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Insider: Getting Started in MTGO Speculating, Part 2

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Today I continue my primer for people looking to speculate on MTGO for the first time. If you didn't catch last week's article, be sure to read that first.

Step 4: Finding a Good Price

This will take a little work. The MTGO market is quite efficient, but it can still be worth a few tix to hunt around.

Cardbot and the Classifieds

Start with the majors. Go to Cardbot’s website and punch in a card that you are curious about. Their prices can be on the high end of the market but they are very responsive. If a card is crashing in price, Cardbot's prices will often lead the rest of the market.

They also have a very good selection, especially for Eternal formats such as Modern or Legacy. Transaction times are the fastest around. Their prices are a good baseline to which you can compare other prices.

Sticking to the Godless Shrine example from Part 1, we see it’s currently at 5.91 tix.

Next, scan the classifieds for what you are interested in. To do this, enter "Godless Shrine" with no quotations in the search function at the top of the page. Since it's currently out of print, the number of listings for Godless Shrine will be somewhat small.

If a card is in print, we can expect many more listings as well as humans selling on the classifieds. Humans will typically post a card for sale that is lower than the market sell price, but higher than the market buy price. They are trying to squeeze out a ticket or two by posting here and waiting for a buyer.

This illustrates another way to buy cards. Post your own ad to the classifieds! In this case, I would post something like the above. And if I was playing in a tournament and had some time, I might score a few deals here or there. If you post a lower price, you might get a better deal, but alternatively you might not get any action at all. Posting a price that is competitive with the other bots ensures you won’t overpay.

However, this method counts on a player scanning the classifieds and randomly choosing your listing. The bot chains have a name out there, and they get repeat business because they have established a relationship with their customer base. If you post prices similar to the bot chains, there is nothing to distinguish you from them. Posting a buy price .5 to 1 tix higher than the bots gives you an edge to get the cards you want.

In the search results for Godless Shrine, you may notice many bots posting buy prices of 3 tix. These are the low ball bots that seek to take advantage of new or lazy players. When all the listings are buying for 3 tix, one might assume that that is the current market buy price. But this is quite a bit below what the major bots are paying.

These low balling bots exist because of the low barrier to entry. Posting a buy price higher than these bots will distinguish your ad from them, but your price will often still be below what the majors are paying.

To ensure your price is competitive you'll want to offer slightly more than the majors. Note this is not always possible due to the indivisibility of tix, but you can modify your buy price by paying more for multiples. For example, posting "Buying Godless Shrine 5, or 2 for 11" means you are offering 5.5 tix per copy.

Other References

If the classifieds are a bit sparse, then it’s time to dig deeper into the bot chains to find a deal. Go to supernovabots and check their prices. Scan the list by using the Find function of your browser, Ctrl+F on Firefox. Highlighted here is the Godless Shrine listing:

Supernova posts two prices if they have a card in stock. On the left is their buy price and on the right is their sell price. Beside that is the name of the bot holding the card and the quantity available. For Godless Shrine, there is one copy in stock, and at 5.70 tix it’s only at a small discount with respect to Cardbot. Nothing wrong with going for this one, but let’s keep looking.

The last stop will be MTGOLibrary. Entering "Godless Shrine" in their price wiki causes the following list of bots, prices and quantities to come up.

Again, not much of a discount, but picking off the top of the listing gives two copies for a total of 11.32, which represents a total savings of 0.5 tix over buying through Cardbot. A little bit of work has saved a small amount of tix in this case.

MTGOLibrary sometimes provides out-of-date information, but don't get discouraged if you see a deal that is too good to be true. Be sure to check it out, because sometimes you'll be the first to find it. It's also useful to see the range of prices and quantities available on the wiki. Knowing the depth of the market on a card can give you the sense for where the price might be headed next.

Step 5: Purchasing

This step is easy. Take the lowest prices and buy what you can. In this case, Godless Shrine is not a hot card, so buying the cheapest ones available and leaving the others for the moment is fine. Some more might come onto the market over the coming weeks and they might be priced lower.

