Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Road to WPN (Part 11)

[This is part 11 in a series, and assumes that you've already read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, and Part 10] 

July 8, 2011: Had a bit of a panic today. Patrick (of Novel Places) contacted me to let me know that the distributor, who had promised they could have the Magic 2012 product to us in time for our Launch Party on July 16, had let him know when he went to place his order that they would be delivered on July 20 (just a wee bit too late).

Patrick was planning on ordering 3 cases - 2 for my store needs, and 1 for his store, both for the events and also to have some for sale. He knew we needed the product by the 16th, so he changed the order to put in my 2 cases only (figuring he would at least make sure to get mine ordered).

On the email circuit I went, checking with multiple sources I have dealt with in the past to see if any of them could overnight us 2-3 boxes of M12 on Thursday July 14, for Patrick to get on July 15 in time for the Launch Party. Meanwhile, Patrick was checking in with a different distributor (which is a different branch of the same company that screwed us over, oddly enough), and was 100% guaranteed by them that they could get the stuff to him Thursday or Friday July 14/15. He would need to fax in an application form to set up an account for them, which he couldn't do until Saturday (he has no fax machine in the store, and seeing as he's the sole employee of his store right now, he can't exactly shut his store down and pop out to a place with a fax).

All 3 of my sources indicated that they would be able and willing to help out if necessary. I wrote back and told them we would have to wait and see what happened with the new distributor. Keeping fingers crossed...

July 10, 2011: Today I decided to attend a prerelease at the closest "competition" to Novel Places. In the interest of not being unprofessional, I will not name the establishment, as I have some negative things to say about the experience (as well as one or two positives).

The first problem was finding the place. I had an address, and my little GPS function in my smart phone. It took me to a strip mall with a grocery store. I was looking for a certain street address, with unit #201. That address was on some of the storefronts in the strip mall, but they all had unit #'s like F3 - but three-digit numbers.

So, I called the place and found out they were across the street from that mall, in a row of what look like townhouses, but are actually businesses (they themselves are located above a barbershop, for instance). Ah - whoops. My mistake, there.

Once I get over to the right place and head for the stairs up to the store, the first thing I find when I open the door is a Snickers wrapper with one bite of candy left which has been ground underfoot. Lovely first impression. Immediately stereotypes of large, unwashed, unhygienic gamer folk spring to mind. Foreshadowing, anyone?

When I open the door to the place I was immediately hit by a palpable wave of what can only be described as "gamer funk." The space was fairly small, filled with tables (as you would expect) and eager folks ready to play some M12. I must admit that many of the clientele fell into the gamer stereotype I mentioned above [in the interest of full disclosure, I fit the overweight part of this myself - but I daresay I cannot be accused of being unwashed or unhygienic]. The vast majority of the players fit the expected demographic of white males. There was one African-American male, and one white female when I first walked in. We were later joined by a few Asian-American males. So, in other words, pretty much what you'd expect in a typical MTG gaming event (at least any I have experienced).

I registered myself in ($25 flat - either he's not reporting taxes on these, or he has built it into the price) and sat down to wait. When I signed in, the owner showed me his snack & drink section. The fridge had one door held shut by a clamp. There was a drip pan underneath to (I assume) catch condensation from the compressor. Another fridge/freezer had a large toaster oven atop it. In that toaster oven he will pop a frozen pizza for you for $9.75. Yes, someone bought one during the event.

My prerelease itself was rather disappointing. While I think I got a pretty good sealed pool, I just couldn't seem to build anything decent with it (or my opponents just got better pools). I lost Round 1 two games to 1 (and only won game 2 because my opponent got mana screwed). I got a bye Round 2, and popped out to get lunch (I was not going to buy a frozen pizza for almost ten bucks). Round 3 I was readily trashed in two games, after trashing my original blue/black build for a black/red build I hoped would perform better.
Doesn't blue/black seem the obvious build here?
The rares & mythics all screamed "build blue/black!"

And for Round 4 my opponent had to leave as his ride was heading out. So, I ended up with a 2-2 record having only won a single game. Fairly pathetic.

During Round 4, since I didn't want to leave until I knew if I would be winning anything, I watched some other matches, and cleaned up a Coke spill on one of the tables and a chair which apparently the spiller didn't feel they needed to do (nor did any one of the numerous people I saw attempt to sit in that chair). This despite the fact that said chair was right next to the bathroom, where paper towels and water were readily available. I mean, come on people - seriously? Must you live like absolute pigs?

Things I learned about running WPN events today:
  • Post your winning structure fairly early (Round 3 at the latest, I'd say). People need to be able to make an informed decision on whether to stick with the whole tournament or not. I should not have had to sit through all of Round 4 waiting to see if I would even win anything or not. Since my opponent had left, I had nothing to stick around for except the hope that I would at least win 1 pack (which I did end up doing, thankfully - otherwise I would have been furious).
  • Encourage and try to promote a clean environment. Thankfully I don't own or run the stores where I organize events, so it doesn't fall entirely on me. But I encourage my players to think of ourselves as guests, and treat the establishment with respect. That uncleaned up Coke spill and the abandoned Snickers wrapper should never have happened.
  • Encourage better behavior as well. I've brought at least one of my sons to each event I've organized so far. They're 11 and almost-8. They don't need to be hearing F-bombs flying around all over the place. And, frankly, such language is inappropriate and unnecessary. Especially in the case of my events, where we are in a store during normal business hours, where gaming is not the main focus of the business.
  • One thing that the owner did that I truly thought a good idea: giveaways during each round. As a nice way to encourage people to maybe stick around when they would otherwise drop out, randomly selecting a few players each round to receive some giveaway may work wonders. I think I'd skip Round 1 if my purpose were to encourage people to stay, but otherwise I think it was a great idea. I won a nifty spin-down life counter die with the Planeswalker symbol where the 20 would be in Round 1. Cool.
July 12, 2011: It looks like we are safe on the M12 product. Patrick is quite certain that the new distributor will work. Meanwhile we are trying to get the 2 cases he ordered for me from the other source canceled, as they were charging more for the product than the new place. They have a no cancellation policy, but we are hoping we can get an exception made, since they completely lied about being able to get the stuff to us in time.

