Insider: Artful Maneuvers – The Three Basics

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At its base every business needs two things: A product to sell and people to buy the product. I've written a lot about a product that can be efficiently created and sold. While I will continue to write about altered cards in the future, I want to shift my focus to the business side of Magic: The Gathering finance.

I know that many of you are financial pros, expert traders or even shop owners. Some of you may be newer players with a burgeoning interest in becoming a financier. Everybody with an interest in making money with Magic cards needs a solid understanding of what I call "The Basics" to reach and build on their goals. The Basics are the three concepts that you must understand before dealing with your customers.

The First Basic: Basic Idea

This is the concept of what you are selling and who you are selling to. The easy answer for most of us is "Magic cards to Magic players." That is too vague. You need to have a firm grasp of which Magic cards you are selling.

Do you specialize in Legacy cards? Are you pushing casual staples? Do you have enough stock to run the gamut of Magic and provide an ample selection of all formats and genres?

You must also pay attention to who is buying these cards. Are there a lot of cutting edge competitive players looking for the hottest new tech? Do you see a lot of oddity collectors looking for misprints? Once you have an understanding of your product and your customer base you can answer the following question. Does your product match your customer base? If the answer is no then you may want to reconsider one or both.

By knowing your local player base and what they need you can target cards that are more likely to be relevant to them. This will not only keep your binder fluid but it will also allow you to focus on the formats and cards that matter in your area. Spending time learning the ins and outs of the Standard metagame may be a waste of time if your local player base is solely into Modern.

The Second Basic: Basic Understanding

This is perhaps the most crucial and it is also what this and all other finance sites are about. Information will always benefit a person. We build off of our basic idea with more information. So we study. We watch trends and a tournament reports. We listen to podcasts and exchange ideas online.

We do all of this to increase our understanding of what people want and why they want it. It isn't enough to know that Doubling Season is $28, we need to understand why. We also need to make educated guesses on whether it will stay at that price or move.

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Information like this allows us not only to take advantage of price changes but also to anticipate the needs of our customer base. We can offer up ideas about which cards are underplayed but might be useful in a match-up. We can up-sell our customers on something that they need before they know they need it. If you can offer what your customer needs, your target market will target you.

The Third Basic: Basic Vernacular

There is always a way to connect to individuals. If you make that connection you can increase the probability of repeat business. Keep in mind that I'm not speaking of cutting a new customer a deal. Simple, positive interactions are the best way to impress a person in our people driven world. This can be done by using positive language to appeal to their personal views.

For example, I have always enjoyed playing huge, expensive creatures. Selling dragons to like-minded people comes naturally to me because I have an innate understanding of why my customer enjoys giant flame-breathing lizards. This view can also be used to sell the opposite type of card to someone with a different mindset. All you need is a positive spin on things. Take a look at these potential trade negotiations:

Trader Steve - "Anything for trade?"

Trader Carl - "Always! What are you looking for?"

Trader Steve - "I need a Dragonlord Ojutai for my Blue-Black Dragons deck and I'm always looking for cards for my EDH deck."

Trader Carl - "I hate control decks. Anyway, Ojutai is worth $25, would you trade those two fetch lands for it?"

Trader Steve - "I guess."


Trader Steve - "Do you have a trade binder?"

Trader Burt - "Totally! What do you need?"

Steve - "I need a Dragonlord Ojutai for my Blue-Black Dragons deck and I'm always looking for cards for my EDH deck."

Burt - "Do you prefer control decks, then?"

Steve - "Yep! They are the best!"

Burt - "Well I have this Desertion that just wrecks my favorite dragons in EDH, so I hate it. You may want to try it out though, it seems to fit your play style. It also makes up the difference in price between Ojutai and the two Windswept Heaths that I want from you."

Steve - "Groovy, thanks!"

The first conversation is what I hear at trade tables most often. Both traders are concerned with the deal at hand and nothing more. The overall tone is negative even though both parties involved got exactly what they wanted. This is the type of interaction you might experience at a cheap fast food place.

The second conversation has a more positive tone that is capable of building a connection. Burt asked one simple question about Steve's play style and was able to suggest a card that is both beneficial in closing the deal and in Steve's EDH deck. Burt also expressed his disdain for countermagic in a way that validated Steve's enjoyment of it. Which person do you think Steve will seek out for his next trade?

Taking steps to identify the Basics will help you in many aspects of your business. Your basic idea will help you trade more efficiently by focusing on what sells the best. Basic understanding of the cards your customers want will help you trade and sell more profitably. Basic vernacular will make the difference between just another sale and a source of repeat business.

In the coming weeks I will dig deeper into each of these concepts so stay tuned. In the meantime, happy trading!

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Mike Bajorek

Mike has been playing Magic for over 9 years and altering cards for five. When he's not involved with the game, he brews beer both professionally and at home.

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Posted in Artful Maneuvers, Finance, Free InsiderTagged , , ,

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