Insider: Where to Begin — Part I

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Since we have received comments asking us to write an article on how to begin trading on MTGO, we decided to make this topic our first priority. It ended up somewhat large, so we split it into two parts, which will run this week and next.

For this week, we take a look at a few important decisions one has to make prior to investing. Next week's article will cover in depth the most common mistakes one is likely to commit while still getting used to MTGO. For people already trading online, we hope that getting back to basics might help you re-evaluate your trading habits. We will get into a more theoretical approach after these two articles.

Why Do I Want to Trade on MTGO?

When we first started trading, we had different reasons to do so. Jeff wanted to play Legacy and his goal was to trade in order to stockpile a certain amount of tix, to finally get to build his dream deck. Sebastien was in fact trying to pay for his addiction to drafting. His aim was to make enough profits to avoid injecting additional personal money into his account. In the end, we both aimed to profit from MTGO's secondary market in order to afford playing Magic at no additional cost.

What we want to point out here is that at first, we loved playing the game and then we figured it would be best if we could play it for free. If you intend to trade on MTGO only to make money, you might find it too time consuming and somewhat boring, and feel like quitting.

One of the best ways to make your collection grow is to play with the cards you are speculating on. This will have two advantages. First, if you're losing a few tickets on one of your calls, it will be easier for you not to panic since you actually play with them in a deck. Second, you will be better able to evaluate the metagame in which your cards are evolving. This is crucial since it’s really the metagame that determines for the most part the fluctuations on cards prices.

A side note here for the paper traders: the metagame can be really different between MTGO and paper, so be really careful when you make the switch. Also, the metagame switches a lot faster online than in paper, forcing you to adjust more frequently and to watch price indices regularly.

If you can't spend much time watching the classifieds, or if you can't play much while you wait for your posted ads to hit, maybe MTGO isn't much better than paper. On the other hand, if you can spend a few hours a week applying the routine we have, you might make some significant profits.

How Much Do I Want to Invest?

This is one of the most important questions we would have to ask ourselves, were we to start all over again. In hindsight, we can see starting with a much bigger investment would have been preferable. We started our account with roughly 500$ each, which in the end restricted us in many ways. The amount you invest will change drastically the ways you can trade. The bigger the bankroll you have, the more flexibility you end up with.

From our point of view, the first goal is to reach 1000 tix. For those who can already afford it, this amount should provide a good start while letting you get a feel for all the strategies we will talk about in our future articles. Also you won’t have to spend countless hours grinding. For those who can’t, let's see how you can make your bankroll grow.

Step I: Aim for Short-Term

First you have to aim for a short-term, grind-like approach. To us, short-term specs are cards you buy at the start of a spike, for a quick flip, or cards you buy during spoiler season because a spoiled card combos well with your target.

Another avenue is to use bots' price discrepancies to your advantage. For example, sometimes you will find bots selling cards for 12 tix when another chain is buying at 12.5. During prerelease events or even during frenzies, there is often room for you to buy a card at 10 tix and flip them 11 tix the same night. We spent countless hours doing that at first, grinding 10-20$ a night, slowly growing our bankroll, one ticket at a time.

We remember a night where we bought 70 Geist of Saint Traft (at 6.5 each!) from people and from other bots to resell them back to other bots for 0.4-0.5 profit per copy. It was instant quick flips all night long and we ended with a big 30 ticket profit. This is really time consuming and the reward is not so high. But if you want to build from nothing, it’s a good way to grow your bankroll. As of today, with the bankroll we have, we would have been able to keep all 70 Geist of Saint Traft and made something like 1400 tixs instead of 30!

Nevertheless, grinding has its uses. You practice reading the market and also get used to the many bot chains out there. Such experience might in fact explain in part why we are good traders now.

Step 2: Build and Play the Top Decks

Second, if you can afford some spare time to play in addition to trading (which is what we recommend you to do), you should always scan the Daily Events results to find out about the most popular decks. If you stay ahead of the curve, when players catch up with the most successful decks, you will meet increased demand for the cards you already own. A great deal of players simply copycat Daily Events results. As a matter of fact, it's precisely how Jeff built his entire collection and his bankroll (prior to the decision to begin trading), as he just kept playing the new popular decks.

The Sites You Have to Know

Note we are not affiliated with any of these sites and will not benefit from mentioning them here.

