Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Road to WPN (Part 23)

[This is part 23 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, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, and Part 22]

September 25, 2011: Today was the Innistrad prerelease, my first experience running such an event. And it has its ups and its downs.

First a recap of what we knew going in to this:
  • We were running two events: an a.m. Sealed Deck event (to start at 10:30), and a p.m. Draft (to start at 3:30);
  • We were limiting the event to 18 players as those were the # of seats available
  • A signing from comic-book creator Kurt Busiek was scheduled for the same day (to run from 1 to 4)
  • We were also going to allow Open Dueling during the event
I was dropped off at the store around 9 a.m. (as my family needed to continue on to head to church for the morning). John had kindly agreed to meet me there at that time (a full 3 hours before the store normally opens on a Sunday). I found that at this point in time we had 17 people registered for the morning event, but only 4 for the afternoon. A quick look at the list revealed that someone was on there twice (clerical error), so we really only had 16.

As I was setting up, John received a phone call asking if there was still space. He said there was, and registered the player for both events. Now up to 17 and 5. Then John showed me something nice - they had brought some additional tables down from the Frederick store to help out (what with Kurt needing a table for his signing, and us potentially needed to exceed 18 if possible). With those set up, we expanded our potential to 22.

I asked John to hand the little white registration slips I use to everyone as they checked in with him, as a way to double-check that they were in fact paid & registered (and also a clue to me that I needed to give them their promo cards).

I finished setting up, and John opened the doors at 10:00 (we already had some players gathering outside). I grabbed the signup sheet and started getting folks registered into the system. Everything worked well - the majority of the players were folks who had played at one of my events before, and therefore were in the Local Players section. Those that weren't had provided DCI numbers, and were easily entered in, with the exception of the gentleman who called up that morning. His DCI number was not recognized. I hypothesized (and later had it confirmed) that he must have just gotten his DCI card the day before, and it hadn't gotten into the system as yet. I entered him in as if he were someone I had just given a DCI card to, and I hope that things work out properly there.

Two players (Serg & Vish) came in last-minute and joined the morning event, bringing us to 19. They had both been to events before, and John just quickly sent them back without the little registration slips. They flashed me their receipts and I handed them their promos.

I made my usual announcements (where's the bathroom, who I am, free shipping option at my store, etc) and then explained how the DFC's work (using sleeves or checklists, how they interact with copy cards like Evil Twin, etc). And then I handed out product and we began to open our packs (I myself was registered for the event). I gave 50 minutes for deck-building, which is longer than normal for a Sealed Deck event, but I figured as the cards were mostly new to most people, the extra time was not a luxury. That proved to be correct as some folks were still sleeving up their cards when time was called.

During deck building I collected up empty wrappers and spare token, rules tips, and checklist cards. We ended up with a big stack, as most players seemed to be opting for the sleeves instead of the checklists (I went with checklists myself). So that fear of not having enough checklist cards did not bear any fruit, I'm happy to say.

Personally, I couldn't decide on a single deck, so I ended up building two. Deck #1 was Blue/White/Black, heavy on Humans and Equipment (along with the Angelic Overseer). I was really looking forward to equipping the Invisible Stalker and running rampant on my opponent. The deck also had a slight mill theme, as I had a Trepanation Blade and two copies of Curse of the Bloody Tome. My second deck was a Werewolf/Vampire hybrid in Green/Red/Black. Two copies of Curse of the Pierced Heart (one in foil) along with great Vampires like Rakish Heir looked like a nice quick aggro build.

My first opponent was one of the young women from Clarksburg who had attended the Magic Celebration up there. This is an example of how nicely my "cross pollination" attempts have gone. We've had several players now who have found events at one site, then come to events at the other since I can advertise for both. It's nice to see that working. I think the family from Clarksburg would much rather have attended a prerelease IN Clarksburg (that makes sense), and they'll probably start coming to ones at Novel Places starting with the next set.

Round one went fairly well for my deck, despite not ever really getting the Stalker/Equipment combo thoroughly working. We had near mirror decks, each having a lot of Humans and Equipment (she even had a Curse of the Bloody Tome and a Trepanation Blade!). And we nearly used up the entire 50 minutes for the round getting two games in. I won both of those games by milling - a strategy I don't particularly enjoy winning by. I decided then that I would try the other deck in Round 2.

That deck proved to be MUCH quicker. I won against another Red-heavy aggressive deck in two games fairly quickly, which was good because one of the drawbacks of taking long in Round 1 is that results slips started to build up. A quick round meant I was available earlier to start processing those. It also gave me an opportunity to quickly eat the sandwich I had brought along for lunch.

