Four Crimes Against Humanity

In Houston, I once witnessed an eight-year-old kid (who inherited his brother’s cards once he went into the army) trade a Juzam Djinn for a Mahamoti Djinn. He didn’t want to do the trade initially, but the jerk adult who pushed for it got him to change his mind by pointing out how the Juzam”hurts” him while the Mahamoti not only flies, but has greater toughness…

Perhaps one of the best things about the game of Magic is the multitude of passions it fuels in us. From the rush of cracking a foil Mirari to winning your first tournament to simply beating an opponent to death with Squee, Goblin Nabob (sorry, Fernando), we have all experienced a variety of joyous moments that are the very reason we play this game. I have to admit that one of the foremost joys for me is the social interaction and especially the trading aspect of the game. There’s nothing quite like going to a new card shop and popping out your trade binder for instantly attracting like-minded people, many of whom will fast become your friends…

If you treat them fairly.

Note the italics on that last sentence.

I am going to go off on a rant here in a while – but first let me divulge a little background information about myself (while my blood-pressure medications kick in) so you can see that I have the proper credentials for broaching this subject. I have collected cards of all kinds ever since I was about five or so; mostly baseball, but I’ve had my paws on everything from Wacky Packages stickers to Beatles cards to cards of female professional oil wrestlers. In fact, I still have a ’65 Topps Mickey Mantle card that I once kept in my back pocket for several years.

Now, I learned early on the joys – and hazards – of trading cards. I have been swindled, cheated, had cards stolen and generally been taken advantage of in every way possible. Before you get the idea that I am some kind of saint, though, I have to admit that I am also guilty of doing the same: You are looking at a guy who once walked out of a major food store with four boxes of baseball cards in a brown paper bag – sans payment. I once traded a handful of”Star Wars” cards to my brother for several thousand cards, including many rare rookie cards worth hundreds. I even swindled a kid out of his 1960’s Topps card collection, which included eight Mickey Mantles worth about $500 apiece.

Well, let me tell you – payback’s a bitch. The law of karma doesn’t mind putting in overtime, and it’ll bend you over easier than your 6’8″, 300-lb cellmate. Wanna know what happened to my $100,000 baseball card collection? No, it didn’t get stolen. I got taken by a professional trash-talker at a time when I was without a job and literally about to starve, and sold the whole thing (minus the Mantle and a Mays) for $3000 – about one year before the huge boom that would have quintupled the value of my collection.

So what am I getting at? I’m not religious, but there’s an old proverb around somewhere that says something like,”do unto others as you would have them do unto you”; and let me tell you, it applies to Magic card trading as much as it does to anything else in life.

I’m going to detail some trades I have seen at card shops I have visited, why I think they were right or wrong, and any insights I can provide:

The first trade involves me. I had just started playing and bought a few Revised packs, and opened a dual land in one of them. Not knowing anything about the game, I thought it was a waste of a rare – and offered it to a kid for his Pirate Ship.

What was wrong here? Well, since I initiated the trade and I was old enough to potentially know better, nothing – except for my own ignorance. What I should have done, and any new player should do before commencing a trade, is consult a price guide to at least get a feel for the relative value of a card before trading. One other thing that I recommend is actually playing with the card before trading it, as sometimes the price guide is just wrong – as Inquest was once wrong about Necropotence

…Which brings me to the second trade, where I saw a guy trade a Naked Singularity for a kid’s Necropotence right after Ice Age had just come out. Looking at this trade now, it looks like an absolute rape on the guy’s part…But you know what? When sets are first released, it is really hard to judge the value of cards, and trading is pretty much a crapshoot. Sure, the ultra-powerful cards are recognizable early on, but for the most part if you are trading new cards for new cards you really have no right to complain if the trade eventually proves bad for you. There is as yet no set playability or monetary value, and you trade at your own risk. This is why I highly recommend playing with all your cards at least once before trading them. Also, I recommend not trading new stuff until you have read some reviews of the new cards (like you can do right here at this fine site!) and have seen tentative prices for the cards – which you can also do right here!

Now we’re getting to the stuff that boils my blood. Just thinking about this one is gonna blow a vein…

While in Houston, I once witnessed an eight-year-old kid (who inherited his brother’s cards once he went into the army) trade a Juzam Djinn for a Mahamoti Djinn. He didn’t want to do the trade initially, but the #@%*in’ jerk adult who pushed for it got him to change his mind by pointing out how the Juzam”hurts” him while the Mahamoti not only flies, but has greater toughness…I actually tried to step in here and stop this madness, but the adult actually had the gall to tell me to @#$% off! So the kid did it, his mom came in seconds later to whisk him away and there was this @$$ sitting there, s**t-eating grin on his face, asking me if I want to trade with him!!!

(Oh crap, blew a vein – I gotta wipe the blood off the screen…sorry.)

Not only was this trade wrong, immoral, and otherwise beyond redemption, but it upset everyone in the store, and this jerk never completed another trade or even played with anyone who witnessed it for as long as he kept coming back to the store – which wasn’t much longer.

Obviously, this is an extreme example, but I punish even lesser criminals by refusing to trade or play with them if I see them blatantly ripping off the innocent. Word of warning: You do this around me, you no longer exist to me. It’s a pretty effective deterrent when a sneaky trade you make results in you having to find another place to play.

This one has a degree of subtlety that makes it hard to identify it as an outright crime, but I still consider it one. I saw a kid who had played for some time trade an older kid a Haunting Echoes and two Mutilates for four unlimited Lightning Bolts. He initiated the trade, and being a Sligh player through and through, he had no need for the Echoes or Mutilates – but anyone with a conscience should have offered to throw in at least a couple extra cards. If it were me, I would have offered another rare or two and a handful of uncommons at least. Maybe I just have higher standards than other people, but I like to give value for value when I trade. It keeps people coming back for more, and really builds trust and friendship.

The above examples all involved kids trading with older people – but some of the worst rapes I have seen involve kids trading with kids in their own age group. Most of the time, this involves one kid who has played significantly longer than the other who wants to get as much as he possibly can from the newbie. Unfortunately this is a part of the learning process that all kids go through when becoming acquainted with the game – or any trading card game, for that matter. Kids are going to screw other kids, and that’s a fact of life.

As a newbie, you can minimize the damage by getting ahold of a price guide as soon as possible so you can at least make sure you are getting your monetary value in trade for your cards, if not playability value. And you, as a raper, will get yours in the end – one way or another. Why not learn to be a nice guy early on and save all the hard feelings and blown friendships and help expand and honor the game by being fair from the start? By helping a new player out, you’ll not only gain a friend but also develop a trade and play partner who might bring his own friends into the game.

So can we all sing”Kumbaya” now?

All right, I’m done preaching – and dang it, I didn’t even really rant much. I gotta find some other way to release stress…But I hope I’ve resonated with most of you out there and at least awakened the consciences of the rest of you! Hey, I’ve got an idea: In the discussion forum for this article, describe your favorite trades, and your worst ones too! And for those of you who have”sinned,” come clean on the forum wall; repent, and absolve your guilt! I’ll check in and tell you of some of my own doozies!

I gotta go… I’m hungry for crackers, water, and wine all of a sudden…

Tony Costa

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