Monday, May 30, 2011

MTGO Library Bot 4.28 is out!


MTGO Library 4.28 is out, and fixes a number of small bugs. First of all, the Blacklist banning mechanism is more reliable. Then, wishlist buying mode supports now the New Phyrexia set. Least, New Phyrexia is handled as "standard" set and thus ML Bot is able to set the filters correctly in Buying mode.   

Creating multiple VM's at once

In my last post I showed you how to create a VM using WMware, but since you are using VM's you are probably going to have more then one.
After creating the first one you should start it and install all software needed, MTGO and MTGOLibrary bot of course. Also don't forget to install .NET framework 3.5 (Can be downloaded from Microsoft), and a newer version of DirectX than the one pre-installed to avoid errors while running MTGO.

When you have installed everything you need to make the settings in MTGO and Windows to make the bot work correctly. Start the bot and make sure all settings are correct! If everything works as it should and you want to create another VM simply go to the folder where the bot's VM is located.
Copy the whole folder and put it wherever you want to, suggested in the same folder as the other one so you easily can find them.

After copied the folder start VMWare Player and press "Open a Virtual Machine", go to the copied bot folder and select the file ending with .vmx, press open.
Now you should have 2 VM's in the list to the left ready to be launched! When starting the copied version at the first time you will get a prompt asking you if you copied the files or moved them, simply select "I copied it" and press ok.

Now you got 2 VM's fully installed. Just repeat this process until you got the amount of bots you want. Saving you a lot of time rather then installing them one by one!
When running 2 or more copies of the same VM Windows most likely will complain and tell you that there is a conflict in the network because 2 computers has the same ID, it's a bit annoying but it will work fine anyway.

Disclaimer: Microsoft requires you to have a separate license for each copy of Windows running. Assuming your computer came preinstalled with Windows, and you bought a new copy to run a VM, you have 2 licenses and you can run your computer + 1 VM. For each additional VM, you are supposed to buy a new license.  If you are running Linux, than you just need 1 license for each Windows VM.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Foilness


This article is going to cover anything that comes to mind about foils.  There have been some significant changes in the foil market lately, which I‘d like to ramble about.  

As you ‘re all probably aware, WotC decided to try something new with starting with the Shards of Alara Block a few months ago. MtGO discontinued the sale of individualized Shards/Conflux/Reborn boosters and replaced them with a single pack containing cards from all three sets.  More relevant to this article is the fact they also created foil versions of these Shards Block packs.  These packs, as well as events paying out full foil sets, resulted in a flood of ACR foils on MtGO.  As a result, the foil value of a card which goes for three tickets is not the same in Alara as in other T2 sets.
  
Wishlist buying mode and foils do not get along.  If a wishlist includes foil cards, Mtgo will try to grab the non-foil versions of those cards if there are no foils to grab.  This is a flaw/feature of Mtgo itself, not a problem with the bot. In fact, the ML Bot removes the non-foil cards from the “You Get” column to overcome the issue. In any case, it is advised that if you are buying foils you use the normal buying mode, or if the speed of wishlist buying mode is a must, refrain from buying many foils - it takes a considerable amount of time for the bot to put back cards it doesn‘t actually want to buy, and if it can only grab 75 cards and needs to put back 74 of them, you‘re only able to buy one card.  You can actually try telling your customers they must hide all their non-foil cards before selling to the bot, if you‘d like to use wishlist buying mode for a bot buying only foils.

 The last foil topic I‘d like to touch on is buying/selling during releases. For the first month after a set releases there are no redemption requests available. Because of this, the demand for foils is almost non-existent. Despite this, you‘ll often see people charging MORE for the foil versions of a card of any given value.  Another factor to consider is that most cards are going for the highest prices they‘ll ever see at this time. Combine low demand with inflated non-foil values and it only makes sense for the markup on foils to be low at this time. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Remote control via LogMeIn


If you have ever wanted to go on vacation and still have the ability to access to your bot from remote then this article is for you. This is 100% free for everyone. Admin access may be required for remote access.
 Open up a web browser and navigate to www.logmein.com sign up for a free account. The following steps need to be performed on the computer that will run the bot. Go to www.logmein.com and login with the account you just setup. After you login you will see the control panel. Click the add computer button and follow the installer. It might be slightly different depending on your browser. Perform a typical installation. The installation will ask you for a secret 8 digit code. Write it down.

After you finished the install you can now remote control the computer. Test it out by going to another PC open up www.logmein.com go to the control panel, log in and use the green remote control button. It will ask you for your secret code. After you type in the code you will be brought to your new desktop.

Friday, May 27, 2011

MTGO Library Bot 4.27 is out!


Welcome to New Phyrexia!
MTGO Library Bot 4.27 is out and support the Magic Online “New Phyrexia” (NPH) set. As usual, the new pricelist is available for free during update, or in the installer, as well for download from the Online Control Panel.

