10 Lessons from Magic the Gathering
15 years ago I was a vicious little Magic the Gathering card collector.
I loved every aspect of it:
- the artwork,
- the strategy of playing the game,
- and most important: trading the cards themselves.
Here’s a Top-10 list of life lessons I learned as a middle school Magic card trader:
1. Auction environments are fun
Trading is exhilarating.
You learn a lot about what people care about, and how to get people to share with you what it is that they care about.
2. Asymmetric information is your edge
You can conquer the market by having the most information.
Get info on who has which cards, how rare the cards are, and who has demand.
3. Punish bad actors
No one trades with an asshole. Assholes will:
- “shop” their bad trades around trying to find a sucker,
- use coercion (e.g. wedgies, tittie-twisters),
- cry about their ill-fortune
A healthy community will punish assholes by blacklisting them from trades.
They may have to buy their way back into good favor by taking a bad trade to prove their standing.
4. Find secondary market liquidity
Lunchtime isn’t the only marketplace for trading.
You can meet outside of school, find new participants, and pay for new cards from the store.
5. Batch trades are sometimes easier
Let your counterparty feel in-control by offering to increase the deal size + scope.
This signals that you care about finding a trade that benefits everyone.
6. Understanding your counterparty’s intent
At least half of trade volume arises from asking counterparties to share what it is they are seeking.
They can’t say “yes” if you never ask (the same is true of dating 😉).
7. Track scarcity
Know who has which cards.
This makes you the fastest to be able to find counterparties for your trades.
This is how you capture “alpha” (risk-free profit).
8. Combinatorial discovery
Identify winning card combinations and educate other market participants on your findings.
They will come to you for consultation and “first look” at trades due to your reputation.
9. Price anchoring
Sometimes yelling “NO” has a strong effect on the market’s impression of an asset’s value.
10. Visual appeal
Some people are in the market because the artwork is cool.
Consider all the properties of your assets beyond the dollar-value.
A final lesson
People often confuse “competitive” with “zero-sum.”
In the long run, trading only happens because it’s consensual.