Category Archives: Casual Fridays

Resolving to be a Better Trader

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By: Cliff Daigle

Happy New Year!

It’s that time of year when we look forward to the 12 months ahead and resolve to do something better than we have been. I can’t help you quit a vice or do more or less of the habit in question, but I can help you with a new perspective on trading.

If you’re visiting this site and reading this, you probably enjoy trading Magic cards. At worst, you might view it as a necessary evil, a way to exchange what you don’t want for things you do want. Perhaps you even make a living off your trading skills.

If you enjoy the process of trading as much as I do, you might be astounded to learn that there are a lot of players who view the process with anxiety and trepidation. I’m here to help you understand some of the concerns and share some tips on how to minimize those fears.

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Special thanks to my wife, who reached into her past to recall when trading was unpleasant, and shared some ideas on how to make it easier for all.

Fear #1: Social intimidation/pressure

Even the innocuous question of “Did you bring things to trade?” is loaded with presumptions. You’re assuming that someone knows to bring such cards, that they are at least a little organized, and that there are other cards they desire to trade for. Not everyone is ready for that level of interaction outside of the structure of a game of Magic.

There’s a significant number of Magic players who lack social skills. They see Magic as a competition, a way to show that they are better than someone else. Trying to trade with that viewpoint is difficult and dangerous. You’re not going to have much success when you go into every trade scheming how to ‘win’ the trade, especially if you are the type to brag about it afterwards.

A glaring example of poor social skills is when you’re being impatient with someone. Don’t be the person who is trying to hurry up a new player. It’s good that you know what the price is on a card–allow them the courtesy of checking for themselves and thinking about the trade. Don’t subject them to you repeating what the price is over and over in an attempt to hurry up to the next trade.

Similarly, sometimes people just don’t want to trade away a certain card. It will have sentimental value, or they just want to keep it. If you keep nagging at someone to give it up in trade, you’re being awful.

How to change this: Remember that trading is a quest for both people to come away happy. Making both sides feel like they won is a skill, and one that will lead to more trading opportunities. Don’t pressure people into starting, continuing, or finishing trades.

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Fear #2: Fear of getting ripped off

You don’t have to be new to trading to know that evil people are out there, trying to overvalue their own cards and undervaluing yours. This is one of the prime reasons new players don’t do much trading: they don’t know what things are worth and they are afraid of having someone exploit the knowledge gap. “What do you value this at?” sounds an awful lot like “Are you aware of the recent change in the worth of this card?”

MTGPrice and other financial websites, and I include Twitter in this viewpoint, actually encourage a knowledge gap. Spikes in cards over a weekend can be exploited, via buying cards from stores that didn’t update their prices or trading from people who didn’t get the news that Jace, Architect of Thought went up $15 in the past twelve hours.

jaot

Barely any anxiety at all is needed for someone to perceive even reputable traders as a sack of barely-contained evil. If you’re asking every person at FNM to see their trade binder, someone who is anxious will see that as searching for the weakest link. You’re simply trying to take a peek at everything people have to offer, but to someone who has been burned before, it appears greedy.

How to change this:  First of all, know that you can’t always calm someone’s fears. You won’t know for sure what’s going on in your head, so all you can do is set an example. Demonstrate what you use for pricing. Let people observe you as you trade with others. If you’re polite and personable, checking prices and making offers, then it soothes the fears of many. But if someone doesn’t want to trade, let it go. Don’t get persistent, and don’t be belligerent.

Fear #3: Organization

I wish there was a centralized way to poll Magic players. I would really like to ask about their card storage. It seems like 10% or more of players I meet do their trades out of an 800-count card box, with no sleeves, and not organized by color or set or anything. I enjoy riffling through the cards, I do, but I can’t help myself sometimes when I see unsleeved foils or older cards, and I will say something like “You’re doing these cards a disservice!” or “I will give you some spare sleeves.” [I’ve had to purchase sleeves for someone it upset me so. -ed]

What I’m really saying to them is that their method isn’t good enough, and by extension, I am a better person/player/trader for keeping my cards sorted in pages. That’s not what I want to say, but that’s how it can come across when I’m dismissive of their system. Even when I’m trying to help by pointing out how damaging it can be to keep unsleeved cards in a box, I’m telling them what to do.

