Category Archives: James Chillcott

MTG Fast Finance Podcast: Episode 28


MTG Fast Finance is our weekly podcast covering the flurry of weekly financial activity in the world of Magic: The Gathering. MFF provides a fast, fun and useful sixty minute format. Follow along with our seasoned hosts as they walk you through this week’s big price movements, their picks of the week, metagame analysis and a rotating weekly topic.

Show Notes: Aug 13th, 2016

Segment 1: Top Movers of the Week

Note: Price movements reflect posted NM prices, and may not represent prices players have paid.


Conflagrate (Foil, Eldritch Moon)
Start: $11.00
Finish: $35.00
Gain: +$24.00 (+218%)

Thespian’s Stage">Thespian’s Stage (Foil, Gatecrash)
Start: $13.25
Finish: $38.00
Gain: +$24.75 (+187%)

Desert Twister">Desert Twister (Arabian Nights)
Start: $7.50
Finish: $16.00
Gain: +$8.50 (+186%)

Pithing Needle (Foil, Saviors)
Start: $40.00
Finish: $10.00
Gain: +$60.00 (+150%)

Voldaren Pariah/mtg_card] (Eldritch Moon)
Start: $1.15
Finish: $2.75
Gain: +$1.60 (+140%)

[mtg_card]Emrakul, the Promised End">Voldaren Pariah/mtg_card] (Eldritch Moon)
Start: $1.15
Finish: $2.75
Gain: +$1.60 (+140%)

[mtg_card]Emrakul, the Promised End (Eldritch Moon)
Start: $12.50
Finish: $28.00
Gain: +$15.50 (+124%)

Strip Mine (Antiquities)
Start: $12.50
Finish: $25.00
Gain: +$12.50 (+100%)

Kozilek’s Return (Oath of the Gatewatch)
Start: $5.50
Finish: $11.00
Gain: +$5.50 (+100%)

Traverse the Ulvenwald (Shadows Over Innistrad)
Start: $2.00
Finish: $3.75
Gain: +$1.75 (+88%)

Deranged Hermit (Foil, Urza’s Legacy)
Start: $27.50
Finish: $50.00
Gain: +$22.50 (+81%)

Segment 2: Cards to Watch

James Picks:

  1. Cryptbreaker (Eldritch Moon) Confidence Level 7: $2 to $6 (+40%, 0-12+ months)Foils at $5 also likely to represent good value long term.
  2. Hanweir Battlements (Foil, Eldritch Moon) Confidence Level 6: $5 to $10 (+100%, 12+ months
  3. Hanweir Garrison (Foil, Eldritch Moon) Confidence Level 6: $5 to $15 (+150%, 12+ months)

Meld cards represent a unique long term collectible and foils are likely to rise over time. Garrison has a shot at some Standard success and could go $2 to $5 in the right meta with it being used as a 4-of in multiple decks. Battlements often just a 1 or 2-of, and has more to gain but a lesser chance to pop at $1 for non-foils.


4. mtg_card]Thalia’s Lancers[/mtg_card] (Foil, Eldritch Moon) Confidence Level 8: $3 to $10 (+333%, 12+ months)

As an open-ended synergy card that can fetch up legendary permanents, in EDH, Lancers is has the potential in to be pulling out Griselbrand, Gaea’s Cradle or Umezawa’s Jitte. That power and flexibility likely means that these foils are destined to top $10 or even $20 given a few years to mature.

Travis Picks:

  1. Golgari Grave Troll">Golgari Grave Troll, Ravnica: City of Guilds, Confidence Level 7: $9 to $20 (+122%, 0-6+ months)

Disclosure: Travis and James may own speculative copies of the above cards.

Segment 3: Metagame Week in Review

Pro Tour Eldritch Moon was a dramatic affair full of big swingy matches that required tight play and saw the Channel Fireball crew dominate the Top 8. Emrakul, Traverse the Ulvenwald, Liliana, the Last Hope and Elder Deep Fiend are just some of the cards the guys cover in breaking down the Pro Tour metagame.

Segment 4: Topic of the Week has added additional data points to card pages this week. The guys talk through which ones are useful, which not, and speculate on the impact on the marketplace of freshly minted buylist data.

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


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Pro Tour Eldritch Moon: Day 2 MTGFinance Coverage

Editor’s Note: Relevant financial details in blue, folks.

Coming into Day 2 of this smaller than usual Pro Tour stop, several interesting decks have made waves, and a handful of cards have already popped. After being featured on camera winning games over and over on Day 1, Emrakul, the Promised End popped from $15 to well over $40, only to fall back toward $25 as vendors and speculators sought to sell into the hype. Liliana, the Last Hope, which came into the weekend holding a $40 price tag, was reported to be selling for ridiculous amounts on the tourney floor and has gained $5 to $45 domestically as we wait to see how many copies make Top 8. Voldaren Pariah, the grindy flip creature making waves in the U/B Zombie lists has popped to $3 from $1. Kozilek’s Return has jumped to $10 from $6. Traverse the Ulvenwald looks set for a double up, moving from $2 to $4.

Ishkanah, Grafwidow and Prized Amalgam have also shown modest gains based on frequent camera time, though their ultimate fate this weekend has yet to be written in stone.

Follow along with us as we follow along with the final 5 rounds of constructed play before the cut to Top 8 and the establishment of the new Standard metagame.

Round 13 (7th Standard Round): LSV (Bant Company) vs. Reid Duke (RG Ramp)

Reid  (11-1) is on track to make Top 8 with one more win today, and LSV (10-2) needs just two wins to make Day 3 for the third time in a row, the first time this has happened in a generation!

In Game 1 LSV misses a couple of land drops while Reid sets up shop on his ramp plan. Despite the fast takeoff, Reid draws hollow for a few turns, giving Luis too much time to get back in the game. A few value creatures, a Jace, and a Collected Company later, LSV is able to take Game 1.

In Game 2, Reid mulligans twice, but an early Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy from LSV is still answered by Kozilek’s Return, and the players trade threats and answers for a few turns as Reid achieves delirium. In the mid-game LSV adds a Tamiyo, Field Researcher to a crowded board to really start churning the value engine. At just four life Reid finally stabilizes with an Emrakul that wrecks most of the board for LSV. LSV manages a Selfless Spirit on his next turn, but the combination of Emrakul and Ishkanah (with her spiderling buddies) holds his attacks at bay. Soon after Luis is forced to Reflector Mage the Emrakul, allowing Reid to cast it again and take another bonus turn against his best interests. Facing certain doom, LSV top decks another copy of Tamiyo, tapped Emrakul and Ishkanah, attacks with his Sylvan Advocate, eats Reid’s remaining spider and finds himself just a bad top deck away from a win. Sure enough, Duke is unable to find a blocker and falls in two games to put both players one win away from the Top 8.

Round 13 (7th Standard Round): Lucas Blohan (WB Control) vs. Zen Takahashi (Naya Legends)

The innovative Naya Legends deck in the hands of Takahashi features Oath of Nissa, Hangarback Walker, Thalia’s Lancers, Nissa, Vastwood Seer, Evolutionary Leap, Linvala, the Preserver and a toolbox of interesting legendary creatures. Oddly, Takahashi just barely qualified for this Pro Tour via the GP in Australia last week, and here is in Top 8 contention. Off camera, Blohan takes Game 1.

Deck Tech: Esper Control (6-1 in Standard, out of contention on draft record)

  • 4 Jace, 2 Gideon, 2 Sorin, Grim Nemesis, 1 Ob Nixilis
  • 2 Descend Upon the Sinful, 3 Declaration in Stone, 2 Languish, 1 Anguished Unmaking
  • 3 Transgress the Mind, 3 Clash of Wills, 1 Silumgar’s Command, 2 Ojutai’s Command
  • 3 Fortune’s Favor, 3 Secure the Wastes, 2 Painful Truths
  • 3 Westvale Abbey

Secure the Wastes and Fortune’s Favor singled out as crucial to the deck. At just $.05 picking up 20-40 copies of Fortune’s Favor could be an easy penny spec if enough players start testing Esper Control builds in the coming weeks. 

Here are the top table standings after Round 13, with just three rounds left before the cut to Top 8.

