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Jason’s Archives: Why Not Waste Your Time?

Greetings, Spittons!

So, Sigmund wrote an article.

A Weekly Occurrence

Sigmund writes lots of articles. This one in particular gave me an idea for what I wanted to write about today before we get to the part of the article people actually read.

Here is the article in question.

If you’re not an Insider, that’s too bad because there is a lot of decent info available to Insiders. If you are, you’ve likely read this already because why would you not read one of Sigmund’s articles? The only thing more fun than reading them is pretending you don’t.

Get it? Because the title is “Don’t waste your time” so I pretended I didn’t read it because I implied reading it would have been a waste of time and you got the joke so let’s move on. If you haven’t read the article, read it now.

I’ll wait.

All done? For those among you incapable of reading Insider content, Sigmund told a story of his time spent digging through a bulk box and using the Trader Tools app (love it!) to find the highest buylist prices and then realizing he was making about $4 an hour and his time was more valuable than that. I absolutely agree that if you have to look up the price of every single card, it’s going to be time-consuming and probably not worth the payoff. What if I told you that the only way you’d make $4 an hour was by doing it laboriously and that I make significant money pricing out stuff at buylist prices? Would you like to know how I’d suggest doing it?

When Is a Waste of Time Not a Waste of Time?

I agree with Sig. If you’re going to look up the price of every card on Trader Tools, you’re going to have a bad time. With it taking around 10-20 seconds to look up each card, if you’re not finding a dollar bill every tenth card, it’s probably not going to end up being worth it. But I think about cards a bit differently because I have hundreds of thousands of the damn things in my basement.

I get unpicked bulk at $5/thousand on the ins because it’s almost always worth my time to pick it (for $^%&’s sake, look what Corbin found in a collection a guy shipped him that was all ‘bulk’).

Yes, in real life someone shipped a Loyal Retainers as “bulk” because he couldn’t read the card, saw a silver expansion symbol and just wanted rid of the card. Is this an outlier? Yeah, but it helps illustrate my point. If you buy unpicked bulk and collections, you’re going to find a ton of money picking.

I pull Imperious Perfects out of bulk that I got buying a collection from someone who looked up the price of every single rare. I don’t even look through the stuff when I buy it anymore, I just count it, tell the seller I’m paying $5/k sight unseen and have myself a ball picking through it later. You’ll pull older cards that didn’t have colored expansion symbols, 4th edition rares like Laces (a dime’s a dime) or even stuff like Sylvan Library. Or, the best thing I ever pulled out of a bulk box, a foil Daze and four foil Cabal Therapy. But once the obvious huge stuff is out, you’re left with piles and piles of “picks”.

There are two extreme views to take with regard to “picks”.

  1. Igor Shapiro (@IgorFinance on twitter) once said “only pick nickels if you hate yourself”. One extreme is to disregard picking carefully and bulk out most of the stuff since it’s not worth your time to pick nickels out of bulk once all of the foil Dazes are in your binder.
  2. Sigmund’s example of doing it wrong is spending an inordinate amount of time picking super carefully and then looking up every price in a time-consuming manner. If you’re spending 20 seconds to verify that a nickel is indeed a nickel, the amount of time you’ll take to get through even one of the 5 1k boxes you got in a collection that afternoon will reduce the amount you’re making below minimum wage, and it will feel like work.

I see these two extreme views (don’t look anything up, look everything up) as both accomplishing the same goal — reducing the amount of money you should be making from collections you buy and cards you have lying around. Even though they’re opposing views, they have the same poor outcome. I see the viewpoints like this.

If you don’t pick any of the cards that are low value but add up then you’re not optimizing how much you make per collection. If you waste too much time over-scrutinizing buylists, you’re not optimizing how much you make per hour.

You’re Sure Talking a Lot of Smack About Igor and Sigmund

See, I wanted to address this point before we went further so I invented this rhetorical device to pretend you’re asking me the question. I can do that.

Neither of these views are actually espoused by these two gentlemen. I simply took two opposing ideas that one could extrapolate from things they said and took them to their extreme logical conclusion so I could have an excuse to include a graph. I labeled them with their names because I used their names in the numbered list above. Make sense? In reality, Sigmund cautioned against wasting too much time buylisting and Igor taught me the trick of separating commons from uncommons and selling just the uncommons to CoolStuffInc. He may not pick nickels, but he’s not leaving dimes lying around.

Back to the Graph

We have a nice bell curve here with two extreme views represented by the ends of the graph. I think in order to make it worth your while you should stake yourself a position in the middle.