Below is a snap shot of my trade book for Godless Shrine over the past week. Different days see different prices according to the ebb and flow of the market. For a low pressure play like this, spreading out purchases can yield better deals over time.

Name Price Quantity Average Cost Total Date Motivation
Godless Shrine 5.79 4 5.79 23.16 9/25/2012 Hold for Modern
Godless Shrine 5.157 2 5.157 10.314 9/25/2012 Hold for Modern
Godless Shrine 5.5 1 5.5 5.5 9/25/2012 Hold for Modern
Godless Shrine 5.12 3 5.12 15.36 9/28/2012 Hold for Modern
Godless Shrine 5.66 3 5.66 16.98 9/28/2012 Hold for Modern
Godless Shrine 5.3 4 5.3 21.2 9/28/2012 Hold for Modern
Godless Shrine 5.73 3 5.73 17.19 9/28/2012 Hold for Modern
Godless Shrine 5.66 2 5.66 11.32 9/30/2012 Hold for Modern
Godless Shrine 5.91 4 5.91 23.64 10/1/2012 Hold for Modern
Total 26 5.564 144.664

Step 6: Waiting

After buying comes the waiting. This type of off season purchase strategy is low risk and boring, but pays off. To employ it you must practice patience, otherwise this is where the fear might creep in. Refer back to your trade book and read the motivation for buying this card.

In this case, the motivation is "Hold for Modern" (with the release of Gatecrash as a back up plan) which means waiting till the end of November or early December for the start of the Modern PTQ season. At that time, other speculators and players will be anticipating the season and will have bought up available copies. Getting in now ensures arriving to the party before things get out of hand.

Supply of the Dissension and Guildpact shocklands is quite thin online. Observe the recent surge in the price of Stomping Ground after [card Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle]Valakut's[/card] unbanning. It quickly went from 6 tix to 15 tix. If half the interest crops up in Godless Shrine, this position will still yield a tidy, very low risk profit.

Step 7: Selling

Last year, there were two good opportunities to sell Godless Shrine during Modern season. Look for that initial price spike to occur again in December. When the time comes to sell, your options are pretty much identical to those covered above in Step 4. Putting up a sell ad in the classifieds will often yield the most tix, but also takes the most time.

Cardbot will take up to four copies of any card at a time and they pay a predictable price. If Godless Shrine is selling for 10 tix on Cardbot during Modern season, expect to get a little over 8 tix when selling to them. Compare the price with what Supernova is paying if you are looking to sell only a few. Both chains adjust their prices when a card is bought or sold, but Supernova has a much lower threshold and will give different prices for copies past the first in most transactions.

If you scroll up and look at the MTGO Library screen cap, you'll see the two columns on the right list a buying price and a buying quantity. Often these prices are not very competitive, but there are times when a card's price has just dropped and the bots in this network can be slow to update.

Step 8: Profit! (With Guarantee)

I am quite confident in the call on Godless Shrine. For anyone who is looking to try out online speculating, I will guarantee a small position is zero risk.

The substance of this guarantee is as follows. I promise to buy up to a playset of Godless Shrines from you in the first week of January for 6 tix a piece. In other words, you can't lose if you are buying Godless Shrine for 6 tix or less today. For those that are interested in taking me up on this offer, please comment on this article with the number of Godless Shrine you bought and at what price.

Come January just look me up on QS or MTGO and I'll buy your copies for 6 tix each, up to a maximum of 4 copies per person.

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, Part 2

    1. The price increase on cardbot occurred in the last 36 hours. Regardless, I just located two copies of Godless Shrine for under 6 tix using the methods described in this article. For those who pay a little over 6 tix, the guarantee stands *as is* due to the indivisibility of tix. At 6.38 tix, you are risking .38 tix for 3 months of speculating on the upside to Godless Shrine. The choice is yours.

  1. You left something out of step 5: For really longterm specs, write an article, and then provide a guarantee… Get other people to do your buying for you! I keed.

    Seriously, though, nice article, the supernova tip is especially helpful!

    Also, i’m in on godless shrine, for a playset at just over 6 tix each.

