Wait for It
I traveled to SCG Milwaukee this weekend, and while it wasn't the most money I ever made on a weekend trip (I didn't sell a single card -- to SCG anyway) I managed to rethink the way I approach trading. I am really starting to hate value trading because so many factors go into making it a painful experience. Trading doesn't have to suck, but if it starts to feel like your job, it's probably going to. I decided to take a different approach that mitigated all the things I hate about trading.
Everyone Thinks They're a Shark Now
It's pretty obvious who the sharks are if you've been at this a while. You start to see the same faces over and over and know who you'll want to trade with again and who you won't. For the people who are local, they'll out themselves eventually by how aggressive they are. I was waiting for two guys to conclude a trade until I heard the one I hadn't traded with yet try to value his trade partner's [card Huntmaster of the Fells]Huntmaster[/card] at $12-$15. Either the guy is a scumbag and hoping he can get the guy for $10, or he's totally divorced with reality when it comes to prices and he's going to be surprised and incredulous every time I tell him a real price and we'll spend an extra half hour watching him look everything up. Either way, I wasn't about to waste my time on this guy.
The shark wannabes have sort of ruined the trade experience for the casual trader to the extent that you can audibly hear buttholes pucker when you approach certain people and ask them to trade. After a few times of an overly-aggressive person hounding them for trades, trying to beat them up over prices and generally lacking tact they're going to leave their binder in their backpack and pretend they don't have it. Eventually they'll leave it at home.
My solution was to pop a squat and wait for the trades to come to me. Staying in the same spot made sure I was more likely to have people bring their friends over to trade with me if I had stuff they needed. The most important element was that by not seeking trades I only traded with people who wanted to trade. I wasn't just another douchebag asking someone "Trades? Got trades? Trades?" for the 15th time that day when all they wanted to do was play EDH and be left alone. Don't annoy people. Let them come to you, and give them a reason to bring their friends.
Everyone is Using Their Damn Phone Now
People who trade a lot just hate it when people get out their phone to look up every price. A lot of the non-trading community thinks, "well, yea, you want to rip people off and when they use their phone you can't." but that's not it at all. If someone is going to look up every price on SCG, I'm going to target their big cards that are the same price everywhere and only come off of my small stuff that is overpriced on SCG. I get a card at $25 in trade that eBays for $24 for a pile of $25 in trade that eBays for $11. It suits my needs since I was going to eBay either pile and I'd rather have more money, and I let the other person name every single price. The real problem is it's time consuming. People are so paranoid about you "getting" them that they make the trade take three times as long as it has to.
My solution was a pretty good one. I noticed one guy I was trading with had a friend watching who I'd traded with before and who was knowledgeable about prices. Any time there was a question about the price, I asked the guy's friend who was standing right there and he backed up the number I'd given as being correct. The trade partner relationship can be seen as adversarial by some so they're going to want to double check with the internet if they think a price is wrong. How likely are they to double check a price their friend quotes? If you're telling people the correct number and their friend backs you up twice, or sometimes even once, the trade partner is more likely to trust you and won't look up every price. This makes the trade go by a lot faster.
Everyone at SCG Events Wants to Use SCG's Prices
This is fine. Do what I said above and try to trade up at SCG and you won't lose value even trading straight across.
Another strategy I adopted this weekend was born out of necessity. By the end of the month I have to cough up three grand to repay a loan I took out to buy cards two weeks ago. This means I'll be eBaying my ass off for the next two weeks. I realized there were some cards that were insane on SCG compared with eBay (SCG upped the price of foil [card Thalia, Guardian of Thraben]Thalia[/card] to $25 today -- I noticed when Ben Bleiweiss bought mine from eBay for $15) and some prices that were exactly the same.
If you're only getting $13 for Angel of Serenity on eBay, don't trade for it at $20 because that's what SCG has them at. Trade it away for $20 and pick up something like Liliana of the Dark Realms which crept up on eBay first. It's the exact same price on eBay as it is on SCG. You trade one angel for two Lilianas and a two dollar throw-in and you come out almost $7 ahead. Picking up cards that have a spread of virtually 0% comparing SCG or TCG Mid to eBay are cards you should target if eBay is your out.
