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The Great Machine: The Motor

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Over the course of this series I have gone over a variety of ways to both understand and utilize a group of traders to maximize your profits. At this point, assuming you have established a solid group of traders and have made some long lasting connections on the floor, it is time to put all that knowledge to use. How do you approach the floor now that you have a trade group? How do you begin to tackle the overflowing room of Magic players? This is what we will be discussing today! As with anything in our line of work, approaching the trade floor takes a mix of preparation and quick wits to ensure success.

It’s All In the Art of the Execution

Having a plan before the weekend starts is usually a solid idea; however, in this case, it is usually not necessary as you usually won’t know the layout of the center before arrival. There are strategic places to position yourself at different times throughout the weekend to ensure the trades keep flowing, so having a general idea of where you want to be is encouraged. As with any plan, you need to do a little homework, and the first piece of that homework on any major trip is checking the artist roster. Wasting your time getting cards signed is just bad value when you could be spending that hour in line trading instead. This does not however mean you should not bring cards with you that are by that artist! The trade value of such cards, especially foils and promos by a particular artist, goes up exponentially at events where that artist will be present. I typically have a small binder with any random commons or uncommons along with bulk rares that the artists in attendance have done. In addition, before I leave, I try to pick up any foils and oddities that may fetch a greater profit at such shows. It may be difficult to move a foil Ninja of the Deep Hours normally, but I saw a few move hands in Kansas City just because Dan Scott was there. Keeping check a few weeks ahead can allow you to acquire cards that have been sitting in peoples binders forever for a very reasonable price as well. Foils and foreign cards are normally hard to move at local shops so letting your local group know you are seeking them will allow you a plethora of good product and allow your friends to dump their unwanted cards.

Once you arrive on site, you certainly want to locate the artist booths and allocate some of your time, preferably early Saturday, to sitting at the tables nearest them. Let people know in casual conversation that the artist of particular cards are nearby; this will not only pique their interest but also make you look more prepared than most when they see the binder you have assembled. As stated before, you want to ideally be on the floor early Saturday, and this is especially true for events where artists will be present. Anyone with byes, or any of those who are not playing in the main event, will be looking to get all their artist work done early in the day. This is not only due to the events they will be playing in later, but also partially to the fact that everyone else is busy in the main event and they would like to get the work done before it gets busy. The Saturday morning crowd also has spare time to trade typically since they have nothing else going, making this an ideal situation for you from both perspectives.

Vendor Alley

Anyone who has attended a major event knows what Vendor Alley is and how crucial those guys are to our success over the weekend (and in some ways, us to their weekend as well!). That being said, there are not only ideal times to "vendor your stock off" during the weekend, which I have already covered in a past article, there are also ideal times to occupy the tables near the vendors. This is a great example of why being prepared, being early to the site, and showing up the night before can be so important. First off you should have already visited the vendors early on Friday, and so by the middle of the day Saturday you should have a solid idea on both buy prices and needs. Take advantage of this information early: utilizing every tool you have can net you a few extra dollars here and there, which can really add up by the end of the weekend. In the early afternoon of Friday, when all the players begin to arrive to vendor before the weekend or to just hang out, is the most opportune time to occupy the tables nearest the Alley. If people are heading in that direction they almost certainly have trade stock on them that they are looking to dump. Translation: they have little-to-no attachment to many cards in their binders. This strategy also lets you catch them before they sit down with a vendor, meaning their prices may be off and they don’t know what the hot sells are that weekend. Their binders will also certainly be more stocked at this point than likely for the rest of the weekend, allowing you to have first pick.

While I do believe it is great to use the Alley to your own personal goals, or the goals of the group, there is also a certain etiquette that must be followed. Most of the vendors understand what we do and many are ok with us being around, and though some even started their roots on the trade floor, this does not mean you can disrupt their business for your own gain. Don’t sit at the table directly next to a vendor trying to steal their business, don’t undercut them because you know you can trade a card lower than they sell it to someone. There is an unspoken code the old school traders understand that allows us to not only work with the vendors, but in many cases create friendships with like-minded individuals. I have found that although you may have snagged that trader, you lost something much more valuable in the way of respect. You must also understand that this is not a one way street, though you may at first feel like the vendor is getting the better end of the deal, you have to understand you will see some benefits as well. When your face becomes regular and people begin to know you as a staple of the trade floor, your reputation begins to means everything.

