All posts by Cliff Daigle

I am a father, teacher, cuber and EDH fanatic. My joy is in Casual and Limited formats, though I dip a toe into Constructed when I find something fun to play. I play less than I want to and more than my schedule should really allow. I can easily be reached on Twitter @WordOfCommander. Try out my Busted Uncommons cube at http://www.cubetutor.com/viewcube/76330

Trading Online

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By Cliff Daigle

Last week I went over some tips for trading with another person. Today I want to give you some alternatives to that sort of trading.

I want to start off with a trade that doesn’t have anything to do with another person: trading cards to a vendor for store credit. This is something that you might hesitate to do, because you won’t get full retail value for your cards. Understand that a vendor lives for their profit margins, so they buy cards for about half what they sell them for. Most vendors offer a bonus if you choose store credit over cash, from ten to thirty percent, depending on the vendor.

You can compare buylists online to find who will give you the most value, and it just so happens that here on MTGPrice you have a tool for that. Just bring up a card’s price, and on the right, you have buttons for ‘buy price’ and ‘sell price’ depending on which you want to do.

Click "Sell Price" to see what price you can sell to stores at.
Click “Sell Price” to see what price you can sell to stores at.

The main reason to use a buylist is when there is a specific card that you just haven’t been able to find anywhere else. Trading is imperfect, and sometimes you just need that last card or two. I have done this to finish foiling out a deck, because I was unable to find someone who had spare foil Ravnica bounce lands. I gave up, and went to a vendor.

In the modern age, we don’t have to rely on in-person trades with individuals or vendors. I want to share with you three different online tools that I’ve used to trade via mail. I’ve traded to Hong Kong and to Europe, and I have yet to have a bad experience.

The first you should know about is the oldest, the Magic Online Trading League (MOTL), and you’ll want to check out the forum. This is a place where people post their have/want lists and you see what matches up with yours. The advantage of this site is that since its been around for quite a while, there’s some very awesome cards available. If you’re into early judge foils and FBB duals, this is the place.

The downside of MOTL is a subtle one in terms of layout and organization. It’s a forum. You post what you have and want, and people reply. It’s very static and there’s no built-in tool for setting up a trade or card valuation. In addition, because of the values of the cards available, it seems to have a higher incident rate when it comes to scammers.

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An aside about mail fraud: agreeing to trade by mail and then not doing so is exactly mail fraud. It is easy to prove and prosecute, and the mods will help as much as they can. I’ve done more than 100 online trades and haven’t hit a bad one yet. Inattentive people yes, but not evil.

A newer trade site is PucaTrade.com. Instead of directly trading with another user, you add your list of haves and wants, then you fill the wants of others and earn points, which you then use to obtain your own cards. A point is roughly equal to one cent, so if I send someone a Snapcaster Mage, I’m earning around 2400 points and they are spending that many points.

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PucaTrade allows for you to get maximum value for your cards. You get full retail in points, and can do so at the height of the market. If you like to buy low and sell high, you can do very well on PucaTrade. The big drawback is that the process of sending cards is a little more luck than anything else, because it is a race to fulfill orders. I put every shockland up as available, and only one pops up to be sent now and again, because others fill those orders as soon as someone does it. I have seen someone pick up dual lands in PucaTrade and not have to deal with someone who insists on getting extra value for ‘trading down’ their Reserved List card.

The third site I want to mention is my favorite: deckbox.org. It combines a built-in price tool from tcgplayer with chat boxes and a cleaner interface than MOTL and yet is a regular trade. Deckbox gets a lot of their traffic from reddit, and there are some awesome people on reddit who like to trade. Trades haven’t been just cards-for-cards either! I have sent magic novels out and gotten cards for my trouble, and I’ve sent out a stack of cards and gotten a brand new iPad.

As I said, I’m a devotee of Deckbox. I like browsing for foils, I like the chat box they offer instead of PM-style messages back and forth. I like the reddit trade page that refreshes weekly and I appreciate the forums that deckbox has, which has boards for different formats, locations, or styles.

