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Most players realize that a little homework will serve them well when they walk into a tournament. Whether it's taking the time to playtest, going over your past mistakes, or studying the dominant deck types in your format, preparation will pay off when the competition begins.
In this regard, trading is not too different from competitive playing. You get more out of it if you arrive prepared. In my travels to various game shops and tournaments, I meet a lot of players, some veterans and some beginners. They have as many approaches to trading as they do to playing the game. By preparing ahead of time, and sticking to some basic rules of courtesy, I find that I can make the trading experience more pleasant and profitable both for myself and for the players I'm trading with.
Many beginning players are intimidated by trading. They feel that they don't have enough of a grasp on the values of cards and they're afraid of being ripped off. Fortunately, you don't need to memorize a price guide in order to prepare to trade. You do, however, need to make some decisions about your own cards.
First and foremost, I recommend keeping your trade stock separate from the rest of your cards. Before you arrive at a tournament, you should make up your mind about every card you're bringing with you: Is this a card you're willing to trade or not? Nothing is more frustrating to a potential trade partner than looking through a binder, picking out a bunch of cards, and then being told, ´´Oh, I'm sorry. These five aren't for trade.´´ Note that you may have cards that you will only trade for an exceptionally good deal. That's fine. But if anything is absolutely not for trade, keep it separate from the trade stock.
I actually have my cards divided into three completely separate areas: My collection (kept at home), my decks (stored in sleeves and deck boxes), and my trade stock (in a binder). I never trade out of my decks and I make that clear up front to anyone who asks me about trading.
After you've decided what you're willing to trade, you need to do some organizing. There are a lot of different approaches to this, and I've tried several over the years. At one point, I had all my trade stock in an 800-count box. This was easier for me than a binder because cards could be added and removed quickly, and it fit in my bag better than a large binder. Eventually, though, I realized that this was inconvenient to my trading partners. People were reluctant to sift through a whole box of cards. I switched over to using binders. I tried small binders with 4-pocket pages. These had the advantage of convenience of carrying, and I liked being able to have separate binders for Type I, Type II, Extended, and foil cards. One drawback to having multiple small binders that I discovered is that they are more vulnerable to theft, unless you are pretty strict about only taking out one at a time. I never actually had any cards stolen, but I found I was spending a lot of time checking up to make sure I had all four binders. The small binders also proved to be not very durable. So in the end, I settled on a single large binder, a good durable one with a zipper cover.
After deciding how you want to transport and display your trade stock, some thought needs to go into what cards you should actually offer for trade. Generally speaking, most people are turned off by having to wade through page after page of commons. Some beginning players seem to want to put absolutely every extra card they own into their trade binder. I find that only the few most sought after commons are worth bothering with in the trade stock. Even uncommons are not of great interest in most cases, although each set seems to get a few ´´trade-worthy´´ uncommons (some recent examples have been Roar of the Wurm
, Arrogant Wurm
|Roar of the Wurm|
Artist: Kev Walker
Text: Put a 6/6 green Wurm creature token into play. Flashback 3G (You may play this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then remove it from the game.)
, Circular Logic
Sub Type: Wurm
Artist: John Avon
Text: Trample. Madness 2G
Artist: Anthony S. Waters
Text: Counter target spell unless its controller pays 1 for each card in your graveyard. Madness U
, and Astral Slide
Artist: Carl Critchlow
Text: Destroy target creature with converted mana cost 3 or less. It can't be regenerated.
) that trade as well as many rares. I organize my binder by block and then by color, and if there are a few empty spots, I fill in with uncommons and commons that are being played in current tournament decks, as well as decent direct damage, countermagic, creature removal, and ´´tribal´´ creatures. The times that I do trade commons, it's often to players making burn decks, goblin decks, elf decks, and the like.
Artist: Ron Spears
Text: Whenever a player cycles a card, you may remove target creature from the game. If you do, return that creature to play under its owner's control at end of turn.
