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I've become a mark for Pauper.  I love the format and having a tournament next week with some people in my playgroup.  My window for getting cards here is small, because if I buy them online I was worried about them shipping in time.  So I figured I'd give a local LGS or two a few bucks and go through their commons.  I usually buy cards on eBay and get them for below TCG mid prices and free shipping, depending on the card.   But why buy online when I can support a local game store and maybe meet new people?

When I first starting playing MTG, it was while I worked in Reno, NV.  The local store that we walked into was small but the owner was really friendly and after we talked with him a bit we worked out a deal that the 4-5 of us who played got booster boxes at cost.  He even cracked packs and played with us once in a while.  I've been to the largest LGS in my area and they price gouge (in my opinion) and are generally unpleasant.  I thought to myself there has to be a better environment and maybe I'll find a place to play FNM or other events.

I looked up card stores around me and found two that I had not been to yet.  The first one told me they have a ton of bulk commons and I'm free to look through them.  They have a Pauper event every Saturday, maybe I can feel the place out and try to make some of them and an FNM now and then.  The second place told me they had organized boxes by set that I can look through.  

The first place I went to was the closest to me but had so-so reviews online.  It was a small store and I was greeted by an employee who was playing Legacy with her friend.  I asked about their commons and I was directed towards a corner with about 10 3,000 card boxes.  She said they are kinda organized (they weren't) and they have a special going that if I buy 1,000 cards or enough to fill a small box it's $5.  I spent about 2 hours going through commons and found lots of cards.  I even bought this card because it reminded me of someone on the forum, I'll let you decide who:


And I found this copy of Unholy Strength with the pentagram in the art.  I remembered reading about this and thought it would be a nice addition to my collection


After going through about half of their boxes and having a large stack of cards (probably around 800), I walked up to the front desk and she started counting the pile.  She looked at me and said, "is it OK if I just charge you the $5 for this?  You have about 1,000 cards here."  I wasn't going to go through more boxes to get a couple hundred more cards that I probably wasn't going to use and $5 sounded good to me.  I picked up a couple of packs of Conspiracy 2 and was on my way.  I picked up about 40% of the cards that were on my list so I called this a win.

I drove across the city to the second store and the manager (or the only employee there) was arguing with a teenager about his card prices.  He was telling him he should be checking his phone for TCG mid prices because that's what the store uses and basically stop bothering me with questions.  I asked if I could look through their bulk and he snapped, "We don't have... bulk.  We have commons and uncommons.  if you are the guy who called on the phone I tried to explain this to you already.  I'll get the set out that you want to look through."  I lifted up my list and showed him how many sets were on it.  He walked back and brought out one box at a time.

After looking through about 5-6 set boxes I found this much easier to find what I needed.



I found some other cards I thought were interesting and pulled a few, like Sunlance in the picture.  I was finding what I needed faster but having to bother him every few minutes to bring out the next box meant I sat waiting for a good portion of the time.  I had a stack of about 200 cards at this point, all commons for my Pauper decks.  Progress.

The employee walks over and says, "I'm going to ring up what you have so far so you get an idea on what you have."  At this point I just figured he would eyeball what I had and give me a price.  I was wrong and maybe a little naive to how this works.  He spend about 20 minutes looking up cards and walks back over to me.  "Dunno what your budget is but you're up to $125 and I'm only halfway through your stack."  I was a little surprised he looked up every single common and that it was that much.  I had a good portion of what I needed for the decks I'm building and I wasn't going to start over again.  So I told him I would take out my needs and put back what I don't need, just stuff I wanted for decks I'll probably never build, only think about.

After I told him this, he balked and said, "Well, I have to pay someone to put all of this back so I'll give it all to you for $150.  All those cards add up, man."  I had everything organized by set anyway, so I told him to bring the boxes and I'll be happy to put them back.  I'm only going to buy what I needed.  He wasn't too happy with that, even after I offered to put everything back that I wasn't going to buy.  

I went through the cards I absolutely needed and it added up to $65.  I was already a few hours in and I figured I'd just buy what I needed and get the rest online. Even when he was checking me out he was lecturing me on card prices and kept repeating "Those cards add up."