For anyone who wishes to trade online, I would also suggest looking into shipping using Paypal to print out a postage label. Of the 90 trades I’ve done, more than half have been high-value enough that I wanted some form of tracking on them. Using Paypal, a first-class mail parcel in a thick envelope (bubble mailer) is $1.69 in shipping, when going to the USPS counter would cost twice that. Save yourself some money, and go enjoy some trades!

Questions? Leave them below, or tweet them to me @WordOfCommander!

MTGPrice helps keep you at the top of your game with our daily card price index, fast movers lists, weekly articles by the best MTGFinance minds in the business, the MTGFastFinance podcast co-hosted by James Chillcott & Travis Allen, as well as the Pro Trader Discord channels, where all the action goes down. Find out more.

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Making In-Person Trading Easier

By Cliff Daigle

Today I’m going to share some tips about trading with someone in person. My guide to trading online is coming soon. These are little things, mostly, but when you’re pleasant, it makes the whole process easier.

First of all, when you’re trading, it helps have a goal in mind, even if that goal is to find some cards that might be sweet in EDH decks. I like to have a list when I’m trading, so I know if someone has a card I need to look for and target. I’m all for browsing random binders for awesome cards, but a little organization goes a long way.

Do the same thing for the other person. Ask what they are looking for, to know if you have things that they are looking for. If you have one or two of the things they want, then you’re off to a great start.

Speaking of organization, I have to put this out there: If there’s a card you don’t want to trade, put it in the back of your binder, flip it upside down, do something to indicate to me that it’s not readily available. I have a French-language Delay in my binder and it’s a real treat to see reactions to a card titled “Retard.” I won’t trade it, though, and I feel bad when they ask. Everyone’s allowed an exception or two, for the cards they are emotionally attached to. When it’s a lot of your binder, then it’s less forgivable.

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During the process, I like to ask if I can take cards that I am interested in out of the binder. First of all, it’s polite, because I’ve had guys start taking out lots of cards from my pages until there’s a stack. You want everyone to be comfortable with what’s going on, so stay courteous.

A key point in trading is that you’re always free to walk away if the other person is being belligerent, condescending, or unpleasant. I don’t regret leaving a good trade behind if someone else is being a jerk. If you’re being pushy to get a certain card, I hope it’s because you’re excited. If you’re playing hardball in trades, you turn people away. I have spent an hour getting a trade right, because there was a Russian foil Doubling Season from Ravnica involved, and I HAD TO HAVE THAT CARD.

I can’t speak for everyone, but when I hear the phrase, “What do you value this at?” I immediately want to stop the transaction. I’ve never had that said where someone wasn’t trying to exploit a knowledge gap of some kind. It immediately makes me want to pull out my phone and check on the price right away, and this is one of the major issues with trading in person. If I have a card in my binder that someone wants, and they ask, “How much do you want for it?” I feel a lot less anxiety, even though that’s a very similar question.

On that note, if you do check prices on a phone, make sure you’re both using the same site. Why not take advantage of our site? Keep your collection organized here and have price data instantly available.

I believe it’s the word ‘value’ that has taken on a great deal of negative connotations. There are articles all over the place about how to ‘get maximum value’ on a trade, and the only context I can accept that in is when you’re trading in-print Standard cards for older, long-out-of-print cards. I don’t mind giving more than retail value in such a trade.

For example: In April, I had a set of Bonfire of the Damned for trade and someone offered me to trade those four cards and a pair of Overgrown Tomb for a Revised-edition Badlands I badly wanted. At the time, Badlands was around $60, and I would be giving around $85 worth to him for it. That’s about a 30% markup for a dual land, and it’s a trade I made.

Now, four months later, it looks like I ripped the guy off, since Badlands is at $70 and I gave him $60 worth of cards.

