Tag Archives: trading

PROTRADER: Don’t Get Too Comfortable With Your Preferred Out

For some reason, Khans of Tarkir didn’t grab my attention. I immediately knew the set was objectively good, with all kinds of possible decks from two to five colors. Yet, when the format was all said and done, I drafted it about a dozen times total, which is quite low for me.

I had attributed this not to a lack of interest in the set, but to the fact that my wife had our first kid shortly before Khans of Tarkir‘s release. The thing is, though, that my son is way more of a handful than he was last year, and yet today, all I want to do is draft Battle for Zendikar. Considering how good Khans was, that must mean Battle is even better.

Cream of the Crop

What’s really been drawing me in is the set’s difficulty. The format is very complex, with synergy playing a much more important role than in usual sets. A blue card that is excellent in black-blue may just be straight unplayable in white-blue. Figuring out this stuff is a joy, and after nearly 20 Limited events, I’m still trying to determine the proper balance between synergy and power.

What’s surprising is that I’m not even winning very much, yet I’m still interested in the format—usually, the formats I end up playing the most are the ones where I win the most matches. In this case, it’s the learning curve and the joy of discovery keeping me coming back, which is a huge endorsement for the design of the set. I’m hoping that more match wins will start coming eventually.

The need to reconsider many standard drafting practices is comparable to another issue I ran into recently: the need to reconsider one’s various outs for cards.

The rest of this content is only visible to ProTrader members.

To learn how ProTrader can benefit YOU, click here to watch our short video.

expensive cards

ProTrader: Magic doesn’t have to be expensive.

Coolest Ginger You Know (Part 1)

By: Houston Whitehead

It only takes a few games of Magic to start applying subconscious shortcuts. In society, stereotyping is a cognitive shortcut to help gauge understanding of an individual.  Though stereotyping is frowned upon, it’s virtually impossible to remove its process from your brain.  What’s interesting is the vast difference between self-stereotyping (self-image) and projected stereotyping (defining those around you relative to personal experiences). Since everyone’s life experiences, ideas, and understandings vary, the only opinions worth caring about are probably just your own.  Obviously careers in the public eye turn these theories on their head but that’s beside the point.  That said, my goal today is to thoroughly introduce myself the MTGPrice.com readers through my personal perceptions, opinions, experiences.

Since I am a player, trader, collector, writer, and content creator, I feel it would only be appropriate to introduce myself under each hat.

About Me…fear the beard

…as a Player


  • I picked up my first cards during Lorwyn Block in High School. Newly made friends inaccurately introduced me to an already complicated game during Web Design III class.  Since the school kept deleting Doom and Pocket Tanks from our computers, it was time to try out strategic cardboard.  Again, my friends didn’t understand many of the rules so our already terrible tribal decks had zero chance of redemption from play skill. My whole collection was from buying a pack or two with loose change from my car during random afterschool visits to a baseball card shop.
  • A couple years later I was looking for some extra money and found my shoe box full of cards and traded them into a local shop. Of course, I was ripped off by the manager and offered $100 credit or $50 cash.  I was offended at the cash offer and told him I’d think about the credit offer.  I saw a guy from high school playing MTG at a nearby table and found out I was playing the game ALL WRONG!  With this new information my competitive nature was intrigued and I’ve been healthy addicted to cardboard crack ever since.
  • The style of decks I prefer to pilot can best be described as synergistic. I’m addicted to value and prefer to cast and/or recur out of my graveyard whenever possible.  This usually lands me in a variety of midrange strategies.  That said, I will always have a special place in my heart for spell-heavy mono red burn.
  • I participate in the following formats: Standard, Modern, Legacy, EDH, Legacy Pauper, Pauper Cube, and most Limited formats.

