“Sorry. I just don’t see anything I need.

– Person you offered a fetchland for a common

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Good Wednesday, exalted ~*~*MTG Financiers*~*~. Today we’re covering a topic that’s been brewing for a few weeks thanks to last week’s interruption. That piece got some surprisingly heated feedback from folks who want their ~*MTG Finance*~ writing cold and dead inside — presumably because what’s familiar is comforting — but far be it from me to dismiss criticism. There’s nothing I hate more as a business, man, than an unsatisfied customer.

So this week, we’re getting right into the meat of it, with some cold, hard, soulless advice, and absolutely no wacky irony, on something that gets to the very heart of what Bargaining Table is about: the “personality types” of trading.

There are two important caveats here. The first is that this is not advice on how to “get one over” on people of various types; rather, look at it as a tool for understanding others’ communication styles and goals, even when they may differ dramatically from your own.

The other important thing to recognize is that you shouldn’t take a single word I say seriously. (See what I’m doing there?) These are not hard and fast categories; they are not rigidly separate from or exclusive to each other; and whatever I can possibly say about this topic in a single post is necessarily a series of broad strokes, reductive and oversimplified.

With that said, there is much to be gained — for both of you — from stopping to think about the actual human being on the “other” “side” of your exchange, and why they do or don’t want what they do or don’t want.

So who are these mutants, exactly?

 

THE VALUE VAMPIRE

“Two foil Deathrites. No throw-in. Final offer.”

– Me conducting friendship

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The premise for this episode of Bargaining Table was birthed into the cold, dead world when I got a text from my good friend Brandon, a serious competitive grinder, degenerate gambling addict, and remorseless value extractor.

Brandon is, of course, the perpetrator/victim (depending on when you look) of my beloved Polluted-Delta-for-foil-Deathrites anecdote. That’s the column he texted me about, with a laugh: “You should write an article about how we can never trade.”

“Lol,” I announced, “that’s actually not half bad.”

It got me thinking. He was right: the two of us can almost never find a trade, which we often “have a mature conversation” about, because our priorities are too similar. This is not to say that you can never trade in a mutually beneficial way with someone else who’s looking for value, but it certainly gets more complicated.

(I’m just teasing — Brandon’s not that bad. He just draws a lot of lands.)

Of course, there are subcategories that matter here. If someone is consistently lowballing, endurance-balking at reasonable offers, using pressure tactics, and pulling out foil [casthaven]Wirewood Symbiote[/casthaven]s when you say “Sure, grab a random cheap throw-in,” you’re dealing with a Neutral Evil bottom-feeder who isn’t worth your time.

When I see this kind of behavior, I have a very specific trading tactic you can apply for massive long-term gains: I reach my arm rudely across their face, snap my binder closed like a jerk, and whisk it out of their hands with a curt, soulless “We’re not gonna find a trade.”

Value-not-lost is 100% profit.

On the other hand, you might find yourself dealing with…

 

THE HUMAN ADVISOR

This person might be a value trader, or they might not. But they enjoy the social aspect of trading — and unlike the Vampire, they’re happy to talk through all facets at a reasonable pace.

If this person is not looking for value, they’re probably one of the easiest types to trade with because they enjoy the process intrinsically, and their communication skills are therefore usually high. Sometimes, they might even help you figure out what you need, or where to find the value you’re looking for.

On Saturday at GP Detroit, this past weekend, I met a really cool dude named Joaquim who has a used video games store up in Ontario. Joaquim was new to the Magic hustle, but he had a well-stocked binder. As with many pro-to-pro trades, we could have hit a total impasse.

But Joaquim really wanted my [casthaven]Grove of the Burnwillows[/casthaven]. He was upfront in explaining that he had a buyer and needed more. At first, we did struggle to find a trade, until one of his offers caused me to clarify: “That’s not a bad trade, but I can’t do it because I’m losing buylist value. At the end of the GP, I need to cash out as much as possible to the booths, except for my best trades.”

Joaquim understood. His next question: “What’s the buylist price you can get on my [casthaven]Horizon Canopy[/casthaven]?” I looked it up; the best listed price was $5 more than for the Grove. We made the trade and both walked away happy, even though he gave up some value and I gave up some demand. We’d learned each other’s priorities, and each of us gained something that was better for his goal.

