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Jason’s Archives: Making Trades, Losing Readers

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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

GP Strasbourg Coverage

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 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.

SCG Milwaukee Standard Top 16

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 (3Blood Artists, the Doomed Traveler and the Falkenrath Aristocrat say to the Supreme Verdict?" I couldn't come up with a punchline better than, "come at me, bro" but I think you get my point. I didn't mean to digress away from Jeff Hoogland and his x number of weekend Top 8 finishes where x= the number of events. I don't get his RUG Flash deck. I haven't tested it, so I don't know whether it's so good to give Huntmaster flash (sounds like a nerdcore rap group) that you jam four copies of a durdly legend like [card Yeva, Natures Herald]Yeva[/card], or if Yeva being a 4/4 flash for four gets there on its own. Either way, "Hoogs", as he likes to be called, Top 8s with this deck a lot. You should probably test it. Just read this whole decklist.

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.

SCG Milwaukee Legacy Top 16

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.

21 thoughts on “Jason’s Archives: Making Trades, Losing Readers

  1. Very nice article!!

    I myself like to trade, there is always something to gain in trading, even if you are only recycling those stagnant cards in your binder.

    The reality of trading in Portugal is very different from the US, it´s usually small events, where most people will not have cards for trade,and most of them will have a phone with internet, making it challenging at the very least.

    What i do is what you mention, i just take a seat in a spot where other players will be passing by, open my binders (make sure to keep some shiny stuff in the front page) and sit there chatting with friends or other players, and preety much like a fisherman just wait until someone bites.

    I´ve figured out this is actually the best way to do it, in bigger events i do the same but choose a place near other traders. I believe that the casually standing there with the binders open, sends a message to your trade partner that is exactly the opposite of the guy who scours every corner of the room and asks everyone for trades, and will rip you off if you blink.

    Most of the people i ever traded with always come to me for more trades, and sometimes even mention some past transactions saying: “Hey remember when i trade you X for Y?…You really had me there” then we both laugh and i just offer him something more in the new trade.

    I feel that in trading the most important is to have a good attitude about it.

  2. Trading is an important aspect to Magic, after all it is a “trading card game”.

    As long as both parties are happy at the end, and one has not intentionally sharked a new player, then go for it.

    I’ve told countless people to f-off if they start to have a less than humble attitude about trading. I do that in a way to make them feel stupid in a room full of people, and then no one will ever trade with them again.

  3. Have you considered blocking Ben B from your eBay account? I have him and a bunch of other shops blocked after a few bouts of speculating. Gives you the couple extra hour edge to remove the listing once you see it’s gone up.

  4. 1. Nice article as always!

    2. Who’s Ben Bleiwess? another speculator? LOL 😛

    3. With SCG price being so strange compared to certains sites, i noticed what you’r saying so i have almost no worry to make money on a SCG “fair” trade when trading the right cards. knowing what site the other trader want to use always give you a edge if your at the beginning of the trade. just watch it when they do sales, they sometime have lowers price than tgc low

    4. I had a bad experience of last week, one of my friend did the “bad guy”. I was mad at him. He asked me the price of abrupt decay, 2 gitaxian probe promo and one other card. Off my head without phone i said btw 8-10, about a buck or 2, and about 2 for the last one. We all heard the story of that guys in SCGopens that was trading anything for crap rares at 7¢ and then, he would go to the stores and trading them at 10¢ each and 30% margin at least by ripping off people. Well, my friend did it… he told the guy : “i trade it for 140 craps rare!” And the noob did it. my friend told me the guy knew what he was doing, but as i said to him later : “nobody would do this, if he knew what he was doing” (i was unaware of that part of the trade until the end of the night.) the thing is, not only the guy gave him 10¢ rare but he gave him real dollar rares, there were even a frontline medic and a slaugther games in it…

    My issue in this “trade” is that it was at a small LGS during a FNM. Half of the poeple bring their homebrew with penny sleeves.

    Later after the FNM, I tried to explain to him that was bad trade for everyone!!! Poor casual players would trade 0.10-0.50¢ cards between each other (hell i even saw 2 guys buying 6 boosters together and split the each common like they were 5 dollar rares!). The thing i hate about those kind of trades is that you’r destroying your onw casual community! This guy now have almost 0 casual crappy card for the other casual players around. My friend destroyed many potential trades and much fun those casual players would have. For a 10 dollars trade, he might have screw the fun of many players. 10¢ cards are sometime like pure gold for those players. This guy will probably keep in memories that he now has a crappy deck that dont wins but hell, he has a abrupt decay and a empty binder (and than quitting magic in a month or two)

    “You can shear a sheep many times, but you can skin him only once”

    (sorry for english… i’m francophone!)

    1. I think it takes the entire store tolerating that kind of behavior out of your friend to let it continue. I may sound like a corny douchebag sometimes but I really am all about building up the LGS, and that involves getting and keeping new players. Things like the event decks help. Things like burning someone\’s entire binder for an $8 card don\’t. I think \”You can only skin the sheep once\” is a pretty universally-understood idiom and I can\’t honestly think of a better one. I\’ve been using \”don\’t shit where you eat\” but I think I like yours better.

      1. i know he likes to trade up just like i like to trade up. And seriously, i hate when other people do counter-offer when i’m trading someone else but if i was aware he was doing that kind of trade, i would have offer something else for that abrupt decay in a “fairer” trade than that shit.

        The way to behave is not to tell everyone : “don’t trade with my friend, he’s trying to screw you” or i won’t keep friends for long 😛 Half of the people there probably didn’t know it was that much a terrible trade. so they will tolerate it for now. I think keeping his “shark appetite” lower and make him realize that he is doing a bad thing for everyone is a first step. I actually like that one : “don’t shit where you eat”

      1. i know that 😛 if you think about it… this guys almost make the prices for whole MTG community. Everyone look a bit at SCG before doing their own price.

  5. Another great article that I really enjoyed. I have definitely had times where I gave up trying to trade when the sharks were out…but I’ve found (like you did) that setting up shop and being more easy going is a lot better way to trade…and I always quote prices accurately..nothing sours a trade faster then under pricing their card (even unknowingly) and being proven wrong.

  6. For some reason I always seem to attract sharks, perhaps because my trade binder is set up in a way – mixed with great stuff, uncommons, and random stuff. Either way, this binder is all stuff that I want to trade or sell. I had a guy actually laugh at me when I started telling him prices. I said “laugh all you want, but this shit is jank to me – you dont get to see my real binder with the dual lands, vintage, and legacy stuff” – “I’ll sell you that drowned catacomb at 4$, and laugh at you because I was smart and picked them up when they could be got for 2$. – You can have my leftovers, which I would rather turn into $$ anways… Think of it as me doing you a favor” Then he felt stupid, and handed over the cash. Everyone else in the room laughed at him.

  7. Ummm… I think I wear “straight-billed hats”. I think. Are these just baseball hats that people haven’t bent all to hell? Don’t tell me the gangbangers have stolen this away from me? I don’t like to bend my hats… it destroys my peripheral vision, and makes me nervous.

    Am I still subject to ridicule if I wear my non-bent hat facing directly forward, and not at some awkward angle?

  8. wasnt a bash really. People have been doing this for a long while now and trading in general has been absolutely no fun for a long time. Just stating this article should have been written 2 years ago by someone and never really was.

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