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 :-(


    1 comment:

    Les said...

    I like how you listed the challenges you faced and the solution, when I was reading the list I had the same solutions!

    Good luck with the pre-realease and the FNM's!