible English skills and split the idea right down the center 🙂

    1. Yea that was pretty sweet, thing ran all the way through the city, except of course the walking part and the 2000 degrees part but yea otherwise sweet.

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