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Insider: Virtually Infinite – Back in the Saddle Again

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It’s been a while, but it’s good to be back! Last August I decided to take a year-long break from Magic. This year I won’t be writing a regular series but will make some occasional contributions. My focus? How you can go infinite on MTGO without putting in a lot of time, allowing you to focus on what you came for: playing Magic.

Regular and powerful cycles exist within the MTGO economy that can provide strong returns without micromanaging your account. My goal will be to leverage these cycles, moving from a model of picking stocks to one of buying index funds. Unfortunately there’s no effective long-term “buy and hold” strategy for MTGO because of reprints, but it is possible to employ a three-to-six-month cycle to grow your portfolio with little risk and a modest time investment.

But before we can get started, we will need to generate a stash of tickets. This article is about how to get bids on a large stack of Magic cards, a technique that can be used to either cash out or build a war chest.

A Bit of Backstory

Last summer, shortly after the client switch over, I took a hiatus from Magic. Life was too busy, and the new client featured a suite of features that made quitting Magic Online easy and seamless.

I sold much of my collection and uninstalled Magic Online.

But, to paraphrase W.C. Fields, “quitting Magic is easy…I’ve done it a hundred times.” This summer I realized I can now fit a few hours of Magic a week into my life, and they improved the client to the point that it’s actually worth my time.

That said, I knew I didn’t want to spend a lot of time managing my account. I got into this with a desire to play Magic for free. I succeeded, but last year my portfolio got pretty unwieldy and I spent more time speculating, tracking, and reading QS than I was playing. I knew I needed to simplify.

Getting Liquid

Before leaving, I sold most cards that were at or near their peak. I kept my playsets of eternal formats, cashed out a lot of my specs, and stashed the rest.

I then didn’t log into my Magic account for eleven months. It was a time to focus on career and family, and there's no greater return on investment than that. The upside was that when I returned I had relatively few tix in my account and a large portfolio of random cards, unperforming specs, and extra playsets. I needed to get liquid.

This is a position many Magic Online players find themselves in if they've been playing for a few years. Unless you are constantly culling your collection things tend to sprawl out. Some cards they are gaming with. Others are failed specs or detritus. Then you've got a bunch of boosters that are not being drafted or are too low to sell.

Bathtub of Magic cards
This is the way some of us treat our online collection...

All these positions are what we might call “inadvertent specs”—they are dead capital waiting to be deployed. They are going sideways when there are plenty of opportunities to go up. Leaving junk in your binder has a lot of opportunity costs.

Putting Velocity to Work

What’s great about MTGO is that you can get strong returns during one release cycle and then reinvest those returns during the next cycle. The cyclical economy allows you to make 20-30% on that portfolio and then multiply those gains three months later for another 20-30%. The ability to gain velocity allows for fast growth. But with these rates of return you want to minimize dead capital.

Dead capital in your account could be unproductive or minimally productive specs. It could be playsets you are not playing with. It could be random cards you left in your extra account and forgot about. And, as I had learned in the past, it can really add up.

In order to get back in the saddle, I needed to turn that detritus into gold. And I didn’t have the time to micromanage the process by seeking out the best buy price on hundreds of different cards. Luckily there was a great tool at my disposal: the collection buyout.

Selling out of an account is the quickest way to liquidate your collection—and you don’t lose much value in the process. In fact, I think that some botters are so keen to buy in quantity to stock their bots that they may even reduce their margins to attain collections.

Of course it’s not the only way to get liquid--Sylvain Lehoux has already written about a few others in his excellent article on cashing out but his focus is on how to get cash from tix. I figured I would describe the “account sellout” option, since it should be another tool in your kit.

Before I hit the marketplace, I opened a trade with my second account and stashed everything I wanted to keep. I was pretty ruthless and tried to remain emotionally disconnected from the cards I was selling. Sure, I once had high hopes for you Young Pyromancer and Rageblood Shaman but it’s time to move on. Anything I wasn’t likely to play with or which I didn’t believe was sure to go up in value I put in my “selling” account.

I also made sure that I wasn’t timing the market wrong. I sold at the beginning of July, when I knew a lot of Modern cards would be at their local peak and before the selloffs and liquidity crunch that would come with the Origins release.

I wanted the best price without putting in a lot of time, so I got bids from a bunch of bot rings. This doesn’t take any extra time and can provide assurance that no one is lowballing you.

Getting Bids

How do you get a bid on your collection? First you’ve got to convert your collection to a .csv. Here some simple steps, courtesy of Marlon MTG:

  • Log on to your account and open the collection tab.
  • Switch to list view by clicking on the square graph button at the top right hand side of the card binder.
  • You are now seeing your collection as a list of items, just right click on any item.
  • Choose "Select All" and then right click again and choose "Export Selected Cards to .Csv"
  • You will be asked for a name and a place to put the .csv file, name it as your account name and choose desktop.

You then take that .csv file, mail it around to the addresses below, and wait for the bids to roll in.

Another important tool to know about is the Cardhoarder "Collection Appraisal Tool" which "is intended to give you an idea of the value of your collection to help you decide whether you'd like to proceed with a firm quote." You simply upload your CSV and within seconds you get an estimate of the value of your collection. These are great tools for tracking how your portfolio is doing.

