Sunday, April 17, 2016

Trading across the Planes: PucaTrade

I don't know if many of you could tell, but I am quite the casual Magic: the Gathering player. I've never really been invested enough in the game to money dump into buying cards for specific decks, or even for the "best deck," which I think is an overall stupid mentality to have but that's a post for another time. I started making the transition from "tabletop" gameplay to Standard at the beginning of Theros block. Around that time I had been promoted at my job and was able to create my own schedule. College gal with now free Friday nights? You betcha I started attending every Friday Night Magic event with my friends!

One of the many perks of having a playgroup numbering close to ten planeswalkers is the shared card pool. After a pre-release, we'd have nearly a playset+ of every common and uncommon in a set. Enough of the players in our group would place and receive packs that we never really worried about opening the rares we needed. My friends are also the ones that purchase specific cards for competitive decks. I'm the one that sits in the corner going through what we have and seeing what I think would be a fun way to win by. Yeah... I was definitely the black sheep in our playgroup. At least half of the members of the playgroup have been playing MTG for years. It's been their hobby for the majority of their lives. The card pool we had access to was quite extensive and branched into multiple formats. I was never really one to want for cards. 

Another perk of being a member of a mostly competitive playgroup is there is always a MTG game going on at someone's place. There was a period in my life where I drafted a tabletop cube every day, multiple times a day for close to a year.  Once we started attending FNM on a regular basis and decided to start the competitive grind, we were always playtesting. One of the first competitive decks I built was a mono-green devotion Hydra deck during Theros block. It was tier two at best but damn was it fun to play! Hydra Broodmaster be bae. (On that note, let's just say I'm beyond excited for the most recent MTGSOI hydra!) The deck I am most proud of and consider to be my brain-child is the RW Purphoros Token deck I made for Standard last year. Another deck that was tier two at best, but was still a lot of fun to see succeed at FNM and a predecessor of the Purphoros/Impact Tremors that would pop up when Dragons of Tarkir entered Standard. Let me tell you, what a time it felt to be alive. All of my hobbies were becoming dragon-themed... I AM THE MOTHER OF DRAGONS! (I don't have issues, I swear!)

This past October was... not kind. I found myself unemployed, swamped in new found debts that needed to be paid. At present, I'm still licking these wounds and can't really do much else besides work and slowly pay them off, along with saving for school and a car. I needed to escape FL else I would lose my mind. The person I'm currently seeing lives in NY, so when he brought up the idea of my moving to his area... I had no reason holding me back. I flew the coop! Here I am in a neck of the woods completely unfamiliar to me with him my only friend. I'm not complaining, but it wasn't until recently I came to realize how much I under-appreciated being a part of a large, active playgroup. As the weeks progress, I miss the northeast FL MTG scene and them. I'm used to having a schedule that doesn't always allow for me to attend FNM regularly. The past five months are the first in about two years where I have only been able to attend pre-release or release events. I play on MTGO frequently, but it isn't the same. MTGO is meant to complement my real life gameplay. I'm more of a tactile learner, so playing solely on MTGO doesn't do much of anything for me. Once I determine the kind of deck I'd like to play on paper is when I commit to building it online. No playgroup, limited access to cards, not being able to attend events... Let's just say the creative juices for deck building have been dry.

On Twitter I had seen people tweet about their trades from PucaTrade. Before moving, I never saw a reason to join. I had access to all the cards I'd ever need. I never really had much of a collection to begin with, so I was never one to trade. That all changed when the Fire Nation... I mean when I moved. The few times I've visited the local game store (LGS) near me, I've seen flyers upon flyers advertising their Commander/EDH scene and Modern. I've been wanting to branch off into other formats, now seems like as good of a time as ever! But how would I acquire the cards? I'm not familiar with the format nor am I able to money dump into decks I've no clue would be playable. Then I remembered PucaTrade. One of the trends I gathered from tweets is foils are traded frequently on PucaTrade. I have a bunch I've acquired over the years but haven't been able to trade away. Why not make an account and see if I have any luck getting rid of them? It worked! The boyfriend has a bunch of bulk sitting around his place; he's been a collector for a long time. Once I found out he didn't plan to do anything with it, I asked if I could trade away the excess. I was ecstatic when he said "yes." So the grind to trade "up" began.

