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||---||---|
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.