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Coming Back to PucaTrade

Back in December, I wrote about how I was scared of PucaTrade. I was worried about how point buying influences this economy, and recently Travis wrote about what Puca is good for.

I am here, hat in hand, to say that I was wrong. PucaTrade is worth using.

However, it’s not as easy as the developers want to make it sound.

What they want you to believe is that you send off cards, and then you get the cards that you want. For many people, it is exactly that.

However, Puca also offers an interesting look into some of our buying and selling habits, as well as providing some fascinating insights.

So what are the ideas I’ve come around on?

#1: You can get expensive cards, it just won’t happen by itself.

James Chillcott and I had a great conversation on Twitter a few weeks back, about building a network on Puca and being the one who has points available for any card. I scoffed, wanting to keep my free account, but I broke down and got the upgrade to Uncommon so I could offer a bounty on the Gaea’s Cradle I wanted so badly.

Even with my name changed to “10% on Cradle!” I wasn’t getting what I wanted.

Then I saw on Twitter that someone had gotten a new Cradle and wanted to sell it. I asked if he was interested in selling it for points (it was not NM) and we agreed on a price. Done. Now my token deck is ready to rock again.

There’s a lot of people on Pucatrade offering bonuses for their wants, for Power, for foils, you name it. Having the points is very good, but doing the work and making those connections will pay off as well.

#2: Spikes are still handled badly.

In case you like your life under a rock, lots of cards had a spike in price this week after the Banned and Restricted announcement. Several cards on Puca were taken off of want lists by administrators, because the price went very high without a lot of warning.

The example I want to use is Time Sieve.



Time Sieve is pretty amazing with the Thopter/Sword combo. Five mana gets you five life, five tokens, and an extra turn. Quite the loop and tough to deal with.

Naturally, this card has seen a spike this week, from being about $2, up to $20, and now about $13. PucaTrade, after several cycles of dealing with these spikes, has instituted a system where cards are flagged, and when they are flagged enough, they are not allowed to be traded anymore.

Their reasoning is like this: For every one person who says “2000 points to get a Time Sieve! Awesome!!” there are at least five people who had Time Sieve on their want list when it was 200 points, and did not want the card at the spiked price.

Yesterday, Thursday, I saw that someone had just added Time Sieve to their want list and I clicked to send it, only to have them request a cancellation two hours later because they didn’t want it at the current 1400-point price. Hellaciously annoying.

#3: No system for less-than-NM conditions or foreign languages.

This is more of a problem that you might think, especially considering the number of people who want older cards. It’s next to impossible to find Alpha or Beta cards in NM condition, just because of how things were. Playing in penny sleeves is awful, and I remember the summer when the first ‘black backs’ came out.

So on Pucatrade, someone has to be paying for Uncommon level or more, so that some points can be exchanged. I send a card, and when I get the points transferred, I have to send some points back. Or they send me the card outside of the official trade system, and I send them an agreed-upon number of points as a gift.

Same thing with foreign editions, or signed cards, etc. It’s not unmanageable, but it is sort of a pain.

#4: It’s a fantastic way to turn old cards into new cards!

I kid you not, I carried a playset of Flying Men around in my binder for years. Years! I knew one day I’d meet someone who wanted them.

Spoiler alert: I never did.

However, I did find lots of people on Puca who wanted the playset, or a Goblin General from Portal: Second Age, or my leftover Collective Voyage, or either of my Awakening Zone, or so on, and so forth…

I’ve gotten to turn those into the aforementioned Cradle, lots of EDH foils, and standard specs. Standard cards are incredibly easy to get with PucaPoints, I’ve been looking for a foil Future Sight Graven Cairns for three months now, but when I wanted playsets of Radiant Flames and Painful Truths, those were in my hands within a week.

Pro Tip for foiling out a Commander deck: Get your foil version, and then send the nonfoil out for more points.

#5: Patience, when getting or giving cards.

I don’t remember how long ago or which writer here said it, but they said that one of their screens at work had a Chrome tab on 30-second refresh, checking all day for cards to be sent. I remember reading that and having a lot of reactions, but the main one was, “I can’t check it all day! I can barely check once every 48 hours!”

You don’t need to maximize the refreshes that way, just log in once a day and check on what’s needed. Puca has gotten big enough that cards or points rarely languish.