One thing that amazed me about applying this at a large-scale event was how much it brought out this quality in the people I traded with.

On Sunday morning, one guy had a lot of bulk rares. I made him a typical offer: “I know not everyone is into this, but if you’d like to unload a bunch of your cheap stuff for something really good, I’d gladly trade for all of your bulk at the same rates the vendors give. We can tally it up, you can take whatever you want for that value, and I’ll round you up if what you want is a little over.”

That’s me aiming to embody this type, even as I’m trying to make a living. Once people saw us stacking up massive quantities of cards, they excitedly came over and started doing my job for me, stacking up their own; people even asked how I was sorting them, so they could pile their bulk accordingly. The first guy got my foil [casthaven]Verdant Catacombs[/casthaven] and a bunch of other goods — and the last guy to bulk out to me got a [casthaven]Tropical Island[/casthaven].

Not incidentally, I found the folks who came over to trade bulk to be among the friendliest people I met all weekend. (Except for the truly heroic buyers at Alter Reality Games, who for some reason put up with my deranged haggling down to the most hidden quarter, yet still embody this attitude and hook me up 666 ways from Sunday.)

At one point, a guy who’d been waiting in line to trade with me had his round pairing called. He put two deck boxes in front of me: “Hey, do you wanna just hold onto these while I go play?”

I couldn’t believe my goddamn ears: a Magic player was trusting a total stranger to hold onto his cards. I said it would be fine, and as soon as I could, I priced out his stuff so we could get right to it on his return.

So that leads to my cold, hard advice about this trading style:

Be this person. Be nice to this person. Thank this person for their time.

This person is an ally.

Which leads us to our poor, dear friend…

 

THE TOKEN SHEEP

Sheep token

Let’s just admit it: some people are a little too trusting.

You know you’ve seen them. They blindly believe whatever the [casthaven]blood artist[/casthaven] across the table says about card prices. They accept offers to trade “mythic for mythic.” They don’t care what you pull, because they’re not using that card right now anyway. Maybe they even actively hand you a [casthaven]Breeding Pool[/casthaven] for your [casthaven]Molten Primordial[/casthaven]. (Yeah, I know, I let that one happen too, sorry.)

You know you’ve dealt with them before — and you probably know you’ve hustled them.

Sometimes this person is an actual child, a new player, or just someone who doesn’t go to events or trade very often. Whether or not any of this is true, here’s my firm, hard, solid, concrete, pragmatic strategy for dealing with this type of trader:

Be human. Be an ally. Advise.

Late on Saturday in Detroit, I passed by this table just as a lady planeswalker was giving away two of her three [casthaven]Flooded Strand[/casthaven]s and another fetchland for a stack of full-art Zendikar basic lands. Before she and her (male) trading partner shook on the arrangement of cards coming from her side, she asked, “Do you mind if I keep one of my [casthaven]Flooded Strand[/casthaven]s?”

Inside, I cringed. She seemed genuinely happy to be getting so many full-arts, so I didn’t say anything, but I did walk over afterward and ask her: “Hey, I happened to see the end of that. Would it be all right if I offer some friendly advice about trading?”

She said (to my anxious relief, at perhaps seeming rude) that it would be highly appreciated. So I offered, loudly enough for the other kid to hear, that Magic is — “like the rest of the world, unfortunately” — a space where men try to take advantage of women. “Don’t ask anyone’s permission to keep your cards. They’re your cards. You don’t need to apologize for that.”

(Hey, reader: I’m sneaking in a tip for you, here, too.)

She seemed a little surprised to realize she’d said that, but she thanked me and sat down to do some trading. I gave her two [casthaven]Flooded Strand[/casthaven]s — which I had refused to trade to at least 420 other people — and some other stuff for a [casthaven]Vendilion Clique[/casthaven]. (Yes, she pulled out a few more full-art lands from me, too.)

As soon as we shook, I mentioned what was going on with the prices of fetchlands and suggested that she probably shouldn’t let go of any right now, even if she had more than she currently needed. She explained that she does normally try to hold onto her lands, as she knows they tend to retain value, and that she’d be more protective of them next time. As she walked off, getting a phone call, I heard: “Yeah, I got some good stuff, and a lot of trading advice, and…”

A good trade is one where you each gain something that’s better for your goals.