If you don’t spend zero time or infinite time, but rather a moderate amount of time working effectively, you’ll maximize your profit per hour and wring all of the money you can from the collection, leaving less on the table. You’ll do this by employing a few key shortcuts.

1. Ogre

In this case, Ogre is a verb, not a noun. When you take a pile of cards that are all the same buylist price and put them in boxes with other cards organized by price, this is known as Ogreing, named for the floor trader-turned-dealer who popularized the practice.

Most of the time buyers at a GP don’t want to spend a million years pricing a bunch of commons and uncommons, but they still need that stuff. What you do is say “Everything in this stack buylists for a nickel” and let them pick out everything they want from that pile. It saves everyone a ton of time, you get paid what you can live with getting paid on the cards, they don’t have to look anything up and you don’t have to mail a million packages to a million buylists.

Sure, Trader Tools can reveal that Troll and Toad is paying 25 cents randomly on four copies of Fleshbag Marauder for one week only, but if every dealer is paying a dime on them, and you know this, why take the time to type “Fleshbag Marauder” into Trader Tools? Why not quickly throw it in the 10 cent pile and get ten cards priced in twenty seconds instead of one? Ogreing allows you to save a lot of time on the floor of a GP, which keeps your “dollars per hour” number in the black.

This is by far the best way to get rid of stuff. You don’t have to mail it, no one person has to take all of it and occasionally a dealer will pay 15 cents for something they pay 25 cents on because everyone else is paying 15 cents and this will make them happy to see you in the future.

2. Guess

Guess sometimes. If Stronghold Mana Leak sells for 50 cents, how much would you want to pay as a dealer? Probably not 50 cents. Probably not even a quarter. Would you be OK paying 15 cents? Maybe, but the dealer would be elated to pay a dime, and you should be elated to get a dime. If you can do that calculation in your head in around a second just by going with your gut you can save some time. You want them to take stuff from you next time you bring them a box. Even if you don’t get the maximum amount from the card by finding the exact dealer that’s paying more than everyone else, you’re making way more than the half a cent you’d get bulking the card, and more than the zero cents you’ll get letting it sit in a box.

Some stuff you’ll have to look up. Do you know how much Tainted Peak buylists for? Probably not, so look stuff like that up. I do, because I looked it up one time, which brings me to my next point.

3. Remember Stuff

It takes ten to twenty seconds to look up the price of Tainted Peak. But that’s not to say it will take you ten minutes for a pile of thirty Tainted Peaks. Your time cost to look up stuff is divided by the total number of copies of that card as long as you remember. The nice thing about putting the cards in piles is that it’s quicker to check a pile for the same card if you can’t remember than it is to look it up in Trader Tools. If you’re at this for a few hours, you’ll see cards you’ve seen before and you won’t have to look them up again.

The point of Sigmund’s article was as you go too far to the right side of the graph above, it stops being worth it. I’m advocating using a few simple time-saving tips to keep yourself right in the middle of that bell curve so you can watch your dimes turn into dollars. This assumes you have a GP to go to, but really any event where multiple dealers are buying will do. Even people who sell on eBay and TCGPlayer like buying Ogred boxes because no one has to look anything up and they know they’ll make a profit.

If you err on the side of underpricing so people are happy to take the Ogred boxes from you in the future and are willing to haggle, you’re going to make much more than the half a cent per card you’ll get for true bulk. Getting $1 for an Invisible Stalker feels really good, and if you take a few seconds to jam a stack of them in a box, you’re making $100,000 an hour for a few seconds, and even averaging that out over the whole night puts you above $4 an hour.

I’m suggesting you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Absolutely don’t spend too much time messing around with different buylists. That’s insane. But if you can make money from your bulk by employing a few simple tricks, heading too far toward the origin on that bell curve is equally bad when there’s so much money to be made in the middle.

I’m Not Even Mad

Sure, they didn’t play Legacy in Somerset, New Jersey. But they did play Team Sealed, so how can you be mad? Sure, I don’t want Legacy to die, but if we get to play the occasional awesome format on a Sunday, I can’t complain (sometimes I still do). But no point in protracted discussion of Team Sealed, it tells us nothing of the meta. And we need to know all about how the new cards affected the meta.

SCG Somerset Standard Top Decks

Three Jund in the Top 8. Three Reanimator in the Top 8.

