Like my last one, this project comes from one of my life's passions. I have played Magic: The Gathering for 30 years.
My co-founders and I think Magic deserves its own market, and this thinking will lead to dozens of ways to make a great app. We consider what we have an MVP, and we are all going to MagicCon this weekend in Las Vegas to walk around in our Mana Pool shirts and talk to people about the future.
If HN likes the site, I would appreciate you crashing it before we head out tomorrow night!
Some context for others: Magic: the Gathering has grown enormously over the past 30 years, and it has an enormous secondary market, which covers several segments: highly collectible early cards, newly playable cards (“staples” across a variety of formats), and unopened packs of cards (“sealed”). Early sets had print runs that totaled 2-40 million cards in total, nowadays sets have billions of cards printed.
Interestingly enough, early cards are relatively counterfeit-proof mostly due to changes in printing technology, although the counterfeits are getting better each year.
The biggest players in this secondary market are TCGPlayer, which was recently acquired by eBay, eBay itself, CardMarket in the EU, and lots of local game stores (LGS) that have built up online market share (CardKingdom is the biggest of these) or niche.
Fees drive revenue for most of these sites, and those fees are variable across different products each platform offers to sellers.
Interestingly, although this market does not have derivatives, there are several companies and APIs that attempt to offer some market advantage for buyers or sellers: indexing the lowest available price, providing historical price data, allowing comparisons across markets for arbitrage opportunities, plus more complex analysis. There’s some manipulation that goes on in these markets, but nothing as bad as crypto that I’ve seen.
CardSphere, a smaller player in the market (and my favorite) just announced their closure. They mostly inverted the typical market dynamic by letting members “trade”— buyers would offer their desired purchase price while sellers would select the best offers to fill.
A couple Q’s for the founder(s): What’s your fee structure like? How do you plan to take on the TCG/eBay giant? Do you have concerns for the future of the secondary market in general, given Hasbro’s desire to fuel growth of the property?
Edit: holy shit the second hand prices on ebay. I'm going to spend the weekend on this! I even have a couple of sealed decks somewhere. These: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/334960782977
Selling a collection as a whole will likely get you 60-70% of market value, piecing it out will get you closer to 90 after shipping and fees. Sealed product of that wera has a much higher valuation being sealed. There’s not much left.
Of course, if you don’t want to sell, the apps will still let you track valuations and deltas.
Magic has recently had a downturn, retracing from 2020-2021 peaks )some might even call a bubble). Collectors for your era of cards are reaching peak purchasing power, though, so there likely won’t be a crash until they die off (if at all).
Everyone I know who exited said selling their early stuff has always been their biggest regret.
2) Magic only
3) I think Hasbro is doing the right thing and what's good for Hasbro is good for Mana Pool. MTG is all of Hasbro's profits now and 30% of its revenue... the rest is almost margin-free. MTG is going to grow a lot further... pandemic brought forward revenue but collectibles will keep growing forever.
I'd love to talk more techie mtg stuff on our Discord: https://discord.gg/u4J5aGU2
YIKES. That's certainly one way to look at a market: unbridled optimism that it will never shrink!
I hope we don't destroy the planet, and I hope we get to space, and then I think there will be at least a solar-system-sized economy of collectibles. Physical ones will be extra rare because of distance issues too.
As you mention, MTG represents all of Hasbro's profits. I don't feel that there is a way for them to escape the allure of watering down the MTG market in pursuit of more money. I feel they will kill the golden goose. At some point the physical printing process has to become a liability, right?
I don't know what percent of MTG newcomers play paper-only. Perhaps it is a lot, but my gut says that MTGA is the on-ramp for newcomers. With the digital cards not being able to be traded - newcomers aren't building the expectations that your tool is appealing to. Your tool is more useful to those who are already entrenched in the physical game space.
A counterpoint to what I'm saying is that Flesh & Blood has been doing well enough and Disney just entered into the space with their own, paper only, card game. So perhaps I'm wildly off base and the physical market is experiencing a resurgence?
