Blast from the Past: Tricks of the Trade

(Hello readers! This Blast from the Past is originally from Jul 30, 2009, but its topics still hold true – and are illustrated in Marin’s Rags to Riches series – when trading on MTGO. Enjoy a glimpse into the mindset of a successful MTGO wheeler and dealer!)

Hello, welcome to today’s article that will focus on the different types of players out there and how to benefit from them when trading. Lets start with a simple question:

Would you try to sell steaks to vegetarians for a profit?

No? Well, many traders do that in the sense that they are advertising their cards in the wrong market, either not selling or sometimes even worse, selling for far less then they could get doing it right. If you want to become an effective card trader you have to use ALL tools available to sell for the most and buy for the least amount possible. Let me explain in detail.

To sell and buy from the right people means understanding that people are playing Magic for very different reasons. Each and everyone of them tries to maximize their utility and return with what they see as pleasurable and fun. I would classify the players into the following types (most players having the features of several basic types):

The Drafter – this players main reason to be online is the advantage that he can draft any time of the day his favorite sets either casual, to qualify for online events or for real life tournament practice. Drafters usually have a good supply of standard cards and are often standard players themselves. Many of them do not care much about the cards they are drafting and only see them as additional source for tix to buy packs and enter tournaments. The fact that they have a huge pool of commons and uncommons makes drafters a very good source for bulk cards. They often sell their good rares cheaper then other players to get into the next draft queue, especially if they are not playing any constructed formats.
What worked for me here is to build good relationships with drafters so they come back to you and sell you their cards. To achieve this you have to offer fair deals of course, but if you manage it you will usually be better of then people buying at classified or even at bots.

+ good source of bulk common and uncommon from current sets.
+ usually cheaper then average classified prices.

- Not a big selection because they tend to sell fast.
– Many times no cards from older out of print sets available.
– Not interested in buying cards or trading casual.

The Standard Player – they want staples and chase rares from current sets. Standard players have a hard time to keep up with the newest deck developments and as soon as a certain deck emerges on top they try to get the key cards together. Cards such as Bitterblossom, Chameleon Colossus or Magus of the Moon where (or still are) expensive mostly because they are pieces of strong standard decks. They are usually not looking for cards that are not standard legal, often don’t care about foils and have a huge pool of cards from the newest sets. If you don’t play standard but are looking for good deals they are a good source for rotated cards or cards soon to rotate out of the standard environment. Rotations lead to many players trying to sell their cards to get tix for the new sets and often make for very cheap prices. Be aware of rotations will give you a good understanding of which cards to expect to drop in value and go in buy mode shortly before.

+ usually offer cheap cards from non standard expansions and soon to rotate editions.
+ pay premium for chase rares from current sets they need to build tournament decks.
+ huge pool of cards from current sets
+ often not interested in foils and a good source for trades that involve “foil to non-foil”.

- Often not interested in non-standard cards.
– Usually try to trade for staples that are easily sold or heavily used in tournament decks.
– Don’t have much cards from older sets or promotional cards interesting for collectors.

The Foil Fanatic – probably the easiest to recognize once you open the trade binder. Foil Fanatics want your foils and they will pay premium to get them. They are often Classic, Prismatic or Singleton players and try to foil their complete decks. They are in agony if they have to play with white bordered cards or non-foils and blind you when you play them with glittering and shinning cards. This player type is a very good trading partner if you have foils either from new sets (as they are still trying to complete their sets) or very old and rare foils (still missing from their collection). The best deals I have made mostly involved Foil Fanatics and admittedly, I am one of them. They will pay very high prices if you have the right card at the right time and we will discuss in part II where to find them. Never sell your foils to players that are not Foil Fanatics! Why? Because you lose a lot of profit in doing so.

+ Pay high premiums for foil cards especially from new sets and very rare foils.
+ Have usually a huge collection and a lot of tix which makes it easier to trade casual or sell.

- Not much interest in non-foil versions of cards
– Not easy to find

One critical issue to trade effectively and not lose value when doing so is to understand the value of foil cards. Even experienced traders feel often uncomfortable when they have to judge the value of a foil card and the reason is that there is no easy formula to compare a foil and its regular counterpart.

