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Insider: Draftcycling Reboot

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A little over a year ago I rebooted my trade collection due to an unfortunate turn of events and set a plan in motion to rebuild. In my article “What’s your Plan?” I talked about how itemizing your priorities is important to anyone’s goal, and it’s something I’ve revisited a number of times since then. For me, this is not just the most important and fundamental aspect of speculating and trading, but also important to accomplishing goals in my life. Since then, I’ve managed to trade my way through a full cycle of PTQ seasons, starting with Limited, then Modern and finally Standard. Now that we’re back full circle to Limited, I want to update my plan, as my situation has changed, and this raises an opportunity to really detail how to make and follow a plan.

Since last year I’ve become a DCI Level 2 Judge, and as such I’ll be working at a handful of PTQs and not able to play in as many as I’m used to. This is a change I’ve chosen, in part because I’m making a commitment to make up for it with additional play on MTGO. In the past, MTGO has been a casual hobby for me, firing up a draft once or twice a month, when I’m too busy to play otherwise; while drafting with the ringers at the LGS has been my mainstay. While I don’t expect this to change too much, I don’t expect to be traveling to as many events, unless I’m judging. My higher level play will have to be done on MTGO. Making this switch has a lot of complexities, and formulating a solid plan for this is extremely important to my success.

What are my goals? This is the first step in formulating a plan. If you don’t know what you want to achieve, it is impossible to optimize the steps to get there. Don’t just think about it. You’re reading this right now thinking, “I know what my plan is...” Prove it. Write your goal down. In your own handwriting. Read it back to yourself out loud. Put it away somewhere, or digitize it.

Seriously... Do this. I put this next to my computer as a reminder.

For me? My goal is to be able to play 4-6 drafts per week, and within a year have a complete Standard collection. If I had infinite funds, this goal would be simple. But, nothing is ever simple. I still have a paper collection to maintain and, luckily for me, i do have some amount of MTGO product to begin with.

What’s your goal?

So, you’ve got a goal. Now you need to come up with strategies to attain it. What are the obstacles that prevent this from being a reality right now? For me, I’m unwilling to simply shell out the cash to buy a complete Standard collection while at the same time bankrolling multiple drafts per week. First, I need to decide what drafting will cost me, if I’m not planning to sell the cards. Drafting is the best way to obtain Standard cards as you get value from opening your product by getting the opportunity for prize packs. Plus it actively unites my two goals. T

o make things easy, we’ll assume I’m a perfectly average 8-4 drafter (although I’d like to think I’m better than that). Given that, I should be able to split the finals of a draft 2 out of 8 times (25%). Meaning my expected earnings from each draft are 6 packs times 25%, or 1.5 packs. It costs 3 packs and 2 tickets to draft, and I expect 1.5 packs in return, so if I want to draft 4 times per week that will cost me 8 tickets plus 6 packs. At full retail that’s 8x$1 + 6x$4= $32/week or $128/month. This would also mean I cycle through 12 packs per week in singles, or a “box” every 3 weeks.

Will drafting at this rate get me all the Standard cards I need? Well after opening 125 packs I would expect (on average) to have 1 of each Mythic and 2 of each Rare. At my projected rate, this would take about 10 weeks, so in the ~14 weeks until Gatecrash is released on MTGO I should get a decently close, combined with the 1 pack of RTR I’ll be drafting when the Block completes in Spring. I’m satisfied that I’ll get close enough to a playset that I’ll be able to trade cards I don’t need for ones I do.

So essentially at $128 per month, with no additional work, this could be attainable. But not only do I not want to spend that kind of money, I’d like to try and make some money. This means I’ll need to be doing some careful speculation, and it will be important to keep this separate from the Standard collection I’m building. For this purpose, I plan to speculate mostly on Modern cards, and Innistrad Block cards, as by the time I finish my Standard collection, these will have rotated. I think it’s realistic that if I invest $200 into tickets, that I could garner enough profits to contribute the 8 tickets per week towards the draft and at least a couple of the boosters, reducing my actual cost to ~$15 per week.

How can I do this?

