Tag Archives: PucaTrade

Tradewind Rider – Riding the Tides of the Trade

Today I would like to give a few thoughts on my experiences with trading, both past and present. Consider what I’ve experienced in the past, how trading happens today and what the differences between past and current trading are, this will be more of an observation piece than anything so take it with a grain of salt. Not everyone might experience what I do when trading, and hopefully your trades are positive and productive. Certainly, mobile trading applications for phones have made trading the fairest it has ever been. However, there are downsides to this new approach to trading.

Is it worth it?

Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 10.53.12 AM

To start things off, I’ve been wondering whether or not trading is a even worthwhile endeavor for me anymore. I’ve traded plenty over the years but where has it ultimately lead me? I will honestly say that my personal collection has risen in value more on the backs of cards that I’ve picked up from vendors at larger events or online than it ever really has through trading. I admit that this may not be the case anymore, due the cat being out of the bag with Legacy (and even Vintage) staples seeing insanely large price increases based on the surge of popularity Magic has experienced in recent years, though Modern seems to be the next point of entry where buying staples before the seasonal spikes seems to be rewarding me plenty. Why spend a large amount of time trading when I have a good thing going?

Trading for speculative targets is really hard, as the people you’re trading with will almost always never have the exact card that you’re looking for. When you trade, you really only have the option of looking at exactly what they have, and then they need to want something that you have, and then the values of those items needs to be equal (heaven forbid it be even $2 off, otherwise no deal!). See how trading can lose its appeal pretty quickly for something like speculating?

Even for other times that I have traded, the three step process of:

1) I need to find something they have that I want at this point in time.

2) They need to find something I have that they want at this point in time.

3) Those needs/wants need to converge within at least $1.50-$2.00 of each other, and even that usually needs to be in my trading partner’s favor.


Trading isn’t easy anymore and I’m not the only one who thinks this way. Plenty of people who I regularly play with have basically sworn off all trading other than trading done between close friends that have interacted closely over a significant period of time. Maybe we’re all just old school, since for the large majority of our Magic-playing careers the mobile trading apps didn’t exist and so we didn’t really care if we lost a few dollars on a trade here and there. Ultimately though, I think that I and my friends are just going to have to suck it up, learn to adapt, and know how to maximize the usefulness of the mobile trading apps if we’re going to look into trading outside our merry band of travelers. The dollars and cents matter so much these days for trading, and learning how to navigate the close scenarios so that both parties are happy has become both a skill and a science.

Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 10.53.23 AMOn the flip side of this coin, trading can be really easy too. Unfortunately, when it’s really easy you know that someone is getting ripped off, and the only people that are OK with this are the sharkiest of sharks. These are the nightmare situations that many of us have lived through, where for example at the beginning of our Magic playing days we want to trade some of those dumb rare lands we opened up for big creatures that are going to smash people’s faces in. Having almost no background on the secondary market, we figured that each rare is about equal to acquire so hey there pal, go right ahead and take this land off me that I had no intention of playing anyways! Shortly after while telling someone about this “deal” we realize how dumb it was and feel bad that we could have gotten probably twenty times the amount of cards for that land.

From this perspective, mobile trading apps have been a godsend. Players no longer need to worry that they’re getting ripped off if they are new to the game and want to start branching out into trading to expand their collection. Yet, what many newer players don’t realize is that almost all of the rares or cards that they want will eventually become bulk anyways once they rotate from Standard, so focusing on losing a few dollars is almost always going to be an exercise in futility in the long run. The only time where you really need to be concerned about losing dollars in a trade is if the card is a chase mythic / rare from the set that is going to have eternal playability. However, if a player is new they know nothing about eternal formats anyways! Catch-22 if I ever saw one.
Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 10.53.31 AMThis particular scenario is what makes trading so grindy these days. I used to be able to trade with five people in the span of ten minutes. Now, I’m lucky if I can execute one trade in fifteen minutes between my partner finding something, looking up all the prices of everything they’re considering, and then making sure to equalize everything once the majority of the trade has been put into the trading apps. Not exactly an a great use of my time, and as the saying goes time is money.

