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CardShark Content - Matthew Smith (6/14/2002)

Ow
Ow
OwSet: Unglued
Cost:
1
Color:
Black
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Number:
36
Artist:
Edward P. Beard, Jr.
Text:
Whenever any creature damages a player, for each Ow card in play, that player says Ow once or Ow deals 1 damage to him or her.
ning cards and casually playing the game doesn’t imply a conscious understanding of how Magic: The Gathering works, or ability to teach others how to make a deck—any more than having cancer automatically makes one a specialist in cancer diagnosis.

Magic is, by definition, a game of illusiveness. The dictionary defines magic as: The use of charms, spells, etc. in seeking or pretending to control events, or: The art of producing illusions by sleight of hand.

Magic is a game of chance, an epic game of playing the odds, and rolling the dice at every level of competitive and casual play.

Why then, are the same people on the Pro Tour year after year?

Magic can be a legitimate profession. Not a game really, more like a lifestyle—an addiction. What other professions share the complexities of magic? Chess, as an example, is challenging intellectually but the pieces remain constant. Once you know a move, or a technique, it never changes. Magic was created on the principles that the game would be ever-changing and the pieces would remain in a constant state of flux. And still, regardless of the changing face of Magic, the same professional magic players stand at the top of the rankings.

Some people have the ability to predict cards, or they know the probability of drawing certain cards in different situations. Such laws rule a traditional card game like, say, Black Jack. Magic is inherently more unique than a card game like Black Jack because the players determine the frequency and ratio of cards in the deck they choose to play. When done correctly, the players are then in better control of their own fate—and to some extent, they are predicting which cards they will draw. Once honed, these skills of prediction should lead you to the path of Magic enlightenment, and eventually the Pro Tour. You have reached a degree of mastery upon obtaining these skills.

Any game can be mastered. Michael Jordan is known as the best guard to ever play the game of Basketball. Barry Bonds has mastered the art of hitting; shattering records that some thought would never be broken. Bobby Fisher, a mastermind in Chess, was considered to be untouchable in his profession. What about Tiger Woods? Football, Hockey, Poker, Baseball, Bull Riding, Soccer, Bowling, Table Tennis…whatever game you choose to play, someone will HAVE to have accomplished degree of mastery.

Magic will never have a master—not all aspects of Magic anyway.

If I were to ask who are the best players in the world, you might shoot out Kai Budde
Kai Budde
Kai BuddeSet: Promotional Other
Rarity:
P
Text:
Magic Pro Tour Player Card, four-time Player of the Year
, or Jon Finkel, or a few other names. Why are they thought to be the best? Because Jon Finkel has made $255,000 in prize money throughout his career. Kai Budde
Kai Budde
Kai BuddeSet: Promotional Other
Rarity:
P
Text:
Magic Pro Tour Player Card, four-time Player of the Year
: $229,000…Zvi Mowshowitz: $118,000. This isn’t including the money drafts or unsanctioned tournaments. These people are professionals because they can point to their Wizards of the Coast paychecks and say, “Have you done this? If you haven’t, then you’re not better than me.”


At least that’s what I’d do.


These professionals obviously have shown that they have mastered the game. Professional, by definition, is someone who excels in their respective sport or occupation for pay. Basically, these people are professionals because they’ve made money playing the game of Magic. A whole lot of money, which should be a measuring stick of their accomplishments—and according to that gauge, Jon Finkel is the world’s best Magic player.

But I’m here to talk about the other game you play in Magic, because if you’ve been paying close attention you’ll remember that I said Magic CANNOT be mastered by one person.


I’m talking about Magic’s lost art: Trading.


If the above definition is true, and the greatest professionals of Magic were based on the amount of money that they’ve made from the game, then I’m betting that list is somewhat skewed. While $250K is a major amount of cash, you have to question just how often Jon Finkel is fanning his trade binder around on the Pro Tour.

Magic is a cardboard commodity that employs many people for a layer of different reasons—that’s what makes it unique. While one person may excel at the game itself, how many of those same individuals master the game within the game?

Let me put it this way: Why not have a tournament to see who can trade the best? Each person starts out with one starter deck, and then at the end of the year the results are tallied according to card prices? This is actually what some people do. It’s another challenge to the game. Give them a few cards and they’ll bring you back a folder. This game of Magic has employed many people throughout the years, yet no one has addressed the most important aspect of Magic to date—Trading.

Trading magic cards is different than trading baseball cards. While all baseball cards will be stacked away and neatly put into plastic folder and shoe boxes, magic cards are more than “pretty boys” to be placed on display. Baseball cards share the allure of being tradeable, but magic cards are also playable. Magic cards have more than one value. This concept of “value” is the chief concern of any trader.

