This article has been a long time coming, because during the nightmare that's COVID, I've made drastic changes to my life. Where once I was a server with a college education, I'm now helping buy and sell Magic: The Gathering cards. In short, it's changed everything about the way my day-to-day routine has gone.

This will be for those that want it all: Commander decks, stocked trade binders, and more. Magic could, and can, pay for itself. This is where you come in. Today we're going to talk about how to make Magic an empire, and put yourself solely at the head of the table.

Take Chances

One of the hardest things to do in life is leaving your comfort zone and exploring avenues outside traditional trading. One of my favorite pastimes is something called, "speculating." For those unfamiliar with the term, speculating is studying the metagame, card trends, and playability of a given card in a new set and buying multiple copies of it on the low in hopes that it will spike. That allows you a mini-monopoly on the card to trade way up from where you initially bought in. If the card doesn't go up in value, usually you purchased it so low that you're not deeply impacted fiscally by it.

In the past, cards I've targeted were Craterhoof Behemoth, Kolaghan's Command, fetch lands, Battlebond duals, and more. I haven't always gotten it right (Lightning Serpent many years ago), but more often than not I can pick a winner. This isn't some divine talent. Look at this card for example:

Sea Gate Stormcaller is one of the best, if not the best, card spoiled in Zendikar Rising. It dodges response graveyard removal that plagues Snapcaster Mage (it's definitely not better than Snapcaster Mage), but in some regards Sea Gate Stormcalleris going to be a more powerful option than Snapcaster Mage in older format. Casting a Brainstorm after resolving a Sea Gate Stormcaller will be a big-time card advantage and a likely player in Standard Izzet Aggro decks, among other possible places it could land. Right now it's preordering for as little as $12.99.

While this isn't an ideal speculation target due to the price tag, it's an example of a card that will likely drop to $7-8 once more TCG stores start flooding the market. In its hayday, Snapcaster Mage cost $20-25 in Standard, and Sea Gate Stormcaller has the same possibility. This is for risk-takers that like big rewards. Personally, I'd get involved in these cards:

Angel of Destiny is going to drop from its $9 price tag and probably settle around $5. I'll be buying them at that price or lower all day. Why? Because Angels are a casual player's dream, and they retain value very well. After Zendikar Rising stops seeing print, copies of this Mythic will become scarce. I don't see it dropping below $20 within a year. I could be crazy, but Angels have been very good to me over the years, and I think Angel of Destiny will absolutely be a steal when it dips below $4. The kicker is this card will only truly see play in EDH, which is going to make the toppers and extended art variants even more enticing to buy into.

Hello, baby. Valakut Awakening has a chance to be HUGE in Zendikar Rising. We are talking about almost an instant Wheel of Fortune for just you.

Do you like giving your opponents seven cards in Commander games? I know I don't. When I spill my hand I like the refill, but more often than not, I pass turn to my opponents after casting it and watch them go ham. With Valakut Awakening, you keep the best cards and drop the extra lands you may have picked up and don't lose card advantage. This card will be the real deal in Commander, and when you don't cast it, Valakut Awakening becomes a land in the early game, giving you added value with any spell or Karoo land that bounces lands back to your hand. This kind of versatility is going to provide a ton of options in games.

This card will drop like a rock. It's a rare and it will be widely opened, but when it's inevitably 50 cents, I will buy up dozens of copies and let them sit in a box until it becomes a $5 rare.

Again, I'm not always right, but I am more often than I'm wrong.

When Zendikar Rising settles in price, start picking your winners. (Honestly I will be going very deep in the box toppers, and if you have the money, I suggest you do, too).

Trade Aggressively

In the age of phones it's all about fair deals, as it should be. Trade sharks get terrible reputations, and rightfully so, but that doesn't mean you can't get yourself set up for success with cards you know will see play and potentially rise in value.

Let's take Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath for an example. Played in every format, Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath represents a card with massive appeal across the board. It's powerful, synergistic, casual and competitive. It does everything that everyone wants. In short, it's the perfect card.

I wanted a playset, and luckily a local had them. I handed over my binder and said the magic words, "Value trade me. You can have $20+ over me in trade value, take whatever you want." A trade $20 minimum out of my favor? What the hell? How does that make sense? At the end of the process I gave up shock lands and some EDH staples, and walked away with a playset of Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. Why was this a good deal?

At one point Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath was a $25-30 card. We checked TCGplayer, as all smart players do, and saw the cheapest copies were going for $27, so we multiplied that by four. This meant my trading partner could indulge in anything for $130 in trades.

Eventually Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath climbed to $40, which you as the trader know is going to happen simply because it's heavily played and a Mythic. A trade $22 out of my favor became $52 in my favor after a few weeks. At that point I traded another player a single Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath for multiple shock lands at $42, and walked away with three Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath and five of the shocks I traded away.

Cards like Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath aren't unique in the sense that they grow in value. While Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath is an extreme example because its price goes up metrically (it sits at $38 now), other cards can have similar growth patterns on a smaller scale. Breeding Pool is a great example of a card you could've gotten at $8-10, that peaked at $22 on TCGplayer. It's a rare, and shocks are always safe money.

On a smaller scale, look at EDH cards with huge upside. One big score I had was  Altar of the Broods. Once thought of as a joke card, I traded in cards for copies for as low as 25 cents from my LGS. They had literally hundreds of them. I bought them all and went deeper online. Eventually they buylisted for $2, and my three hundred of them that I traded for $75 became $600. It's small things like that, that eventually add up. Don't be afraid to play small ball. If a card is under a dollar, but you see potential, get involved and trade for as many copies as you can, utilizing your expendable cards.

Keep a Personal Binder

This one is the hardest, but hear me out. Keeping a binder of things you specifically want to keep is going to stop you from making a lot of mistakes down the road. When you go to trade, do you want your extra Grim Monolith that you painstakingly traded for on the block? No. You want that in a binder you don't show anyone. There's little fun in that—having something others can't even see (in most cases), but this will keep you from regretting what you do when you need money.

You're at a Magicfest and you want to get some cards. You have your normal binder, yes, but you've brought your personal binder... You empty it, and then a few months later need cards from it for a new Commander deck you want to build. Now you're priced into rebuying them, trading for them again, or simply not making the deck.

Anything you hold on to with value should be held on to until you don't want to play Magic anymore, or are using the money to make a life altering choice like buying a car or house. How many times have you heard a person lament selling something only for them to need it later on?

Keeping a personal binder you don't tap into is the hardest thing about building your card empire, but you'll thank me once you know you have a massive amount of liquidity built up.

Buy Collections

Absolutely not touching this topic, because I like my job. But do it. Or try to, anyways.

These are simple, but effective steps you can take to begin growing your collection and allow your Magic hobby to start paying for itself. Through trading, buying and selling, and speculating, you too can quit your job and live this outrageous lifestyle I do where all of your wildest dreams come true.

Wait, don't do that. Do all the other stuff, just not that.