A Guide to Renting on MTGO: Part I

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This week I'd like to introduce the MTG community to renting on Magic Online. Increasingly there has been talk about renting on Twitter and elsewhere; in part this is due to the renting companies becoming more reputable, trusted, and established; in part this is due to an influx of players coming to MTGO this Fall, many of whom are f2p veterans and aren't used to a trading card game economy.

Today in Part I, I'll cover the basics of what renting on MTGO is, how to do it, and whether it is a generally good option for MTGO players new and old to consider. In Part II, I'll compare the various companies you can rent from, and go over other less elementary aspects of renting on MTGO and address specific questions that members of the QS community have had about it.

I. What is Renting?

Historically, MTGO has operated exactly like paper Magic. Within a TCG economy, players own the cards they play with and collect, and they are free to buy and sell them at will. On MTGO, you buy and sell your cards in its marketplace (generally to bots owned and operated by companies, but sometimes to individuals as well).

Renting is an alternate method for accessing cards. Renting on MTGO is fundamentally a subscription-based service. You pay a company to let you borrow their cards for a certain amount of time.

Let's say that you want to play Modern, and that you want to play with Grixis Death's Shadow, which right now is valued at $408.93 on MTGGoldfish. You have two options: owning and renting. The first option is to put $409 onto your MTGO account in the form of event tickets (tix) and buy the cards for the deck from a botchain company in the MTGO marketplace. You can always buy tix from the Wizards' Store, but I recommend buying them from a reputable botchain company (Cardhoarder, Goatbots, Manatraders, Dojobots, etc) to avoid state sales tax.

Courtesy of the Tax Foundation.

After buying these cards, you own them, and they become part of your collection; you can hold them forever, or sell them at some point in the future.

Renting operates differently. To rent on MTGO, you first must setup an account with Cardhoarder or Manatraders. To do that, go here:

1) Cardhoarder
2) Manatraders

You will be asked to create an account and choose a subscription option that will allow you to borrow cards from these companies worth a specified amount of money. Per our Grixis Death Shadow example, for Cardhoarder you would set your card value limit to about $415, and for Manatraders you would choose either their Premium plan ($350 card value limit) or their Gold plan ($750 card value limit).  The next step would be to choose the Grixis Death Shadow cards you need on the company's website, and then a bot from that company would open a trade with you on MTGO and allow you to take possession of those cards.

When you are done with the cards, you return them to the company. To return to Cardhoarder, you would go to your account page on their website and request to return cards. A bot would then open a trade with you, allowing you to return the cards. To return to Manatraders, you would go to the MTGO marketplace, open a trade with a ManaTraders_Return bot, and give them the cards you want to return.

II. Important Minutiae

Renting cards is still relatively new. ManaTraders has been doing this for quite some time, and Cardhoarder is new to the game. Demand for these services has been going up as more players come to MTGO. I suspect that other big bot chain companies like MTGOTraders, Dojobots, and Goatbots might begin introducing card renting programs. But right now, since it is still relatively new, the entire process is a bit cumbersome and complicated. In some ways, it requires less hassle and maintenance than choosing to buy, sell, and own your own cards. In other ways, it is far more involved.

(A) First, be aware that both Cardhoarder and ManaTraders require that you be a part of their loan programs to rent cards. Consider them to be like your gym or country club -- you have to apply to join, it might take a while for a spot to open up for you in their program, and once you are part of their programs you will pay a weekly or monthly fee based upon the card value limit you choose. Right now the waitlist for Cardhoarder is about 30 days; ManaTraders has no waitlist.

(B) Both Cardhoarder and ManaTraders allow you to pause your subscription. With ManaTraders you accrue loyalty over time as you use their service, and this loyalty allows you to pause your subscription. Cardhoarder has no loyalty program and allows you to pause your subscription at any time. Without getting too bogged down in details, both companies offer some billing flexibility and don't require that you pay every week/month if you aren't using cards, but you might lose some benefits if you pause your subscription for a long time; Cardhoarder reserves the right to put you at the back of the waitlist line, and ManaTraders will charge a small monthly fee if you want to maintain your loyalty status.

Overall, if you are playing Constructed fairly regularly, then you will be able to be efficient with your money using either loan program. For more details on pricing, see section (III) of this article further down. At any time you can cancel your subscription, so you aren't locked in should life get in the way and force you away from Magic for a while.

(C) Third, be aware that renting will not shield you from, or allow you to bypass, the MTGO economy. You will still have to have some general knowledge of the costs of cards because each subscription plan has a max limit on the value of the cards you are allowed to rent. The best way to handle this is to look at the Goldfish Metagame page and look at how much decks of your preferred format cost on average, and set your rental limit accordingly.

In general, you should expect decks of each format to cost roughly:
Standard: $50-$325
Pioneer: $250-$400
Modern: $250-$400
Legacy: $250-$400
Pauper: $15-$30

With that said, choosing to rent will reduce your exposure to trading directly with bots. As I outlined above, you generally make loan requests on Cardhoarder and Manatraders' websites and their bots will automatically open a trade with you. The MTGO marketplace can be intimidating at first, and renting is a nice way to ease you into the MTGO economy. Not all of us jump in headfirst.

