“Familiar quote?

– Ironic attribution



Happy Wednesday, dearest Table-dwellers and ~*~*MTG Financiers.*~*~

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’ve been a little MIA these days. I missed last week, had the heroic Carrie cover for me the week before that, and was already getting pretty intermittent even before that.

There are a lot of things I could have written about in the few weeks I’ve been absent.

I could have written about the second major price spike for [casthaven]Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy[/casthaven].

I could have written about the other spikes that happened as we entered the new Standard, such as [casthaven]Atarka’s Command[/casthaven], [casthaven]Den Protector[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Dragonlord Ojutai[/casthaven].

I could have written about the surprise inclusion of ~*Finance*~ darlings [casthaven]Hangarback Walker[/casthaven], [casthaven]Evolutionary Leap[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Tasigur, the Golden Fang[/casthaven] in an Event Deck.

I could have written about the Expedition lands and how their prices have been falling to levels well below any predictions any of us heard anywhere, due to a staggeringly greater supply than anticipated.

In fact, all of that would have led quite well into the topic I was planning to cover next: I’ve been wanting to revisit the Hot Topic that is speculation, in a sort of sequel or companion piece to my instant classic ILLUSORY GAINS: On Speculation (rated five stars by Rolling Stone and 9.7 on Pitchfork). I’ve reconsidered parts of my position on the topic, sort of like a scheming politician, now that I’ve had more experience in ~*MTG Finance*~ and seen firsthand how very serious speculators — dare I say, market manipulators — actually operate.

But frankly, my points in that hypothetical 6,900-word piece would have basically boiled down to:

  1. If you make smart speculative purchases and time them properly, what it offers you over normal value grinding is simply volume: sometimes you have access to the Internet’s entire stock of a card at tomorrow’s buylist price (or less), today.
  2. If you’re making speculative picks smartly, many of them aren’t even “speculative”; there was next to zero doubt that [casthaven]Den Protector[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Atarka’s Command[/casthaven] were undervalued during Standard’s off-season and would return to a higher price at rotation, just like there was no way for formerly $5 [casthaven]Ash Zealot[/casthaven]s to stay at the $1 price point they were at during the summer between Return to Ravnica‘s two Standard formats.
  3. Good cards are good — especially when they’re unprecedented. For example: two-mana planeswalkers that flash back spells.

See how easy that was? When you’re gambling intelligently, you’re not really gambling. That article probably would have quoted Warren Buffett, who is a rich guy that is smart at getting rich.

I am not writing that article.

What I want to talk about is something else entirely, which I found myself writing about at some (characteristic) length in a great reddit exchange on the last Bargaining Table I wrote. But in order to do so, I have to make an announcement.

For the time being, this will be the last Bargaining Table and my last post for Hipsters of the Coast. I hope to return the Table from the graveyard to the battlefield (or myself from the graveyard to the Table?) at some point in the future, perhaps when my circumstances make the balance of time in my life a little more flexible. But I’m currently juggling trying to make more money slinging cards, keep up on my freelance job for networking purposes, save up enough to get out of debt and relocate, write the greatest dramatic series of all time, and pencil in an occasional personal life — so right now I need a break.

I’m truly sorry to go, as this column has been an incredibly fun, wild ride, and the feedback I’ve gotten from you all has been encouraging and inspiring. It’s been really touching and motivating to see how quickly I developed my own little Baby’s First Fanbase™, even writing like a thirteen-year-old girl about an allegedly dry subject that I’m told has no room for expressing a unique voice. I guess personality is Value Added after all.

In an ironic twist of fate, of course, you all burned yourselves by showering me with all that unconditional love I’d never experienced before, because what it inspired me to do was find inner peace and focus more of my time and energy on my broader personal and professional goals as a writer. Such is the way of the Universe: to have it, you must not want it.

Or something. But all of that brings me to the topic I really want to talk about, which quitting my post pretty conveniently frees me up to do!

~*MTG Finance*~ is bullshit.

Or, I should say, the cult of it is.

Don’t listen to the articles. Don’t listen to the emails. Don’t trust anyone’s terrible spec advice.

Don’t buy cards because some urgent, panicky email told you that you could expect a profit. What the fuck am I supposed to do with 130 [casthaven]Black Vise[/casthaven]s, 36 [casthaven]Ally Encampment[/casthaven]s, and 25 foil [casthaven]Thirst for Knowledge[/casthaven]s? Don’t even get me started on fucking [casthaven]Sliver Hive[/casthaven].

Don’t make decisions just because everyone else is making them. My excitement about having like twelve playsets of [casthaven]Evolutionary Leap[/casthaven] turned into “meh”-xcitement pretty, pretty…pretty fast. I don’t feel as frustrated about the 35ish Hangarbacks I have, but I do wish I had trusted my own instinct to buy strictly into foils because colorless cards can go anywhere.

And most of all, don’t assume people know what they’re talking about just because they got their opinion published somewhere. (I mean, have you ever read Thought Catalog?) This is not to say that there isn’t Good Ass Content out there — there is — but how can there possibly be enough worthwhile ~*MTG Finance*~ advice to fill all the content schedules of every publication on the topic? Each week, there are six new websites and eight new podcasts. All of them post 69 times a day and 420 times on Sunday (in full color). It’s not possible that all of it can be smart, actionable advice, even if you do enjoy reading MTGMoneyTree.