I plan to use mtggoldfish.com as a huge resource for following trends of Modern cards, especially with the reprinting of shocklands and people’s buzz about the upcoming Modern Masters sets. I expect to see decent fluctuations over the next 6 months, at least enough to ride a couple waves up and down. Long term, i plan to pick up on Zendikar fetches, but in order to see some smaller gains in the short term to immediately aid the drafting cause I’m going to be watching waves of Innistrad lands, as well as underplayed Mythics which tend to have the biggest swings. This happens because people end up needing them for redemption, so even the bad Mythics are easy to move and because when they suddenly appear in a top deck, the demand skyrockets.

Each week I’ll be updating my portfolio here in my article, and talking about how this plan changes and what strategies I’ve found to be successful. My first task will be to identify the best bots to buy and sell boosters to, and the best method for selling cards once they’ve reached a point I want to get out of a speculation. Having these mechanisms set up before I enter the market is extremely important so you don’t end up stuck with a speculation you can’t dump at the prime moment.

I’d love to hear feedback and advice about my new project. Another set of opinions from a new set of eyes is something entrepreneurs are often too prideful to allow. Take other people’s wisdom and consider them, but don’t follow them blindly.

See you on MTGO!

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.

View More By Chad Havas

Posted in Finance, Free Insider, MTGO

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15 thoughts on “Insider: Draftcycling Reboot

    1. you just negotiate with your oppoent in private message. It’s fairly common in the 8-4’s. If you finish your semi-finals first, wait till the other match finishes, send a chat to the winner: “Split?” They’ll either agree or not. The common courtesy is whoever loses the die roll will concede, and the winner will trade the 2 excess packs to the lose. To be warned: The splits aren’t protected in any way, so the winner could walk with the packs. Sometimes a player may be trying to gather Qualifying Points for the Magic Online Championship Series, in which case they may ask you to cocede so they can have the credit for the win.

      1. Splits are also against the code of conduct and can theoretically get you banned. I have heard of 30 day suspensions for splits in Daily Events.

        1. Don’t know about this one way or the other, so not going to comment on that. i can comment on my experience that this happens quite commonly. It’s also essentially irrelevant to the content of the post. Rather than splittin twice out of 8 attempts you have a 3-0 1 out of 8 times and a 2-1 1 out of 8 times, works out to the same math of a 1.5pack prize EV.

          1. Agree that it happens commonly. I do it myself. In fact, there used to be an official option in the client where you could intentionally split the finals of a draft, as if it were IRL. At some point they decided to get rid of that option, and I remember their motivation at the time was “If we could get rid of intentional draws IRL, we would do it there too.”

  1. I am curious to see how this works out.

    I love playing MTGO but cant afford it like that ;p I like your thinking and if it becomes a reality I would be interested in trying your strategy.

    1. Me too… :3

      Shifting a bulk of my collection, (and most of my speculation) to MTGO is intimidating, but identifying actionable goals and working towards them is the best game plan to take on any new task.

  2. I am really pleased with myself for not having to buy anything om mtgo this year, but the downside of course is I have no mentionable collection gathering up… i ‘stay alive’ by picking moneycards (and pricy uncommons in som-season) and playing mostly 4-3-2-2, where opposition is not as high and i almost never loose in round 1…

    So prereleaseweekends are really dangerous for me 🙂 with the low payout.

    I can only think back on times where releases meant double pay-out… those were the days !

    To be truthfull, i plan on buying 100 ticks sometime soon to have a better wallet for speculation (the ISD-duals made me my first real money on onlinespeculating).

    1. 4-3-2-2’s are really bad! less packs in the prize pool, if you dont feel you can cut it in 8-4’s id suggest swiss. its actually pretty good value (and definitely better than 4-3-22)

  3. This may be a dumb question, but I’m just starting with all this MTGO stuff, I was wondering where will you buy your tickets? Doesn’t Wizards charge tax, is there a better place to get them?

    And is your end goal here to trade in the digital collection for a real-life one? Or are you just trying to get the complete collection in order to speculate more online with.

    Thanks, great article!

    1. You have to find someone willing to sell them to you. Wizards does not charge tax but depending on your country it may cost you more, i’m not exactly sure the rules on that. but you can often find tix under $1 on EBay.

  4. I know someone online who sells me tix for 0,95 when i pay him via paypal, bu tI haen’t seem him online in some time now.

    Perhaps some people who do this can state their online names here ? Because if you try to do this you make yourself vulnerable to scams obviously.

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