All in all, the adoption of mobile trading apps has been both a positive and a negative thing. It is positive in that both parties can verify that they are getting a fair deal, no matter what price sources you’re using for the trade. Are we using Star City prices for the trade? No problem, going from Star City to Star City is fine since even though they’re marked up in the first place the markup applies from bulk through the mythic rares. We using TCG Mid? Even better, the mid level prices better reflect condition and they can be adjusted accordingly on the applications.

Moving online?

I’m thinking that since in-person trading hasn’t been fruitful for me recently, that websites like Deckbox and Pucatrade can offer me easy ways of being able to trade online. They appear to have the best of both worlds – the convenience of trading whenever, having the best fair trade price, and having a ton of selection right? However, these services also have their issues.

Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 10.53.40 AMThey are quite cutthroat. Think about this for a second – there are people out there who develop scripts specifically in order to maximize the number of trades that they see, in order to make sure that they are the first to be able to trade with a user if they have cards that they want. How is a human going to compete with something like that? You can’t, so the issue of finding someone to send cards to is going to be a big hurdle to overcome without knowing this. It might be a learning curve or whatever, so I’m sure that if you find a way to execute trades that works for you, you’ll get the hang of it and quickly become used to the vanishing wants of the system. However, I’m guessing that it is darn frustrating getting started with the services.

The online trading services also utilize the mail, which is going to involve USPS and beyond if we’re shipping internationally, so be prepared to wait up to a month to get those cards you want. Also, people that trade online seem to be extremely picky about condition, and why shouldn’t they? It’s advertised at a particular condition, and if it doesn’t meet that condition then the system or users should offer some type of recourse for the misleading listing. As many of us have experienced the definition of NM can actually vary widely from person to person. In other words, if it’s not “NM” there are going to be big problems and headaches for all. All in all, these complaints are pretty minor and once you set your expectations then the services are a good way to trade.

At the end of the day, the ultimate question is – Is it worth it to trade? For in person trades, I’m finding that for my needs that trading in person is becoming more and more of hassle. I’m generally only looking for specific cards, and my partners usually are too, and many times since they don’t have anything specific in their binder they usually refuse to trade anyways even if I become interested in smaller priced items that I wanted to pick up on a whim when I saw them that moment. Even when there is a trade to be made, the amount of time spent looking up the prices, accounting for conditioning, and then ensuring that everything is matched up according to whatever fair trade price is being used, simply wears me out. I feel exhausted when I finish a trade this way.
Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 10.53.49 AMOnline trading is where the new frontier is. I’m not sure if the issue of postage will ever be resolved, however the issues of finding the trades you want to make and to account for condition (PucaTrade, I’m specifically looking to you here) are becoming better and better every day. Condition is a simple policy change and site update, while the amount of trades is all based on user base and more users means that more trade opportunities are going to open up. I feel like right now, even with the issues that online trading has, that it won’t be nearly as draining on my brain and psyche as in person trading has become.

Where do you all stand on trading these days? Is my experience typical of most players / traders or are your trades a more smooth and pleasant experience? I know that many of us on MTGPrice are starting to hop on the PucaTrade bandwagon pretty hard, and it looks like many of our trades are being executed successfully there. What have been some negative experiences of PucaTrade that you’ve encountered, or feel like you might run into eventually? Do Deckbox or other online services compare in any way to PucaTrade?



In just a few days, it will have been four months since I started using PucaTrade.  Since then, I have more or less optimized my cube (which was no small task), gotten rid of a lot of junk I didn’t want weighing down my collection, and have spent zero dollars on Magic, aside from shipping, I suppose. It’s hard for me to overstate just how much use I have gotten out of this service in such a short time. If you’re not on board yet, you’re making a serious misplay.

This isn’t going to be a basics-of-PucaTrade style article. There have been plenty of those written, and the site is easy enough to use without me explaining it. Instead, I’ll be discussing some more specific strategies for using the platform to your advantage, as well as anticipating the best ways to adapt to several known updates that are already in the works.



