The Trading Post: Basics Of Trading

The biggest complaint I get from beginning Magic players is that they don’t have the money to invest in all the rares for those decks, thus disqualifying them from tournament play. My response to this is always”trade for what you need.”

There are a lot of articles out there that will tell you how to play the best decks – however, the biggest complaint I get from beginning Magic players is that they don’t have the money to invest in all the rares for those decks, thus disqualifying them from tournament play. My response to this is always”trade for what you need.”

Now this isn’t a quick fix, for acquiring an entire deck full of good rares is often quite difficult, but it can be done. It takes a while, and you might want to shoot for a good Standard deck in another expansion or so… But if you, the newer player, stick with it, you can arrange to have a stellar collection just like the”pros” that you admire so much.

My advice would be to decide to do some online trading. Even if you think that your collection is crap, somebody else might be looking for that last component for his Nemesis collection or that obscure card by an infrequently-seen artist. Create and update a”have-want list” on MOTL (Magic Online Trading League). Here, players from around the world can contact you about what they want of yours, and you can make offers on cards on other have-want lists.

See, the beauty about MOTL is that you can make a hundred bad offers – and if only 1% of them is accepted, you still made a deal. Now, by”bad offers,” I don’t mean”My Teferi’s Imp for your Morphling.” I mean more along the lines of”These five bad rares for your Rishadan Port.” Eventually, somebody’s going to want to get rid of his Rishadan Port, and he might as well get a five-for-one deal.

Now, for MOTL in particular, it’s probably better to begin with smaller trades. There is, of course, a degree of uncertainty when sending your cards out in the mail with no absolute surety that the deal will come through – but the refs system at MOTL has proven to be effective, and anyone with more than twenty refs with an average of over 4.9 is, in my book, easily credible.

But, whether you’re trading online or in person, there are a few things to keep in mind. The first is your set of goals. I strongly suggest keeping an updated”want list.” Often when I’m approached for trading, we look through each other’s binders but fail to come up with anything either of us wants. Then he might ask,”Is there anything in particular you’re looking for?” That’s when my want list comes out.

My fellow trader might have some of these cards in his decks that I didn’t see before. Although this doesn’t always work, it can’t hurt to have a want list for this purpose. However, my want list is more often used when I don’t have much time to trade. If the next round of a tournament is about to begin, someone might ask me the same question of,”Is there anything in particular you’re looking for?” I show them my want list, and a deal can be made without even looking through binders.

And, if nothing else, a want list helps keep you focused. Although you may really want this guy’s foil promo Gaea’s Cradle, it’s more important to your deck to trade for his regular ones. Although Flooded Strand may be a great card right now, if the person you’re trading with has stuff you need for your decks, go for that. If you’re looking for non-fantastic cards, he’ll also probably be more ready to trade with you who has gone past the power cards he wants to hold on to.

Once you determine what you need and have selected those cards from your partner’s collection, the actual dealing comes into play. If you can, get the other player to make the first offer – that way, you get an idea of how he values the cards before you share your value. But don’t be afraid to make your own offer, and don’t be afraid to have confidence. If you think that a Verdant Force is a fair trade for a Masticore, then make the offer; the worst he can say is no. Also, don’t be afraid to turn down an offer, even a fair one. I’ve had people make me offers for cards in my favor that I’ve turned down simply because the cards they were offering weren’t as important to me as the cards I had. For instance, even if you make me a pretty good offer on my Gaea’s Cradles, I probably won’t trade them to you unless you’re offering me cards I need more than Cradles.

On the other hand, sometimes you should accept a deal even if you feel you’re getting ripped off. To illustrate this, I present a recent trade I completed: Morphlings are absolutely impossible to get around here, but I need two for my permission deck (they were the only two cards missing). So, determined to get some Morphlings, I made an offer of about eight decent rares for two Morphlings. I had him hooked with my long have list – but unfortunately, he actually wanted good cards for his ‘Phlings – imagine! Anyway, I ended up trading him a whopping three Nantuko Shades, three Shadowmage Infiltrators, and a Mystic Enforcer for his two Morphlings and a Jareth, Leonine Titan. The trade was way in his favor, but I finally got my Morphlings. They’re so precious now that I don’t even list them in my have list online, thus making them the first cards to join my promo foil Gaea’s Cradle in the unlisted position.

The point is that some cards are just worth sacrificing for. I remember when I desperately needed Shadowmage Infiltrators. I was so desperate, that I let my trading partner know I was desperate – something you should almost never do. Well, I ended up trading a literal stack of rares about an inch thick for three Shadowmage Infiltrators. None of them were that stellar, but it made me queasy to think about the amount of cardboard I was parting with. But, when you need cards, you need cards, and I needed those Infiltrators. They went into my tournament deck and stayed there for a full year, so I’m not unhappy about my decision (though perhaps if I’d traded less for them, I wouldn’t have been so obstinate about keeping them in my deck).

But again – I digress. Up to this point you’ve picked out cards you want, discussed offers, and decided upon one. There’s one last step in the trading process: Hold onto the cards! It’s tempting to trade away good cards for good cards – but if you’re using that card in your deck, keep it there. Trade away other stuff. Heck, you can even make a few trades for the purposes of acquiring”trade fodder” that you don’t need but will get you what you do. I make it a policy to rarely trade cards out of my decks, and that’s actually one of the reasons I have so many decks. To give an example, last rotation, I had a Haunting Echoes/Traumatize deck that royally sucked. So, why did I build it? In order to get and hold on to Traumatize and Haunting Echoes. I didn’t have a need for Haunting Echoes at the time, but I knew that I could easily put them in a deck in the future (which I did).

The point is, don’t get rid of the cards you need, even in exchange for other cards you need. If you have several decks, you can pick one of them to be your”chief deck” for which you’ll trade cards out of other decks, but out of which you’ll trade nothing. Don’t compromise on this. Most traders understand the words”That’s not for trade,” and will move on. If that’s all they want, it’s okay – there will always be another trader.

So, in conclusion, there are five main parts to trading:

1. Set goals

2. Meet traders

3. Discuss offers

4. Conclude deals

5. Hold cards

Once you master these five pieces of the art of trading, you’ll be well on your way to completing any deck you can dream of – even if it does have Morphlings in it!

Daniel Crane

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