Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Road to WPN (Part 16)

[This is part 16 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, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 14.5, and Part 15]

August 20, 2011: Well, this is embarrassing.

When I signed both stores up for the Magic Celebration event to be run on September 10, I knew that WPN would be providing 3 boxes of M12 boosters to be used during the event. I figured that meant that we should charge only some small amount to maybe cover ancillary costs associated with running such an event. I recommended a $5 entry fee to the stores, and that was all right with them.

Well, today I discovered that the event is supposed to be free of charge (while supplies last) to the participants. Not sure how I missed that. I went back and reread the description of the event, and sure enough, here's the first paragraph describing it:
Magic Celebration on September 10th is made to satisfy the players driven to your store by Duels of the Planeswalkers. This event is a great way for your store’s entire player community to celebrate Magic – at no charge to the players!
Somehow I missed that last part!

Wondering how I found this out? I beat Gideon's deck in Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 last night, which invited me to "join Gideon" at When I checked out that page, it described the Magic Celebration event, and mentioned that it would be free. Who says playing video games can't be educational?

August 26, 2011:  I've been doing a lot of agonizing over the last couple of days, trying to figure out exactly what to do with the Innistrad prerelease(s) we are now signed up for. Here's the issues/questions that I've been battling with (in no particular order - it just goes to show how jumbled all of this is in my mind right now):
  • We are signed up for 2 prereleases on Sunday (September 25), both Sealed Deck format at the moment;
  • Brian (WPN Rep) indicated we could change the format of one of them to Draft if we wanted to;
  • The store can only hold 18 people in the back room;
  • If we run the event outside of business hours we could clear out the front part of the store and potentially fit more in;
  • Prereleases are very popular events, and generally draw more players than any other type;
  • Our largest event so far (a random M12 Sealed deck) was 15 players, only 3 short of capacity;
  • A comic-book author signing has been scheduled for the store on the same day;
  • The local "big fish" store (Dream Wizards in Rockville - I believe I have mentioned them before) has their huge prerelease on Saturday, which is why we chose Sunday to run ours;
  • Off-site events cost a lot more due to renting the space (obviously);
  • We might be able to have a space free of charge, but it's several miles away from the store - adds logistics problems (plus creates the potential last-minute "I'm here for the prerelease!", "sorry - that's another 10 minutes away from here" scenario);
  • If I cap the event at 18, I will have to require preregistrations WITH prepay, since it's far to easy to just throw your name on the list and then not show;
  • Normal store hours are 12-6 on Sunday - enough time for one event, but not two;
  • It's our first prerelease - will that bring fewer people because we're unknown, or more people because of the novelty?
  • Are there many people who would actually prefer a small prerelease like ours vs. the HUGE prerelease offered by the Dream Wizards?
What we've finally settled on, after a great deal of thought, is that we are going to run 2 events - 1 Sealed, 1 Draft, on Sunday September 25. We will run them in-store, with a cap of 18 players, and require preregistration with prepay (it may only be a "deposit", not the full amount, but players will need to put some money down to reserve their spot). The store will open 2 hours early, and plan to stay open ~2 hours late (so, tentatively, 10-8 instead of their normal 12-6). And we will just hope and pray that running these at the same location as the comic writer signing will not cause a complete train-wreck.

What we're thinking is: this is our first time doing this. Let's start small and see how it goes. If those 18 slots are filled up extremely quickly, then we know that in the future we should look for ways we can run a bigger event. If, on the other hand, we never even get 18 - then we know that we've hit upon the way we'll probably run them for a while.

Now my great fear is that I've got my first Standard event scheduled for tomorrow, and Hurricane Irene is getting ready to smack us. Latest forecast suggests we'll be finished up before the worst of the weather hits us, but it may impact our attendance nonetheless. We'll see!

August 27, 2011: Today was my first Standard event (both as organizer, and as participant). I came prepare with my Mono et Mono deck, ready to sling some spells, and lose miserably (as my deck was mostly designed to be fun for me, and not really be tournament worthy).

When I arrived at the store, I found a package awaiting addressed to me care of the store (so something from the WPN). I cracked it open to find these guys:
My very first FNM promos!
This really brought it home to me: I will run my first FNM in under a week! Yikes! For those who are wondering, these come in packs of 4 (since you're supposed to give away 4 per FNM - 2 to the top 2 winners, and 2 randomly assigned), and you get 1 pack per FNM you have signed up for (or at least I assume that last part is correct - I only signed up for 4 FNMs in September, and I received 4 packs of promos).