If you only see my summary on the site, then it looks like I haven’t done too well using PucaTrade:

“You have sent 200 cards with a total value of $903.68 and you have received 115 cards from other members with a total value of $699.31.”‘

Of course, that doesn’t tell the whole story.


Now things are looking much better. In my opinion, there is little point to being on PucaTrade if you aren’t able to request cards at a moment’s notice. For this reason, I never like to dip below 10,000 points, and in practice, I haven’t been under 20,000 points often at all.

In many ways, PucaTrade has become my primary way to attain cards, and I don’t want to miss out on good opportunities because I’ve spent all my points. If you’re a player needing to build decks at a moment’s notice, keeping a healthy supply of PucaPoints on hand is a great way to get the cards you need.

Another great benefit here is that I’ve shipped many cards that I expected were going down in value. In my article last week, many of the “sales” I discussed in anticipation of Modern Masters 2015 were, in fact, PucaTrade sends. If I had been trading these out at my LGS or a big event, I would have needed to find cards to receive in return, many of which would be less than ideal and not much better than what I was trading out. With PucaTrade, I was able to lock in value while I could, and have been storing that value for use at a later time. It’s glorious.

The Rhino in the Room

Of course, I’m well aware that letting this currency sit without gaining interest is inefficient. I could pick up over 50 Siege Rhinos with my current bankroll, and unless it gets included in a Duel Deck or something (what a gross thought), by the fall, I will almost certainly have made a hefty profit in either PucaPoints or cash—my choice. I am certainly picking up a dozen copies of a card here and a playset of a fringe spec there, but I still like to keep a good amount of points on hand. Besides, liquidating a huge pile of the same card through PucaTrade is not exactly easy, and things have to line up a lot better to make a profit buylisting.

The thing is, despite using PucaTrade as my primary MTG bankroll for the last few months, I have another reason to accrue points, and it relates to PucaTrade’s IndieGoGo campaign from a couple month’s back. Here’s the relevant section:


I’ve been a #mtgdad for almost a year now, and I’ve learned two things about it during that time:

  1. Even with a supportive wife, getting out to play Magic is about ten times harder than it was pre-baby, and nowhere close to as attractive as kicking it at home with my son after a long day at work.
  2. Drafting on Magic Online isn’t much better, given that I have to dedicate two to three hours and there’s no guarantee that the baby’s mood won’t change like sixteen times during that period. I’ve lost more than one game due to fussy-baby-caused misclicks or timeouts.

This means that I haven’t been playing nearly enough Magic in the last several months, and I don’t see my situation changing anytime soon. I continue to insist that Draft is the epitome of Fine Gaming™ (like fine arts, fine wines, fine cheeses, etc.), but because MTGO offers no way to play meaningful Limited games quickly, I think I’m going to have start looking into Constructed if I want to play more Magic within my current constraints.

I’ve messed with Standard, Block Constructed, and Pauper on MTGO in the past, but have not enjoyed them enough to do more than dabble and then taper off. What really catches my attention is Vintage. 

Conveniently, MTG Goldfish’s metagame page lists the exact online prices for the top decks in the format. Ignoring Dredge and Workshop—because when I say I’m interested in Vintage, what I really mean is that I’m interested in playing Ancestral Recall and Time WalkI can see that I will need roughly 700 tickets. This isn’t so bad when you consider these same decks are listing  at around $15,000 in paper!

Still, this means that I’ve got some catch-up to do if I want to be on top of a Vintage deck when these PucaTrade updates go live. I’m also looking into the Facebook group dedicated for PucaPoint/ticket exchanges that Douglas Johnson mentioned in his article last week, as this was not a group of which I was previously aware. Maybe I won’t have to wait for PucaTrade’s updates, after all.

