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A Beginner’s Guide to Decentralized Crypto Derivatives

Alex Lielacher
Last updated: | 8 min read

Decentralized derivatives emerged out of the fast-growing DeFi market to enable crypto asset hedging and speculating in a decentralized manner. 

Read on to learn what decentralized crypto derivatives are, what different types of decentralized derivatives are available today, and where you can trade them. 

What Are Decentralized Derivatives? 

Decentralized crypto derivatives are financial instruments traded on decentralized trading venues that derive their value from underlying assets, which, in this case, are cryptocurrencies.

Owning or trading in a decentralized crypto derivative lets you interact with the asset without actually having to own it. For instance, if you had a bitcoin derivatives contract, its price will be derived from the price of bitcoin at the time of purchase. But when you buy the derivatives contract, you don’t actually own bitcoin, just a representation of it. 

The most common type of decentralized derivative is a futures contract, which is an agreement to buy or sell an asset at a predetermined price at a specified date in the future. Other types of decentralized derivatives include options and structured products.

Decentralized derivatives are traded on decentralized exchanges (DEXes), peer-to-peer platforms that allow users to buy and sell crypto assets without the need for a central authority. DEXes are powered by smart contracts, which are self-executing software programs that enforce the terms of an agreement between two parties.

The benefits of decentralized derivatives include increased security, transparency, and trustless trading. Because DEXes are powered by smart contracts, they can also offer increased security compared to centralized exchanges, which are vulnerable to hacks, theft, and bankruptcies.  

DEXes also offer increased transparency because all trades are publicly recorded on the blockchain. Finally, DEXes allow for trustless trading, meaning that users do not have to rely on a third party to facilitate their trades.

How Do Decentralized Derivatives Differ from Traditional Centralized Derivatives? 

Decentralized derivatives are financial instruments that are traded on decentralized exchanges (DEXes). DEXes are peer-to-peer (P2P) exchanges that allow users to trade directly with each other, without the need for a centralized third party. This means that there is no single point of failure or control, and no central entity that can manipulate the market.

Traditional centralized derivatives, on the other hand, are traded on centralized trading platforms, which are run by a central authority that manages the orderbook as well as funds held by traders on the platform. 

Decentralized crypto derivatives have several advantages over traditional centralized derivatives. For one, they are much more accessible, since anyone with an internet connection and a crypto wallet can trade them. Additionally, they are generally less expensive to trade, since there are no intermediaries or brokerage fees involved. Finally, they are – in theory –  more resilient to manipulation and fraud, since there is no central point of control. 

Types of Decentralized Derivatives Available Today

There are several decentralized derivatives available for you to trade in today. Let’s take a look at the most popular ones. 


One of the most common types of decentralized derivatives is the perpetual contract. It is similar to a traditional futures contract but does not have an expiration date. 

The most popular platforms for trading perpetual contracts, such as dYdX, normally support major cryptocurrencies such as BTC, ETH, and USDC. In most cases, you first need to deposit collateral into a smart contract. The collateral will be used to cover your position if the price of the underlying asset moves against you.

Once you have deposited your collateral, you can then select the amount of leverage that you want to use. The higher the amount of leverage, the higher the potential profits (or losses) from your trade. 

For example, if you use 10x leverage and the price of BTC increases by 1%, then your position will increase in value by 10%. However, if the price of BTC falls by 1%, then your position will lose 10% of its value.

Leverage is a double-edged sword. While it can amplify your profits, it can also amplify your losses. Therefore, it’s important to only use as much leverage as you are comfortable with. 


Options are a type of derivative that gives the holder the right, not the obligation, to buy or sell an underlying asset at a specific price by a certain date. One of the most renowned platforms for trading options is Lyra. Lyra is an automated market maker (AMM) built on top of Ethereum.

Options are available for many types of assets and have several uses. They can be used as insurance against price fluctuations in an underlying asset or simply as speculation on future prices. In the cryptocurrency industry, options are typically used as a way to hedge against price fluctuations or to speculate on the future price of an underlying cryptocurrency asset. 

For example, if you own bitcoin (BTC) and are worried that the price will drop, you can buy a put option to hedge your risk by buying the right to sell bitcoin at a specific price (known as buying a “put”).

Options are available on a handful of decentralized derivatives exchanges, allowing traders to hedge their positions. 