Round 3 proved to be much worse for me (understandably - since, with Swiss pairings, you're put up against another player with the same record, if you keep winning, your opponents, theoretically, get more difficult). Despite getting an early Curse of the Pierced Heart out, I just couldn't get enough Creatures going in Game 1. I decided to switch to the first deck for Game 2, since my opponent was playing more White/Blue. Didn't matter, and I lost that game fairly quickly as well (although I did enjoy getting a Bonds of Faith on his Hanweir Watchkeep - on one side it was buffed up but has Defender; on the other side it loses the buff and can't attack or block!).

Round 4 I swapped back to my quicker deck, and hoped for a fast Round so that I could be available to distribute prize packs as people finished their rounds. This proved to not be the case, as the first game dragged on a long time (I almost had managed to defeat him, but a judicious life gain spell combined with a clever Butcher's Cleaver wielding gained him enough life to survive my onslaught and launch one of his own). The second game took almost as long, but I managed to win it. At this point there were only 5 minutes left, and several people were standing around awaiting their prize packs. I knew I needed to quit then and there, so I conceded game 3 (and therefore the match).

Lesson here: Don't sign up for your own event if it's this big unless you've got someone to assist with the administrative stuff. I thought I'd be able to handle it, but I ended up inconveniencing some folks (since the event ran longer than expected, some like the Clarksburg family really needed to go, but were awaiting their prizes). I should not have made them wait like that.

While all of this was going on, a few other things were happening as well. My two sons had shown up and bought their decks to start Open Dueling. A few folks from the Sealed Deck event also joined in, and side games were being played while folks who had ended their rounds early (or the one each round who had a Bye) played those who needed to get in 5 games to collect their bonus booster pack. One person paid four times for Open Dueling to get 1 copy of each deck, but then never joined the group to play. I've heard of such things before (like people paying for the Sealed Deck event, then taking their packs and immediately leaving before Round 1 even starts) but it was the first time I had it happen at one of my events.

The other thing is one on a personal level. I started getting a low-grade headache and having a very odd feeling in my chest starting around Round 3. I think it was part tension, part dehydration. But it led to me feeling very uncomfortable for the rest of the day, and it was a LONG day. Lesson here: make sure to bring PLENTY of water (my Klean Kanteen was empty long before the first event was finished) and pain relievers just in case.

So Round 4 was finishing around about 3:15 or so, and 3:00 was the published start time for registration for the Draft (to start at 3:30). Needless to say, things were tight. I was juggling folks' prize packs, and awaiting the last couple of matches to end, and dealing with folks finish up their Open Dueling, and trying to get my sons out to the car where my wife was waiting to take them home, and also dealing with a situation where someone who had paid for the afternoon Draft had decided he was too tired to continue (he had done a few events the previous day), so his friend was going to take his slot (not a problem as I had not yet put anyone into the system)...in short, it was just a wee bit chaotic. Somewhere in all this Serg asked if there was time for him to go get something to eat. I answered "yes", not fully registering what the question implied. This would come to haunt me later.

We finally got things settled from the Sealed Deck event and got ready to launch the Draft. Vish had decided to sign up for the Draft as well, and that put us at 6 players - 5 on the signup sheet and Vish. Five of them had been in the Sealed Deck event, so I just checked with player 6 to see if he had any questions regarding the DFCs, and he seemed pretty comfortable with them. I told him to feel free to ask if something should come up. I explained to everyone how drafting would work with the DFCs. Then we got ready to start. But wait, Vish said - wasn't Serg going to Draft? I didn't think so - he wasn't on the list. Vish tried to call him, but got no answer. We were already running late, so I started the event, and everyone cracked the first pack and began to draft.

After the first couple of picks, Serg came back. He had indeed been planning to Draft (which is why he asked me if there was time before he went to eat - this is what hadn't clicked with me). He had, in fact, already paid for the Draft (he paid for both when he arrived). But, at this point, it was too late since the event had already been started in the system, and in fact the first pack of the Draft had been opened.

What we had was a complete cock-up of a situation which could have been avoided if almost any of the following had happened:
  • I had left the Draft portion of the sign-up sheet with John when I went to put people for the Sealed Deck event, so he could add names to that list if people paid later;
  • John had given Serg two Registration slips to indicate that Serg had paid for both events;
  • Serg had said something more definitive like "don't start the Draft without me" or answered his phone when Vish had tried to call him
And there's probably many other ways it could have been avoided. But to my mind the lesson here is that EVERYONE absolutely MUST fill out a registration slip when they pay and give it to me. There can't be any exceptions, that's got to be the way it goes. Otherwise, there's this possibility of missing someone.

To make matters worse, Serg was Vish's ride home, so he was stuck and had to sit around and watch a Draft he couldn't participate in. I felt horrible about the situation, and hoped I could find a way to make it up to him. As it happens, at the end of the evening he expressed interest when I jokingly offered the giant Garruk advertising thingy for the prerelease, so I gave it to him. Hopefully that helps to make amends. And, in case you're concerned - Serg was, of course, given a refund for the registration fee for the event.