We had 7 people preregistered by the time the event came up (including myself), and two others who showed up. So, 9 players total. Not bad, not great - a nice sized group (especially given that we were under a Tropical Storm Warning from Hurricane Irene heading up at us!). Of those 9, 5 had never played at this store before (and 2 of those had never played in any WPN event before, and therefore had to fill out DCI forms).

This both pleases me, and distresses me. On the one hand, it's great that new players are finding us. On the other hand, I'm a little worried at the relative lack of returning players. I hope that there is nothing I'm doing that's chasing them away (we've had many people show up once and then never again).

I gave my usual announcements: who I am, why I'm running the events, the free shipping option for event pick-up, the fact that I run events at two locations, etc. Then I described what the Standard format was, just to make sure everyone came prepared with the correct deck (I didn't want to have to disqualify anyone for having cards that weren't legal in the format).

That's when we hit a snag. The two players who had not preregistered had been told by a store employee when they stopped into the store yesterday that the event was going to be a Draft event (he even went so far as to describe how booster packs are opened, and passed to the next player, etc), and were told that the cost would be $15. They figured something was odd when they were instead today only charged $8 as an entry fee - and now they knew. They had come without any decks at all.

Fortunately, I and one of the other players (Serg) happened to have some extra Standard-legal decks on hand. I loaned one player (Jennifer) one of mine (a casual deck I call "Chandra's Burning"), and Serg loaned the other player (Gavin) one of his (a copy of the U/B Control deck Ali Aintrazi won the 2011 US Nationals with). I created the matches for the first round, and miraculously pulled a Bye for myself (which was VERY useful, as that gave me time to figure out the prize pool, as well as go talk to John, the store manager, about the misinformation problem). I got the other 8 players going for Round 1, then went to talk to John.

What most likely happened is that the employee remembered what the last event we ran was (which was a M12 Booster Draft), and made the assumption that this was what all the MTG events would be. John asked me to come up with a "glossary" for him to share with the employees, so that they can speak more knowledgeably with customers about the various formats. Here's what I came up with. (comments welcome - but keep in mind it is not meant to be all-inclusive, but just serve this specific purpose of giving the store employees a working vocabulary). And I have asked him to make sure that the employees know, from week to week, what format the events we will be running are in (since pretty much every week the FNM format will be different).

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my deck was failing poor Jennifer miserably in her match vs. Serg, so it was decided after game 1 that she could give it up in favor of another of Serge's decks (he brought several Tier 1 Standard decks with him). This one was a Birthing Pod brew (don't know if it's a specific named deck like Bant-Pod or anything like that).

Also during Round 1 I worked out for myself what the prize structure would be. I realized as I was doing so that this is something I've not yet shared in any of these entries so far, so I think it bears some detail. I realize that this is not the only way to do this, but it's worked out well for me so far, and I find it a refreshing mental exercise.

I use something akin to Pascal's Triangle (and if anyone knows if what I do use actually has a name please let me know) to figure out the most likely distribution of match points after each match. For example, if there are 8 players, then after Match 1 the most likely result is 4 players win (gaining 3 match points), and 4 players lose (gaining 0 match points). While a Draw (in which both players gain 1 match point) is a possibility, I assume an ideal distribution. If there are an odd # of players in the section I am dividing, I put the odd player on the higher bracket in the next level (I figure if I'm going to err, I'd rather err on the side of having too many high-match-point players than not enough). Once I've done this for each of the matches we will run, I break up the prize packs (2 per player in the pool is what I've been running). Here's what the chart looked like for today's event:
First number is # of players. Numbers in () are match points. Bottom most are prize packs.
After this, I put together a prize list, filling in the possible other scenarios (if Draws are involved) and get a document like this, which I try to post early (during Round 1 in this case since I had the Bye):

The "promos" are from among any WPN promos I have left in stock.
In this particular event (to jump ahead for a moment), we ended up slightly off from ideal, and only had 2 players with 9 match points (and 4 with 6 match points), so I ended up with 3 extra prize packs at the end, instead of 1. My plan had been to assign the left-over pack randomly to a player who ended up with under 6 match points. Instead, each player under 6 got one pack, and the last pack I assigned randomly to one of the 8 players in the event (I took myself out of the running for that last pack).

