Home > Finance > [Finance] Introducing: Dual to Deck

[Finance] Introducing: Dual to Deck

by Ryan Youngbar

Within the last 2 to 3 years we have seen an increased interest in the financial and trading
aspects of the Magic: the Gathering game. Jon Medina really put the power of trading in the spotlight when he launched his Pack to Power series. The idea was that he would start with a single booster pack, from Rise of the Eldrazi in this case, and trade the contents up to a piece of the mythical power nine. He succeeded in his quest while documenting the whole process through pictures and web posts. Jon may not have known it then, but he started a major new trend in the magic world and to this day has a strong cult following. There is an official pack to power website where anyone who wishes can post status updates on their own personal quests; Ryan Bushard started a Box to Extended quest that mirrors Jon’s efforts but on a larger scale; and it seems that almost every major magic website now has at least one financial article or “trade guy” on board. We have also seen the rise of sites dedicated solely or mainly to the financial world of Magic, such as QuietSpeculation.com. There have always been value traders and those who were more concerned with making money from cards rather than winning trophies, but in the current MtG culture these people are well known and their focus on the $$$ has become an accepted part of the game.

Trading up to a Mox Pearl from a Bear Umbra and a few commons/uncommons sounds pretty cool right? So why doesn’t everyone just do this and basically never need to buy anymore cards than just 1 pack? The answer is that to do this, and do it ethically, it is a lot of work on the trader’s part. I’ve played Magic on and off since Mercadian Masques block around 2000. I’ve always kept a trade binder and knew that trading was a way I could get cards I wanted for stuff I already had that I didn’t want. And yeah I was taken for a few rides along the way by value traders and sharks while doing it. I still remember trading a Chrome Mox and a Bloodstained Mire for some bulk dragon and beast cards. The point is that no one is good at trading when they first start unless they knew to do their homework first. In our new Magic world that is a thing, it’s not just metagames and decks from pros, it’s card values and price trends now. People like Jon, Ryan, and the folks at QuietSpeculation have stepped up and offered to teach the community the tricks of the trade.

Getting a piece of power is nice and all that but unless you already have a nice Vintage deck or cube it’s kinda hard to play Magic with just one card. This gave me an idea: what if you could go from one high value card to a complete deck? With this idea in mind I would like to introduce my own personal quest: Dual to Deck. In this project I will strive to turn a single Revised dual land into a complete Legacy deck. I should mention that (currently) I am not a baller of the MtG trade world. I’ve done my homework and am willing to put in the work to become a master trader, but right now I’m still a novice. I hope that 1) this project will succeed, but mostly that 2) this becomes a journey other fledgling traders can go on with me and learn from. I’m sure I’ll make some mistakes along the way and some of my insights may not be new to those who follow the best financial guys in the game, but I think the real world experience with zero risk on their end would be a neat learning tool to publish. My goal is to have the project finished before the large set of the next block comes out in fall 2012. I won’t always have weekly updates since real life can sometimes get in the way, but I’ll do my best to document everything I can on this quest and share it with all of you. I’ll be starting out with a NM Revised Tundra. I’ll try to take as many pictures and present as much of what was going on in my head during the trading process.

Which Legacy deck you may ask? Well I actually haven’t settled on one yet. At first I figured since a Tundra is the second most expensive dual land that I would go for the second most expensive Legacy deck. There are a few problems with this plan: 1) some of the most expensive Legacy decks are expensive because they run cards that there are very few copies of in circulation, mostly due to coming from short printed special sets like Portal or Starter; 2) It’s hard to definitively state that this is the most expensive deck, or the second most expensive; and finally, 3) I don’t want to pick a deck that I’m gonna hate playing. I intend to keep this deck and play it at events. This project is not just an experiment in “look what I can do” Magic trading, but is a practical exercise to prove you can get something solid that will provide pleasure for years down the road through trading.