Synthetic Assets 

Decentralized synthetic assets are digital assets that are backed by the underlying collateral. Some of the most popular platforms that offer Synthetic Assets trading include Synthetix and Mirror. 

The most common type of synthetic asset is a stablecoin, which is a digital asset that is pegged to the US dollar (or another fiat currency). There are also synthetic assets that are pegged to other cryptocurrencies, commodities, and even indexes.

Synthetic assets have many benefits over traditional assets. For one, they are much more accessible since they can be bought and sold on decentralized trading platforms. They are also typically more divisible, meaning you can buy and sell fractional amounts. And since they are digital, they can be easily transferred and stored without the need for a third-party custodian.

However, synthetic assets also come with risks. For example, if the underlying collateral falls in value, the value of the synthetic asset will also fall. And because they are not regulated like traditional financial instruments, they do not come with the same rights as financial securities. 

Structured Products 

Structured products are a type of derivative that can be used to trade a variety of assets. One popular example where you can trade decentralized structured products is Ribbon, which is a decentralized derivatives trading venue that allows users to trade a variety of structured digital assets on the Ethereum blockchain.

The Ribbon platform enables users to create and trade custom derivates contracts. These contracts are called “ribbons,” and they represent a bundle of underlying assets. For example, a Ribbon contract could represent a basket of cryptocurrencies or a portfolio of stocks.

Ribbon contracts are traded on the Ribbon decentralized exchange (DEX), which is built on the 0x protocol. The 0x protocol is an open-source standard that enables decentralized exchanges to operate on the Ethereum blockchain.

The main advantage of using structured products like Ribbon is that they can be customized to meet the specific needs of traders. For example, a trader could create a Ribbon contract that tracks the price of bitcoin, ether, and litecoin against the US Dollar. This would allow the trader to take advantage of price movements in any of these three cryptocurrencies without having to own them directly.

Another advantage of structured products is that they can be traded on decentralized exchanges like Ribbon DEX. This means that trades can be executed without the need for a third-party custodian, such as a broker or exchange. 

Top Decentralized Crypto Derivatives Trading Platforms

Let’s take a look at three of the most popular decentralized derivatives trading platforms and what they offer. 


If you’re looking for a decentralized platform on which to trade crypto derivatives, dYdX is a popular option. On dYdX, you can trade a variety of different derivatives contracts, including futures, options, and perpetuals. It stands as one of the largest decentralized exchanges based on trading volume and market share. 

dYdX uses smart contracts to enforce the terms of each derivative contract, which helps to ensure that trades are executed smoothly and correctly. 


Synthetix is a decentralized synthetic asset platform built on the Ethereum blockchain. It allows users to trade a wide range of synthetic assets, including cryptocurrencies, commodities, and fiat currencies. 

According to DeFi Pulse, Synthetix currently stands as the most dominant decentralized derivative platform, responsible for 98% of the value locked in DeFi derivatives.

The platform uses a system of smart contracts to collateralize synthetic assets and provide liquidity. The platform has been operational since 2018 and currently has over $380 million in total value locked (TVL). 

Synthetix is an attractive option for traders looking for a decentralized platform with a large selection of assets and good liquidity. The platform does have some risks associated with it, such as the potential for hackers to exploit errors in a price oracle.


Another decentralized derivative platform that stands out is Lyra. Lyra is a decentralized options exchange built on Ethereum. It is designed to offer low fees and fast transaction speeds. It offers a variety of features that make it ideal for both beginner and experienced traders.

Lyra allows traders to buy and sell options in a decentralized fashion. The protocol also hedges the risks that liquidity providers incur, encouraging more people to participate in trading on this protocol. One of the most notable features of Lyra is its user interface. The platform has been designed with simplicity in mind, and it is very easy to use. Even if you have never traded before, you should be able to pick it up quickly.

Another great feature of Lyra is that it supports a wide range of assets. In addition to bitcoin, you can also trade altcoins, tokens, and other digital assets. 

Risk Warning: Crypto Derivatives Are Riskier Than Buying Crypto Outright! 

Crypto derivatives are complex financial instruments traded by sophisticated investors. They are generally riskier than buying crypto outright and can be highly volatile.

Before trading crypto derivatives, you should carefully consider your investment objectives, level of experience, and risk appetite. You should also be aware of the potential for loss, as you could lose all or part of your investment.

If you’re thinking about trading crypto derivatives, make sure you understand the risks involved and consult with a financial advisor if necessary.