So, anyway, I know you are dying to know: how did I do for the rest of the event? The answer is: surprisingly well. Here's a quick breakdown of my performance by round:
  • Round 1: Bye (3 match points)
  • Round 2: Faced Gavin, playing Serge's copy of Aintrazi's UB control. His deck performed very slowly, allowing me to get a lot of damage in very quickly (highlight of Game 1: Turn 1 Grim Lavamancer; Turn 2 Teetering Peaks, Lavamancer swings for 3; Turn 3 Teetering Peaks, Lavamancer swings for 3; Turn 4 Teetering Peaks, Lavamancer swings for 3. I kid you not). Won the match in 2 games, and ~30 minutes. (6 match points)
  • Round 3: I faced Serg. He was (unfortunately, as I don't really like winning this way), mana screwed in Game 1, and only had 1 land for the first 5 turns or so. He just couldn't recover, and I won despite only have two lands of my own. Game 2 his lands performed better, but he finally fell to Shock, Shock, Lightning Bolt. Won again in 2 games. (9 match points)
  • Round 4: Faced another Red deck. This was my toughest match, and I was really worried at times. But despite his Shrines of Burning Rage, Koth (in Japanese no less), and Chandra's Phoenix, he just couldn't answer the horde of creatures (and burn to the face) I was producing, and I clawed my way to another 2-0 victory. (12 match points)
That's right - you read that correctly. I went 4-0-0, with not a single game loss. I could not believe it. I was absolutely certain when I got the Round 1 Bye that those would be the only match points I'd get all day, and
instead I took the whole enchilada. Unbelievable.
    The final freakout of the day? At Pax, it was revealed than in Innistrad they are introducing (for the first time ever in Magic), double-sided cards. A completely new and bizarre mechanic AND IT'S IN THE SET THAT I WILL RUN MY FIRST PRERELEASE FOR! SHOOT ME NOW!!!!!!!

    And, finally, I will leave you with this. It is my understanding (which I should confirm with Brian just to be sure) that in order to maintain Core Level status, a store must, within a year, jump through the same hoops it had to jump through to get to Core Level in the first place. Now, theoretically, this should be much easier since you can run so many more types of events now (FNMs, prereleases, Game Days to name just three). So I am going to adjust the WPN Report Card accordingly. As of this moment, Novel Places still needs to reach Core Level, so their column will remain as it was before. But Beyond Comics' column will now be the status of their hitting the goals again in order to maintain Core Level (I am assuming that the clock starts immediately after one attains Core Level, so the event today would be the first event to count towards this).
    So sad to see that red X again :-(


    Friday, August 19, 2011

    The Road to WPN (Part 15)

    [This is part 15 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, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, and Part 14.5]

    Random WER advice: Run the WER on your computer the morning of the event, well before it is scheduled to start. You never know when an update to the software may be coming, and you don't want to have to deal with that while you're trying to get set up for your event!

    August 15, 2011: Major plot twist!

    So, today I called my WPN rep Brian (after emailing him last night to ask about the Core Level situation). As I am leaving a voice mail for him, I also was opening up the WER. I notice that Beyond Comics is now noted as a Core Level store. IN THE MIDDLE OF MY MESSAGE! Talk about embarrassing! Let this be a lesson to all: get your facts completely straight before making a whiny phone call!

    He got back to me very soon via email (he's much better with email than phone, which is absolutely okay with me), and explained the following:
    The system takes time to process events and update your level so you can schedule the “next level’s” events..  rated events are updated once per week but casual events update immediately.  Your statistics update nightly for casual events, but only update the night after events are processed for rated events.  I answered your question based on your email which said you were going to run the event by 8/13 which then on 8/14 your statistics would update so you could be scheduled for a prerelease.
    So, it seems, if the Saturday event had taken care of things, then on Sunday we would have shown as Core Level, and I could have registered for the Innistrad prerelease (my initial question to him had asked if the Saturday even would count, so he was answering based on that information). The overnight processing thing was the crucial missing piece of information.

    His next few sentences made me almost dance for joy (not a pretty sight, believe me):
    I will see if I can get a late exception made for a prerelease event for Innistrad.  You can schedule 2 events.  Please let me know which format you would like them to be run as and which distributor you want to purchase your product from.  I will then see if I can get this done and let you know how it goes.
    Oh, my goodness! There's still a light of hope! I of course sent him the information as quickly as I could (even called up the shop, and had an employee there call up the owner) to find out what distributor they use (I had no idea). I told him we'd like to run on the Sunday (September 25) and would like to run Sealed Deck.

    In the meantime, I have registered for Friday Night Magics for the month of September! I can hardly believe it. In under two months of running events at this store I will be able to hold our first FNM, on September 2.

