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First off, let me throw out there that I am a shy person by default, but I love physically trading cards in Magic: The Gathering (MTG). The social aspect of trading the cards you have face-to-face with someone else can be plenty of fun. You are not trading anonymously with someone behind a computer screen or anything like that. You are interacting with others on a player-to-player level. It truly emphasizes the “T” portion of a TCG (Trading Card Game). Some players trade cards to improve their decks, some trade for collections and some just like exchanging cards just to make new friends.

When you learn to trade properly, not only can you reap the benefits of saving money on those sought-after cards, but you will build up a reputation as someone others can trust.

Below are five random tips I have picked up over the years that I keep in mind when trading, in no particular order of significance.

Cat Binder

Making your trade binder stand out from others on the table helps. I put unique cat stickers on mine so I can always see where the binder is, even from far away.

1. Maintain Organization

For most players, keeping your tradeable cards nice and tidy within your trade binder may be common sense, but neglecting to do so will lead to plenty of problems otherwise. I am not saying you necessarily need to sort cards out alphabetically or anything like that, but having some sense of order with potentially so many cards jammed into a given binder will make it easier for both you and for other players who search through it.

This is why I never have trades as a giant stack of cards. For one thing, it is all too messy. How can I keep tabs on what is there and what is not practically? A binder just makes all of the sense in the world.

For me, I at least try to divide my cards up by color/type. I also put especially rare and important cards on certain pages so I can double-check where they are instantly if I need to. If you just put those expensive cards in randomly, you are setting yourself for lots of “accidents.”

Chandra, Flamecaller


Fortunately in MTG, the cards being naturally separated by their color makes organization much easier.

2. Be Vigilant

This goes without saying, but you should be mindful of your own stuff. Always pay attention with whomever you are trading with, making sure they do not pull anything funny. You have to keep people honest. Literally, look away one moment and you can end up finding some of your most treasured cards suddenly missing. You do not want to assume the worst about players, but you are dealing with cards worth, collectively, a lot of money. Be vested in making sure your money does not walk away from you because of a thief.

In particular, I make it a personal rule with people I trade with that they cannot take a card out of its page unless I say it is OK. And if they do find card(s), they are interested in, I ask them to put them onto the table in plain view so I can keep track. Regardless, just remember to approach the whole trading process in a calm manner while being vigilant.

Nissa Art

No need to be tense about trades. Just take it easy.

3. Be Friendly

No one likes dealing with a rude, unpleasant person. So when it comes to trading cards, just be chill. I have dealt with my share of impatient/basically hostile people. Looking through trades should be enjoyable. It is fun to see another person’s trade collection, so why is there any reason to be anything other than happy? Just make any trade lighthearted, start up a conversation and keep it all casual. It makes the whole process that much easier for everyone.

4. Trade Fairly

Perhaps it is the fact that I am not good at bargaining aggressively, but I am very straightforward with my trading approaches. I do not try to be dishonest. I usually just try to trade cards for roughly the same value in return. Using an app like MTG Familiar saves you a lot of the guesswork for current card prices.

There are some players who will trade down to the penny, and there are some who will be fine with a marginal gap between what each side is bringing to the table. At the end of the day, you have to be happy with what you are trading. If you do not like the other person’s offer, just apologize politely and then move on to the next thing. If you do trade successfully, great! For me, I always end every trade with a simple handshake to seal the deal.

This is because…

The Gathering

“The Gathering” portion of Magic’s name refers to everything gathering together. Make sure you do your part to form a great community.

5. Reputation Matters

When it comes to a physical card game, your reputation as a player whenever you visit a local store is quite important. Beyond playing the game itself, your reputation is also tied to how you trade cards with others. Are you cheap? Do you make good deals? Do you rip people off? Do you have a vast collection? It all matters.

In other words, it all goes back to the social aspect of MTG. When you are dealing with face-to-face interactions, it pays to be nice. If you pull off a successful trade transaction one day with someone, that same person will be inclined to trade with you down the road.

This in particular saves you a lot of money on cards and builds up your reputation as a likable, respectable player.

At the end of the day, a lot of these tips are just common sense. However, as someone who prides himself on being a budget player for MTG, I think trading is such a fundamental activity when you are playing a card game. It is more than just the cards themselves. It is about building a wonderful community for everyone to enjoy.

Happy trading.

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Magic: The Gathering images belong to Wizards of the Coast.

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