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Insider: Vending a Prerelease for the First Time

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I hope everyone reading was able to play in the Aether Revolt prerelease and open a Masterpiece. For those of you who were unlucky enough to go without slamming a Sword of Fire and Ice in Limited, I hope you at least have some bad beat stories to compensate for your loss.

I spent the Darkest Hour of January 14th at my favorite store in upstate New York: Legacy Gaming Company. I had the privilege of vending the midnight event and managed to squeeze it in between working at the college on Friday night and Saturday at midday. The thought of writing this recap didn't cross my mind at 2:00 a.m., so this article will be less of a pictorial than it might otherwise have been. Instead, I'll go over my thoughts of what I can do in the future to improve. While not every reader is looking to vend events, I had several requests to write this from Twitter followers, and all players can benefit from understanding how vendors think.


Let's start off with a guessing game. Throw out a number and guess how many Aether Revolt cards I bought during the midnight prerelease? A few dozen? Hundreds, even? Nope. The answer I was looking for is zero.

Don't get me wrong, it was a pretty great weekend. I bought a decent pile of Modern and EDH cards, both foil and nonfoil. I pulled casual cards out of a couple binders and sold the usual number of cards as well. It was profitable, and I wasn't unhappy when I arrived back home at 4:00 a.m. I was just kind of surprised that nobody sold me any cards from the new set. We had a couple Masterpieces opened that I price checked for them and almost bought, but the lucky fellows both decided to hold onto the cards for personal use or to try and trade to another player.

jeskai
Some of the foil Modern cards I bought on Saturday

What gives? We capped out the event at 40 players, so why didn't I go home with any Aether Revolt? 

Well, I thought about it during some downtime behind the counter while I watched everyone else play. I recognized maybe half of the people in the store. I've been going there for several months now, but these were the "prerelease and then back to the shadows" crowd who only come out once every few months to play with the new set. These players weren't interested in cashing out on cards from the new set; quite the opposite, in fact.

This niche group shows up to play casually, leave with their casual cards, and build casual decks combined with packs from Wal-mart and Target a week from now. These are the players who don't bring trade binders or Modern decks to sell. For the most part, they don't know or even care about the dollar values of the cards they open; I even had a couple people decline an offer for an Aether Revolt Quiet Speculation price cheat sheet, which was surprising at first. Learning from hindsight, I'm thinking about how I can help make the buy prices on these cards more visible in the future.

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Pretty much every vendor at every Grand Prix nowadays has a whiteboard similar to this. Some vendors like WizardTower and ChannelFireball go as far as bringing several monitors and equipment to the event to hook up a constantly updating electronic buylist, which certainly is more flashy and visible. I'm obviously nowhere near that level, but I think a small whiteboard like one of the old Hareruya ones above could have helped a bit. If a casual player saw how much I was paying on Heart of Kiran, it might have at least gotten a foot in the door for me to peek at their prerelease pool and see if there was anything they weren't planning on using. I looked on Amazon to see if there were any standalone whiteboards that don't take up too much room, and I might settle on this little one in the future, just to cover the  hot stuff from Hour of Devastation or maybe some Masterpieces.

whiteboard

There's a couple other factors that probably contributed to the relatively "slow" traffic at the midnight prerelease, and that was that it was a midnight prerelease. People are tired and just want to exhaustedly jam cards against each other before they go to Taco Bell on the way to passing out on the couch. Selling cards is not at the forefront of their mind. Unfortunately, my work schedule prevented me from attending the 2:00 p.m. prerelease at the same store, but I'm confident I would have had more luck while the sun was shining.


Lastly, I mentioned earlier in this article that I've only had a working relationship with the store owner at Legacy Gaming Co. for a couple of months. Prior to me showing up, the store's singles selection was pretty weak, but it was the only weak point that anyone ever mentioned about the store. My friend who worked at the shop introduced me to the owner, and now we stock singles of all shapes and sizes.

Other than the people who knew me from previous transactions, I'm still a new face behind the counter. Up until I showed up, players were less confident that the store would have the random set of Anger of the Gods or Manamorphose they needed for their Modern decks. This is still a budding relationship for both me and the store owner, but my prerelease endeavors will hopefully improve over time as we bring in more people who know that it can be a one-stop shop for deck building in addition to great events.

End Step

sram

While I was sorting and posting sales on Twitter, I realized that the Reshapes I had been holding onto for a while were double what they were when I last checked. While I doubt that card goes in the finalized version of the Cheerios deck in Modern (Puresteel Paladin plus a bunch of zero-mana equipment into Grapeshot), it's still an artifact tutor from 14 years ago with no reprints, with an artifact set being printed following an artifact Commander deck.

While I doubt theinternet will have time to buy into it, there might still be an opportunity to grab some of the equally scarce Retract. That's the one-mana combo piece that allows the deck to actually go off with some level of consistency. It could easily hit $7 or $8 off the Puresteel deck being a cheap tier-three entry point into what is continuously berated as a format with too high an entry cost. If there are still copies of Retract available for less than $3, I highly recommend picking up a set if you plan on playing the deck.




4 thoughts on “Insider: Vending a Prerelease for the First Time

  1. Interesting article. Owning a store, I get to vend every prerelease and often it goes how you outlined. Players rarely trade in cards they open. One thing I’ve found that helps is having buy prices for prerelease cards you are interested in as well. Players also have no clue what those promos are worth.

  2. I’d say its probably better that you didn’t buy any of the new cards. 95% of them just drop like a rock on release date when everyone finally gets to list on TCG (let alone dropping between the pre-re and release date on preorders). You cant sell preorders on TCG unless you are in direct, so unless you want to attempt to out them on ebay quickly at the higher price, then you likely have to have really low buy prices if you did actually want to buy some.

    1. That’s a good point. I was thinking about the possibility of using AER as a foot in the door to get a look at the rest of the binder, but i’d almost certainly be losing money on what AER I did buy.

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