(D) Cardhoarder and ManaTraders are both reputable companies. For those new to MTGO, a good general rule of thumb is to google the bot chain you are considering doing business with. If they have a website, a social media presence (twitter), and an email address you can use to contact them, then they are likely reputable and legit and you should feel comfortable doing business with them.

III. How Much Does It Cost? Should I do It?

Cardhoarder and ManaTraders have slightly different service and fee structures. Cardhoarder bills weekly and charges you 3% of your rate limit each week. ManaTraders bills monthly and offers different tiers that have different rate limits. The two are roughly comparable to each other, as each will offer slightly better or worse value depending on what deck you're using.

Overall, though, you can pay $8/week and play with any Standard deck. You can play with any Pauper deck for $1/week. You can play with any Pioneer, Legacy, or Modern deck for $14/week (and many decks for cheaper).

If you own some of the cards already, then you can select lower rate limits and save money. But for those without collections looking to rent whole Constructed decks, you should be expecting to pay about $8 to $12/week for competitive Eternal decks, $4 to $8/week for competitive Standard decks, and $1/week for competitive Pauper decks.

It's important to note, too, that you don't need to pay extra to play multiple formats. If you want to play with a Standard deck after playing with a Modern deck, simply return the Modern cards and pick up the Standard cards. All of the costs listed above relate to the total amount of value you want to have rent out at any given time.

In my view, renting serves two types of people very well:

Competitive Grinders Prepping for and Competing in a Major Tournament

Competitive grinders often play paper and MTGO, and they use MTGO primarily to prep for tournaments and play in major MTGO tournaments and weekend challenges. These are people who change decks in and out with frequency and who might play MTGO a ton one week and none the next. Renting allows these people the ability to bypass buying and selling their cards over and over (which bleeds money). And the ability to take a week off of your subscription lets you save money.

Players and Prospective Players Who Don't Want to Make a Large Down Payment

Many people aren't in the financial position to buy a deck for $300 right now but still want to play Magic on MTGO. Many players coming from a Hearthstone or Magic Arena background are likely more used to making smaller purchases and are uncomfortable buying a deck for $300 all at once. Still, others who have never used MTGO before might want to try it out before committing to the platform and buying a new deck for $300. Renting offers these players a really great way to get their feet wet, test and get used to the client, and play with a wide variety of decks, all for an affordable price with no strings attached. Owning your own cards is better in the long run, but renting is a great tool to have access to, and the value you get overall is very good and makes this a solid option for many people.

IV. Signing Off

In Part II, I will compare the value and features of the loan programs ManaTraders and Cardhoarder offer so that you can make a more informed decision about which program you would like to sign up for. I will also go over some more advanced strategies about how players can use these loan programs to maximize their time as players and investors on Magic Online. I hope today's article provided a good preliminary overview. Please leave your comments and questions down below and I will try to answer them in my next article. Thanks for reading!

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Kyle Rusciano

Kyle started playing Magic with his little brother when they saw some other kids at a baseball camp playing. His grandma bought them some Portal: Second Age decks, and a hobby was born. Kyle played from Weatherlight through Invasion, then took a lengthy break until 2013. Now a PhD student in the humanities, the Greek mythology component of Theros compelled Kyle to return to the game. He enjoys playing Pauper and Limited as well as focusing on MTGO finance and card design. Follow him on Twitter at @KangaMage!

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6 thoughts on “A Guide to Renting on MTGO: Part I

  1. I’d like to note too, that card rental is also very good for Content Creators as well, as being able to dip into a wide array of formats+decks is good for generating content.

    Also, I’d like to note that Vintage as well is also very cheap so that’s a consideration to add in the price range since it is a place where Vintage can be easily played.

    Otherwise, great article and I hope more people get into the rental game. I use Cardhoarder myself and absolutely love their service and support.

    1. Thanks Joe. Love your Vintage 101 articles and look forward to reading them each week. I actually have a vintage deck (Oath) but looking at getting more reps by playing online. Hope to be up and running on MTGO in early 2020.

  2. It would be wonderful if we could short cards as a hedge. For example if it were possible to sell the cards that I rent from Manatraders at a high price and then if the cards tanked in value I’d buy them back on the open market and return the cards to Manatraders and pocket the difference between what I sold them for at the high and what I bought them back for minus the Manatraders renting fee. I know I’m making a lot of assumptions but if this were possible, it would be amazing opportunities to actually hedge risk if you know what you’re doing. For example I rent (borrow) 10 Oko thief of crowns and I see that I think this is about to tank and so I sell them for the highest price. If the price tanks, I then buy 10 oko’s back at a cheaper price and return them to the owner. The risk here is that I sell them and they shoot up in value and I have no choice but to buy them back. Unfortunately there is no protection for the owners as any wiseguy could just sell the cards and leave town. The problem is that there are no system of controls that allow efficient and safe shorting of the MTGO market. I’m sure there are ways, like for example, setting up a deposit equivalent to the number of cards you bought if the broker/owners of the card know you’re speculating on a short that way they are hedged against theft or loss and once the cards are returned a shorter can keep the profit plus get his or her deposit back. This is just a pie in the sky idea but boy would it completely turn MTGO finance on its head.

    1. thank you for this article 🙂 i just downloaded mtgo and i was looking for a guide to rent service because i dont know still how it works and if its convenient for me ( id like to play modern specifically). you explained everthing clearly, i learnt a lot .

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