…as a trader

  • I trade for three reasons. First, I trade to complete a deck I would like to pilot. Obviously the most common reason for trading. Second, I value trade to turn my soft cards into solid cards. Standard Examples: Soft = Thunderbreak Regent & Scry Lands. Solid = Fetch lands & Thoughtseize. Third, I trade to collect which I will talk about later.
  • My goal for each non-value trade is to make 10% profit. It doesn’t always happen and every trade is different but having goals helps keep me from getting emotions involved in trading.  Otherwise, I would just trade everything they want to them.
  • Speculating is one of the most enjoyable parts of trading for me. I even have a binder where I keep all my specs at.  Many friends ask to go through my specs/staple binder and either shoot a chuckle or gasp my way.  Truly a binder full of free entertainment.
  • I prefer to trade using eBay Completed listings but also accept MTGPrice.com’s Fair Trade Price. Many other online vendors flex their prices via stock quantity or what a Pro wrote about this week.

…as a collector

  • First goal when a set is released is acquiring a playset of all dual lands in Standard. I don’t care if they are expensive. Knowing you already have the duals makes building a deck x10 easier. That should-probably-might be a real statistic.  This also enable you to help your friends that might be on a tighter budget or want to try out a deck before they invest.
  • i’m a dog for full art. From full art foil Lightning Bolts to the newest Game Day promos, I aim for a playset of each. The JSS Promos will be the hardest for me to acquire but I enjoy the thought of adding them to my collection.
  • Pauper foils are a new addiction that has bleed over from foiling out my pauper cube. I made a pauper gauntlet with the eight best decks in the format and am slowly foiling out each deck when I find pieces I need.  I will always be a lover of Pauper and if you can’t afford a Legacy deck, I truly feel legacy pauper has wider decision trees than Standard or Modern.

Next week I’ll share detail about me as a writer and as a content creator.

As always thanks for reading



Trade Better

Trading is one of the most fun aspects of Magic finance, but it can also be a huge pain. Between dealing with unreasonable people, trade sharks, and a constantly shifting market, actually completing a trade can be quite an undertaking.

But when we do make a good series of trades, it makes it all worth it, right? Flipping five or six uncommons you opened at the prerelease for a mid-tier rare that you trade for a spec target that doubles up and gets you a Thoughtseize or a fetch land is exactly the kind of story that makes people want to get involved in Magic finance. It makes a lot of sense that the MTG finance boom came right after Jonathan Medina’s Pack to Power series: everyone wants to be able to flip bad cards for the best cards, and Medina demonstrated to what extent it could be done.


Trading isn’t nearly as prevalent or popular as it once was, of course. I hardly ever find anyone at my LGS with a binder these days, and when I do, it’s virtually impossible to get any sort of fair deal. In recent experiences, I’m finding that people are either intent on sharking or so afraid of being sharked that they’re too timid to make big trades.

With this in mind, maybe it’s time to take a moment to go over some basic concepts involved in trading. For the casual traders, it will help you feel confident that you’re getting a fair deal. For the financier types, maybe it will help you realize that you don’t need to be getting twice the value as your partner in every trade. Making more trades with smaller value gains is generally more profitable than trying to rip off every person with whom you trade.

Understand Who Has the Power

It’s ten minutes before FNM starts, and you overhear an acquaintance trying to pick up his last Siege Rhino before the event. You’re tuned into MTG finance and know that Travis Allen has been touting this as a good pick-up for some time, and you happen to have a few copies in your binder. You don’t necessarily want to trade any away, but when the guy comes and asks you if you have one available, you figure it can’t hurt to take a look at what he’s offering.

“I’m not really looking to trade a Rhino away,” you say, “But if you make it worth my while, I could be convinced.”

You have the power in this situation. Your trade partner “needs” this card, and you don’t feel a particular drive to trade it away, so a “fair” trade is not to be expected here.

Many players completely fail to grasp this concept. In their minds, the only thing that matters is what the TCGplayer mid says, and if you ask for more than that, then they assume that means you’re trying to rip them off. As a result, these players enter a lot of tournaments with sub-par decks lacking many of the cards they need.

Asking for additional value to encourage you to give up a card you don’t feel particularly driven to unload is not trade sharking, unless you’re lying to your trading partner about what the cards in question are worth. If you start asking for unreasonable amounts of value, you might be approaching shark territory, but as long as your trading partner knows what’s going on, he or she can always just walk away. Then you’re not a shark—you’re just a bad trader who failed to close a deal. It’s when you misrepresent information that things get shady.

