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Introduction to Miner Extractable Value (MEV) for Beginners

Walter Swift

ByWalter Swift

Oct 29, 2023
Bitcoin

The cryptocurrency world is rapidly expanding, filled with technical terms and concepts that can be daunting for newcomers. Among these terms is MEV, or “Miner Extractable Value”. Unlike what its name might suggest, MEV is not merely about the value miners extract from newly minted coins.

It’s about the potential profit a miner can achieve by manipulating the order or inclusion of transactions within a block. The goal? To capitalize on pending user transactions before they’re confirmed on the blockchain.


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The Dynamics of MEV

At any given moment, there are numerous transactions waiting for validation in the network’s mempool. Simultaneously, DeFi platforms, with their array of liquidity pools, experience price fluctuations.

It is within this backdrop that ‘searchers’ operate. Armed with sophisticated algorithms and automated bots, these participants are always on the prowl for opportunities to maximize gains via MEV strategies.

Unlike wash trading, which artificially amplifies trading volumes, MEV-driven transactions have genuine impacts on transactional activities within decentralized networks. This distinction is essential, especially when considering the ethical implications and the genuine utility MEVs bring to the table.


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A Deep Dive into MEV Techniques

There are multiple techniques through which MEV can be realized. Each method has its intricacies, challenges, and implications for the broader DeFi landscape.

Demanding Block Space Techniques

Arbitrage: A familiar concept even in traditional finance, arbitrage in the DeFi context involves leveraging price disparities across various liquidity pools. The surge of decentralized exchanges (DEXs) has opened the floodgates for such opportunities. Consider a scenario where Alice observes price differences for a particular asset across two different DEXs. By buying low on one and selling high on another, Alice can pocket the difference, contributing to market efficiency in the process.

Liquidations: These are scenarios where collateralized loans fall below required collateral levels and need to be liquidated to ensure the stability of lending platforms. In the DeFi lending arena, borrowers must deposit cryptocurrency as collateral. If they fail to repay their loans, the protocols often give other participants the opportunity to liquidate the collateral. Those scouring for MEV chances compete to identify such borrowers to earn the liquidation fee for themselves.

Precise Timing Techniques

Front-running: Employing bots known as “generalized front-runners,” searchers scan the mempool for potentially profitable transactions. Upon spotting a lucrative transaction, the bot replicates the original but offers a higher gas fee, thereby enticing miners to prioritize this new transaction over the original one.

Sandwich Attacks: Similar to front-running in the stock market, here an attacker identifies a lucrative transaction in the mempool and sandwiches their transactions around it. This manipulation allows the attacker to profit from induced price changes, often to the detriment of the original trader.

Just-in-Time Liquidity Provision (JIT): This technique involves adding liquidity to a pool precisely when it’s needed the most. Searchers, upon spotting a large impending transaction, swiftly inject liquidity into the targeted pool just before the transaction’s confirmation. This move enables them to earn a significant share of trading fees, which they then extract by quickly pulling out their liquidity.

The Ramifications of MEV

The effects of MEV on the DeFi landscape are multifaceted. On one hand, strategies like arbitrage contribute positively by ensuring asset prices remain consistent across platforms. This results in enhanced market efficiency and a more stable DeFi ecosystem. On the flip side, tactics like sandwich attacks can negatively impact unsuspecting traders, causing them financial losses.

Conclusion

The realm of MEV reflects the complexities and dynamism inherent in the crypto world. As the landscape continues to evolve, the significance and impact of MEV will undoubtedly grow. It’s incumbent upon the crypto community to foster an environment where knowledge and transparency prevail. By doing so, we can ensure that while MEVs are utilized for profit, they’re also harnessed in ways that contribute positively to the broader DeFi and crypto ecosystem.


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Walter Swift

Walter Swift

Walter Swift is an adept crypto writer, known for his deep insights into the decentralized world. His pieces artfully break down complex blockchain topics, making them accessible to a broad audience. With a passion for emerging technologies, Walter's articles are a beacon for crypto enthusiasts and novices alike.

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