Meanwhile, I have asked Patrick to order me two more cases from the new place, as I really can't afford to wait almost a week after the release date to get the new set up into inventory on my site!  If the original order can't be canceled, I guess I'll just resort to selling unopened boxes on eBay!

As far as I am concerned, this is even more reason to try to quickly get up to Core Level in the WPN, because then you can set up an account with WotC directly, and not have this distributor nightmare to worry about.

At least, if the new place works out, we won't have this headache to deal with for future sets. 

July 15, 2011: Today was the M12 release date, and the scheduled arrival date of the 3 cases (and 3 Fat Packs) that Patrick ordered from the new distributor.

Around 1:45 or so I get this tweet from Patrick:
UPS driver just pulled up. He knows I'm waiting 4 this order. Said a fatal accident closed I-95 & UPS freight truck was stopped.
You have GOT to be kidding me! After all the problems with ordering, PLEASE don't tell me our M12 is stuck in a freight truck somewhere! [And, of course, tragic that someone(s) lost their life/lives in the accident - it does kind of put a little perspective on my whining, doesn't it?]

This was followed by this string of tweets:
Driver scared because they were going to the truck to pull off next days only for delivery. Had 3 boxes in his truck for me.
1st box is @DonnaAndrews13new The Real Macaw, available July 20. I'll have to see if I can get her to sign them on Monday.
UPS driver is looking at the next 2 boxes to see where they came from, and the winner is ... Alliance Games! God Bless you, Tim!
[Tim is Patrick's "handler" at the new distributor, who did a little bending over backwards to get this order to us.]

The boys and I jump in the car and head up to Clarksburg to pick up my two cases so I could start opening packs for my store's inventory. We are a go for our Launch Party!

I had to take a shot of Patrick's MTG display at his store. It looks so professional! You can tell he brings a book store mentality to it: have you EVER seen booster packs displayed so artfully before? Awesome!
I'd almost be afraid to buy a booster pack and disturb the aesthetics!

July 16, 2011: Launch Party!!!!

Today could not have gone better (with the possible exception of a few more players). It was so far improved over the first event held at Novel Places (see Part 9 for that story). We had 9 players in attendance, so we were able to run the event as sanctioned. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and all involved I believe had a great time.

The most impressive (and humbling) thing for me was the fact that three gentleman actually made a road trip down from New York just to be with us for this Launch Party. The trip was spearheaded by Mike Cox (@Burritoman88 on Twitter). He wanted to help out with our efforts to move up to Core Level in the WPN, and I very much appreciate the time and effort he and his friends put into coming down to join us. If they hadn't been there, we would have had only 6 players, and my older son and I would have had to join in the event to have the 8 minimum needed. And to make things even better, this was the first WPN event for one of the three, so we had another new DCI card to issue, helping us along in that portion of the process!

We were also joined by Craig & his daughter (who were there for our first event), another Twitter follower who happens to live in Clarksburg (thanks, Mike!), one of the players from my first event at Beyond Comics (as well as a friend of his, and fellow member of The Hoopy Froods' Amazingly Together, Pan-Galactic MTG League) and a player who found us through the WPN Event Locator (nice to know that thing actually works!).

Four rounds of Swiss were played, with a prize structure paying out to anyone with a 2-2 record or higher. Most of the players chipped in for pizza at registration time, which I popped out during Round 2 to pick up. I'm pleased to say I only know of one spill incident, where a player had tomato sauce squirt out from his pizza, and he immediately went for a napkin to clean up the drops off the floor.

After the event, I decided that for these Road to WPN write-ups, I need a report card keeping track of how we're doing so far in our quest to get to Core Level. So, without further ado:
The WPN Report Card as of July 19, 2011.
My next scheduled event is this coming Saturday (July 23) at Beyond Comics. It will be a M12 Sealed Deck Event. Then in August we have M12 Drafts scheduled for each store (August 6 for Novel Places and August 13 for Beyond Comics).



Les said...

What a great read! Talk about twists and turns, the the so called competition? Its sad to say, personal hygeine is lacking in the magic community, I appreciate the skill level of players but please shower!

You getting there with the sign ups and getting bigger every time. If Australia were closer I would be bring my play group along!

Don said...

Well we'd really love to have you join us. Should you ever find yourself in the Washington, DC area for any reason drop me a line :-)

Bruce said...

Something I regularly do is give a deck box as a bonus entry prize. Players are thrilled with something "free" and it gives everyone a place to put all the cards they pulled in their sealed packs.

Anonymous said...

Aesthetics = things being pretty.
Ascetics = People who don't have very many things. Usually monks.

Don said...

@Anonymous: Whoops! Must come from reading one too many Trolls (of the Ascetic variety). Fixed now - thanks for catching the mistake!