With Owen, Reid, LSV, Sam Pardee, Jacob Wilson and the rest in contention, this Top 8 is looking likely to be epic. This crowd includes BG Delirium x2, Temur Emerge x2, BW Control, Bant Company.

Round 14: LSV (Bant Company) vs. Owen Turtenwald (Temur Emerge)

This match is a win and in for Top 8, and will result in a fantastic narrative regardless of who wins. Both guys come in 11-2. Owen is now within reach of Player of the Year, while LSV is looking to Top 8 for the third time in a row this year!

Game 1 is over quick as strong early pressure from LSV bumps up against an Elder Deep-Fiend, only to have Archangel Avacyn flash in on the end step to clinch the victory the following turn for Luis.

In Game 2, Owen is available to chain Gnarlwood Dryad into Deep Fiend, triggering a flashed back Kozilek’s Return and then on into an Emrakul. LSV is forced to spend his Tamiyo to keep Emrakul tapped down for a couple of turns. Chandra Flamecaller shows up alongside Emrakul, and the threat level is just too high for LSV to recover from. Tied at 1-1.

In Game 3, LSV leverages a Duskwatch Recruiter to overcome some land flood, and again makes excellent use of Tamiyo, Field Researcher to lock down key blockers and get in for the win. This almost certainly puts LSV into the Top 8 and breathes fresh life into Bant Company moving forward.

Round 14: Sam Pardee (BG Delirium) vs. Andrew Brown (Temur Emerge)

In Game 1 we arrive from off camera to find a Liliana emblem in play. Kozilek’s Return from Brown clears the zombie army, and allows him to take down Liliana. Pardee responds with Languish to clear all but a Deep Fiend from Brown. We miss the next several turns, but Pardee ends up winning with the ultimate emblem proving too much for Brown. Pardee also takes the match, butting BG Delirium into the Top 8.

Off camera, Reid Duke puts away Jacob Wilson to clinch Top 8 as well, meaning RG Ramp has a shot at the title as well.

Deck Tech: Jund Delirium (Simon Nielsen)


Running 3x Kozilek’s Return, 3x Traverse the Ulvenwald, just a single Emrakul. 2x Distended Mindbender. 3x Mindwrack Demon and 3x Lianna, the Last Hope. 3x Languish.

Round 15: Reid Duke (RG Ramp) vs. Takahashi (Bant Company)

Reid loses Game 1 quick to an explosive start from the CoCo mage. Reid loses Game 2 as well, butting Takahashi and the 2nd Bant Company deck into the Top 8.

Round 15: Owen Turtenwald (Temur Emerge) vs. Lukas Blohon (WB Control)

Owen needs to win this match or the next to make Top 8 and Player of the Year. Big money on the line here for the new Hall of Famer. Blohan takes Game 1 on the back of yet another Liliana emblem and puts Owen on the back foot. In Game 2 a pair of Transgress the Mind removes the relevant threats from Owen’s hand, and Blohon takes the match quickly to make Top 8 with BW Control. Owen must now win his final match to make Top 8 and win Player of the Year. Biggest pressure point of the season coming up next round.

On a back table Daniel Cathro has the UB Zombies dream still alive at 10-3-1, and is up a game against Temur Emerge/Thomas Hendriks. A Liliana emblem is in play and generating massive advantadge, and Cathro takes the match to gift himself with a win and in next round.

Jan Ksandr on Bant Spirits is also battling fellow 10-3-1 player Ken Yukihiro on GR Ramp, but the match goes to time, with both players due to miss Top 8 if they pick up the draw. Weaver of Lightning ends up winning the match on the back of a Tormenting Voice, removing a key blocker to allow the Japanese player to get it done and put a second G/R ramp deck into the Top 8. Kozilek’s Return, also featured in the Temur Emerge deck seems likely to hold near $10.

Round 16: Owen Turtenwald (Temur Emerge) vs. Daniel Cathro (UB Zombies)

Owen has it all on the line this round. Sadly for him, Game 1 sees first time Pro Tour participant Cathro return a Haunted Dead via a double Prized Amalgam discard to put four creatures into play, a move quickly followed up by a Liliana, the Last Hope. A couple of turns later Owen manages to go Pilgrim’s Eye into Wretched Griff to bring back Kozilek’s Return and clear the board at two life. A couple of turns later a similar pattern is demonstrated, and the players jockey for board position with Owen trying to hold down the looming zombie threats. Owen manages to stabalize on an Emrakul, but more Haunted Dead shenanigans into a Voldaren Pariah, clears much of the board on both sides. A Murderous Cut lurking in Cathro’s hand signals danger to Emrakul but Owen gets a full value Ishkanah into play. Cathro at 4 life, Owen still at 2 but Daniel can’t easily bypass the spider force. Owen alpha strikes with Emrakul and all his spiders, but Cathro pulls the trigger on the Murderous Cut on Emrakul, and sets up to get more zombies back with the players now tied at two life a piece. Owen manages an Elder Deep Fiend to pop another enhanced Kozilek’s Return, but Daniel works through two copies of Voldaren Pariah in response to end up with a big bad flyer on the table ready to strike by end of turn. Owen looks for a solution, comes up dry, and we move to Game 2 with Owen facing the loss of both Top 8 and Player of the Year.

Cathro mulligans into two lands and can’t find his third land. Owen gets Chandra Flamecaller into play and the pressure is real. Despite still being on two lands Haunted Dead comes back with a spirit and a Prized Amalgam and the team takes down Chandra. At ten lands to his opponent’s three, Owen chains Spiders into Eldrazi and earns his last chance at the best possible weekend.

Both players keep a full grip and the game pivots early when Owen casts Negate on the first copy of Liliana, the Last Hope. He then keeps the board stable for a few more turns, drops Emrakul, controls the next turn, and manages to snag victory out of the jaws of defeat one turn later. Huge congratulations to Owen Turtenwald for making the Hall of Fame, a fresh Pro Tour Top 8 AND Player of the Year all in one weekend. Temur Emerge earns another slot on Sunday, and puts Kozilek’s Return and Emrakul squarely in the spotlight. Side note: the UB Zombie build looks very hot indeed, and this won’t be the end of things for that archetype despite the loss.

Ken Yukihiro defeats Reid Duke in final turns for the second match in a row to make Top 8. Some of the best Pro Tour match play ever today, wow.

Top 8 Announcement

  1. Sam Pardee (BG Delirium)
  2. LSV (Bant Company)
  3. Yuta Takahashi (Bant Company)
  4. Lukas Blohon (BW Control)
  5. Ken Yukihiro (GR Ramp)
  6. Owen Turtenwald (Temur Emerge)
  7. Reid Duke (GR Delirium Ramp)
  8. Andrew Brown (Temur Emerge)

What a star studded Top 8, topping off an epic year of great Top 8s. Two Hall of Fame players. Sam Pardee and Reid Duke. Great players fill the rest of the bracket.

Relatively few Liliana, the Last Hope in the Top 8 in the end, with just BW Control and BG Delirium running the card. Kozilek’s Return and Emrakul however feature prominently in roughly half the decks. Elder Deep Fiend could show gains if it wins the whole thing. Bant Company still has a shot to take it all in the hands of red hot LSV.

The brackets look well balanced with no real blowouts set up to play out. Anyone could take this, but odds on favorites have to be the dominating Channel Fireball squad, with Reid Duke, LSV, and Owen looking set to have a west coast wizard take the tournament.

Tune in tomorrow for the final result of a great weekend of Magic!


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Pro Tour Eldritch Moon Finance: Standard Day 1

Check out our Pro Tour preview over here, and join us for round to round coverage in live blog style below all day.

Round 4 started at 1am EST, Friday.

Round 4 (1st Standard Round):  Andrew Cuneo (BG Delirum) vs. Owen Turtenwald (Temur Emerge)

Owen comes to the table with a snazzy new hair cut and a relatively unseen archtype for Standard thus far this season in Temur Emerge. The deck features Emrakul, the Promised End, Gather the Pack, Kozilek’s Return, Ishkanah, Grafwidow, Den Protector, Elder Deep Fiend, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, Pilgrim’s Eye, Nissa’s Pilgrimage, Chandra, Grapple with the Past and Gnarlwood Dryad. Ishkanah showing up in Temur certainly opens the door for the card to see more play.