Another out is the buylist. Again, trading a $20 card that buylists for $9 and picking up a $20 card that buylists for $14 is a no brainer. You made $5 trading straight across and you let your trade partner name the prices. You can use this technique even if you're not sure whether the cards you're trading are going up or down because you're aiming to cash in now. I traded straight across all weekend and always came out way ahead. Even if I want to pick up Angel of Serenity later, I know they're cheaper on eBay and even buying them cash you can make $7 trading them out at $20. This is all about playing to your out, whether it's TCG player/ eBay or a buylist.
I had a great time trading, I met some Brainstorm Brewery fans, I made a lot of money letting people and their friends pick the prices and I am on track to make my goal by the end of the month. Not bad for a weekend spent trading in the era of smartphones.
Alive and Kicking in Strasbourg
Legacy is still alive and well, and it's not the only thing back from the dead. Death and Taxes, a deck that punishes opponents with a variety of hate creatures, crushes them under the weight of the Mangara of Corondor/Karakas combo, and has inevitability in a long game (hence the name "Death and Taxes" because like those things, victory is inevitable) is back.
Team Denmark has brought the deck back and the winner of GP Strasbourg, Thomas Enevoldsen, was jamming this deck. I have played a lot of variants over the years -- Green and Taxes (love me some Knight of the Reliquary), Junk and Taxes (turn one Hymn to Tourach seems like a good way to start off the Mangara combo beatings) and plain old mono-white Death and Taxes writ large.
I gradually moved toward Maverick, but this build (they're calling it "Team Rocket" but I say if you want to name a deck you must first invent a deck) seems good against the meta and put two people in the top eight. Is Karakas going to go up in price again? Don't ask me, I don't write finance articles. Besides, if you'd told me [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Mind Sculptor[/card] would someday hit $150 a year ago when I didn't like trading for them at $60 I would have laughed in your stupid face. I know I wouldn't hate having a few judge foil Karakas laying around. Even if they don't go up, they're a solid Benjamin in a trade and that gets you a lot of Vexing Devils for your eBay box. If you don't have any, I wouldn't bother. Spending $100 to make $10 or $20 sucks.
Also doing well in that meta was a top eight finish from Punishing Maverick. Maybe it's the meta, maybe it's that I was right about a deck with Knight of the Reliquary being the better Punishing Grove deck right now. Either way, it happened. I think Legacy is a format where you can play a deck you're comfortable with to great success and the metagame shapes your sideboard, not your deck choice. Alexander Hayne said as much in his interview. He went with a deck he liked and did well with consistently and that happened to not suck against the meta. Seemed like a fine choice to me. Don't listen to people who say Maverick isn't a deck. If those people were ever right, the entire top eight would be Sneak and Show.
Sneak and Show did manage one top eight finish, but it happens. The deck is powerful, but I think people are starting to realize it gets the turn two [card Emrakul, the Aeons Torn]Emrakul[/card] pretty consistently, but that doesn't always get there. Sneak Attack requires you to draw a followup threat which doesn't always happen. I watched plenty of people take 15 to the mouth from the Flying Spaghetti Monster, sac all of their permanents then calmly come back and win the game as their opponent tried to find a followup threat. The deck is still good, but is it possible Emrakul isn't the best thing to put into play with Show and Tell? I am starting to miss Keeper of Progenitus.
Someone got top eight with Merfolk. It's a deck.
RUG Delver and Canadian Thresh both managed a top eight as well. This is the closest to having two of the same deck outside of the two Death and Taxes builds. Alexander Hayne is pretty OK at cards.
Someone played Team America, which baffled me. I feel like BUG Agent or another similar variant make better use of Dark Confidant. Hove Thießen solved this by not running any. Beats eating a fat one to a topdecked Tombstalker when you're at 8 I guess.
Legacy was also played in Milwaukee. Dead format my ass.
