Change. It’s something all around us, it seems of late—everything from the changing of the season to the OP changes announced recently. Given that there have been so many changes, I believe it makes this a perfect topic for this week’s article. Before you close the page, I just want to say that this is not going to be another soapbox rant about the OP and PWP. You’re probably as sick of those as I am. I will be covering this topic, but from a trade perspective. Instead, this week’s article is going to be about changing as a trader. The process of transitioning from player to trader can take a multitude of paths, but most follow a singular pattern, something I feel so many know very little about.
What does it mean to be a “true” trader? When do you draw that line between player and shark? The first step for everyone is the same: You don’t play. When I first started trading, it was usually due to a bad-beats weekend leaving me in a situation with very little else to do and a day full of free time. With that lasting about a year on and off, I began to change my perspective . . . what if I don’t play in the first place? The cause can vary from person to person, but the result is the same. The first major event you skip playing to trade is a unique feeling. Almost like a tick, it will be habit to feel like you are missing your round. You may even check for seatings the first time. But don’t be discouraged; this is the beginning of a new era in your Magic career. There are of course pros and cons to not playing, but after looking over the list, the choice seems like a no-brainer. Of course, you can’t take home that trophy or fat stack of cash, but on the upside, you’re not rushed for time and can instead produce as much income as you are willing to work for.
Let’s say you play in a thousand-player (or larger) GP and manage an X–2 record on Day 1, a solid performance that nets you the usual Day 2 spot. In Day 2, after very little sleep and an early morning, you muster up another X–2 record. Not a bad weekend overall; a solid performance that puts $400 in the bank. With another 2 Pro Points to add to the mantel, which equal another $200 to $300 in cash, that puts you up to, say, $700 in overall earnings. Now let’s say you spent $300 on the trip—a low estimate most of the time, but assuming you can get a solid deal on a room with some buddies and eat cheaply, that’s reasonable. For this $400 net gain, you have now put in fifteen rounds of work. Let’s say on average you play forty to fifty minutes in each round, putting yourself at $400 ? (0.66 × 15). This puts your hourly “wage” at about $40 even—not a terrible payment for a solid weekend of hard work. So, how many people average in the Top 32 at each GP attended? I don’t believe there is a single pro who can boast that statistic, so realistically, the number is actually lower. Before the neutering of the Pro Tour, you had the ultimate goal of Top 16 and the invite, which is where the real money was. Now with that stripped away, the EV for a GP is honestly quite low. Even if you did manage to Top 32 every GP you attend, your hourly starts tanking when you realize how much true time you put into grinding—between testing and traveling, your “wages” seem to be almost void.
Now let’s say you instead went to the same thousand-player GP and instead traded all day. I’ll use my schedule. First, you need to account for an extra day. Friday is also a day of work in which you will typically put in six to ten hours. Then we look at Saturday. If the GP is Constructed, you will typically put in a few extra hours in the morning to grab those last-minute trades when people are looking to build decks. From there, you can relax and take a nap or go grab some food before about the third round, when you really start working. Usually, a solid ten hours is put in both Saturday and Sunday, putting us at a total of about twenty-eight hours over the weekend. Given my average profit per trade of $4.76 at fourteen trades per hour, we can see that $4.76 × 14 = $66.64 per hour. These numbers are pulled from a particular weekend that was fairly average. Unlike the player in the above scenario, your “wages” are not a variable determined by a preset number of trades or hours; instead, you can choose how long and hard you will work to profit. Even starting at an average of $3 per trade and ten trades an hour, we can see that your starting “wages” would be $30. If you are just starting and not ready for ten-hour days, you can still easily manage twenty hours in a week, putting you at a clean $600 for the weekend. Take away the same expenses, and we have a net income of $300 for the weekend. Not bad for a guarantee compared to a pipe dream of always hitting that Top 32 spot.
These are of course anecdotal examples that give you an idea of at-event earnings only; this does not include PT finishes or local events, nor collections or insane deals that traders can snag. The point isn’t to sway you one way or the other; rather, I want you to gain an understanding of what your choices are. My personal decision came when I realized that trading was a realistic source of realiable income that did not sway based on my luck or variance from that weekend. This is not to say that trading does not have a sense of luck to it, but the effects are minimal and usually involve only luck of the good variety.
So now that you understand my reason for changing, let’s look at some other changes that have been happening recently in the world of Magic. First, I want to cover the changes to the Organized Play system in terms of Planeswalker Points. How do these affect traders? Well, honestly, we are probably the people most affected by the change. If you look at the majority of players, only about 1% of them ever have a chance to live the dream of being a pro someday. Those odds are slim and, therefore, the changes have very little meaning to the typical player. As a trader, on the other hand, we have already started to see a major shift on the floor. The beginning of the day is far slower given people’s lack of concern for rating and need for Planeswalker Points. This coming weekend in California will be my first real taste of what the changes have done to the GP crowd, but from what I have already seen, I am not holding my breath. Of course, the change allows us to sleep in later and does not affect the Sunday routine, but nonetheless, it does hurt. Even cutting a few hours out of our precious time each weekend will likely show a dramatic effect over time. Normally, I would allocate part of my day Friday for vendoring and leave Saturday for trading, but given the changes and long mornings, Saturday traders must adapt and begin to use our Fridays more wisely.
Given the recent announcement involving the PT, I expect a slight price flux next year on singles. I am not joining the crowd of those who feel the sky is falling; however, I am cautious about investing too much until I know exactly what the market is going to shape up like. Given the increase in GPs, I don’t expect a huge price dive like most do; instead, I see a possible increase given the availability of more high-level events. Not having some of the big names onboard can hurt the price of some singles, but overall I expect the market to even out nicely once the initial panic wanes. Investing in Legacy and Vintage staples is the best way to weather this storm, as they are the most likely to be left unaffected.
On another note, I got some solid Box to Extended trades in this past weekend. As the events begin to pile on over the next few months, I expect the project to come to a solid conclusion and move toward the next step.
−1 Priest of Titania 4.99
−1 Dark Ritual 0.99
−4 Wren's Run Vanquisher 1.49
+1 Sever the Bloodline 0.99
+1 Sorin Markov 5.99
+1 Mayor of Avabruck (Promo) 3.99
Though this trade may seem like a loss on paper, Carter is one of the first people to express interest in a lot of these commons and uncommon, so I used this chance to turn them into a variety of cards. I picked up a solid call shot, a casual staple, and a Standard staple. Overall, I feel that even though the numbers say we lost, we actually came out ahead.
−1 Steel Hellkite 0.99
−2 Simian Spirit Guide 0.49
+1 Price of Progress 2.99
Though this trade may not look like much, I feel that a lot can be learned from cards like Simian Spirit Guide. Most people won’t value this under a dollar knowing that Elvish Spirit Guide has such a high price tag. Take advantage of this knowledge and make small incremental value when you can.
Well, that’s all I have for this week’s edition of Box to Extended. One last change I wanted to mention this week is the hiring by Wizards of Trick Jarrett, our beloved Editor-in-Chief. I haven’t had the pleasure of knowing Trick for more than a year, but he has been a good friend who gave me the chance to write for this website that was built on his hard work and perseverance. I wish him all the luck in the world working for WotC and apologize in advance if I accidentally forward him my articles for editing; old habits die hard, and you’ll be hard to replace, Trick. Thanks again for reading this week and track me down if you are at the GP this weekend or manage to make it out for Worlds.
Until next week, keep changing your game so you don’t fall behind!