And there’s the big reveal: all that content is entertainment. It’s not financial advice. It doesn’t really exist to help you make money, it exists like all “content” exists: simply to be consumed. For its very own sake. And maybe to make someone else money.

And that’s okay! It’s okay that it’s a fun topic to read and think about. The same way that Mark Rosewater insists that [casthaven]One With Nothing[/casthaven] is valuable to the game precisely because people can complain about it, it’s kind of fun to bitch with your friends about how fucking expensive the newest Jace already is. The same way that tourney grinders love to talk shop about how the new cards might perform in the new Standard, it’s really fun for finance grinders to talk shop about…how the new cards might perform in the new Standard.

Just don’t take any of it too seriously. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about the ~*MTG Finance*~ world by sinking my teeth into it the last few months, it’s that HOLY fucking Christ is it scary to think that this is how an unregulated market works, and that there is still a very large percentage of very powerful living humans pushing for economic deregulation. Like what the fuck bro.

And if there’s another, it’s probably something else about efficiently making predictable returns. But if there’s a third thing I’ve learned (from sinking my teeth into the ~*MTG Finance*~ world, stay with me now), it’s that there is a huge divide within it.

There are armchair theorists, and there are active grinders. There are people who do a lot of speculation remotely, buying and selling from the comfort of their Commodore 64, and there are people who travel to events almost every weekend to trade, buylist, or vend. There are people who buy 100 copies of a cheap new card because they think it’s underpriced (and who may never even end up bothering to sell them if they do spike), and there are people who think strategically about how best to throw four or five thousand dollars down in a matter of minutes because they know the scale of their buy will affect prices across the market if executed properly.

And most importantly: there are people who write about ~*MTG Finance*~, and there are people who make a living dealing Magic cards.

I’ve joked on occasion that I should subtitle this column something like “The Things-I-Learned-From-Ogre Story Hour And Friends” because of how many stories I’ve told about him, how many lessons I’ve tried to impart that I learned from him. I’ve mentioned him so many times that if I wanted to throw in a relevant link, it would really just have to be to the Bargaining Table archive.

But Ogre doesn’t write articles. The dealers I know — Joel Lim, Jorge from Top Deck, Adam from HotSauce, Kyle from Æther Games, Matt who used to be with Card Advantage — they don’t write articles.

They’re too busy making a living.

None of this means there isn’t useful advice out there, but a lot of the best stuff I’ve seen is among the least trumpeted — the least marketed. Go read SaffronOlive’s posts on his blog and on MTGGoldfish. Go read Tarkan Dospil’s nonchalant but excellent little posts on the “Mtgfinance” Facebook group. Go read The Magic Street Journal on MTGSalvation, even though it clearly should have been called The Defender Street Journal.

Just don’t make decisions based on someone else’s interpretations. As with anything, educate yourself — but then develop your own metrics by which to operate.

In summation, my sweet children: do you, baby.

Except for when you read my shit. My shit right. My shit stay right. Obey my shit.

Really though, now that I’m about to rotate, I would like to state for the record that writing Bargaining Table has been a really wonderful experience, and what has made it so wonderful, well…it isn’t me. It’s you.

That’s right, it’s all your fault. I probably wouldn’t have made it past Week Three if I hadn’t had such great readers leaving such great feedback here, on reddit, and even on Facebook, Twitter, or Real-Life Human World. Thank you all so much for joining me at the Table, where you will forever have a seat.

But what would an article from me be without an ironically unironic sales pitch? Don’t forget, I write in other places too!

Follow me on Twitter! I post a lot of one-tweet media reviews, and my livetweets about the Democratic debate tonight were straight 100.

Follow me on Tumblr! I don’t post that often, but sometimes I put longer media reviews and/or Deep Emotional Content there.

Follow me on Medium! It’s kind of a dead…medium…but I sort of use it as an outlet for longer-form writing that doesn’t have another home.

Follow my goddamn Garfield accounts. THIS SHIT FIRE

And of course, most importantly…well, yeah, follow me on all of those. That way you’ll know when I get some dope-ass writing published for human money in like, I dunno, The Atlantic or Mother Jones or Kerrang! or something. I’d really like to trick Esquire into letting me do some weird shit with Lisa Frank pictures that reads like it was from ClickHole.

Whatever form it takes, I hope this will not be the last time we cross paths. Feel free to @ me, chat me, and otherwise get at me. Truly yours, your biggest fan, this is Stan. Palms are sweaty, arms already, Mom’s spaghetti. Mom’s spaghetti, Mom’s spaghetti. Arms are ready.

If you take one thing from this, our sordid tryst, our brief star-crossed romance, let it be this:

Be smart with your money.

Be smarter with your time. It runs out.

Be nice to people. They’re what your time is for.

And for the love of fucking God, vote for Bernie Sanders.



Stefano Black is an NYC-based writer, filmmaker, CARDNAME JOKE, 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, still.

If you want more trading advice with a twist, see GRINDING STATION I: Dollars to Dimes.

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

If you can’t get enough ~*tearful*~ Last Goodbyes and Hot Ass Takes, check out the Bargaining Table archive and give your parents your forgiveness for reading it all!

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