Treating the vendors and players well can create unexpected benefits that you may not have even thought possible. A great example of this was at a Grand Prix last year. I was sitting next to the StrikeZone booth and had done my vendoring in the morning already. I had a playset of a card that his price was just not quite where I wanted it to be so I held them for trade. Later that day he had someone come up and ask for them, but at this point he was sold out. Due to our previous interactions and relationship he called me over and asked if I would be willing to part with them for retail. I was happy to get full price out of a card and shipped them to him, and then watched him sell the cards for the same price he had bought them from me for. There are a few things to learn from this example that may not at first be obvious. The first is to understand that this scenario only played out the way it did because we have done thousands of dollars of business together. In turn I, as what you could call a loyal customer, was rewarded for helping him in the past. The second and probably least obvious lesson is that the vendors want us there. People look at some floor traders with disdain assuming we are out only to rip people off and profit, this is not true. We are the motor that drives the machine. We are an integral part as to why the secondary market works the way it does, and without us there would be an even larger demand for cards.

I will discuss more in depth next week how the machine all comes together and how everything works out for not only the betterment of the individual, but for the community as a whole. When all the parts and pieces work together we find that not only can we all be successful at whatever part of this game we are involved in, we can also help others to be successful in their own aspects too. The trade world can seem like a cutthroat place at first but when you navigate it correctly you will find necessity and friendship, among a host of other things. Join me next week as I delve into exactly why a backpack dealer is so integral in the Magic community!

Tracking our Progress

This week’s edition brings us a brand new set, M12. While overall this set appears to be the fallen empires of sets in the past few years, it does offer some hidden gems. I will be covering the set in depth, as I did with New Phyrexia in a few weeks. In addition to covering the new set, I will be looking back at my short term calls for NPH to see just where we currently stand.

That news aside, there are a few cards I added to the tracker that I feel warrant careful consideration. Many of these cards have already met and or exceeded what I perceived to be their short term value which is great!

Grand Abolisher: I expected this guy to hit a quick peak at 5 and settle in the 3-4 range. I was off on my estimate of the peak range, though not in a negative way. If you followed my direction and picked him up for two last week you are doing quite well with his current price tag at 7. I would dump them before too long if you can get 5+ for them as they are only rare and not a format defining card such as Stoneforge.

Visions from Beyond: Another example of my underestimations on this set, Visions is already seeing a 7-8 price tag while I expected it to peak around 5. Again as with Abolisher, you are doing quite well if you managed them at my pick up of 3 last week. As for future value I am undecided on this card, I feel like this may have a solid potential in a few decks but I foresee it settling in the 4-5 range after the hype is over. With such power, and an effect we haven’t seen on a playable card in years expect there to be a lot of brews containing Visions, allowing you to hopefully net full retail.

Jace, Memory Adept: This guy keeps getting compared to the Mind Sculptor which is just not fair. Looking at this guy in the right build offers a lot of potential, his plus ability is to draw a card, yes he cost five, yes he is slow and can’t protect himself. This however does not make him unplayable, and he had the fastest clock on a planeswalker we have seen yet leaving your opponent only 3-4 turns to clear him off the board. I expect his price tag to settle in the thirty range and slowly drop from there if he sees little play. However as a possible control finisher as well as finding a home in turbofog this emo jace reincarnate could fetch 40+ even after the hype settles.

Ryan Bushard

@CryppleCommand on Twitter

4 thoughts on “The Great Machine: The Motor

  1. I suspect part of the reason the few playables (or expected playables) are peaking a bit higher is because people are probably buying/opening fewer packs. Over time that'll fade, until the effects become really apparent months from now when some random $0.50 rare nobody cared about becomes a key card in a post-Innistrad deck months from now.

    1. Though I could see this, that is not typical in core sets due to how cut and paste the card design has to be to keep things simple. I don't feel as if we will see any Knight of the Reliquary or Dark Depths from this core set but I have been wrong before. I do agree less of this set does seem to be opened due to the perceived low value but for how awkward the Mythics are, there is ALOT of solid rares that will hold the three to five dollar mark, sadly most people lose sight once they look at the mythics…

      1. True, but things like Chandra's Phoenix, Doubling Chant, Druidic Satchel, Dungrove Elder, etc. are unique in some fashion. Satchel in particular is a card I'd keep my eye on- if the format is slow, Satchel is a solid gradual CA engine on par with Thawing Glaciers or Scrying Sheets.

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