What you need to do before starting your own bot

Last time, I discussed the costs associated with running a part time Magic Online bot. Today I will show you what you need to do to start running your part time bot.
First off, you need a computer you can dedicate to this task. I know, it sounds trivial, but this is an important component. This computer needs to be totally dedicated to running your bot when the bot is running. Not partially. Not running a torrent program, not running your Facebook games in the background, and certainly no maintenance programs like virus scans or spyware sweeps. All these things will slow down the computer and more importantly, interfere with the bot giving you totally unexpected results and we can't have that, can we? (I'm also assuming this computer meets the recommended requirements and can be left running unattended for stretches of time, say over-night.)
Secondly, you are going to need an initial investment, or a starting pool of money. For this, you go to the Wizards store and purchase a quantity of tickets. Twenty (20) is a good starting point. Makes these tickets trade-able and make everything else in your collection untrade-able.
Thirdly, Register, download, install, and customize the bot to your specifications. (I'll cover this in more detail in a future blog.)
Fourthly, schedule time for your bot to run. Since the bot runs unattended, this allows you to live your life. You can sleep, attend school, work, even go on that hot date; knowing all the while that your bot will be working to get you cards that you desire. Next time, I'll show you how to configure the bot properly.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

MTGO Library Bot 4.26 is out!


MTGO Library Bot 4.26 is more compatible with Windows 7 64 bit. New Phyrexia set will be out tomorrow with version 4.27. Stay tuned!

Recent new MTGO Library Bot features


ML Bot has been gaining abilities at an amazing pace for a bot which was already so well-established, so it can be quite easy to go without noticing something. If you've been using the program for awhile and don't recall many new features, give a read, because you've probably missed some.

I'll start with perhaps the most comforting new feature of all: buyer/seller price consistency checks. On the main panel of the bot's interface, you have the option of enabling the bot to check all your prices to make sure you are charging more than you pay for each card. If your bot were willing to pay two tickets for a card it sells for one ticket, someone could buy them from you and sell them back to you until the bot has nothing left. Even if you ran out of tickets, they could then use the credit to take your cards. Everyone should have this enabled on at LEAST one bot.

Many people mark every card in their collection for trade when selling to bots, which can cause the bot to take a long time to scan their entire collection. The bot now has the ability to recognize if it is only interested in cards from the T2 or extended formats, and if so, filter any sellers' collections so as to only display those cards. Depending on how much old stuff someone has, this can cut the time spent selecting cards from minutes to seconds. The bot automatically employs this practice when applicable, but it is up to you to limit the bot to only buying from those formats if you so desire.

MLBot is now capable of restocking itself. Under the administrator panel of the interface, you can configure your bots to open trade with each other and either give, take, or both give and take cards that they are in need of. If you employ separate buy-bots and sell-bots, one of the keys to maximizing profit is getting the cards you buy up for sale as soon as possible... and keeping a sell-bot as fully stocked as possible at all times is not a bad idea either. You can even set up a bot specifically for the purpose of restocking the others if you so choose.

You can set the bot to display “BUSY” or “OPEN” at the beginning of your classifieds message, which isn't so new, but you can now also set the bot to display an entirely different advertisement when it's busy. The default secondary message of ''Buying and Selling all Cards'' should definitely be changed, at a minimum, to be the same as your standard classifieds message. To go beyond that, you might choose to advertise different cards when busy, or buy-prices when busy with sell-prices when open. For the latter suggestcreate an advertisement for youion, you might want to advertise the same exact cards. If someone found your ad by searching a cardname, and is waiting for your bot to become open, but the searched card isn't listed in the message displayed when your bot is open... the ad will disappear when the bot becomes available. Ouch. Speaking of advertisement messages, the website now has a panel from which you can remotely set the messages across all of your bots.

Another time-saving feature has recently come to fruition: you can set the bot to create an advertisement for you. I won't waste time teaching the specifics here, click the ''learn more'' button on the messages tab of the interface to learn the formatting used to have the bot generate an advertisement for you. You can be as lazy as to tell it to advertise the prices of 7 completely random cards... or as specific as you want, telling it the exact cardnames you want it to advertise, and how many decimal places you want used in the price it lists.

Going virtual part 2

After setting your server up with the hardware you decided you should be going on to what VM (Virtual Machine) software you should use. At first i used VirtualBox, but after a while i noticed that the bots kept hanging up alot so i had to restart them manually almost every day.
I read a bit about VM's and figured out that the best one for my needs were VMware. After i changed to VMware i never had any problems at all with my bots. They are always up and running smoothly. Feel free to try them out;Swebot, Swebot1, Swebot2, _______BuyAndSellAll, _______BuyAndSellAl2, _______BuyAndSellAl3.

A guide how to setup your first VM using VMware.
To get started go to VMware.com and register an account, else you can't download the software.
After registering go to the download part of the site and look for a software called VMware Player, download and install it.
When you have installed it and start it you will see a small menu to the right and your VM's in a list to the left. Since it's the first time you run VMware the list will be empty.

