Here is the introduction about me. And there it goes!
If you’re reading this, you’re reading to learn more about PucaTrade. During my time as a silent observer of the MTG finance community, I’ve noticed that the site seems either misunderstood or has been wholly misrepresented as a trading tool.
Hopefully I’m able to finish this article before the #2 value trader surpasses me (holding steady at #1); I give it a week, maybe less. He moves quickly, and I’d like to have at least SOME credentials when talking about this service. Sadly, I wasn’t able to both write and publish this article before I was surpassed. He is now #1. I guess you should take everything I say with a grain of salt.
Damn you, Newman.
What PucaTrade Is
On the surface, PucaTrade just seems to be a more automated, streamlined means of online trading. And that’s really all it is. What a reveal! PucaTrade is a platform with which you essentially convert your cards into currency (PucaPoints), which you can then offer to other users who have cards you want. It is a mechanism for trading without haggling. It’s very streamlined and automated, and the staff is very good at resolving problems in a timely manner, but I’ll get to the pros and cons later.
PucaTrade has been around since May or June of last year, and started to pick up a little more steam when Chas Andres mentioned it offhand in an article about online trading resources like Trader League and Deckbox and all that. (Incidentally, I was just getting back into the game at this time and this is what got me into Puca.) Membership swelled after Eric and the team garnered a ton of publicity with the Kickstarter, and now that the new website is operational, making want lists completely visible to the trading public, I anticipate membership continuing to climb.
PucaTrade is, for all intents and purposes, a completely free service—sign up, list those cards, send ‘em out, and put 1000 Zendikar full-art lands onto your want list. The team is still smoothing out the different tiers of paid membership, though; as an early PucaPro subscriber, I have been grandfathered in at the old rate, but yearly membership is now either $3.75 or $7.50 a month, depending on how much extra stuff you want to be able to do on the site. Receiving foils is a popular one, for sure, and I’ve taken considerable advantage of being able to receive those. But if you don’t feel like convenience is worth your money, then you can just easily make an old-school have/want list in the PucaTrade forums and work out a deal with someone there for the foils you’re after. (Which, of course, is how “we” did it back in the “old days.”)
Eric Freytag (the man in charge) and his team are, of course, hard at work developing new and interesting reasons to throw money at the site, and I’ll be excited to see what they roll out, but PucaTrade Silver or Uncommon or whatever the heck we’re calling that tier meets my needs perfectly well for the time being. It’s all about evaluating what exactly you want to get out of the site—free is perfectly reasonable for a lot of folks!
What People Seem To Worry About
As an advocate for the site, I try to read every article and discussion on PucaTrade that I come across (though I only occasionally take part in the conversation), and the two major concerns that a lot of people have raised are essentially variations on one question: can I trust this site?
The first common concern is in regards to the site’s stability or longevity: “If I invest my cards, money, and time into PucaTrade, how can I be sure that my investment will be secure or stable?”
There’s a fatalistic short answer to this: as with all investments, you really can’t “be sure.” The development and administration teams could all have a simultaneous heart attack. Some unscrupulous hacker/Magic financier could figure out how to supply himself with all the points he could ever want (though I’m pretty sure that this kind of thing only happens in the movies). PucaTrade is not legally binding the way eBay or TCGPlayer are, and until it reaches a certain size I expect that it will remain nonprofit instead of becoming an actual business.
But faith in an investment plays a significant role in that investment’s stability, and there are an awful lot of people who have placed their faith in this system. Eric puts a great deal of time and effort into maintaining this juggernaut he’s created, and I don’t even think it’d be possible for him to “cut and run” or whatever the conspiracists of the online Magic community worry about. I’m fairly certain that he’s not profiting any more off of PucaTrade than any of its other subscribers, and while I am always going to be a fan of greater transparency on the site’s part, I am willing to trust that Eric and PucaTrade.com aren’t just going to disappear overnight. There are going to be cards to send and people to send you cards on the site for a long while, barring some unprecedented Magic market crash.
The second concern I’ll address has been previously raised in hilarious, inflammatory fashion by certain groups on Twitter. “What if I send a card and it mysteriously disappears in the mail?”
This is frankly always a danger when sending cards to anyone through the mail—and, unlike other trading sites with which I am passively familiar, PucaTrade has not yet implemented a “feedback” system (I’ll probably expand on how one could be implemented and why at a later time). Fortunately, what PucaTrade does have is a dedicated team of administrators who actively engage with users whose cards haven’t been received or who have yet to receive their cards. The team moderates communication between the two traders and sees to it that cases are resolved. Ultimately, the only negative that I’ve experienced with the case resolution system is that sometimes it can tie up your points—which is only really a negative when a card is about to spike or when you really need a card for an upcoming tournament. (Again, there will be stories later.)