Same thing with your wants. Have your want list, let it sit. Be patient. Make some connections. Ask people, talk to them. Puca does tell you how many people have a card on their Have list, though as far as I know, you can’t find those people directly.

I’d love to hear your experiences with Puca. Tell me the good and the bad. I’ve been on both sides of the fence, and I can absolutely see a day when I stop using it. I admit, I’ve spent a lot more on stamps than I ever thought I would, and I’ve even had to buy extra toploaders! So let’s hear your thoughts, here in the comments or over in the forums.

Casual Standouts of Shadows Over Innistrad

The full spoiler is out, and last week I went over every Mythic. This week, I’m being a little more selective, and going over the rares (and a couple of uncommons) that will be worth your time to trade to Cubers, Commanders, and other non-Constructed players.

Hanweir Milita Captain – There’s a few creatures that have this power and toughness based on how many you have overall, but none that make their own buddies turn after turn, and this is a two-drop! Not going to be expensive, though higher than bulk.

Thing in the Ice – It’s gotten a lot of the preorder hype and people are dying to build around this card. It’s neat and all, but it’s fragile and time-consuming. Perhaps I’ll be proven wrong, but that is a risk I’ll be willing to take. I will be surprised if this is more than $3 in the long term.


Geier Reach Bandit – This is an interesting card. Three mana for a hasty 3/2 has a place in some aggressive decks, and the ‘transform your Werewolves’ ability is pretty neat, but this is niche at best and will top out at $1.

Autumnal Gloom – All told, this is four mana for a 4/4 trample hexproof. Some people I know are making noise for this in Modern, but as an uncommon, the foils are the only place to make money. I’d take foils at $2 or less to start out with.

Hermit of the Natterknolls – Very intriguing card. Is this sideboardable in Legacy? I’m eager to play this in Commander, I have to admit. I think this will be a $4 foil.

Sage of Ancient Lore – I’ve played Multani, Maro-Sorcerer in four-player games and it was chump blocked every time. This can transform and have vigilance and trample, but is fragile as heck. Plus, Commander has an easy time flipping Werewolves back and forth. I’m expecting this to be about $4.

Westvale Abbey – Lands that make creatures have a certain pedigree to them. This doesn’t require mana of a certain color, making this a cheaper Urza’s Factory, and one with the potential for transforming into a total beatstick. Instant-speed exile or bounce are necessary to deal with this, and even one hit is a big life swing. I think these have great long-term potential, though I don’t want to get any right now when the price is highest. I will be looking to get these at $1 or less, and the foils are a great Commander target.

westvale abbey-500x500

Always Watching – I’m not sure this is good in EDH. I can get more and not pay much more, and the nontoken restriction is a real bummer. Likely bulk.

Bygone Bishop – I think Clues have some potential but this one is a bit lame. Fifty cents.

Declaration in Stone – So 1W to exile a creature at sorcery speed isn’t too bad. Worse than Path to Exile or Swords to Plowshares, but those are more expensive. This will be less, but it’ll be commonly played in Standard, I suspect. Two dollars or so.
Drogskol Calvary – If this were not one of the Intro Pack cards, I’d be intrigued. It’s a plan all by itself, and even claws you back from the edge of death while taking over. Unfortunately, it is, and it’s never going to be valuable.

[mtg_cardEerie Interlude[/mtg_card] – Ghostway is $8, and not too long ago was $14. This is strictly better, but it’s going to be far, far more common than Ghostway. I do like foils to hold a price, but probably not more than $5 for a while.


Open the Armory – This is one mana more than Steelshaper’s Gift, but has more flexibility and foils are the way to go. Pick them up cheap and store them away for a bit.

Engulf the Shore – I don’t think the number of decks that want this will ever be very high, and this will be bulk.

Manic Scribe – It’s been said to death that casual players love their mill decks. It’s why Hedron Crab is a $3 card. I am going to be looking to get these foils and save them for a while, because four cards a turn is a clock.

Asylum Visitor – Nath of the Gilt-Leaf has a new bestie. Go for the foils, though, as this is otherwise unimpressive, even as a 3/1 for two mana.


Diregraf Colossus – My man! This is going to be one of the cards that gains value faster than you think it will, and rightfully so. It’s dependent on a Zombie tribal deck, but that is a feature, not a bug. It’s good early, it’s good late. I want to pick these up but this will never be more than a $3 card during its time in Standard, unless a Zombie deck gains heavy traction.