Andrew’s deck on the other hand is a version of the familiar GB Control style build including value cards such as Liliana, the Last Hope, Mindwrack Demon, Grasp of Darkness, Gilt-Leaf Winnower and Nissa, Vastwood Seer. After some back and forth, Owen takes Game 1 on the back of a late game Emrakul.

In Game 2, Owen shows off Coax from the Blind Eternities, perhaps a sideboard option against Infinite Obliteration. Midway through Game 2, both players are still at 20 life, and Turtenwald has three copies of Elder Deep-Fiend in hand.

Floor report has Liliana, the Last Hope selling at prices as high as $100.

Round 4 (1st Standard Round):  Brad Nelson (Jund Delirium) vs. Patrick Dickmann (Bant Eldrazi Rites)

Dickmann is on a unique Bant brew with Reality Smasher, Elvish Visionary, Reflector Mage, Spell Queller and Drowner of Hope. He’s running Collected Company and Cryptolith Rites, despite running many creatures over three casting cost.

Nelson is on a Jund deck with Emrakul, the Promised End, Kozilek’s Return, Traverse the Ulvenwald, Distended Mindbender. Emrakul getting a lot of camera time, and seems to be in many decks. Brad takes Game 1 with Emrakul in similar fashion to Owen at the other table.

Dickmann takes Game 2 off camera.

In Game 3, Brad gets off a Kozilek’s Return in the mid-game to clear most of Patrick’s board. He follows up with Ishkanah and sets up to run back the Return off a forthcoming Distended Mindbender. Spell Queller eats the Return, but Brad top decks Languish to clear the board. Reality Smasher comes off the top for Patrick however and with Brad at just three life, Dickmann puts the match away.

Not many aggro decks at the top tables so far.

Round 4 (1st Standard Round):  Ben Seck (U/B Madness) vs. Marco Camilluzzi (Legendary Naya)

Seck is on U/B Madness, using Voldaren Pariah. Camilluzzi is on a Naya build that leverages Thalia’s Lancers and a toolbox of legendary creatures to try and take control of the mid-game. Marco takes the match mostly off camera 2-0 in their games.

Over a quarter of the field is caught still playing with time called. Format is slow!

Deck Tech #1: Bant Company (Andrea Mengucci)

Randy notes that Bant Company is only 19% of the total field, as opposed to the expected 30-35%. Everyone gunning for it. As per usual, deck is built around Bant value creatures Duskwatch Recruiter, Spell Queller, and Reflector Mage coming into play via Collected Company.

Round 5 (2nd Standard Round): Matt Sperling (B/G Delirium) vs.  Reid Duke (R/G Delirium)

Reid Duke is basically on an old school red/green ramp deck, using green ramp spells, Hedron Crawler and Hedron Archive to get to Ulvenwald Hydra (one copy), Dragonlord Atarka and Emrakul, the Promised End. At the low end he runs Sylvan Advocate, Fiery Impulse and other board stabilizing cards.

Sperling is making use of many of the green and black delirium cards, leveraging the graveyard and various card selection, discard and kill spells to try and control the mid-game. The deck also features Languish, Liliana, The Last Hope, Nissa, Vastwood Seer and the rest of the expected cards of the archetype. Traverse the Ulvenwald into Emrakul, the Promised End is also part of the game plan. Traverse is looking like an important card in this meta.

In Game 1, Reid manages to get his Emrakul out a turn before Sperling and quickly earns a concession with Atarka also on his side.

Between games I checked out the movement on Emarkul, the Promised End, and watched 20-30 copies dry up under $15. Channel Fireball is sold out. This card could be over $20 by end of the weekend if it stays prevalent near the top tables.

Reid manages to take down Game 2 in similar fashion, this time getting in with Atarka before Sperling can stabilize.

Round 5 (2nd Standard Round): Christian Calcano (Bant Company) vs. Marcio Carvalho (U/B Zombies)

We come into this match in Game 3, with the players tied at a game a piece. Carvalho is on a full-fledged blue/black zombie deck. Deck runs the full set of Prized Amalgam, discarding them to Haunted Dead and Stitchwing Skaab (!) for major value. Crypt Breaker is also present, as is Voldaren Pariah, which at $1, certainly has room to move up if it does well. Indeed, the card is absolutely savage in the third game and earns a place on the must watch list for the weekend as Carvalho takes the match.

Calcano’s deck is running Elder Deep Fiend, a card rarely seen in Bant Company, and further evidence of players looking to go bigger this weekend.

At end of Round 2, more than half (!) the matches are still going. Ultra grindy indeed.

Round 6 (3rd Standard Round): Luis-Scott Vargas (Bant Company) vs. Steven Rubin (Black/Green Delirium)

LSV is running a fairly stock Bant Company list with a few tweaks. Defending Pro Tour champion Rubin is on a GB Delirium list running many of the same cards already expected. Rubin takes Game 1 fairly easily. LSV crack back in the next game to even things up.

In the third game things get very grindy, with LSV trying to fight through Ishkanah and Void Winnower to get rid of a threatening Liliana, the Last Hope. The solution ends up being Tamiyo, Field Researcher, which allows LSV to tap down the big blockers and get in to kill both Liliana and a flipped Nissa. Nevertheless, Steve does get off an Emrakul on the next turn that absolutely wrecks his opponent’s board state, including an Ojutai’s Command countering a Reflector Mage. Rubin is able to put it away and advance to 6-0. A great game.

Round 6: Patrick Dickmann (Bant Company/Rites) vs Yuuya Watanabe (R/G Ramp)

The Watanabe deck is similar in some ways to the one Reid Duke is running, but with a few twists, including Hangarback Walker, and Ishkanah, Grafwidow. At one point Yuuya takes control of Dickmann using Emrakul and forces him to use Reflector Mage to give him back the Emrakul for another go at mind control. Savage, but Dickmann does manage to take the next game to even things out.

100+ copies of Emrakul, the Promised End have now evaporated across the online vendors after being constantly featured as the finisher of choice across multiple decks. The price looks likely to settle above $25 if the pace of camera time continues and it makes Top 8 in quantity.

At another table, Owen Turtenwald beats Reid Duke, to put Temur Emerge at 3-0, and Owen at 6-0 on the day. A great start for our newest Hall of Fame member.

Deck Tech #3: 4-Color Emerge (Michael Bonde)

Gather the Pack, Grapple the Past, Traverse the Ulvenwald, are all 4-ofs, as is Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Three copies of Noose Constrictor and a single copy of Nissa, Vastwood Seer. Prized Amalgam and Haunted Dead are also four copies each, providing a recursive value engine we’ve seen in a few decks now.  Haunted Dead and Prize Amalgam could both end up in the $3-4 range. Kozilek’s Return, and Elder Deep-Fiend are also 4-ofs and provide even more shenanigans with the Amalgam/Haunted Dead package. Just the Wind and Ishkanah are used in single copies.

Back at the coverage desk, Liliana, the Last Hope called out as the defining card of the tournament.

Round 7 (4th Round of Standard): Olivier Ruel (Sultai Control) vs. Jacob Wilson (BG Delirium)

Ruel is on a deck similar to the one Ali Aintrazi ran to 2nd place last week at SCG Baltimore. Jacob Wilson is on G/B Delirium. Ruel gets down a Liliana, only to get it answered with a Ruinous Path. Both decks running Liliana, and Jacob has both Grim Flayer and Ishkanah, Grafwidow. About ten turns into the game we find Wilson casting Emrakul, finding another Emrakul in Ruel’s hand. Eldrazi overlords for everyone! Wilson’s Emrakul is stolen by Dragonlord Silumgar, but Liliana and Grasp of Darkness take out the Dragonlord and Jacob is able to take Game 1 as Ruel draws dead.

In a very grindy second game, at one point both players have Liliana and Nissa in play in planeswalker mode with Ruel also having a flipped Jace in play. Things grind on for a dozen or more turns with over a dozen permanents in play. Ultimately time is called, and the players enter the five extra turns. Wilson casts an Emrakul on Turn 3 of extra turns, giving him control of Turn 4, but forcing him to get rid of multiple potential attackers on the forthcoming Turn 5 to fend off the tie. Wilson moves to 6-1.

