Magic 30: A Retrospective

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I’ve spent the last few weeks writing about my experience at Magic 30 in Las Vegas, looking at it from different angles. I started with an overall impression, followed it up with my Magic finance observations, and then shared my play and networking experiences.

I hope I've given you a sense that this was a productive and highly rewarding trip. It was a rare opportunity for me since I often have weekend commitments with the family that inhibit me from traveling for major Magic events.

Enough looking back—now it’s time to look ahead! MagicCon: Philadelphia is already on the horizon for February 2023. While I don’t think I’ll be able to go to that event myself, I want to share a few tips based on my Vegas experience that will help you maximize your time there, no matter what your priorities are!

Tip 1: If You’re Flying…

To start, some advice if you’re new or relatively inexperienced with flying to Magic events. Every standard airport rule applies, of course, but there are a couple of additional things to watch out for when traveling with valuable cards.

First, be prepared for security to pull aside your backpack/bag containing your Magic cards. This happened to me both on the way to Las Vegas and on the way home. A TSA official pulled my backpack off the belt to open it up and inspect it. They also opened up some of the boxes with the cards inside (I was using the boxes that come with bundles to house my cards).

Once they saw the contents were in fact just trading cards, they packed everything up and I was on my way. Just be prepared for the stoppage. Make sure you keep a very close watch on your stuff. It’s unlikely people will know the value of what you have in your bag, but it never hurts to remain vigilant. Try not to make it obvious that you are walking around with $ 100s or $ 1,000s in Magic cards.

Tip 2: Do Your Homework

I pride myself on how well I prepared to sell cards at this event. Other than the SNAFU I had with the two graded cards I forgot to research, I had a very easy time selling to vendors because I already knew what online buylists looked like. I basically handed over my spreadsheet of numbers on a sheet of paper and asked the vendor if there were any cards on the list that they’d be interested in buying near the prices indicated. Here’s a snapshot showing how I structured this spreadsheet:

Since I primarily buylist to Card Kingdom and ABUGames, I used their buylists as references. I subtracted percentages to adjust for condition (most of my cards were played or HP), which I used as guide rails for negotiation.

While you’re at it, make sure you de-sleeve the small-value cards so it’s easier for vendors to browse through them and inspect their condition. Try to avoid selling double-sleeved cards at all costs, as it’s a major hassle.

Tip 3: Try to Plan Meet-ups in Advance

Since it’s so rare for me to get to a large, in-person Magic event, I try to network as much as possible while there. This time around, I was so focused on the selling aspect that I neglected to coordinate much in terms of social activity. This was the right call given my prioritization, but it did leave me wanting more interaction than I managed throughout the weekend.

My advice: try to plan with friends in advance a time and place to meet (or at least check-in). It was so easy to hang out with a friend before the event, only to lose sight of them for the rest of the day once doors opened. Everyone walks inside together with different goals in mind, and if you don’t have an identical plan as your friend, it’s easy to part ways and lose track of time. If instead, I had agreed on a time and place during the event to meet, I could have deliberately planned that into my day. This would definitely have helped me get more fun Commander games over the weekend.

Tip 4: Don’t Bring Excess

This tip relates to the first three. If you’re planning on selling cards at the next big Magic event, obviously you have to bring those with you. Additionally, if you’re planning to play in certain constructed side events, you’ll need to bring those cards too.

Do you really need to bring eight different Commander decks, though? If you’re not deliberately allocating time to play with them, you likely won’t have the time to use them. For Las Vegas, I packed my three Commander decks as well as some Havic: The Bothering decks to show off during the weekend. This was unnecessary weight in my backpack, as I had no time to play with these cards.

At least the value of my Commander decks isn’t significant, so I wasn’t taking on additional risk in that way. It was just unnecessary to lug around all weekend. Make sure you know what your priorities are, and bring what you need. There’s no need to bring the kitchen sink—your back will thank you later.

Tip 5: Know the Event Schedule Beforehand

It was easy enough to find the address and hours for the event (though, there was still some uncertainty because different tiers had access to different places at different times). However, I had no clue about the big presentations and events scheduled throughout the weekend. I feel like I missed so much because I didn’t pay attention to the agenda.