    Earlier in this series (in Part 5), I explained the information needed by the WER when one registers for an event:
    For those who have never used the WER to schedule an event, here's the information I had to provide: Organization (I only organize for Novel Places so that was easy); Game (MTG, D&D or D&D Miniatures); Sanction Rule (this is where I chose the M12 Launch Party); Play Location (if we were holding it off-site I would have options here); Dates; Format (Sealed Deck in our case); Pairing Method (I chose Swiss as that's the only one I know about - I really need to research what the other options are!); Email (I gave mine); Phone number (I gave the store's); and URL (I used Novel Place's web page).
    This could use some updating and additional info. To whit:
    • I now organize for two sites, so there's a drop-down menu choice when I go to register (and I need to make sure I pick the right organization!);
    • Depending on which organization I pick, there are different choices now for Sanction Rule. Since Beyond Comics is now at Core Level, more options are available. FNMs are denoted by month (and one can only sign up for one month's worth of FNMs at a time). So when I went to register today, I was able to pick Friday Night Magic - September as a Sanction Rule.
    • When you get to the Dates field, another drop-down menu is provided. If you're just scheduling a normal Magic sanctioned or casual event, a wide variety of dates await you (at Core Level you can even schedule a sanctioned event the very same day you run it, as opposed to at Gateway Level where you need to schedule at least 7 days in advance; you can schedule casual events the same day at either Level). But when you run a special event (Launch Party, Prerelease, FNM, Game Day, etc) there are only certain dates available. In this case, only the 5 Fridays in September are given as choices. And as you register one FNM at a time, the offered list of dates shrinks with each registration (at Core Level you can only schedule one FNM per Friday).
    • The Format issue was a challenge. What would be good for FNMs? I settled on:
      • September 2: M12 Sealed Deck
      • September 9: M12 Draft
      • September 16: Constructed Standard
      • September 23: M12 Two-Headed Giant Sealed
    I don't know if these formats will prove popular, but by the time I get to running them I will have run every one of them except the Two-Headed Giant format. As I enjoyed playing it with my son at an FNM before, I figured I would choose to run one of these like that.

    Eagle eyes will note that I did not schedule a FNM for the last Friday of the month. This is because we already have an Innistrad Launch Party scheduled for that night, and there was NO way I was going to try to run two events simultaneously (not that we'd even have room for that). The time slot for the Launch Party will be the same as the FNMs, so hopefully we'll get some regulars attending FNMs with us who will just come along for the Launch Party instead on that 5th Friday night.

    I don't know how many FNM promos get sent to a Core Level store, nor when I can expect to have them arrive. I'm anxiously awaiting getting my first batch of them in. This kind of thing excites me far more than it probably should :-)

    Also exciting: going to the Wizards Event Locator and putting in my zip code (20874) and selecting FNM - and seeing Beyond Comics show up. So gratifying!

    While I was at it, I also signed Beyond Comics up for the Buy-a-Box promos for Innistrad. This is another great benefit that only Core Level (or higher) sites can participate in (we were far too late to order the From the Vault product this year, but should be able to next year). In case you're unaware, this promotion gets the store X copies (probably 30?) of a special alternate art promotional card to be given out only to people who purchase an entire box of boosters of Innistrad in the store (or order online for pickup in the store). It is a special promotion WPN does to try to get customers actually physically into the stores instead of just ordering online and having their boxes shipped. The deadline for this promo is next Sunday, but I didn't want to risk forgetting it, so I signed them up.

    August 16, 2011: Today was the opening of registration for October FNMs, so I loaded up the WER and got to scheduling. Here's what I settled on:
    • October 7: Innistrad Sealed Deck
    • October 14: Innistrad Sealed Deck
    • October 21: Innistrad Booster Draft
    • October 28: Constructed Standard
    My logic on choosing these is as follows: Innistrad will be brand new (the release date is the week before these begin, remember), and as I understand it, there's a few weeks' grace period where people enjoy Sealed Deck with a new set, but then the itch to start drafting sets in. By a month after the release, people have adjusted to the new Standard environment and hopefully have a good idea what decks they want to use, so I'll hold off on the Standard event until the end of the month.

    Finally, I signed them up to run an Innistrad Game Day. Yet another Core Level or higher event, this is a one-day only event (Saturday October 29 in this case), which must be Standard Constructed format. There are special full art (or "extended art" depending on who you ask) promo cards for participants & winners of this event. The deadline for registering for this one is a ways off, and I hope I can get Novel Places up to Core Level in time to run this as well (although that will mean running two events in one day).

