Insider: What’s your plan?

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This last week of Magic has been a very humbling experience. For the first time in recent memory, I opened a paltry trade binder with 3 lonely cards in it, and began my trading for the weekend. I made some pretty good progress on the binder this weekend, but due to the amazing kindness of some strangers I’ve met through the online community, I received a huge boost to my restart. I can’t even begin to describe how great it feels to have such a supportive community. To put it lightly, I have a very potent trade stock now. I’m in the process of cataloging my new additions and tweaking my spreadsheets, so those will appear next week. This week I want to touch on something specific about building a collection from scratch, that I didn’t address last week. Setting priorities is something that many people don’t spend enough time thinking about, and defining what it means specifically.

You need to know what your goals are in order to take proper steps to maximize your time and resources. If your primary goal is to maintain a collection, so that you can play Standard, you should have a much different set of priorities and evaluations than someone who plays Legacy, or someone who strictly trades for value. I started trading to support my nasty drafting habit. Any successful business person has a business plan. What’s yours?

As a drafter, I’m mostly looking for cards that will hold value and draw attention to my binder. If you fit this category, every trade you make should see you trying to trade up. You’ll have a consistent flow of low valued rares and playable uncommons coming to you naturally from drafting, so trading those up to higher ticket items is the model. This also gives you access to quickly liquidate any or all of your high ticket items through any of the usual channels, whether that’s EBay, a local dealer or your LGS. Most drafts don’t give enough prize support to reliably ‘go-infinite’ without using the cards you open, or trade to help cover a cold streak. At most places I play, you need to make the finals 3 out of every 4 drafts to be completely free-rolling. Figure out where you’re at on this scale, and set a specific goal as to how you will make that up. I’ve found, over the long run, I’m able to cover all my drafting for a month with about $15 invested each month. When you’re first starting out, sometimes you’ll need to pay into the game a couple times to get the ball rolling, and keep in mind hot streaks can often pay for your entire season. I make a point to try and pick up that remaining $15/month through trading each month, and in some way convert that back into draft dollars. Everything else, stays in the trade binder. When rotation approaches, I start cashing out, or trading into cards that won’t rotate. This is the annual cycle of a drafter.

Standard Players face an entirely different trading problem. First, they need to have all the format staples on hand, and that is a fairly dynamic list. The strategy I recommend for this is to trade down all your money cards prior to rotation into staples that will survive the the season. An example of this might be to fill any holes in the Scars cycle of duals, by dumping just one or two rotating rares, like Stoneforge Mystic. Nothing is worse than having to pay inflated event pricing at the PTQ, because you don’t own 4 Inquizition of Kozileks. From there, you can use extras as trade binder filler, and be ahead of the metagame by being prepared to dump any sudden spike in uncommons or junk rares you’ve accumulated. As I’ve recounted in this column a number of times, keeping a longbox of uncommons has bought me entire PTQ entries because I had stashed a couple dozen of a particular card that people are looking for at the last minute. With this model, you should be able to build most decks in the format, and reasonably survive rotation each year.

Legacy players, on the other hand, have a much different set of priorities. Typically they’ve been playing longer, and already have a deck built, and trading isn’t a necessity. However, dipping into Legacy, can be a very daunting task. In order to finance the jump into Legacy, you’ll likely need to start with one of the above paths to get some kind of collection behind your efforts. Once you have something to start with, just start picking up playable Legacy cards in trades. Maybe you get someone to throw in a Mishra’s Factory in a trade. Or maybe that EDH player at your store has Pact of Negations or Swords to Plowshares that are extras. Starting with some of the lower dollar staples, will make trading up into the higher dollar Legacy cards much easier. Many people will be reluctant to trade their Legacy cards for Standard cards, with good reason. Also, they are simply more familiar with the Legacy cards and their values, that if they are going to trade down, they typically want to see some Legacy cards in there too. Trading into Legacy isn’t an easy task, but it’s something I want to tackle as part of my business plan.

Over the next year, I hope to work my way through at least the first two sections, and be ready to branch into the third around this time next year. Set a plan. Take actions towards that plan with every trade. Revise your plan as your priorities change. These steps are simple, but have the ability to let Magic be as affordable as possible.

Prediction Tracker Update:

I removed Aether Vial from my dump list and slid it over to watch this week, as it’s fallen to $6 on the SCG buylist. I’ll call this a win for those few that didn’t doubt me on this one. Hopefully some of you who had extras cashed in. I also want to comment on Candelabra of Tawnos, even though it doesn’t have any movement. The buy price on SCG is now only $100. Again, if even one person got out at $200+ on my recommendation upon the Mental Misstep spoiling, this paid for their QS subscription for a couple years. I also added the Scars Duals to the watch list. As I’m trying to bolster up a standard collection, and trying to be thinking long term with regards to rotation, I’m realizing the Scars duals will be important in nearly every deck. Fetchlands and Manlands are leaving, and even if the Fall block brings some interesting non-basics, the Standard environment is going to be heavily dependent on the Scars duals for their manabases. I’ve been able to trade for these very cheaply, and plan to continue to do so, and stash them, until they turn a profit. I’m not sure what kind of price these will ultimately reach, so I’m not actively buying them, but targeting them as throw-ins on trades has been surprisingly successful. I’ve also chimed in a number of other cards other writers have posted, and updated my notes on a few old ones.

Another thing, I’ve been scanning the forums here on QS lately, and I’ve noticed the activity has picked up there a bit. This is an amazing resource. You have the ability to pick the brain of all of the writers, as well as like-minded readers. You get to hear success stories, post critiques, and provide feedback to this fairly young service with a staff that is receptive to your requests. If you aren’t using the forums yet, add that to your regular cycle of information you check on. Having a tight knit group of people to bounce ideas around with about different trading strategies, or card trends is very powerful.

See you guys next week, I’m going to continue to document the collection rebuilding, and bring back a new topic that relates to building or branching your collection.

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