Granted, this wasn’t my priority, so I have to be OK with this outcome. Still, I would have liked to have seen the interview with Richard Garfield, the historical lookback in pictures with Mark Rosewater, the big cosplay event, and others. In an alternate universe, I attended these activities instead of playing in side events and had a more fulfilling experience.

Don’t make the same mistake as me. Deliberately scan through the activities scheduled for the weekend, and know what you’re OK to miss and what you really want to see. Plan around that. It may mean skipping a side event that conflicts. There will always be more side events—there are not always more opportunities to watch some of Magic’s biggest personalities present on stage.

Tip 6: If You Want to Maximize Value, Be Prepared to Negotiate

This is a corollary to tip 2. If you have a good bit of data in hand and some off-hand knowledge of card prices, you can leverage this to negotiate a more favorable price. Granted, you can’t go up to a vendor and expect to bully them to get better numbers, nor should you negotiate a dollar here and there on every single card. Instead, try to keep the big picture in mind.

While I was selling to Tales of Adventure, I noticed that they paid very well on some of the cards I offered, such as Revised Volcanic Island. That was great.

They didn’t pay as much as I had hoped, however, on some of the Arabian Nights cards I wanted to sell, including Erhnam Djinn and Serendib Efreet. This was tougher for me to accept, because I knew I could grind more value selling to someone in the Old School Discord, for example.

I reconciled the gap by reminding myself of a few important things:

a) they are paying very well on other cards, so in a way, it balances out.
b) I didn’t want to spend all day walking cards around the event hall trying to make 5% more.
c) the offer they made was fair relative to online buylists.
d) the vendor had cash in hand and was ready to pay immediately (a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush).

These stores have to make money, but they need to pay competitively enough to actually bring in inventory throughout the weekend. It’s about finding that balance—you won’t be happy about every number on every card. If you take the aggregate view, study the data, and negotiate strategically, you’ll accomplish your goals without wasting everybody’s time.

Tip 7: Buy Tickets Early

Last, but certainly not least, make sure you purchase your event tickets as early as you can. Now that Wizards of the Coast is capping these events, they’re at risk of selling out. In my case, I was able to get the basic entry (Emerald Pass) but missed out on the higher-tier passes. I also couldn’t get into some of the side events that interested me because those also sold out very quickly.

If you plan on going, coordinate with friends and pick your side events/entry passes as quickly as possible to ensure you don’t get locked out. It sounds simple, but procrastination is common and can really penalize you here.

Wrapping It Up

Large Magic events always have so much to offer. These 30th-anniversary celebration events are even more jam-packed with activities, events, and opportunities. I’m not sure what Wizards of the Coast plan for large in-person events between 2023 and 2032 (when they’ll plan their 40th-anniversary celebrations), but it’s definitely worth trying to participate if you can.

These events are few and far between. I hope sharing my top tips helps you maximize your enjoyment and productivity at these events. It’s impossible to do everything. Accepting that upfront will enable you to prioritize, while hopefully avoiding the FOMO that inevitably accompanies large events. While I did a decent job, I recognize I left some potential enjoyment on the table due to insufficient planning and a narrow-minded focus.

Looking ahead, my hope is that I’ll be able to put these tips into practice myself at some future event. It likely won’t be the Philadelphia celebration in February, but perhaps later in 2023 or in 2024, I’ll find that next opportunity. One thing is for sure. When I go, my priorities will look a good bit differently, and hopefully, I’ll get to enjoy other aspects of the event that I missed out on in Las Vegas.

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Sigmund Ausfresser

Sigmund first started playing Magic when Visions was the newest set, back in 1997. Things were simpler back then. After playing casual Magic for about ten years, he tried his hand at competitive play. It took about two years before Sigmund starting taking down drafts. Since then, he moved his focus towards Legacy and MTG finance. Now that he's married and works full-time, Sigmund enjoys the game by reading up on trends and using this knowledge in buying/selling cards.

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Posted in Buylist, Event Coverage, Finance, Magic 30Tagged , , ,

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