Jason’s Alticle: The Cost of Doing Business

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You're supposed to Capitalize each important word in a headline but to me, it always ends up looking like something tweeted by Spike Lee.



You know what else is a cheap trick? Taking 8% of your money.

That Time I Almost Lost 8%

Like none of you know because you don't see me as a person, but rather an advice dispenser that is only as valuable as my last good spec tip, I live in Michigan. On purpose.

It's cold as balls in December, the unemployment is high and no one realizes that the movie Robocop was satire, but there are real advantages to living here, too. A low cost of living means it's almost too easy to make a living at MTG finance. Also, this weekend, living in Michigan came in handy when I decided I wanted to drive to Grand Prix Toronto.

Easy Come

We drove across one of the bridges and stopped on the Canadian side to exchange money. Each American dollar was buying us $1.05 Canadian, which doesn't exactly harken back to the salad days of a strong American dollar, but isn't a shotgun blast to the groin either.

If something that cost $1 in the US was only going to cost $1.05 in Canada, that would be super, but we know that isn't true. Gas, food, hotels, even Canadian strip clubs cost more because anything smaller than a $5 bill comes as a coin and it's impossible to slip a Loonie into some high school dropout's G-string. Still we got a modest bump at the border and we were going to make the best of it.

Easy Go

I knew I was going to Canada to sell Magic cards and chew bubble gum and a pack of bubble gum is like $11 in Canada. That 5% bump was ever present in the back of my mind because I knew that everything I made up there was going to be subject to the sticky end of the currency conversion rate on the way home.

I assumed I would lose 5% going back across the border, potentially because I am rather naive. Part of this naivete was fueled by the fact that previous trips to Canada were on the heels of American Grands Prix and a lot of the dealers still had a lot of their money in US dollars.

Since the exchange rate was pretty close, they paid me in American dollars and saved themselves having to exchange them and I saved myself the same hassle. I was hoping to work that same deal this time around and no one took me up on it.

That 5% I'd lose changing Canadian plastic loony fun bucks into actual currency? Yea, it's was more like 8.125%

How I Accidentally Got There

Despite spending all of Sunday and a few hours of Friday and Saturday selling to dealers, I only came back with about $200 Canadian to exchange. I lost ~$16 where I expected to lose only $10 and wasn't the happiest camper.

I wasn't the unhappiest camper in my car because my constant companion and partially-hetero lifemate Ryan Bushard had quite a bit more money to exchange and the dick sammich he ate at the border was much larger and without condiments.

How did I avoid such a fate? Total accident.

Okay, perhaps it wasn't a total accident. I sat down at all the dealer tables with most of my cards ogred. If you aren't familiar with this term, it's one we coined to refer to a technique invented by Matthew "Ogre" Stevens. "Ogreing" is the technique of figuring out the buylist price you need ahead of time for your cards, then sorting them by price. You present the cards to a dealer and tell them to take any cards they want at that price.

It saves them having to look stuff up on a buylist, it saves you taking a number that's lower than you wanted and has the side effect of occasionally getting a dealer to take a card at a higher price than they would have offered because they find they want the card enough.

You run the risk of them taking a card at a lower price than they would have offered, but, who cares? If it was a number you were happy with when you put it in the box at that price, you lost nothing, and saved a ton of time in the process.

Ogreing a portion of my cards saved me a ton of time. For higher-end stuff you will take the cards to dealers who typically pay the best and let them offer their numbers. Even then, you can save yourself some time by just ogreing to their buylist specifically. If you know which vendors will be at the event you're attending you can see which of them pays the highest and put together a box just for that vendor.

Since my cards were ogred the dealers accepted my numbers with the expectation that they would pay me Canadian dollars for the cards and my expectation was that I would want to get an amount of money that would be equivalent to selling those cards to a buylist in America.

Losing $5 every hundred could be construed as the cost of shipping or whatever other breakage is involved with buylisting, but I wasn't interested in losing 5% on the barrelhead.

I asked to be paid in American dollars which none of the dealers had this time because no one was in America last weekend like last time I was in Toronto. I asked the dealers to tack on 5% and I'd take Canadian money and no one was willing to do that. Oddly enough, I did manage to get one dealer to agree to tack an extra 5% onto their trade-in bonus.

I shipped them a majority of the cards and stocked up on cards that people back home had asked me for. If I sold those cards at TCG Player prices in person I could avoid TCG fees, currency exchange fees and could get the closest possible thing to getting paid in American dollars. Some of their cards were a little overpriced, but a generous trade-in bonus mitigated the higher costs somewhat.

