I recently came into several large collections of Magic cards that I am looking through for trade stock, obviously cards such as Counterspell tend to be good trade stock even though they are common; however, what is a good strategy for going through the rest of the cards? Are their certain abilities or creature types that I should look for or is it best to just look for what is still legal in Standard?
There are really three distinct things you're looking for:
- Playability in Standard
- Playability in Vintage/Legacy
- Playability in EDH/Commander and other popular variants
The first two are actually fairly easy to gauge; the more playable a card is, the higher its price is (typically). Use something like Magic.TCGPlayer, http://magiccards.info/, or another pricing site to look up your cards and see if they're of value. Alternatively, you could look up lists for the most playable (read: highest value) common/uncommon cards in those formats and look for those cards specifically.
The third option is a little more difficult; since EDH decks are built with 100 cards with no more than 1 of any given card (besides basic lands), lots of commons and uncommons are more popular and playable than in Vintage/Legacy. I'd recommend looking up lists of common and uncommon EDH staples and seeing what cards you might have.
The key thing you're looking for really in any card is the effect-to-mana-cost ratio. Cards like Swords to Plowshares, Lightning Bolt, Mana Leak, Terminate, Sensei's Divining Top - things that are cheap with powerful effects are really what see play.
It really depends on who you're trading with routinely. Generally speaking, if you want to move your trade stuff, you want to match your binder to both the interests and budget of the folks you're trading with. Legacy staples won't move very quickly with a crowd where everyone plays Standard, for instance; nor will $20 tournament cards with a crowd that mostly trades "dollar rares".
I use two rules of thumb for common and uncommon cards:
- "Is this played competitively?" That's why a simple uncommon like Go for the Throat is $1.50 now ($6.00 for the alternate-art FNM card). Generally, tournament staples for Standard are the most common and easiest to move, though it may vary in your local area (some places are noted Legacy hotspots, for instance).
- "Is this an obscure card with an interesting ability that someone might want for casual play?" The idea here is to put up the cards that'll interest folks who like discard decks, token decks, tribal decks, &c. These cards aren't actually worth a lot, but they make it easier to balance out a trade. They also encourage casual-leaning players to trade with you, since they'll think of you as a source of fun cards they can pick up easily rather than a guy with a binder full of terribly overpriced stuff. I like trading with casual players because they're less likely to be obsessed with gouging you for "value" any time you want a card from them. To showcase these a bit, I generally put thematically-related cards together: Words of Waste and Geth's Grimoire (not uncommons, I know) look so much cooler next to each other, for instance.
Here is a nicely formatted list of staples for EDH:
While many of the cards on that list are rare there are plenty of commons and uncommons to look out for. Due to the popularity of EDH/Commander these staple are in high demand and are well worth trading.