1. Press "Create a New Virtual Machine" and you will see a box with some alternatives
2. Choose the way you want to install the OS (Operating system), putting in a OS disc in the
computer, install from an ISO file stored on the computer or if you want to install the OS later, i suggest you use Windows XP and installing the OS immediately, then VMware will install it for you. Then press next.
3. Fill in the required fields, press next.
4. Fill in the name you want for the VM and choose location and press next.
5. Now you are going to choose how big the VM should be, i suggest 10Gb. Also choose to store the virtual disk in a single file because storing in multiple
files will for sure result in your bot running slow. Press next.
6. You will see a list of all settings you have made, check the list and see so everything is correct. I suggest you to press the "Customize Hardware" button and change the RAM to 1050-1100Mb rather then 1024. Press finish and VMware will start the VM and install the selected OS.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Nix Tix and effect on the market

I’d like to go over ‘‘nix tix drafts and their effect on the MTGO economy for any bot owners who may not pay attention to limited.  It can be worthwhile to take a look at the nix tix schedule every now and again for even the most withdrawn bot operator.

Nix tix events are drafts in which no event tickets are charged to enter.  Usually one set/block is set to nix tix mode each week.  You can always find the schedule on wizards.com. Whenever a set is available for nix tix, its draft is drafted more.  This has the obvious effect of putting more cards from that format on the market - which will usually make it easier for those card prices to drop.  There are a few different tactics to employ during these market situations.  The simplest and most apparent reaction is to pay a bit less or stop buying cards you feel may be ready to drop in price.  On the contrary, if you are having trouble stocking any cards from that format, now may be the time to advertise that you are buying them.  If you can’t keep them in stock they are less likely to drop in price, so don’t be afraid to gather some up while you can, just because the overall idea is to back away from the set or block.

Booster pack values are also affected by nix tix events.  Whichever boosters are being nix tix drafted get siphoned off the market, causing their value to increase at least slightly.  This change is predicted fairly well by booster bots, so don’t expect to be able to scoop up a bunch of packs the day before nix tix and resell them later that week for a hefty profit.  The margin on boosters is tiny due to their liquidity, leaving little room for speculation to be worthwhile.

Even Ticket values see an effect from nix tix events, but not in quite the same way.  There’s pretty much always a nix tix format available, but depending on what it is, there can be a different effect.  Events that take event tickets off the market cause the monetary value of an event ticket to rise, while events which require no tickets have the opposite effect.  Popular nix tix formats like M10 kept more tickets on the market.  Less popular nix tix formats remove this counterbalance. Nix tix events held in tandem with a nix pax events can actually have the complete opposite effect of the standard nix tix week, instead draining tickets off the market.  The effect nix tix events have on ticket values are of course dwarfed by the thirty ticket entry prerelease events they’ve been holding lately.  With all these factors constantly changing, you would think the cash an event ticket fetches through paypal would be jumping around like crazy, but it’s actually fairly constant.  It takes long-term trends to make a significant effect on what users are willing to sell their tickets for to really cause a splash.  An example of such a change would be the first MTGO prerelease, which caused event tickets to rise in perceived value in anticipation that every new set would drain huge amounts of tickets from the market, thirty at a time.

 In summary, nix tix events can be the catalyst in price drops, cause hard to find cards to become more readily available for a short time, increase booster values, and offset the drainage of event tickets from the marketplace. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Why run a bot?


So you like playing Magic Online but simply can not afford to put hard earned dollars into this game? Maybe you play at your local card store and like the diversity of casual decks online, but can not afford to play with both physical cards and virtual cards. Maybe the global economic situation has affected you and you are unable to play limited events but want to keep current in Magic. Then maybe you should consider running a bot part-time.
Yes, it's time to think outside the box a little and consider all the advantages (and disadvantages) of running your own, personal Magic Online bot. It is not as difficult or as expensive as you would think.

If you scour the landscape and see what bots are out there, you find an overwhelming situation and wonder if these bots aren't designed for card shops and gaming centers seeking to supplement their income during the quieter times of the week, like Monday morning. Excessive charges, dedicated computers and of course, the actual inventory of cards as well all contribute to steep startup costs and drive away many.

Fortunately, MTGO Library has a method of payment that suits this type of player quite well: pay per transaction. Yes, at first seeing the 2.5 or 3.5% transaction charge seems like a lot. It can be overwhelming. But when you do the math, even at 3.5%, that amounts to one (1) ticket every 28 tickets worth of transactions. (One ticket for every 40 tickets worth of transactions at 2.5%) That doesn't sound too bad, does it?

So dispose of that old “I can't run a bot” type of thinking and next time, I'll show you the specifics of how you too can run a successful part-time bot.

MTGO Library Bot 4.25 is out!


ML Bot 4.25 features an integrated scammer list / blacklist . In a nutshell, ML Bot 4.25 builds-in a list of undesired ''bad'' traders (for instance people opening trade and sitting there just to make your bot idle) and automatically aborts trade. Future version of the bot will automatically update the list, thus you have to do nothing special to use the feature.

Four types of bot


There are hundreds of bots on MTGO, and they aren't all the same. I am of the opinion that there's no single ''correct'' choice, that it's just a matter of having different goals and different strategies to achieve them. I employ several different strategies on several different bots, and I see great benefits from each and every one.

Deciding which one works best for you can be one of the most important decisions you make as a bot operator. Most people go into it without ever considering doing anything besides the basic ''stock up to 4 of all the cards in xyz sets.'' The following are examples of bots with different strategies and target customers, which anyone can copy, extend upon, improve or top.