In order to understand how to become a good trader you must first appreciate a few key concepts.

The first is, of course, value. Value can mean one of two things. The card is valuable to a person solely based on it monetary value. Example: A Birds of Paradise
Birds of Paradise
Birds of ParadiseSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Mana Birds
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Mark Poole
Power:
0
Toughness:
1
Text:
Flying T: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool. This ability is played as an interrupt.
is worth $10.00 to me and I’ll trade it for another card I believe to be worth $10.00. The second type of value has to do with emotion. Attachment to a card for any number of reasons can increase or decrease its value. Example: I believe my Foil
Foil
FoilSet: Prophecy
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
34
Artist:
Bradley Williams
Text:
You may discard an island and another card from your hand instead of paying Foil's mana cost. Counter target spell.
Worship
Worship
WorshipSet: Urza's Saga
Cost:
4
Color:
White
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Number:
57
Artist:
Mark Zug
Text:
Damage that would reduce your life total to less than 1 instead reduces it to 1 if you control a creature.
to be worth your two Call of the Herd
Call of the Herd
Call of the HerdSet: Odyssey
Cost:
3
Color:
Green
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Number:
231
Artist:
Carl Critchlow
Text:
Put a 3/3 green Elephant creature token into play. Flashback 3G (You may play this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then remove it from the game.)
s’ because I opened the Worship
Worship
WorshipSet: Urza's Saga
Cost:
4
Color:
White
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Number:
57
Artist:
Mark Zug
Text:
Damage that would reduce your life total to less than 1 instead reduces it to 1 if you control a creature.
on my birthday.

The second concept is trader personalities. If you understand the character you’re dealing with, you’ll probably understand their mode of trade. There are five distinct character types.

#1. The “Inquest Kid” trader. This is the kid who has gotten stung in the past. Now he brings along his battered copy of Inquest to ensure that he’s getting a fair deal. Generally this works out okay for the Inquest Kid, as a set guide no matter how inflated is better than nothing, but the intrinsic flaw is that the Kid will always trade like hell to get that Dragon. These are the meat and potatoes of the game.

#2. The “Internet Power Trader”. These are the guys who know the exact price for any card…according to ebay. They can wheel and deal, but they usually find it hard to grasp the concept of value. They’d probably price your Birds of Paradise
Birds of Paradise
Birds of ParadiseSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Mana Birds
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Mark Poole
Power:
0
Toughness:
1
Text:
Flying T: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool. This ability is played as an interrupt.
at $6.00 and justify: “I saw it go for much lower than that online.” These people are a step below Dealer, if not in the category already.

#3. The “Dealer” trader. These guys generally own cards shops, or pretend to. I’m not speaking of the dealers who actually pay for a space at the convention. I’m speaking of the ones who prowl the card tables looking for a few extra bucks. Oftentimes I’ve had the Dealer flat out state to me that he’d value my cards about half…because he was a dealer, of course. Not really a trader in the sense of the word…not really a literal dealer either. These are the folks who believe they can make a living on the game of Magic, and some of them can—but it’s a very small amount that do so.

#4. The “Value Monger” trader. A common phrase from the Value Monger is, “I don’t know, what do you think these are worth?” When he knows full well what the cards are worth. The Value Monger will always let you make the first offer—in doing so he’s hoping to get a better deal than he could have offered. If the deal isn’t as favorable as he might’ve liked, he’s quick to let you know that he did indeed have an idea of how much his cards were worth.

#5. The “Grandpa” trader. While the Grandpa trader could easily be converted to a Value Monger, he’s generally the guy who will wait the trade out. In a room full of possible trades, the Grandpa will always take a few dozen looks through your binder—checking for anything he may have missed the first time. After an offer is on the table, he’ll just think about it for a while. Rubbing his head, and pondering over the weather. The Grandpa is a nice fellow; he’s a pleasant enough guy, but it takes him forever to make the trade final.

So what makes a good trader? Let’s make an analogy. What makes a good car salesman? Is the car’s value an issue? How about the quality of the car? We have to consider the trade in value of other cars, right? What about the color of the car? How accessible is the car to the public? Do foreign cars hold more appeal? Now how about the salesman himself, what about his attitude? What does he throw into the deal? Is he knowledgeable about cars in general? What’s his appearance? Finally, is he easy to deal with?

Like a salesman at a used car lot we are “selling” our cards and ourselves to obtain the trades that we want.


HOW ACCESSIBLE IS THE CAR TO THE PUBLIC?