    August 18, 2011: Today I had a minor moment of panic, as Patrick from Novel Places tweeted the following:
    This Magic stuff is getting out of hand! I'll have to talk to Don "The Organizer". Sounds kinda mobster, doesn't it?
    As I don't have Facebook (I know, I know) I was unable to use the link. I didn't know what this might be about (I was afraid maybe someone had defaced his wall with anti-Magic sentiment or something), so I called him up. Turns out (for those who haven't followed the above link) that he was just posting a picture of the gigantic stand-up advertising poster that had been sent to him to help advertise the Magic Celebration event on September 10:
    Seems a tad out of place in this rustic environment. But cool!
    This is all part of the amazing promotional package that WPN has put together for this event. They are also providing T-shirts as giveaways for the first 4 people to purchase a Deckbuilder's Toolkit that day, and special promo codes for unlockable items in the Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 video game. They even provide three boxes of M12 booster packs to use during the Mini-Master format event. An outstanding amount of support for stores who sign up for this event.

    While I was on the phone with him, he mentioned that he had not yet received the Magic 2012 rule books that he was supposed to get. So I sent another email off to my Brian to ask if he could dig up any further info on those.

    August 19, 2011: Brian got back to me today, and said that he was going to look into the rule book situation, and try to get it resolved today, as he was going to be out of the office next week. I emailed back and thanked him, and slyly added:
    Also, just to be certain, I assume from the lack of any positive response that you were unable to get an exception made for Beyond Comics - Gaithersburg regarding the Innistrad prerelease? I appreciate your trying nonetheless.
    You could have knocked me over with a feather when I got his reply:
    My apologies!  I was able to get you the prerelease as we discussed…
    You read that right, folks - WE GOT AN INNISTRAD PRE-RELEASE!!!!!!

    Absolutely amazing. I was so ecstatic, and fired off a thank-you email to Brian. He sent me further details later. It turns out that at Core Level you can actually schedule 2 prereleases, not just one. So he scheduled both on that Sunday, and both as Sealed Deck. He let me know that if I want to change the format of one he can do that for me.

    So now the question (which I have discussed with John at Beyond Comics) is whether we want to run two on that one day or not. He'd be willing to open the store early, and maybe keep it open late (they're normally open 12-6 on Sundays). I think there may be some advantage to running one prerelease as a Sealed Deck event, and one as a Booster Draft event. I'm just not sure. Your opinions in the comments about this would be greatly appreciated.

    Later on today I got a call from WotC Customer Service letting me know that the rule books had shipped on Tuesday, so Patrick should receive his shipment of them soon.

    On a final note, I'd like to offer a plug on Patrick's behalf. For the first time, he is trying something new: presales on Innistrad booster boxes and cases. If you ever preorder boxes or cases of MTG products, please consider ordering from him. His is a new, small business, and could certainly use the help in these tight times. I think he's offering incredibly low prices for these things. He will be shipping on the day of the release (September 30). Here's what you need to know:
    • Boxes are $90;
    • Cases (6 booster boxes) are $500;
    • Up to 4 boxes will ship via USPS Medium Flat Rate Box (~$12 I believe);
    • 5 boxes or a case will ship via USPS Large Flat Rate Box (~$15 I believe);
    • In order to fit 6 boxes (1 case) in the Large Flat Rate box he will need to open the cases; but you will get all 6 boxes that came together in a case shipped as a unit;
    • In-store pickup (free shipping) is available, and you can pick up your order on or after the release date (Friday September 30); Patrick has his Launch Party scheduled for Sunday (Oct 2) so that would be a good day to pick up - Party with us, then grab your boxes! [If you order a case for pickup, it will NOT get opened up in advance - you get the fun of that!];
    • The page to order is
    Please, if you know of anyone else who may be interested in preordering boxes or cases, let them know about Patrick's site.


      Sunday, August 14, 2011

      The Road to WPN (Part 14.5)

      [This is part 14.5 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, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, and Part 14]

      August 14, 2011: A quick report this time, to follow up from yesterday (thus it's only 14.5 instead of 15!)

      My brother (John) and his wife (Kathleen) came out to Beyond Comics today to learn (in her case), relearn (in his case) and play some MTG.

      I set up a 3-man casual 3-round single elimination event. I taught Kathleen the basics of the game (filling John in on the new terminology they've added since he last played ["Reach?"]), then John and I played round one (conveniently chosen randomly by the computer!).

      I just brought some various constructed decks I had lying around. I have a 10th Edition GW common-only deck, my Prolifer8 UW deck, Chandra's Burning, Mono et Mono, and The Charge of the Boros precon from Ravnica.