The Draft went relatively well. They only played three rounds, as there were only 6 in the event. One player did drop after Round 2 (which is the first time I've ever had anyone actually check the "drop" box on the results slips) which led to someone getting a Bye for Round 3.

Other than the delayed prize packs at the end of the first event, and the snafu with Serg's registration, I think everything went well, and everyone was happy with how the event went. I'm very curious as to the discrepancy in attendance between the two events. A bit more than 3x the number of players in the morning event vs. the afternoon. I don't know if it's Sealed vs. Draft, or morning vs. afternoon. But we may be better served running two Sealed Deck events next go round. I need to come up with some way to poll the players and see if I can find the answer to why the numbers were so different.

Another lesson learned: Prerelease events take longer than normal ones. Since the cards are brand new to everyone, deck-building is slower, drafting is slower, and games go slower (as players often need to read what cards do when their opponents cast them). I scheduled the two events figuring on normal times, and that proved to be a mistake.

September 27, 2011: Today I was very disheartened to receive the following email:
The DCI has invalidated the following event:

Event name:       Prerelease - Innistrad
Sanctioning #:    11-09-2989605
Coordinator:      Don G. Wiggins, DCI# xxxxxx
Brand:            Magic
Event type:       Magic Prerelease
Game:             Booster Draft
Location:         Gaithersburg, MD, United States
Date:             2011-09-25
# of players:     6
# of matches:     9
Former status:    Received
New status:       Invalidated
I can only assume that the problem is that the event was registered with under 8 players. To be honest, I wasn't sure if I should cancel the scheduled prerelease and create a casual event instead. It would seem that this may have been the right thing to do. I've got an email in to Brian (my WPN Rep) asking what I should do at this point. Hopefully it's possible to resubmit this event as a casual one after the fact, but I don't know.

Even worse, I'm worried about what this may mean for future prereleases. My understanding is that your allocation of product for a prerelease is based on past performance. And essentially I've managed to prove to WPN that we can only successfully run a single prerelease. Let's hope that they're a bit forgiving in this department!


Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Road to WPN (Part 22)

[This is part 22 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, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, and Part 21]

September 20, 2011: I have decided that we should offer Open Dueling at the prerelease next Sunday. For those of you who don't know, in Open Dueling a player purchases an Intro Pack from the new set (which includes a preconstructed deck and a booster pack). They play games against each other, against players from other events between rounds, or between events, etc. We will also run it such that after they have played 5 other games they can report their games and receive another booster as a prize pack (I'm modeling this after how Dream Wizards runs their Open Dueling).

I tried and tried, but I would not figure out how to report an Open Dueling "event" using the WER. So, I decided it was time to try out the fancy new interface (actually it's not - it's just the WotC customer service system) we will have to start using after October 4 to get WPN answers (we will no longer be able to email our WPN reps directly - something I have mixed feelings about*). So, today I sent in this message through the system:
It is my understanding that we are allowed (even encouraged) to offer Open Dueling at our prerelease event.

I know from past experience (through my son playing Open Dueling at other prereleases) that it is possible to report the results of Open Dueling (these past events show up in his history).

My question is: how does one report Open Dueling? I have tried to figure out how to use the WER to schedule such an event, but nothing in any category seems to mention Open Dueling. And if I try to schedule a casual event, I need to specify a pairing method, which isn't how Open Dueling works (as I understand it).

Any help/instruction/advise on running Open Dueling and correctly reporting it would be greatly appreciated.

We'll see how long it takes to get a response. I got an auto-generated email letting me know my "incident" had been reported (how ominous does THAT sound?), and that I can expect a response within 24 hours.

*On the one hand, it's nice that we can get answers more easily from another rep if ours is unavailable for some reason. But there's no way to tag the message "first try Brian, then next available rep" so there's no guarantee you'll be getting a reply from your actual rep, and dang it I like my rep very much, thank you!

September 21, 2011: I got this response from the WPN system today:
This email is to inform you that we have received your incident and have escalated it for further review. A representative should be contacting you concerning your incident in 24-48 business hours or less. We apologize for this delay and appreciate your patience while we work to resolve this.
While it may be unkind, what this says to me is: we folks on the front line of customer service can't answer your question, so we sill kick it up to a WPN rep. So, I wonder, why can't I just directly correspond with a WPN rep? Do you think me incapable of determining whether a question is a general WotC Customer Service question, or if it is indeed a WPN-rep-worthy one? Le sigh.

I later got a second copy of that same email. Weird.