However high you think a card will go, though, you have to trade based on what it’s worth at this moment. Perhaps you’ll be right and it’ll hit $20. Perhaps it’ll go low again, then balloon in a year. Perhaps you’ll get surprised like I was with Green Sun’s Zenith, a card I felt was amazing in older formats and picked up from people for around $10…and then it got banned in Modern for being too good, causing the price to drop down again. It’ll be in FTV: 20, too, and that will push the price down even further.

Finally, I have one more tip/request of you: be familiar with the program or site you use for pricing. If you want to look everything up, that’s fine, I can understand that. I’m asking you to have some proficiency so that we aren’t taking ten minutes to double-check everything because you clicked the wrong button and deleted everything from your trading app. (I’ve been on both sides of this.)

Happy trading, everyone!

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Casual Stars in M14

By Cliff Daigle

I’ve given out a lot of general advice and it’s high time I get to some specifics.

Since I play mostly EDH I want to share with you what will be some popular cards for such decks. These are the cards to take the long view on, not accounting for Standard spikes in price or the dips and dives they will face in rotation.

To put it another way, these are the cards that will eventually be cheap, which you should pick up at a low price and put away for a while.

How long, you ask? Let’s take a look at one of my favorite examples: Lurking Predators.

Lurking Predators. Jan 2012 - Aug 2013
Lurking Predators. Jan 2012 – Aug 2013

If you’d bought this as a bulk rare in 2009-2011, which it was, then you’re happy to sell it to a buylist for $1.50 to $2, or more depending on the site.

The trick is being that patient, but if you can do it, you’ll be paid off. This is also the type of card that someone who started in the past couple of years will be overjoyed to pick up for their casual deck, because it’s just that amazing an effect. Thespian’s Stage is another example of something you should get right now while it’s cheap, even after the change in the Legend rule caused an uptick in its price, due to its interaction with Dark Depths.

Thespians Stage. Jan 2013 - Aug 2013
Thespian’s Stage. Jan 2013 – Aug 2013

Another trend which can be a good predictor of casual appeal is a big gap in price between foil and nonfoil. If the foil is going for more than two or three times the price of a card, pay attention. Thespian’s Stage and Boros Charm are excellent examples.

With all this in mind, let’s talk about M14 and the cards which will ask a good price on casual appeal. I’m going to skip a lot of cards, because I want you on the lookout for cheap cards in the next few weeks, not the expensive ones.

Some of these are still surprisingly expensive, so I know I’m going to have to wait for more M14 to be opened and the prices to fall further. Aside from Garruk, it’s unlikely that these see Standard play.

Devout Invocation – I want to say this card is a trap, because it’s best when you already have a bunch of creatures. That said, it’s a mythic and will always have someone wide-eyed over what’s possible. Pick this up when it’s bottomed out as bulk.

Elite Arcanist – When it hits bulk, I’ll be in. Every Time Warp-type effect in EDH makes this an infinite-turn combo, and in a Teferi deck, game over.

Galerider Sliver – With every set that Slivers are in, the decks get better and better. I’ll be on the lookout for rare, low-priced Slivers, especially this and Megantic.

Dark Prophecy – This is an effect that can be overpoweringly good, even fatally good. It’s a combo enabler, but as an effect that you have to do, your combo better not go too long.

Rise of the Dark Realms – A casual king, this has been noted so much as a long-term spec that perhaps it’ll never have the chance to hit the floor. Still, once it’s under $1, I’ll snap it up.

Ogre Battledriver – Sure, we have similar cards in Magic’s past (see: In the Web of War, Urabrask the Hidden) but bonus points if you get this back from someone else’s graveyard when you cast Rise of the Dark Realms. Keep in mind that as a Duels of the Planeswalkers promo, there are extra foils of him out there.

Scourge of Valkas – This card is the tipping point for me, I’m going to break down and build the Bladewing the Risen EDH deck. Every Dragon with a tribal effect is worth picking up on the cheap, but Dragons and budgets don’t always play along. Dragonspeaker Shaman is around $3! Plus, if you have a Dragonstorm that finds the Scourge and another dragon or two, you’ll get extra triggers.