The best thing that WotC can do for the health of the game is grow the player-base. While they have had several initiatives that show them also trying to maximize the revenue they generate off their players, they have also done a great job attracting new player and providing products that help on-board players to become enfranchised.
I think that the closest corollary in the tech world is Apple under Tim Cook. They maximized revenue by expanding offerings and having a diversified suite of products, none of which were targeted at all consumers. For some reason, enfranchised MtG players think they have to buy everything WotC makes, and I think this leads to product fatigue. Players blame WotC, but they are just trying to offer something for everyone.
For many enfranchised players, that’s because they keep printing chase rares that power creep their way into staple status in older formats. Meaning, if you play competitively or semi-competitive eternal formats like legacy or edh, what used to be a very slow trickle of relevant cards from every other standard set is now 2-3 additional major releases a year, with dozens of cards at or above your format’s power level.
In addition to printing more products that you must interface with to play it competitively, they also decide that more products should be allowed into those formats that previously would not be. As an example, the joke sets now are split between cards that are legal in legacy and commander and cards that aren’t, when before joke sets were entirely self contained and would never need to be considered by competitive players.
Beyond power creep, the pressure to continually design new things that aren’t obviously just better versions of old things has driven them to use more and more text with more and more new rules per year, to the point where they don’t fit on the cards anymore and they must make reference to other cards outside the game. Take the recent initiative ability that brings up a card of more abilities, the rules of how to travel through them aren’t explained on either the original card or the dungeon card! It was created for fans of D&D, but it was strong enough to have a card banned from the legacy format. Established players in that format could not ignore it and still play competitively.
However, I’d argue that the only eternal format of significance is EDH, and it is very much not competitive. It’s popularity is just as much a curse as it is a blessing for the game, IMO.
I quit the game because I believe it's so far the opposite in the other direction. Secret lair sets with fomo limited time high cost mechanically unique cards. So much power creep, bans happening practically every set now, increasingly ridiculous monetization strategies, I could go on.
Even the OG golden goose TCG is dead to me now. I wish we could have a good card game but the TCG model is just doomed to head in this direction, I'll play all inclusive board games and card games now.
1. Limiting cards to standard. 2. Making the game 1v1 instead of a 4-player deathmatch.
(1) is unpopular with existing players for obvious reasons, but it is great for new players because it makes it much easier to get cards (even cheap cards can be difficult to actually obtain if they were only printed once back in 2003) and because you limit the number of mechanics players need to know about. For example, there are plenty of confusing mechanics present in eternal formats not present in standard like reanimate, splice, and morph.
(2) simplifies the game immensely because you only need to deal with two boards. It's also a much better fit for tournaments and game store events. I'm so much of a more competent player in 1v1 because I can actually read the board.
In a large part, Pioneer has filled the void left by pre-“rotation” Modern, although it is arguable that from a gameplay perspective, Modern is much healthier after the Horizons sets.
I agree that EDH/Commander is problematic as the most popular format. It’s the “deep end” of the pool, per se. However, I think WotC has done a great job managing this with their balanced pre-constructed products, that have a decent upgrade path.
I don’t see Brawl as anything other than a digital-only format that is basically something else to do with cards you collect in MTGA.
Regarding acquiring new players, I think WotC has done a great job of this with Arena. It has resulted in the death of in-paper Standard, but is probably what has brought more players to the game than anything else, although it has its own set of issues.
But you are right that several things about the game are suboptimal.
Another thing you're missing about TCGs in general is the satisfaction of playing and owning physical cards.
It's still a little clunky, but handling priority is generally a nightmare in a 4 person game. I think that's part of why Arena doesn't even bother trying. Waiting for 4 people to pass priority is annoyingly long when it happens like 12 times per turn. Games would take all day to complete.
If I were to make my outdoor app again, I would focus 100% on one sport and never branch until we had 85% of the community.