Most people go with a rule of thumb such as “regular x2″ but this is in many cases a bad advice.
To bring it to the point: “foil versions of cards can justify from 25% to 1000′s of % premium over the regular version!”
Current examples would be “Figure of Destiny” (regular 18, foil 22) and Impulse (regular 0.2, foil 10). So why are the ranges so huge?
To use a platitude – supply and demand.

Current Standard staples are in demand because they fuel winning decks. While some players like to foil their decks the number is relatively low, thus the low price on foils. If you try to get 2 regular versions of a standard staple for a foil one you will most likely fail (congratulations if you succeed). On the other hand there are cards that are only played in eternal formats such as Singleton, Prismatic or Classic. Many of the popular cards from these expansions are rarely drafted and not many packs are opened. Mirage, Visions and Weatherlight for example. Some foils from these sets go for much more then the non-foil version simply because eternal players tend to prefer foil cards and it is hard to get them.
Most standard players know that their cards will rotate anyway and all the foils they have accumulated need to be sold. Eternal players invest in a foil and have it for good, an important difference. So how can you know what the foil is worth?

Let me tell you what you should not do when you value foils from the following sets: MED1, MED2, Mirage, Visions, Weatherlight. Do NOT use the dealer price lists!
In many cases they are wrong, very wrong. Because dealers often don’t have the high demand foils from these sets they tend not to update the price. A good method is to ask in forums where a lot of Prismatic or Classic players hang out or ask them directly ( is a good source). For the other sets the dealer prices are a good indicator in my opinion and can be used. So be careful when selling or buying foils, especially from the sets mentioned above – they might be worth more or less then you think

The Trade Shark – These people are online mainly to make profit. They know the card values very well and usually don’t care what they are trading as long as they are on the long end of the trade. They quickly pull out the money cards from your binder and are not always looking for a fair deal. In most cases you should not trade with them. Doing that constantly is the best way to see your hard build collection dwindle into nothing. They are usually an ok source for buying less popular cards or bulk as they prefer to keep the “hot” stuff and sell of the crap. If you are trading and he is asking you for a trade that is clearly in their favor he is either a beginner that has not idea of card values or, more likely, a Trade Shark. Some of them come in subtler versions seeking only small profits with every trade and in many cases this is acceptable if he has something specific you are looking for.

+ Often sells bulk and crap cheaply.

- You usually loose value with every trade you make with them.
– Some of them are trying to rip you off (A small part, I know, but still existing).
– Especially bad if you are Trade Shark yourself (two of them trading leads often to no trade).

The Beginner – Beginners tend to have very small collections mostly consisting of commons. They have no idea of card values beside the common, uncommon, rare distribution and are often looking for cards that are ignored by most other types. In most cases they do not have anything of interest for a serious collector but sometimes it pays of to deal with them anyway because they are giving away rares for bulk commons which is beneficial for both sides; the beginner gets a bigger card pool to build decks from and the other side gets rid of overstock and bulk for maybe a playable rare card. Usually I just give away a big bunch of commons and hope they come back when they have something interesting to sell or trade. Try to be nice and you could have a source that delivers for the benefit of both.

+ Often accepts bulk cards for rares
+ Usually not chasing the top cards from the newest sets

- Very little to offer
– Some can be very time consuming as they don’t know the cards and spend a lot of time reading.

I am aware that many players are a mix of two or more of these types and the classifications purpose is to showcase the the attributes of the archetypes.

Now let’s examine how to use this knowledge and how to find these players. Lets look at the points that are vital to maximize your profit:

1. Peers make bad trading partners

“If you are trading for standard staples, don’t surround yourself with standard players.” Replace the word “standard” with any of the subtypes from above. It amazes me how many players are hanging out with one’s peers for trading. It is wrong! You can get that (insert any hot standard card here…) from a peer but you will pay a high price if you get it at all. Look for the Foil Collector, the Drafter etc. your chance increases substantially.

2. The other party determines the card values not you

Sure, most of the time you have an expectation when trading a card and know its value. What I am trying to say is that it does not matter that much what you think the card is worth but what the other party thinks it is!
You can try to convince me for 15 minutes how that “Tablet of Awesomeness” is super hot right know and worth 10 tickets, if I don’t believe it you will not make a deal. The good side of this thought is that most people don’t feel comfortable asking for the right price if they don’t like the card or believe its not worth that much. It might very well be that the other party appreciates this “crap foil” much more then you do! Make sure you find out.