In my first article for MTGPrice, I pointed out that once you have a decent collection of cards together, you have a very liquid asset that you can use for any of your MTG needs, making playing for free—or at least not spending additional money—quite attainable for the average player. In this case, my goal is to play Vintage without spending any additional money (again, disregarding stamps and envelopes), and I’m sure I can do it. One of the greatest benefits to PucaTrade, especially once MTGO trading is added, is that you can turn your collection into anything you want it to be.

Perfect for Those Cards

I’ve touched on this before, but I feel like it’s important to point it out again because it’s such a crucial aspect to PucaTrade. I have speculated on many a card that has panned out, but only just.

For example, I’m pretty deep on Steam Vents, but unfortunately, got most of my copies for $8 each (in store credit) before the Dragon’s Maze reprint was announced. I traded for plenty more copies at $6 or $7, but I generally don’t like the idea of selling them for less than $8.

Currently, the best buylist price is at $7.40, but the retail price is closer to $13. The eBay average is $8, which means I would be losing money after fees. Without PucaTrade, this would just be a spec I had to sit on and hope would eventually pan out a little better, or occasionally find someone at my LGS who wanted to trade for a set. Instead, I’m shipping these out for more than 1300 points each at a slow but steady rate, storing that value for other speculation targets, cards for my collection, or eventual online Vintage.

Dealing with a card’s spread (the difference between buylist prices and retail prices) is one of the biggest obstacles to profit for a non-store-owning financier, but PucaTrade gives a new and very important out for specs that are mild successes or even failures. Previously, the choice was largely between selling at a loss or continuing to hold and hoping for further increases, but with PucaTrade allowing you to get what essentially amounts to the card’s full value in store credit, a whole new world opens up for outing these types of specs.

Know the News

Following along with PucaTrade’s blog is a great way to keep up with what updates are coming up. You also get great MTG market theory, like this gem from a recent update:

PucaTrade has taught me that Magic is fundamentally a game of excess supply.  Whether you participate in a draft or buy a booster box to crack open, Magic cards enter your collection as random assortments that you may or may not want.

Part two of this article discusses PucaTrade’s approach to solving one of the service’s biggest problems: the difficulty of sending out popular cards, especially from Standard-legal sets. I won’t rehash it, but basically, they’re testing a “dibs” system this summer. It’s definitely worth a read.

By knowing that the dibs system is coming, you may decide that you are more comfortable committing some capital to Standard cards. Or maybe the fact that it may prove temporary will make you want to move into cards that not everyone will be looking to send. When I see an announcement that MTGO trading is coming up soon, that will give me a little extra time to have the points ready to get those Vintage cards I’m coveting. Paying attention can help you be ahead of the curve in many ways.

Closing Up Shop

I’m really proud of the section header above, because I’m using it both to indicate that we’re approaching the end of this article, and also to reference a frequent criticism I hear about PucaTrade. That’s efficiency right there, folks.

Invariably, any time someone writes an article about PucaTrade, someone will comment saying something like, “I would never put my cards into something like this. They could just pull the plug any day and then everyone would just lose all their points. This is obviously a scam.”

Look, I’m all about being risk-averse. And you’re right, PucaTrade could close down. But considering more than one million trades have been completed and there’s apparently more users active than ever, I don’t imagine a world where PucaTrade will close down, at least any time soon. Frankly, the service has already proven more reliable and personally valuable to me than MTGO, and now I’m on record as being willing to put in several hundred tickets towards a Vintage deck on that unreliable, bug-ridden joke of a client. If you have any kind of collection at all on Magic Online, any criticism of PucaTrade as a risky proposition is willful obfuscation of your true concerns, whatever they may be.

If you want to use all the tools in the financier’s toolkit, you’ve already taken the right step by signing up as a ProTrader here at MTGPrice. We can provide the data and the community you need to make the correct decisions in your Magic finance pursuits.

But if you haven’t signed up for PucaTrade yet, you are missing out on what is in my opinion the finest medium for exchanging Magic cards for other Magic cards that is available. That’s just my opinion, though. You should check it out for yourself to know for sure.

