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Insider: Touch of the Eternal — Scruples in a Scrupleless World

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Today's article will focus on scruples and ethics in regards to MTG finance and speculation. There are some different approaches to MTG trading and finance and it's important for everyone who trades actively to ground themselves back on the isle of morality every once in awhile. Now this is by no means a black and white subject. There's a lot of gray and that's why this issue needs to be considered by every trader.

Helping the Newcomers

When you go to big events like SCG Opens and GPs you expect a lot of sharks and dealers, but the bigger the event the more likely you'll have a lot of newer players too. At GP Charlotte I was sitting across from a guy whose gold rush envelope had Ancestral Recall (never mind that I'm the one that handed it to him and could have easily given him the one I kept, which had a foil Ravnica common in it). He had no idea what the card was as he had started playing three weeks before and just saw the GP as an exciting event he came to play for fun.

Luckily, he showed those around him what he got and one guy pulled his phone out and showed the guy the price. I was torn emotionally, as I had a 50/50 shot of getting it and simply gave him that envelope, so I was pretty depressed at first. But then I thought about how the community around him informed him and didn't try to shark him (so good job MTG community), which lightened my mood a bit. But the point is there are still lots of new players who come to these events and similarly to your local game store. It is our job as a community to treat these players fairly.

The "well they should know the price" mentality has got to stop. This is just a poor way of justifying skeezy behavior. I understand that we are all trying to come out ahead and make money, but the difference is we can do it speculating, which means investing in cards we think will go up at some point. This is the kind of MTG finance I want to be a part of.

I wish I could say I've always avoided temptation when finding a hidden gem in someone's collection which they severely undervalued, but sadly even I must admit to having fallen to it before. And when I did, I felt bad. Not just immediately afterwards, but for several weeks. So much so that I have given the people I traded with extra cards to help justify my own guilt, which was sometimes a way to appease it, but I don't know if I damaged that person's desire to trade indefinitely or not. We as traders need to accept that guilt we feel is our brains' way of telling us we're doing something wrong and need to correct it.

I admit this because that's the first step in overcoming this sort of mentality. It's easy to play dumb and say "gee I didn't know it was worth that much" if they do look it up, but if someone asks you what their card is worth, tell them. If you don't really know and can look it up, do so. We were all new players at some point and chances are everyone's been ripped off by someone in the past. Remember how it felt when you got home and realized the card you thought was $2 dollars was worth $20. Every time you shark a new player you run the risk of turning them off of MTG or at the very least off of trading, and you hurt the community as a whole for a minor profit.

Market Manipulation

Another subject I want to discuss is market manipulation. This subject is becoming quite a hot topic recently as cards like Thrun, the Last Troll, Shallow Grave, Bloodhall Ooze, and Hall of the Bandit Lord have exploded in price in a few short days. Sometimes there's justification for jumps (such as Boros Reckoner), but more often than not someone is trying to corner the market with the sole purpose of buying tons and selling into the hype.

This is different from speculation (which is what most of us on QS do) for two main reasons. When you speculate on a card you understand its potential and you feel that it is currently undervalued or will increase over time. When you corner the market your sole goal is to generate hype for a card so you can sell into that hype. This is pure market manipulation which in the stock world is illegal and banks heavily on the lemming-like behavior of the masses. It's unethical and dangerous as it leads to stores cracking down on legitimate speculation as individual stores can't tell the difference between long-term speculation and market manipulation; they see one person buying them out (or buying a lot) of one card and don't know what they're up to.

When you speculate you take on the risk of the card not panning out or losing value, which (to me) justifies any profits you may make doing so. However, when you manipulate the market you take on very little risk as you have no intention of holding onto the cards, but simply want to jump the price up by creating artificial demand and unloading before the market has time to correct itself.

What scares me the most is that so many players don't see this as wrong. They feel that because other people just jump on the bandwagon it's their own fault. While I do agree that one should always research a card's potential before blindly going in on a speculation target, that is not actually justification for manipulating the market for your own benefit. I truly hope that people on QS are not the ones behind some of these jumps because this sort of tactic will eliminate the ability to speculate altogether. More stores are placing four-card limits on orders, which means that in order to speculate one will have to do multiple orders (if they'll even allow that) and pay more for shipping and lose out on ethical profits derived from properly recognizing a card's potential.

So for all those who enjoy sharking trades or market manipulation; please take some time to actually think about the consequences of your actions.

19 thoughts on “Insider: Touch of the Eternal — Scruples in a Scrupleless World

  1. four-card limits on orders is very bad. I think 8 or 12 is very reasonable. Sometimes you buy a playset for you and one for one friend, or 1 to play and 1 to trade

    1. I agree..I don’t want a 4-card order limit..I myself like to buy 2-6 playsets when speculating, but my point is that if people keep manipulating the market, shops will fear losing potential profits and will lay down a blanket card order limit, which will really hurt us speculators.

    1. I’m not disagreeing..I got the QS alert and there’s actually justification for it’s jump. I honestly believe Thrun may fall in that category as well…as Jund players keep looking for a 4 drop to replace BBE, Thrun is honestly not a bad choice. But Hall of the Bandit Lord…this one screams Market Manipulation as it hasn’t had a showing in anything so unless some player has broken a format with a deck running lots of these and secretly bought them all out, it’s most likely straight up manipulation.

  2. Yesterday I got No Sir’d on a 3x Hall of the Bandit Lord order I’d placed over the weekend. I didn’t mind getting denied as much as I was surprised that a shop would cancel a $4.50 order.

    1. this is the worst of this : bad shop practices becoming obvious :/

      i dont understand how you may *not want* to sell. What if this HotBL crash tomorrow, who gonna cry over this ? The shop, not you

      1. Agreed…What many shops don’t understand is…that with most of these cards they got them considerably cheaper than what they were selling them for originally, so they are trading a repeat customer (as I doubt Kyle will ever purchase from them again) for POTENTIALLY a little more profit (as you said..if nobody buys them at the new price..they aren’t worth that).

  3. While I think many on QS indeed practice speculation and I do doubt that the manipulation is caused by one of the active members, I do feel there’s another aspect to consider: many here actively search for underpriced cards. If a card like Hall shoots up, it is likely not one of us starting it, however, we do notice what happens and start looking for shops and other sellers that haven’t yet gotten the memo. We might not be the cause, but if we buy all the cheap copies the original manipulator missed we do contribute to it.

    I will certainly admit to being guilty of doing this. I frequently browse through a store’s entire inventory looking for undervalued cards and I definitely make sure to check the latest risers on MTGStocks.

    1. It is very difficult to determine whether a card is really hot or the market is indeed being manipulated…to make matters worse the speed at which runs on cards can occur means that any hesitation can cost you. I don’t have a big issue if people buy a card because it’s selling out (I personally prefer to determine for myself whether I want to buy in or not, but I’m not here to judge) because the people who do this aren’t doing it with malicious intentions (unlike those choosing to manipulate the market). It’s not always easy to distinguish between the two..but deep down you know which category you fall into.

      1. My point was rather that while we might not be causing the problem, we are part of it anyway. Whether or not there would be malicious intentions is irrelevant.

        I hoped to underline your final point of making people think about what they are doing and expand it to people who might not actually be aware they are contributing to the problem.

        Obviously ALWAYS think about what you’re purchasing.

    1. Thanks. I don’t have any call on that one, but I’ll talk to Doug/Kelly and see if they want to move it, I know that normally premium members want the spec targets because hey..you’re paying to be premium so you should make your money for it. But I felt the subjects needed to be discussed and I’m thrilled to see so many comments.

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