This week will be somewhat different, my friends, as I have very limited resources and time to devote to our column.
In a matter of days, I learned that my mother had to be hospitalized, I failed my motorcycle exam (planned as my only leisure for the summer, aside from Magic) and that my wife wants me off of MTGO for quite a while. Plus, Thragtusk, Tamiyo, the Moon Sage and Restoration Angel were cruel reminders that we are not always right at predicting price patterns. There are times like these, where pressure from all over the place signals a time for reflection and where we have to reassess our priorities and our time spent online, managing our bots and our accounts.
If I had more time on my hands, I would have expounded at length on our bot's management and on how we had decided to switch strategies, to make it less time consuming. I will still cover that topic, but maybe not as in depth as I had anticipated.
Whether you intend to create a bot or not, this advice could become helpful when you feel you have lost sight of what is most efficient or most important for you bankroll's growth.
Focus on the Most-Wanted Cards
I don't know if it has happened to you yet, but there will be a time you will own too many cards at once. By this, I mean that you could end up speculating on hundreds of different cards, from different formats. It is much more complicated to manage 200 specs than to own multiple play sets for fewer targets.
Originally, when we started speculating, we would target 20 cards at a time, each of which we spent $150 on. When we established a buy list on our bots, we kept adding potentially interesting cards to our spreadsheets. As the bots started buying, our ticket reserve melted and we found out how diversified we had become.
While diversification is good, being excessively diversified is bad. It's almost impossible to keep track of all the trades on a weekly basis and to update our inventory constantly.
This led us to our first readjustment. We deleted the "less wanted" cards from our bots buylists and determined that our reduced list should focus on safer bets, such as shocklands, that we keep stockpilling at 2.25 a piece. If you keep reading until the end of this article, I put the gravy there. Condensed, uninterpreted data, all yours to digest and discuss with us on the forums. Limited time = straight to the point.
Flipping Cards Is What We Used to Do Best
Even before knowing about the finance community, we were successful at taking advantage of price discrepancies on the Classifieds, either between bots or between buyers and sellers. We specialized in what we came to call "grinding." Buying a card at 11 tix and flipping it back overnight at 12 or even 13 tix. That's a small profit, indeed, but a quick one too.
Then Jeff came up with his ratio (Jeff's ratio). The faster you flip a card, the faster you have your money back for the next flip. This is when we realized bots would come in handy. They were doing the dirty buying for us. At a significant discount, compared to when we were buying manually. Our initial plan was to hold onto our cards until the next Modern or Legacy season, but being able to buy Scalding Tarn almost everyday at 10, and flip them back to other players or other bots at 13.30, we thought we had reached our 30% ROI already, overnight.
Therefore, we have adjusted our strategy regarding our bot's management. We have automated the buying of a newly limited list of cards, and we manually flip those cards the next day, to the best available buyer, human or bot. This process has the huge advantage of avoiding the daily scanning of the Classifieds for desperate sellers. We can focus instead on unloading part of our inventory, based on daily trades. Using Mtgolibrary, we only pay the fees when we buy the cards, and we can transfer the cards we want to sell on a different account. Selling manually has no fees involved.
Post Ads When Nobody Else Does
We tried different formulas for advertising our bots. Some weeks we posted Standard staples to attract players in the hopes that they also dumped more obscure cards at a discount. The strategy is effective only if you offer a premium to compete against the many buyers on the Classifieds. Paying a premium for the most highly-fluctuating cards on the market bears its fair share of risks. Then, owning three bots allowed us to use more ad space. We tried to post one ad for Standard, one for Modern, and one for Legacy.
While it's difficult to pinpoint precisely why one ad has more success than another, one constant factor shows up: If there are very few buyers on the market (say ten), and you offer the best buying price for a specific card, you are much more likely to hit. And if few buyers are out there, it means the card in question is seeing less play.
One blatant example of this is Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Type it in the search field and you will realize that few buyers dare to devote a space in their ads to this iconic card. Few sellers too. Buying at 43 and then manually flipping it back at 47 is somewhat easy and yields a nice 10%. Repeat the process ten times during the week, and you just made $40. You can try the same with other format staples such as Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and basically any dual land out there.
Which brings me to the next advice.
Dare to Aim High
The expensive cards are plenty, and the more expensive they are, the more likely you can find a buy/sell discrepancy and use it to your advantage, if you intend to flip it fast. Tarmogoyf was a good example lately, with lots of price movement. We could buy these at 40 and sell them back the next day at 48. While the ROI is not impressive, the profit is still there. We are experimenting with this formula right now, and even though the risk is apparently greater (more capital invested per card), the quick flip strategy has brought some money back to our coffers.
The Best Flips Come from the Obscure
As I mentionned in the past, running bots means encountering awesome oddities. Some players drop their cards at such amazing discounts that we have a good laugh about it at least once a week. Buying Wasteland at 45 and selling it back at 62 the next morning is a fun sport. There is something to learn from this however: not every player online knows how much movement their cards have undergone in the recent past.
Don't get me wrong here. Avoiding obscure cards should fit in with the previous advice of restricting your buylist. But if your buylist includes cards that have seen some recent movement, but that don't see much play currently, chances are players will rely on their price memory and undervalue what they are selling to you.
Not everyone knows what Creeping Tar Pit, Celestial Colonnade or Seachrome Coast is worth. Nor is everyone checking mtgotraders before confirming the trade. That, my friends, is where we have had the most success so far. To name a few: Spellskite, Birthing Pod, Inkmoth Nexus, Leyline of Sanctity, fetch lands, fast lands, RTR removal.
If you have positioned your buy ads well, with cards that are seeing less demand, your buylist might actually grab additional older cards. Any player may then suddenly remember they had that card in their collection and might gladly depart from it.
Profit from Legacy Staples
Legacy has shown some vigor online this year. Looking for the staples and adding them to your buylist might well end up profitable. Often times, there is less fierce competition from other buyers. Often times, people undervalue their cards. Who knew that Underground Sea is now worth more than $40? And often, when a Legacy player turns to the Classifieds to build his deck, you might end up being the only human out there available to trade.
Legacy has a thin market with few players posting about it. Over time, we found out there were good opportunities for us and we are still profiting from this format, even off-season.
Our Buylist in Bulk
Below is part of our buylist showing our buying prices. You'll be surprised to hear that we have had quite some success with these prices so far. Sincerely, given the limited time I could give to you this week fellow readers, I hope you will enjoy.
MBS;Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas;6.5
WWK;Jace, the Mind Sculptor;43
PRM;Force of Will;68
MED;Force of Will;78
WWK;Creeping Tar Pit;1.15
TSB;Lord of Atlantis;0.63
M11;Leyline of Sanctity;1.25
ROE;Inquisition of Kozilek;0.20
UL;Cloud of Faeries;3.6
V12;Grove of the Burnwillows;4.85
GTC;Obzedat, Ghost Council;8.85
ISD;Geist of Saint Traft;22
CON;Path to Exile;0.25
RTR;Jace, Architect of Thought;12.44
ROE;Linvala, Keeper of Silence;12.85
SOK;Kataki, War's Wage;1
MMA;Kataki, War's Wage;1
FUT;Venser, Shaper Savant;1.49
ROE;Emrakul, the Aeons Torn;8.88
PRM;Emrakul, the Aeons Torn;4.12
M12;Birds of Paradise;0.10
DST;Sword of Fire and Ice;2
MMA;Sword of Light and Shadow;4
MMA;Kira, Great Glass-Spinner;0.51
FUT;Pact of Negation;1
MMA;Bridge from Below;0.5
MMA;Kiki-jiki, Mirror Breaker;4.8