The key to good trading is this: the value of a card is never static for too long, especially in Standard Type II format. They fluctuate, and just like in the stock market, you want to buy low, and sell high. Get those cards that will jump in value, and try to grab as many as you can. Once those are up to their peak value, trade them away and make a killing.
It sounds a lot easier than it really is. Often, those value-jumping cards are pretty darn bad, so bad in fact, that they are unidentifiable until some guy comes along who decides that these cards would make a great deck, and he wins a tournament with it.
So how is it possible to find these cards unless you’re that guy who’s building all those groundbreaking decks? This is a question that has been pondered by many a player for a long time, and there may be no direct answer. There are a few signs, however which may help you understand where to start looking.
When a set first comes out, you need to read the spoiler early, and get a feel for the different mechanics and how they will affect the environment. Once you’ve done that, analyze which mechanics will make an impact on the Standard environment. Standard is the most important because more people will turn out for FNMs, States, and Regionals than they will for PTQs. Thus, they have more value for trading.
Look next at what cards will affect Block format, which is the format most disrupted by the addition of a new set. For the first set in a block, this will be difficult, but this step is about searching out cards which have a powerful effect, but have too high a casting cost to be effective in Standard and Extended. Akroma’s Vengeance was a great example of this. When that set came out, nobody wanted anything to do with the card because it cost six mana, especially when they could get Wrath of God for four. But in Block format, there was nothing else like that card, and therefore the value of that card jumped once Block Season came into rotation. We bought up those Akroma’s Vengeances from dealers at $1 each at the State Championship that year, and sold them on eBay later for $8-12 apiece, not to mention all the trade value we got out of them. I call these kinds of cards Block-busters, because they are game breakers in a block format, but outside of those small confines, they don’t impact the game at all.
Cards which will affect the Extended environment are few and far between. The most important kinds of cards will fit nicely in the sideboards of established decks, and typically have a casting cost of three or less. There are exceptions, but for the most part, those established decks will stay strong year after year.
Once you’ve done all this, you’ll want to identify the initial chase cards. These are often very easy to find. Even cards which are likely to prove themselves as not very good need to be included in this group. Chrome Mox was an example. Our team never thought that card was particularly great, but because other players saw it as a gamebreaker, we placed it’s value high. As it turned out, the value stayed high all throughout it’s playing cycle, but it never really was used in any competitive decks. It had a lot of hype, mostly because of it’s tie-in with the Power Nine cards, and that meant that they were selling for upwards of $25 each right after the prerelease.
Having established those chase cards, the next objective is to look at Overlays. These are cards who have a middle value by most players, but are sound cards which you can trade for low when a set comes out, and let them build their value as time goes on. Ravenous Baloth was a strong card, but was given a middle value by most traders because they were looking for fetch lands, which were stronger cards, but hard to find. Since Baloth was decidedly not as powerful, most traders ignored him in the attempt to pick up their sets of fetchlands. Once the hype died down, and everyone had their playsets of the new lands, Baloth became a nice $7-9 rare instead of the $3-4 rare we got them at.
Whenever a new set is released, values of cards in that set are sky high. Trade them away at this high price, because rarely will these cards get you such a nice value. After a week or so, start trading back for those cards which you think will eventually grow in value, look for those overlays, block-busters and get rid of those chase cards because their value especially will decrease once the hype dies down.