Insider: The Tracks of my Trades, 2012 Edition (Part Two)

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Last year, I kept a record of all the trades I made during the Scars of Mirrodin rotation. A couple articles ago, I examined several of these to get a sense of what I was doing right, what I was doing wrong, and how best to proceed with this year’s rotation. Today I’ll be going through more trades, and with hindsight I hope to determine if my trading strategies are sound. Let’s begin:

Trade 1 – October 1, 2013

I traded out:

1x Temple Garden $10.93 (then), $12.55 (now)

I received:

$11 cash

I got retail value at the time of this transaction, but the purchaser clearly knew what he was doing, as the card spiked to $16.56 just two-and-a-half weeks later. Still, though, at current prices getting $11 on shock lands is quite good, so it’s not like this was a disaster of a transaction. At the time, I was anticipating all of the shock lands to fall to $8 after enough Return to Ravnica was opened. Many of the shock lands followed this prediction, but Temple Garden did not.

What can we learn from this?

1. Cash is king, and if someone is offering you retail value on a card, you’d better have a good reason not to take it. A good reason might be that the card is poised to spike and today’s retail price is tomorrow’s buy-list price, or that you need the card for play, or any number of reasons. But short of these, turning cardboard into cash is usually the right play—there are just so many more things you can do with dollar bills.

Trade 2 – October 5, 2013

I traded out:

1x Jace, Architect of Thought $39.52 (then), $11.97 (now)

I received:

1x Misty Rainforest $17.12 (then), $52 (now)
1x Arid Mesa $11.20 (then), $36.15 (now)

Total: $28.32 (then), $88.15 (now)

The funny thing about this trade is that the very next day, Star City Games raised its price for Jace to $49.99, and I was super bummed that I had lost out. I had already given a premium to pick up the fetch lands I needed, and I was worried that the timing of the trade was such that I had ripped myself off. Had I missed the next Mind Sculptor?

What can we learn from this?

2. As it turns out, no, I did not miss the next Mind Sculptor. It’s an adage repeated over and over again on this site and on the Brainstorm Brewery cast: sell into the hype. The new Standard hotness is so, so unlikely to hold value, and it is almost always correct to trade it out for established cards. Sure, you might occasionally trade your Voice of Resurgences at $30 and lose some profit, but think of all the losses you avoided by trading out your Ral Zareks, Master of Cruelties, and Blood Scriveners at pre-order prices. A blanket “sell” on new product might have you losing money on individual cards, but your overall balance will almost always be positive.

Trade 3 – October 5, 2013

I traded out:

1x Talrand, Sky Summoner $5.33 (then), $1.32 (now)
2x Azorius Charm $0.77 (then), $0.98 (now)
1x Dryad Militant $0.88 (then), $0.33 (now)

Total: $7.75 (then), $3.61 (now)

I received:

1x Sol Ring (Revised) $7.20 (then), $10.97 (now)

It seems like you just cannot go wrong trading Standard cards for established older cards.

What can we learn from this?

3. I always keep uncommons from the new set in my trade binder for the first couple weeks. I’ve noticed that these cards are often disproportionately hype-priced when compared to many rares, and if Standard players need the cards for play, it’s possible to get some real value for them. They almost always drop significantly, and even when they don’t (such as Azorius Charm above), you’re not losing that much value (note: this applies to Standard-only cards. Eternal-playable uncommons can get ridiculously expensive).

4. Be sure to check out the condition of cards you’re trying to acquire. I failed to look at the back of the Sol Ring until well after the trade, and was horrified to find that it was moderately played, with lots of whitening around the borders. The front half looked pristine, so I was not expecting this. Ultimately, I’m still glad I made the trade, but I might have been able to get a slightly better price if I had noted the wear during negotiations.

5. Talrand was seeing a good amount of play in Delver decks before rotation, but for those paying attention, it was pretty clear that Delver was on the way out. With a significant reduction of cheap, effective spells in the format (losing Aerial Responder and Phyrexian mana was especially brutal), Talrand had nowhere to go but down, and I traded him at the right moment. What current decks are dependent on Innistrad Block cards to function? Identifying these now can help you lock in some profits before cards become obsolete.

Trade 4 – October 5, 2013

I traded out:

1x Overgrown Tomb $15.99 (then), $9.43 (now)
1x Mizzium Mortars $4.69 (then), $2.90 (now)

Total: $20.68 (then), $12.33 (now)

I received

4x Thalia, Guardian of Thraben $4.44 (then), $2.99 (now)

Total: $17.76 (then), $11.96 (now)

I appear to have lost this trade, but I have not lost all hope. Thalia has plenty of room to grow, although so does Overgrown Tomb. So maybe I broke even?

What can we learn from this?

6. Sometimes you can trade away cards for the right reason ($16 was way too high for [card]Overgrown Tomb[card] at this time), and trade for cards for the right reason (Thalia had all the pertinent criteria to become a $15+ card), and you still might not come out ahead. Wizards has proven in the last year that they will reprint Modern-legal cards with abandon, so try not to overextend on these types of specs. The Event Deck reprinting of Thalia was painful for those who went deep.

7. Don’t tilt if a spec doesn’t work out. I still have these very same Thalias stashed away because I believe the card will still hit $10 someday. It’s easy to have a fire sale if something goes awry, but a bump in the road doesn’t necessarily spell disaster.

Trade 5 – October 19, 2013

I traded out:

1x Ash Zealot $2.90 (then), $1.48 (now)
3x Cryptborn Horror $0.56 (then), $0.25 (now)
2x Yoo-hoo beverages $1 (then and now)

Total: $6.58 (then), $4.23 (now)

I received:

1x Wurmcoil Engine $8.82 (then), $13.93 (now)

Occasionally you’ll trade with a casual player who just doesn’t care about the card you want, but doesn’t really have anything in mind to acquire. This was one such trade. The guy did not want the Wurmcoil at all, but couldn’t come up with a stack of cards that I felt comfortable exchanging for it. We were in an LGS so I couldn’t offer cash to even things out, so I asked him if there was any product I could buy for him. Two Yoo-hoos later and I was the proud owner of a Wurmcoil Engine.

What can we learn from this?

8. Get creative! There are more ways to even out trades than just cash and cards.

Last Thoughts

Between this article and my last trade retrospective, I’ve outlined 18 lessons I’ve learned in less than a month of trading during last year’s rotation. But you know, until I put all of this knowledge into practice, these are just words on a page. I’m looking forward to using the principles I’ve outlined in these two articles to make my trades during this rotation more profitable, more informed, and more fun. I’ve enjoyed going through last year’s trades, so I intend to track everything this year, as well. Reviewing my habits, preferences, successes, and failures has been a real learning experience, and the same is open to you. All you have to do is a little bookkeeping.

3 thoughts on “Insider: The Tracks of my Trades, 2012 Edition (Part Two)

  1. Overestimating the condition of white bordered cards is a common pitfall. They often look really good from the front. Always, always make sure to check the entire card when trading.

  2. I really liked this article and ones similar to it. These types of articles let other see how traders work. As an avid trader, I always like to see what everyone else is doing. Good Job. I look forward to more articles like this one.

  3. While it sucks to learn the lessons…they are often valuable and using them to warn/help others is a great way to take the losses and turn them into something positive.

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