How to change this: Let people keep their cards how they wish. Be respectful if you feel compelled to point out when they are damaging cards. Understand that they may not wish your advice, especially if they’ve been doing it this way for a while. Newer players may be more receptive, or they may not want to hear your lectures.

Fear #4: Establishing prices to trade at

Invoke Prejudice

Now, I know some of you are thinking, “Why would anyone use a site besides MTGPrice for establishing fair trade values? You can see versions and history and foils!”

Well, the truth is that not everyone knows how awesome we are. Take the time to share with them. TCGplayer has the unfortunate characteristic of a “race to the bottom” and that can skew the TCG mid. I like the aggregation of MTGPrice and I use it regularly. But if a more apprehensive trader prefers TCG or Starcity, consider using what they prefer–and remember that you can always walk away if things get imbalanced.

How to fix this: Keep in mind that for new players, there’s often a sentimental attachment to certain cards. Be respectful of their habits, and talk about why you like using MTGPrice more than some other site. For brand-new and very fearful traders, consider throwing in some extra cards or give them a touch more value. A little extra now is worth it to create another member of the community.

I hope your new year is full of value and correct speculation!

Track your collection's value over time, see which cards moved the most, track wishlists, tradelists and more. Sign up at MTGPrice.com - it's free!

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The Problem With Experience

By: Cliff Daigle

I should check prices a lot more than I do.

I suffer from a problem of price memory: I know what a card was worth at a certain point, and I am not always diligent in checking prices in the moment. In this, I am not alone. It’s about more than being on top of whatever the latest price is. It’s about recognizing that because a card had a particular price for a while, I remember it as being that price…even when it’s not.

As someone who’s been playing Magic for years upon years, sometimes I’m really taken aback by what some prices have gotten to. Hymn to Tourach

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I sold 100 copies of Hymn to Tourach to assorted buylists last year, and I can only laugh when I see Fallen Empires packs selling for more than a dollar. I understand that Hymn is a card that is relatively rare and quite powerful, but I have vivid memories of Fallen Empires being a set that was vastly overprinted and incredibly worthless. Why else would I have had so many of them from so long ago? Thank goodness I never throw out old cards, and thank goodness my wife keeps everything organized.

Such price memories are from more than 15 years ago, but they still shape my interactions. I have a similar mental block on dual lands: I have trouble seeing that any are more than $40, because for a long time, they were that much or less.

I’ve traded for cards at a certain price because I felt sure that’s what they were worth. After all, that’s how much they had been for the longest time! But when I get home and review my trades, I get annoyed to find out how wrong I was.

I’m a cautionary tale. When you don’t check prices during a trad, it can come across as very egotistical, even belligerent. More than once I’ve assigned a value to a card, only to have that card be MUCH higher than I remembered. At best, that makes me look like a fool who can’t remember basic financial info. At worst, I appear to be some sort of slimy shark, undervaluing the contents of someone else’s binder.

We’re creatures of habit, and those habits can cause us problems. I try hard to make sure that I check prices in a trade, for my benefit and theirs. I’ve learned to qualify statements about price: “I looked a while ago and it was $5. I’m not sure if it is still that price.” Foil

This sort of memory applies to prices, and it applies to card evaluation as well. In many cases new cards do not compare favorably to old ones, and that may lead us to make mistakes regarding value. I did this with Primeval Bounty, and I still evaluate every counterspell in light of, well, Counterspell. (or Dismiss! Man, I am glad I never have to play against Dismiss, but sad that I won’t ever get to play that in Standard again.)

I have learned through experience that most of the time, my memory of prices is on the low side. I forget that Magic has grown at an incredible rate, to the point that for years, each big fall set was the best-selling set in Magic’s history. That’s amazing for a game twenty years old. I don’t account for the sheer number who get introduced to this game and dive right in, building Standard and Modern and EDH and Cubes and snapping up all sorts of older cards.

