Anatomy of a Deal: Trading Up on PucaTrade (Pt 2)

by James Chillcott (@MTGCritic)

Heading into late 2015, PucaTrade is still humming along. Casual players are still having a blast getting cards for “free” just by ditching some cards at the post office that they never play with. For those of us attempting to use the platform to speculate or amass significant collection value, the system is still a mix of many positives and frustrating bottlenecks.

On my side of things, I am still leveraging my initial strategy of trading out of successful short and mid term specs and using the acquired points to trade up into collection defining big ticket cards. Given my success earlier this summer trading up into a lovely Mishra’s Workshop, I was emboldened to see if I could make a habit of consistently acquiring great cards through the platform.

As a quick refresher, here’s a summary of my current strategy:

  1. Focus on trading up into cards in the $500-$1500 range.
  2. Give myself three months or so to complete each acquisition for a total of $2000-$5000 or so in major trades per annum.
  3. Focus on outing short and mid-term specs that have ripened past my loose “limited greed” limits, turning dozens of sub-$100 cards into bigger, potentially more liquid pieces that help keep my collection trim and consolidated.
  4. Make use of points bonuses offered by users to get access to specific cards they want as a way of offsetting the potential point premium assigned by sellers to the high end cards I’m after.
  5. Network constantly with other power users on the platform to gain access to important opportunities to trade up into something great, with a secondary focus on time dependent deals on both the buy and sell side of things where users may be willing to offer discounts or points bonuses to unload or acquire cards quickly.

Now since I last checked in, word has come down from the PucaTrade admins that the next big upgrade will include the ability to support foreign cards across the platform, which will be an intriguing option for potentially unloading some of my Japanese, Korean and Russian foils. MTGO to paper trades will also be supported, which may open up some interesting arbitrage opportunities.

Now many users are still experiencing trouble unloading standard cards, an issue that seems linked to a fundamental supply/demand inequality and the use of bots and browser monitoring tools by high volume sellers to ensure they can move their product. (I’ve recently gained access to MiseBot and Pucauto and will be testing them in the near future in support of the next article in this series.) Despite real concerns about the inflationary nature of the platform the Pucapoints to USD exchange rate is still hovering between .70 and .75 on Twitter and relevant message boards.

Here is the list of cards I traded out to Pucatrade members during this phase of value storage in order to build up a sufficient reserve to target a high value card.


Here are some insights into the cards on this list:

  • I acquired 10+ Liliana of the Veil shortly after the holiday season last year around $55. With it being easy to acquire 11000+ points on these including bounties I haven’t been shy about outing them since I already have the playset of mail damaged ones I got for free last year.
  • Jitte, Dreadnought, Flooded Grove, Minamo, Sword of Feast and Famine, Academy Ruins and Horizon Canopy were all cards with minimal short term upside that had already accrued excellent value while sitting around in my personal collection. I continue to trim cards like this where I don’t need them for my deck collection.
  • Godless shrines were acquired around $6 and had been sitting latent for too long.
  • Verdant Catacombs and Scalding Tarn were sold out of fear of reprints and I am happy to be rid of them in anticipation of a reprint in the next 24 months.
  • Chord of Calling is a card I acquired dozens of under $4, so I was happy to out a few copies here.

Sum total, I’m proud to say that I took no losses on the cards shipped, and that average profits vs. original costs varied from 25% to well over 100%. I still try not to underestimate the real costs of shipping all the cards, and the value of my time in prepping all the cards for shipping, with total time spent during this phase likely equaling a couple of hours. As usual this was mitigated somewhat by the fact that I already have a daily ritual of prepping shipments while I’m watching online media/TV, allowing me to reasonably distribute the time cost across additional sales.

Along the way I also acquired some smaller value cards, creating a relatively minor drain on the accumulation of points, including:

  • 11x Hangarback Walker @ 1793 points
  • 2x Hangarback Walker @ 3050 points
  • 6x Evolutionary Leap (foil) @ 1300 points

These are all cards I consider to have a little potential for gains before rotation and excellent long term prospects in Modern and casual formats.

Consequently, by early October ’15 I had almost $1000 USD in points built up again and decided to start poking around for a frseh deal. Starting with my list of previous trading partners, along with the most recent publicly posted list of the most active sellers on the platform, I again started reaching out to let folks know I was looking for a sizeable trade.  As per usual I barely bothered with a Want list at all (only listing Power 9 cards there for the most part), opting to instead make a note in my profile that I was looking for big ticket items and had points at the ready.

After a few conversations yielded no especially desirable opportunities, I was approached by a European dealer who had seen my profile notes requesting high value cards. He sent over some pics of a fairly sexy looking German Foreign Black Border Volcanic Island.