Then, about 6 hours later, I got this response:
Thanks for writing in! You can indeed sanction Open Dueling as a Casual Event. You can put the format as Casual Constructed and the pairing method as swiss, but as a casual event, the program will not ask you for match results. You can reference this snippet we have on our website about Open Dueling:

Open Dueling: Open Dueling players each receive 1 Innistrad Intro Pack and 1 promo card (Mayor of Avabruck/Howlpack Alpha, while supplies last). Open Dueling players use their Intro Pack to play against each other, as well as Prerelease tournament players who are between matches. All players should be encouraged to help teach Open Dueling participants how to play Magic.

If there is anything else I can do for you, please let me know!
That  second paragraph appears, almost verbatim, on the Prerelease info sheet included with the promo cards that I mentioned in Part 21. I'm pretty sure I have reported an event as a Casual one before, and it did indeed ask me for match results. So, I will give this a try, but I'm not 100% confident. Also, as I said in my initial email in to them, I know for a fact that my son's DCI info said "Open Dueling" in his record, so it seems to me there should be a more specific method for reporting this type of event. Maybe there used to be and isn't now? I don't know. I guess we'll find out on Sunday.

September 23, 2011: Tonight's FNM was both a disappointment and an awesome time.

When I arrived, I found there were two WPN-related packages for me (along with all of the Innistrad booster boxes for this weekend's prerelease - yeah, I may have geekgasmed a little at those). One package was the Buy-a-Box promos for the store to hand out to people who purchase a full booster box of Innistrad. The second contained these beauties (the Launch Party promos for next weekend):
I can't wait to Proliferate one of these! (Yes, I know you have to pay for the first & fifth).

As of late last night I only had 4 people registered for the event (a Two-Headed Giant M12 Sealed Deck event). I had many things working against me here:
  • It's the night before prerelease weekend; many people are probably skipping FNM and instead going to midnight prereleases;
  • Two-Headed Giant is a somewhat obscure format and not everybody loves it.
  • A lot of folks are just tired of M12 already.
I'm still not sure whether to run a 2HG event in November. The jury's still out. Maybe in December.

So, anyway, I contacted my main man Craig this morning and asked him if he wanted to be my partner so that we'd have a third team, and I hoped and hoped that a fourth would show tonight.

Craig was indeed available, and agreed to come out and sling some spells (HUGE thanks to his family for letting him have the evening free!). We formed team "Last Minute" (the WER has you enter a Team Name as well as the individual partners in the event - and pairings, rankings, etc are done by the team name) and prepared to face off against "The Raging Goblins" and "Blue Balls". I kid you not. Unfortunately, since there were an odd number of teams, there would be a Bye for each round.

Side note here: It was my understanding that if I had fewer that 8 people at an FNM, I would have to cancel the registered event, then create & sanction a casual event in the WER. Try though I might, I could not for the life of me figure out how to create a casual 2HG event in WER. At one point in the process I was able to click on a "Team" checkbox, and select 2HG in the "type of team" drop-down box that came up afterwards. But then once I clicked on "Create and Sanction" I lost that option. Obviously I was doing something wrong, but I simply could not figure it out. So I decided to go with the "it's easier to get forgiveness than permission" philosophy and run the event as scheduled (thankfully some foresight told me to not cancel the already registered event until I got a new one put together). Foreshadowing: the event ran fine, and WER even allowed me to submit the results. I don't know what that means as yet - I guess we shall see what happens.

Craig and I opened a fairly decent pool. I built a BR build with lots of removal, a Bloodlord of Vaasgoth, a couple copies of Child of Night and a Bloodrage Vampire. Craig piloted a WG deck with lots of defense to let my deck build up to what it needed. I talked him out of including his 1 Naturalize. This would prove to be a mistake (that he will almost certainly never let me live down).

Round 1 we got paired up against The Raging Goblins (and Blue Balls got the Bye). It was going great at first: got the Bloodlord out (after hitting the opposing team in combat, so he was a 6/6), used Gravedigger to get back a Child of Night and cast her with Bloodthirst 3 thanks to the Bloodlord. Things were looking pretty good despite a turn 2 Jace's Erasure on their side of the board (which had effectively milled a lot of my removal away).

Then the blue mage played a Mind Control on the Bloodlord. "Wish I had my Naturalize!" says Craig. Arggghhhh....that was pretty much it. The Raging Goblins took the match (2HG matches are single-game, as they can take a LONG time).

Round 2 found The Raging Goblins facing the fury of Blue Balls ("maybe that's why their raging!"). Craig and I chatted about some potential business plans during our Bye, so I can't tell you much except that Blue Balls took the round.

In Round 3 we again came to the battlefield, this time against Blue Balls. This game took FOREVER. It was EPIC! Huge amounts of creatures on the board. Craig's deck played excellent defense while I built up an army (and used Goblin Fireslinger to slowly whittle away their life ["I hit you with a flaming rock."]). Blue Balls got 2 (TWO!) Swiftfoot Boots out, but thankfully that player didn't have many creatures (and you can't equip things to your team-mate's creatures!). At one point they also got our Sorin Markov and got him up to 6 (thankfully my 6/6 Bloodlord took him out after Craig's Stingerfling Spider took out their one flyer). It all ended with Craig and I attacking all in (after taking out one defender with my Grim Lavamancer and hitting them with another flaming rock).

