Insider: To Close a Trade

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Welcome back! We’re a week away from the Prerelease, and Innistrad spoilers are here in spades. And they are awesome. With Modern dying down and Innistrad not here yet, we’re in a bit of a dead period. With that in mind, I wanted to visit an aspect of trading that is sometimes overlooked – how to actually close a deal once the cards are on the table.

I originally planned to do my regular Prerelease Primer this week, but I’m going to have to put that off for a week, mostly because I’m an idiot. I’m not sure if this is a change from how things are normally done, but for Innistrad the prerelease is happening a week after the Preview Weeks end.

As such, I think it’s best until the entire set is spoiled next week for me to work on the Prerelease Primer. I noted a few cards last week I had strong opinions on, and there’s certainly more to go around. I’ll have it out for you next Friday in time for you to rock the trading scene at your local prerelease.

The Closer

There are many ways to go about closing a trade, just as there ways to set trades up in the first place. As I’ve talked about many times, trading profitably is about so much more than knowing card prices. You are playing a game of mental Magic more intense than most matches you’ll play in your life. There are countless traders who know their prices perfectly and yet fail to close good trades or come off looking bad when they do so.

I’m going to start this with a story of a recent trade. As I’m wont to do, I’m going to name my trade partner. See Underground Sea Guy and Kira Guy.

Though the card he wanted was a foilPreordain, I’m going to name him “EDH” guy, because that’s what he said he was most interested in. We valued the Preordain at $18 (it’s $15 and sold out on SCG), and he also wanted my FNM promo Sakura-Tribe Elder, which he valued at $4.

Quick semi-related aside: I recently accepted a full-time job as a sports reporter at a large newspaper in Oklahoma (Norman, specifically), and I’m in the process of moving to Norman, which is about half an hour away from Oklahoma City, where I used to live.

With the move comes the move to a new card shop. I don’t like it as much as my old store (where they offered full store credit and the owner knew me personally and let me sell cards in his shop), but it’s a pretty good place and run by a good guy (@WizardsNorman). The importance of this to our story (besides sneakily updating you about my life, as if you care), is that I know very few of the people at the new shop, including EDH Guy.

Back to our trade. From his binder I pulled an Arid Mesa and an Ancient Tomb. With the prices we had set on the cards, this trade was about even ($12 on Mesa, $10 on Tomb).

This guy clearly knew his prices well, including that his Deathbringer Lieges were $6. With the way he was aggressively quoting prices, I was a little worried I was getting taken somewhere in the deal. Someone near me even made a comment about EDH Guy being a shark.

Now, I have a confession to make. Being that I know how to trade and am rarely taken in deals by those who like to think they’re sharks, I generally just troll people when I’m put into this situation, and I did the same here. It was nothing major and certainly nothing malicious, just me having a little fun with the trade (asking him what he valued random cards at I wasn’t interested in, telling him how much he was killing me in the trade, etc). It’s possible this put him off a bit, which is why I’m letting you know what happened.

Now onto the part of the trade that affects our subject today. Even though I felt pretty comfortable with what we had set up, I was interested in picking up something small, as I wasn’t positive on the Tomb or the Elder. Asking him for some throw-ins actually set him off, and he began to get very loud and complaining about how difficult I was to trade with because I was taking so long (I rarely, if ever, receive complaints about my trading style).

Somebody getting loud certainly doesn’t bother me, and it doesn’t really increase the pressure of a trade for me. I just let him know I was just looking over his binder again just in case I missed something. Then the thought crossed my mind – is this guy really just a shark trying to close a deal by getting forceful? It’s certainly not an unheard-of tactic, and it can be very effective (if distasteful, in my opinion).

After a little while considering this option, I went ahead and closed the deal with the intent of double-checking my trade when I got home. That’s me basically doing the trade equivalent of “if you have it, you have it.” If we look at the trade in buylist prices (the only price that matters), we see I did well for myself in the trade. The two cards I traded him are being bought by SCG for $6.25 while what I got is being bought for $11.

The reason I tell this story is this – For many inexperienced traders, a shark using this closing tactic would have pressured them into closing a deal that wasn’t beneficial to them.

With that in mind, I’m going to look at some common closing techniques and my thoughts on both when to use this yourself, and how to handle it if someone uses these methods against you. Note that this is different than just how to conduct a trade where methods like laying cards on the table, price setting, etc… all come into play.

The importance of throw-ins

If I have to explain how to use throw-ins to your advantage, I would direct you to ask about it on our forums or read some of the back articles here on QS. I’m going to assume that most of my readership understand the concept of working throw-ins to your benefit and will give you the four-word version in case you don’t – Throw-ins are good.

One other quick note on throw-ins – if you’re the one giving away a throw-in, make sure it is actually a throw-in and not a $2-3 card.

The Loud and Aggressive Closer

Picture the scenario with EDH guy above. Though I don’t think EDH guy was actually trying to shark (he just really wanted to get his cards), many traders trying to profit from you go to this method.

It’s not necessarily the aggression that’s a problem with this style – it’s the rudeness. There is nothing wrong with adopting a “take it or leave it” approach. At some point you have to realize that you’ve spent too long on a trade and it either needs to happen or end. No, it’s the fact that someone doing this to you in a trade is simply trying to force you into something you don’t want to do that’s the problem. Remember, there’s always a pressure to finish a trade once you start one, and EDH guy is preying upon that fact.

In short, don’t ever do this to someone or your reputation will suffer. On the other hand, if you’re a victim of this method, you have a few options. You can either stop the deal and walk away (and there is nothing at all wrong with this), or you can turn it to your advantage.