As one of the higher-volume traders on PucaTrade, why haven’t people tried to rip me off more? I’ve sent three Jace, the Mind Sculptors on PucaTrade successfully, and when I attempted to sell the fourth and final JTMS on eBay, the buyer insisted that I’d sent him a fake. Why can I send high-value items on PucaTrade without worrying that I’m going to get scummed?
My wishy-washy hypothesis is this: PucaTrade is a small and relatively familiar community. I’ve sent cards to the same people and received cards from the same people time and time again—I recognized their names even before Puca Revised started showing names on trades (an important feature that, as ever, I will discuss in detail *later*). We follow each other on Twitter. PucaTrade provides an open environment for healthy communication between users and I anticipate that this helps foster a strange sense of community that, yes, might contribute to the relative lack of scumbaggery on the site. (The small-community nature of Puca also serves an advantage because, though we presently lack a feedback system, someone trying to game the system would become very obvious very quickly to the administrators.)
What PucaTrade Is For
PucaTrade, despite what I see some folks attempting, isn’t really optimized for obtaining piles of cards that have just recently spiked, or for dumping those cards at the peak of their hype. It is not an emergency solution when you need a surprise bit of tech for the PTQ in three days. PucaTrade is a sizable trading community for people who don’t have sizable trading communities available to them.
When I joined PucaTrade last year, I was living in a town of about 1000 with maybe ten to fifteen other Magic players. Our trading group had become fairly incestuous; we had all the cards we wanted from each other and there wasn’t really a lot of back and forth unless someone pulled something crazy—we had to drive to Buffalo or Rochester if we wanted to acquire something new for our Standard decks without spending a lot of money (which, it turns out, was not in abundance for a bunch of undergrads or recent grads living in a farming community).
PucaTrade singlehandedly emptied my binder of (from our perspective) useless EDH staples and turned them into Modern cards—Celestial Colonnades, Remands, Lorwyn Thoughtseizes before that horrifying spike. Local trades became much simpler, as well; if I didn’t have the card that they really needed before they’d trade away their Vendilion Clique, I soon would. PucaTrade simultaneously plunged me into the world of Magic finance and my playgroup into the world of Modern.
Admittedly, Puca can be used to grind out some significant value, especially now that the PucaPoint value index has been changed from the ever-popular TCG mid price to an aggregate of price information taken from sources across the internet. Some cards (especially foils) are worth significantly more than they would have been under the old pricing metric; others, such as cards that have recently spiked, older cards, or foil Zendikar full-art lands, are somehow underpriced. Keeping an active knowledge base of what’s over- and under-valued on Puca can let you maximize how much you’re able to get out of the service. That is, if you’re exclusively shooting for monetary value.
A rather amusing trend that’s been cropping up with the advent of value traders subscribing to Puca is this: four or five people will put one or two playsets of a card that has recently spiked on TCG but hasn’t been subsequently updated in the PucaTrade Price Index. Of course, people holding these cards tend to be a bit suspicious, because obviously something is going on if a card that no one really wanted until recently suddenly has 18+ wants on your “Send A Card” page. The person holding the Splinter Twins/Griselbrands/Spellskites pops over to magiccards.info and shazam! Information. The trend is interesting, and I’d be curious to know more about the actual success rate versus how many people are realizing that their cards shot up thanks to five or six people suddenly wanting a bunch of copies.
Regardless of my feelings in regard to the Price Index being somewhat slow to update (and that tiny, vindictive part of me that hopes it suddenly adjusts to the actual market value and catches folks with their pants down), I would ultimately appreciate more transparency regarding the Index. While the TCG mid price can be altered and affected by outside sources, it really is a consistent representation of a card’s going market value. The current PucaTrade price index allowed me to turn six Restoration Angels (TCG mid 499 points, PucaPoint value 692 points) into three Griselbrands (TCGMid 1499 points, PucaPoint value 1392 points). For those of you who don’t care to do the math, even without Griselbrand’s recent spike to $18 on TCG, I came away with what was essentially a free Griselbrand. While I understand that transparency with regards to the index could allow some people to get an edge by making it easier to predict when to send and acquire certain cards, I think that discrepancies highlighted by this trade and others show the need to at least understand from where these point-value assignments are coming.
The long and short of it is: you can grind PucaTrade for value. You can also use it for what (I suspect) was Eric Freytag’s intended purpose in creating the site: to have access to binders that you’d never have otherwise, and to avoid the sharking that unfortunately is a reality in many Magic trading communities. I think what Eric and PucaTrade have done and continue to do is a wonderful service to both the finance community and to the Magic-playing community at large, and I only hope that Puca continues to expand and improve as more and more people sign up and start sending cards.
You can look forward to a primer explaining the very basics of using PucaTrade soon. The primer will be filled with useful information, but also I’ll try to share some of my interesting stories involving PucaTrade along the way. Thanks for reading!
In the meantime, Give and Let Give.