When the dust settled, they were left with 5 life, and we had 14. All our Creatures were tapped out. Things looked bleak for us...

But I had enough mana for a final Lava Axe for 5. Go team Last Minute!

So we ended the evening with each team having 6 match points - all equally set. I took the prize packs (3 per team were in the pool) and distributed 3 to each team. The FNM promos were randomly assigned to Blue Balls and The Raging Goblins. All agreed that the night was amazingly cool (and we all wondered why not more people had shown up - 'cause IT WAS AWESOME!).

Okay, the geeky fan boy in me will now shut up.

September 24, 2011: Confirmed with  John at Beyond Comics that we are still at 11 (out of 18) preregistrations for tomorrow morning's Sealed Deck event, and only 2 (out of 18) for the afternoon's Booster Draft event. I expect we will have a number of walk-ins in the morning. I hope we don't have to turn anyone away.

John told me he had already had one person walk in asking when the prerelease was going to be (thinking it was today) and another call in with the same question. My guess is that folks find us on the Wizards Event Locator but don't really look at the details (like what day it's on), they just see the store name and head there or call.

Less than 24 hours until I run my first prerelease!


Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Road to WPN (Part 21)

[This is part 21 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, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, and Part 20]

September 14, 2011: I hadn't seen any indication that the original event I ran at Novel Places had been cleared up yet, so I sent in an email to Brian to check on its status. Hopefully that whole situation will be resolved soon.

September 15, 2011: Brian emailed me back to let me know he was going to ask the data crew to get the event reported properly, and would let me know the results. Later I got the automated email from WPN that is sent when an event is successfully reported. Brian followed up with an email letting me know that all should be well now.

I can't wait until tomorrow when I can open up the WER and see "Core" next to Novel Places!

September 16, 2011: FNM tonight, so I opened up the WER to get the preregistered players into the system. And, of course, I had to check on the Novel Places status. I think "Core" may be my new favorite word :-)

Tonight's FNM is Standard. I'm thinking of entering myself tonight with Mono et Mono. It doesn't have long before it's no longer Standard-legal (in its current form, anyway), and I wouldn't mind winning one of the FNM promos myself!

Had a bit of a scare today, as Jon (owner of Beyond Comics) contacted me to say that the distributor was only allowing him to purchase Intro Packs for the prerelease of Innistrad, not booster boxes. WHAT?!?! He was going to email the guy again and try to get the full details, as we absolutely need booster packs of product for the event.

I jumped on the phone to Brian to see if I could get any details from him. As this is my first prerelease, I have NO idea what the ordering process is (and since I don't do the ordering for the store, I'm even further out of the loop). I needed to know what the normal operating procedure was.

While I got his voice mail, Brian was very quick to get back to me (under 10 minutes, I believe).  He had a copy of the spreadsheet with him that the distributors are given to let them know how much product any given venue can order. It turns out we're eligible to order up to 10 boxes of booster packs, PLUS WPN throws in two full boxes to be used as additional booster packs in the prize pool. This explains why (most) of the prereleases I've been to have been more generous in their prize distribution than ordinary events. I look forward to having an extra-generous prize hand-out at ours!

In addition, he let me know, we could order 1 Into Pack display for folks to buy and play open dueling if they wish. That cleared up a point I was confused about. I had distinctly remembered seeing text that said prereleases could no longer have side events, and yet the store where I had typically been going for prereleases was still advertising open dueling at their events. How could they do that, I had wondered. It turns out that the WPN does not consider open dueling to be a side event, and it is in fact allowed. Good to know! My older son will be pleased (that's his preferred way to prerelease).

Finally, Brian let me know that we should expect to receive two kits with 24 prerelease promo cards each in them. He said they'd probably arrive today, and if we hadn't gotten them by Monday I should let him know.

And, sure enough, when I arrived at the store tonight for FNM, I found the prerelease kits awaiting me. And oh are they loaded. Each of the two kits contained:
  • A point-of-sale stand up to advertise the prerelease and Launch Parties (since Beyond Comics doesn't need two I'll take one to Novel Places with me tomorrow so Patrick can advertise his Launch Party);
  • 2 packs of 12 foil prerelease promo cards that look like this:
So exciting to hold my first batch of prerelease promos as TO!
  •  2 packs of special Wolf token cards that advertise the Judge program on the back;
  • Special Innistrad "achievement cards"
  • An Innistrad-themed life pad.
By special request in the comments, the back of the promo DFC.
In addition to these two packets was a large cardboard box which, upon opening, I found to contain a folded-up display to advertise the prerelease. After unfolding, and snapping open (with some rubber-band assistance inside it), it proved to be a rather large 2-sided stand alone ad that shows the art for the double-faced Garruk in the set (one face on each side of the promo). This thing looks so cool. I forgot to take a picture of it, but I will get one for the next update, I promise!

