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Insider: PTQ Musings and Next Level Trading

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So, as reported last week. The first PTQ of my sealed season just passed, and I got to dip my feet into Innistrad a bit farther. However, almost none of my plan was a success. I scrubbed at 2-2 drop from the event, and due to the enormous turnout, there was not enough product for side-drafts. I did get a chance to meet a bunch of new trading partners, but most everyone was looking for Innistrad cards, namely Liliana or Snapcaster, for States. I was able to trade away my Stromkirk Nobles, while they were high, and also traded for a couple [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card’s (both Pre-Re picks of mine) as I heard about the deck from the SCG open.

A sealed PTQ season is not as lucrative as a Standard one can be, or at least not with out a much higher concerted effort. Dealers aren't crazily buying singles to meet demand, so grinding trade tables is essentially your only hope to get any value. I’ve found the side event drafts to be extremely profitable, but they are always prizes in packs, which normally i wouldn’t be very enticing to me, but now I feel differently.

As I mentioned as this season started, one thing to remember as a PTQer is what types of currencies are most liquid. And sure, the big money cards move quick, but in all reality, boosters are extremely hot right now. People need packs to practice sealed, money draft, and open money rares. Dealers were buying packs at the PTQ so they could run drafts when they return to their brick-n-mortar store, and negotiations over draft-sets for 3v3 team drafts were tense. The typical draft set is going to cost you between $7 and $8 but I saw a set go for as much as $10 when people were trying to get their game on. Being the guy holding the packs is a pretty strong play. Also, when trying to target desirable cards, boosters are always a great way to even the trade, and can typically be valued fairly close to retail, depending on your trade partner. I don’t have a huge stock of Innistrad stuff yet, and the key rares I do have, I’m hanging on to. As a result, I’m having to get creative with what I can offer my partner for the things I need. Sometimes it’s boosters, sometimes cash, but the thing to remember is: Don’t trade out of need.

Especially at a larger event where you’re more likely to encounter strangers, don’t make it obvious why you need what you need, or why you like it. If they know you need a card for States, they will force you to value it higher. If they know you’re likely to walk away with the pile of boosters THEY need, they could be willing to work with you. Just keep this in mind as you meet new people. Remember, tons of traders read both this site, and others to gain an edge in training. It’s time to next level.

Your Trading Style needs a Sideboard. Prepare for your Metagame.
Trading, just like constructed, is a metagame. Literally speaking, a metagame is just any game that exists because of Magic, but happens outside the boundaries of 60 cards and 20 life. Deck selection fits this mold, as does trading. Trading at a large event, you need to quickly size up your partner and choose your correct path. The key things to look out for are the ‘shark signals’. “What do you value this at?” Is obviously common, but the real way to identify a shark, is that they ask and talk about values, and not what cards they are interested in. They don’t CARE what cards they trade from you, as long as there’s value there. Sure, many of you may be in the same boat, but not everyone is. This type of behavior alienates most casual traders, and will lose you lots of trade partners. Against another ‘spikey’-trader, it just makes the trading experience miserable, as it operates like a mono-blue control mirror from 1997. The first one to make a move loses. How do you next level your mono-blue control mirror, and how do you tone it down to not scare away the casual EDH crowd. This is the metagame of trading.

Mirror-matches are the most skill testing in constructed, and the same can be said for trading. In constructed, I like to have unusual card choices, that are good mirror blowouts available in my repertoire. In trading it’s no different. The key is to take them out of their typical routine, and force them to make some moves on the spot. (For chess players: “Take them out of their opening book.”) I’ve used this line a bunch of times, to great success. “Let’s cut the crap. We’re both trying to gain value here, and this will just take a while. Want to start any sort of list of stuff you actually need for a deck, and see where it goes?” This forces them to take the role of the casual trader, and you as the card dealer. (“Who’s the beatdown?” j/k) Now you have something THEY need, and you can start valuing cards as such. If they resist this line, because they A) don’t need anything, or B) don’t want to fall into your trap, all is not lost. Sometimes I’ll follow up with one more line like, “I don’t really need anything either, just thought we might be able to help each other out. No worries, some times there’s not always a good fit.” If they don’t immediately respond with something that sounds promising. Just walk away. Really. You may lose out on a potential trade, but chances are that you aren’t going to get the value you want out of it, and if you do, it will be time consuming. You’re better off finding a new partner.

An example from the PTQ:

I had my binders out on the table, and an obvious shark slid across from me with a cheesy grin and a pink Monster binder. I smile back, and play dumb. I just let him do all the talking. After about a minute of him talking about his PTQ scrub-out and bad beats, he pops the big question. “Are those trades?” I slide my binders to him, and he is flipping through, searching for stuff I under-value, and I just sit there with his binder in front of me for a long while. After he gets half way through my stuff he says, “You weren’t going to look at my binder?”. My reply? “Nah, let me know what you need out of there, and we’ll find something fair.” His face went blank. He sorta stopped looking at my binder, and had no idea how to proceed. His overly cheesy grin visibly faded a bit, and his cheery tone vanished. He slowly and quietly flipped through my binder, and and at the end he said. “Well, I dont know what you value this stuff at, but I really want to pick up a Solemn.” I said simply, “I usually try to pick those up around 8, but I think they’ll continue to be pretty hot in the near future, so I’d be willing to get rid of them around 10.” I looked at his binder, pointed at a Consecrated Sphinx, and said, “This okay?” He muttered a bit, and asked me to throw in a Spikeshot Elder, and the deal was done. This trade was over in just 2 minutes, and it was all possible because I disarmed him of his typical Shark routine. My style may not work for you, but experiment with it. Go into it prepared to walk away from the trade if your experiment isn’t working. Find a couple key phrases that put you in the good position to make trades. In my opinion, taking the Sharks out of the ‘used-car salesman’ routine is the best thing for the community anyway.

Good luck, and let me know if you have techniques to reccomend, or feedback on the ones suggested here.
Happy Trading
Chad Havas
@torerotutor on Twitter.

Chad Havas

Chad has been with Quiet Speculation since January of 2011. He uses price speculation to cover all his costs to keep playing. Follow his journey from format to format and be prepared to make moves at the right times.

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