An Interview with PucaTrade
A few months ago I was approached about an article that could highlight a possible trade tool for those looking to move cards without the hassle of haggling. Eric, from PucaTrade.com, has come up with a pretty ingenious solution to the problem that many Magic players across the nation have: Inability to trade for cards due to a limited local environment.
Up until now there have been relatively few options outside of paying cash for the cards you want online. Sites such as Magic Online Trading League (MOTL) have allowed the community to connect on some levels and has created a place for trade commerce but given the hassle that can be involved most have strayed away from utilizing this and other such sites.
PucaTrade seems like the happy median between trading and buying cards. I was able to check out the site over the past few weeks and the trade system utilizes a monetary system to keep track of what you have rather than seeking to trade card for card. For example if someone requests a card from you they “pay” you in points that you can then redeem whenever you desire toward someone else’s cards. This system allows you to obtain cards when you need them no matter what you have to trade. Gone are the days of haggling over prices and trying to find a happy middle ground to complete a trade that may take weeks to sort out.
As I mentioned I was fortunate enough to steal some of Eric’s time for an interview and I hope you find what he had to say as interesting as I did.
What exactly do you do in the world of Magic?
PucaTrade can be described as a gift economy for Magic: The Gathering cards. As you mail cards to people who want them, you earn trade-credits equivalent to the value of those cards. Then people can send you cards on your Want List in exchange for your trade-credits.
Explain the goal of PucaTrade, and where you hope it will fit into the community.
PucaTrade’s goal is to offer a better way to trade. We auto-match you with other traders, cover your back with our 100% Trade-Guarantee, and always make sure you get what your cards are worth.
How can PucaTrade be useful for a trader? How about a player or collector?
By my estimation, the average Magic player uses only 7% of his or her collection in decks at any given moment in time. There’s a ton of value in that remaining 93% . With PucaTrade, anyone who has cards they’re not using can turn them into cards on their Want List by participating in our global trading economy.
Like most Magic players, I took a long break from the game. I started playing in Mirage and only played casual 60-card until the year 2000, when I took a break. My break lasted quite a long time—until the year 2008 when I randomly decided to check back in and see what “new” cards had been printed.
I was blown away.
Zendikar was just coming out, and I thought landfall was amazing. Such a cool mechanic! I remembered back to the old days of top-decking a stupid Forest at a time when I really needed a Force of Nature, and I thought: “They fixed that problem!” Now, drawing a land late game could get you a 3/3 Beast, or deal direct damage, or even steal a creature! I was hooked. I went to three Zendikar Prereleases and I was a Magic player again.
But I was also poor. There were a ton of “new” cards I wanted, but so many of them were ridiculously expensive (Read: $10). I couldn’t buy the cards I wanted, but I still had my old collection, so I turned to the concept of trade to find the cards I wanted.
Trading at my LGS had its limitations. I saw the same five dudes over and over again, and we quickly ran out of cards to trade with one another.
So I turned to the internet.
The only thing I found was MOTL, and it really didn’t meet my needs as a trader.
Now let me pause here and say that I have a ton of respect for the people who built MOTL. They offered the world a free way to trade cards, and hundreds of people use and love their site. I have nothing but respect and appreciation for the service they offer.
But I was really frustrated by the limitations of forum-based trade. There was no trade-guarantee, no automation, people bickered over prices, some people refused to “up trade” while others refused not to, and perhaps worst of all: it moved at the speed of e-mail.
I thought: It really shouldn’t be this difficult. We all have Want Lists, Have Lists, and our cards have values that can be indexed. If everyone has access to the same information, why should there be negotiations of any kind? If you want a card, and I have that card—I should just be able to send it to you. I should get trade-credit equal to the value of the cards I sent, and then other could just send me cards that I want!
I didn’t know how to write code, but I found someone who did. An in April of 2012, we publicly launched PucaTrade in Beta.
What did you do in the world of Magic before you started this website?
Before 2008, I was really just into 60-card casual Magic. I was never super interested in format-restrictions; I just liked building interesting decks and was more into the social aspects of multiplayer then any form of competitive play. Discovering Elder Dragon Highlander (EDH, better known as Commander today) was a natural fit with my style of play.
In early 2009, a couple friends from my local game store introduced me to EDH. I thought it sounded crazy, but also kind of rad. I built my first deck, and was completely hooked. It was an Intet, the Dreamer aggro deck that used Wheel of Fortune effects to keep its hand full while disrupting those of my opponents. It just cranked out Scryb Sprites, Cloud of Faeries, Looter Il-Kors, and other little evasive dudes as fast as possible, then filled it’s hand right back up. Super fun stuff. I still have the deck (but of course I switched the Commander to Animar, Soul of Elements once the Commander products came out).
My playgroup got pretty deep into Commander after that. We have some really strong players who build crazy-awesome decks, and we met a couple times a week to play for about 3 years.
But there’s limits to how much Commander you can play, so I’ve been branching out a bit lately. I think Standard is really fun right now (Wizard's done an awesome job with the new Ravnica block), and it’s an incredibly fun limited environment as well.
I love me some Cube, too.