From Under the Floorboards – I want this to be good, very badly. Madness X gives you a real benefit for including discard effects but even the foils will struggle to be more than bulk.

Triskaidekaphobia – This might be the best card ever. I have to think about games within games that are more fun to play. I think foils on this are going to be expensive and stay that way, and I’m going to be bold: These are going to be $10 foils right away, and only start ticking upwards.

Sin Prodder – Something has to be worth money, right? I think this card is not good in Commander, or anywhere. Please, understand that when your opponent gets a choice, it’s always going to be bad for you. I think misguided people play this to a $3 value.

[mtg_card]Cryptolith Rite[/mtg_card] – This enables so many things, it seems like it can’t help but be good, especially as you have tokens begetting tokens, and on and on. It’s already pumped on presale up to $5, and I think that’s about right.

Second Harvest – Heck yes! This is an effect that is one-sided, instant-speed, and relatively cheap. You have my blessing to go forth and double up on tokens as much as you want. This will have a high foil split, probable something like $1/$7.

Altered Ego – Go for foils, those will be about $5 or so. Really great Clone effect, but the nonfoils will be bulk rares.

Anguished Unmaking – Our comparison is Vindicate, and missing out on killing lands might be a problem. Also, this is the Game Day foil promo, so that’s a factor. On the other hand, this might be the best removal spell in Standard. I’m guessing this is a $4-$7 card.

I know I didn’t cover them all, but how many times can I say “Bulk or nearly so” before you were bored? Come to the forums or leave a message to tell me who wrong I am.

Four Simple Rules

I have been trading magic cards for 20 years.

It pains me to say, but I’ve made some terrible trades in my lifetime. TERRIBLE. Like, Onslaught fetch land for brand-new-shiny-mythic bad. I was 33, it’s not like I was a teenager who didn’t know better. (The teenage trades were more “my Tropical Island for your Lord of the Pit and its new best friend Breeding Pit.” Sigh.)

Today, I want to share with you four simple rules that if you follow them, you will never lose money at Magic. These are my safe rules, rules that will prevent you from losing significant value. I’ve never been one to speculate on cards or act in fevered response to results.

Rule #1: Trade all opened cards away at a pre-release or release event.

I have mentioned this rule in the past, but it remains a basic tenet of my philosophy. Supply is at its smallest, demand at its greatest. People lack the patience necessary to save money, all they see is the new hotness.

This is especially true for the brand-new mythics. The price on everything is going to go down (more on that in a moment) and even the bad mythics have a certain number of people who have to have the card. Fill that need for them. Trade them a bad card for the current premium price.

My personal experience: The Return to Ravnica prerelease. I opened a Vraska the Unseen, and within ten minutes of the end of the event, I’d found someone to trade me a Guildpact Stomping Ground and $15 in cash for it, since the planeswalker had a price at the time of $30.

Current example: Arlinn Kord. If you’re able to trade this away at $35-$40 or so (its preorder price) then you’re going to be far ahead. Only one planeswalker has kept that sort of price recently: Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Arlinn has the chance to be good, with tokens and targeted damage as only two of her five abilities, but as history shows, she’s more likely to be $20 in a couple of months.

Rule #2: Never pre-order cards.

This is closely related to Rule #1, because no one wants to lose money on a preorder. What people remember is the one that got away, the Jace, the chase mythic, the surprise rare. Our memories are not as good at recalling the mistakes, the ones we bought at too high a price and did not make money on. Somehow, mentally, we accept those mistakes but tend to fixate on the opportunities we didn’t take advantage of.

I’m here to tell you that because almost all prices drop over time, there’s no financial benefit to preordering cards. Their prices are going to go down. Look at Oath of the Gatewatch. Kozilek was preordering for more than double his current price. Oath of Nissa was $8, now it’s a little over $2. You might hit it big on the one or two that are more expensive, but mostly, preordering will leave you in the red.

My Experience: Thespian’s Stage. I bought ten of these at $4 when it was first revealed, and I traded for them at $6…and then at $4 again…and then at $2…and then at $1…and now it’s finally back up to $2, three years later. Don’t be me!