My Cardhoarder link put the value of my collection at $1,751.36. That's a good starting point but it wasn't a real bid. Would the bids come in higher or lower?

It Pays to Shop Around

Given how efficient the MTGO market seems, you might think that the difference between offers would be small. The first time I sold a collection, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I figured some bots would have better buy prices on certain cards, but in the end it would even out.

I was dead wrong. I found dramatic differences in the prices that bots offered for my collection.

That was true this time as well. Within a few days I had received the following bids:

  • MTGO Clanteam  mtgoclanteam@gmail.com: 2200 tickets (no cash/PayPal)
  • MTGO Academy: collection@mtgoacademy.com $1285 (no quote on tix)
  • DojoTrade Bots  dojotrade@gmail.com: 2250 tickets or $2025 PayPal ($0.90 per ticket, minus paypal fees)
  • CardBot: frankbb@sympatico.ca: 1958 tix or $1865.00 ($0.95 per ticket, minus PayPal fees)
  • MTGO Traders: collection@mtgotraders.com $1955 Paypal. No tix. 2130 credits for MTGO bots. A MTGO Traders offer has some unique characteristics. They don’t pay tickets, but they will give you a 9% bonus if you take payment in the form of store credit. They also offer a 20% credit at their brick and mortar store, CapeFearGames, which is well stocked with singles and sealed product if you want to trade digital for paper. Finally, they offer a check in the mail rather than PayPal, which cuts down on transaction fees.

Note that both CardBot and MTGO Traders, along with Marlon and ABU, apparently use the same pricing software (and have been sometimes referred to as “the cartel” because they controlled so much of the MTGO market) so you might expect an identical buy price offer. However, there are discrepancies in their pricing algorithms--in this case resulting in about a 5% difference.

I also emailed ABU Games (mtgo@abugames.com) and Marlon (alpovutmen@gmail.com) who have made bids on my collection in the past but neither of them responded. Must have been a busy week...

Here’s a summary of my options. I knew I wanted tickets, but I also wanted to highlight that you’d have choices if you were looking for another form of payment.

Buyer Cash price Cash minus fees (3% paypal of flat fee with check) Tix Store credit
Clan Team N/A N/A 2200 N/A
Dojo Trade Bots $2025 PayPal $1964 2250 N/A
MTGO Academy $1285 PayPal? $1246 ? N/A
CardBot $1865.00 PayPal $1809 1958 N/A
MTGO Traders $1955 via check $1925 N/A 2130 tix credit for Traders bots, $2346 store credit at Cape Fear Games

I weighed my choices. MTGO Academy offer was a lowball but the others were pretty close. MTGO Traders was the best choice if I wanted to trade up my MTGO collection into a paper collection. Depending on your residency, trading digital for paper may avoid creating taxable income. That said, you are getting a nice bonus but they won’t always have the best prices on the Legacy staples you are looking for.

For both cash and tix, Dojo had the best price. What’s more, I noticed their conversion rate was not competitive. They were offering 0.90 per ticket, plus paypal fees—MTGO Traders and GoatBots often buy these at 0.94 or 0.95.

I decided I would go with Dojo and take my payment in tickets. After all, I was looking to put them to work—and had a key opportunity ahead: the Origins set release.

Show Me the Money

I’ve sold my collection a handful of times, and there are a couple different ways it works. They will either ask for your MTGO password—change it to something generic before sending it over—or will ask you to manually execute the trade. These guys are pros and the whole process will take about ten minutes. They will usually take your whole collection before offering you any tix in return, so be sure to work with reputable bot chains that have a history of successful transactions and a reputation to uphold.

In the end I went with Dojo since I was looking to maximize my ticket stock. In the next couple weeks I plan to put those tix to work on a portfolio of Origins and Khans block cards. Stay tuned...

I hope this article was helpful, and that you’ll take a look at your accounts and see if there is any dead wood you can put to work for you!

6 thoughts on “Insider: Virtually Infinite – Back in the Saddle Again

  1. Good article. I never really shopped around when selling a collection and I was interested to see the results. I’ve always used mtgotraders and have been very satisfied with the service and results. This confirms to me that they offer competitive bids. And I had a feeling Academy was a low ball type operation.

    Did you try Cardhoarder? I think they also will price your collection.

    1. I used the Cardhoarder “Collection Appraisal Tool,” which put the value of my collection at $1,751.36.

      https://www.cardhoarder.com/collection-appraisal

      The great thing about the tool is that it gives you an instant snapshot without waiting for bids to come in. That estimate wasn’t really competitive with the other offers I received, and I assumed their full offer would be similar, so I never moved forward to get a real offer from them.

  2. I used the instant appraisal to get an idea of my collection’s worth; i remember doing this 2 years ago and i was pretty offended by the offer (400 dollars for my 60k+ cards, 100 boosters and 180 tic), this time the offer was what i expected.
    I remember i took a long break after Lorwyn came out (3 years i think) and then i was pleasantly surprised i had some Force of Wills in my collection which were about 100 tic at the time :p.

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