I decided to join PucaTrade for two reasons. The first and primary reason being to acquire cards for new formats. The second being I love sending and receiving mail. I'm not one to just have cards sitting around doing a whole lot of nothin'. Our playgroup was well-known to give away cards to people who were just starting their experience with the game. Helping others and hoping to brighten up their day with cute cards? Sign me up! I've been told a few times that I'm "weird" for sending trades inside cute cards. I can't tell you how many times I've opened up my Puca messages with responses saying "thank you" and how the cards and short notes help cheer them up or make the trade feel more unique. Many people appreciate that little effort. Some tell me their deck ideas and experiences with formats. It's a nice "pen pal" like moment with someone else who shares my hobby.

The first Puca "challenge" I've given myself is to create and obtain all the cards for a Commander/EDH deck via PucaTrade. As of this morning, I am still only one card away from having all the cards I had posted on my "Wants" list. There are still a couple of slots open in the 99 for the deck, but I'll be hammering out those details soon. I want to playtest with the deck a bit to see if the brew I made even works. Knowing nothing about Commander/EDH. I just want to build a fun Elemental tribal deck! I have posted a few other cards for Standard. When Oath of the Gatewatch was released, I added a few Prowess deck staples onto my "Wants" list. I was surprised to learn that most of the cards I wanted were going to be sent from Singapore. That's right. You read that correctly. Singapore. As in the country in southeast Asia. My Stormchaser Mages are more traveled than I am. I already love the card, I don't need more reasons to show them off. I'll be telling everyone I can about them when they get played.

Overall, I've had a very positive experience with PucaTrade. The system is fairly easy to set up. I don't have too many rares or mythics to worry about, most of the collection I have up for trade are uncommons and bulk rares. I tend to upkeep and update often, I'm the weirdo that likes organizing cards, remember. I also frequently check the "send a card" tab. At the time of this post I've sent 326 cards with a total value of 22,345 PucaPoints (roughly $223). The grind has been slowly paying off! Since I'm working most of the time, I'm in no real rush to complete decks. The next time I go draft, I now have a way to trade away some of the cards I have in excess or plan on not playing. I don't have to hustle cards. I'm a sucker for stories and love the sense of community trading seems to have for me now. Most of my cards came with a little bit of a story or words of encouragement. A countless number of people are now going to be credited for my wins/losses.

The only complaint I have so far with PucaTrade is with trades going poorly. This hasn't happened often, but the few times it has were quite frustrating. The first issue I ever experienced involved multiple cards being sent to me and a Mulldrifter not being in near-mint condition, which all trades are supposed to be. I had wanted to send the card back, but the trader convinced me to keep it and only spend half of the points it is worth. Afterall, I don't plan on trading the card away, I just want to build a deck. A lot of the trading on the site requires both sender and receiver to be active. Trades aren't completed until the receiver hits "complete." There have been quite a few times where cards have been in limbo and I'm unsure if they were received. One user didn't hit "complete" for well over a month. The cards were just a playset of Halimar Tidecaller, but I knew I sent them. Thankfully, I had tried contacting the receiver multiple times through the trade-specific chat. I eventually filed a case and had the administrators finalize the trade. I've had a decent experience with the administrators. There have been a few times where I wish I had received feedback sooner than later, but the site is still growing. I've had too many positive experiences to worry much about the not so great ones. All I can say is that if there are issues, don't expect them to get done in the fastest way possible. I'm not sure if using PucaTrade is the fastest way to gather cards, but it definitely is enjoyable. The last bit of advice I have is to stay on top of your trade binder! I can't tell you how many times people have been the victims of cards spiking. Beware! Be vigilant!

I'll close with an example of my favorite moment(s). I love the MTG community and the Twitch stream community we've built. Finding new ways to interact with all of you is always a pleasure. I've been able to send cards to at least five viewers! Each time without realizing it! I couldn't believe it when someone asked me to send them signed sleeves because he and his sister are a fan of the stream. Whenever I check the "Send a Card" tab, I always look for familiar names and handles. If I can send you something, I will!

If you'd like to trade with me or check out my profile, here you go!
If you'd like to learn more about how PucaTrade works, here are some YouTube videos by Tolarian Community Collage and The Mana Source.

Happy trading everyone!