Insider: My Plan to Own GenCon

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There is a huge amount of excitement for GenCon this year, with the World Championships along with the FNM championships going on. That does not even mention events like the Vintage Champs that happen every year. Along with every other game you can imagine. By the time you read this I’ll be on the floor trading and/or just hanging out. As everyone says, GenCon is an amazing event, and you’re doing yourself a disservice to spend the entire time trading.

There have been several really good primers written already about GenCon, and you can find Doug Linn’s here and Ryan Bushard’s here.

With all of that in mind, I figure you’re not in need of another generic GenCon primer, as helpful as they are. Instead, I want to share with you my strategy for this weekend, which conveniently also applies to just about any large event you go to.

The plan

To spell it out clearly, my goals for this weekend are simple: make a lot of money and have a lot of fun. And hope that one of those doesn’t impede on the other. And, since I live in Oklahoma, I get to start the fun with a 12-hour drive!

So how do I plan on maximizing my profits this weekend? Before I get into specifics, let’s acknowledge all the usual methods to profit from trading.

-       Trade up without giving a premium.

-       Trade down only if the premium you are getting makes the deal worth it in cash values.

-       Take advantage of knowledge discrepancies in pricing.

-       Utilize pricing discrepancies to maximize profit, such as SCG OOS (out of stock) pricing, using SCG to trade up, TCG to trade down, etc…

-       Turn Standard cards into Legacy/Modern/Casual staples.

-       Speculate on underpriced cards.

These are all the usual tricks we know about and use. Every trade I make this weekend will hinge on those tried-and-true techniques, as usual. But there’s another trick I have up my sleeve, one that only works at relatively few events a year.

The idea

I came upon this idea quite generically, really, at GenCon last year. At the time, the PT in Nagoya had shown that White Weenie Tempered Steel builds were dominating Block strategies, and dealers had already begun buying accordingly for the upcoming Standard season.

So what did this mean for me? It meant that the breakout card of the Pro Tour, Hero of Bladehold, had already started to climb. In fact, some dealers were buying for $6 that weekend, which was an absurdly good buy price at the time. They were also buying the promo version of the card at just a dollar less than the regular version.

Only one thing made this particularly relevant – no one on the trade floor knew about it. People understood that Hero was good, some even knew that the price had gone up some. But because they hadn’t put in as much preparation as me, they got burned.

I traded for every Hero I could find in that two days, and I didn’t give more than $8 on trade for any of them, because very few people realized the price was climbing toward $10. If this doesn’t automatically set off a lightbulb in your mind, it should. Giving $8 in trade on Standard cards and getting a 75% return in cash value is absurd. Even with optimal buylist pricing, you’re usually around 60%, and often lower on Standard cards.

And this doesn’t touch on the fact that because people “knew” the promo version was cheaper, I got a ton at $5 in trade, which is actually just selling whatever I traded them for full retail price.

Applying it

“Sure, you got lucky last year at one event, who cares?”           

-- ­Cynical You.

I’m able to do this at nearly every event I go to. All it takes is some hard work. Doing your homework and shopping and memorizing buylists from around the dealer hall (or GP room) isn’t the most fun. But it pays off again and again. At GP: Nashville this year it was Birds of Paradise and Black Suns Zenith. Then it was Geralfs Messenger. A month or so back it was Bonfire of the Damned.

The trick to making this work is not to simply shop buylists around the room, something I’ve talked about before. I know you see the value in that, and it will make you money time and again.

But there’s more to it than that. If you’re on the trade floor much, or even just your FNM, you have a general idea what most cards trade for. And you can put that knowledge to work long before you even get on the trade floor and have to deal with smartphones and the like. Simply find a target for the weekend by comparing the spread between buy price and trade price, and formulate a plan.

There’s another benefit to having a plan in place, especially at an event like a GP or Open, where most players are leery about trading with someone who could be a shark. Approaching someone to initiate a trade can sometimes put people on the back foot, and even more so if you pull out two or three binders and tell them you’re not looking for anything in particular. By having a target for the weekend, you will immediately put people more at ease because they don’t think you’re only there to rip them off.

And the truth is, you’re not. You’re simply taking advantage of dealer discrepancies. Even if the majority of dealers online are only paying $4 for a particular card, the needs of individual companies on a given weekend fluctuate, and maybe someone needs it badly enough to pay $6 this weekend. Because you’ve found a proper target, you can make a straight-across trade of cards from the same set and still come out two dollars ahead. Over and over, all while still making value from the tools you already have in your repertoire.

This effect is magnified at events with new technology for formats. Someone piloting a breakout deck in Legacy or Modern creates a “weekend price” that’s far beyond what the rest of the marketplace is. We saw this effect with Show and Tell and Sneak Attack, which both shot absurdly high at the last SCG Invitational.

Find us at GenCon and get some free Spirit Tokens!

Now, to own GenCon

I don’t know what my target will be this weekend. I have hopes of finding a dealer with a good buy price on Champion of Lambholt, which most people give away as bulk. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see something like Terminus pop up.

Whatever it is, you’ll see me employing this technique out on the trade floor, and I’m expecting an awesome weekend! If you’re there, make sure to come say hi. I’ll have some really sweet Spirit Tokens custom made for my financial/deckbuilding podcast, Brainstorm Brewery.

See you there!

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

2 thoughts on “Insider: My Plan to Own GenCon

  1. I hope you are going to write about your adventures in GenCon in your future articles to see how you performed and how you approached certain 'problems' when trading

    I hope you have loads of fun there! #envy

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