      John and I played a few games to show Kathleen how things work. To make sure the 3-round thing would work with single elimination, I logged us in as 1 win each and 1 draw. Next up the computer chose to put John against his wife, so they played while I advised Kathleen. Oddly enough she tore him apart with my silly little GW common 10E build against the Boros precon (to John's defense, he did get a mana glut that just put the brakes on his deck). So in the final round I got paired against Kathleen and we played the same two decks. With John advising her, she squashed me as well, so she ended up winning her very first MTG tournament.

      She was a very good sport about the whole thing, and actually enjoyed the game (which worried John, as he does NOT want to end up having her buy a bunch of cards from me!), and I logged the results with a feeling of anticipation, because here is what the WPN Report Card looks like now:
      Are we there, yet?
      So, I checked the WER. Nope - still says we're Gateway Level. Maybe it just takes a little while for the system to process. I'll check again when I get home.

      A few hours later I checked again. No dice. Still Gateway. I whined about this on Twitter (as I am want to do when I'm not happy about something), and Luis (AKA @AuranAlchemist on Twitter) offered that he had a similar thing happen to him. It turns out that if you have new DCI members in your event, they aren't officially tallied towards your total until their cards are received back at DCI headquarters. Therefore one of the folks who came out Friday night, as well as John & Kathleen, don't YET count towards our 30. They will once their cards have been received, but even if I mailed them overnight mail tomorrow, they wouldn't get there in time for us to register for FNMs in September (deadline is tomorrow, August 15).

      So, on one hand I feel a good deal of pride. Our first event at Beyond Comics was July 2. So in just a month and a half I have gotten that store up to Core Level (well, I say "I", but really there were lots of folks working together, not the least of which are the 30 unique players who showed up).

      However, on the other hand, I feel a great deal of frustration. I busted my butt, and called in some favors from folks to have them come out at odd hours to play MTG at the store, only to have it be for naught. We probably would have made it at our next event (August 27). Getting to Core Level right AFTER a major deadline just feels like such a let-down.

      So, mixed emotions over here.


      Saturday, August 13, 2011

      The Road to WPN (Part 14)

      [This is part 14 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, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, and Part 13]

      Before I get back into chronology, there are a couple of anecdotes that I meant to share in past issues that I forgot about when I wrote up their respective reports, so I thought I had better catch up on those quickly here.
      1. At the M12 Sealed Tournament at Beyond Comics (covered in Part 12), something happened that I think helps demonstrate how I want to make my events set apart from many other places. At one point during a game, a player sat with his bomb of a creature under an Ice Cage. He also controlled a Kite Shield. Despite reading the text that the Ice Cage would be destroyed if the creature were targeted by a spell or ability, he didn't realize that equipping the Kite Shield to the creature would accomplish that goal. After that game was over (because it would have been unfair for his opponent to point it out in the middle of the game, not to mention against tournament rules), I pointed out the solution to him. A similar thing happened later involving a situation where someone faced off against a Gideon, and he didn't realize he could apply a Goblin Grenade's damage to Gideon after targeting the opponent. Again, after the game was over I explained how Planeswalkers work a bit better to him. This is what I want to foster at my events: a casual atmosphere where people can learn to understand and play the game better.
      2. One of the nice things that WPN does for organizers is put together batches of images from their products, including pre-made banners for prereleases, launch parties, game days and the like. In fact I took advantage of these offers in putting together flyers for Scars Block events early on. M12 was my first Launch Party, and I looked forward to making use of the pre-made flyers for that set. Unfortunately, they were not released until the Monday AFTER the Launch Party weekend! So a large part (the prerelease & launch party parts) of the released items were already useless for their intended purpose by the time they were released! I certainly hope this was a fluke, and not the normal course of events!
      August 12, 2011: After a great deal of agonizing, I came to the conclusion that there was no way I could get both stores up to Core Level in time to register for an Innistrad prerelease (deadline August 14). Looking at the WPN Report Card, and knowing that Beyond Comics already had an event scheduled for August 13, I decided that I needed to make a push for Beyond Comics.

      So, for tonight, I organized a casual M12 mini-master tournament that included 6 people who had never played at Beyond Comics before. That gave us our 3rd event, and 6 of the 11 unique people we still needed to jump through that final hoop. Craig (who has been mentioned before) brought his wife & daughter out, and I brought my two sons. None of us had played in an event there, although 5/6 of us had played at Novel Places (the main reason why I didn't try to do this at that site - it wouldn't have really helped, unfortunately). We were joined by a 7th player (thanks, Roger!) who has attended events at both sites, and who wanted to stop by and pick up an order that he needed for his deck he planned to use Saturday at the SCGOpen in Richmond, VA.