First Impression Bot - It's all about the first impression. The strategy here is to set incredibly good prices on ONLY the cards you have specifically advertised, with normal rates on any other cards. The idea behind this is that many players who are looking to buy and sell do not look for the absolute best offer on every single card they sell or buy. Often a seller simply looks for the best offer on the most expensive card they are looking to sell, and sells that bot anything else it wants unless some poor offer stands out to ruin the deal. Many buyers will even fall into this same practice, assuming one or two good prices mean anything about the prices for other cards on the bot. This isn't to say you should be ripping people off on non-advertised cards, in fact that's likely to ruin the illusion. You simply want to generate tons of traffic with your advertised prices, netting you plenty of business on your fairly priced non-advertised cards.

Pros: You will certainly have no trouble buying or selling the cards you advertise at these amazing rates, and of course additionally you'll buy and sell more of whatever else you have than you would without the extra shoppers.
If your bots pace of selling or buying falls behind the other, the bot will either never have or never need the advertised cards. The simplest solution is to have unbeatable prices for both buying and selling of those cards, which means very little profit on them. 
Cons: You can gather a large backstock of the cards, but this makes you vulnerable to losing money if a card goes down. Rotating the advertised cards works very well


Buy ANYTHING Bot - Some people just want to get rid of everything. When it comes to older sets and stuff like promos, it can be hard for some people to find buyers. A bot set to buy anything in mtgo to huge quantities, even at absurdly low prices, ends up on a lot of buddylists. 

Pros: It's not that complicated, you're getting cards cheaper than you should be able to, simply by being willing to take anything. Some people don't know obscure valuable commons, or possibly forget about having them, so you can actually get some nice stuff at prices too low for junk. If the bot is also selling, you can charge an insanely low rate and still be making good profit. The biggest plus is that this type of bot requires almost no maintenance.
Cons: Even at incredibly low prices, with success, the investment might outpace the profit for quite awhile. Most of the stuff it's buying isn't going to sell very quickly, and there are a lot of cards on MTGO for it to aquire.


Has EVERYTHING Bot - Many players don't want to go to buy a card only to find the seller is out of it... and so is the next one. The biggest bot chains in MTGO all do great amounts of business, and they all charge the highest price you'll generally see on MTGO. Their angle is almost exclusively that they have ''pretty much'' everything all the times. It's not ALL about having the lowest prices. Some bots charge so little that they are constantly bought out of anything in any sort of demand, resulting in not even being considered as an option by many potential customers. By ensuring a bot chain is almost never out of any of the cards it deals in, you can get more business selling the same cards without as much of a markdown. You can dedicate other bots to purchasing cards for the main bot, or manually buy cards in the auction room or classifieds to keep your bot constantly stocked. Buying collections has lots of synergy with this strategy.

Pros: It's easy to get a solid customer base when you have everything they need, even if the prices are merely par. Charging more allows you more breathing room for giving good offers and still making profit.
Cons: For the best results you'll have to invest lots of tickets... and either spare time or bot-space. You can setup extra bots to buy for that bot which could otherwise be doing something else, or you can spend some free time buying cards directly from players. On top of that, price changes are of the greatest concern, so updating frequently is essential.


Foil Bot - There is a proportionally large gap between the going buy and sell prices for foils, due to the lack of competition compared with the non-foil market. Dedicating a bot to foils is unquestionably the most obvious niche, yet there is still tons of room for tons of people to walk on in and take a piece of the foil pie.

Pros: Having sketchy inventory isn't as much of an issue, for some reason people don't hold it against foil bots. If anything it makes it seem like the bot must be selling plenty of foils, indicating good pricing. The going rate on buying foils is way below what they can be sold for, so the profit you make on your investment is unrivaled.
Cons: Depending on what you decide to stock up to, the investment can be much larger than that of a non-foil bot. Sales can be slow at times. That's all. If you can afford to tie up tickets in foils, it can be a great investment.

There are plenty of routes to take with your bots on MTGO, these are only a few examples. Be creative, figure out what might be ideal for some potential customer-base, and provide the service.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Going virtual


For setting up your first virtual machines you first of all need a server, depending on how many virtual machines you want to have your server need different specifications.
On my server I run 6 bots and have the following specifications:
Processor: AMD Phenom II X6 @ 2.8GHz
RAM: 4x2GB (8gb)
Graphic card (GFX): Geforce 9800 GT 1GB
Harddrive (HDD): 80GB Intel SSD (Solid State Drive)

For every instance of an virtual machine you will at least be needing 1024mb RAM and 0.5-1 processor core each, depending on what processor manufacturer you have.
Additionally you should have 1-2Gb RAM for the hosting operating system. The AMD ones are cheaper then Intels, but if you are using the new Intel core i7 you can run approximately 2-2.5 virtual machines on every core, using AMD you can probably run 1-1.5 virtual machines on every core.

The virtual machines I run on my server each got 1100mb RAM and 1 processor core. I put 1100mb RAM because i think it's better to have a bit over the recommended (1024mb) to avoid the bots running slow. Also i'm pretty sure that my processor can handle more than 6 bots at the same time, but as I said about the RAM, it's always better to have more than recommended!