3. Find the right place to buy, trade or sell

MTGO players often feel like in their own enclosed world and stay within for anything related to trading. Unfortunately you will miss many opportunities if you only trade within the MTGO client and don’t look outside this “universe”. The internet is big and all the subtypes I mentioned in part I tend to gather at places outside of MTGO….imagine you can reach a pool of players that is only interested in foils; that would make for some good foil trading deals.
Well, there are places where standard players, drafters, foil collectors and sharks hang out and you better know them too.

I would stay withing the MTGO client if

  • You have current standard cards you want to sell
  • You need tix fast to enter a draft or tournament
  • You are trading cards of little value or you are looking for crap rares for your fun deck

The most popular medium outside of MTGO is probably Ebay. While missguided and clueless (as they are still not sure if they want to make it legal to trade digital objects on their side) it has the advantage that you reach much more people then on classified. Go there if

  • you have opened a top foil from a new released set
  • you are selling a huge collection that most people cannot afford to buy with tix
  • you are looking to buy singles, small collections or top cards with a chance for a good deal

If you have top foils from current sets or very rare and played foils from older sets you should definitively try This site is as the name implies filled with players that are interested in eternal formats such as Classic, Singleton and Prismatic. They have an auction system that is completely free and works very much like Ebay but without any fees for buyers or sellers! Have a look if

  • You have a top foil that needs a new home
  • You are looking for hard to find cards or foils
  • You are playing eternal formats and need price checks etc.

There are many, many more resources such as, and of course that can give you the opportunity to reach out to a lot of people. If you do a little bit search you will find more.

One easy way to buy or sell cards is the online auction room. You can enter an auction room by typing “/join auction” in the chat window. When you do that you will enter a room that is usually filled with sellers and buyers. I have used the room many times and you can make very good deals there. Basically always cheaper then the offers on the classified lists buyers can bid on cards that are presented by a so-called “neer.” So how does this work?

As buyer

  1. You join the room by typing “/join auction” in the chat window.
  2. If you are buyer you just have to wait till the “neer” announces a card or multiple cards (also called lot). The neer is the only one allowed to post in CAPS so its easy to see. (The neer is now automated.)
  3. The lot will include a “min” this is the minimum amount the seller wants to see before he is willing to sell the cards.
  4. You can only bid event tickets. Cards, dollars or other items are usually not considered.
  5. You type in the number of tickets you are willing to bid. In case of a tie the first bidder wins. You can increase the number at any time if you get outbid.
  6. The neer will count ONCE, TWICE, SOLD. If you are the highest bidder you contact the seller and make the exchange. That’s it!

As seller

  1. You submit the lot you want to sell to the neer. If you don’t know who it is just ask in the chat. It is important that you submit your lot in CAPS to make it easier to recognize later.
  2. Be sure to post the minimum amount you want to sell for by adding it at the end of your list. e.g. REFLECTING POOL MIN 6.
  3. The neer will put your lot in the queue and you just wait till it is auctioned. That’s it.

A few points that will save you trouble

  • It is considered not acceptable to post a lot and not to sell when the “min” is reached. So be sure that you can live with the min you have set! This is called “not honoring” and usually leads to a block from most participants.
  • It is considered rude to post or ask questions while a lot is running. Both seller and buyer focus on the lots. Ask your questions in between!
  • The auction is in my opinion the best place to buy cards. It is only advisable to sell if you need fast tickets. Many times you will get more if you post on classified and have time to wait.
  • If you make good deals both as seller or buyer it is common practice to tip the Neer with small cards as he has a lot of work keeping the auction running.

If you follow these points I am sure you will find many good deals to increase the value of you collection.
Don’t miss the opportunities and happy dealing!

  1. I did not know about the using the “neer” in the auction room before. Thanks for mentioning a few sites that are more focused on one of the groups you listed above.

  2. This was a great read, many thanks.

    The foil collectors are beginning to make sense to me. I’m a singleton player (get 1 copy of a card and play it forever) and it seems they arent that much different from myself, except i personally find the foils themselves ugly and distracting. The good deal you made earlier on the foil fork totally makes sense to me now.