  2. I allready bought 8 after the first article so count me in !

    I am trading online for a lot of years now so i was familiar with all those items exept for the mtgolibrary… i used to check that years ago but the prices were always ridiculous compared to supernova or cardbot; has that changed ?

    I have fractional tics at other bots too, like mtogtraders. Any other you’d recommend ?

    Last year i made some nice profits with Cardboom-bots, allthough they seem to be more in touch with the market recently.

    1. You can find deals at MTGOlibrary. I think it’s worth checking. Many bots there price some cards at discounts and some higher than the majors. It’s a question of doing a little digging. I found two more Godless Shrine there today at 5.8 tix a piece.

      I stopped worrying about fractional tix because I found that I would often be returning to the same bots over and over.

  3. This article made me wonder about something i thought of allready a few years ago.

    The main question is : how many of a particular rare/mythic exist in the online environment ?

    Because : you, Matt Lewis, inspire people to buy Godless Shrines online. It is a card that’s not printed anymore for 5 years now (given a few historydraftweeks) and back then the playerbase was much smaller then it is now.

    So let’s say you convinced like 50 people to buy Godless Shrines, each buy 4 or more, with an average of 8 pp. So that’s 400 Shrines that disappear from the botradars… Is that enough to make the price go up by itself ??

    And if that is the case, what keeps us (the QS-subscribers) from manipulating the market this way (especially with less printed cards) ?

    I’d like to hear your thoughts on this one…

    1. Lots of good questions here, but we don’t have firm answers for any of them. In terms of thinking about scarcity of cards, comparing prices on similar cards from different sets gives you an idea about relative scarcity. It goes as follows.

      Start with an assumption that two cards are similar enough and played enough that they should carry a similar price. This is easy with the shock lands. One might suggest that Sacred Foundry, Godless Shrine and Breeding Pool are similar in this way. It’s not perfect, but they are close. The different in season price peaks for these cards gives you an idea about relative scarcity. Sacred Foundry is about twice as abundant as Godless Shrine, and Godless Shrine is about twice as abundant as Breeding Pool. This is the best way to figure out abundance of a card online, we can’t get absolute numbers, but we can think about relative numbers.

      There is nothing keeping a group of actors from manipulating the market, theoretically. In some sense my article giving a price guarantee in January *is* manipulating the market. I encouraged buyers that might not be otherwise active. The trick is, how do we know what is happening and can we disentangle price moves and attribute them to specific activities. This is a very difficult trick!

      Personally I think every actor has an impact on the market, but there are enough countervailing actions that no specific impact can be detected. In the case of Godless Shrine, I do believe that we had a small impact on the price. But, I was still able to find Shrines at sub 6 tix today on the classifieds. So, this suggests the market hasn’t really moved yet.

      Anyway, it’s good to think about. There are people out there that believe the price of Force of Will is being kept high because of ‘hoarders’. This sounds ridiculous to me. Much more likely is that FoW is high due to being from a bad set for limited that was released at a time when the player base was small and prior to the IRL boom in Legacy.

  4. Thanks for the answers.

    On another issue, do you feel the time to sell our ISD-lands has come ? I heard recommendations to sell real cards, so does that apply to online also ?

    1. I’ve been selling some of my Woodland Cemeteries and Sulfur Falls, usually when they pop up on MTGOtraders hotlist. If you have many copies, then yes, selling some now is prudent. For the 3 lands aligned with the Gatecrash guilds, I think there will be better opportunities down the road.

      1. ok thx, it was amazing to see Cardbuyingbot paying 3,76 for each of 16 Woodlands (I bought them when they were 1,3)… i assumed they didn’t buy more then 4 a day (supernova only offered 3,5 and drops price from the second one you sell); also sold a dozen Sulfur Falls. Gonna hold on to the rest in case they should rise further, allthough profit is allready made (and i must say my first QS-related profit since i joined here 6 months ago).

  5. so i just started trying my hand at MTGO trading. first thing i notice is how inefficient the market is. today i bought sphinx’s revelation for 3 because i saw a buyer @4. i realize that COULD be a set up but: sphinx’s revelation @3 is still cheap imo AND it wasn’t.

    i am going to have to pay much more attention to your articles and i appreciate the effort!

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