If you plan on a move towards MTGO, you have to use the following sources of information:

The owner of this site has made excellent additions to his price tracking device over the last year. From this site, you can track the price variations of most cards, going back up to two years. You can also check what the metagame looks like for any given format, which is definitely useful for predicting the next big thing to happen. The Movers and Shakers tab will let you know which cards are on the rise. The My Collection tab lets you select up to 50 specific cards to track. This way, we can follow and integrate our targets into our spreadsheets, instead of searching for them one by one. and their Hotlist

Mtgotraders (along with cardbot and marlonbot) is one of the bigger players out there. Their influence on the market is so heavy they can fix prices. Since so many players turn to them to either buy or sell their cards, their bots seem to work with wider margins. Checking their Hotlist regularly will often let you know what's getting hot on the market, and might help you grind a few extra tickets. When buying your cards, you should always be looking to buy under their selling price.

What's interesting about this site is the fact that they publish an updated pricelist every fifteen minutes. You can always search for a card (Ctrl+F) and check what their buy/sell prices are, either for regular or foil copies. Sometimes they offer significant discounts compared to mtgotraders and we can then benefit from such price discrepancies.

Many smaller bots post their prices on wikiprice, which is a good way to verify if a bot is lagging behind and still selling at a discount while most of the other bots have increased their prices. It is also a good way to buy extra copies on a particular call because it is often the last place people look. For example, Matt Lewis once suggested grabbing Creeping Tar Pit prior to Modern season. While prices had increased all over the market, we found an extra 40 copies there.

Wizard's What's Happening, and Calendar pages

Here you can get the Daily Events results. More important though is the Calendar page, where you will get updates on the upcoming MOCS seasons, which will determine the next format to see increased play online. Finally, from Wizard's page you can find links that refer you to the live coverage of major paper events, which is another huge resource for speculating. We plan to cover this area in a later article.

The Bot Chains You Have to Know

This old post on the forums is worth a quick read. To sum it up, here are a few bot chains that are linked together or which use the same engine. To find them in the classifieds, use the following key-words in the search field:

  • Cardbot, mtgotraders, marlon, creature, hotlistbot -- Some other bots copy their pricelist, such as valuebot. This is important, because they can copy, but they don't adjust their price. So, knowing which bots react first lets you know where to buy from at first, if you plan on grabbing many copies (valuebot in this example).
  • Supernovabot
  • Clanteam
  • BCCard
  • Aboshan (in the search field: We Pay)
  • Mtgo_Bazaar
  • Cardmech (they are pricey)
  • Academy
  • Cardnexus, Cardhoarder.
  • LOL
  • Stdbot
  • Cardfiend
  • Xtremebot, Foreverbuyer, Gamingbot, cardcastle, mtgocardpalace, readybot
  • Here is an interesting one: You can type "Regular" in the search field. This engine is awesome to buy tons of bulk rares for cheap, and they also sell good cards at a small discount too.
  • Goatbots (quite new, and running smoothly so far)

When you're looking to buy many copies of a card, it's important to know which bots are linked together. You want to buy from certain places first, then lastly hit up the bigger bots such as cardbot and mtgotraders. If you do it the other way around, mtgotraders and cardbot will adjust their sell prices, causing other bots to copy their pricelist, therefore restricting your buying options. We will write an article specifically about how to take a position on a card while successfully avoiding a reaction from the bots.

Our Calls for the Week

We couldn't let you go without a few good old Insider calls. Don't just go buy an account and load up on these yet. That's a mistake we'll talk about next week. For now, just note the following:

Thespian Stage: A rare land at bulk price that might see some applications someday. Or not. But at 0.05 tix, there is little to no risk.

Leyline of Sanctity: On a steady decline right now. This card is a staple during Legacy and Modern seasons. If you can grab yours at 1-1.25, you are almost guaranteed a 2-3 tix profits in a few months.

Underground Sea: There is an alternate art being prepared for this card. It occurred twice before, with Force of Will and Savannah. The alternate arts were released before Wizards actually announced them as MOCS rewards. If this is a trend, we can reasonably expect an alternate art Underground Sea being rewarded soon. Given the fact this card has never been this expensive before, if you are holding a few copies, it could be a good time to sell. Maybe we can also expect more alternate art duals in the future.

Prime Speaker Zegana: With the new Mana Drain, Plasm Capture, coming soon, there is some talk on the forums that this card could see increased play. For now, we are slowly buying below 5 tix.

Wilt-Leaf Liege: Take note of its actual price! This card came out of the blue last Modern season and proved to be quite strong. It reached 13.6 tix. At 2.5 tix, we feel it is a strong buy.

Glen-Elendra Archmage: With the recent cube events, this card's price has dropped quite a lot. It is probably a good time to consider buying it back.