Which happens to lead us directly to…

 

THE ROGUE ACTOR

True-Name Nemesis

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

“Nah. I can only trade for the stuff I need.”

You try explaining: “I get that. But everyone wants the cards I’m trying to give you. They’ll make it easier to find the cards you need.”

“Nah. Sorry. I just don’t see anything I need.”

Perhaps even more challenging to trade with than a Vampire in Sheep’s clothing, this person’s goals are not only usually ultra-esoteric, they’re rigid beyond any logic you can understand.

Typically, this person needs to complete a specific deck, often one they’ve brewed up themselves — but that’s not the real barrier. The real barrier is that this person does not look at Magic cards as a value economy. Where you or I might think in terms of numbers, growth potential, or demand, this person considers things in a more straightforward way: I have these things right now, and I need to turn them into those things later.

It strikes me that this comes with (or from) a certain anxiety; the subtext of a lot of those “nah” replies seems to be “If I do that, I might not be able to get the things I really want.” Whether or not that’s the case, here’s my hard-fucking-core, bad-to-the-bone, venture-capital counsel for dealing with this maniac:

Respect this person. Acknowledge their doubts. Give them space.

And ask questions.

If you’re really struggling to make a trade even when you’re offering them good value, it probably means there’s something about their needs that you’re not seeing. Ask this person what specifically they want, why they want it, and what they think they need to get there. Then, maybe you can construct a case for how you can help them out with their goal.

For example, this weekend I (amazingly) offered a guy my $150 foil 9ED Blood Moon for the last 50 Prize Wall tickets (looong story) that I needed to make a huge win on two uncut foil rare sheets. I even offered to give him the card and make sell posts for him online throughout this week, since what he really needed out of the trade was cash to buy a five-set of Swords with…but alas, he felt safer putting his tickets into a Khans box to sit on for a while. I respect that, and I got there anyway.

(Naturally, the first item the person I did get there with pulled out was my Modern Masters foil Blood Moon. Sometimes you just gotta take the hit…)

This kind of thing still might not work — as it didn’t for me in this case, even despite my legendary charm. And if and when it doesn’t, I have some more cold, soulless, cold, cold, cold, cold, cold, cold, soulless, cold, cold, cold advice for you:

Let it go.

 

THIS IS OBJECTIVELY HOW TO TRADE

Rivals' Duel

I hope you’ve all enjoyed today’s slightly different flavor of text, and I hope you find these stories and observations both entertaining and enlightening. Of course, these cute little categories which I definitely did not focus on and half-invent partly as a way to make creature-type jokes touch only a few of the many ways people approach trading. Writing this week’s episode has already gotten me thinking that this is a topic we can revisit from time to time, exploring new types like a Shapeshifter, while going deeper on the ones we’ve already discussed.

What kind of creature types have you noticed in the folks you’ve traded with? Assassins? Badgers? Cowards? Deserters? Eyes? Ferrett? Gods? Hounds? Illusions? Juggernauts? Kobolds? Leeches? #Minions? Nymphs? Ogre? Pests? Rats? Survivors? Trolls? Unicorns? Volvers? Walls? Yeti? Zubera(s?)?

Leave a comment here or get at us on Twitter, and let us know how you change types! If you have protection from any of them, teach us your cold, hard, angular, colorless Drone secrets…

 


 

To preface next week’s premise, I preside at the Table and pray you prepare for the proper premier of a pragmatic professional primer on prudent pricing practices apropos procuring, presorting, and producing proven profits from Probes, Preordains, primates, and practically proxies.

Problems precluded, pray you don’t fall prey to…

 

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Stefano Black is an NYC-based writer, filmmaker, Callous Oppressor, and cardboard-drug dealer. He can be found on Twitter as @StefanoBlackest, sharing humor, criticism, and Garfield-related poetry, and is available for hire or collection buying. He also unabashedly wants your money.

If you want more trading advice with a twist, see EVOLVING WILDS: On Faith and Fetchlands.

If you enjoyed this critical look at trading, try BLATANT THIEVERY: Community Ethics.

If you can’t get enough ~*wacky*~ style and Hot Ass Takes, check out the Bargaining Table archive and give your Vampire players weather-appropriate accessories for catching up!

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