By looking on the MTGO interface and the bot interface we can clearly see that it's not a heavy graphical software, so you really don't need to have an expensive GFX card. Mine was very expensive when I bought it, about 3 years ago, but I bought it for gaming purposes. But the evolution of computers are going so fast forward so now my GFX card is pretty much useless for playing games, but still works perfect for running MTGO bots.

When choosing HDD rather choose one with a high RPM (Revolutions Per Minute, the speed the HDD rotates, depending on what RPM the HDD has it can read/write data at different speeds, higher RPM equals faster readings and writings.) than big HDD space, each virtual machine only need about 10Gb HDD space.
For running 4+ bots on the same server i would recommend an Raptor disc (15.000RPM) or an SSD disc as I use. SSD is the new HDD system which don't use a spinning disc and is much faster.

Start-up period

A frequent question people asks me is: how long will it take for my business to start?

Starting from zero, the answer: is "a couple of months" - a minimum of 3. If your bot is unknown on the market and not fully stocked with cards, then you have to consider a "start-up" period in which you will see a very low volume of trades. Trades will eventually increase till a good level.

The experience with my personal bot is that after one year, the trades become very frequent. My fully stocked bot gets a trade almost every minute: right after a withdraw or a completed trade, someone else opens trade immediately. How did I get there? Well, basically I just hosted the bot on my pc and waited... waited for a long time, checking the bot every while. That's time consuming, but thankfully that's not your time.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

MTGO Library Bot 4.24 is out!


MTGO Library Bot 4.24 supports up to 3 administrators (instead of 1). You can specify them in the “Administrator” tab by enabling the checkbox and entering the names. If you don’t need three names, just leave the unnecessary empty.

New set releases and pricing strategy


Innistrad: available on line from October 17, 2011
During a set’s release is the time when bots have the greatest potential to either make or lose lots of tickets.  Cards change value very quickly and drastically as the set stabilizes, so it’s important to approach the situation differently to maximize results.  Here are some tips beyond the obvious “update your prices more often”. When a set releases, most prices are as high as they’ll ever be due to scarcity.  It is no secret that the overall value of the set is going to plummet, so you don’t have to pay even close to what you would for cards of the same value from sets that have already stabilized.  Those selling want to get rid of everything as soon as possible.  Consider that initially not even a single rare in the set is selling for 0.10, yet very soon almost half of the rares in the set will be.  Be careful not to get too stingy or you’ll lose a lot of potential purchases.

In addition to paying lower than usual, it’s also a good move to sell for well below what you’d normally charge, that way your cards move rapidly. Almost every card is going to go down in value - you don’t want to hold onto them until they’re worth half as much. As the next couple weeks pass, prices will fall more and more as product enters the market. Some cards will randomly spike in value as they find places in decks, but also fade from that point on. During this time it’s important to update prices a bit more often than usual. If cards drop in value you’ll be paying too much for them, and charging so much that you won’t be able to sell them until you do update prices, at which time they’d likely be worth even less. 

Eventually the set ‘‘bottoms out’‘ as the market has become saturated with product. Now is a good time to begin to sell and buy for normal rates - the set will be picking up in value to some extent, so you want to buy what you can while it’s low, and shouldn’t be really too concerned about selling your cards while they’re worth so little, so there’s no need for heavy discounting. It might even be wise to buy extras of any cards you feel are sure to increase in value.  This rise in value is generally caused by set redemption.  If there is great demand for paper sets, or if the paper sets are worth a great deal more than online sets, you can be sure there will be a healthy flow of redemptions to cut away at the flood of MTGO product.   

It can be very beneficial to pay attention to whether or not redemption is already available for a new set, and if not, when it does become available.  A delay in redemption availability can cause the initial decline in MTGO prices to go further than normal. The lack of MTGO redemptions can cut down on paper product supply, increasing paper set values, thus causing a stampede of redemptions once it becomes available, resulting in a steeper aftershock of... yes, redemptions plays a heavy role in the MTGO economy. Eventually the flood of product will overcome the redemptions and prices will stabilize, or more likely, drop back down a bit.  Finally the set can be treated pretty much as normal, with a new set lingering just around the corner.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

How much one can earn?

A frequent question is: how much can I earn from running a bot?

Well, the answer is not unique and lower and upper boundaries can vary a lot, depending on your collection size, prices, reputation of the shop and lots more. Luckly, there are some average considerations one can do. An average bot with 30.000 - 40.000 cards, with 3.000-4.000 can easily earn (neatly, including all the expenses) 120-150 tixs per month. This means 4-5 tixs per day. On average, the volume of sales is 30 - 40 tixs per day.

Big chains do far better, but that's because they usually have huge inventories, a well-established base of customers, and good prices. Indeed, if your shop is new and mostly unknown, it will underperform - it will take months to reach a decent level. Keep hard and stay at it!

My experience with running a bot

Hello everyone! I'm the new guy who is going to post articles around here for a while :-) My name is Sebastian and I started my first two bots about two years ago, now my bots help me alot with my economics, I will along the way tell you how i made it this far.

It all started with my friend asked me to try MTGO, shortly after that I realized that I could make money in a long term sight, so I started my 2 first bots. In the beginning they were going very slow and I thought about shutting them down after the first 6 months due to lack of patience, but I kept them and it has evolved from a hobby to a small homebusiness.

