Insider: Getting Started in MTGO Speculating

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So, you wanna be a speculator?

After reading Quiet Speculation for a while you've decided you want to take the plunge and start speculating. You've sized up the options and for any number of reasons getting your feet wet on MTGO seems like the best idea. Well, you've come to the right place!

Step 1: Start a Tradebook

Set up a spreadsheet that will be your trade book. Do not skip this step! You are going to record all relevant information here. Name of card, purchase price, sell price, dates and motivation for buying. Most of this is just basic accounting, to know when the tix left your collection and the card arrived. When the time comes to sell a card, you'll want to figure out if you made or lost tix in order to do a thorough analysis of your specs.

A subtle point here is the motivation for buying. This is important for new speculators. If you don't have a good reason for taking a position, then you probably shouldn't take it. Once you have a good reason for taking a position, write it down in your trade book beside the cards that you buy. The entry for this card will become a record of what you did and why. Writing down your motivation creates a concrete record of what you were thinking at the time of purchase. Here's an example of a recent pickup with motivation included.

Name Price Quantity Average Cost Total Cost Date Motivation Sell Price Sell Date
Godless Shrine 5.79 4 5.79 23.16 9/25/2012 Hold for Modern Season or Gatecrash --- ---


The Fear

It's possible that Godless Shrine goes lower in price before it goes higher. Actually, this is true for just about any trade; there is always the possibility of a loss. And after a few weeks you might take a look at those 'investments' you've made and they might not look like such a good idea anymore.

This is when having your motivation written down can help you overcome the fear. You must trust in your initial judgement and see the trade through to the end. Bailing on a position after a month because the cards you bought are worth less than what you paid for them is a mistake. As long as your original motivation and analysis are unchanged and sound, you must overcome the fear to make a profit.

On the flip side, suppose that Godless Shrine goes up a few tix after a month. Now there's a temptation to sell and take a profit. Taking profits is never a bad thing, right? Wrong!

Usually the best time to sell Modern staples is at the start of the Modern PTQ Season. Selling a month from now might eke out a small profit, but it won't make the best profit. This is no longer about the fear of loss, but the fear of success, which sounds like a strange thing. Success in this case means going against what everyone else is doing and that's why it is hard. Doing something no one else is talking about or interested in takes courage, and it's no different with speculating.

In both the cases presented, taking a loss or making a gain, selling Godless Shrine would be a mistake. Instead of listening to the market, you would be listening to the fear.

Writing down what you are doing and why you are doing it is a tool and a habit that can help you overcome the fear. Once you have your emotions under control, you will realize that you are going to make some good bets and you are going to make some bad bets. With a solid system of record you'll soon know the difference and be on your way to fixing the holes and mistakes in your analysis.

Step 2: Research Research Research

Research what is worth investing in. Read as much as you can. Strategy articles written by the best writers is a must, as are the articles here on QS. Taking part in forum discussions will help as well. No one rolled out of bed being good at Magic or speculating. Everyone had to work at it and learn from others. There are loads of different perspectives and ideas and you'll have to find some that work for you.

Getting a subscription to Star City Games can be worth it and it gives you access to some of the best strategy writers around. Channel Fireball also has many good writers in their stable and has no subscription fee. Reading up on the mothership is a must as well. Be sure to check out what decks have been doing well in online events.

Right now, most writers and players are scrambling to get an early jump on Fall Standard as well as the Modern format for Pro Tour Return to Ravnica. There are many new ideas out there right now, but few good ones and it can be hard to tell which is which.

Last year it took months for Delver to come together as a top deck in Standard. Standard will probably not turn out the way people expect, but there are some things we can predict. Real estate is worth investing in. Powerful effects will often find a home. And Winter is coming.

With Winter comes the Modern PTQ season and so here's some easy research for you. Investing seasonally is a low risk strategy for profiting on MTGO. Combining seasonality with real estate is even lower risk. Godless Shrine at 6 tix or less is a lock for profits, either to sell at the start of Modern Season or to sell during the weeks before the release of Gatecrash. Buy them now and put them away for a few months.

More detailed analysis on buying real estate can be found here in one of my past articles.

Step 3: Acquiring Tix

Get some Event Tickets or tix. This is the de facto online currency and you'll need it to buy cards through bots and the classifieds. These are always for sale through WoTC at the client store for $1 a piece.