I was, however, disappointed at the lack of checklist cards among the prerelease goodies. For those of you who have not followed along with the drama of double-faced cards (DFCs) in Innistrad, here are the quick salient points:
  • Innistrad introduces the first ever DFCs to Magic
  • In order to play with a DFC in your deck, you must do one of two things:
    • Use opaque backed sleeves;
    • Substitute a checklist card for the DFC while it is in your deck, hand, exiled faced down, etc (anywhere that the card's identity should not be known)
  • There will be one DFC in every booster pack of Innistrad
  • There will be one checklist card in approximately 3 out of every 4 booster packs of Innistrad
You can, I hope, see the potential problem. Eventually, I imagine, the supply of checklist cards will exceed the need (not all DFCs printed will be used, and many will be used with sleeves). But at the prerelease, the very first time people are getting their hands on these cards, it seems to me likely that someone will want to use every DFC they get in their pool, but not have a checklist card for each one.

I thought for sure that WPN would be sending TOs a small supply of extra checklist cards, just in case, to help avoid this problem. Unfortunately, they did not appear. I feel like the ball was dropped on this one.

There ended up being 8 players at FNM tonight, so I bowed out rather than have 9 players, and have someone with a Bye every round. Maybe I'll play in tomorrow's event at Novel Places instead. Otherwise the event ran smoothly. There were some folks there who had never played at Beyond Comics at all.

The language was a bit rougher than I like to have at my events (and I even asked one player if he would cut back on some of the language he was using, as it just makes me uncomfortable). I would hope that such things would be moderated had, for example, my sons been present, but you never can tell.

I gave the November FNM poll to this group as well as last week's, and here's the final breakdown of the formats chosen, ranked from most votes to least (14 ballots total were cast, voters could pick up to 4):
  1. Innistrad Sealed Deck (11 votes)
  2. Standard (10 votes)
  3. Innistrad Booster Draft (9 votes)
  4. Two-Headed Giant Innistrad Sealed (7 votes)
  5. Modern (5 votes)
  6. Two-Headed Giant Standard (3 votes)
  7. Legacy (1 vote)
  8. Two-Headed Giant Vintage (1 vote)
Not sure if I should run the top 4 in November, or double up on the Sealed Deck. While there seems to be support for the 2HG, I've only got one team signed up for next week's 2HG M12 Sealed event.  Perhaps I will register for the first 3 weeks in November tomorrow (going with the top 3 picks) and then wait for week 4 until I see how next week's event runs.

September 17, 2011: Today's Standard event at Novel Places went pretty smoothly. We only had 7 folks show up, so my younger sun threw his hat in the ring so we could run it sanctioned. We had a about a 5/3 split between experienced, rough-and-tumble MTG players and relative newcomers (more what I'd consider in the "casual" group - a term I absolutely do NOT use with any derision, and a group I in fact included myself in). As a result I think the three more casual types were a bit disappointed with their performance.

This is something I really hate about the standard environment. Anymore you rarely get anyone who brews their own decks, it seems. It seems to be mostly copies or modifications of big-tourney winning
decks. It would be impossible to enforce, really, but I'd love to run a standard event where the deck HAD to be a home brew. Entirely your own creation, no netdecking allowed. Yeah, it would never work, but a man can dream.

For me the personal highlight was seeing my older son finally get a hold of the Silvos, Rogue Elemental (in foil, no less) that he's been wanting to be the Commander for his mono-green Commander deck. Silvos is actually on my Needs List, meaning not only do I not have any in stock for him, I've never even owned a single copy of the card. So I was very happy for him, and grateful for the gentleman who traded it to him.

There were two players who had never attended before (brought along by someone who's become a regular at my FNMs) and also one of the fathers (along with one of his daughters) who had attended last week's Magic Celebration came back, which is always nice to see. Hopefully they will become regulars, as they live in Clarksburg, so the store couldn't be much more convenient for them.

Now my focus is on next weekend, and my first ever prerelease as TO. I'm looking forward to visiting the plane of Innistrad with folks next Sunday!


Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Road to WPN (Part 20)

[This is part 20 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, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, and Part 19]

September 10, 2011: Today was Magic Celebration - a promotional event sponsored by WotC (and/or WPN - I'm not sure how to properly assign the praise) to thank the players for making the game great. It was also a clever way to try to get newer players (especially ones who found the game through Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012) into stores where they will, hopefully, come back to play in future events.