So what do you need to start your own sucessfull bots? First of all you need a server computer that preferably can be kept online 24 hours a day, unless you use the MTGOLibrary server rental service. You really don't have to buy so expensive server in the start since you probably wont have cards enough filling up several bots, I started using an 5-year old laptop, with a dual core processor and 3Gb of RAM, running 2 virtual servers. The first months my bot hobby went really slow, i was close to shutting them down after 5-6 months. But I kept reminding myself that i have to be patient, starting a small bot chain doesn't make you make money at once. 

The MTGOLibrary server rental service is an awesome service, it's a win-win situation. Using this service you don't need a server running at home anymore, but comparing the prices with running several virtual OS at home or renting servers online is alot in the long run. The only cost I have to run my bots are my electrical bill which is about $15 a month, and for that I keep 6 bots running 24 hours a day. In my next article I will help you get started with some virtual machines

- Sebastian - 

Friday, May 20, 2011

More to expand


Feel like your bot is competitive, yet isn't getting as much traffic as you'd expect? This week I'd like to go over a couple tricks for drawing more customers to your bots without changing a single price.

The most obvious way to get more people to your bot is through your classifieds advertisement. This is the number one way people find the bots they use, and is thus one of the most important factors in your bot's success. I've already written about improving the quality of your advertisement, so I won't bore you with that again.

Instead I'd like to present the idea of running additional advertisements for your bots. You can create additional MTGO accounts, name them something that sorts alphabetically near your bot in the classifieds, and let them help out with your advertising. You can say something direct like ''Search Spazbot to find an open Spazbot'' in all of your classifieds advertisements, and set all the non-bot advertisements to always say “BUSY” so that people will go looking for the actual bot you're trying to direct traffic to. If you use names like CardSeller1, CardSeller2, CardSeller3, you might not even have to waste advertising space directing people to look for an open bot: simply seeing that CardSeller3 is busy will prompt many people to search for other CardSeller bots, since the ''3'' implies there are others.

Everybody loves free stuff right? There are a handful of bots on MTGO which give away 32-64 free cards per month to anyone who wants them. While ML Bot does not currently support giving away a limited amount of free cards to customers, you can do something similar to draw attention and respect to your bots. When you have some free time to burn, you can make a classifieds posting, or simply run a message in the auction room stating that you are willing to give away some free cards to anyone who'd like to check out your bots. They can send you a private message once done, at which point you can pause the bot and confirm the trade. As an example, you could offer anyone 0.25 in free cards from your bots, excluding rares. You can be as specific as you want, perhaps offering one rare and up to ten uncommons/commons, no cards exceeding 0.10 in value, total value under 0.50. If your prices are competitive, the amount that can be obtained within these limitations should encourage anyone to try your bot for any future needs. Even if your prices aren't that amazing, the gesture can go a long way with people.

If you don't feel like sitting around, you can even offer a small amount of free bot credit to anyone who replies to your post, but you'll have no control over what they're getting with that credit, unless you were to setup a separate bot with limited inventory entirely for this purpose.

Another way to get your bot into some new people's buddylists is by sponsoring player-run tournaments. Everything is up to you, from format to prize payout. You can even outsource the running of the events to someone for a small fee, which I've done in the past. Some people would even be happy to organize your events for you for free, just to help improve the community and participate. Pauper is a popular format for these events, but as the point is to draw in new paying customers, you may opt for a block, standard or extended event.

Paying out in cards or tickets works fine as long as everyone participating knows whose bot is responsible for the free event with prizes, but you may prefer to award prizes in the form of bot credit, as this ensures everyone who won anything from your event visits your bot at least once. Sponsoring events can go even further towards charming people into choosing your bots than simply giving away free cards. It may feel less like a bribe, or maybe it makes the bot seem more like the human operating it than a cold steely money-hungry machine. People really love free event sponsors.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Two bots on the same machine


Do you have a unique PC and want to run more than one bot? Well, if your machine is powerful enough, there is a way.

There are several free virtual machine software available on internet, such as wmware , virtual PC, ESXi or VirtualBox. All these products work more or less the same: you install them, launch them and you get a virtual machine running on a portion of your hardware. You can install whatever software you want (an operative system is the basic – I suggest Windows XP).

The entire operation takes a couple of hours but it's worthy since you will end up with a second machine to run your bot! Keep this machine very clean, just install the bare minimum, and you'll have no performance problems!

Candy-eye and Informational Messages

Sometimes it doesn’t matter if your bot offers the best price for a card.  Actually the vast majority of cards bought and sold on MTGO aren’t moving for the best rates available.  Word of mouth, classifieds advertisements, and the bot’s willingness to buy other cards all figure in heavily.  

