Last time, we went through some of my strategies for maximizing the monetary value of the cards left over after a Draft, as well as my sorting system. Today, we’ll be discussing what I actually do to monetize my sorted cards. Let’s dive right in.
The Trade Binder
I’m not as prolific as some traders, so I carry only a single trade binder. The cards inside are split into two sections: Standard in the front half, non-Standard in the back. Each of these sections are organized by color in WUBRG order, followed by multicolor cards, artifacts, and lands. This is an intuitive order for people that are looking for cards in specific colors, as well as for me when I need to access cards quickly.
Since I don’t play a lot of Constructed, my trades are almost always for speculative purposes. At any one time, I tend to target 10-20 specific cards of which I can amass a sizeable number (for me, 10-30 copies) before an anticipated price spike. Lately, I’ve been focusing on shock lands, undervalued Return to Ravnica block mythics, and low-priced Modern staples like Birthing Pod. Since my binder doesn’t see a ton of turnover, I tend to target long-term holds rather than short-term flips.
If I notice a card has been in my trade binder for some time without anyone expressing interest, I will usually try to sell the card. In my local community, we have a Facebook group for discussion of spoilers, decks, upcoming events, and other Magic topics. If your community doesn’t have one of these groups set up, I highly recommend spearheading such a creation. It’s a great social outlet, but it’s also an invaluable tool for financiers. Why?
- It’s a forum to discuss buying and selling cards without violating the no-cash-transactions-between-customers policy that exists in almost every LGS.
- You can sell cards around eBay prices but avoid fees, shipping times, and potentially shady buyers.
- It facilitates trades with players who don’t come out to the LGS very often.
- If you’re looking for one specific card, it’s often easier to put out a Facebook alert than to dig through everyone’s trade binder at FNM.
Of course, if no one has traded for the card at FNM, then it won’t always sell in my community. If that’s the case, I determine whether eBay or buylisting to my LGS is the best move. In my experience, eBay offers a better return for higher value cards and playsets. For low-end cards and bulk, selling to my LGS has been the most time-effective way and I have not lost too much in value, either.
The Speculation Box
I have a box in which I keep cards that I intend to sell or trade someday, but that I am not willing to trade today. It always stays at home. This box has two types of cards: 1) cards that already have value but that I expect to gain more (e.g. Birthing Pod, Steam Vents, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, etc.), and 2) cards that are currently around bulk but that I expect to rise above that level, often due to casual demand after the set rotates (e.g. Breaking // Entering, Mind Grind, Thespian's Stage, etc.). I go through this box every few weeks and check prices as necessary. Anything that has seen a spike to the point where I am willing to trade it goes into the trade binder.
The Bulk Rares Box
A couple years ago, Sam Glitch wrote an article for QS called, “The real-life MTGO bot – how I use a bulk box to double my collection automatically.” I recently started using his method and I’ve managed to net 20-30 bulk rares in the last several weeks. It’s been especially useful to have around, however, when I’m a dollar or two off in a trade. It’s easy to hand it to someone and say, “Take any X cards in this box to make up the difference.” People like choices, even if none of the choices are particularly good. In addition to bulk rares, I also put bulk foil uncommons, commons, and basic lands into the box. I don’t want these types of things in my trade binder but I like to have them available for when I need them. This has been a handy system, so thanks to Sam and QS.
Bulk Commons and Uncommons
It pains me to sell bulk commons and uncommons at $5 per 1000, so I’ve found a couple different ways to get additional value from them all. The first is eBay lots. Before reading about Sam’s MTGO-bot box, this was my primary way to out bulk rares. I list several lots of 100-200 commons, 50 uncommons, and a flexible number of rares. In the description for these auctions, I always state that this is a great way for beginning players to get some cards. I don’t advertise these as re-packs, but more along the lines of the Deckbuilder’s Toolkits that WotC has released a couple times. The final bid is always higher when I scale the number of rares. I choose a flat number to start, but then include one additional rare per dollar spent on the winning bid, rounded up (for example, ten rares no matter what, plus 14 additional rares for a winning bid of $13.01). As a seller, these offer a lot of buck for your bang—you’re getting way more than a penny per common and well above a quarter for bulk rares (before shipping and fees). I almost always throw in additional goodies (cards or random swag), and I have never had a complaint.
There are downsides to this system, however, which have caused me to not run any of these in a while. Obviously, we have shipping and fees. eBay fees have been well discussed on this site. They’re not a deal-breaker, but they definitely shave our profits. Shipping is worse, though, as it can cost $5-10 to ship a small box full of bulk. I have found the most efficient (and customer pleasing) way to ship is the small USPS Priority Shipping box, which costs $5 to ship and holds 200-250 cards. After shipping and eBay fees, we only end up with about $8 for a $15 sale, but that’s still a very good rate for 250 bulk cards.
The other problem, and the main reason I moved away from this method, is that I couldn’t keep up with the necessary rares. As a drafter, most of my leftovers are commons and uncommons, but I found these eBay lots were draining my bulk rare pile but still leaving me with too many lower-rarity cards. This type of lot sells for basically nothing when no rares are included, so I’ve largely abandoned the practice. However, if you find yourself with a lot of bulk rares of which you’d like to rid yourself, you can get great returns this way.
In my experience, Craigslist has been the fastest and most profitable tool for outing bulk. Lately, I’ve been putting together long boxes filled with 20-30 of each basic land, 200 uncommons, and enough commons to fill out the rest. I list these on Craigslist as a great buy for new players. I don’t try to misrepresent what these are—if asked I’ll always say they are Draft leftovers and that there won’t be a lot of Standard playables left. This has not deterred much interest from casual players, and I’ve gotten as high as $15 for 1000 bulk cards including no rares. People are stoked to get so many cards for so little, and I am thrilled to get that much for bulk.
Turning a Profit
I don’t always turn a profit on my Drafts. Yes, there are weeks when I win the Draft with $30 worth of cards, but there are also weeks when I open nothing of value and lose in the first round. Stretching bad cards into a few bucks can help mitigate losing weeks and help make winning weeks more profitable.
I know from personal experience that it is absolutely possible to build a collection through Draft. If you know card values and can win the occasional event, it’s possible to build a deck for less than the cost of the singles in it. But even if you end up paying full price for the deck, you still get to Draft a bunch of times before reaching that point. Sure, you’re not going to build the deck as fast as just buying the cards, but you’ll get to play a whole lot of Magic along the way.
For the QS Insider looking to make as much profit as possible, Draft probably isn’t the way to go. But for someone looking to play Magic inexpensively while steadily growing a collection into something valuable, Draft is fantastic. You can play once a week during a year for less than the cost of many Standard decks, and you end up with 156 packs worth of cards when the year ends. If you win a decent amount and make intelligent trades, it’s possible to play for free, all while building a collection.
Draft is my favorite format, and I am willing to pay for the experience. But as I’ve refined the methods I’ve described here, it’s become less and less expensive. Do you have any tips or tricks for cutting down on the costs of your own Drafts? Please share them in the comments below!