My point is that when you’re trading without checking prices, you feel in control until you turn around and find out that your Urza’s Legacy copies of Rancor are significantly more pricey than any of the newer printings. If you’ve recently reviewed and memorized price points, work from memory. If you’re like me and have a difficult time keeping it all straight, bookmark mtgprice.com on your phone and let us keep you informed.

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Creature Feature

By: Cliff Daigle

It’s no secret that creatures are a primary resource in Magic. They are the easiest way to deal damage to your opponent and are the primary source of interaction. Can you stop your opponent’s creatures? Can they stop yours?

In the past twenty years of printing dudes, Wizards has given us a remarkable range of abilities for creatures, so much so that it’s possible to craft decks that consist entirely of creatures. It’s more likely to happen in casual formats, but it’s possible even in Standard. I have two EDH decks (Animar, Soul of Elements and Adun Oakenshield) that are creature-based, and it’s time I evaluate why these are powerful strategies.

Reason #1: You Always Have Something to Cast

Blightsteel Colossus

There’s very few creatures that are strictly reactive. Mystic Snake and Plaxmanta are two that come to mind, but for the most part, creatures are reacted to, not reactions themselves. If they leave your creature alone you’ll gain enormous advantages just from attacking and blocking. The effect is amplified when it’s a utility creature, providing significant advantage above and beyond simply swinging in.

We have a tendency in EDH and other formats to include a lot of reactive cards that will be good in certain circumstances. I personally love to have Delirium in hand, just in case someone wants to get cute with Hamletback Goliath or a Blightsteel Colossus. Unfortunately, that’s frequently a dead card in hand and you’re stuck waiting for that perfect moment. Playing a deck with a critical mass of creatures ensures that you’re never waiting pointlessly, since you’ll almost always have something you could be doing.

Reason #2: Repeated Effects

The easiest way to get an effect over and over again is to put it on a creature. Usually it’s a tap ability, and it’ll be more powerful than an enchantment’s ability, because creatures are easier to kill than enchantments. Case in point: Arcanis the Omnipotent. Even his weaker little brother, Archivist, is good for card advantage over time.

These effects don’t need to be tap abilities; they can be continuous in nature too. Ruric Thar punishes other players’ spells. Sire of Insanity is a backbreaker. Fumiko the Lowblood is a very easy way to mess with everyone else’s plans, forcing all sorts of attacks that might not be to your opponents’ advantage.

Reason #3: Synergy Visara the Dreadful

Creatures, especially ones who share a tribe, are prone to having effects that synergize very well. Whenever someone asks me what their first EDH deck should be, I answer Krenko, Mob Boss. His ability is powerful and straightforward, and when you add Goblin Chieftain or another haste enabler, he gets out of hand fast!

My new favorite combination is something old and something new: Hythonia the Cruel and Visara the Dreadful. They play nicely together, being point removal and a mass destruction effect together.

 

Reason #4: A touch of Something Else

Perhaps the best part of having an all-creature deck is adding a few noncreature spells. My Adun deck has five, one of which is the poster child for a bulk rare being so amazing in casual formats that its price just keeps creeping upward: Lurking Predators. (The other four noncreature spells? Green Sun’s Zenith, Garruk, Caller of Beasts, Domri Rade, and Xenagos, the Reveler.) With Lurking Predators in play, every one of my opponents’ spells is going to give me a creature roughly ⅔ of the time.

Capture

It’s not hard to build a deck where a resolved Primal Surge wins you the game with an enormous attack. That actually gets boring. Genesis Wave is much the same way, but I’ll never fault someone who wants to go big mana, throw a Wave for 10-15 mana, and then get the Wave back with the Eternal Witness they flipped.

