A Story to Start

I have a friend who has been playing Magic a long time and has built up a nice-sized collection. He is a good player who prefers the more casual side of Magic. He has something like 15-20 different Commander decks but only really plays with four to six of them. As he is constantly looking to expand his collection, we sat down together one day last year and discussed trading. It’s important to note that he buys most of his cards and for the most part trades as little as possible.

So I asked him, “Why don’t you trade more?” He responded that he liked trading and wanted to trade more but had a really hard time letting go of cards. He has such an emotional connection to his cards that it effects how and whether he trades. I suggested disbanding a few of the commander decks I knew he rarely used. At first he seemed okay with it, and together we were going to build him a really solid trade binder. Half way through de-sleeving the first deck he kindly asked me to stop and put his cards away. Even though I was trying to help him, I could see it was going to be too difficult.

I wished he could see that only by being willing to lose something can you gain something. When you invest time or energy or your money in something, you hope to benefit in some way. Sometimes that’s happiness; sometimes that’s more money.

I tried to explain to him that he would at first “lose” a lot of the cards he loved but that in time he could build up a trade binder that could trade for those same cards back PLUS a bunch of other stuff. He doesn’t have a lot of extra money, and I can relate to that. I wanted to help him enjoy Magic through trading to make the hobby as cost effective as possible. But he decided to hold onto his cards; and even though I may disagree, I was not upset at him. Everyone plays and collects Magic cards for different reasons.

After that night I started working on the idea of “Everything for Trade. All the Time.”

I wasn’t trying to get my friend to put every card in his trade binder. I was simply trying to get him to think outside of his box. I knew that if I created and said a phrase like “Everything is for trade, all the time” other people I was trading with would raise an eyebrow to the concept. I was also sick of getting handed a trade binder and then being told that over half of it wasn’t for trade. I knew I wanted to create a system for myself that every card I wasn’t using went into the trade binder and every card in that binder was certainly for trade.

When I started traveling to GP’s I saw immediately that floor vendors by and large said a similar phrase and implemented my idea far better than I could.

Everything for Trade. All the Time.

Floor vendors use this concept and use it to their advantage in trades. If everything is for trade at all times and you don’t play Magic, you therefore don’t need anything for upcoming tournaments and you then have an immense amount of “power” in trades.

This is by far the ideal way to trade Magic cards. Disbanding every deck and placing every card of worth into a trade binder is the best way to grow your collection.

Trade For Anything

The reason people trade with floor vendors is not that they have everything but that they will trade for anything. The booth vendors will look through your binder and buy the cards they need for the store. But you will see people throw down a binder in front of a floor vendor and say “take it all” because they know the floor vendor will literally take anything and everything.

At your local game store if you become the person that will trade for anything, people will quickly remember you. They will remember that you took all their rotating standard stuff for a modern staple, and they will want to trade with you again. Following the “trade up at sell price trade down at buylist price” model you can continue to trade modern staples away for rotating standard cards and become that person everyone is astonished keeps making those trades. But you know the trade patterns and know how to make actual profit. (See last week’s article if you want more information on the “trade up trade down” model.)

Conflict Between Playing and Trading

For most of us in Magic the “Everything for Trade” style of trading just isn’t practical. We love the game too much and we enjoy playing in tournaments, building fun brews, casual commander with friends, etc. I have two byes at GPs and fly out to play at most. I do not follow the “Everything for Trade” system.

I live at the intersection of two different worlds. I am at my heart a Magic player, a lover of playing the game. But at times in an attempt to get to enjoy playing the game more I have had to think of ways to finance the game itself, travel, etc. I know I would be a much better trader if I disbanded my decks, had no emotional connection to my cards and never “needed” anything and could trade away everything and trade for anything. I can and have however found a middle ground.

It’s about accepting what you want to sacrifice to get better/have fun at the game vs. get better at trading and vice versa. Both can exist together, you just have to create a system that works for you. I keep my decks together for upcoming tournaments BUT everything else that is not in a deck is in my trade binder and always for trade. This means at times I have to have less “power” in a trade if I really need the new cards for my Standard deck, but for the most part hold “power” when trading away all the other stuff I don’t need.

I know that its not a reality for most of us to actually follow this idea, but hopefully by discussing the concept you can better understand another facet of the complex world of Magic finance and see that’s it’s not just about making money but deciding what you want out of this wonderful hobby.

Thank you as always for reading and I will see you next week.

Colin Bevis started playing magic right after the release of Innistrad his freshman year of college. He moved to New York City this fall after traveling the country learning and surviving off of floor trading. He enjoys theatre and film, and now flies out to most U.S. GPs.

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