I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m a big believer in the concept of instant gratification. I tend to get pretty consumed by projects, and I don’t like to have loose ends lying around. Sometimes I get in a bit over my head (Hi, Imshan!) and do a bad job of following up on things, but for the most part, if there’s a way to make something happen, I’ll do it however I can.
It’s this drive that causes me to go to Home Depot in the morning, buy supplies to install a new lawn drain and stone driveway border, get halfway done, head back to Home Depot for stuff I forgot, come home, nearly complete things, realize I’m missing a very small piece of the project that isn’t even all that important, and head back to Home Depot a third time to make sure I finish thing up.
This drives my wife nuts, since I can’t even manage to finish installing the built-in for the washer and dryer. (Not fun, not interested, apparently.)
I carry this over to my EDH decks as well. If I get bitten by the bug and start a new project deck, I theory-craft, make sure I have all angles covered, complete my list, pull from my existing card pool, and then usually immediately log on to some combination of Ebay, CardShark, and various online vendors to buy up everything else I need.
This is problematic at times. Dual lands are expensive, for example.
Anyway, the point is that being old, having disposable income, and/or being also lazy means that I haven’t actually participated in a trade in over a decade (closer to about fifteen years, really.) There are a few reasons for this; one is that the advent of the smartphone means that every single person out there wants to make sure that they’re getting full value in their trades, which means a ton of time searching and (as a result) a ton of time taken to complete a basic trade. I don’t particularly enjoy playing the value game; I really want to point at a few cards I want; have my trade partner do the same, shake hands, and move on.
That’s apparently an antiquated notion these days.
The second reason is that I typically know exactly what I want, so I don’t like sitting back and going through a binder to see what catches my eye. That will make my trades very short, sweet, and usually unsuccessful; If the two or three cards I want aren’t in a binder, I’m done. If my trade partner can’t match values, I’m done. It’s so frustrating that I just don’t go there.
So the guys from Commandercast.com (Well, Jud mostly, and some of the associated crew) have been Tweeting for some time about PucaTrade. I had actually signed up for an account a while back and never done anything with it, due to all of the other things I have taking up my time as of late. These guys are crazy about it, though, to the point that more than half of my Twitter feed is them talking about this thing to one extent or another. I’d been watching things on that front, and at about the same time Eric (the owner and creator of PucaTrade) reached out to me to take another look and hopefully give him a hand spreading the word, I had gotten up to speed on things and was getting ready to pull the trigger anyway, so this will serve as my review of the service.
That does warrant a bit of a disclaimer. Eric did approach and ask me if I’d put something up on GeneralDamageControl about PucaTrade. However, I want to note that this wouldn’t be the first time that someone has done this, and I simply won’t throw my support at people that I don’t think warrant it. I don’t want GDC to become a spineless advertising shill, so I had to think about doing this before I told Eric I would accept.
The reason I’m okay with writing this today is that I’m happy to support other Magic-centric grassroots efforts out there, and PucaTrade is certainly getting attention from a lot of EDH players in specific, so it’s on-topic for us. Eric is doing a really cool thing for the community as a whole, and he’s not charging for the service; no fees change hands to make this thing work, so you essentially get out of it what you personally put into it. That’s a pretty solid testament and a great alternative to paying retail prices elsewhere or taking hits on dealer buylists, so I’m happy to give Eric some coverage as a result. He’s one of the good guys.
Personally, what I need from an experience like this is ease of use. I’m managing and writing for GDC, writing for StarCityGames and LegitMTG, helping out with the LegitMTG editing, managing a full sales portfolio on CardShark, doing a (terrible) job staying current with card alterations, and trying to get in some time to build some decks and play some games as well. All in my spare time. This had to be really easy.
Fortunately, it is. It’s a simple matter of adding cards that you want to trade to your portfolio, adding cards that you’d like to trade for to your portfolio, and letting the site do the work.
Adding cards is cake. Log into your account, head up in the menu to “Trading” and go to ‘Have List.” You get a window with a quick card adder at the top, which searches for cards as you type. Once you see the card and the set you have for trade, click on it, and it gets added to your “Haves” queue.
The same is true for your want list. The windows look the same and function the same. Search for cards you’re looking for, click on the card when you see it, and it’s added to your list.
