Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lend Your Cards!

There are so many articles about MTG finance and trading and how to maximize value out of the game by acting in a completely self-interested manner. This is not one of those. This article is about why you- yes, you- should immediately lend way more cards at Magic tournaments. I don’t mean just to close friends and teammates, though that’s obviously fine. I mean friends-of-friends, people in competing playgroups, that guy you saw Top Eight once, the guy who knocked you out of the last tournament, and little Timmy at his first FNM. And not just a couple uncommons here and there: I want you to start the first round of the GP with your binder spread out through the tournament hall, those dual lands and Snapcasters beign put to good use. Not just that, but you should take the first step in offering to lend these people cards.


It builds community. A lot of Magic tournaments, especially big ones, have small groups of people that cross paths very little. With increased communication and investment between people, in the form of cards lent back and forth, Magic scenes and player groups are going to talk to each other more than ever before. What better way to start communication between the group of Texan players that drove 15 hours to a GP and the ones from Toronto that flew there than a heavy investment in each other’s decks? Competitive players and more casual ones, that go to big tournaments mostly to show off their EDH decks, are going to interact with one another a lot more if they’re lending Wastelands and Doubling Seasons back and forth. This concept will be familiar to anyone who’s studied the history of civilizations’ growth (or read books such as Guns, Germs, and Steel): the successful groups are the ones that interact with others and trade information back and forth.

It’ll make people like you more. See, there is a self-interested reason. Instead of just being that guy with a binder full of expensive stuff that does some trading here and there, now you’re the guy that’s supplied crucial last-minute cards to three players you barely knew. If you’re a mediocre player (and let’s face it, you probably are), that’ll get you testing with more people, getting constructive advice on your decks, and generally giving you more access to more information from more people. And what if that guy you lent Garruks ends up taking down the PTQ? Now you know someone that’s going to the PT.

It’s more efficient and cost-effective. Before every tournament, players spend hundreds of dollars on last-minute cards, and dozens of copies were sitting unused in other players’ binders. That’s just a huge waste. Save Magic players money by lending them cards, and more people can afford to travel farther and to more tournaments. And just think about how many subpar decks were played because people didn’t have the cards to switch to a better one. The only alternative, if those people didn’t want to spend money, was giving up their whole collection to value-trading assholes at the last minute because that trader knew they had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to gouge them to the breaking point. And for those traders out there, you should lend as well: what are the chances you’re actually going to find a good trade for those specific cards during the tournament? Isn’t that a risk you can be willing to take given all these other benefits?

In the world of social media, the risk is negligible. If I’m trying to get someone to loan me a Bayou for my Elves deck at a Legacy GP, I’m going to tell them that I’m Jesse Mason from Rhinebeck, New York, and they’ll have my phone number, email, facebook profile, and twitter handle. How could I possibly run off with their cards? It’ll be all over the internet within hours, and no one will want to hear a damn thing I say because I stole some poor fellow’s cards. This isn’t just because I write now and then; nearly everyone that plays serious Magic has a network of people they talk to online with various forms of social media, and information spreads quickly about anyone. Worst case: I accidentally do take someone’s cards home with me, we’ll contact each other and I can mail them back as soon as possible. Anyone doing that on purpose will borrow cards exactly once and never show their face again anywhere.

It makes the game more accessible. I don’t have the data to tell me if it’s the number one cause of leaving the game, but the cost of Magic is a huge hurdle to people getting started and continuing to play. If that just-picked-up-the-game FNM player doesn’t have to drop $100 on his goofy Standard deck because you can spot him the cards for it, he’s going to keep coming back to FNM. Every week. If you don’t think a few more FNM players at every store around the country is going to have a positive impact on those communities and those stores, you don’t know much about how those things work.

All the good players do it. You think pro-quality players are walking into every tournament with thousands of dollars of cards for every possible deck they might make? They’re proxying copies of rares that sell for $5 the day before the tournament, knowing they can easily get copies of any possible 75 cards the instant they decide on what deck they want to play.

Finally: because you’ll get cards lent back to you once people know you as a decent person that’ll do the same for them. This will save you the trouble of grinding out trades trying to get to your new Modern deck, and you certainly won’t have to overnight cards any more when the whole tournament knows who you are.

I genuinely hope people take this to heart. I’m sick of seeing people drop huge amounts of money or using large blocks of time to get what they want when those cards are only two tables away from them.


Gaddock said...

There are multiple issues with your approach:

1) Magic cards are pretty expensive as you already mentioned. Having your cards spread out to players in a GP is not very wise, unless you REALLY know the people you're giving the cards to.

2) What happens when playing in a PTQ where you 0 - 2 DROP, want to go back home to do something else useful (study, watch a movie, etc.) and the players who have your cards are still in contention?

3) The whole idea of lending cards is that the player to whom you lend the cards will eventually lend you some cards you need and don't have. What happens when you lend week after week the same 4 Tarmogoyf to a regular FNM player who doesn't bother to buy anymore cards as he knows you will be there to provide.

Drew Levin said...

And this is why I have a Legacy box -- it's not like I play with those Plateaus, but half a dozen people who aren't me have. Good idea, but your optimism belies your naivete:

People are obsessed with value in this community. That's the problem behind value traders, behind scummy PTQ grinder-level angleshooting rules lawyers, and behind people who "accidentally" take cards home with them. If you don't track them down, they'll forget. It's an occupational hazard of being a supplier.

I wish that more people would be generous, but too many people try to extract value from every interaction. Until that mentality shifts, I doubt that your vision will flourish as it ought to.

Alec said...

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The first step in shifting that mentality is to show others, by example, that it doesn't have to be that way. It's probably true that in the beginning, one or two people will get ripped off. I personally am willing to take this risk for the benefit of the game and the community as a whole.

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