Someone trying to push over a trade on you like this wants you to get flustered. If you can control your emotions and wait him out and be firm in what you want in the trade (whether that’s a value issue, or a throw-in, etc), he’s eventually either going to capitulate or walk away, since he’s working himself up by berating you. Either way, you win. If he gives in, you get a good deal, and he looks bad. Or he packs up and walks away, and looks bad. I have no mercy for bully traders like this, so do not feel bad about wasting these jerks’ time.

The under-offer

This is one I use fairly often, and it’s one of the most effective. What you do is this –Once the cards are laid out on the table and you both know what you want, you suggest a particular trade using what’s available. Note that I actually prefer to let my trade partner make the initial suggestion before I moved in, but this is a viable technique.

Make an offer that comes out with you being far ahead. Occasionally your trade partner will go for this – if so, nice work, must be nice, blah blah blah. What’s more likely is that they will counteroffer. The thing is, if you position the cards available in such a way that the only thing available to them is end up either a little short of your side of the trade or way over, they’re going to go short and you’re going to end up with a good trade. Very rarely do people pull out cards they’ve said are for trade and that you’ve indicated you want. This works because people feel a little rush of success if they get you to add a card to a trade – even if they wouldn’t have been happy if that card had been in the proposed trade in the first place. The mind plays funny tricks.

If someone does this to you – don’t be afraid to tell them straight up what you can and cannot do, and if being totally even on a trade is important to you, get a throw-in or move the cards on the table around until you find something you’re comfortable with. Don’t get content just because you got the other guy to agree to your condition on the deal – push for what you want, in a polite manner.

Rush Hour

Another common one is rushing someone to complete a trade for whatever reason – the pairings are going up, the store is closing, “g2g mom on fire” (actually said to me once as a reason for AFK in a game of DOTA). Rushing people to complete a deal is effective and common.

The important thing here – Rushing someone can be used for good or evil. As I’ve talked about extensively in the past, trading is about more than matching dollar signs, you should enjoy the process and get to know your trading partner. I enjoy doing this, but there is nothing wrong with gently nudging your partner to make a decision. Depending on the magnitude of the trade and the nature of the event you’re at, your time trading is literally worth money and killing too much time on one deal is bad for business. Asking your partner politely to make a decision is fine.

On the other hand, some people will do this constantly just to close a deal, using the increased pressure to force you into a bad decision. I’m a pretty particular trader, I have a hard time making deals on the fly because I like to think through all the lines and buylist prices in my head. Knowing this about myself, I often won’t engage in a trade unless I know I have time to finish it.

Don’t let the clock get to you when you’re trading. If someone else has to leave or the round is about to start and they’re using it against you, just back away from the trade or tell them you’ll set the cards aside and you can try again before the next round.

Walking away

This was suggested to me on Twitter as a way to close a deal, and it’s a method that has some very unique and interesting applications.

Personally, I hate when people walk away from deals because they want to shark you, especially when I’ve invested time into the trade. There’s nothing wrong with walking away if you aren’t comfortable with a trade, but don’t decide at the end that something isn’t for trade or that you aren’t getting enough.

My reaction to this occurrence illustrates its effectiveness. I consider it a big underhanded and don’t do it often myself, but I don’t hold any particular grudges against legitimate traders (read: not sharks), doing this.

How to handle it if someone does this to you? If you call them back to the table, you are giving up all the power in the relationship. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get a bad trade, but it’s pretty bad for your cause. My advice is this – if someone wants to walk away, let them. You don’t have to give them a full-on good riddance speech as they go, but don’t be afraid to let them.

Thirsty much?

Ryan Abcede (@Ryeabc) suggested this approach – “I’ll buy you a pop.” While I’ve certainly traded my share of weird things for Magic cards, I can’t say I’ve ever actually bought someone a soda to complete a trade.

While what you actually buy them is fairly irrelevant, the psychology behind this maneuver is pretty solid. If someone is willing to buy you something, not only are you getting additional value in the trade, surely someone willing to purchase sustenance for you can’t be pulling one over on you, right?

And, chances are, they aren’t. The hardcore sharks there to abuse you really aren’t interested in buying you a soda, they’ll often use bully or rush tactics as we’ve talked about above. I approve of this pop-buying tactic, and it’s pretty close to a win-win for both parties. One person gets the cards and another gets a delicious Coke. Not to mention that a dollar spent on a soda is often worth a hell of a lot more than a Magic card that retails for a dollar.

I’m super out of room for this week, so that’s all I’ve got. Hopefully this helps you when you need to close a big trade, or at the very least makes you more aware of the subtle things going on when you’re trading. I’ll be back next week with a full Innistrad breakdown, which I’m pretty excited to do after the success I’ve had with these in the last year.


Corbin Hosler


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Corbin Hosler

Corbin Hosler is a journalist living in Norman, Oklahoma (also known as the hotbed of Magic). He started playing in Shadowmoor and chased the Pro Tour dream for a few years, culminating in a Star City Games Legacy Open finals appearance in 2011 before deciding to turn to trading and speculation full-time. He writes weekly at and biweekly for LegitMTG. He also cohosts Brainstorm Brewery, the only financial podcast on the net. He can best be reached @Chosler88 on Twitter.

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4 thoughts on “Insider: To Close a Trade

  1. Brilliant! I consider myself a solid [albeit not yet exceptional] value trader, and not once did I realize the value of the several mini-trades composing one large trade, or the psychology behind someone pulling a throw-in out mid-trade. Excellent piece.

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