What WotC did was provide stores with three booster boxes worth of Magic 2012 (already opened and with labels reading "Mini Master Product ONLY NOT FOR RESALE" slapped on them*. Also included in the kit were four T-shirts (2 XL and 2 L, WotC apparently depending on the stereotypical hefty gamer crowd, which - for the record - we did not have today) to be given away as bonus gifts for purchasing a Deckbuilder's Toolkit (an awesome starter-kit product that WotC makes for new players). The final addition were cards with promo codes on them to unlock some bonus items on the various platforms that run Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012.

*Am I the only one who wonders who had THAT job? That's a LOT of boxes to rip open & label! Or maybe they were special ordered from the factory without shrink-wrap? Ugh - I think about this stuff far too much!

The event was intended to be free of charge, and run as a Mini-Master tournament. Players are given 1 booster pack of M12 and 15 basic lands (3 of each type) to be shuffled together and played as a deck of 30 cards. Every time a player wins a match, they get another pack of M12 and can start customizing their deck (as long as, after winning a pack, the deck maintains at least 40 cards). And given the size of the event, 4 rounds were played (at my locations, any way), so players could, theoretically, leave with 5 free booster packs of M12 by the end of the event.

Fortunately, I had recently purchased a collection from someone on eBay that included among the thousands of cards a HUGE batch of Tenth Edition basic lands that look like they've never been played. Yesterday I took those and made up the batches of 15 lands to be used in the event:
Ready to rumble! (Booster pack required, not shown).
So, how did the event work for me, personally? Ideally the intent of the promotion was to run this event all day long, adding in additional tournaments into the WER as necessary, until the product ran out. Unfortunately it was intended to be a world-wide (as far as I know) event all played on one day. This meant for me, with two locations, that I couldn't run it as intended at two stores (unless I successfully cast Clone on myself). And due to space limitations we really didn't think we could run more than 16 at each store (18 at a pinch, if John at Beyond Comics procured two more chairs, and if Patrick at Novel Places put together two small cafe-style tables in between the two comfy leather book-store chairs). So I had intended to cap preregistration at 16 at each location, and maybe try to fit in a couple of extra walk-ins if necessary. Anyone beyond that we would give a free booster pack to, and offer that they could watch the event and see how it goes if they were curious.

Beyond Comics had the morning shift today. In the late afternoon yesterday, we reached our 16 preregistrations for the event. I modified the sign-up sheet to warn that all slots were filled, but that folks were welcome to come by in case of no-shows, and could add their name to a waiting list just in case. That night at FNM one of the players told me he had registered, but would not be able to attend, so we were then down to 15 signed up. When the time actually came, only 11 of the 15 registered had arrived. One of the no-shows was someone who had signed up for the first FNM on September 2 and didn't show (he's also registered for this coming Friday's FNM, and he's supposed to be picking up an order from me!). The other three seem to have registered together (based on the time-stamp on their registration), and had never been to an event at Beyond Comics before, so I expected that they would be arriving together, and maybe were having trouble finding the store. So, I decided to delay the beginning of the event for about 10-15 minutes to give them time to find us.

In the meantime, we had 2 more folks come in who had, I learned later, initially stopped in to Novel Places looking for the event. Patrick kindly directed them down to us. The other 4 registered people never did show up, but if I had not delayed the event, the 2 new players wouldn't have made it in time, and would have made the long haul down for nearly nothing, so I'm not sure delaying was a complete mistake. These 2, by the way, are the only players from the whole day that I know for a fact learned about the event via Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012.

So, we ended up with 14 players for this event (I signed myself up so that we would have an even number and could avoid any byes). We had an eclectic mix. Some of the players are older, but relatively new players. Some (like Craig and myself) have been playing for years. We had 4 who were 11 years old or younger (the youngest was 8), and we had the two who used to play paper Magic years ago from what I gathered, and had recently only been playing it via DotP2012. But we all had one thing in common, at least - we all had a blast!

For Round 1 I manually created the matches, as I wanted to get the 4 young boys playing against each other initially to ease them into the tournament (2 of them, my two sons, already had participated in at least one before, but the other 2 were completely new to the scene). After Round 1 I let the computer pick the match-ups using the Swiss pairing method. I'm personally very proud of my players for taking the younger players in stride, helping them out with game play [making sure they didn't skip their Draw step, which seems to be a common young player mistake], etc. Even the language was (mostly) kept rated PG.