Reason #5: Cheaper

It’s not universally true, but building a creature-based deck will often cost you less money. Chasing certain spells can add up very fast, but the utility of the creatures you add to a deck will lower the financial strain. There aren’t many creatures that get added to almost every deck, but there are plenty spells that many of decks demand.

The reason why I bring up these types of casual decks is because they are a type of deck that is very frequently built in EDH, and other casual formats. This type of deck requires certain types of cards, and we can expect Wizards to continue printing cards to enable these strategies. (Hythonia the Cruel, Garruk, Caller of Beasts, etc.) Such cards will probably not demand a high price tag, as seen in Genesis Wave, Primal Surge or Dread Cacodemon.

Keep this in mind as we start to move into the new year and the spoiler season for Born of the Gods. If a card is only good with a lot of creatures, that’s not a bug, that’s a design feature.

This week’s tip: Shocklands. People seem to be stocked up, and rotation won’t make these dip much. I would advise you to get out if you can get around $10 in trade for any of them, unless you’re buying them at $5 and going to hold onto them for years. Their post-rotation rise will be a crawl, since RtR block was the best-selling ever which means there’s a lot of shock stock out there. Personally, I’ve traded away more than 40 in the past month, moving into Theros cards and Modern.

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Accessories

There’s a hidden set of costs to playing magic.

We don’t often talk about it, either. We mention it in passing sometimes when it catches our fancy, but it’s a real thing. I’m talking about everything you use while playing the game. Sleeves, dice, playmats; the list goes on and on. Magic has exploded over the past few years, and the accessories that you use while playing have seen a similar growth.

One of the things I want to make clear is that you don’t have to spend this money. This is money you choose to spend in order to upgrade a certain part of the experience.

Sleeves

Allow me to sound like an old fogey for a moment. I was there when “blackbacks” were first introduced to the gaming public. Everything until that point was based off of baseball cards. You had penny sleeves, or you had the big thick top loaders.

Magic was being played on benches, on concrete or brick, on anything really, stored in boxes all without sleeves. You would shuffle Magic cards just like you would a deck of playing cards. This meant a lot of damage very quickly to your cards, especially in terms of edge wear. Akroma, Angel of Wrath

Sleeves with opaque backs changed everything. Not only were you keeping your cards from getting all scuffed up, you were also able to hide damage already done. This was immediately relevant to me, as I had some specific cards that had locational damage. As I recall, I had a Lord of the Pit with a bent corner.

Within the popularity of the black sleeves, the companies sensed a desire for more variety. Before long, you could have your green deck with green sleeves, your blue deck with blue sleeves, and so on.

Now you’re able to spend a significant amount of money and get just about anything you might want on your sleeves. I’ve seen custom inserts, and I imagine that fully-customized sleeves with personal art choices are not far away, if they don’t already exist. You can double or even triple sleeve your cards. There is a lot of discussion and a lot of personal preference when it comes to sleeves.

I like having different sleeves for different decks. I have been fortunate enough to find zombie sleeves for my Zombie deck and shiny foil vampire sleeves for a shiny foil Vampire deck. Personally, I can vouch for the durability of Dragon Shields. Shuffling an EDH deck can be tough on your sleeves, and can cause them to split or burst. The KMC perfect fit are another winner for me; my go-to perfect fit sleeve for the rarest of my cards.

Dice

If you want to further refine the unique experience of the game, dice represent an easy way to do that. You have an array of colors, and even an array of materials. Stone, wood, metal, bone, etc.

Magic’s history is also full of special dice, such as spin down dice with different set symbols, or translucent dice from the Premium Deck Series.

It is surprisingly easy to find very expensive dice. Especially exotic material dice, which can run $30-$40 for a set. If you want to get really fancy, look up iron dice and the many varieties they offer. Be careful if you have a few iron dice; they can really destroy plastic ones if kept in the same container and left to rattle around.

Similarly, dice boxes can fetch all sorts of prices, depending on how intricate a display you opt for. My wife and I brought coffin-shaped dice boxes complete with ghost and spirit counters with us to Worlds when Innistrad was the draft format. If you choose to look on Etsy or Ultra-Pro for custom boxes, you’ll find more than you expect.