You can’t trade your cards if you don’t let people know that you have them. This doesn’t mean that you should carry your collection in a suitcase to the next PTQ, but what it does mean is that you should have a variety of cards available in your trade collection. The best way that I’ve found is to find one or two small folders. This helps to keep track of your cards. One should contain your crème de la crème, that is, your best cards you have available for trade. The other should house cards that you don’t mind trading as much. These are cards that you’ll throw into to a deal to make it better. In each folder you should reserve your first couple of pages for your attention grabbers. This is a good place for your foils, foreign, or signed cards. You may not want to trade these but they force people to look through the folder to see what other goodies you may have inside—initiating a trade. You may find that after looking through others folders that you don’t want them to see folder A.


IS THE CAR’S VALUE AN ISSUE?

It’s easier to sell a 96 Grand Am than it is to sell an 84 Escort, just as it’s easier to trade a Call of the Herd
Call of the Herd
Call of the HerdSet: Odyssey
Cost:
3
Color:
Green
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Number:
231
Artist:
Carl Critchlow
Text:
Put a 3/3 green Elephant creature token into play. Flashback 3G (You may play this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then remove it from the game.)
over a Shadowmage Infiltrator
Shadowmage Infiltrator
Shadowmage InfiltratorSet: Odyssey
Cost:
3
Color:
Multicolor
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Wizard
Rarity:
R
Number:
294
Artist:
Rick Farrell
Power:
1
Toughness:
3
Text:
Shadowmage Infiltrator can't be blocked except by artifact creatures and/or black creatures. Whenever Shadowmage Infiltrator deals combat damage to a player, you may draw a card.
. Both are good cards, but one is just used by more people. People want to know that if they trade for a card they will either, A. use in their decks or B. they can trade it to obtain cards that they may use. When we speak of card value it changes for each person. Some cards are more valuable to me because they have memories attached to them. “No I won’t trade you that Dragon Engine
Dragon Engine
Dragon EngineSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
3
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Artifact Creature
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Anson Maddocks
Power:
1
Toughness:
3
Text:
2: +1/+0
or Chaos Orb
Chaos Orb
Chaos OrbSet: Oversize Cards
Cost:
2
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Mono Artifact
Rarity:
X
Artist:
Mark Tedin
Text:
1: Flip Chaos Orb onto the playing area from a height of at least one foot. Chaos Orb must turn completely over at least once or it is discarded with no effect. When Chaos Orb lands, any cards in play that it touches are destroyed, as is Chaos Orb.
!”


WHAT ABOUT THE QUALITY OF THE CAR?

If a card is marred it will depreciate in value. Unlike a car, you can’t fix a card up. You can hide it in protective sleeves, but if the card is torn it is pretty much not tradeable. Some people I have traded with are very particular about how “played” a card is. Card shops have placed cards in Mint, Near Mint, Good and Played categories. This often governs trading choices.


THE COLOR OF THE CAR?

You can usually tell something about a person by their trade folders.
People have a tendency to play certain colors. Most often I’ll unknowingly breeze through the red section of folders. Some people have colors that aren’t represented well in their folder, some have a folder full of foils (foils are always good trade bait), and others have card art that they like, signed cards, cards from other sets and even cards that they just favor over other cards.


TRADE IN VALUE OF A DIFFERENT CAR?

How many times have you walked past a table with a trade in the midst and thought to yourself, how in the hell is that guy getting a Nantuko Shade
Nantuko Shade
Nantuko ShadeSet: Torment
Cost:
2
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Insect Shade
Rarity:
R
Number:
74
Power:
2
Toughness:
1
Text:
B: Nantuko Shade gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
for four Squirrel’s Nests’? (or likewise) Value of cards may be different for different people. Maybe this guy has seven Shades and he wants to make an Opposition
Opposition
OppositionSet: Urza's Destiny
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Number:
40
Artist:
Todd Lockwood
Text:
Tap an untapped creature you control: Tap target artifact, creature, or land.
deck. In some circles the card that you use to destroy your friends isn’t that good.


FOREIGN CARS HOLD MORE APPEAL?

Every time a new block comes out we start gathering cards that they are reprinting. Lobotomy
Lobotomy
LobotomySet: Tempest
Cost:
4
Color:
Multicolor
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Thomas M. Baxa
Text:
Look at target player's hand and choose any of those cards other than a basic land. Search that player's graveyard, hand, and library for all copies of the chosen card and remove them from the game. That player shuffles his or her library afterwards.
, Reckless Spite
Reckless Spite
Reckless SpiteSet: Tempest
Cost:
3
Color:
Black
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Pete Venters
Text:
Destroy two target nonblack creatures. Lose 5 life.
, Disenchant
Disenchant
DisenchantSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Amy Weber
Text:
Target enchantment or artifact is destroyed.
, Counterspell
Counterspell
CounterspellSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Mark Poole
Text:
Counters target spell as it is being cast.
and even land. We love diversity. To a magic player his deck is like his fingerprint, no matter how similar they are, no one shares the same one. You’ve got to get the foil-Chinese-from-a-different-set-counterspell.