Sometimes dealers or players will privately sell tix for a little less than $1, which is a great way to cut costs. You must be cautious though as some people offering to sell tix are actively trying to scam you. Do not buy tix from the classifieds as the risk is unacceptably high. I recommend dealing with known players or reputable dealers, or else just sticking to the official store.

Time to Buy?

At this point, you might be ready to pull the trigger on a position. The trade book is set up, there's a nice target sitting out there in Godless Shrine, and there are tix sitting in your account.

Now is the time to take a breath and look for the lowest prices. The MTGO market is quite competitive but there are ways to save a few tix when looking to establish a position. Next time will be an in-depth look at tracking down a good price, taking the plunge on a first purchase and an outline of how to sell when the time is right.

Matthew Lewis

Matt Lewis currently lives in Ottawa, Canada and is a long time player and PTQ grinder who now speculates and plays exclusively on MTGO. He's always ready to discuss ideas and investment strategies, so drop him a line in the comments, the forums or on modo, username mattlewis.

View More By Matthew Lewis

Posted in Finance, Free Insider, MTGOTagged

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15 thoughts on “Insider: Getting Started in MTGO Speculating

  1. Thanks for the article! I have been struggling finding a consistent dealer for <1$ per tix since WOTC charges tax on my purchase which makes it every -EV to buy

    1. If you can’t find tix, you can order playsets of cards through mtgotraders with paypal. The service is top notch and I think this will allow you to acquire cards or botcredit without paying tax. Also, there are discount codes which can knock 8% off of your order, see the thread below. Heath (owner operator of mtgotraders) is a stand up guy who was invited this year to the Community Cup so I have no reservations about dealing with him and his store.

  2. I have some Tix to sell time to time, I actually sold 600 Tix to Mtgotraders last week, 0.95$ total each. Mtgotraders offers to pay by check in addition to paypal, which removes the Paypal fees for me. I’m trying to sell my Tix in order to get 0.95$ final, which is about the equivalent of 0.98-0.99$ before paypal fees and depending of the amount.

    I may sell some more in the future if interested…

  3. I was puzzled about why a land that gets reprinted in the next set would be a good invest-target, but after reading the other article i decided to have a go for it and buy some… so let’s hope you’re right :).

    So the idea for godless shrine is to hold them till some weeks for gatecrash release ? (or until modern season makes it go up enough)

    1. yes exactly! Trying to grind money on the fact that people will want to play decks with these lands and not waiting to get them from Gatecrash. Modern demand helps also in this direction.

      But make sure to sell it soon enough, or at least make sure you don’t sell it too late. If there’s 1 thing that is sure with that strategy is that the price will inevitably go down!

      1. I expect Modern season to push Godless Shrine up to 10+ tix so yes, getting out of this position before the release of Gatecrash is the plan. Although not historically one of the best lands, it is present in Doran and Token strategies.

        As a back up plan, the hype around the Golgari Guild has pushed Overgrown Tomb to 10 tix and even Temple Garden has risen to 7 tix. If anticipation around the Orzhov guild falls somewhere in the middle, then Godless Shrine should at least hit 8 tix prior to Gatecrash.

        1. Can you tell me when modern season runs on mtgo ? Cause there were allready TNMO-modern tournaments last week… I never played modern so far so i had no idea it has seasons…

          1. Here’s a link,


            The current season for PT Gatecrash finishes in the middle of December, and GP Toronto is Dec 8th and is Modern Constructed. The Modern PTQ schedule has not yet been announced, though Modern is confirmed as the season’s format.

            Modern is regularly firing on MTGO these days so it’s not necessary that a season has to be in full swing for Modern tournaments to be occurring online. Check here for a full listing of Modern events from the past week or so, including links to the best deck lists.


    1. Personally I have kept all profits in the game in order to build capital, but when the time comes, selling tix for $ is how I would do it. The larger bot chains are usually on the lookout for tix, especially if they are discounted, ie $0.93 to $0.95 per tix.

    1. For each purchase I also record a date. For simplicity I kept it out of this chart, but if you go to Part 2, I’ve got an updated trade book with multiple entries and then a totals line.

      As for selling them, at this point I simply enter in sell values, quantities and dates beside the originals.

      I am still tinkering with the best way to keep a trade book organized. My accounting theory is a little rusty so if someone has a recommendation for a consistent and robust system of keeping track of buys and sells, I’d be open to updating my record keeping.

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