In the past, I have written a number of articles on MTG resources that can help you be fiscally responsible with your collection. This week, I have another site that I believe will save collectors hours of hassle by allowing you to comb eBay for underpriced cards. I have been in contact with the designer of this site, Tony, and he seems to have a lot in store for the site over the coming months, and I’ll cover those features again in the future. I have been using MTGScavenger for a few weeks on a regular basis, and it has saved me more time than I can count. Before I bore you any more, let me get right down to what you came here for.
Tell us about yourself and what exactly MTG Scavenger is. How did the idea come to you, and what role did it fill that was not previously filled?Rock Hydra and Serra Angel becoming two of my favorite cards for the artwork. I played, collected, and got my friends into the game until I went off to college in San Luis Obispo. Not having a lot of room in dorms, I only brought a few decks with me, leaving most of my collection at home. Big mistake! I came home to visit the family and found out they had done some cleaning while I was gone. My entire collection had been thrown out. Cards from Unlimited, Arabian Nights, and Revised all gone. It was hard to take, but it was my own fault for not putting them in a safer place and making sure my parents knew how important they were. After this devastation, I took some time off from Magic, not wanting to be reminded of my loss.
About eight years later, when I had become a software engineer and was more settled in my career, I began to become interested in Magic again. It also occurred to me that while my original collection was gone, it could be rebuilt. Harder, better, faster, stronger! I started buying back pieces of my collection from my local game store and on eBay. Slowly, the pieces started coming back together. My LGS was pretty far away, so I ended up doing most of my buying on eBay, but I hated slogging through all the crap. I built complex searches to filter out all the junk, but prices varied so often it was hard to make sure I wasn't overpaying for cards. So I started building a tool.
The tool started with a simple idea: Find all cards ending soon on eBay while filtering out all overpriced and irrelevant results.
It was unbelievably fun and useful. It updated every fifteen minutes with new listings showing value, percent off average selling price, and a bunch of other statistical data. As time went on, I added a bunch of other features to make it even more useful.
- Include or exclude sets
- Show/hide collector's editions
- Show only auctions with X min bids
- Show only auctions over X price
I eventually started sharing the tool with some of my friends, who helped me bring the site to V2 and V3, which is the current iteration. I’ve added a lot of more complex features since the original version.
- Custom pricing per card rather than relying on the site pricing
- Notifications via e-mail when a card you are interested in is ending underpriced
- Price graphs per card to track trends
The current site is worlds away from the original version and has become a blast to play with.
How long did you spend working toward what you currently have? Is your work done or is there more to come?
I've been working on different versions of this site for two years. One of the hardest components is parsing the titles in eBay to correct cards and sets. I have a pretty interesting way of doing this, which I will soon be opening as an API. I'll also be opening up the pricing database as an API to encourage community involvement. There’re a bunch of other features I’ll be adding to the main site as well, so I’m far from done.
Where do you see yourself in Magic in five years? How is your outlook different than it was when you first started?
In five years, I will still be heavily playing Magic, but probably not be collecting. My original collection is now complete, and I'm very satisfied with the condition and quality of it.
My outlook has changed, as I have filled in the missing pieces of my sets. My original goal was to fill in these missing pieces of my childhood and once again see the beautiful artwork, but as time went on, I grew to love the metagame even more. With the collection, I can see it and appreciate the art, but the metagame is what makes every card so interesting. There is so much more I understand and appreciate now than I ever did simply completing sets.
How do you balance Magic—and what it takes up in your life both as a hobby and with the site—against family, school, work, and other obligations?
While family is first and foremost in my life, gaming is as important as physical exercise to me. Magic especially is amazing at exercising my mind and challenging me in crazy ways. It’s also great for sharpening my mind to see strategies and see how things can work together toward a goal. Working on the site allows me to try out new technologies and even bring some of them to my day job. So I find a way to fit it in.
Do you see yourself trying to involve Magic as a part of your job someday or perhaps using your programming skills to further your involvement in Magic?
I will always be building tools to make life easier, and if Magic ends up as part of my job one day, I’d be pretty stoked. There are so many things that can be built to give collectors more power, grow new players, and transform the game, so I’m excited about the future.
What audience are you looking to target with MTGScavenger?
The site is mostly for collectors looking to score great deals off eBay and for active players looking to complete their new decks without breaking the bank.
Why share such a resource? This seems like something you could personally use to find great deals on cards, so why open it to the public?
Some of my early users saw these new users as competition in a limited market. To counteract this, I’ve made many of the premium features invite-only for now, leaving the landing page totally open for use. I’ve also been asked to make the site available to paying members only, but I haven’t decided if I actually want to put up a paywall to help limit overuse and control the spread. It’s a hard decision for me, and I want to do what’s right for the users.
What is your end goal for both the website and your involvement in Magic in general?
I will continue building new features into site and growing the community around it. I think opening up many of the internal tools into public APIs will encourage other developers to build interesting tools of their own.
I hope to keep playing Magic for many years and to teach my own kids one day.
Any words of advice for those out there with skill sets that can be used within their hobbies?
One of the biggest mistakes I made with a previous site was going way overboard before I even had users. I had an idea, so I incorporated the site, found business partners, built the site over six months, and then finally released it. It was a huge failure, and I wasted a lot of time.
If you have an idea, forget about all the business crap and just start with a prototype. Once you have something that even slightly works, see what other people think. This is so important, and no, your mom doesn’t count! And if people say they like it, see if they will actually start using it. If you can’t get anyone to actually use your site often, try something else until people love it. Once you have something people love, you can start thinking about making a business. Until then, don’t waste your time with paperwork, and don’t live in fear that someone will steal it. Just focus on building, feedback, and iteration.
If you are looking to follow Tony or MTGScavenger, you can find all of his information here:
Follow @mtgscavenger for site updates!
I really appreciate everything Tony has done in building MTGScavenger, and as a collector, I have snagged a few deals. I would not expect someone who primarily uses buy lists to find this site as appealing as those looking to pay for cards they are actually seeking. Most underpriced items I have watched go just above buy-list prices, which means if you need a play set of any hot new card, this is probably one of the first places you may want to be looking. As always, join me next week for more up-to-the-minute financial information.