Picking up Cards on a Budget
This is the winning vote. I am going to be presenting my strategy in steps.
1. If you really want to keep in budget, you have to play speculator. This means that you buy low and sell high. For this to be a viable strategy, you have to keep up with the latest developments from WotC. An example is that Leveler is sold out at 50 cents on most online stores. Why? Because last night, Innistrad’s Laboratory Maniac was spoiled. Playing speculator lets you pick up cards you wanted anyway before they exploded, and if you didn’t want the card, there is someone else who does.
2. Trading. If you open packs, you will eventually open a hot item. Trade them away before the fickle community moves on and they are worth nothing again. I recommend only opening packs if you are playing a limited event since if you buy 3 packs and get 1 10 dollar card, you break even. If you open junk? You got junk.
2b. How to trade up/down. Trading up allows you to turn your bulk cards and decent cards into one good thing. I pick up quite a few of my big items this way. Trading down is the opposite, you take your hot item and you trade it for several things you actually need. Trading at all is risky if you do not know how to evaluate your cards, so make sure that you check your cards before you enter into a trade; evaluate the cards you are particularly looking for, and don’t be afraid to call price check. When cards are not exactly equal be prepared to throw in one of your bulkier cards or to ask for one of theirs. Trading 1:1 is seldom a good idea unless both parties are absolutely fine with the deal. If you feel bad about a trade, you are probably getting ripped, and are allowed to walk away.
3. Buy singles. As I just stated, opening packs is a pretty poor means of getting what you want. If you just want more cards, you can buy lots of cards on sites like ebay. If you actually care what you are getting, pick up singles.
4. When buying singles, shop around. I recommend checking hubs like magiccards.info and findmagiccards.com so that you can compare all the stores at once- ebay often has better prices on high ticket items and worse on bulk cards. If you are looking for bulk cards, head down to your local gaming store (LGS) and buy there. They need the business. I don’t advocate going there first for hot cards since they are trying to make money on fewer sales so their profit margin is higher than the bulk stores. However, if you want to support your LGS, by all means head down there. You can also haggle with your store owner, but not an online store.
5. Be informed. Essentially, the only way to play this game on a budget is to be informed of whats hot and what isn’t. If a deck has fallen out of favor, buy/trade then. I picked up 3 JTMS after he was banned in Standard for my Modern deck. Unfortunately, he was banned in Modern 2 weeks later, so I now have some pretty sweet trade stuff even if I lost 30 bucks on the three of them summed.