Come to discord to chat more.
Any plans on a pivot to crypto? :)
Now to just find where I put them all those years ago...
If you want to sell them, the right place right now is Facebook Marketplace, and you can always email me for expert advice or help trying to sell them.
I get a little thrill from you commenting here!
Then we sold the packs individually out of my trunk at places where nerds hung out for $2.50 each (retail was $3, but we had no overhead because dad paid for the car and gas!).
We sold one box worth and opened the other box, so we broke even but got a bunch of rare cards.
Including multiple sets of multilands. I put two full sets into sleeves and packed them away, and then made a five color deck with all rares and multilands.
My buddy and I were basically unbeatable.
I didn't make a business of MTG until the end of high school and first part of college, ~1999.
eBay was new then, and an older friend showed me the prices on eBay and told me how to make money buying/selling. Since I was traveling to go to the Pro Tour/etc, I had a lot of opportunity to buy cards to sell... mostly bad cards from good players that sold well to casual players (think big dragons).
It's been so long I can't remember. Most of my cards came from Revised because that is what we sold and unboxed, so I basically had all the most powerful things from there like the Serra Angel, Shivon Dragon, Wheel of Fortune, Mana Vault, Copy Artifact, Demonic Tutor, Vesuvan Doppelganger, Winter Orb, Armageddon, Mana Flare, Will O' the Wisp, and all the multilands, which is what made a five color deck possible.
Then I had a few strong creatures with trample damage, and a few Limited and Beta cards that I had traded for like a Time Walk and Ancestral Recall, and at least one Mox.
But I never had a Black Lotus, although I almost got one once.
Feedback on this, the first card I searched for was "Time Walk" and it came up with no results.
I didn't realize at first this only showed things that were for sale.
It would be good to at least have a page with the card image and information even if there are none available. At least it should show a disabled row in the auto-suggest dropdown with the annotation "None available for sale."
Perhaps as a future feature you could add a "notify me when this is available." I like agents like this on sites like camelcamelcamel.com.
First card I searched for was a 'Tim' but the earliest listed was a 4th Ed of which I have many.
Also started around Dark/Revised but stopped collecting at Mirage!
p.s. come to Discord to discuss Mana Pool for the next many years, and for promo codes to purchase cards to help test... I will give free money until it gets out of hand, then discounts if so.
One nice thing I noticed: I wondered what "LP" and and the likes mean on the card offer and an explanation popped up when i clicked on it. Very much appreciated.
It would be helfpful though if a click on a link, filter or similar immediately indicates loading. Almost always I wondered if a click registered because nothing happened for a few seconds.
And I navigated the following route: Startpage -> Innistrad: Crimson Vow -> Any card -> Lisings -> click on some sellers icon
From the route and URL I can infer that I'm on the sellers page, but there is no indication for that on the Website. No navbar like when browsing. This would be very helpful to see on the site directly.
EDIT: Also, an "add decklist to cart" feature would be sick. I want to design an EDH deck and just buy all the singles in a couple of clicks
Check out /deck/add for the half built mass buyer that we’ll finish after MagicCon.
I feel like Availability should default to In Stock, but maybe that will come once you have more inventory on the site.
I haven't figured out exactly how to reproduce it (sometimes it's when I go to another page of the search, or sometimes it's when I change filter settings), then I get:
"Internal server error Error loading dynamic filter options
The site administrators have been notified."
When browsing "Other versions", it seems like it would be nice if it limited it to in-stock items only, or at least showed me the lowest available price for each entry so that I can see if there's stock there.
Overall it looks like a great start to the tool -- well done!
Having a "mass entry" cart-builder where I can paste in card names and it builds the best-priced cart for me would be a nice tool as well, but I can imagine you've got a lot on your plate just filling all this out.
Overall great job, and I look forward to seeing this progress! I hope you have a great trip!