I came home and browsed eBay for about 30 minutes.  Ordered ever card I needed and only bought from sellers that guarantee arrival by the date I needed.  (Saturday 8/3)  It was painless.  I didn't have to deal with unhappy employees or digging through a thousand cards to maybe get what I needed.  I spent about 6 hours going through boxes when I could have just bought them online for a few bucks more.

Overall I'm happy with the first store, it's small but it's close to where I live and the employee was friendly.  I won't be back to the second store.  It was a learning experience on dealing with different stores and bulk.  I was a little surprised they deal with pricing it so differently.  After the first store I didn't expect stores to spend 30 minutes pricing a bunch of commons they have in a back room somewhere collecting dust.  I  took my 11 year old with me to sort through cards.  He was on the fence about MTG before that but after spending hours searching for cards for his Pauper Slivers deck (he's playing in the tournament) he's pretty excited and already "borrowing" my other Sliver cards 

How does your LGS handle commons and bulk?  Comment and let me know if what I found yesterday is common.



Pucatrade Review

Before I share my experience with Pucatrade, let me give you a little background on my habits.  I've never traded before locally, other than with friends and that is usually us giving each other cards that we need.  So I don't have much experience with trading.  I buy and sell quite a bit of cards on eBay, and am very familiar with the rules and expectations there.

I dabble in finance once in a while, mostly for fun and to support my MTG habit.

When I first heard about Pucatrade, I was skeptical.  Especially after hearing how some YouTubers allegedly kinda-sorta-maybe abused the invite system for their own benefit I was even more skeptical to use the service.  After reading about some other players trading away lots of bulk on the site, I decided I'll give it a try for myself.

The way you trade cards on Pucatrade is by using Pucapoints.  You get points by sending cards to players who want them, or you can buy Pucapoints with real money.  Then you use those points to get cards you want, and the person sending them to you gets points for it.  The amount of points the card is worth is connected to the current value of the card, so these numbers fluctuate depending on the card and demand for it.

Up to today (5/16/16) I've sent over 20k worth of cards.  Or about $200 worth. I mention this because I want it to be known how much (or little) I've used the service.



    Let's talk a little about Tiers.  


    An Common membership is free.  Uncommon will be $5 a month and Rare is $10 per month.  Yearly plans are also available.  

    I went with the Uncommon plan to try email notifications, advanced searches and the Watch List.  Is it worth it?  Not really.

    For Gold the only feature that appeals to me is Price History, but I can get that a few clicks away by going to a site like MTGStocks.  So why pay $5 more when it's a few clicks away? 

    Let's go through some Pros and Cons


    • If you're looking for a card or cards and have a collection of cards you don't use, this is a nice way to get what you want fairly easily and straight forward.  No negotiations to concern yourself with, whatever the card is listed for is what you'll get or be charged for it.  
    • Cards you don't want or will never use will add up once you start shipping them out.  Instead of selling on eBay and buying more cards this cuts out the middle man.  
    • Putting cards on your Want list and getting someone to commit to sending to you is usually fast for format staples.
    • Overall the service is easy to use and get the hang of.  It's safer than trading with other people blind, and if there are problems you can file a claim and hopefully have a fair resolution.  You have the safety net just in case things go wrong.


    • As mentioned above, sometimes having cards on your Want list can go south if the value suddenly shoots up can be frustrating.
    • Many times someone will commit to send a card to you and not send it for several days.  In the Rules section of the site it reads that trades should be sent out no more  than 48 hours after they commit to send but this should be a strict rule.  I've had people commit to send a card to me and message me several days later telling me they can't find the card after all.  They should only commit when they have the card in hand.   
    • Another downside to your Want or Have list is that sometimes players from other countries will commit to send it to you and this could make a couple of days shipping into a week or more.  This can be changed in your preferences but something to remember.
    • Often cards are sent below standard (for me anyway, check my other blog entry for my expectations).  Often people use a small envelope with one stamp and a floppy loader to ship.  This is just asking for trouble.
    • I didn't have any issues with cards being damaged when they got to me, but some were borderline below NM.  The rules on the site should be clear and concise. 
    • There is no Feedback system!  This site desperately needs a Feedback system so people who don't ship their cards out up to par or don't ship them out for several days or weeks can be held responsible and be avoided when necessary.  Other than a claim there is nothing these people have to worry about, and this needs to be changed ASAP