Today I’d like to focus on classifieds advertisements again, because there are tons of bots not getting as much help as they could be from this invaluable marketing tool. Very few people go through the classifieds in their entirety.  Almost everyone is typing something into the search box to filter the classifieds down to a manageable portion, and if your bot’s advertisement does not include the term they filtered by, your bot may as well not even exist at that moment in time.  "\n" is a great tool for making sure your bot comes up in as many classifieds searches as possible.  Typing “\n” into a classifieds ad will start a new line, which happens automatically anyhow if your advertisement is too long to fit into one line of text - more interesting is that anything you type between "\n" and "]" will not appear in your ad,
yet still cause your ad to be displayed to anyone who searches by that term.  Some example terms to place between "\n" and "]" are: rares, mythics, mythic rares, zzz, acr, m101010, buying, and selling.  


Of course, even if your ad is displayed in someone’s search results, that doesn’t necessarily mean your ad will be appealing to whoever sees it. Most advertisements fall under the category of "informational" or "eye-candy".  Informational ads list as many specific cards and prices as they can possibly fit.  The idea is either to display your attractive prices to anyone specifically looking to buy or sell one of those cards, or to be one of the only people listing a certain card, netting you the business of people who choose to search by that card’s name, whether or not the price is all that compettitive.  


When using an "informational" type of advertisement, it’s only ideal if your prices really do beat many other offers, or if you are listing cards which most others are not.  If you list the same cards as fifty other people, and don’t beat any of them, your advertisement is likely not helping you. The other type of advertisement, "eye-candy" as I like to call it, aims to attract customers with colors, symbols and nice text. For promises that grab attention.  "OFF ALL CARDS" "SMILEYBOT - BEATING EVERY BOT - CHECK FOR YOURSELF" "BLUEBOT BUYING and SELLING". This strategy does work, I can say so because I am not one to put my eggs in one basket, and thus have tried pretty much everything. In summary, make sure your ad is seen by many people, and that they like what they see.  Proper advertising can do wonders for any bot that is even halfway decent as far as pricing goes.  



Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Classified


The best way to attract customers is to post great messages in the Classified and Trading rooms. MTGO Library bot does this automatically. Indeed the content of the messages is up to you, and it heavily impacts the number of contacts your shop has.
I would like to discuss the many commands ML Bot offers to enrich messages by automatically replacing cards and prices. Such commands are the key to attract people to your shop rather than another one, thus I suggest to spend a bit of time experimenting with them.
The basic commands are #buy# and #sell#, that respectively replace with an item the bot “will buy” and an item the bot “sells”. You can specify sets as well, for example: #buy_ZEN# or #sell_M10#. You can even specify rarities (C/U/R/M): #buy_ZEN_R#, #sell_M10_U#, #sell_R# or #buy_C#
All these “sub-commands” are commutative in order: in a nutshell #sell_M10_U# will work exactly as #M10_U_sell# or #U_sell_M10#.
There are a couple of more specific commands, namely #pp# and #CFA#. #pp# forces the item to be replaces with an item in PersonalPrices.txt. For example #sell_M10_pp# will replace with a M10 cards the bot sells but taken from PersonalPrices.txt! This is great to advertise the cards your bot best handles. #CFA# is similar: it replaces with an item defined in “CardsForAdvertisement.txt”, where CardsForAdvertisement.txt is a simple text file listing a series cards.
Please take a look at the manual to learn more about these commands - since these can improve your business a lot. For any question, feel free to write me at staff@mtgolibrary.com or albert@mtgolibrary.com.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Stay at it!

I want to share with you a wonderful article published on March on "wisestartupblog.com", originally posted (here) by Andrew. I think it applies not only to business or Magic Online, but to life in general.

"If you want to be successful, get ready for a lot of long days followed by long nights. I really like the mantra from Jason Fried and 37 Signals. He has a smallish company, 20 or so people that profits Millions per year, and that’s my goal for my companies, but here’s one thing I just found out about how to get there…

Stay At It!

The truth is everyday you continue to build things, the closer you get to a kick-ass, super-profitable business empire"

Pricing your items

The key to success in almost any venture lies in having an edge. If you‘re the same as everybody else, you should‘t expect to have exceptional results. One of the best ways to give yourself an edge when running a bot on MTGO is by setting your own prices and making them competitive. 
The first step is deciding which cards you will price manually. There are a lot of cards in existence, and keeping tabs on all of them is probably not worth the effort for almost anyone. A common choice for those who do any manual pricing at all is to track standard only, relying on the mtgolibrary.com pricelist and the modifiers in the GUI for anything else. You can cut your work down even further by identifying any cards within which don’t require attention. Anything at the minimum value usually stays there, and the vast majority of cards go for that same minimum price. If you compile a few organized lists of cards you feel warrant your attention, you can check everything you feel you need to in very little time.
Once you’ve decided upon which cards you’d like to price and chosen a resource to check for changes, it’s time to create a PersonalPrices.txt file for your bot. If you have a lot of confidence, you can just go in and start creating pricelines for each card one by one until you’re done. The main reason I avoid doing this is to prevent typos which could cause the bot to pay too much for something, or sell it for too little.