Current example: Thing in the Ice. $15-$20 for this card is just silly. It can’t protect itself, and Reflector Mage is going to make you so very, very, very sad. Don’t preorder this. Don’t trade for this. Just wait. Please.

Rule #3: Do not buy singles until at least one month has passed.

This is one of the simplest concepts to get: Cards are most expensive immediately after release, and they are going to trend downward after that. Even when Standard cards spike, it’s rare that they maintain that spike, especially for a rare. Here’s Eldrazi Mimic:


Even as a four-of, even in the hottest deck in Modern, this has not been able to keep its price. Ten dollars that weekend, and trailing downward since. The vast majority of cards are going to lose value as more copies are opened. If you have to have a card for the new deck you’re playing, understand that you’re paying an extra premium for it. If you needed Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in the first month, you had to pay $40 or more! Now it’s down to $20, a more reasonable and manageable price.

My Experience: Prophet of Kruphix. I picked up a lot of these at about $4 soon after it came out, because a card this good just had to eventually find a home. It never did, and they went into long-term storage, where the Clash Pack and then the Commander ban keep shoveling dirt on my dreams.

Current Example: Jace, Unraveler of Secrets. He will have a big initial price, because his abilities are very strong. As time passes and more are opened, he’s going to drop. No one is going to play four of a Jace that costs five mana. Even the Jace, Memory Adept version was a one- or two-of in control decks as a finisher, and this Jace is defense and card advantage.

Rule #4: Stock up on things at the end of their block.

This is the time to buy stuff from Battle for Zendikar and Oath of the Gatewatch. It’s no longer going to be opened at Grands Prix, at Preliminary PTQs, or even at Friday Night Magic. There’s a new set getting all the attention and now is the time that the supply is at its greatest. This is when supply is highest, value is at the lowest, yet the power is the same.

My Experience: Jace, Architect of Thought

Look at this graph for that Jace.Jace Aot

During the time of Dragon’s Maze and Magic 2014, you could get him for $10. When Theros came out and devotion to blue became relevant, his price spiked hard to $30. Picking up cards when they are moving on to a new set is the perfect time to build value to be released later.

Current Example: The Battle for Zendikar lands. Especially because no one is playing this as a playset, they are primed to go up when fetch lands rotate out of Standard. You have been given a fair chance to get it cheap!

These are my rules, but come to the forums and share your financial rules!

How Chronicles burned Wizards

Come with me, back in time.

Step into the Wayback machine, set for November of 1994. Magic: The Gathering has taken the gaming world by storm with its gameplay, portability, and fun. Stores cannot keep product on the shelf, and Wizards of the Coast has been plagued with problems as it tries to meet demand. People who run stores ask for 100 boxes and get ten, meaning that no one knows how much product they will get. Prices fluctuate wildly based on availability, local metagame, and the lack of centralized information.

Fallen Empires was supposed to fix all of that. Magic, for about the first 18 months of its life, was unable to stay in stock. Alpha, Beta, Unlimited…all of these had bigger and bigger print runs that they thought would keep up with demand but really, all it did was make players hungrier as the game grew and spread.

Stores would order what they thought they could sell, and then Wizards would only be able to meet a portion of those orders. By the time The Dark was printed, this was the practice stores had settled on: Order a whole bunch, and get only a part of that.

Well, Wizards had finally figured out how to meet demand, and when Fallen Empires came out in November 1994, they gave every store as much as they had asked for…and lots of stores couldn’t pay for 10 cases when they were only expecting one. Fallen Empires remains the gold standard for overprinting sets for this reason.

The next expansion was part of a three-sets-in-four-months run that Wizards is going to try again this summer. April 1995 saw Ice Age, June brought Fourth Edition, and then July had Chronicles.

Personal aside: I was a sophomore when Ice Age came out. I remember seeing that a new  Counterspell was all of a sudden in the nickel bin at my LGS, and I bought four for a quarter, and I thought, “Someone really messed this up!!”

Ice Age had a small number of reprints, stuff like Icy Manipulator and Hurricane, but the other two sets were all reprints, all the time, and Chronicles specifically picked on things that were Rare or Uncommon. This was a game-changer, as some prices took a huge hit, as the number in circulation went up by an estimated factor of 10-20, according to Ben Bleweiss.

We have to remember how we found out about price changes back then. There were two main magazines that collected price data: InQuest and Scrye. Prices updated once a month when these bad boys hit the streets.