    Bottom Line:

    If you want to easily trade cards back and fourth then using Pucatrade is worth it.  But be careful on what you put on your Have or Want lists.  Pay attention to trends and card prices so you don't get taken advantage of.  The Rules on the site should be clearer and a little more strict.  Pucatrade needs a Feedback system, and because of that I'm giving Pucatrade a C+.   (If a Feedback system was in place my grade would be a B+ or A)


    Trying Pucatrade?  Here are some suggestions

    • Remember earlier in this entry when I mentioned I started using Pucatrade to get rid of bulk?  This can be tedious.  One of the best ways I've found is to go through your cards that you want to trade and search who wants them.  Then look at each one of those players want list and see what else they want.  Send as many cards to one person as you can, maximize shipping costs.  Sometimes even sending that player a PM asking if they were looking for anything else will give you an opportunity to send more bulk out or other cards in your binder they didn't have on their Want list.  Shipping bulk just isn't really worth it beyond searching Want lists for other cards in my binder.  To spend hours looking over Want lists to get rid of bulk cards just isn't worth my time.  I'd be better off buy listing the cards or putting a lot on eBay
    • If someone has a card on their list that is a different edition than what you have, send them a PM asking if they are wiling to accept it from a different set.  Most of the time they are OK with it.  Speaking of sets, always check the different sets of cards you want and set is irrelevant to you be careful which ones you put on your Want list.  You don't want to overpay for a card you can get for much less from a different set.
    • I don't ship out a card if it doesn't cover the cost of the stamp(s) or cost to send it.  I usually don't send it if it's even close.  .





    How I Ship Cards

    With websites like eBay, TCGPlayer and now Pucatrade, shipping cards is pretty common.  Whenever we buy or trade a card we expect it to get to us in the same condition it was shipped.  

    I've been selling cards on eBay for a while now and just started using Pucatrade.  In this blog I'm going to give a step by step of how I ship cards and what I've learned to avoid.  Hopefully this can be helpful to some of you.  

    First step is we need a card to ship, a card sleeve and a hard top loader.  I've learned the hard way that sometimes when you buy these items locally they charge and arm and a leg, so I've included links on some cheap places to buy them.  You want to package your cards carefully and well, but lets face it - the less we spend on shipping materials the better so the goal is to get the best deals when possible.




    So now that we have what we need, let's place the card in the sleeve and place the card into the top loader upside down.  I do this because if the card should slip up and almost go out of the top loader, if there is some tape on the top it could get stuck and damaged.  So if it's upside down the card sleeve will get stuck and not the card.




    Let's say we're shipping more than one card.  Do we have to use a top loader for every single card?  Well this depends.  If it's an expensive card I usually try to give each one it's own top loader, because I want to be careful not to stuff too many cards into a single top loader.  But if we're shipping some other commons out or something that isn't super expensive, I'll put them in a penny card sleeve and place that into the top loader.  Now remember that not all top loaders have the same size opening.  So if you have a bunch of top loaders laying around keep the ones that have a wider opening for these situations.  Again, place the penny sleeve in the top loader upside down to avoid any damage being done by the tape at the top of the loader.  It's a good habit to get into.




    Now we have everything we want to ship in top loaders. 





    Oh, and before I forget.  Try to avoid using those flimsy loaders.  They aren't sturdy and can get bent really easily. Top loaders aren't expensive when you get them from the right place, so don't skimp on this.  Spend the extra few cents and do it right.  You wouldn't want someone throwing cards you've bought or traded for into one of these and risk them being damaged, do you?  So package it like you'd expect to get your cards.




    From here we have a few choices.  Usually I like to add cardboard to each side of the group of cards and tape them together.  Not everyone does this.  In fact I thought it was common practice until I started using Pucatrade.  Every single trade I've gotten is just cards in a top loader and a regular envelope.  Not that that's bad, but I was a little surprised.  