      The mini-master (AKA pack wars) format is fun and wacky. My deck got progressively worse as the evening progressed (I won my first and second matches and got two packs to add to my deck). In match 3, however, Roger creamed me. My biggest mistake was staying in 5 colors. Ah, well :-)

      I provided the booster packs for the event, and all the singles were gathered up afterwards to become stock in my store. While the participants didn't get to keep their cards, the event was free of charge, and a fun time was had by all who attended.
      We're almost there!
      If we can just manage to get 5 new players at tomorrow's M12 Draft, we'll have it made!

      August 13, 2011: ARRRRGGHHHHH!!!!!! So close!!!!

      At today's Draft, we had only 9 attendees. Of those 9, 3 had never attended an event at Beyond Comics before. That leaves us 2 short of reaching Core Level in time to run an Innistrad prerelease!
      So maddening!
      The event's attendance was probably low due to many factors:
      1. In (relatively) nearby Richmond, VA, Star City Games was holding its SCGOpen today (and tomorrow). I know of at least one person who probably would have attended today's draft but was there instead.
      2. I foolishly scheduled this event on the same day as the Magic 2012 Game Day. The Game Day is a special event that can only be held on one certain day (always a Saturday as far as I know). The "big fish" local gaming store holds a Game Day event, and that probably drew many potential players away from us. This one is totally my fault - I need to be better about looking out for those in the future. Of course, once we reach Core Level, we can run our OWN Game Day events, so I'm not likely to make THIS mistake again!
      3. The Montgomery County Agricultural Fair started yesterday, and it's actually a pretty big deal in our area. It is conceivable that some people who may have otherwise come to our Draft instead were at the Fair.
      Regardless of the reasons, the simple fact is that we missed our goal by 2 people. Every other hoop was jumped through, and we got that last one 93% completed, but we just couldn't quite make it.

      The event itself went very smoothly, and I enjoyed myself among the company of the players (and I think they enjoyed themselves as well).

      At the moment I am trying a Hail Mary pass, and am concocting a scheme to get my brother & his wife to come out to the store tomorrow for a casual event. She has never played before, so we would be teaching her the game (and he would need a refresher - he hasn't played in years). That would give us our final 2, and should do so in time to register for both the Innistrad prerelease (deadline Aug 14) and Friday Night Magics in September (deadline Aug 15).

      I'll post a short update tomorrow to let you know if I managed to pull this off...


      Saturday, August 06, 2011

      The Road to WPN (Part 13)

      [This is part 13 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, Part 10, Part 11, and Part 12]

      I forgot to mention one important fact back in Part 11. On the day of our M12 Launch Party, Patrick (the store owner of Novel Places) and I worked out a scheme whereby folks could preregister AND prepay for events through his web store. In order to incentivize this, he will offer a 10% discount to anyone who does so (this deal ending 24 hours before the event, so we don't have someone show up in the parking lot and try to "preregister" on their smart phone before stepping in the store). That website is:

      July 25, 2011: I sent in a question to my WPN rep today asking him about how long it takes for moving up to Core Level (a question I posed to myself at the end of Part 12). It turns out that Casual events are logged automatically, but sanctioned events get processed on Tuesday - so the scheduled August 13 event at Beyond Comics would NOT be processed in time to beat the August 14 deadline of registering to run an Innistrad prerelease.

      July 27, 2011: Today our local paper (The Gazette, which is actually a series of local papers throughout the county, divided into sub-county blocks) ran a photo (in the Damascus/Clarksburg version of the paper) taken at the July 16th M12 Launch Party at Novel Places (see Part 11 for that story). Here's how it appeared in the paper:

      I hope they don't mind me including this here!
      The photo was taken by Patrick at the event. Hopefully this will draw some attention from upper Montgomery county MTG fans who may not have known about events here. Notice how they kindly included the date and time of our next event!

      Also today, I contacted by WPN rep, as Novel Places still had not received their copies of the M12 Rulebooks that Beyond Comics had received. Brian got back to me and said that for some reason Novel Places was left off the list to receive these. He told me he would investigate, and get back to me.

      July 28, 2011: Brian got back to me, and gave me a phone number to call for customer support. So, I called, following his instructions as to what number to select at the robo-menu, etc. After about 20 minutes on hold being told how important my call was, I got to speak to a WotC customer service person who, upon being told why I was calling, asked "did you try ordering them through the WER?"

      "These are not something you order. They were just automatically being sent out."

      "Oh. Hold on. Let me check on something." [wait, wait] "Those are being sent out in batches. If he hasn't received them by Monday, call us back and we'll see what needs to be done."