Coming up next week:

Where to Begin, Part 2: The Worst Mistakes for Beginners

8 thoughts on “Insider: Where to Begin — Part I

  1. By the way everyone here are our mtgo names so you can reach us for comments, questions or suggestions

    Jeff is altaran2

    Sebastien is sebqc

    just add us to your buddy list!

  2. I’ve really been using Goatbot a lot. Sometimes they are a bit short on stock, but they sell boosters cheap, tend to have better prices than cardbot, and they have the quickest transactions out there. I’m impressed with how they’ve started up.

    I’ve pretty much given up on MTGOlibrary and the bots in their network. The prices and quantities on the wiki are rarely up to date. The transactions are slow and crash frequently.

    I think we are seeing a period of increasing competition among bots and new bot operators entering the market, which is good for speculators and players alike. It seemed to me that in the past, new operators would come in and get swept out by shifts in the market, but the newer ones are sticking around these days and making improvements in service and pricing. This goes for booster bots too, the old booster monopoly looks like it has crumbled.

  3. Great article, guys.

    One thing I might take issue with: you mention it’s good to play with the cards you speculate one. I generally agree with what you say about enjoying your cards, but I would add a couple words of caution:

    1) Often the best investments are counter-cyclical (i.e. buying Modern staples when Modern is out of season). If you are buying cards to play with, you run the risk of buying cards at the height of their price.

    2) A related point: the cards people want for decks are usually those that already have that premium built in to their prices. So the pressure then comes to stay ahead of the curve and find the _next_ big deck, which not everyone can do.

    3) If the cards you purchase for speculation have a “dual purpose” for playing, it becomes psychologically easier to write off losses and not to stay accountable to your bankroll and speculating goals. As you and Matt have written, it is important to record all purchases and the purpose for the purchase. If it’s a card for playing, that’s fine, and you may even be willing to overpay, but it’s worth being clear from the start.

    4) Needing a card for a deck makes it harder to sell that card, even when the price has peaked and is in decline. (This has cost me a lot of tix…)

    You have been quite successful with this approach, so it certainly can work. But it needs to be employed systematically and not “loosely”.

    Again, great article, very glad you are writing for this site!

    1. Great points Alexander. Next week we address some of them in terms of mistakes that can be done. Namely, getting attached to cards that have reached their price, not marking your profits/losses on a file, confounding play and business.

      As for your point of staying ahead of the curve, it’s not the easiest thing to do, but it not random either. To generalize a bit, the Meta shifts from aggro variants to control builds, with some good rogue decks showing up. There is a point where following forums and pro players indicates what the trend is, so we prepare sccordingly and buy the needed cards in advance.

      For my part, I am too busy to get attached to a deck, so I am in the Mindset where cards ready for sale are really cards for sale, all other factors being considered

  4. Nice work! Looking forward to more! I’m with Alexander on playing though. I don’t do much of it, probably because I’m so crap at it.

    Anyway, nice point about prices being the same across networks. They’re all the same! I don’t know why I didn’t notice before. I’ve even put together some VBA code in excel that gets prices from across various networks. I don’t know why I bothered. Prices are always the same with Cardhoarder, MTGOTraders and Abumtgo.

    Looking forward to the post about how to bulk buy from bots.

  5. Great article and good job guys!

    There’s so many thing to cover when you want to begin trading on Mtgo, and several ways to do it.

    You’re right to emphasize the sites/bots to watch, that’s where the information is at.

    Even if I think I know my way there’s still many valuable tips to know from other people in the community. Looking forward to seeing the part II.

  6. Jeff talking here

    I knew when I wrote about playing that for pure traders, this might sound wrong. I still think that for new traders, it is a must to play and not just trade. The metagame is so different between paper and MTGO that you must get a feel of it. Also, grinding at the beginning is painfull (doing 10-20 tixs for a full night). Playing adds so much pleasure.

    Finnally, I built my whole collection with this process. I’m still doing it ! For example, I just sold my entire shardless bug legacy deck for a good profit yesterday. I built it when Gerry Thompson won the invitational like 1 month ago. 1 month later, I’m 80 tixs richer while I enjoyed playing for a full month one of the best legacy deck. For sure sometime it might be hard for you to sell, if you can’t have the discipline to do so, I wonder if you’ll have the discipline needed to be a good trader anyway (using spreadsheet,bankroll management,accepting loss,not overcommiting,not investing when there is no opportunity… A lot of these concepts will be in future article). This ask for a lot of discipline!

    But in the end, you have to remember why are you trading for?That’s why we suggested you to ask yourself this question My answer is to build the biggest collection possible and be able to play whatever I want! What’s yours?

    Ty for all replies guys and ty for reading!

    I’m altaran2 on mtgo so feel free to come talk with me!

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