I've seen all kinds of ways of organizing a trade binder. I prefer to make it convenient to the types of traders I'm likely to encounter. At any given tournament, I can count on running into a lot of players who are strictly into Type II, so I put all of the Type II legal cards together toward the front of the binder. I also separate out the foils since players who collect foils tend to be a distinctive group. One important step in preparing to trade is getting to know your own trade stock. Many players you encounter will be asking for specific cards, and if you can find them quickly, you're more likely to make a deal. When I'm at a tournament I always spend some of my downtime simply flipping through my own binder. This allows me to refresh my memory on what I've got, and frequently prospective trade partners will come to me, rather than me having to seek them out and risk bothering people who are not interested in trading.
As for what cards to include, I prefer to go with a big variety. I want to make a lot of trades at an event, and I want to have some cards on me that other traders might not have. Too many times, I've seen someone whose trade binder consists of perhaps the top eight or ten current Type II rares in multiple copies. While it's impressive to thumb through a binder consisting of page after page of Birds of Paradise
and fetch lands, this is a turn-off to prospective traders. It's like saying ´´Don't bother trading with me. You wouldn't have anything I'd want.´´ And this might be exactly what the person is trying to convey. Some players don't want to bother trading except for the very best cards. Some are really looking for cash and not trades. I'd rather be able to trade with any player, even one who doesn't have those top notch cards. So I carry as decent a variety of rares as I can. You never know what obscure card a collector might be looking for, and you can always keep the tournament quality stuff together at the front of the binder so that competitive players can be directed to it easily.
|Birds of Paradise|
|Set: Revised Edition|
Sub Type: Mana Birds
Artist: Mark Poole
Text: Flying T: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool. This ability is played as an interrupt.
Once you have your own trade stock organized, it's time to take stock of your objectives. Think about any decks that you're planning to build or any gaps in your collection you'd especially like to fill. Make want lists, then talk to friends about what cards they're looking for and add those cards to your lists as well. It's not a bad idea to bring a pen and a note pad to tournaments and jot down the names of cards that people ask you for and you don't have. The better sense you can get of what's in demand, the more success you'll have at trading.
Be careful not to trade in a way that depletes your trade stock too quickly. If you trade away everything good in your binder to get cards for your collection or your decks, you'll soon end up with little that's worth trading. I'd recommend that the majority of your trades be made with the objective of obtaining better cards for your trade stock. For the cards that you will be keeping rather than putting back into the trade mix, carry a storage box and keep them separate from your tradeable cards.
Don't rely too heavily on price guides, but use them for comparison as needed. While the individual prices of cards are often overstated in price guides, the guide can be useful in determining the relative value between two cards, which makes it a worthwhile tool to have on hand.
Finally, come to the event with an attitude that encourages trading. I make an effort to come to some kind of deal with just about anyone who finds something they want in my trade stock. Sure, there will be times when no deal can be reached, but you should make the extra effort, especially when trading with new players. Work to reach a deal with a player who doesn't own very many good cards, and there's a decent chance that player will seek you out in the future when perhaps they do have something worth trading for. Avoid intentionally taking advantage of players who offer you deals that are too good. You'll do better in the long run by making a fair trade. After all, no matter how valuable your cards may be, your good reputation will always be worth more.
In my previous article, I laid out some examples of cards that might hold different values for different traders. One example I listed was a Korean foil Psychatog
. As a reader correctly pointed out to me, WOTC stopped printing cards in Korean after the Urza
Sub Type: Atog
Artist: Edward P. Beard, Jr.
Text: Discard a card from your hand: Psychatog gets +1/+1 until end of turn. Remove two cards in your graveyard from the game: Psychatog gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
Block. My apologies for a mistake that I (as a collector of foreign editions), should have caught. Please pretend I said Japanese.
Sub Type: Character
Artist: Mark Tedin
Text: 3: Urza deals one damage to target creature or player.
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