Here’s the Day 1 meta:


Note that the blue/green Crush of Tentacles deck from last weekend is nowhere to be found here, though it may have been a good choice facing this incredibly grindy meta.

Deck Tech 4: GB Delirium (Shaheen Soorani)

Shaheen calls out Emrakul as the best finisher in the format.

Round 8 (Standard Round 5): Owen Turtenwald (Temur Emerge) vs. Steve Rubin (GB Delirium)

Owen comes into this round at 7-0, while Steve is at 6-1. Turtenwald uses Emrakul to take Game 1, playing into the themes of the weekend thus far. In Game 2, Owen chains a pair of Elder Deep Fiends with Kozilek’s Return to wipe out Rubin’s opposing creatures and present serious pressure. Owen moves to 8-0 on the same day he is elected to the Hall of Fame. Talk about driving it home. See you guys tonight for Day 2!

James Chillcott is the CEO of, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.

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The Definitive PucaTrade: Inflationary Pressures & How To Fix Them

This article is a collaboration between James Chillcott and Brian Dale. It is also 9000 words long, so get comfortable 😉

The purpose of this article is to help Magic players and vendors to understand the issues inherent in the current PucaTrade marketplace model, as well as to examine some potential solutions to the underlying issues with the aim of achieving a sustainable and profitable trading platform for all.

The Rise of PucaTrade

PucaTrade hit the scene in 2013 with a unique value proposition. Rather than launch yet another e-commerce operation aimed at selling cards, PucaTrade took aim at reinvigorating the flagging trading scene in an era where smartphones and ubiquitous price matching were slowing the pace of face to face trading.

At its core the premise of the platform was brilliant in its simplicity: allow players from anywhere in the world to trade cards directly in exchange for trade credit that could then be used to “pay” for an incoming trade from another player. To facilitate the value storage necessary between the two trades, the PucaPoint was established, and card values were ultimately linked to the prices found on

PucaTrade’s method of facilitating trades between 1,000’s of traders created a lot of excitement among players, especially overseas, and in areas where trading partners were scarce or smaller towns without many retail options from which to acquire rarer cards. Over the last three years PucaTrade has grown into a popular platform for both players and vendors, but despite being used by thousands, it is often misunderstood.

In order to entice new users to join the platform and ensure a pool of available currency to fuel trades, PucaTrade has long held a policy of issuing between $5 and $10 (on average) in freshly minted PucaPoints to each new user as they register and recruit additional members.

It should be acknowledged that by many measures PucaTrade is a growing and valuable platform, through which thousands of cards exchange hands successfully.

Sadly, currency currently being issued without value exchange is a risky growth vehicle, and the current scenario is not sustainable without change.

The PucaPoint as Currency

In the context of our exploration, a currency can most easily be defined as a method of storing value for future use among the participants in a marketplace.


PucaPoints are the sole currency on the PucaTrade platform. They are earned through the “sale” of cards being sent from one user to another. To date, PucaPoints can only be used to
“buy” cards, an event that triggers when one user (the seller) identifies a card on another user’s (the buyer) Want List and decides to send it out in the mail. The points are immediately removed from the buyer’s account but are only permanently assigned to the seller once the buyer confirms that they have received the card(s) in question.

As some traders have paid for upgraded accounts that can (among other benefits) directly send each other PucaPoints freely, in theory they can be exchanged for any other product or currency. In practical terms however, PucaPoints are mostly used to acquire Magic: The Gathering cards. Less frequently, Pucapoints are sold to other users, typically because the seller was unable to acquire cards they wanted, or at least unable to acquire them quickly enough. In doing so, the point seller elects to sacrifice some value in order to get back to a liquid position where they can purchase anything (via USD or other hard currency).

It is important to note that PucaPoints are minted out of thin air and issued to new users at virtually no cost to PucaTrade. Because no value is exchanged for these points, the resulting marketplace is naturally inflationary, and the value of the PucaPoint has continued to slowly drop against the USD as inflationary pressure has built up over time. Put simply, more points are in the system than are needed, and this makes the holding of PucaPoints increasingly less desirable than holding hard currency.

It is critical to the proper functioning of the PucaTrade platform that players and vendors looking to trade cards into hard currency can rely on the platform to provide the liquidity required by users that need to move into cash or more valuable cards quickly and efficiently in order to be motivated to continue trading. This is not currently available and it is causing problems in the market.

Missing the Mark

In his recent article on PucaTrade, site founder Eric Freytag discussed “How PucaTrade Manages Point Supply“. In the article Eric references the change to issuing “free” PP as the main cause of subsequent increases in trade “velocity” on the platform. This suggest that PucaTrade has misidentified the source of their troubles and consequently delayed the roll-out of solutions to the threat that “pucaflation” (the declining value of PucaPoints when purchasing cards) represents to Puca’s long term survival.

To put it in simple terms, PucaTrade gave away free money that could only be spent on Magic cards. Puca now believes that the benefits of the resulting trades were caused by more “points in the system”, when in fact this is not true. In fact the current circumstances represent a completely unsustainable process without the introduction of release valves to excise some of those “free” points from the system.

Notice the similarities in these two charts:



Notice how trades decrease at three different points in 2015 at the same time that new sign ups drop off? This strongly suggests  new registrants free points are contributing significantly to maintaining the velocity of trading.

But now take a close look at this chart:


Here we see that the points per capita steadily grew over the same period that trades were oscillating up and down. So if “points in the system” are the driver of activity why was the points per capita metric having no positive effect on the total number of trades?

In fact, what PucaTrade actually achieved was a cycle of short term active traders. If you go through their entire article and replace each instance of “supply of points” with “active traders” you will see what we mean.

PucaTrade does not seem to understand that the number of active traders, not “points in the system”, is the single most important driver of the health of the Puca economy.

At present this error is still being compounded. Freytag talks about points per capita as an important metric that they constantly review. He even includes a chart showing that per capita points spiked in 2014 with the creation of the sign up/referral bonuses and that it has been steadily rising ever since (currently about $9.50 per account). The points per capita stat is largely inaccurate. Because PucaTrade focuses on “points in the system” instead of active traders they fail to properly focus on the large difference between the contributions of active trading accounts vs latent or abandoned accounts. But if we introduce the assumption of some reasonable percentage of “dead” accounts (accounts that are not trading or at least not sending cards) that immediately raises the amount of Pucapoints per active trader in the economy to a more telling figure.

To clarify, if there is $9 per capita in PP, but 25% of accounts are essentially inactive, that raises the avg PP per active trader by 33% to $12 based on the assumed level of trades (250,000, an estimate from their charts), and the estimated number of traders (north of 200,000, again based on their charts). If we assume that the average active traders are actually sending 4+ trades/month, then 3/4 of all accounts may in fact be inactive. That would put the Pucapoint per capita of active traders at $36/each! This is well over their own estimates of what constitutes a healthy scenario.

Freytag himself even references the need to target $8/user and to keep the per capita under $9, a range that they have almost certainly already broken (How PucaTrade manages point supply). By focusing on the wrong point supply calculation, instead of providing appropriate point sinks and incentives for power sellers, they are focusing on the wrong side of the equation.

“It’s a good problem to have”, except it isn’t

In defense of the “pucaflation” situation Freytag mentions that trade times (velocity) stabilized in the winter of 2014/15 and gives credit to the additional points being created. This assertion seems to ignore that this period also saw new accounts spike by 500% and the number of total traders suddenly became quite a bit larger (and all those new members had cash to spend thanks to those PucaTrade new user bonuses).


In his article, Freytag also references that the points in Escrow (points in use at any point) have declined to roughly 30% (of total points in the system) vs. the level they were at before the point bonuses. This is after they had reached a (fairly healthy) 50% during the peak of the first growth spurt. For reference 30% is about half of what you want in a healthy active economy. (See this article for reference detailing M2 being at about 60% during the strongest economic cycles in the USA.)


Let’s not forget that the vast majority of PP are created as incentives to join and were not purchased by users (per Freytag’s Brainstorm Brewery interview). As such, the PucaTrade economy cannot grow without having to have fresh PucaPoints constantly pumped into the system, and this process will not be sustainable, since that process only delays rather than solves the root sources of “pucaflation”.