With all that in mind, I am currently playtesting the 43 different Legacy deck types that are competitive. But Rebar, you may ask, how do you plan on trading into a Legacy deck if you don’t even know which one you want yet? That’s a very reasonable question, reader. The truth of the matter is that a single Tundra in no way equals any Legacy deck. In order to get to the point where I can acquire the cards for any Legacy deck, I will need to grow my binder. I will need a certain amount of value in the binder before I can start picking up Legacy staples and still have enough left to trade for the rest of the deck. I have the luxury of a few months of time while focusing on making solid trades to grow the binder to playtest Legacy and figure out which deck I really want. I am not new to Legacy and in fact already have a decent card pool for Legacy in my personal collection. One of the factors that inspired this quest were all the times I would pour over Legacy lists, find a deck I liked and wanted to play, only to realized I was missing anywhere from 6 to 20 key cards. So in completing this quest I will find my dream Legacy deck and acquire all the pieces for it. You guys might learn a thing or two about trading, get at least a few good stories to read, and I get a sweet new deck. Everyone wins!

Now a lot of the high profile traders when they start this type of project strictly state that they will not be trading with themselves for easy gain out of their own binders. It gives the project a true rags to riches feel and promotes integrity. I am going to break that rule with this project. As stated, I already have a jumbled mess of a Legacy collection and some cards are difficult to acquire no matter who you are, so I will be trading cards from this project with myself. However, I will treat my personal collection and personal trade binder as if they were a completely different person’s property and would not make any trades this way that I wouldn’t make with anyone else I trade with over the course of Dual to Deck. I will also try to keep these trades to a minimum, hopefully just to get the last few specific things I need for the deck. Jon and Ryan in their Pack to Power and Box to Extended quests were willing to use trade through mail systems. I will not be doing that in this project unless I absolutely have to. Shipping costs can add up over time and if you make a deal with some who is shady or the cards get lost in the mail you may suffer big losses that are entirely unnecessary.

Enough with the details of the project, let’s get into some trade theory. I am starting with a single high value card, in order to get as many trades out of it as possible I need to break it down into several smaller value cards. A NM Revised Tundra is worth between $110-$120 on retail sites, $80-$100 on eBay, and between $160-$200 in trade depending on what you’re asking for in return. To really get a project like this started you want quantity more than anything. Quality is important as well but the more you have to work with the more chances you have for trades. Not everyone wants the same cards or plays the same formats so having diversity in your binder is key. Speaking of formats, if there is one place you play more often than not it is important to know what formats are popular there and try and focus on those. In my case I play at Collectors Corner in Maryland. The most popular format there is Standard, with smaller pools of EDH/Commander and Legacy players. To get the most value out of my Tundra I would need to trade it into a mix of Standard, Legacy and EDH staples, with a focus on Standard cards. This can be tricky since you never know exactly what decks people will want to build and getting a large amount of diversity in one trade, especially one this large, can be difficult outside of large conventions. Luckily for me a solution had just been released, a very high selling solution: Innistrad. The latest set is definitely a hit and has cards for all 3 of the formats played at CC. The thought occurred to me: what if took a chance and traded the Tundra for a sealed box of Innistrad? Let’s look at the math at the time of writing this:

  • Sealed boxes cost anywhere between $90-$120 depending upon place of purchase.
  • The average value of a pack of Innistrad is $4.44 (calculated based on average prices of rares and mythics with mythic averages being divided by 8, since wizards claims mythics appear 1/8 packs).
  • Using that average, a box is worth $159.84 on average.
  • This value estimation does not account for commons/uncommon/tokens which can pad your margins and be an important source of value.

On paper I would lose between $0 to $30 based on retail prices and in value terms I could be losing out on up to $40. So why would I make a deal that could leave me losing $30 to $40? The answer is simple volume and the plan to ride the hotness of the current set. Innistrad has a few $30 and $40 cards as well as several reasonably priced rares. 36 packs of the set could spell a lot of value and if nothing else give me a large number of diverse new cards that I know will be popular and easy to move in my area. This trade would be a gamble on my part but one that I think would be worth it so I set about finding a willing trade partner. This was not as easy as it sounds, everyone I talked to thought it was a good deal for a Tundra but no one had the box or the cash to buy a box for the deal. Sealed product is very similar to cash in hand so asking for a box was basically asking for $100 in cash for the Tundra (the same amount I could have gotten on eBay if you remember). It took a few weeks but I finally found 2 people willing to do the trade and my friend Travis got there first. I’ll save the contents of the box for next time.

“Rebar” at Collectors Corner
@Brass_Gnat on Twitter

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  1. TARVIS
    December 2, 2011 at 1:49 am

    GOT THERE. I’ll be sure to give this article a shout out on our next episode.

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