Zero to Draft: The Conclusion, Part Two

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Before reading today’s article, you should definitely read last week’s piece to get up to speed. I’m picking up exactly where we left off, so let’s get started.

6. Bulk-Bulk-Bulkity-Bulk

I made $50 selling bulk commons and uncommons in this project. I wrote all about my process for that already, so I won’t go through the details again. The four 800-card lots I sold (each time I sold two for $25, although I can usually get $15 for one) came out to around 3200 cards. Three Two-Headed Giant Sealed events (played with my wife, so I kept all the cards), one normal Sealed event, and 22 drafts should equal 1520 cards, so in the last nine months I’ve scooped up nearly 1700 free draft leftovers, representing about $25. All this cost me was a little time and carrying a few more ounces of cardboard home each week.

It’s certainly understandable to want to save yourself the mess of tons of draft jank sitting around your house, and if a clutter-free environment (or just not storing extra boxes) is worth more than the few bucks these lots will earn you, you don’t have to mess with them. For my part, I’ve found it’s easy and quick, so I don’t mind making the extra effort to pay for some drafts.

7. Trading Is Dead

Fewer than 20 trades were made for this project. Back when I lost a lot more often but still had the desire to play for free, I was more willing to grind trades, but those days are behind me now. I’ve noticed other financiers mention the dead trading scene, most recently on an episode of Brainstorm Brewery, so perhaps this is not just exclusive to my circumstances.

My point here is that you don’t have to be a heavy trader to be an MTG financier. The trades I do make these days have a purpose: speculation, helping out a friend, getting a card for my cube, or outing a card I believe to have peeked are all valid reasons I might trade. But gone are the days of just trading for the sake of trading. Because I don’t often play constructed formats, I seldom “need” a card, so I maintain the power to just walk away from basically any transaction. This is leverage that has increased the average quality of my trades but has decreased the average number of them. This seems acceptable to me.

8. Speculation Is Unnecessary

To take it even further, I didn’t buy any singles for this project. I took the cards I opened in Limited events and made smart selling and trading decisions (or the lack thereof). When the time is right, I’ll cash out to a buylist. Just as you don’t have to be a heavy trader, MTG finance doesn’t demand you be a speculator, either.

Our community gets a bad rap sometimes, but I believe every player has something to gain from MTG finance. Just because you can afford to pay more for a card doesn’t mean you should. Why not learn some simple concepts and make the hobby less expensive? To me, MTG finance means that you recognize patterns, make smart financial decisions, and don’t let yourself get ripped off. Everything else is just a matter of time commitment and scale.

9. Take the Damn Money Cards

New players are well known for being unable or unwilling to pass rares. Experienced players usually express contempt for such practices, so when a new player starts to transition to the intermediate level, he will start taking commons and uncommons even over cards worth money. The problem is that the newly-intermediate player doesn’t realize that some rares are worth taking even if one won’t play them—and one doesn’t need to feel bad about that.

A player at this point in his development passed me an off-color Courser of Kruphix recently, which obviously just thrilled me. I happened to be in green, so all the better. But even if I hadn’t been, there is no common or uncommon I would have taken over that Courser. The most I could have won in that draft was five packs, which is about the same retail price as that one card.

As happy as I was to get such a nice pass, I felt bad for the guy. He got the idea in his head that “good drafters” take cards that go in their decks, but didn’t stop to consider the bigger picture. That Courser would have paid for his draft, he still would have had 41 cards to build his deck—and he may have never even drawn the Akroan Skyguard he took.

I don’t think he won that night, so he went from guaranteed value to a nearly worthless stack of commons and uncommons. Again, MTG finance means making smart financial decisions, no matter how small the scale.

10. Limited vs. Constructed

I know several players who don’t draft because they claim they can’t afford it. These same players play competitive decks in various constructed formats, which often cost more than the amount it would take to pay for a year of weekly drafting. This has always seemed a little suspect to me, but lately, I’m starting to see their point.

Playing frequent Limited events using the methods outlined in Zero to Draft is a great way for a new player or avid drafter to build a collection, draft often, and play some Magic without having to spend several hundred (or thousand) dollars all at once. That said, because cards from current sets often aren’t worth trading or selling until the following year, drafting does require one to tie some money up in cards that aren’t necessarily being used in the interim.

At my LGS, a draft costs $12 and one pack is added to the prize pool for each of the eight players. A Constructed tournament costs $5 and pays out in store credit. The maximum one can win in a draft is five packs, but a Constructed FNM often pays $40 or $50 in store credit just for making one of the top four slots. So although the initial costs of drafting are much less expensive, the prizes are less enticing and the entry fees are higher. For those with a Constructed deck already built and ready to play, Constructed is clearly the more financially advantageous option.

With the huge expense of a baby coming my way, I admit that where $12 used to seem trivial, it now seems highly irresponsible to tie up money in such a fleeting pursuit—even if I am technically playing for free. I literally have no idea what my ability or desire to get out and play Magic will be like after the young man is here, but all of a sudden, a $5 option with much better (and more flexible) prize support is starting to appeal to me. I have a Modern collection that I haven’t been using, so maybe it’s time to change that.

So yes, it is possible to draft frequently for free, although there’s a waiting game in reaching that point. If we’re being realistic, I have a trade binder with buylist values equal to what I’ve spent on this project, but I’m currently down nearly $100 in actual money. While not a hugely significant amount, if I had been playing Modern every week for this project, who knows what kind of store credit I would have built up by now?

It’s all about opportunity cost and what you find fun. Drafting is hands down my favorite way to play Magic, and although this project was probably not the most financially advantageous use of my MTG time, I made the best decisions I could within the confines of what I was trying to do. With a big (but also quite small) factor entering the equation soon, I’ll now have to decide where my priorities lie. If I’m taking time away from my son to play Magic, it feels to me like the potential payoff should be higher to do so. Because I already have the cards to play, this makes Constructed start to look like a more appealing option.

Setting Priorities

We all have different circumstances, and those circumstances are constantly changing. If you’re mainly a Constructed player, much of this series may not have applied to you. But you might be at a point where following the Zero to Draft gameplan is a great way for you to get started in the game, or maybe you’re like me and just enjoy Limited more than anything else. If that’s the case, I hope I was able to get you started on the right path.

I’d love to hear your success stories, so reach out to me on Twitter at @dbro37. Thanks for following Zero to Draft.

Danny Brown

Danny is a Cube enthusiast and the former Director of Content for Quiet Speculation.

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Posted in Drafting, Finance, Free, Free FinanceTagged ,

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3 thoughts on “Zero to Draft: The Conclusion, Part Two

  1. I used to be the guy that took every rare in a draft. My decks were awful and never less than three colors. Now it pains me to take a rare for money because it is so much fun to build the best possible deck. In the last couple of years I have passed countless $5 cards. This is probably a somewhat bad EV play as the prize support doesn’t quite compensate me even though I often go x-1 and sometimes better. I have had to admit that anymore, when it comes to getting financial value, buying singles > buying a sealed booster box > drafting. Although, if I were willing to have less fun in the draft, I could probably get more value out of the draft than from buying a sealed box.

  2. The best stores I’ve played at have a rare draft at the conclusion of a draft. All the rares and foils get placed on the table. Winner gets first pick and more often than not there is still something decent for last place. Re drafting the rares encourages good drafting and removes any incentive to drafting an off color card that won’t make your deckk.

  3. I think it is a good idea to look at buylists of the set you are drafting. There are a lot of times where a pack has nothing for you but has a dime in it.

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