Where do you see yourself in terms of Magic in five years?
It’s really hard to say. I’ll definitely be playing in some capacity. Maybe we’ll get lucky and someone will invent another awesome way to play the game (likely).
Do you have a family, wife, and kids? If so, how do you adjust to being tied up with Magic? Do you have any words of advice for those looking to put more into Magic who have families?
I have a girlfriend of 4 years, who’s incredibly supportive of this obsession…hobby. She’s not into Magic (aerial circus is her obsession), and I feel really fortunate that she appreciates my passion for this game.
I think it’s easy for her to draw comparisons between Magic and her own interests, and even though we both geek-out over different things, implicit in our relationship is an understanding that the hobbies we love are the fuel for our passion in life. Supporting each other in our interests has been essential to our relationship.
Ha! There’s a loaded question if I ever saw one!
I think that there are some legitimate reasons that people are frustrated with “Financial Magic.” I admit that I’m new to the phrase, but I imagine it takes many forms. The things that come to mind are box-mapping, value-trading, and intentional price altering schemes via supply and demand manipulation on sites like TCGplayer. None of these things are illegal, but I think that many players have a growing sensation that this stuff is detrimental to the Magic community at large. I think a lot of people are frustrated that they have to fight so hard to not get ripped off, when all they really want to doing is be paying a fair price for the cards that let them play the game.
(Ryan's Aside: You caught me. I may have been able to word this one a little better but I am glad Eric gave his honest opinion. I am glad he mentioned the last part since I feel that most of the financial community, or at least the major names, are attempting to make the game more accessible to all in the long run. Though there are certainly issues with the trade floors of today’s major events and even local shops, I would have to believe the eternal community especially should be happy the financial community exists. Without people searching high and low for collections we would likely have a fraction of the current card pool we do now, meaning the price of an Underground Sea might be even higher than the already astronomical $200 it currently retails for.
As with any community there will always be people that give a bad reputation but I feel as a whole the community is making the right steps to create an even playing field for all. I personally believe tools such as PucaTrade are a huge step in the right direction if for no other factor than automation. Being able to trade across a platform takes away opportunities for people to get screwed in trades, while allowing people such as myself who sell cards another outlet for cards that may not sell as quickly.)
Do you think what you do is a positive for the community?
I think PucaTrade helps to build trust among strangers. All trades on our site are predicated by the faith that someone you don’t know will behave with integrity and complete the trade in an honest, upright manner. I like to think that for every PucaTrade that is completed successfully, the Magic community’s global-trust-o-meter ticks up a tiny notch (and as of today, we’ve completed 24,054 trades).
Also, our admins have systems in place to identify and remove offenders. So even if you don’t trust your fellow Magic trader you can still PucaTrade with confidence.
What is your favorite part about Magic and the community that comes with it?
My favorite thing about the game is that everybody plays it. Magic: The Gathering players come from all over the place, from all walks of life. This is great because it gives us opportunities to broaden our cultural horizons and meet people we normally wouldn’t have a chance to interact with, while sharing in the experience of a game that we all love. I love watching people who speak different languages play a game of Magic together.
I’d rather discuss things I don’t know—so I open a discussion and invite all to participate:
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of the gift: Everything we claim to own in life can be considered to be a gift given to us freely by the sun (life, food, and everything that follows). The natural inclination we feel when given a gift is to give one in return. How can we create economies that embrace the spirit of the gift, and reward those who freely give?
(Ryan's Aside: This seems like a very long topic and though I would love to dive into my opinion of economic theory I feel this may not be the median. If you, the reader’s, are interested in starting a conversation in the comments section below I would happily chime in my two cents where I feel I can assist.)
Anything you would like to say to the community in regards to your business, plugs, shout outs, or just general comments?
I’d actually like to gift my shout out to Charles Eisenstein in recognition of his book Sacred Economics. Much of what I hope PucaTrade will become is encapsulated by the ideas presented in this book. If you read it, please drop me a line to let me know what you think.
What upcoming advances can we expect to see out of your website and when can we hope to see these new additions?
Our budget is small, but we’re working hard. We’re currently developing improvements to the look and feel of the site, a Personal Messaging system so you can all talk to one another, a feedback system so you can rate and control the quality of your trading experiences. We’re working to complete our inventory with foils, non-English cards, cards of various conditions, and much more. 2013 is proving to be a big year for us.
Do you have any other projects waiting in the wings you would like to comment on?
I’m all-in on PucaTrade at the moment, and there’s so much to do that I’m not allowing myself to dream about the next project yet. But I can tell you that I’ve always wanted to create an academy for social-entrepreneurs that might function as an incubator for projects with the potential for ground-breaking social change.
That is all we have for this week, I want to thank Eric from PucaTrade again for his time. I have been poking around the site lately and am excited to see how well I can utilize it to move cards I cannot locally while in turn putting together a list of cards I know I can sell instantly. If you have any further questions about the site or what it can do for you feel free to leave them here and I will make sure Eric sees them. As always thank you for reading and join me next week as I dive into Modern Masters giving my analysis of the set and changing up the competition from earlier this year.