New World Offers

Magic, ultimately, is a game of leveraging imperfect information. You know what cards are in your hand and deck, you know what cards are in play, but the rest is a slowly revealed logical puzzle. You know nothing about your opponent’s deck when you sit down to play1, and your most immediate goal is to deduce his or her strategy in order to best counter it. Failing to use every shred of information to your advantage, while concealing as much of your own as possible, is only making your goal—winning—more difficult. Should trading be the same way?

For much of Magic‘s life, trading was also a game of imperfect information. For the first few years, Wizards kept a staggering amount of set information private. The company didn’t disclose the rarity of cards, nor print public set lists.

BRIEF ANECDOTAL ASIDE: Did you know there was a basic Island on the rare sheet for Alpha and Beta? Wizards didn’t want people to “figure out” what the rare card in the pack was, so they made one of the rares an Island. Awesome. Thanks, gang.

It was up to players and collectors (remember, prior to Chronicles, there were a lot of purely dedicated collectors) to know what cards were rarer than others, which ones were valuable, and what they could afford to trade away. You’ll often hear stories of people trading away dual lands for Shivan Dragons, or people giving up commons for rares—even Mark Rosewater himself traded his Fungusaur for his father’s Mox Emerald (both of those cards are rare, but which one would you rather have?). The resources available were woefully inadequate, and most traders determined value based on gut instinct. The internet, the great equalizer in information access, merely congealed this confluence of guesswork. It also looked like a hot mess.


Over the next couple of years, Magic trading developed some rudimentary tools, none more important at the time than pricing magazines. Players would carry around their copy of Scrye, Inquest, or Beckett, and those prices were gospel—at least until the next month’s issue arrived. It is staggering to think about now, but for the majority of players, prices were only updated about once a month, and that was on whatever schedule fit the publisher. Imagine if we only got “prices” once a month today: if prices were published based on pre-Pro Tour numbers, people would be trading Dragonlord Atarka at $7 for a month, only to see it bumped up to $20 a few weeks later.

The good news is that we no longer live in a world of imperfect information with regards to Magic pricing and finance. In fact, the access to up-to-the-minute information is so ubiquitous, that it may be hurting trading. Try to remember the last time you made a trade where both parties didn’t have their smart phone out looking up prices. It’s been a while, right? True or false: “How to Save a Life” by The Fray was playing in the background. …I knew it.

Recently, and this is a sentiment I’ve heard expressed by multiple others, it seems as though casual trading on the whole is down. My personal take on this is that people have become so concerned about trading away value to “sharks” that they are afraid to trade away something with potential value. I know that, based on my own experience (Yes, Reddit, I am using personal experience as the basis for my opinion), I have traded face to face only twice since GP New Jersey, and one was with a close, personal friend (I took a bit of a loss just to help him get a Modern deck put together)2. Trades at my LGS seem to be rarer than trades in the NFL3, and I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even carry a trade binder most of the time. When I do take a binder to an event, it is with the understanding that most of it will get buylisted to vendors.

BRIEF FOURTH-WALL BREAKING ASIDE: I typically save this kind of stuff until the end, but I’m not sure how many people actually make it that far. If you have any experiences with trading recently, good or bad, I’d love to hear them. Have you noticed a decline in face-to-face trading opportunities? Are people more reluctant? Now, get ready for one hell of a segue…

Despite the (possible) downswing of face-to-face trading, there is another way, and it seems to be doing better than ever. PucaTrade is about to see its millionth trade (any time now!), and after its successful Indiegogo campaign, there are a lot of new features coming down the pipeline.

Even though I have not been face-to-face trading nearly as much lately, my Puca game has been strong. One is not a total replacement for the other, however, and I want to talk about my personal use of the service, and how to fit it into the larger framework of a trading system.

The most immediate difference between PucaTrade and face-to-face trading is the costs of shipping, both monetary and temporal. The latter is roughly the same as ordering a card from an online store: it will arrive within a week, and there is a very small chance your card(s) will get lost or ruined in the mail4. Do not expect a card that is confirmed sent to you on Wednesday to arrive in time for Friday Night Magic.