From here, the site does some legwork, and the next stop is the ‘Send a Card” menu. If you have a card in your “Have List” and someone wants it (and has enough currency in their account to afford it – more on that later), it will automatically pop up in your “Send a Card” menu; if you double-click on the instance, you can then accept the trade if you want, and you’ll get a window with the address of the person you need to send the card to. Toss the card in a sleeve and an envelope, throw it in the mail, and you’re good to go. Once the person gets the card from you, they go into their “Active Trades”, click on the trade number, and complete the trade.
This is where the economy comes into play. Each card has a value that is constantly pulled from TCGPlayer. This is nice because it is a real value, rather than a single dealer cost. Given value seems to be roughly one PucaPoint = 1 cent, so a copy of Indrik Stomphowler might cost 38 PucaPoints because that’s the average sale price across the internet, while something like Survival of the Fittest will ring in somewhere near 2250 points.
Going back to the trade – when a person completes a trade, points equal to the value of the card sent are taken from their account and added to yours. Once you have enough points to cover a card in your want list, it will be added to the “Send a Card” queue of anyone who has one for trade, and they can send it to you if they choose.
Pretty simple, and very hands-off.
I like the system because it does a few things very well. First, it takes value out of the equation. You accept that your cards are worth what the internet average is, and that’s what you’ll give and get for them. Second, it doesn’t require you to find people to trade with that will have the exact cards you’re looking for. You’re trading with the system acting as a middleman, so if a card is available, the person who has it will know and have the option to send it. This is great for someone like me that doesn’t want to deal with the added baggage of trading.
There are a few downsides so far. The big one at the moment is that PucaTrade only supports trades for near-mint or mint condition cards, non-foils, and English language cards. This is a bit of a bummer if you’re looking to foil a deck out, for example; I had a ton of trouble figuring out what cards to add to my “want” list because my only real current project is foiling out my Prime Speaker deck. Also, I have a ton of cards that aren’t in NM condition, so that cuts out a good chunk of what I can put up in good faith. (It’s worth it to note that there is a process to open a dispute if you don’t receive points, or if the card you receive isn’t in the correct condition.)
The other downside is that you’re at the mercy of the people who have the cards you want to actually decide to accept and send to you. Since there are a lot of small-value cards, it’s worth it to wait to see if you can get several cards accepted to the same person to save on shipping costs. As a result, if all you’re looking for is a single copy of Rampant Growth, it could be a while before someone decides to waste a stamp, sleeve and envelope to send it to you.
Of course, sometimes the cards you want aren’t available, or the ones you have are unwanted. I have a copy of Jace, Architect of Thought and a Wurmcoil Engine that are sitting at the top of my “Haves” list with no takers, and I’d love to have the 2000-odd points in my account so I can grab some stuff with it, but neither one is moving. People sure want all of the copies of Phyrexian Reclamation I have for 48 points each, though…
So it is a system with limitations, but as long as you’re comfortable with the pace, it can really pay off in the long run. I’m sure there are some people that move mountains of cards on a daily basis, and I’ve heard of Revised Duals changing hands through the system, so it does work.
So far for me, I’m still getting up to speed. I haven’t had any of my sent cards complete yet, so I’ve received no points. I have, however shipped out stuff that I couldn’t sell in a year on my CardShark account…things like Viridian Zealot and Giant Adephage. Turning those into cards I’ll actually use for the cost of a few stamps seems like a good deal to me.
That brings up the “actual cost of use” issue. Like I said, PucaTrade doesn’t take any of the transactions for profit, and the values of the cards are pretty well set. The intangible cost is in the shipping, which is pretty wide open. If you can combine trades to a single person in one package, you’ll save money and make more value on your deals as a result. Even if you don’t, though, it’s not bad. I typically spend about $.50 in shipping and materials to send between one and about eight or ten cards, so for me, the value I get is in the time saved to get someone to take a Revised Basalt monolith off my hands. Again, this is worth it for me, although I understand that everyone will look at this differently. I know some traders simply won’t ship unless they can send a certain threshold of value to a single person. Your mileage may vary.
Anyway, I’m still new to this, so I’ll absolutely be updating as I go. For the time being, check out the main site here. Reading the FAQ will really fill in the cracks that I’ve left here. I understand that there are things like list uploaders, and there’s a “PucaPro” paid service that gets you some additional benefits as well for a small monthly fee if you’re feeling it.
Eric did let me know that he’s in the final phase of an IndieGoGo fundraiser to help develop the site further with new features and keep it all free to the users, so if you like what you see and want to help him out, the link to that project is here.
All in all, this is turning out to be pretty cool. I’ll let you all know how it pans out; in the meantime, if you see “DJCatchem” pop up in your “Send a Card’ queue, hook a brother up.