There was no shadowy #mtgfinance cartel orchestrating buyouts; this was opening a magazine and finding out that your rare $20 Killer Bees from Legends, the scourge of Hoover High School and a card with an ungodly number of kills…is now a dollar card thanks to being printed as an uncommon in Chronicles. Also, his Bees were not the only Bees to be reckoned with anymore, as we all had died to that card and now we all wanted to rack up kills with them!

What I want to think about is how the overprinting of Fallen Empires and Chronicles has made Wizards extremely hesitant about how they approach reprints at this time. We have some unofficial data about scarcity of Fifth Edition through Tenth Edition: They did not sell well, as evidenced by their low prices, aside from a few key cards.

It’s hard for me to express what it was like back then. There were boxes and boxes of Fallen Empires sitting on shelves, their six-card packs offering pump knights and the hope of a Breeding Pit. There was almost none of The Dark or things previous.

Contributing to the problem was that the packs previous to Ice Age were searchable. We knew the rare (or uncommon 3, or 2, or whatever system was in place) was the last card, face down. A little patience could tickle that card upward enough to expose the name, at which point the semi-transparent white plastic of the pack would yield the name of the card and whether it was worth buying…so the only older packs left on game store shelves were not going to have the cards people wanted most.

I’ve seen this trick done and it is disheartening in the extreme. Do not, ever, never, under any circumstance buy a loose pack of anything previous to Ice Age, when opaque foil started being used on booster packs. It’s been checked for duals/power/expensive cards already and while you might make a little money on the uncommons you have no hope of snagging the chase cards.

Chronicles was meant to make the game accessible for those who hadn’t had a chance to buy cards during Magic’s early days. Because Wizards had sorted out the printing problems and could meet demand, it was theorized that everyone would be happy having lots of copies of the stuff that wasn’t available early.

There were indeed a lot of people who were stoked to have lots more copies in circulation, but there were lots of others who saw the value of their cards drop like a rock. This very vocal group of people continued to make noise at the company over reprints, to the point that Wizards tried to mollify them almost immediately with the creation of a reprint policy. This locked down the rares which had not yet been reprinted and prevented any rare printed between Ice Age and Urza’s Destiny from being reprinted more than once. That ‘one time’ is why you get Judge Foil versions of things that weren’t allowed to be reprinted.

Say what you want about what exactly Wizards does in response to player outcries, but they have never failed to deliver a response, even if that response boils down to ‘calm down and wait,’ as evidenced with the outbreak of Modern Eldrazi. Wizards reacted swiftly to the outcry and decided that they were not going to devalue collections instantly.

This decision is at the heart of Wizards’ support of non-Standard formats. They have made a conscious and deliberate decision to attempt to lower prices gradually. Even big Standard reprints like Thoughtseize and fetchlands have not hit those prices too hard, and those are top-tier, four-of tournament staples.

I admit, I gave up trying to predict Wizards’ future behavior after they put Iona, Shield of Emeria in Modern Masters 2015 and then with the same art in the From the Vault set that same summer, yet the Reserved List makes a certain amount of sense. Some things are safe, everything else is fair game. You might not agree with this policy. Mark Rosewater doesn’t. Lots of people don’t, but as has been stated, it’s a policy and a promise that Wizards intends to honor.


However, Wizards doesn’t want to make access to older cards too easy and too fast for the new player at the expense of the established player. This is a tricky line to walk, and I don’t think there’s a single correct path.

Wizards is aware of the pitfalls they have made in trying to strike that balance. Randy Buehler said it flat out: Chronicles was a fairly big mistake. It was overprinted. It tanked too much value too fast, and now every time there’s a set of reprints of non-Standard cards (Modern Masters, Modern Event Deck, From the Vaults, etc.) they have to reassure players that this will not be Chronicles all over again.

Wizards would rather underprint than overprint. We saw this in both Modern Masters releases, where there was a burst of product available but the demand was too high to keep prices low for long. You can find it now, but it’s going to cost you, and Wizards is okay with this outcome.

The end result is this: Eternal Masters is going to have a print run that’s relatively small. More Modern Masters 2013 than the 2015 version in terms of the numbers, and that means there will be less in circulation than you’re hoping for, especially the mythics or other cards you need a four-of, such as Force of Will.