The cost of time is a cost you pay on cards coming in, the monetary cost of shipping (stamps and other supplies) is one that you pay on cards going out. If you are primarily sending cards within the United States5, the cost is going to consist of a 49-cent stamp plus an envelope, toploader, sleeve, and some tape—maybe 65 to 75 cents, total. With PucaTrade, there are some additional features built into that cost that few people acknowledge: you are also “paying” for the site’s infrastructure and exposure (also, you’re helping the USPS, if that’s something you’re into). I have had a small amount of issues with trades on Puca, all of which were resolved swiftly and fairly by the support team. It is also a great feeling when you are able to unload something that has been rotting away in a binder for months to someone who genuinely wants it, and will give you the full amount in trade for it. However, since you want to get the absolute most for your money, I suggest not mailing out any cards that are less than the price of postage (I personally don’t often send out anything less than around 300 points), and when possible, bundle trades so that you can put multiple cards in the same envelope. Every time I commit to a trade, I click on my partner’s page to see what else I can send to him or her.

Another great thing about PucaTrade is that the infrastructure I mentioned encourages more people to trade. Because you know you are protected, more people who wouldn’t trade in person are encouraged to send their cards out. They also don’t feel pressured by the person sitting across from them, and are more willing to send away something for it’s fair price today than fretting about its potential price tomorrow. I suspect that, psychologically, there is something at play in the sense that when you see cards coming to you, you want to send more out to guarantee more coming in. I don’t know, I’m not a doctor, I just play one on television.

PucaTrade is not for everyone, however. If you are someone who is established on eBay or the Magic Online Trading League (MOTL), it is probably more worthwhile for you to get a percentage of the card’s value in cash versus 100 percent in eventual trade.

Also, while PucaTrade offers a wide range of exposure, it is a different type than we typically expect. Rather than broadcasting what you have to everyone (like on eBay), it is really everyone else broadcasting what they want. Nobody will trade for your crimped foil Russian Godsire unless you write it in your profile and they happen to read it and they happen to want it. Those are the kinds of cards that you want cash for, and that’s the type of thing you are better off advertising on eBay, MOTL, etc.

Personally, I use PucaTrade as a way of filtering in and out specs and cards I don’t have long-term faith in. I’ve opened up about nine copies of Dromoka’s Command, and it currently has a best buylist price (so easy to find thanks to MTGPrice!) of $5.12. Considering that I would have to pay the same shipping costs to send it to either StrikeZone (in this case) or a PucaTrader, it is in my best interest to get 937 points in trade. Assuming I sent out a playset this way (let’s call the shipping cost an even buck, since we don’t need four stamps), I can expect to get $19.48 in cash or $37.47 in trade—almost double! I don’t expect non-foil copies of any of the commands to be higher than $5 to $7 in a couple of months, so either option is likely a smart move, but that trade credit can be turned into things that I do have long-term faith in (or foils for my derpy Modern deck). By sprinkling your want list with cheap spec targets, you can get into a card at its floor in trade, which can allow you to sit on copies longer. You can also just ramp into Power, apparently (congrats, Chris!).

So that’s all I have to say about PucaTrade. I tried not to repeat the “Puca is so great!” articles that have been thrown out ad nauseam over the last couple years, but I do genuinely like the service and use it daily.

As always, I’d love to hear what y’all think, and I’ll see you next week!



1 Most of the time, unless you’re in the Top 8 of a Pro Tour, playing a friend, or a sneaky sneak. Many bothans died to secure this decklist.


2 The other trade was with a guy at my LGS who absolutely needed a card that we were out of stock on. That’s what it takes these days, apparently.

3 Philip Rivers will go to the Titans, and that team will still be terrible.

4 I always tell people to write “NON-MACHINABLE, DO NOT BEND” on their envelopes, but the US postal service is starting to charge more postage for non-machinable mail.

5 Sorry, friends in other parts of the world—I’m not familiar with how your national postal system works.