Some cards hadn't gone up yet and lagged behind the American market quite a bit, making them an even better place to stash value. I still wanted to come home with some cash, but I parked a great deal of what I buylisted in cards for orders.

If you go to a lot of Grands Prix or even smaller events with a lot of dealers and know of people who don't get out much, offer to pick them up cards. Sure, anyone could buy stuff online, but sometimes it's easier to get obscure cards through you.

I also advocate making friends of casual players and those kind of players would rather go through someone they trust than order cards online sometimes. I would have no idea what the best website to use for ordering hockey equipment is despite being enthusiastic about hockey, and casual Magic players are the same way about ordering cards online to some extent.

Make a case for it being either easier, cheaper or faster to have you bring them cards back from a GP and you should get some number of people inclined to have you bring them the stuff back. If you get a trade-in bonus for cards you buylisted, you make that bonus percentage on top of the transaction meaning it's better than getting cash and buying cards.

Sure, the buylist only pays 40-60% of a card's value usually, but you were going to buylist anyway. This is a great way to trade piles of cards you don't want for more cash than usual and all you're doing is helping a friend get cards they want. It's a win-win.

Having a long list of cards I needed to bring back for people at home helped me park a lot of my value in cardboard which was not "taxed" at the border. Sigmund makes a good case for using the trade-in bonus instead of taking cash when you buylist cards either in person or through the mail, and while I am not always inclined to agree, it sure paid off in this case!

One more factor on my favor was my inability to resist a "Played Case". Vendors will put cards that are played or damaged in a special fire sale case with very low prices to move through them and I can't not buy cards from them.

$15 Maze of Ith with a little edge wear? Call me Robocop because dead or alive, you're coming with me. $60 Unlimited Tropical Island with a crease in it? Sold!

My actual favorite kind of Magic card is a card played without sleeves on a cafeteria table. The front is pristine and the back is jaaaaacked up. Tapping a card on a hard surface covered in crumbs and other bits of detritus leaves scratches and whitening on the back of the card but leaves the fronts relatively unscathed.

You know which cards were tapped the most frequently in an era before sleeves? If you said "dual lands" then you win a prize. The prize is a bunch of really cheap dual lands if you know where to look.

When I pick those cards up in trade, I make sure to emphasize how jacked up the back is and try to get the lowest price possible. The seller is usually happy that someone is willing to pick up damaged cards. When I get rid of them, I make sure an emphasize how good the front looks and how the card will be played in sleeves anyway making the back irrelevant.

Selling on TCG Player is an excellent way to get rid of played cards because often the pricing difference between conditions is very low (sometimes one penny) and people just want the cheapest copy and won't complain as long as you grade the card correctly.

I bought a lot of played cards at the event and that ate into my cash pile very quickly. Those cards will be turned into dollars back home. I certainly wasn't thinking about how I was beating the exchange rate, I was just unable to pass up a $12 Disciple of Griselbrand with very light scratches on the back that will trade out for near full value.

What I Should Have Said Was Nothing

One more reason I didn't have a ton of cash to bring back with me was the opportunity I had to help raise some money for charity, even if that charity was a crazy Canadian charity whose monetary contributions are, by my math, 92% as effective as American contributions. QS alumnus Ryan Abcede organized some celebrity gunslinging for charity and asked if I'd like to participate.

This guy knows what I'm talking about.

Heavy Meta's Matty Studios, Mana Deprived's Dave Lee (AKA Derfington), myself, Ryan Bushard, and The Eh Team's Scotty Mac all took turns playing against challengers who wagered a charitable donation that they could beat us at cards. There were prizes available if they won, based on the size of the donation.

We all built sealed decks to play against people who wanted to use their pools from the main event but over the course of the day I played every format. I played more games of Magic in nine hours that I have all year, I think, and while it was an exhausting day, screw it, the victims of the typhoon in the Philippines have it a lot worse than I do so I was glad to help.


You can kind of see the back of my head in the middle, there. We raised some money for charity and a good 75% of the people who came up to the table knew who Ryan and I were by virtue of our Brainstorm Brewery t-shirts and my sitting next to Matty. The Eh Team and Heavy Meta are quite popular, especially among Canadians, and I was glad Matty and Scotty were there to lend me some of their gravitas and credibility.

Should what happened in Canada prompt a re-evaluation of buylisting cards for credit instead of cash? Perhaps! Stay tuned for that article as soon as someone else writes it.

Wrapping Up

Since Grand Prix Toronto was sealed, and there was no SCG Open, I can cut out early this week.... there was a GP in Europe, wasn't there? I just know it would be too good to be true.