You can see the deck/mass uploader start here: https://manapool.com/deck/add
But I've wondered for awhile now, if a MTG-style card game might not be an ideal application for blockchain technology. The anti-counterfeiting concept means that limited numbers of rare (virtual) cards could be issued. A mechanism could surely be developed where the company or group in charge could periodically release new cards (perhaps after the mechanics had been voted on by participants), and issued once or twice a year. And of course, players could transfer cards to each other whenever they liked, either trading them or selling for an agreed upon price.
It just seems like a natural fit. Wonder why no one's doing it.
Why would I want it centralized about some WOTC asshole wannabes, where they decide who owns which card? What happens when they inevitably shut it down like every video game company does?
Blockchain allows it to be decentralized.
>>A mechanism could surely be developed where the company or group in charge could periodically release new cards (perhaps after the mechanics had been voted on by participants), and issued once or twice a year.
%$#@! decentralization. Who cares about it in this context? You're anyway adding back the 'centralization' via the backdoor. Since such games are community-based, they'll always involve this level of centralization.
Or is it that you want the profits to be distributed a bit differently? But that would inevitably involve financial regulation and scams, and people just want to play a card game.
Any interest or possibility to add more card value information, like average market price or a history graph? If you had the best "card lookup" site in that sense, I would probably never feel the need to visit TCGPlayer again.
Another minor observation, looks like newlines in card flavor text are being rendered as a literal "\n" rather than being parsed.
I appreciate the encouragement and the "\n" comment, we will fix that too.
1. As a seller, why would I use your platform instead of the existing ones?
2. As a buyer, why would I use your platform instead of the existing ones?
2. I'll make Magic features for you that you'll use weekly.
It just says "accepted file formats: csv" but nothing beyond that.
Probably I missed the peak. Probably should sell it so someone else can enjoy it.
What would you say are your key differentiators in the market space? Lower fees? Better tools?
2) We have low fees (5%) and my vision is zero fees, with all revenue coming from value-add SaaS for buyers and sellers. I hope to get there in a gradual way.
3) I do think we're really good at software too, and that stuff like Stripe Marketplace and off-the-shelf computer vision make the lift low.
4) We know a lot of Magic people, and the network is so dense that if our website gets good, everyone will know.
I used to play, but i havent in a very long time, the cards are well used, and range from common to rare. I only have maybe 160 cards.
Costs 3 Mana + 1 Plains
Destroy all lands in play!!!
We raised a $500k+ pre-seed on Sept 4, and I’m checking if anyone wants to follow before October 3. After that, we’re just going to work on the app and not raise.
We are using svelte for the front end, which I like and does interesting things with letting you decide what to SSR… but it’d be nice if we move to rendering things more statically with it maybe.
edit: site is degrading, cofounder George is working on the bottleneck
What I don't like too much is that the minter is a private company that profits from this artificial scarcity.
You might prefer FFG (Fantasy Flight Games) Living Card model. Effectively, each new set that comes out, you can buy a full play-set (it was 3x for Netrunner).
Unfortunately, it's just hard to compete with the gambli---er--addicti---er-- BOSTER PACK model of MtG.
(I've played MtG for 24 years, very much invested and sad that it's a LITERAL investment, see https://www.mtgstocks.com)
Sadly, Netrunner is dead and the license lost, so not a lot of hope for new, official cards any time soon.
The community did pick up Netrunner: https://nullsignal.games/
I see MTG the same way I see any software I subscribe to, so the artificial scarcity bit doesn’t bother me a bit. I like MTG a lot and don’t mind paying, and I’m glad the business model lets them make new cards for me many times a year.
I’m also glad they do all the collector scarcity stuff because they subsidize players like me who just want draft boosters and the cheapest versions of the singles for my decks.
We know all about old card markets, and we are also planning features to really sell high-end cards the best of all the sites.
We do want to be international, but we did everything we could to narrow the initial idea. We see significant opportunities to facilitate Europe/Japan/US/other trade.