A momentary aside on dice and life: Once you start using a notepad for life totals, you’ll never go back. All you need to do is bump a life die once and you’ll see the simple genius of writing things down. I have a six-inch stack of notepads that I have accumulated from the last few big events I’ve attended – all you need to do is see which vendors are giving them away at a GP or the like.

Playmats

You don’t need to use a playmat in many circumstances. Sleeves and a tablecloth work just fine. But playmats are useful for marking off your own territory, keeping yourself organized, and as a way to add structure and routine to your game.

Most large events have an official playmat, and it’s possible to find just about any of your favorite card arts if you look hard enough. If you went to GP Las Vegas this past summer, you can expect to fetch $40-$60 for just the playmat on eBay today. There are other ways to acquire unique playmats as well. Judges for certain events receive them, Gameday winners get one, PTQ Top 8 earns a playmat…the list goes on.

If you happen to have a Spellground mat big enough for two players sitting in a closet somewhere, go take a look at eBay and see if yours is in good enough condition to fetch a few hundred dollars. It’s from 20 years ago, and it doesn’t give special shuffling powers, but collectors are collectors.

It’s worth noting that custom playmats can be had from many Magic artists, or you can go online to have a custom playmat made from the image of your choice. All of these things are possible – if you’re willing to spend the money.

Deck Boxes

reg_dual_deckbox_open

Sure, some of us make do with a plain white 800-count baseball card box, but there’s so many other options out there! I’ve made custom deck boxes from booster boxes, I use fat pack boxes to hold EDH decks, and it seems that whenever I see a container of some sort, my first thoughts are of cards.

Currently, I use a Dual Deck Box from Ultra-Pro when drafting. One side is for sleeves, the other is for dice and counters. I’m a huge fan of deck boxes that have a space for extra things, like tokens and dice and maybe even a pen. I’ve been impressed at the number of options available to us, especially if you want to go all-out on Etsy for something one-of-a-kind.

Binders

True story: I’ve got some Ultra-Pro pages that are more than ten years old. They have the outlines of cards in them, and they look a little dingy, but they are still quite effective. I much prefer binders with three rings over binders that have a set number of pages, mainly because if I rip a pocket, I want to be able to replace that page.

I also really like binders which zip closed, and have handles or straps. I’ve seen too many big thick binders drop and spill precious pages because the owner didn’t have a solid grip.

Tokens

Token3

Hanging out at assorted forums, I’ve learned how to make my own tokens. Here’s an example of one I made for my token-themed EDH deck, which has Sliver Queen as the general.

I made a card with Kerrigan as the Queen, so the tokens had to be Zerglings!

Custom tokens like this are one way to personalize your experience. I’ve known people who carry a bag of green army men, or other small and cheap figurines. I’ve also seen large stacks of the official tokens, and as someone with a Zombie deck, the Unglued versions are by far the best.

Carrying Cases

In the event that you aren’t content with a backpack for your gaming needs, there are a few options from companies who want to make this easier for you. Personally, I prefer the backpack over the duffel bag, but to each their own. You’re probably going to try some different options before you settle on the one you like.

Dragon Eggs are something I’ve seen used, but were a little too small for my taste. I really like the pocket for a life pad, though! My wife uses an Ultra-Pro Gaming Case, and while that’s awesome in a lot of ways, I don’t want to carry that as well as a binder.

My goal with this is not to tell you what to buy. In my opinion, the only thing you *must* have is sleeves, simply because it protects your investment or hides preexisting damage. If you’re at a major event (competitive REL or higher,) I also feel you should be using a notepad to track life totals. Everything else is optional, and is going to come down to what you want out of your Magic experience. As I said, I’ve used a lot of different accessories over my Magic career, and what I’m using now might not be what I’m using next year. For instance, have you seen this spicy number from Ultra-Pro? I haven’t used it, but if that front compartment holds a life pad and a pen, it’s going to be hard to resist…

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