Okay, I've calmed down now. Let's make a deal. I'll gladly look at the Top 16 of this event and write about any and all new or emerging archetypes.

Let's look at the Top 8.





R/W Devotion


White Weenie

R/W Devotion

Okay, fine. All snark aside, I want to talk about two of these decks. Also worth noting is the absence of Mono-Black in the Top 8. This is worth your time and mine.

White Weenie splashing a teensy bit of red to Boros Charm faces is intriguing. Temple in a deck with twelve one-drops is ballsy but I like it. I think with even the "devotion" decks beginning to jam extra colors, Soldier of the Pantheon is this set's Champion of the Parish.

I expected it to go up when the next set was announced because it will most likely have a multi-colored theme if twitter is to be believed, but it's already crept up to $3 most places. I don't think $3 is terrible, but these are a great trade target and I snagged a ton to launder Canadian money after a trade-in bonus.

Nothing like turning a pile of Heedless Ones into what I picture being a $5-$7 card next year. Is $7 potentially too high? It looks wrong to me and I don't know why. $5 just "feels" like the right number to me but I could be comparing it too much to Champion of the Parish, a card that was actually narrower.

Still, one of you dingleberries is going to say "lol remember when he said Soldier of the Pantheon would be $7? What a jagoff!" in like six months, so let's agree this is a $5 card gettable for $2-$3 now and an excellent trade target.

Ajani continues to be buoyed by decks like this. I don't see room to make money on Spear based on what the other weapons are doing (nothing, that's what) but this has decent EDH appeal. No one plays Coastal Piracy in EDH but a lot of people play anthem effects and this one can keep their general off of your back if they're playing a Voltron deck. Probably no money here, though. White Weenie being viable is cool.

The other deck running Temple of Triumph is a red devotion deck splashing a little white that put two copies in the Top 8. I like all the sideboard options the white splash opens up, and four Sacred Foundry is not a liability and the four Temples of Triumph serve as smoothing that you might want to run anyway just because they're better than a Goblin Mountaineer most of the time.

Chained to the Rocks is great as a white splash. Assemble, Helix, Wear // Tear--all solid cards and you sacrifice nothing to access them. This is the new face of devotion.

Wow, no Mono-Black in the Top 16 at all. Mono-Blue is clearly the heavy favorite. You know what isn't the heavy favorite? Zero copies of Voice of Resurgence in the Top 16. Being as it is from Dragon's Maze, a set worth approximately a pack of Dragon Shields, Voice is unlikely to come down due to the economics of redemption sets.

One way to get more Voices is open DGM packs, which is distasteful to say the least. The other way is through redemption, and if you are buying a redemption set on eBay, you won't want to pay $150 and then turn around and out the Voice for $10. Either redemption stops because it isn't worth it because no one wants the set and demand keeps the price up or the fact that the set is otherwise worthless keeps the price up. Cheap Voice of Resurgence is a pipe dream for a long time to come despite how little play it sees.

That's about all the news that's fit to print out of Austria, so let's say "G'Day" to the Austrians and move on. Throw another shrimp on the barby! Hope a dingdong didn't eat your baby! #AustrianReferences

According to SCG's website, there was no Open this weekend, and also, Willy Edel won GP Toronto with an innovative Jund deck. This is probably a big surprise to Ari Lax who actually won GP Toronto with an innovative draft deck because it was sealed. Ladies an gentlemen, industry leader Star City Games. Let's give them a round of applause.

Hugging and Learning

If this were a heart-warming sitcom, we would talk about what we learned. What did we learn?

I learned that you shouldn't get paid American prices in Canadian dollars if you're going to lose 8%. I learned that if you try to cross into Canada with Deshaun Baylock in your car, you're going to be subject to a "random vehicle search" every single December.

I learned that I still love the played case, Brainstorm Brewery has fans in Canada, blue rare is the only way to order a steak, my EDH decks suck and I wouldn't have it any other way, Canadian hotels don't have free breakfast pretty much ever, there are not 1.8 liters in a gallon so don't assume that's the case when you buy gas, people aren't embarrassed to wear Vancouver Canucks jerseys in public even though they should be and sometimes playing Magic can be fun.

Congratulations to Ari Lax for his win, Ryan Abcede for his successful charitable event (come back and write for us, Ryan) and to the currency exchange in Sarnia, Ontario for getting more value out of Ryan Bushard in five minutes than anyone who traded with him all weekend combined.

I'll be back next week for more money laundering tips and more bitching about how much Mono-Blue there is. Brew something with Voice of Resurgence, people. It's it's going to be $30, it should act $30.

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