    Now let's put all of the cards together so they don't move around.  I like to put a sticky pad on top of the sleeves, taping one side and using the adhesive on the other side.  This accomplishes two things: it avoids your cards moving around and getting stuck on the top loader, even if it's just the sleeve it's possible to damage the card.  And it puts less tape on the top loader.  Why is this important?  Because if you're a seller or trader chances are you re-use these materials each time you ship a card.  So out of courtesy you want the least amount of scotch tape on the loader as you can while still securing it.  This makes it easier to take the paper off of the top and also less time trying to scratch off used scotch tape to re-use the loader.  Pass it forward.

     Also, you can write trade numbers if you're shipping for Pucatrade, making it easier for the person receiving the cards to give you your points for a successful trade.  It's the little things.




    So let's review how to use cardboard on each side.  Remember that this will lead to more weight in the envelope, which means a bigger envelope and more shipping.  But again, it's a good habit to get into.

    Looking for some cardboard to use for this?  Do us all a favor and do not use corrugated cardboard.  Why?  Look at what's in the middle and imagine some cards being in the middle while it's smashed together.  It can imprint those lines right onto the card and ruin them.  




    What cardboard should you use?  Remember all those fatpack boxes you have laying around?  The cardboard those come with is perfect to cut and add to each side of the card.  If you don't want to butcher that cardboard then look around and I'm sure you'll find something you can use for this.  Put a top loader on it, grab a pair of scissors and cut it.  Remember to use an empty top loader for this, you don't want to accidentally cut into that card you're shipping.




    After both sides have been cut, tape them together and secure them.





    If you aren't using cardboard, another common practice that I've seen is you can wrap the cards together in a piece of paper.  If you use this method and are using Pucatrade, it's a good place to write the trade numbers on it and a little thank you note.  (Of course I have to plug the site when I can.)




    Now something some people forget is if you're shipping in an envelope, even if it's padded it's a good idea to write on the envelope "DO NOT BEND".  I'm told this makes a difference and can avoid the cards from being damaged during shipping.  I mean it's the Postal Service so take it with a grain of salt.  A lot of it is just crossing your fingers and hoping for the best from this point on.




    Remember to put enough postage on the envelope!  Whether you are selling or trading it's always a good idea to ship out ASAP.  

    These are my most common methods.  What are yours?  Is there something I should be doing that I'm not doing?  Let me know in the comments below and if you enjoyed this entry please share!









    Browsing through my YouTube subscriptions, I noticed @MTGZuby had a pack opening video for CardZoom Dual Land Grab Bags.  I had already heard about them from the CardZoom YouTube channel but after seeing Zubys video I figured why the hell not drop a few bucks and take a chance.  

    I went over to eBay and picked up 4 packs at $5 each and free shipping.  From the CardZoom eBay sale


    The packs were sent quickly, but I waited a few days to open so I could do a pack opening on YouTube as well.  Unfortunately the video turned out pretty shitty (I'm still learning) so I decided to do a blog entry here instead.

    My first pack was:


    Full art Island from Zendikar - $0.80

    Deranged Outcast - $0.10

    Isochron Scepter - $2.25

    Total: $3.15


    Pack 2:



    Full art Island from Zendikar - $0.20

    Sanctifier of Souls - $0.08

    Defiler of Souls - $1.25

    Total: $1.53


    Pack 3: 



    Foil Mountain from Innistrad - $0.71

    Touch of the Eternal - $0.08

    Lightning Angel - $0.26

    Total: $1.05


    Pack 4:



    Full art Forest from Zendikar - $0.20

    Gaze of Granite - $0.15

    Dauntless Escort (foil) - $2.02

    Total: $2.37


    Spent on 4 packs: $20

    Card value: $4.68

    Difference: -$15.32


    I usually don't buy grab bags, especially when the sellers mysteriously send high value cards to YouTubers to open on camera.  After watching  the CardZoom video, I felt like it was legit and I wanted to help support him.  With grab bags you are gambling and hoping for the best.  So even though I'm in the hole $15 I received what was advertised and that is the chance you take.  Because of that, I can't complain.  It's like putting $20 in a slot machine and hoping a Dual Land pops out.  All in all I'm fine with the purchase.  I'm not sure if I'll pull the lever again and cross my fingers, maybe a pack or two more just because the anticipation can be exciting.  (addict)

    If you are the type to spend a few bucks and take a chance, then I'd recommend it.  If you aren't the gambling type and prefer sealed product, then this probably isn't for you.


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