Freytag also details that inflation was encouraged by consultants or team members to address their worries about deflation (points going up in value) . This demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature and conditions of potential PucaPoint deflation. Since PucaTrade can sell points to users at $1/100 points at any time, no amount of deflation would ever allow PucaPoints to rise in value above that price. This is because no one would ever pay more to another member when the site itself has created a hard ceiling.

What about the number of trades? Freytag promotes the number of total trades growing exponentially over the last few years (source: Puca’s Twitter account). However, this stat is proof only of PucaTrade’s success in growing its user base. The number of avg trades per day has actually grown much more slowly than the user base. Freytag’s charts (see above) show that they first broke 5,000 trades a day in the spring of 2014 after the creation of PucaPoints was ramped up and are currently sitting at about 8,000 per day as of this spring (“How PucaTrade manages point-supply). Note that there are peaks as high as 15,000 at the release of BFZ. This is a 60% increase, and a great increase for sure, but hardly what could be labelled as exponential growth where it counts.

According to Freytag there are over 250,000 members and they are currently signing up about 285 people a day. That means at the same time they are creating 200,000 points every day, or about $61,000 in free money per month. ( as per “How PucaTrade manages point supply”).

This constant stream of new points, being introduced without a commensurate exchange of value, leads to the big problem: the devaluation of the PucaPoint against hard currency like the USD.

PucaPoints & Inflation

Inflation is most easily defined as a reduction in the purchasing power of your currency against the basket of goods you aim to consume.

If $1 this year buys a loaf of bread, and next year that same loaf costs you $1.10, than you have experienced inflation, because your money is buying less product per unit of currency spent. Similarly, if acquiring a card on PucaTrade increasingly requires you to sweeten the pot with a bonus expressed in points, that too is evidence of inflation.

What is commonly referred to as “pucaflation”, is actually caused by a depreciation of the pseudo-currency against hard currency due to an overabundance of points in the system that have not been exchanged for value and have no method of release. This fact is currently obscured by the fact that PucaTrade does not allow the value of cards expressed in PP to be set by the market actors. Remember, because the card values on PucaTrade are tied to TCG pricing in USD, the card to PP exchange rate is relatively consistent with US retail pricing on the cards, at least on paper.

Nevertheless, the PP bonuses (aka bounties) that many Puca users now offer sellers above the platform suggested card price are an early warning signal of inflationary pressure.

Generally speaking a properly functioning market will allow the market to set the price of the good via bids and asks on either side of the average transaction strike price. After all, a bounty is nothing more than a high bid against the average ask, and is a perfectly natural mechanism of a healthy marketplace. Ebay for instance has long made use of a bidding system, as well as a Best Offer system that allows buyers to explore a seller’s willingness to sell for less. The stock market is also an excellent example of a high functioning bid/ask driven marketplace.

That being said, we believe that were PucaTrade to suddenly allow their users to establish the price of cards via a Bid/Ask system, inflation would become immediately apparent across the board.

At present, users are already willing to offer (for example) the equivalent of a $10 bonus (in PP) on a card that could be purchased at retail for $50 because PP can be acquired for less than the cash price of the card. Let’s take a look at how that plays out:

Eg) A card is $50 on and PucaTrade (engaging in a form of price fixing) lists the card’s value as 5000 PP. To incentivize a quick sale from a vendor or power seller with an interest in exiting to hard currency, the user offers 6000. Points can be purchased at .60 USD/per 100, so the cash value of 6000 points is $36. The buyer has saved $14 vs. the price of the card at retail, but ONLY if they can find a seller who doesn’t understand the mechanics at work or values the trade value of the PP over the cash. The fact that retail sales typically carry a fee structure of up to 15%, resulting in a retail gross after fees of roughly $43 on a $50 card contributes to the willingness of the seller to engage.

It is important to note that so far, for many users, “Pucaflation” is a non-obvious issue, at least so far as the value of their PucaPoints is concerned. If you are a purist trader, sending out cards and receiving cards with no intention of ever exiting to hard currency, than the platform functions for you without any obvious loss in value day-to-day. You send some cards and you get some cards, and if the cards you receive are of lower quality or take slightly longer to get sent over time, you may not notice as quickly as the traders looking to exit to cash or high value cards as fast as they can.

Nevertheless, the lack of point sinks put in place to erase the free points being handed out at registration are slowly dragging down the potential velocity of the marketplace. Left unchecked, this process will increasingly affect even trade-oriented users by extending the wait times on receiving desired cards; in effect punishing their investment with a negative rate of return (because of the opportunity cost of not investing your money elsewhere and the continual slide of the PP against hard currency).

However, the introduction of point sinks into the system has the potential to change the game. As fewer points are left idle in the system, their scarcity rises and fewer users are willing to sell for cash at a large discount. Properly managed, the exchange value of PP vs. hard currency rises to some more sustainable level (possibly in the .85 – .95 range), and the cash cost of cards obtained through the system shifts closer and closer to retail pricing. In this scenario commercial operators are somewhat more likely to be comfortable with building up their PucaPoint stash since they can always exit the market by being one of the few users willing to sell points or through increased opportunities to acquire high value cards. (Vendor specific point sinks would be a much more powerful incentive however, as we will explore below.)

Can the PP ever hit 1 to 1 with the USD or go above? Not really, because the price of the cards on the platform are pegged directly to US retail prices, and the USD will always be the more convenient and liquid of the two currencies. As such, as with MTGO Tix, the PucaPoint will necessarily be the lesser, if only by a slim margin in a best case scenario.

PucaTrade Is Not A Pyramid

It should also be noted that there have been claims from some observers that PucaTrade is a essentially a pyramid scheme. We are happy to report that this is simply not the case.

While the aspect of recruiting new traders is somewhat similar to Pyramid Scheme, and the risk of “last man in loses” is also present, PucaTrade does not feature a cascading multi-level benefit process that would help earn such a slight. As such, unless the PucaTrade owners are adding free points to their own accounts (and we have no reason to believe that they are) there isn’t an “upstream” pyramid in play.

Now while PucaTrade is not a pyramid scheme it does require the same type of constant growth to survive under the current system of point distribution and management.

The growth of transactions on the platform via the constant recruiting of new traders is a key reason why the platform has not yet collapsed under its own weight. However, if the drag of more and more sellers leaving the system overtakes the number of new players joining PucaTrade you will have the potential for a collapse similar to that of a pyramid scheme, with thousands of users trapped holding worthless PucaPoints.

Pressure valves & why PucaTrade needs them

No release valves means inflationary pressure. Period.

Since PucaTrade has not yet launched a way to remove PP from the economy, the quantities of the virtual currency for sale will continue to grow faster than the trade volume of the growing user base. Just as with Magic itself, there is a constant stream of players quitting the platform and abandoning their points. Since we know that the PucaTrade economy isn’t functioning properly this statistic will tend to grow on a parabolic curve.


It is perhaps important at this point to establish the mechanisms of inflation. Let’s say that the your local government gave every customer $100 in GasBucks for free. These GasBucks can only be used to purchase Gasoline from your local gas station. Clearly any rational consumer will prefer to use these GasBucks instead of their hard earned dollars to buy gas on their way home from work. What is most likely to happen to the price of gas in your neighbourhood in the presence of this new currency? Well, since there is an abundance of GasBucks most gas stations can (and will) raise the price of gas without upsetting people because everyone has GasBucks to burn. There is more money supply, suddenly competing for the same goods, so prices will naturally rise. What about the exchange rate of GasBucks to USD? Well clearly GasBucks are worth $1 when purchasing gasoline but are worth $0 in every other scenario. There will eventually be people who find themselves with no use for GasBucks, but a persistent need for real dollars, and they will seek opportunities to sell their GasBucks for USD. In theory GasBucks can be exchanged for anything of value, but since they are less useful than hard currency, the number of people looking to trade a bike for GasBucks when they could have just sold it for dollars will be low. Buyers will always pay less than $1 for GasBucks as they have very limited use, and because USD can also be used to buy gas, along with everything else.