Jund did what everyone thought it would and jammed a bunch of Sire of Insanity. The card gives slower decks fits and hampers their ability to make you miserable with [card Prime Speaker Zegana]Zegana[/card] and Sphinx’s Revelation. Jund decks typically topdeck a bit better, so making everyone topdeck seems fine. Did you buy Sire at $2 when I suggested it on Twitter? If you did, you’ll be glad they’re $6 now.

Owen Turtenwald made me smile by jamming a Deadbridge Chant in his sideboard to hose the mirror and control matchups. I never considered running Chant and Sire at the same time, but the more I think about it, the more Chant seems busted. If both players are topdecking, the guy who draws two a turn usually wins, especially if he can access some of the stuff he was forced to discard. I think Blood Scrivener plus Sire is cute. I think Chant plus Sire is potent.

A brief aside about Deadbridge Chant. I was really afraid this card was going to turn into another Seance. The card seemed potent and underpriced, and when we tested it, it outperformed even lofty expectations. But every time I tried to tell someone how good it was in testing I heard a lot of “herp, derp, random sucks.”

Yes, the card drawn or reanimated is random. So is the card you draw each turn off the top of your deck. What if you use Harvest Pyre so the only card in your yard is a Griselbrand? What if your yard is empty and you get back the same copy of Abrupt Decay three turns in a row? What if, worst case scenario, you have a Phyrexian Arena and best case scenario you have a Debtor’s Knell?

A lot of this community has made up their mind about Deadbridge Chant already and I think that’s too bad. Use your imagination a little. This card draws you cards, gets around Ground Seal, dredges (I hear there is a certain troll that dredges for 10) and costs an amount of mana that would draw you three cards ever if it came in the form of Sphinx’s Revelation.

Test the stupid card. Don’t say “oh, it went from $2 to $8 because of speculators,” test it. Don’t say “It’s a Staff of Nin” because you thought it was cool when someone on StarCity said that, test it. If you test it and still don’t like it, fine. But don’t let your limited perception of a card you barely read stop you the next time someone tells you to buy a card at $2 and it’s $8 a week later and you have 0 copies. I think the endless possibilities for a powerful card like this will help it maintain its $8 price tag — mitigating the increased supply as weeks go on with an equally increased demand. But don’t take my word for it — test it.

Jund also got Putrefy. Not Mortify to make a potential Esper deck better. No, Wizards decided to reprint a card to improve the most dominant and least imaginative deck in the format. I wonder why Wizards hates people who don’t play Jund. They can say they don’t, but it sure feels that way.

Reanimator added Sin Collector. If this is the degree to which the format changes, I may as well just wait until June to write this portion of the article again.

Bant Hexproof added Armadillo Cloak Unflinching Courage which I kind of like. Trample on a Fencing Ace is the last thing the deck needed. It also got one of the big cards of the weekend, Voice of Resurgence. Even though Voice went from $22 to $30 very quickly, I am glad I didn’t buy in at $22. I think the decks that want this card will want four. I just don’t think any decks will want fewer and not that many decks can run it without changing the rest of the deck entirely. I don’t know if this card will maintain its high status (currently outpricing even Ral Zarek), but a lot of influential people can’t speak highly enough of this card. My advice is to pack it and sell while it’s high. I wouldn’t trade for these at $30.

Advent of the Wurm had a big weekend, but not as big as some hoped. Still, this Bant flash deck looks techy and fun, and it beats playing stupid Jund. Jeff Hoogland was talking about all the Flash variants he tested and I’m betting a lot of people tried Plasm Capture in the spot currently occupied by Rewind. Flash decks can’t use all that much mana mainphase anyway.

I think the only intelligent thing anyone has said about Plasm Capture was Frank Lepore’s suggestion to use the extra mana mainphase to cast dudes and your lands EOT to play threats and other Plasm Captures. But ultimately I think Rewind on their turn then EOT Sphinx’s Revelation or Advent is probably better. That was what Jeff Hoogland said after he tested, anyway. Don’t take my word for it. If you took my word for it, you’d be rolling around on a pile of money you made when Deadbridge Chant hit $8.

Finally, Ral Zarek got a test drive in the U/W/R deck. (The next mouth-breather who calls U/W/R decks “American” is going to repeat their high school geography class at gunpoint). I didn’t have any faith in Ral being good in anything, but he must have done some work because William Eades got third with the deck. Still, the deck was pretty good before. I don’t see any obvious prima facie utility for Ral but I’ll jam a few games and see whether I want to out the Rals I have now or wait for a repeat of the ridiculous $50 weekend [card Jace, Architect of Thought]Architect of Thought[/card] experienced. I’d recommend trying to pack these or pay buylist in cash if someone opens them in your shop. Retail is likely too high.

