Monday, November 24, 2014

A Gambler's Secret CS:GO Fun: The Trade-Up Contract

Note: Prices from this article were retrieved in November, 2014. CS:GO market fluctuations may result in jumps and dips, but the relative prices between tiers should be consistent.
If, like me, you're new-ish to CS:GO, you may only have a cursory knowledge of the Trade-Up Contract. And that's okay; it's not like you're missing out on a key game feature, like grenades or deathmatch. It's a sideways way of getting new weapon skins when you've got a lot of junkers. But if you like gambling, it can be a slightly less risky way to wet your whistle than opening cases.

The Basics

First, let's go over how it works. Weapon skins have multiple grades, progressing in the following order from least rare to most rare:
  • Consumer
  • Industrial
  • Mil-Spec
  • Restricted
  • Classified
  • Covert
  • Contraband*
*Contraband is a designation given to only one weapon thus far, the M4A4 Howl, which was redesigned and discontinued due to art theft by the submitter. For our purposes in this article, Contraband Grade weapons are irrelevant.

In order to "trade up," you select ten weapons of all the same grade, and you will receive one weapon of the next grade up. For example, If you trade up ten industrial grade weapons, you get one mil-spec weapon. If you trade up ten mil-spec weapons, you'll get a restricted weapon, and so on. So, if you wanted to trade from only consumer grade weapons and get a covert weapon, you'd need 100,000 consumer grade weapons. There are certainly that many consumer grade weapons out there, but at a nickel apiece, you'd be spending five grand to get to that point; not exactly a great strategy.

Map Collections and Case Collections

Of course, there's more to it than that. How does the game decide what weapon to grant you? Each weapon is part of a specific "collection." There are two different kinds of collections. There are collections that drop at the end of matches. We'll call these "map collections," because each of these collections is named after a map in CS:GO. So you have the Dust Collection, the Mirage Collection, the Train Collection, etc. The other kind of collections are those that drop when you use a key to open a weapon case. We'll call these "case collections," for obvious reasons. Something to note is that case collections only drop mil-spec or higher weapons. Consumer and industrial grade weapons only exist in map collections, and only drop at the end of matches.

If you trade up ten items from within the same collection, you'll get an item from the next tier up in that collection. For example, take a look at the Arms Deal Collection, the first case collection in the game. If you were to trade up ten AUG | Wings, you would be guaranteed to get one of three items: Glock-18 | Dragon Tattoo, USP-S | Dark Water, or M4A1-S | Dark Water. So, your chances of getting any one of those three items would be about 33.3%. You could also trade up three AUG | Wings, three SG 553 | Ultraviolet, and four MP7 | Skulls, and have the same odds of the three restricted-grade weapon skins.

With the original Trade Up Contract, this was your only option. You were required to trade up within the same collection. Now, however, you have more options, which creates greater gambling possibilities.

Mix and Match

With the current Trade Up format, you can now trade up ten equal grade weapons from any collection and receive a random item from the next tier up among those collections. Each of the ten items contributes 10% of the odds of the resulting skin. So for example, using the AUG | Wings from above, each AUG | Wings you use in a contract would add a 3.33% chance to draw each of the Glock-18 | Dragon Tattoo, the USP-S | Dark Water, and the M4A1-S | Dark Water. If you were to add a PP-Bizon | Brass from the Dust 2 Collection, you would add a full 10% chance of drawing the P2000 | Amber Fade (one of my personal favorite skins). Each base item contributes ten percent to the total, so adding this list of guns to your Trade Up Contract...

AUG | Wings
AUG | Wings
AUG | Wings
PP-Bizon | Brass
PP-Bizon | Brass
PP-Bizon | Brass
PP-Bizon | Brass
PP-Bizon | Brass
PP-Bizon | Brass
PP-Bizon | Brass

...would result in the following odds:

Glock-18 | Dragon Tattoo = (3.33 + 3.33 + 3.33) = 10%
USP-S | Dark Water = 10%
M4A1-S | Dark Water = 10%
P2000 | Amber Fade = (10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10) = 70%

But Math Isn't Fun...

So what's the big deal, right? The Mil-Spec weapons from the Phoenix case (UMP-45 | Corporal, Negev | Terrain, etc) are about $0.05 apiece, and at the trade up level, the Restricted weapons from that case range from $0.25 to $0.45 apiece. So a trade up only loses you money...

...unless you mix and match sets. For example, look at the Assault Collection (which you'll find is everyone's favorite because of the Glock-18 | Fade). The only industrial grade skin is the Five-SeveN | Candy Apple, which is about $1.11 on the market right now. If you traded up with only consumer grade skins from the Assault Collection, you'd spend about $1.50. But, if you only included, say, two skins from the Assault Collection, and then put in eight skins from lower end collections (Dust 2 consumer grade skins are about $0.03 right now), you could roll the dice on a 20% chance at getting the Candy Apple. It's still mathematically a losing proposition, but now it at least boasts the possibility of a big win. That's gambling, folks.

So what you're looking for are skins whose values at various tiers are notably different from the same tiers in other collections. Some rough base values to use:
  • Consumer - $0.03 - $0.05
  • Industrial - $0.05 - $0.09
  • Mil-Spec - $0.09 - $0.14
  • Restricted - $0.34 - $0.45
  • Classified - $2.00 - $2.45
Covert weapons can't be traded up, only case collections go up to cover level, and covert weapon skins generally set the value for the whole collection. So, there's no reason to concern yourself with them on this chart.

An important note: there are some skins that are regularly below average market value for their grade that you should never, ever buy for trade ups. The reason is that some skins below Covert are still the top level weapon skin for their collection.

Which Collections Have Outliers?

All collections are going to have some variation in price from one tier to the next. It's a complicated result of a number of factors, most specifically the following:
  • Age/supply of collection
  • Demand for highest tier of weapon
That's really it. Other people will try to tell you there are more factors, like how much time is left in the current operation, or the value of lower tier weapons within the collection, and maybe they're right. But the impact of those factors is almost always negligible. I use CSGO Stash to get quick glances at various collections when I'm in the mood, or just to check up on a particular skin. The information is usually up-to-date, though it's almost always a couple cents off. Still, not enough to be a problem.

You can, of course, do your own research, but I wanted to provide a little information directly regarding which spots have some potential for gambling upside. These are skins that you can slide in as your "lotto ticket" for a reasonable price, and give yourself a chance at a big win. These are in no way guarantees, and I want to impress upon you that, even these adjusted tactics will still, more often than not, lead to a negative result, value-wise. It's just fun to give yourself that chance.

Anyways, these skins have trade-up potential that goes above and beyond the normal values for that tier. These are also only skins that have 100% trade up "win" potential; that is, if you "hit" on this skin, you're going to get a valuable skin as a result.

Assault Collection 
All consumer grade skins 
Five-SeveN | Candy Apple

Bank Collection
CZ75-Auto | Tuxedo
Galil AR | Tuxedo

Cobblestone Collection
All industrial grade skins
All mil-spec grade skins
All restricted grade skins

Italy Collection
Sawed-Off | Full Stop

Overpass Collection
All industrial grade skins

Vertigo Collection
All consumer grade skins

For giggles, and in case you were unsure of what this whole process looks like, I've prepared the videos below for your pleasure.

Thanks for reading all the way down, and good luck with your gambling!


Nick said...

Sweet Post bro. I love this shit.

Anonymous said...

look at the calculator at
it searchs for profitable trade ups

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