This power dynamic shifts a bit if you have cards you’re actively looking to trade away. I’m going to invoke Travis Allen again here, because he touched on this exact topic in his article earlier this week.

Basically, you shouldn’t be afraid to take a small loss on soon-to-rotate cards today if it means dodging a major loss on them tomorrow. I’ll give you a recent example. This past Friday, someone flipping through my binder expressed a passing interest in my Courser of Kruphixes and Sylvan Caryatids I hadn’t managed to get rid of just yet. My eyes lit up when he asked about them. He wasn’t exactly sure he wanted them, and was waffling a bit. Eager to make the trade, I gave him a few dollars in value on a $35 trade, and I made sure to let him know that I was doing that for him.

–Travis Allen

Travis went on to point out that if he didn’t make that trade, there’s a good chance he wouldn’t have been able to trade off the cards until they were worth only $20, losing money in the long run.

So in that case, the other guy didn’t need the cards, he had a vague interest in them. That’s not the time to ask for extra value. If you think the card is going to go up or have a particular attachment to it, just don’t trade it. If you’re actively looking to get rid of it in the face of greater losses, give up value if you have to, within reason. Do you want to make the trade or not?

 Trading Horror Story #1

It’s June 1999, which would have made me 14 years old, I guess (yes, I’m an Old™). I have just opened what might be, in my young eyes, the sweetest card in Urza’s Legacy: Palinchron (aside to my aside: holy crap, I didn’t realize this had been ascending from $5 where I picked a copy a few years ago. Paying attention is important).

I don’t remember exactly what I was doing at the LGS that day. I was probably playing a match, and an adult guy I did not know asked to look at my binder. I let him, he asked if the Palinchron was for trade, I told him probably not but maybe, and he asked if he could take it out of my binder. Because I was a dumb kid, I said yes.

It wasn’t until later that night that I realized I’d never negotiated with him, and what do you know? The card wasn’t in my binder anymore, either. I never saw the guy again.


  1. Don’t trade while you’re playing a match.
  2. Don’t ask to trade with someone who’s playing a match.
  3. Don’t let people steal from you, especially in such obvious and avoidable ways.
  4. Don’t steal from kids. (This one is especially important!)

Trading Up and Trading Down

“Trading up” refers to trading several cards of lower value into one or more cards of higher value. “Trading down” refers to the opposite: trading a high-value card for lots of cards of lower value.

Another concept players often fail to grasp is the idea that expensive, often out-of-print individual cards are harder to obtain and thus more desirable than an “equal value” amount of many lower-value cards.

Cards that are just above bulk, in the $0.50 to $1 range at TCGplayer mid, cannot just add up to Standard staples using the same valuation method. You may find finance-minded mages willing to trade down real cards for bulk rares, but they’re valuing them at 10 to 25 cents each depending what the card in question is.

Even something like trading actual Standard staples like Thunderbreak Regent or Elspeth, Sun’s Champion into out-of-print Modern or Legacy staples like Vendilion Clique, Tarmogoyf, and dual lands is probably going to require some sweetening by the person trading up. If you’re dealing only in trade, it’s a lot easier to pick up a pile of Abzan cards than it is to find someone in possession of and willing to trade a Volcanic Island.

Unless the person trading down is motivated for one reason or another (I’ve heard of shop owners all too excited to trade dual lands for Standard staples that people at their LGS will actually buy, for example), the person trading up should just understand they need to give up value. I recall a several-year-old Corbin Hosler article discussing trading a dual land down to a player for Standard cards (Huntmasters were involved, I’m sure of it) and Corbin explaining to the other guy that he was going to value his cards at buylist prices. The guy did not take it well, which is an example of why trading is so hard these days. Corbin was ultimately doing the guy a favor and he was not concealing information for gain, but the guy still thought it was unfair. This is why it’s so important to understand when you’re trading down or trading up.

