I played with my French toast while we waited for JR. The trick is to make sure that all your pieces of French toast are lightly covered in syrup. You
don’t want to drown them or else you bludgeon the flavor. I felt strange eating French toast out of a Styrofoam plate. My plastic knife and fork
scored the bottom of my plate as I ate, and I had an unhealthy fear that I might rip the bottom of the plate and spill my breakfast onto the bare,
disease-ridden table. This was the best breakfast option that the Columbus Convention Center had to offer. Brandon and Taylor were making small talk
about how awesome it was going to be to rock the scene.
This was the first meeting of the Tactical Trade Team (TTT) and the pilot run of the concept. The concept for the TTT is not a completely original
thought. At the big tournaments, all the grinders usually end up in one place at the beginning of the tournament. Typically, you find each other by
roaming the tables looking for some trade action. The meeting is always the same; you flip though each other’s trade binders and brain dump.
“Hey, man, did you hear that SCG is buying Mental Misstep at $3?”
As you trade with each other, lots of information is shared: financial tech, goals, and buy list highlights are all topics that are covered. Each
trader usually trades for cards that they think they can grind during the day. After the trade /brain dump session, both traders go out into the world
and grind. You’ll see the other grinders throughout the day, and you can typically count on them to help you finalize trades by loaning you cards
that you need. Each night, the grinders meet up to share stories and spoils. This is where the concept for the TTT was born. I asked myself:
“What if this grinder interaction could be planned and organized?”
With a dedicated team, you get commitment and focus that you are not guaranteed when you deal with other grinders on the floor. The TTT also allows you
to plan ahead about specific cards that you want to pick up. The opportunity to start planning weeks before an event gives the traders in the TTT so
much more edge than the typical grinder. This planning and organization all happens in the mythical TTT Objectives Document.
The TTT Objectives Document
When I started the TTT a couple of weeks back, I mentioned it on Twitter. After mentioning it, people became curious, and the curiosity erupted into
flood of requests for the TTT Objectives Document. I received direct messages on Twitter, emails, and text messages. There was a kid who tried to
snatch it out of Brandon’s folder on the trade floor. To this day, only five other people have seen the TTT Objectives Document, and that’s
not going to change. I’ll go over the basics of the document and share some of the information that it contains as examples, but the full
document has stuff that I’ll probably always keep under wraps.
Every TTT starts as a Google document called the TTT Objectives Document. It’s shared with only the members of the TTT. Each trade team is
selected for each specific tournament, which means that the TTT is not some secret trade mafia but instead is something that you can do with your
friends. For example, the TTT that hit the Columbus Prerelease may not be the same team that will hit StarCityGames.com Open: Louisville. After the
Google document is created, all of the TTT members fill out the document.
The document contains the same stuff that you would expect to talk about with the grinders at the big tournaments. The document contains the financial
tech that’s buzzing around the internet before the targeted tournament. For example, here are some entries from the Prerelease document:
*Surgical Extraction, is likely to be a hot card for 2-4 weeks following the Prerelease and then drop off dramatically, ship them if
you come across them.
*Urabrask the Hidden: I think this card has a much higher ceiling than its current $8 price tag. It will play a big role in the red
decks of the next two years. For reference, see
Gavin Verhey’s article
on SCG. This guy may be better than Arc Slogger, but it may take six months for people to see that, but him being a mythic could easily allow him to
hit $20-25, so if you’re feeling like a gamble, try this guy.
“Could he possibly be better than something like Hero of Oxid Ridge? If you’re in the market for a top-end finisher, absolutely! Hero’s battle
cry is only marginally relevant in a deck with a handful of creatures, and Urabrask’s abilities both far outclass Hero’s ability to shut off
This is the kind of information that is shared in the pre-tournament buzz section.