What I'm trying to say is what sets you guys apart, or why would I as a seller (or buyer) prefer to use Mana Pool over TCG?
Is it commission? I'll say from personal experience that 10% commission (or 10.25% or whatever) is quite expensive as a seller. If the commission is the killer, are you hoping to capture more of the market from TCG for Magic? Is it sustainable to run a price war on commission?
Genuinely asking all of this btw, I do prefer the design here to tcg
2) TCGPlayer is the market price, and it's a nicely liquid market. And their owner eBay is worth $25B. And there is stiff competition from whatnot.com and goat.com in collectibles. It is an incredibly hard and fun world to build in. I think e-commerce is going to continue to evolve, and Amazon or whatever isn't the end state.
2) Answers on fees and features throughout the thread.
There is CardTrader that is mostly Euro too, and that is a solid website IMO. Europe has much lower fees (~5%), so competing there is different than in the US (~15%).
Who are your competitors? IIRC there is at least one
eBay/TCGPlayer/ChannelFireBall (US) CardMarket (Europe) CardTrader (Europe) Facebook Marketplace Amazon, Walmart (low-fee avenue for Magic sellers, some do high volume of sealed packs on these sites)
Anyways, it's a cool site. I've been interested in dabbling in MTG software for a little while now. I have mostly played on Arena, but I have friends who play paper Magic religiously. Was thinking of AI/LLM-based deck-building tools, etc.
I'm not sure what your goals are with this (if you're trying to make it a legit business or it's just a hobbyist project), but I'd be interested in freelancing if that's something you guys ever look for. I have previous experience as a software engineer at a marketplace startup (which is mostly valuable as an experience of a couple things to watch out for from a business perspective--the technical aspects of a basic P2P marketplace are pretty simple).
I am interested to hear anymore competitors!
And I'll let you know the name of that other thing I saw if I can dig it up lol
Can you share some details about the tech stack?
Vercel's instant previews are particularly great, and Svelte's ergonomics I like more than React. Svelte's SSR stuff seems cool but I am not 100% convinced yet we're leaning static enough.
I also think we're doing laps on anyone who isn't using ChatGPT/CoPilot... those poor lost souls.
I dig it
She was also the brains behind our startup together and vastly better coder than me!
But more seriously, we might have other brands in the future... the domains need to all be awesome.
She came up with the idea and then it was insta-unanimous.
i already had my crypto misadventure in 2013-14
I want to take a stack of 100 cards or so, put into a hopper - have them all scanned and a database made of every card put into the stack..
then have software tell the scanner to pull the stack back in and collate / sort it over and over again until the stack is sorted in various ways.. like sort by colors, then sort by alpha..
of course I want the software to pull in pricing info for each card in the table at that point, and then let me give a label, like bulk-blu-9-20-23-stack1A so I can put the stack in a box and come back and pull from it later -
give me an easy scan to scan the label of the box and flash the card to 'remove it from the DB'-
I think a lot of people would use such a hardware setup a lot. This would make life so much easier
For some years I have wanted to send a suggestion to those who could make it happen.. I'd love to help make it a reality in some way. One day.
If you come to Discord, I will tell you about the robots in the market.
I've got about 2,000 M:TG cards bought between 1995 and 2001 just sitting in a couple boxes collecting dust. I'd love to have a fast way to scan them all and inventory them and figure out what's worth trying to sell and what I should just throw away.
At this point, I'd be willing to pay a 25% commission to just ship the entire boxes somewhere and let them handle it all.
EDIT: added the (used to)
Consider joining a local MtG group on facebook (yes, I know). There are often a few people willing to buy collections. Get a couple or three to come and take a look and give you an offer.
Also… the main things the discord does is let people up late notice the stream, including the remote team and our friends and community etc.
Plus they can send bugs directly to the team and get real-time feedback if someone is available.
Plus it includes rooms for buyers and sellers (since we don’t yet have the social marketplace feature we intend).
Discord is fun and useful, highly recommend.