Trading Horror Story #2

Basically by a fluke occurrence caused by the most casual of these events I have ever seen, I managed to win a Dark Ascension Game Day, including the playmat, with a non-optimized version of Illusions despite Delver being a well-established deck by that point. I just showed up because it was free to play and everybody who showed up got a Strangleroot Geist promo, which I thought was super sweet.


I had only returned to Magic a few months earlier, at the Innistrad prerelease, so I was not very good at Magic, only vaguely aware of MTG finance (though I’ve always been value-conscious in most areas of life, so I was getting there quickly) , and not entirely comfortable in the LGS atmosphere. And get this—pretty much the only format I was playing at the time was Standard. (For real, though, I loved Scars-Innistrad Standard and would play it again if I could.)

I was playing with my sweet Gameday Champion playmat at FNM, and a guy kept asking me to trade it. I didn’t really want to, but he was persistent, so finally, I just said, “Sure, but you have to pay extra. I want thirty dollars.”


I had noticed that playmats generally sell for $10 to $20, so I thought I was really getting a good bargain here. Stupidly, I had failed to look on eBay and notice that these were going from $50 to $100 at the time. I traded it away for two Gravecrawlers and other junk I didn’t really want or need, basically because the guy wouldn’t leave me alone about it.

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending. A guy I was friendly with approached me later in the evening and said he was going to offer me four Seachrome Coasts (valued at $20 at the time) for it. This is when I was informed of the mat’s true value, and I was just crushed. The guy and his buddy took it upon themselves to go give $35 to $40 in value to get it back and offered to just give it back to me. Obviously, I told the guy it was his to keep, but he gave me a Seachrome Coast anyway, making it so I got a little bit more value for the mat and he got it a little cheaper than he originally intended. Horror stories suck, but this community can truly be awesome sometimes. (Sadly, neither of those guys play Magic anymore. For now.)


  1. Don’t let yourself be bullied into a trade.
  2. Don’t trade something without knowing its value. You might regret it.
  3. Make good friends.

 All Things Being Equal

The best and easiest trades are when you have cards your trading partner needs, she has cards that you need, and those cards’ values are close enough that trades can go straight across with maybe some random throw-ins on one side or another.

Of course, Magic financiers don’t often have needs, per se. There have been times where I was trading with no particular goals but to make value. In these situations, you’re looking to have cards that people will need, so that you can have power in trades to get a little extra value. If you’ve got a bunch of stuff that nobody wants, you’re not going to accomplish your goals.

What about trading with financiers? Is it just not worth the time? In my experience, it often isn’t, but if you feel like doing it, it really becomes a game of who is speculating on what. You’re not going to get much current value out of your trading partner, so you need to figure out what he is bullish on that you’re bearish on, and vice versa. This is a way that two financiers can walk out of a trade and both feel happy.

Finally, I recall back in my Standard days that Silverblade Paladin was going for $9 or $10 at Star City Games but had a TCGplayer mid of $12. If you know anything about SCG prices, you know that it’s very rare for SCG to have a price below TCGplayer mid. I used this knowledge to trade for Paladins with people who used SCG prices and to trade away Paladins to people using TCGplayer prices. Noting value differences like this can often make you money.

As a general rule of thumb, it favors you to trade up using SCG prices if possible, and to trade down using TCGplayer prices if possible. SCG prices on high-value cards are closer to market price than bulk rares, which all get marked up to at least $0.50.

Trading Horror Story #3

One time, I was looking through a guy’s binder and a page had a crushed cockroach on it. That’s extremely gross, but I just chose to not mention it and quickly turned the page.

Then I got to the center of the binder, where the folios fold and there’s a little space in the spine. The entire spine of the binder was filled with cockroaches. An onlooker remarked in horror about it, I sat there shocked and appalled, and my trading partner profusely apologized and said he had been dealing with a huge infestation at home.

I did not complete a trade in that instance.


  1. Don’t live your life in such a way that this ever happens.

That’s all I’ve got for this week, kids. Until next time!

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.