One of the most important sections of the document is where the team members share their goals. The success of the TTT is measured by how many of these
goals are met. My goal was to fill orders that certain internet retailers placed with me. One of the orders looked like this:
Because this was one of my goals, the rest of the TTT traded for these items and sold them to me at my buy list price (contained in the TTT) at the end
of the night. Part of why the TTT is successful is because it allows traders to work as a team but also to work for themselves as we like to do. When
you give a trader a goal and incentive (like a special buy list that’s higher than average dealer pricing), then it allows them to be resourceful
and get rewarded for it.
One member of the team had a goal to get their car fixed. This meant that we had to identify the cards with the highest density rating. In trading,
there are density trades, projection trades, and value trades. There are other types of trades, but I’m only using a couple of examples to give a
context of what a density trade is.
Value Trades: This is the basic concept of trading to gain “trade value” by offering a service. For example, “I will offer you this $5 card that
you need for $7 in cards out of your binder.”
Projection Trades: These are the fun type of trades where you get to offer $.25 to $.50 on every copy of a card that you see. We did this for Kuldotha Phoenix and Grand
Architect (among other cards) all weekend. These are cards that have a really low perceived value but have a lot of potential to see play and earn a
high price tag in the future.
Density Trades: These are cards where the perceived value is really close to the dealer cash value. We call it “Trading for Money” in the TTT. A good
example of this is Phyrexian Crusader, which trades at $4-5, and there was a dealer buying them at $4. When you have a cash goal, then density and buy
list trades are what you should be focusing on.
Among the pre-tournament buzz and the goals sections are other data-intensive sections of the TTT Objectives Document. These sections contain
information about decks, cards, and approaches to trade philosophies among other things. I don’t want to detail these sections too much, but
these also serve a vital role in training and organizing the TTT.
After the TTT Objectives Document is created, we are then ready to rock the tournament. Typically, the TTT travels together, and before the tournament,
we sit down to eat and review the document together. We call this “The Huddle,” and this is where our story began.
Jr entered the food court from the far end, and I jumped up and waved like a ridiculous fool. It was one of those times where you wave like an idiot
and the person still misses you. Now I had to decide whether or not to keep looking like an idiot or to stop waving (which serves no purpose); I kept
waving my arms. Finally, I caught Jr’s eye. He came and sat down, and we all passed our binders around and discussed the Objectives Document.
Breakfast was finished; all the questions were answered; and the binders were ready. There was only one thing left to do—grind.
We strapped on our backpacks and made our way to the convention center ballroom. None of us were there to play, only to work the tables. Like a
well-oiled machine, the TTT went to work; we grinded until lunch and then broke away for some food. At lunch, the team handed me 40 Phyrexian Revokers.
I smiled and said, “Hold onto them until cash out at dinner.” I knew then that the TTT was a success.
Cash out is where the members of the TTT “square up” with each other. One of the benefits of the TTT is that we loan each other trade stock
during the huddle and throughout the day. During “cash out,” we make sure that everyone gets what they loaned out back and that everyone
gets paid for the buy list items that they collected. We also measure our success by seeing if everyone met their goals. I’m happy to say that
the first TTT was a huge success. Everyone met their goals and walked out of there with better binders and cash in their pockets.
I hoped you enjoyed the inside look at the Tactical Trade Team (TTT) concept. This is the next level in value trading, and I expect to write about my
TTT adventures in Louisville, so this article will give you a frame of reference. Before I get out of here, I’ll give you some pickups for the week.
Spellskite: It probably won’t be a secret after this weekend, but I expect this to see quite a bit of play in Standard. Last Friday, I bought a local store
out of Spellskite at $2.50 each. This article goes up on Monday, and there may still be a window to pick these up cheap.
Urabrask the Hidden: A 4/4 with haste is not bad; then if you consider that it gives all your dudes haste and makes your opponent’s guys come into play tapped, it’s
hard to say that this won’t see play. The few people who are shipping these are shipping them at $8, and I’ve been getting a lot of
requests for them.