Now imagine if we continued to add more GasBucks all the time to a market that was already buying them below face value. With supply outpacing demand, the value of the Gas Bucks expressed in USD falls further and further.

So too is the PucaPoint destined to be devalued, with the potential to drive down interest in the platform until trade growth grinds to a halt and users are potentially trapped holding millions of dollars of points without a way to convert them into value. (It should be noted that recruitment of new users can delay but not halt this process, as fresh bodies tend to send out a flurry of cards on entry, only to join their stalled brethren down the road once they realize that they are sending out more cards than they are receiving and points are starting to pile up.)

Now let’s imagine that the same gas station above suddenly allows Gas Bucks to be used to purchase drinks or candy? Voila. They have introduced a new release valve (point sink) to the market. The number of people who will have use for GasBucks increases immediately and the value of the GasBucks against the USD will increase as demand rises and arbitrage opportunities arise (buying food at a discount via the purchase of Gas Bucks, etc). This is the kind of option the PucaTrade platform desperately needs to achieve balance in the marketplace.

Currently, as new users are added, they each receive an allotment of PucaPoints so that they can get their first “free” card in the mail, and confirm that the system works. In theory, that user then begins to send out more cards and becomes a happy and productive participant in the market.

However, these “free” points actually represent an indirect transfer of value from the market to the owners of the site. In issuing the points, PucaTrade gains the benefit of more market action and an assumed increase in paying users, assumably leading to revenues and profits once they recoup most of their development costs. The cost of this benefit is later felt by the site users, as points are added to the system without the value of a card being sent to balance them. This process, more than anything else, has lead to the devaluation of the PP against hard currency. Put simply, points get less desirable, and hence cheaper, the more they are issued without an exchange of value within the marketplace. PucaTrade expends $0 to generate new points, so their value is extracted instead from the participants within the market in which they are injected, largely through the devaluation of the currency (PP) in use to temporarily store trade credit.

Oddly enough, the value of the Pucapoint is pegged at exactly 1:1 against the USD, but again, this is only acceptable, if you are happily trading into cards without requiring a liquidity event and you are comfortable with the value of cards always being tied to TCG Mid, and you aren’t forced to pay a bounty due to intense competition for a specific card.

If on the other hand you are a power seller, vendor or player looking to exit from cards into cash you will see naturally see the value of acquired Pucapoints as being .60 cents on the dollar since that’s the price you can sell them for to another user to achieve your liquidity event. It is also the replacement cost of the points in question, meaning that 5000 points are more cheaply acquired via $36 USD (at .60 exchange to the USD) than by sending out a card that could be sold for $50 retail (potentially minus fees). Since commercial operators are likely the single largest source of steady supply, their motivation to sell is the most impacted by the lack of suitable exits to liquidity. This is the single largest drag on the ability of users to get sent high demand cards, since most vendors would rather sell them easily for cash than risk their value being trapped in PucaPoints they cannot easily exit from.

In the end, Pucapoints transferred from one user to another in any way are still trapped within a closed system. To make a real impact on the future of the platform, new points added to the system for free must later be removed.

The company has just recently started acknowledging this issue in their communications to the public. The only real question is who should shoulder the financial burden of removing the points.

Recently suggested point sinks based on increased account services essentially turn the original issuance of the points at the point of registration into a loan, as the implied value of the “free” points is recouped by charging users for features that could reasonably have been expected to be included in the account packages they have already agreed to.

Alternatively, PucaTrade could shoulder some of the burden, perhaps by offering non-account related goods or services that could be purchased with Pucapoints at a profit (eg the introduction of a $6-7 set of high quality PucaTrade card sleeves). We will discuss these opportunities further below.

MTGO Tix: A Case Study in Digital Currencies w/ Release Valves

Let’s look at a similar digital currency that understands the need to keep its value close to $1 and has solved both the problems of consumer faith and inflation.

Drafts & other value sinks keep the value of the Tix relatively stable.
Drafts & other value sinks keep the value of the Tix relatively stable.

Everyone reading this should be familiar with MTGO (Magic Online) and its online currency, Tix. Tix are roughly the equivalent of $1 of purchasing power within MTGO. It can be used throughout the MTGO economy to purchase both products and services. As with the PucaPoint, Tix can be purchased from the vendor (WoTC) at $1/per and used to purchase (digital) cards through the platform from vendors and other players. The key difference is that Tix are kept in constant demand because they are also used to purchase entry fees for online tournaments.

When you purchase a draft or enter a tournament the points you spend “disappear” and are removed from the system (if 1,000,000 tix’s exist and 100,000 are spent than only 900,000 remain). They don’t go into escrow or to other players. They are literally deleted. Wizards of the Coast, the platform owner, sells cards only in the form of packs, and allows both the packs and the cards within them to be traded into Tix via trades with other users, and accepts that the Tix will naturally be sold for cash by some users looking to go liquid (something PucaTrade is now fighting against, erroneously). Tix can be redeemed in the form of card sets as well, and this also removes them from the system.

Tix have always been worth a bit less than $1 USD (GasBucks again!) but we’ve only seen a steep drop off in its value a few times due to major sell offs. (The best example was the forced move to Version 4 of the platform software that caused widespread concern and widespread sales of digital collections). However, due to resurgent support for the platform, after each of these drops the Tix economy saw an almost full return in value (to approx .94 cents ) because of the release valves kept constantly in place.

Each time there was a crisis of faith in the MTGO community, Tix saw a corresponding drop in price as more people were selling than buying. But each time, the slack in the value of the Tix pulled back as the release valves drained points out of the system faster than points were added. Thus far, each slide in the PucaPoint relative to hard currency has set a fresh hard ceiling on its value outside the platform. MTGO would likely have the exact same inflation problem as Puca except they give away less cards/points than are being removed from the system in the form of drafts and redemption.

If there is no “release valve” then you have no way to pull the slack tight on the value of PucaPoint vs. the USD. Remember that the communities faith in the Puca is one of the most important things that needs to be maintained. Without faith you turn off potential new traders who are concerned about sending their cards off in exchange for points that may not get value in return. That in turn leads to negative impressions that feeds the trolls that can get upset that they can’t compete for sending cards or get sent the cards they want.

Now, let’s take a look at what happens if PucaTrade prevents points from being bought and sold. (Something they are cracking down on at the same time they are supposedly looking at making bounties official.) In this scenario, anyone who does send cards out but doesn’t get cards sent to them in a reasonable timeframe is left with two choices: leave their account full of points waiting for cards that might never come unless they are not willing to pay bounties , or ask for cards that they really don’t want just so they can “cash out”. Neither of these will encourage traders to send out more cards, which then leads to less active traders. Never mind that this ban on point sales does nothing to stop “pucaflation”. (see details here ). In this example the constant creation of points would eventually lead to so many points in the system that they will lose any chance of being equivalent to the USD, allowing a powerful spiral down toward worthlessness.

Incentivizing the Power Sellers

PucaTrade began as a project for the little guy; a way for regular magic players to trade amongst themselves without enduring (some) of the hassles and risks of regular e-commerce. Many of the current thousands of users are prone to fiercely defending the platform as an outpost best run without the influence of vendors and MTG Finance power sellers, mtgfinance speculators and high frequency vendors have actually been hugely positive for Puca.

However the moment PucaTrade was launched, it was a virtual lock that the power sellers would gravitate to the center of the action. Ultimately, PucaTrade is just a marketplace and as with all functional marketplaces, economies of scale and scope soon enable and encourage the larger operators to bring their resources to bear in pursuit of profit.

While it’s true that the thousands of PucaTrade users can boast a combined inventory that would rival even the largest Magic stores such as Channel Fireball or StarCityGames, there is more to consider. The first thing is the difference between active and latent inventory. Active inventory is comprised of cards that are posted for sale and available for purchase. Latent inventory on the other hand include the millions of cards that are currently sitting in the closets of players across the globe. In short many of the Magic cards printed are out of circulation, whether due to their owner’s desire to keep them, lack of interest in selling or their lack of the time and/or money necessary to sell them. A well managed store inventory or power seller collection however is almost entirely active inventory, as the more successful a vendor is at selling on a given platform, the more they are motivated to expand their sales and properly manage their inventory. Put another way, vendors have more inventory, search for opportunities to sell that inventory more often than the average player, and ultimately, send out many more cards per account.