Garruk, Caller of Beasts – I don’t think this will ever be cheap, but its power level in casual formats is fairly ridiculous. I pray it never finds a home in Standard, because I’d love to see it drop under $10.

Primeval Bounty – There’s a list of enchantments that will take over a game without doing anything immediately, such as Lurking Predators, Guild Feud, and Deadbridge Chant. This is a worthy addition to that list, and you should be happy to put these away for a while. I’m surprised at how slow this price is dropping, so I may not have a chance to pick these up as easy as I originally thought.

Darksteel Forge – This got a Planechase reprint and the price barely nudged. When it gets to the bottom, nab what Forges you can in trades, because every casual artifact deck wants to play these.

Ring of Three Wishes – I do not expect this to go very high. I do expect I can get it from people for a quarter or less, and trade it away in a while for a buck or two.

Remember, you’re playing the long game with these cards. You won’t be getting a significant bump for at least a year, unless some incredible combo pops up.

If there are cards I missed or you want to compliment/berate me, I’m on Twitter as @WordOfCommander and I love to be told how right/wrong I am.

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Trading Strategies for Events

By Cliff Daigle

Large-scale Magic events offer the chance to get a lot done without spending lots of money.

At every large tournament I go to – be it a Pro Tour Qualifier, a Grand Prix, or something really huge, like Gen Con or SDCC – I bring the cards I want to sell, and a list of things I want.

Depending on the size of the event, organization is key. At a Pro Tour Qualifier, you’ll get a couple of vendors and comparing buylists is easy. Most vendors will have a buylist printed out that you can use to compare those numbers. But at larger events, there might be a dozen or more different companies who want your business, and you need to be ready to browse. A list of the things you brought to sell is vital, and if you’re looking for a certain card, then it’s important to know if you’re going for cash or credit.

Different vendors give different amounts for the same card, and different trade bonuses if you want store credit. But even on a 30% bonus for credit, you’re still under retail value of a card, so don’t do this lightly. I’ve done this to get some sweet cards and finish foiling out decks, but I’m not happy about it.

A more recent trend is the rapidly growing market for Magic accessories, like playmats, dice, and life counters. Not every vendor is into those things, but research and preparation is going to pay off. You’d be surprised how many vendors are going to offer you cash for things as common as a spin down D20. Before Grand Prix Anaheim, Star City Games put up a banner saying that they were buying spindowns. A little research and a lot of contacts with my friends, and I ended up selling SCG about $100 (cash, not credit!) worth of dice.

The main event may or may not be right up your alley, but the side events offer a range of formats and pricing. While I do not advocate buying single packs just for the value of the cards inside, I love drafting. Sealed is fun too, but drafting is second only to EDH in my personal pantheon. I have gone to Grand Prix just to enter side draft after side draft. I’m paying for the tournament, not just the packs, and in some drafts, I’ll get passed valuable cards.

Sometimes the value is in the event itself. When my wife and I went to Worlds in 2011, they were giving out a Pro Tour foil Ajani Goldmane with every event entry. Dealers were only giving $3 cash, but in a $10 draft, you’re paying $7 to open three packs. That’s hard value to walk away from, especially since that was Innistrad.

Once you’re done drafting, you can take the good cards and trade them to players or dealers for more of what you really want. Again, an example from Worlds: I did ten drafts that weekend, and had a Liliana of the Veil, a couple Garruk Relentless, a Snapcaster, and a few of the rare Innistrad lands. I traded all of those to a dealer for a Diamond Valley and could not be happier.

Be advised that there is often a saturation effect, especially with smaller vendors: At the end of a three-day Grand Prix, some will be lower on cash and already bought a thousand Steam Vents, so they will lower their buylist on the one you just opened.

I’m preparing to go to GP Oakland next month, and I’ve got my lists ready to go. If you’re there and want an EDH game, shoot me a tweet @WordOfCommander. I’d love to get in a game with you.

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