THE SALESMAN

Every good salesman knows his cars. This is the single most important attribute you should possess. You need to know what your cards are worth in money value so that you can establish the cards on a basic level. You should use a price guide like ebay or something with relatively accurate pricing. It allows you to find out what is hot (or easy to sell) and what cards are on the decline. This may not always be true, as some cards are “hidden treasures”, but it generally reflects current card prices.

It is impossible to think that you can jump on a computer in the middle of a trade, and that’s why you should do your research beforehand. If not, don’t be afraid to ask someone else what they think about the trade. If the person you’re dealing with is honestly trying to make a fair deal, then they won’t care about an outside opinion.
Also remember to check for cards that are “cash cards” or cards you might like to trade for in the future.


KNOW THY CARDS

It’s also important to know card rarity. Wizards did a really nice thing and labeled the cards in gold, white or black, each representing rare, uncommon, or common. The problem is that some cards still have more value than others do. Rare doesn’t exactly mean that the card is playable in most decks. I’ll always trade an Otaria
Otaria
OtariaSet: Planechase
Cost:
0
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Plane
Sub Type:
Dominaria
Rarity:
C
Number:
28
Artist:
Charles Urbach
Text:
Instant and sorcery cards in graveyards have flashback. The flashback cost is equal to the card's mana cost. (Its owner may cast the card from his or her graveyard for its mana cost. Then he or she exiles it.) Whenever you roll {C}, take an extra turn after this one.
biBKdWdnZXJuYXV0 for a Fact or Fiction
Fact or Fiction
Fact or FictionSet: Invasion
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
57
Artist:
Terese Nielsen
Text:
Reveal the top five cards of your library. An opponent separates those cards into two face-up piles. Put one pile into your hand and the other into your graveyard.
. This also says something about cards worth. You have to know as a trader that the Diabolic Tutor
Diabolic Tutor
Diabolic TutorSet: Odyssey
Cost:
4
Color:
Black
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Number:
129
Artist:
Rick Farrell
Text:
Search your library for a card, and put that card into your hand. Then shuffle your library.
you run across can net you a Time Stretch
Time Stretch
Time StretchSet: Odyssey
Cost:
10
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Number:
108
Artist:
Paolo Parente
Text:
Target player takes two extra turns after this one.
from your buddy back home.

BE FUNNY

Another quality needed as a trader is a good sense of humor. Some people might disagree with me on this point, but I saw a stranger go to “the guy” and trade his binder for a few cards he wanted; afterwards another person stepped up to “the guy” and gets the exact cards he wanted, cash in his pocket, and “the guy” was laughing afterwards. What’s my point? You don’t want to make the trade difficult. Think about trades you’ve experienced and ask yourself if they were enjoyable. Then remember what you did or didn’t like and try to learn from them.


PLAN A ROUTINE

If you’re in a large convention or tournament, you should have a routine that you follow. A normal trade for me might go like this:

1. Check the folder and look for cards you need, cards other people might need, cards that are trading well, and cards that you can get for cheap. When I review a folder that is the exact order I go in.

2. Layout the cards that you picked and assess their value. After the other person is done picking the cards s/he would like, then I match up the like value of the cards—making sure to ask them what value they place on each card. Make sure to put all the cards in monetary value, if you have a money value beforehand it is easier to get your deal through.

3. Try to keep the deal in your comfort zone. Don’t let your folder out of your sight, don’t let others in your trade and don’t look at other folders during your trade. I am always checking out what the pages the person is stopping at when browsing my folder. I’m also always sizing up what cards s/he’s pulling out and what cards I want.
4. If you’re a Value Monger, then have the other person offer the deal first. I can’t recall how many times the other person has offered me much more than I originally thought I was going to get.

5. Go over the final price in your head and ask yourself, “Do I really need this card?” If you think you do, then make your offer or counter-offer and let the trading begin.

Are all salesmen dirty, lowdown people with no morals? Well we all must trade, but if we trade badly, then bad things will happen, and not just morally speaking, if you get a rap as a bad trader then you won’t be able to trade in that circle anymore. Also, if you take all of the good cards from a new player or a young kid, then you have just hurt the whole magic community. Those are lost players, lost traders, and lost people for you to continually trade from.

The difference between a car salesman and one who trades magic cards is that the trade never has to happen. You’re not bound to this person or his cards. If you have a bad feeling or don’t like the way a person is conducting business then pull out of the trade. It’s that simple. You are in control of your cards.

So while your name may not be Jon Finkel, you might be a Magic professional in your own right. You just have to choose which level of Magic to compete in. You invest your time in either playing to win, or trading to win. Whichever way you decide to swing remember to have fun doing it!

Viva,


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