You only need to review the stats on the PucaTrade home page detailing the top sellers to realize that the top thousand users or so are likely sending out a very significant chunk of the total cards. Further, when a card is in high demand, it is much more likely that a commercial operator will have multiple copies and will be able to help facilitate enough sales to keep PucaTrade users happy with how fast they are able to turn their acquired points into needed cards.

As such, it is not hard to imagine why engaging commercial operators is of the utmost importance. In the current system, many power sellers hit the limit of points they are comfortable holding without a clear exit strategy (eg $500-$1000) and then stop sending cards until they manage to find a trade that will allow them to profitably spend the proceeds of their dozens of prior trades into the consolidated value of a major acquisition with solid growth potential or the potential for liquidity at retail. Ultimately, traders must have a methodology to “go liquid” and turn their PP back into hard currency since their overhead cannot be paid in PP. While some speculators are happy to simply trade out spiked cards into undervalued ones, this process is inherently risky and most vendors prefer higher liquidity and lower risk. By trading up into high value targets such as Power 9, judge foils and Expeditions, they may have been able to shed excess copies of low cost cards that would not have moved as quickly at their shop and this certainly has some value.

However, with PucaPoints commonly going for .50-.60 on the US dollar, and relatively few parties interested in acquiring them at wholesale volume, it is far too easy for the best supply sources on the platform to stall out and be forced into extended periods of reduced trading activity while they search for a liquidity event.

The increasing proliferation of bounties being offered on desirable cards (a side effect of both traders/vendors having no reason to send out a constant stream of high demand cards and the slowly sinking PucaPoint value) makes it that much harder to achieve liquidity, and further slows the commercial operators from doing their part to keep points circulating.

PucaTrade needs to motivate the traders (both vendors and individuals) to keep sending cards, and the best way to do achieve this is to stop, then reverse, the slide of the PP against hard currency so that liquid exits are once again possible for the most productive supply side actors on the platform.

The Worst Case Scenario

Let us examine the worst case scenario assuming “pucaflation” is left unchecked.

There are likely something like 200,000,000 points in the system (250,000 members times the 700 start up points plus referral bonuses). That’s $2,000,000. (If that number is wrong, it’s too low, not too high, so things don’t get better if our figures are off.) Imagine now that the most recent users to register send out tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in cards to collect points, only to have the site shut down, or some specific event (eg an organized strike of users) takes place that causes users to broadly lose faith and stop sending cards.

In such an end times scenario, trade on the platform would slow down, first slowly, and then quite quickly as the inflationary pressures in the system overcame the buoying effect of (now declining) new user registrations. With fewer and fewer users willing to trade into points, a tipping point could be reached where all the points in the system would eventually become worthless with little hope of recovery. The greater the number of points in the system, the greater the number of people caught out by this.

We saw a glimmer of the potential for disaster around GP Vegas in the summer of 2015. As thousands of PucaTrade users geared up for sin city they needed cash to fund their trip and related expenses. On PucaTrade the impact was immediate, as we witnessed a decline of approximately 15% in the exchange rate of PucaPoints vs. the USD. Additional dips in value were witnessed around the holiday season in 2014 and 2015 but the GP Vegas inflection point represented the largest depreciation in PucaPoint value since the launch of the site. Players needed cash and the platform afforded no on-demand method to move into a liquid position, leaving cash strapped players to accept whatever offers were available to unload their points. With supply of points exceeding demand, the fall in the value of points was inevitable. In a properly managed version of the Puca economy, however, the demand for points would have been closer to .90 on the USD, the exits would have been much less painful and any fall in the value of PP to USD might have had a strong chance to rebound as soon as the need to move to liquidity became less pressing.

If Puca were to fall off in popularity (we are already seeing a slowing in new accounts creation as per Freytag stats, as well as a drop off in both the frequency and value of trades vs. peaks), and given that new account registrations are already on their way down from their peak at the end of 2015, their plan to reduce new member bonuses without a plan to encourage healthy trading not only works against site goals, but will actually accelerate the slow down of new account registrations. The potential fallout would be measured in millions of USD as thousands of users were left holding a currency no one wants. In effect they will have sent out all of the cards equal to their final point stash for free. Clearly, this is not a desirable outcome for anyone and PucaTrade must move to ensure it never occurs.

The Quest for Productive Solutions

Now that we have walked through the root of the problem let’s talk over some possible solutions.

There are three steps that must be taken to change the path PucaTrade is on:

1. Target Inflation: PucaTrade must accept that thus far they have not addressed the primary cause of their long term inflationary pressures. PucaPoint supply and deflation are not the core issues that requires attention. Rather, the primary goal should be to achieve equilibrium in the value of the PucaPoint by bleeding some number of Pucapoints from the system, in order to increase the value of the Pucapoint vs. hard currency and prevent a widespread decrease in the purchasing power of PP.

2. Introduce Point Sinks: Since the pool of potential users is ultimately limited by the number of Magic players with interest and access to the platform, constant user growth is not a reliable strategy for managing the inflation in the PucaTrade economy. In order to bleed points effectively they must move to implement one or more PucaPoint reduction strategies or “release valves” (regularly removing points from the system faster than they are added). The purpose of the release valves is to offset the “free” points necessarily given out for free when attracting new users or encouraging positive trade activities . In addressing this core principle, they will be able to re-inflate the value of PucaPoints vs. real world currencies and encourage more users to trade more frequently, as well as attracting new users due to improved public perception of the project. There are several possible solutions, which we will discuss below.

3. Rebuild The Reputation: Earning back the public’s trust back is paramount to the long term growth and success of the platform. Once the quest to increase and stabilize the value of the PucaPoint has been achieved, improving the velocity of trades on the platform, users will have every reason to be happy with the opportunities available through commitment to the site. PucaTrade management need to take advantage of this through a period of sustained promotion, podcast appearances, event sponsorship and/or contests to get the word out and make sure that the users understand how effectively the early stage issues have been mitigated. The fact that the owners have been releasing new features, point sink options surveys and increasing communication flow are steps in the right direction.

PucaTrade’s Proposed Solutions

PucaTrade has recently admitted that point values vs. hard currency are sinking beyond acceptable levels and that they are currently exploring several options for introducing point sinks. It should be noted that the PucaTrade community has been engaged in this discussion and many were vocally in support of several of these options. Whether or not they really understand what they are supporting is another matter. Let’s take a look at how some of these scenarios might play out:

Shipping Insurance

PucaTrade has floated the idea of using PucaPoints to buy shipping insurance on your card. While this would function as a point sink value there are some inherent issues with this solution. If the insurance payout is paid back to the player in PucaPoints than the net removal of points from the system becomes tough to achieve, unless PucaTrade charges more overall for insurance than they pay out. In the insurance industry these kinds of things are managed via fairly complex actuarial tables of statistical probability, but let’s at least assume that PucaTrade can estimate the average value of a trade and the likelihood that a claim will be made. Now let’s assume they charge $1 on a $50 card, or a 2% insurance fee. If that card is destroyed then they need to create $50 in points to replace it (since they don’t want to be caught out having to replace PP with USD, especially given the current exchange rate!). So now they need 49 other people to pay $1 in points just to net 0 change in total PucaPoints within the system. The math on insurance ratios is quite difficult and could mean that they would be raising the price of sending cards which then decreases the value of a Pucapoint. This is a dangerous option, and could backfire if the numbers don’t work out. At first glance this one seems like a no-brainer, but it wouldn’t be our first pick for the reasons above.

Note: PucaTrade has posted a follow up on this option, suggesting they intend to proceed with it. PucaTrade estimates that this escape valve will remove 1.5M PP per month, or about $150,000 in excess money supply. It is currently unknown how quickly this would close the gap on the current slack, but our best estimates place it at months to years, given that new users are still being offered “free” points.


PucaTrade has also floated the idea of building bounties into the system as an official feature. This is a horrible idea as just accelerates the current trend of devaluing the Pucapoint. The more inefficient the Puca system is the less likely you are to attract new and active traders.

Long term, a bid and ask system should likely be put in place to allow for the most efficient platform mechanics, but we would not advise implementing such a complex system until the core inflationary pressures have been relieved.