In case you aren’t aware, Foreign Black Border cards were released in Europe in the mid 90s as a result of a policy that dictated cards were to be black border the first time they were released in a given country/language. As such there is a relative fortune in black border Revised cards out there in German, French, and Italian. These cards offer many of the aesthetic benefits of Beta cards, but are in fact first run European Revised cards. Relatively rare in North America, these cards move reasonably well on Ebay and when priced a bit below market averages, especially if they are blue duals.

I had a bit of hesitation reviewing the pics of the Volcanic Island, as it seemed as though it might have a shuffle crease, but the buyer insisted this was not the case and that the card was easily SP quality. And so, after getting approval from Pucatrade admins to back my play on the normally unsupported foreign card, I negotiated a value of 84,000 points for the card based on the few Ebay and European price references I could find. I then sent a deposit of 54,000, with the rest due upon successful delivery and condition review.

Much to my delight, the Volcanic Island arrived within the week and indeed, proved to be a solid SP grade. Here’s what I got on a pretty good mail day:


With the lovely Volcanic Island in hand my confidence in PucaTrade as a solid option for trading up is upheld and I have already begun accumulating another round of points to put together another deal. See you guys next time!

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.

13 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Deal: Trading Up on PucaTrade (Pt 2)”

  1. I love PucaTrade soo much! Last winter I decided I wanted to build an unpowered Cube. From when I joined Puca in February until now I’ve shipped over 1400 mostly Standard cards worth ~$2600 and received just over 400 cards to build my Cube worth ~$2500. I haven’t traded up to the extent you have, but I’ve certainly traded up and it’s been wonderful!

  2. So- this question has been wracking my brain for years now. Can you please have someone at the site devote an article to this:

    How do I go about reasonably acquiring 4 Tarmogoyfs?


    1. Buy low, sell high. The entire site us about acquiring cares cheap and turning them into more expensive things. Take any article and apply that logic to getting enough to get 4x of a card you want.

      Also, ignore James’ braggy posts, where he clearly isn’t using the same numbers that a regular person can access.

    2. Atm i have sent a ton of sub 10 dollar carda through puca trade and already have my second FS goyf in the mail. And once the last round of my cards arrive i will have enough points for my third.

      I have also traded into a playset of show and tells.

      Puca is probably the easiest way to get them

      1. Is it reliable though? My thought (see below comment) is that demand is so much higher than supply – how do you actually trust someone is going to pull it off of your list?

      2. I have a few high dollar cards on my list (unlimited bayou, the abyss, mana drain, etc) that have been sitting for months. both times i have gotten enough points for a FS Goyf i have had a message within a few days offering pictures and then tracking if i agreed

        I think that you have to get lucky but it does happen

        Also i think i have a flooded strand i can send.

      3. That’s great – you can find me on PucaTrade under the nickname “Kanjo” I will have to map out my quest to success. I think I’m going to go after the MM version…4 of…now I have to figure out where in my collection is worth giving up for 600 worth of green Lhurgoyfs.

      4. I really don’t understand how some people do it. For example, I’ve had a MM2015 spellskite sitting on my wants list for over 2 months. a SPELLSKITE. Yet you’re getting things like goyf seemingly with no problem 🙁

    3. I had a lot of PT success by stocking up on BfZ boxes as they released. I got 3 boxes for ~85 each and easily turned that into PT profit. People will spec on everything when a new set comes out, and if you can manage to unload some bad foils and soon-to-be-junk rares quickly, you’ll be sitting pretty. Secondly, some people will sell points for .70/100 pp which essentially means everything is 30% off if you can get buyers.

  3. I mean yes, buy low sell hi – but the thing about tarmogoyf is that your regular supply is limited. On any given FNM I can find people who may be willing to trade 30-50 dollar cards, a Sword of Fire and Ice here, a Linvalla there, maybe foil fetches, or Liliana’s – but I see 1 Tarmogoyf in a trade binder (and believe me I have things to trade for it) but every time I see one, the trading binder is closed on the Tarmogoyf mention. Locally, these things aren’t available which leaves me to a few options – I can buy directly from one of the retailers, which will run me about $600. Or maybe I can accumulate trade credit – but there is a problem with that, and that I am leaving a ton of value on the table.

    Another option would be PucaTrade, where I am about halfway to 1 Tarmogoyf, and because the demand is so Large – I have no idea how long it will be to even have it sent to me. I’ve had a flooded strand sitting on my want list that I legitimately need not for specing but to complete my playset, and it’s been there for over a month now.

    Is this a matter of a ‘project’ akin to one of the writers ramping up for Legacy/Modern from scratch?

    Tarmogoyf unlocks a ton of deck options for me in Modern -without it I am relegated to fair cards and decks that don’t have a whole lot of gas.

    1. I’ve had a FS Tarmogoyf in my binder for months and it hasn’t moved. You should trade with me, not your FNM crowd.

  4. Next time on a puca based article, could you be clear on things ” acquired “. Whether through puca or other means. Its confusing, idk which acquisitions were through puca or elsewhere and it makes a difference to the outcome.

Comments are closed.