The City That Sleeps
Man, what a bummer Milwaukee is. I would apologize if you're from Milwaukee, but I won't on principal. If you want to stop reading my articles over it, fine, but just remember it isn't my fault your city sucks.
What kind of a mall food court, the only real food within 2 blocks of the convention center besides Dominos pizza (which is not real food) closes at 6 pm? What kind of city tosses people from a bar for having straight bills on their hats (an awesome one, now that I think about it. White guys with straight-billed hats should be subjected to public ridicule on a more regular basis) and doesn't sell alcohol after something absurd like 9 PM ("Come on vacation, leave on probation" one local said to a friend of mine who balked at the tough beer laws in a city that has literally nothing else going for it). I wasn't even out since I traded until 10pm Saturday night and went right back to the hotel, but my friends all reported back to me about the abysmal time they had. Let's not have events in Milwaukee ever again when Madison is close by and sucks so much less it isn't funny.
Despite my qualms about the city, and taking place in a convention center that booked a hotel across the street from one corner of the convention center, the event was pretty decent (on site my ass. You ever walk a mile next to a guy with cerebral palsy and a 40 pound backpack? I thought this was going to be the event Ryan's heart exploded and I needed a new set of coattails to ride). Nearly 600 people played Standard and more than 0 people played Legacy. All in all, it was an unqualified success.
"I think I have a lucky horseshoe shoved up my ass." - actual quote from Jeff Hoogland
"Why can't I hold all these Top 8s?" - not actual quote from Jeff Hoogland. Still, though.
Next time you're going to call something the "dominant deck in Standard," just don't. It will be less than a week until you're proven wrong. One copy of Reanimator in the Top 16 shut a few traps this weekend. Three copies of The Aristocrats in the Top 16 shut a few more. Not bad for a deck that is "dead". Falkenrath Aristocrat traded at $20 all weekend and Sam Black played the deck. When Sam Black plays a deck, pay attention. He even ran the correct number of Blood Artists (3
Other than the above Jund in Peace deck, not much is new in Standard. Spoiler season makes people want to look far ahead and neglect Standard. That's fine with me, Standard is kind of lame anyhow, which is probably too harsh considering Standard hasn't been this good and diverse since the last time we were opening packs marked "Ravnica". Better mana means more decks. Take note, Wizards -- Lorwyn block was a fluke. That format didn't devolve into 5cc so easily because the mana was too good, it did because most of the cards were terrible.
Let's talk about Legacy. This time three Sneak and Show decks managed Top 16 and one won. If you're inclined to give equal weight to this result and the result of the GP, I wish you wouldn't. Nice work, Adam Jansen. It takes luck to win an event with Sneak and Show, but I watched one of Adam's matches and he knows what he's doing. Just because you need luck doesn't mean you don't need skill. At all.
I like Deadguy Ale. It may seem silly to jam Squadron Hawk in Legacy, but it makes me smile to watch someone pitch a succession of them to Liliana of the Veil. That's what we call card advantage. The deck is a combination of a lot of the salient elements from successful decks, and it's named after a beer which is apt since it feels like a homebrew. Yes I realize Rogue Brewery's Dead Guy Ale isn't a homebrew.
People like to cascade in Legacy. Both the BUG and RUG variants showed up in the Top 16. Could Shardless Agent not be done going up or is it in danger of a reprint? Either way, Ancestral Vision also trades well. I hear when Gray Ogre draws three cards he's pretty good.
Merfolk put two in the Top 16 and Goblins put one. Pick a deck you like, learn it, sideboard for the meta and let your skill make luck happen for you. Bitch all you want about the cost of Jace the Mind Sculptor -- he was only in three decks of a possible sixteen here. Brew something spicy like Jeff Hoogland did (anyone notice how he invented two decks and keeps top-eighting Standard and Legacy with them or am I the only one?), learn the format and jam games. You can whine about how much Legacy costs or you can lend a $100 RDW deck to a new player and give them their first taste of how much fun Legacy is to play. It continues to be a dynamic format with every block making new archetypes and it's less inaccessible than some would have you believe. Go brew something, dammit.