The Bad Behavior Tax

Another proposed solution is to essentially tax bad behavior on the platform by marking profiles with warning icons that could be remove by paying a fee in PP. Many users were shocked by this idea, and from a PR perspective it is truly a foolish notion. Notifying users of bad actors in the system should really be a core function bundled into all accounts (both paid and unpaid) to avoid perception issues. From a point sink potential viewpoint this solution could work but only if the presence of the “bad actor” marks don’t just end up scaring off those users and leaving you with no one to penalize. If you want a consistent and reliable point sink, and you do, it’s fairly likely that is isn’t where you want to land.

Profile Customization

This one is a perfectly reasonable point sink. PucaTrade invests some amount of USD to allow for fancy profile pages, and points are siphoned off via what is essentially a tax on vanity or an additional fee to increase sales velocity depending on what features are added. This is worth a shot, but before committing PucaTrade should survey the user base to gauge interest based on the specific features planned. It’s entirely possible that demand for these features will not equal the number of points that need to be destroyed, and as such, further measures are likely to be necessary.

The Activity Tax

A tax on each trade could be levied to bleed off points, but this only adds more friction to the marketplace and disincentivizes trading by making it slightly more expensive. There is likely a fee per sale based version of PucaTrade that could be made to work, but in a system where users are already paying for accounts this is not where you want to be.


New Solutions

The Inactivity Tax

An inactivity tax could be levied against any account that doesn’t initiate a trade (or certain number of trades) in a given time period. This could be as simple as a small monthly amount or a larger amount a couple of times per annum. Because PucaTrade is a “push” based sales platform where the seller is the party in control of initiating a sale, the fees would need to be levied based on seller activity rather than buyer activity.

This would simultaneously draw points out of the system while encouraging frequent trading (perhaps the best indicator of a healthy PucaTrade economy), fulfilling dual objectives. Fundamentally, this functions as a claw back against the original “free” points provided to users who have not earned them through contributions to the community.

Oddly, the activity tax proposed by PucaTrade administrators represents the exact opposite of this premise and is likely to work against the system as detailed above. An activity tax punishes the very behavior you want to encourage and essentially raises the price of access to the platform for power users.

Point Based Account Upgrades

Another option that could be used to reduce the point totals in the system would be to allow users to upgrade their accounts from uncommon to rare using PucaPoints.

This would carry the short term impact of lowering project revenues slightly but could potentially help contribute to a broad effort to make the platform more friendly to commercial operators. Functionally, this should also help convince users to upgrade to uncommon using real dollars knowing that they could then upgrade to the next level when ready using only points. This would also generate a slight upswing in demand for points in general. So far the PucaTrade leadership has demonstrated reluctance on discussing any of these plans that directly impact their bottom line, but it is certainly feasible that this kind of policy shift would be revenue neutral or even revenue positive over time. Other upgrades such as avatars and name changes are a great way to remove small amounts from the economy.

Physical Goods

Another potential point sink would be the introduction of a physical good that would be of high value to platform users and allow them to exit repeatedly from stalled point supplies. An example of such a good would be a particularly compelling design for a set of card sleeves or a playmat. Though vendors wouldn’t be very interested, they might still reap the rewards of the points being retired if enough users take PucaTrade up on the offer. Because this requires an actual investment on behalf of PucaTrade (in the form of production costs and marketing) it is unlikely to peak their interest, though it is entirely fair to task them with this risk as they are the ones responsible for the current state of the platform, and the potentially devastating end game is no better for them than for their users. Ideally, a good that cost less to make and market than the retail margin that could be charged ($3.50 sleeves sold for $7) would be best, as it would make the project close to revenue neutral short term, and potentially bleed off a significant number of points to the benefit of all long term. This has the added bonus of being something that could easily be turned on or off at will, depending on whether the platform statistics seem to be asking for further bleeding of points.

Vendor Specific Ideas

Sadly, many of the options currently under review are unlikely to represent the kind of action the vendors need.

There are many ways to properly incentivize the vendors. One possibility would be to figure out a model where some amount of PucaPoints could be “retired” in exchange for site profit sharing. Unfortunately, profit sharing could be legally complex and goes against the general tendency of the PucaTrade owners to embrace non-development/promotional plans that involve real money to steady the ship.

In a second scenario, a vendor could retire $1000 worth of points in exchange for PucaTrade providing that vendor a steady income of say $100 worth of points per year. This is a form of “interest” paid in PP. The strength of being able to retire large blocks of points quickly and to incentivize dealers to stay engaged and motivated could help the platform succeed. It’s certainly much tougher to walk away from an active investment than a stalled out account. The specific numbers here are pretty important to get right, and getting this wrong could be a real disaster, but the idea does have enough merit to explore further, if only to better understand the inflationary dynamics this may not solve long term.

Allowing vendors to spend points annually to buy the right to be a vendor level account is another possibility. This would be a similar solution to what is seen in World of Warcraft . If this were done in a way that would make them preferred traders for high value cards, this might inspire individuals to send more expensive cards as they would know they are dealing with a PucaTrade approved vendor. Ultimately this is just the vendor version of retirement via account upgrades.

Another scenario, and one that would require less financial commitment from the site owners, is to provide vendors with upgraded accounts that get first dibs (say via a one hour window) on Want lists in exchange for points. This makes it slightly harder for the average user to send out smaller cards, but also increases the likelihood that traders will be sent the most valuable cards they want from reliable sources.

MTGO Integration: Not A Solution to the Core Issue

PucaTrade is on the verge of introducing MTGO products into the Puca economy. To be clear, allowing users to buy and sell Magic: Online digital cards through PucaTrade has little hope of alleviating the core inflationary pressures.

Offering up a potential exit from PP to MTGO cards does open the door for a liquidity event by trading MTGO cards into MTGO tix, a MTGO specific pseudo currency with a long history of stable exchange in the .90-.95 range against the USD.

Eg) Bob sends out $100 worth of cards on PucaTrade at TCGMid pricing. He now has 10,000 PP. Noticing a seller of three MTGO Wastelands (EMA) at 3300 PP each, Bob exits successfully to three digital assets that can easily be sold to MGTO bots and converted into tix that are commonly worth nearly ninety cents on the dollar.

This is significantly better than being stuck with PP at .65¢, right? Well, to put it simply it addresses only one of the traders problems. The ability to exit to a near liquid asset does help motivate sellers on the platform to keep acquiring points, and the ability to do so could potentially set up an arbitrage scenario that will briefly increase demand for PucaPoints similar to the release of a new magic set.

On the other hand, the PucaPoints in play have not actually been drained off, as they have simply changed hands to the MTGO player or vendor that offered up the MTGO asset. That party must now find their own liquidity event and in a scenario where the MTGO exit is the most reliable one, you are likely to end up with very few sellers and a room full of buyers once the initial flurry of interest has worn off after the upcoming Phase 2 platform launch.

The end result? We’re right back where we started with too many users waiting around to turn their PP into something valuable.

A Brighter Future

Let’s walk through a potential future where Puca solves the “pucaflation” problem and have developed reliable sinks to control inflation and learns how to encourage active traders. What happens if the number of PP drops so low that the sinks actually cause some deflation and pushes the PP closer to $1? This would in fact be a great problem to have.

First people will always be able to buy points from PucaTrade so it will never go above $1 (see the MTGO Tix). Second, points can easily be infused back into the system by offering discounted points or rewards for the behavior you want. Imagine if the PucaPoint was stable at .95cents and they offered a PP bonus for placing 4+ trades in a month..These kind of opportunities would encourage trades so long as you have the proper PP sink in place you prevent the value of the PP being deteriorated by the increased supply.

Being able to facilitate trades between distant traders is an incredible service in the world of Magic: The Gathering and should be preserved. To secure their future, PucaTrade must restore the lost brand equity and faith in their currency through the effective management of inflationary pressure within their platform, through the smart retirement of the PucaPoints supply.

Note: We have done our best to properly represent the PucaTrade facts based on the information at hand. We welcome any and all clarifications, corrections, and missed logic that may help to better this article for the good of all.

Additional resources on Digital economies :

Some math heavy reading:

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