      "Okay, but I was told by my WPN rep that this store had been left off the list."

      "Wait until Monday."

      I emailed Brian to give him the update. He emailed back, essentially telling me to forget what the Customer Service person said. "Don't call back Monday...I will take care of this for you."

      It's nice to have someone who has your back, y'know?

      August 3, 2011: Brian emailed back to say he has asked that some rule books be sent to Novel Places. Hopefully that request won't take long to be filled!

      August 5, 2011: After the deadline passed for the 10% preregistration discount today, Patrick had had three people preregister and prepay for tomorrow's M12 Draft event. I am not ashamed to say that I am a bit nervous. My older son and I can join in if need be to help get us up to 8 (and actually, Sebastian wants to join in regardless of need), but that would still require at least 3 more walk-ins if we are to have enough for a sanctioned event. If need be, we can always run as a casual event as we did the first time, but that would be a bit of a let-down after increasing our numbers for the Launch Party.

      One of the preregistrants was someone who has attended my two events at Beyond Comics, so it's nice to see that getting the word out at the events of my other site is working. I try to plug each store at the other to encourage "cross-pollination", and help each site get to the 30 unique participants we need for Core Level.

      August 6, 2011: WOW.

      Sebastian and I arrived a little later than I had hoped to today. We got to Novel Places around 12:45 or so, for an event where registration was to start at 1. We got there to find 4 or 5 people waiting to join the event.

      And not 1 of them was a person who had preregistered for the event!

      As I struggled to get my "grab bags", card sleeves, and netbook set up, more arrived. By the time I was up and running, we had 9 people waiting. And that only included 1 person who had preregistered! I processed names (and new DCI cards - 4 by the time I was done) and sold grab bags and sleeves....

      and the next thing I knew we had 11 people signed up (including my son). 11. One short of the "12 players or more" requirement for Core Level.

      I can't let that happen. Cover me, boys - I'm going in! I signed myself up, and we had 12. I could hardly believe it.

      Turns out that photo in The Gazette did better than we could have hoped! A mother whose son plays Magic saw the photo, and told another mother whose THREE sons all play, and one of those told his friend about it...and we had 5 players, 4 of whom had never attended a DCI event before. Outstanding.

      We also had someone who had attended my M12 Sealed two weeks ago at Beyond Comics, who brought a friend of his. All told, we had 8 people who had never before played in a DCI event at Novel Places, putting us that much closer to our Core Level goal.

      We ran 2 pods of 6 players for draft, with three rounds of Swiss. My drafting is as horrible as I remembered, and by Black/Red/Green bloodthirst deck did horribly in the first Round (although I almost had him in game 2 - I just fizzled and couldn't get in the last 2 damage). After game 1 of Round 2 I cut the Black and tried to strengthen the Red/Green build. It performed better, but still not good enough. In Round 3 I faced off against the other no-win person in the pod, one of the 4 DCI newbies. He won Game 1. I had a rather impressive Game 2. And I would have had him Game 3 - when I had a realization...

      Whichever one of us won this match would have 3 match points, which would earn that person 1 DCI promo card by the prize structure I had established. And let's face it - if I want any of the DCI promos, I can help myself from the leftovers. But this guy, in his first tournament experience, does not need to end up 0-X for the day. So, I conceded the game, and therefor the match, so he could end the day with a match win.

      Here's where the Core Level Report Card stands as of right now...

      We are SO close!
      August 14 is the deadline to register for an Innistrad prerelease. August 15 is the deadline to register to run Friday Night Magic in September. If I could somehow run a casual event at Novel Places in the next week that included at least 9 people who have never played there before, and/or 2 more events at Beyond Comics with a total of 11 people who have never played THERE before, then one (or both?) site(s) could have a prerelease and September FNMs.

      I don't know if I can pull off either one of those, but I have tentative plans for 6 of us who have never played at Beyond Comics to meet up this coming Friday night and play M12 mini-master with packs of my providing. That would leave us still needing 1 more event and 5 more unique players. Another option is to run the M12 Draft scheduled for Saturday August 13 at Beyond Comics as a casual event rather than sanctioned. The problem (as mentioned before) is that the sanctioned events don't get processed until the following Tuesday. If I run this as a Casual Event, however, it will count immediately. I think I will have to wait until I can see how many we get at that event. If I pull off the Friday night deal, and we do only need 5 more unique people, AND if 5 new people show up on Saturday....

      That's a lot of "ifs". I never expected this WPN stuff to be such a nail-biter!