About the Author
DC/NoVA Modern player and judge. Literacy clinician and budding child psychologist.

PucaPrimer, Part One

So you want to become a PucaTrader.

The first and most obvious step in this process is simply registering with the site. Instead of assuming that you, the reader, has registered on a website at some point in the past, I’m going to be very patronizing and walk you through it. After you put “” into the address bar on the browser of your choice, you’re going to click that big blue button in the top right corner that reads “Register.” Or scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Sign Up Now.” Either way, you will reach the registration page, which prompts you for your full name, email address, and your password. Check the box marked “Agree to Terms of Use” without reading them and click the “Sign Up” button.

Incredible. You have done it.

Wait, they made a video of how to use PucaTrade? Why are you reading this?

Signing in will bring you to your Dashboard, which is pretty evocative of a customizable front page but at the moment is pretty non-customizable. A feature for another day, perhaps? There’s a basic video tutorial of PucaTrade here, a series of articles written by PucaTrade staff, and various stats. If you’re anything like me, you’re a huge sucker for statistics. There’s a log of recent (completed) trade activity, broad statistics such as total cards offered and total completed trades, as well as the Top Traders list.

I found out to put images in the article! Happy day!

Up at the top right corner of the page will be your personal menu, your current PucaPoint total, and the big blue “Send a Card” button. We’ll worry about sending cards later—for now, let’s make sure you’re actually capable of sending them. Opening the personal menu gives you a bunch of options, but let’s just go to “My Account” so you can enter your address. This address is required to send and receive cards—back in the Beta days, you could only know the address of the person to whom you were sending cards. This obviously made it hard to figure out who sent you which of four separate [card]Celestial Colonnade[/card]s without trade numbers written on them. Fortunately, PucaTrade Revised allows you to check the address of the person sending you the cards, making the whole process much less frustrating for both parties.

Story Time

I joined PucaTrade in late August of 2012 after a Chas Andres article suggested it as a trading tool. I’d recently gotten back into Magic after an ill-advised and fortunately short-lived hiatus from the game. I’d sold pretty much all of my high-value Standard and Modern cards, minus a Melira Pod deck and a few assorted shocks. The idea of an online trading community interested me greatly, though for some reason I’d always been a bit daunted by Deckbox or the MTG Salvation trading forums.

I signed up and immediately began to send out EDH cards—[card]Balefire Liege[/card], [card]Fauna Shaman[/card], [card]Scapeshift[/card] (before Valakut received the unbanhammer). Later that evening, I signed up for the PucaTrade forums and found that one user was simply requesting that people send him [card]Snow-Covered Mountain[/card]s. Coldsnap or Ice Age, he didn’t seem to care which or how many. It happened that I had a number of snow-covered lands, picked up as bulk commons along with a number of other non-bulk commons from a local seller. I sent him thirty-three [card]Snow-Covered Mountain[/card]s, along with a couple of [card]Stonecloaker[/card]s, totaling just under the 2,150 points I needed for my first [card]Cavern of Souls[/card].

Back to Priming

Now that your address has been listed, let’s get down to the first Herculean task you must complete: listing your cards! This is another aspect of PucaTrade which has been made significantly easier with the advent of Revised. While in Beta, if you wanted any hope of being able to send significant quantities of cards, you had to put every single one of your cards onto your Haves list—obviously this was crazy infeasible and inefficient and very few people actually bothered to list all the cards they had available to send.

With Revised, however, all Want lists are entirely public (so long as you have the points necessary to receive your cards), which means that if you really want to grind out points by sending out piles of low-value cards to work your way up to duals, a lot of the grunt work is already taken care of for you. Thanks to Revised, the extent of your work boils down to listing your high-value cards and other cards that you’d like to see move as quickly as possible. These cards will show up on your “Auto-Matching” send list, which only shows cards on your Haves List that people actively want and have the points for.

