Blessings to you, oh fine purveyors of Magical miscellany. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the local bums are merrily fighting. It is time once more to tackle one of the burning issues of the day.
Onward, say I! Onward towards infinity!
Dear Doctor Mox.
Whenever I attend my local tournaments, I always take my finely-stocked trade binder with me. Usually, it brims with playable and desirable cards from a number of both recent and ageing sets. I take great pleasure in trading cards with friendly faces.
The thing is, I’m terrible at trading. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve handed over my valuable rares for a handful of diabolical tat. Once, I even traded away my packed lunch, my bus-fare and my trousers. I had to walk home hungry with my bits a-floppin’.
Help me, Doctor Mox. I’ve Pale Moons in every pocket, Solarions on every surface, and Mudholes coming out of my mudhole.
You’re going through a very common phase, Steve. It happens to us all at some time or other, usually when we’re first making our way on this godforsaken hell-rock we call Earth.
You’re trying to be nice to people.
“Come trade with me,” your posture pleads, eyes shining with the true gleam of the desperate. “I have nice cards! I’ll give them all to you, if only you’ll chat to me for one fleeting moment! I’m so alone… so so alone.“
Don’t worry, you’ll soon grow out of it. We all do, at some stage. I myself grew out of being “nice to people” on the very day I met my Swiss ladyfriend Jetta. She was attending a local fete with a handsome fella in tow. I was presiding on the popular “Splat-a-Rat” stall, much the worse for drink, and took an instant shine to this flaxen-haired maiden. To catch her eye, I conjured a cunning plan: I walked right up, and punched her beau squarely in the face.
Jetta was enamoured by my forthright passion, and we’ve been inseparable ever since.
Well, ever since I was released from prison after serving eighteen months for common assault.
To aid you overcome this obvious weakness, I present to you my patented tips for getting the most out of a trading situation. After all, there’s more to this game than simply playing.
Doctor Mox Tricks of the Trade.
1: Make sure you know the value of your cards.
This is a vital step towards ensuring that you never exit a trade feeling like you’ve gone twelve rounds with Tyson. My tip here is to check your local Magic emporium and peruse their collected wares. The shop prices will be a fine indication as to what card is a winner and what is a loser. Naturally, you can also find such information online, at sites such as StarCityGames itself.
Knowing the value of your cards has many benefits. Primarily, you can assess any trade situation by converting both sides of the deal into a stark dollar value. Thus you can compare and contrast the relative merits of the trade using a more familiar scale and frame of reference.
Another benefit is a little less tangible. By converting your entire collection into a flat dollar figure of worth, you can obtain an approximate resale value. This should help convince yourself that you haven’t spent far too much money on cards this past year, and hopefully you’ll then persuade your girlfriend/wife/mother to stop shouting.
2: Put your OWN value on the cards, price-tag be damned.
At the end of the day, Magic cards are simple rectangles of cardboard used for playing a game. They may have a monetary value, but they also have a play value which is just as important. Yes, your four Force of Wills may be worth a pretty penny, but if you only ever play Block Constructed then you’re hardly getting any use from them.
Let us take, for example, the recent Betrayers of Kamigawa set. StarCityGames lists the price of the much-anticipated Disrupting Shoal at a very reasonable $8 per card. The Red pump-spell Blazing Shoal weighs in at $7 per card. Thus, we have a dollar difference, and one that we’d likely look to recoup in any fair trade. However, while Disrupting Shoal may have a slightly superior monetary value that its Red counterpart, the Blue card actually rots your very soul, inch by feculent inch, until there is literally no hope for redemption and you join the ranks of the control-mage scumbags.
Place a value on your cards, and don’t sell yourself short.
If you love a particular playset, then don’t trade them away. It’s as simple as that.
3: Beware sharks and tigers.
Not actual sharks and tigers, I hope you realize. They are unlikely to be a threat at your next PTQ, unless it’s being held in a safari park.
Just as you, Steve, are learning not to be nice, you’ll be interacting with folk who learnt not to be nice before you were a twinkle in the milkman’s eye. There are people ready to part you of your precious cards before you can blink.
As a swift guide to the various types of “dodgy dealer,” I’ll run through a couple of trader archetypes and standard trade scenarios.
This guy has placed an extortionate value on his own cards, while inventing spurious reasons as to why your trades blow chunks. A sample trade may progress like so:
You: I’ll trade you my Solemn Simulacrum for a Tooth and Nail, if you throw in a rare of lesser value.
Him: Hmmm… the thing is, Solemn Simulacrum is diabolical. No-one plays with it, not even Jen’s mother. It’s been errata-ed, too. It actually does you five damage a turn. And it’s been banned. It’s not even worth a Tooth of Chiss-Goria, never mind my Tooth and Nail.
You: It’s worth a little more than Tooth and Nail, I think.
Him: Not a chance, mate! Tooth and Nail is fantastic. It’s cutting up the Standard, Extended, Vintage and Legacy scene as we speak. And it’s been proven that people who own four copies of Tooth and Nail make better lovers!
You: So what do you want for your four Tooth and Nails?
Him: Ten Black Lotuses, a small villa in Portugal and the blood of your first-born son.
This guy will the friendliest guy in the world, as the trade commences. There’ll be laughter, and banter, and you’ll feel at ease. Then, the thumbscrews are tightened and you’re squeezed like a ripe melon for all the cardboard juice he can extract. The trade may be something like this:
Him: Got any trades, mate? Hey, I like your shoes!
You: (getting out your trade binder) Erm… thanks!
Him: Yeah, they really bring out your feet. (leafing through your binder) Wow, you have some lovely stuff here! Some really nice cards.
You: (preening) Thanks.
Him: They’re fantastic. So desirable. Each one is a small rectangular cardboard angel. If I wasn’t married, I’d be hitting on your cards as often as I could.
Him: I’ll trade you your four Ravagers and a Mox Emerald for my battered Serrated Arrows.
Him: And I’ll throw in a small ham sandwich.
You: No thank you! (picking up trade binder and storming off)
Him: (shouting as you depart) YOUR SHOES ARE CRAP!
Of course, there are many other type of trader, such as the Mesmerist, Jonny Fingers and El Diablo (He Who Walks Backwards), but I haven’t the energy to expand upon them today.
The best advice is to listen carefully to any offers, don’t allow yourself to be bullied or distracted, and try to have fun.
Either that or call a judge and tell him that they guy you’re trading with is making lewd suggestions.
That tactic has worked for me on a number of occasions, including a memorable day in which I obtained four Cursed Scrolls, three Exalted Angels, a Blistering Firecat and the cell phone number of a jazz-dancer named Guido. Jetta was a little nonplussed, I can tell you.
4: If everyone is happy, then the trade is a good one.
This advice is pretty straightforward, I feel.
If you’re happy with the cards you receive, and your opposite number is happy with the cards you’re giving… then the trade is a success. Never mind about the value, it’s all about the interaction.
Keep it simple, have fun, and above all… don’t urinate on your trade binder before you go to a tournament. I did this once, and it led to all manner of discrepancies.
On that rather pungent note, I must bid you farewell. Jetta and I plan a quiet evening at home. I intend to read a book, while Jetta must practice her body-popping for her next Freestyle Breakdancing competition. It’s been a while since she won anything, but she always does her best.
One final piece of advice on trading… Never trade with Ben Bleiweiss.
I did so, once, in a small Paraguayan bordello. He screwed me so bad that I still walk with a limp.
Until next time, keep cracking those foils!
NB: If you have a question for Doctor Mox, he can be contacted at [email protected].
Open for business 24/7.