There you have it. I think the metagame will shift more dramatically when people have more time to test. I think Deadbridge Chant is worth building around. I think Sire is here to stay but it should probably be in the board since it’s a Sivitri Scarzam against half of the field. I think Zarek warrants testing, Voice is probably overpriced and I can’t wait for everything Jund loves to rotate completely.

Join me next week when we’ll have lots more Jund decks to analyze.

Post categories: Free, Free Finance, Selling, Web Review


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Jason Alt

Jason Alt

Jason Alt is a value trader and writer. He is Quiet Speculation's self-appointed web content archivist and co-captain of the interdepartmental dodgeball team. He enjoys craft microbrews and doing things ironically. You may have seen him at magic events; he wears black t-shirts and has a beard and a backpack so he's pretty easy to spot. You can hear him as co-host on the Brainstorm Brewery podcast or catch his articles on Gatheringmagic.com. He is also the Community Manager at BrainstormBrewery.com and writes the odd article there, too. Follow him on Twitter @JasonEAlt unless you don't like having your mind blown.

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16 thoughts on “Jason’s Archives: Why Not Waste Your Time?

  1. I really enjoyed the article and hadn’t considered “ogreing” before, but given that’s basically taking the “bulk rare box” concept and simply extrapolating it to lots of boxes with known values (I believe Chas Andres mentions doing something similar) is a very useful and time-friendly strategy. Thanks

  2. The “ogreing” idea is a great one. I have a GP coming up next month (Providence), and I may try this strategy out. But how do you know what’s $0.10 and what’s worthless? Do you just go with your gut? Should I just take a few guesses and make piles and offer them up at a flat buy price at events? Interesting idea!

    1. I think a lot of it may stem from “gut” after all since you’re letting buyers pick through at a set price..if none of the buyers want a card @ 0.10 then maybe take it out and remember it’s not worth that. The only risk you run is if you undervalue a card, but again one of his points was that if you wouldn’t do any sorting at all, you’d either keep the cards and not get any $ of of them or you’d ship everything at bulk rate and lose even more money…so you’re still falling somewhere in between (even if you’re wrong).

      1. If it\’s a good card and dealers keep flipping by it you may want to ask them why they don\’t want it at the price you have it at. If multiple dealers say \”it\’s too much\” offer it at a lower price. Sometimes the reason they don\’t take it is they have enough of them. The dealers who drive to events are more likely to take large quantities of items from you than dealers who flew and have to pay per pound on their freight flying home. Plan accordingly.

        1. Hey, I like the term American simply because it is easier to say that “red white blue deck” Yes the French flag is also UWR, but at this point saying French deck might imply I’m playing reanimater.

          Anyhow, actually really look foreward to your articles every week Jason. Keep up the good work.

  3. Speaking from a dealer standpoint I love it when you bring me Ogred boxes (is Ogre still a proper noun when used as a verb?). It make the whole transaction much easier. Sometimes there are things slightly higher than I’d like to pay for them, sometimes lower, but the risk of playing 20 cents for a 10 cent buylist card is outweighed by the fact that it takes 5 minutes to buy a whole box instead of an hour for me to price it out. Time is money.

  4. What a fantastic idea. I\’m thinking of big boxes I have where I could just sort them a little and bring them to a dealer – \”everything in here is a quarter, go nuts.\” Like David said, if it is not sorted, it is not making money for you anyway. It is just sitting in a box.

    1. I like linking my articles outside of QS. I hope I didn\’t give too much away that you feel like only Insiders should have access to. I just prefer to write on the free side because it helps my shameless self promotion efforts. I can\’t tell if you liked the article or you\’re pissed that you\’re paying for Insider and I\’m giving out info for free.

      1. Personally, I have the opinion that QS should leak from time to time this kind of articles more financial oriented as a teaser. I liked the article a lot. I was just wondering why this article was not selected for the insider section… I was not aware that decision was up to the writers.

  5. This is an excellent article. I just found this site at the last pre-release (no it wasn’t shouted across the room)…

    I can’t wait to read some insider articles. If you guys have this level of writing on a regular basis, it would be stupid not to sign up.

  6. I like the helpful information you supply on your articles. I will bookmark your blog and check again here frequently. I’m moderately sure I’ll be told a lot of new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!

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