Unless you are blessed with a significant inventory of highly-desired Legacy and EDH staples, your auto-matching list is going to be relatively small a lot of the time. There are a lot of Standard staples (and commons and uncommons) sitting on my Haves list, and yet all that is presently on my auto-matching send list is a [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card], some [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card]es, and a pair of [card]Rubblebelt Raiders[/card]. Yet, in the past week I’ve sent out a [card]Griselbrand[/card], a [card]Spellskite[/card], and a set of [card]Karn Liberated[/card], and I check PucaTrade only once or twice a day.

The auto-matching send list is a very interesting bit of tech, but I’m of the firm belief that Revised’s new “universal” send list is directly responsible for a rate of sent cards much higher than anything PucaTrade could have anticipated when the site first started. In the first day of Revised alone, the new list allowed me to send nearly $200 of cards out, solely by virtue that I’d forgotten to put them onto my haves list and just assumed that no one ever wanted them. It’s a grinder’s paradise, and even for the omnipresent high-value wants, savvy traders will keep in mind that foil Lorwyn [card]Cryptic Command[/card] or Beta [card]Hypnotic Specter[/card] when they’re making their rounds at local game stores.

The send list itself is broken up into four ascending/descending lists: the card’s value in PucaPoints, the user requesting, the points that the user requesting has available, and the name of the card itself. I prefer to show the list with card value descending; it gives me a good idea of what high-value cards people are presently pursuing, in addition to alerting me to sudden and obvious spikes in the values of certain cards.

Mana Drain is apparently the card of the day

I also knew immediately when one user saved up enough points to request Beta Moxes. That was an exciting moment.

Being able to see a user’s available points is an incredibly important resource. I’ve made a number of trades that (at first) I probably wouldn’t have agreed to, but a quick sift through their public want list allowed me to pad the 300 point trade with various 10 to 25 point commons and uncommons (and bulk rares). An individual’s want list can be accessed through the send a card list by clicking on their name—but it’s much easier to sort the send list by “user points, descending,” which gives you a pretty clear look at what people with a lot of points are hoping to be sent. Being able to move otherwise bulk cards is on the same level of efficiency as bulking out commons to Cool Stuff, Inc. or adventuresON. For a lot of folks, the grind isn’t worth the investment, but if you know your collection pretty well, then the additional effort is negligible.

More Stories

Going down my trade history list on Puca generates a fair deal of nostalgia, to be sure—reminding me of the time that I thought [card]Favorable Winds[/card] was going to be an actual deck to deal with in Standard, or the point at which my deck of choice was switched from Melira Pod to Kiki Pod (and I haven’t looked back since!). It also serves as a personal testament of exactly how the Magic secondary market functions, and how utterly ridiculous some of the price fluctuations have been.

Back in September of 2012, I traded for two Lorwyn [card]Thoughtseize[/card]s at about 3400 points apiece (not a terrible price now, but just over half of what I eventually traded them for when they peaked at $65). This trade occurred on the same day that I sent out a [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] for 1900 points.

As I mentioned earlier, my very first trade was a [card]Scapeshift[/card], just weeks before the unbanning of Valakut, for 263 points. My second was a [card]Life from the Loam[/card] for 1415. I traded for two copies of [card]Purphoros, God of the Forge[/card] shortly after release for about 2300 points each. Likewise, the Return to Ravnica release saw my biggest intake of points yet.

But that is a story for the second half of this primer, where I plan to discuss proper sending/receiving procedure and etiquette, resolving problems with your trade, and a few more tips I’ve picked up along the way.

Give and let give.

Jazon – PucaPrelude

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 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 [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card]s 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—[card]Celestial Colonnade[/card]s, [card]Remand[/card]s, Lorwyn [card]Thoughtseize[/card]s 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 [card]Vendilion Clique[/card], 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 [card]Splinter Twin[/card]s/[card]Griselbrand[/card]s/[card]Spellskite[/card]s pops over to 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 [card]Restoration Angel[/card]s (TCG mid 499 points, PucaPoint value 692 points) into three [card]Griselbrand[/card]s (TCGMid 1499 points, PucaPoint value 1392 points). For those of you who don’t care to do the math, even without [card]Griselbrand[/card]’s recent spike to $18 on TCG, I came away with what was essentially a free [card]Griselbrand[/card]. 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.