 The following is an example of a price-base chart, a tool I use for setting my own prices.                                  
-- Sell; SellFoil; Buy; BuyFoil
-- 0.095;  0.7;    0.055;   0.12
-- 0.11;  0.75;   0.07; 0.15
-- 0.135;  0.8;  0.095; 0.20
-- 0.175;  0.9;  0.135;  0.35

What we have here is a small portion of a table of the prices we might assign for any given price for rares. I’m not suggesting that 0.095 is the right price for a junk rare, it’s just a visual aid. The pricing gods tend to use the same numbers over and over again, always jumping from 0.10 to 0.12 to 0.15 for example, so you don’t need a priceline for every single value possible. By typing them up in advance, you can eliminate the risk of devastating typos as you edit prices. Tables like these take only a few minutes to create, cutting out the bulk of the guess-work involved in manual pricing. Of course you’ll need a different price chart for each rarity, but it’s also advisable to have a different one for each set, and to swap out the price charts as demands change

Running a successful bot



There are only a few big bots in the Magic Online market. What is one supposed to do in order to run a successful business and have a lot of customers? I will discuss here some of the key factors that lead to a successful bot:

1-    Inventory: having a large collection is probably the most important factor. Your bot has to host almost all the cards in Magic Online. Since this is impossible, I use the empirical law “at least 40.000 cards, with at least 4.000 rares/mythics”. It’s better if you deal also with foil cards, but this is not mandatory. You can buy collections from eBay for very discounted prices: this helps a lot at the beginning.

2-    Prices: prices have to be low, but not too low. On average they have to be below the market,  but some “slightly more expensive cards” are ok. Customers won’t jump from one bot to another bot just to save 0.05 tixs, since this is extremely time expensive. When I shop to build my deck, I always visit the same bots.

3-    Chain: more than one bot is mandatory. A chain should comprise at least 4/6 bots, named in a consistent way (cccbot1,ccbot2,cccbot3) and with shared credit.

4-    Customer care: always give your email address in the greeting message: “If you have problem, feel free to write at ccc@ccc.com”. This protects customers and give them the possibility to contact you in case of issues (and hence shop again in your chain)

Monday, May 16, 2011

About timing


The timing of a purchase can be a huge factor in how much profit you turn while perating a bot on MTGO. I’d like to hit on a few points about this using a three-set block as the basis for my ramblings.  This is by no means as lucrative as identifying trends in the stock market - Magic cards can be far more predictable. 

The majority of bots on MTGO follow a simple protocol to establish a refill level, and buy any cards that you need to get back to that refill level. Actually, the majority of bots even use the same exact refill level - FOUR.  For the sake of simplicity, I will refer to the sets in our imaginary block as A-Set, B-Set, and C-Set.  Here is the basic premise: in a nutshell it is ideal to buy a large amount of low-value cards when there are a ton of them on the market, allowing you to pay a minimal price because very few bots need the cards despite the fact tons of people are trying to get rid of them. The window of opportunity for these low prices is different for each set, but I can at least give a rough guide for predicting these trends. Like almost everything else in the MTGO economy, it all stems from limited players and their preferences.  
When the block starts, drafts and sealed events will be entirely A-Set product, resulting in a large flood of A-Set cards onto the market. Next up is the B-Set release. For this there will be the option of events using only B-Set, or events using both A-Set and B-Set. The split drafts will be A-Set, A-Set, B-Set: two thirds A-Set, one third B-Set, furthering the flood of A-Set onto the market. After B-Set releases, the AAB format becomes the only drafting option. Finally, C-Set release events will give the option of events using entirely C-Set, or an ABC setup. After that, the block is fully released, and the only option is ABC.

What about that stands out that the main set, A-Set, is going to be churned out onto the market very heavily. Of course this is offset by the fact it is a much larger set than either B or C, but it still ends up overproduced compared with the other sets. If you are going to buy any large quantities from this set, it is ideal to do so... pretty much anytime before the next block hits. I find it to be best to snatch it up en masse while AAB events are going on, while most are focused on the newer set.

Set also gets a nice flow of quantity onto the market due to entering the market far sooner than C-Set, but it’s nothing like what happens to A-Set.  It’s ideal to buy up B-Set about two months after it hits the market. The “normal protocol” bots have already generally filled up on it, so if you have a bot willing to buy it in bulk, you will see plenty of business without having to pay significantly well.    

Finally, C-Set is the only set which you really need to worry about. It hits the market and before you know it, the next block is out and C is not entering the market at a significant pace, causing the price you need to pay for it to climb right back up to par. As soon as C-Set prices finish dropping  - generally after about five to six weeks -  you should buy all that you’ll need. It doesn’t take long for the minimal flood of C-Set cards to dry up, and then they fetch a normal price at almost any rational bot.

ML Bot "Lite" - the spiritual successor of YatBot

MTGO Library Bot “Lite” version is the successor of the very famous “YatBot”, a popular bot back in Magic Online v2. A lite bot is a cheap and easy way to run a business in Mtgo - even though not as proficient as a Pro bot.


How do people usually set up a lite bot? Well, in practice a lite bot works well in chain with other lite bots, each of them spanning a certain “type” of cards. For instance one bot will handle cheap cards (cheap commons, cheap uncommons, rares and mythic); another bot will deal with mid-price cards and a third one with expensive cards. This is the basic setup – more complex chains are possible.

A lite bot requires little or no maintenance: you set it up and forget it. Just keep an eye on it from the Online Control Panel on mtgolibrary.com once a day - and you'll have the whole situation under control.