For those interested in such things, here's my quickie tournament report for my Rounds:
  1. Craig thoroughly flattened me in Round 1, despite my Aegis Angel protecting my Swamp (I had no other permanent in play for its protection).
  2. In Round 2 I faced Logan, aged 10, Craig's guest. This was his first ever event (he reportedly had only played 5 games before today!). Like me, he had lost Round 1 and he was disappointed in not having another booster pack to add to his deck. I won Game 1, due at least in part to some misplays on his part. In game 2 I had the opportunity to win again, as he attacked me all out with his creatures for lethal damage, but I had Fog in my hand an an untapped Forest available to cast it with (and enough Creatures on my side left to take him out on my next turn). We only had about 7 minutes left in the Round at this point however, and it was far more important for him than for me, so I kept the Fog to myself, losing Game 2. Then, due to the lack of time, I conceded Game 3, letting him have the match (and the booster pack).
  3. In Round 3 I finally managed (barely) to win a match, despite being "paired up" against someone who had previously won a match and therefore had a larger deck (at this point there were only three of us who had not won a match, so one of us had to face someone who had and I drew the short straw).
  4. After I got the Round 4 pairings posted, the 2 gentlemen who had found us through DotP2012 let me know that they actually needed to leave, and therefore conceded their Round 4 matches. One of them had been paired against me, so I easily defeated my non-existent opponent.
At the beginning of Round 4 I gave the person who had lost all three Rounds at this point the opportunity to swap out his deck (the booster he got initially only had 3 creatures in it!). As he put it: "I got some good cards - they just aren't good together." After that swap-out he was able to win Round 4, so everyone left the day having won at least one Round. The Mini-Master format can be wacky and crazy fun, but is extremely disappointing if you get a horrible initial booster pack. As the whole point of today was to have fun, letting him swap out just seemed the right thing to do.

I had forgotten to point out the T-shirt promotion until Round 4. Shortly after that, all the T-shirts were gone. They were a big hit, and I'm sure the store was happy to sell those 4 Deckbuilder's Toolkits!

Because we had extra product available still, I also awarded everyone a "thanks for coming" pack at the end of the event. Any packs still left I handed off to the store staff to hand out to anyone who might come in later in the day asking about Magic Celebration. Any left after that we will use as prize packs for future events, so that at least the intent of them (to reward players who come in for events) is still met (worry not - the leftovers at our stores will NOT be put out for sale!).

At this point in time it was 2:30, and my event at the next store was scheduled to start at 3:30 (with registration staring at 3:00). I knew there was no way I was going to make it for 3, as I had to still take my boys home and deliver them and my wife to their afternoon obligation (volunteering at a local CSA farm's Harvest Supper fundraiser) so I called Patrick to let him know I was running late. I also invited him to view the Google document that was the preregistration sheet so he'd have some way of checking off people as they arrived. At this point in time we had 14 registered. These included: a couple of folks who had come to Beyond Comics as well; two fathers and their (combined) three daughters; a regular attendee along with two of his friends from University of Maryland. Many of these people had never attended an official MTG event before, and would need to fill out DCI cards. Conveniently I had recently ordered another batch for Novel Places and they had arrived, so Patrick had some on-hand to have them fill out. I have now learned that it is a very good idea to leave some DCI cards with the store for situations such as this, so I'll need to make sure to leave some with Beyond Comics as well.

Lesson learned here: If scheduling two events on the same day at two locations make SURE you schedule with enough time to comfortably finish the first AND get to the second location! I had originally scheduled the afternoon event to start at 4:30 (4:00 registration) but somehow talked myself into moving it an hour earlier.

When I finally arrived at Novel Places (at 3:20) I found just a few more players than I had expected! In addition to the 14 we had registered, Patrick had checked in an additional 4 more for a total of 18. I couldn't believe it! There was a stack of 8 DCI cards filled out already waiting for me, and Patrick's printout of the preregistration sheet along with the four additional names added. I quickly booted up my netbook and started getting players registered into the WER for the event. Normally I try to get players registered into the event beforehand, but so many of those who registered either needed DCI #'s, or chose to give it at the event instead of the online form, I didn't bother (I could have only entered about 3 of those who preregistered - hardly a savings).

Adding in new DCI players is the most time-consuming version of putting a player into the WER. For players you've had in one of your events before, the software saves their information in a "Local Players" section. All you need do is check the box next to their name in the list, hit enroll, and they're in. If the player is new to one of your events, but already has a DCI #, you just enter the DCI # and click "Find Player" and their info is brought up. Click enroll, and they're in. But for a new DCI #, you have to enter the #, which then (after a moment of searching) brings up the "DCI # not found" message. Then you need to enter their first & last name, and hit "Find Player". This brings up the find player window, where you click okay, then finally enroll and they're in. An extra step or two, and the wasted time while it searches for a DCI # that you know it's not going to find.

A couple of people had turned in the full DCI card (including the part they're supposed to tear off and keep for future use) so I got those back to them and kept plugging away at the entries (this is why I try to get to the events early, so I can get people into WER as they show up and not have to do them all at one time). I finally had all 18 names entered, printed out the round one pairings, and started handing out product (with Patrick helping by passing out the land packs I had put together).

I had only handed out boosters to two players when "Wait!" was shouted out. Turns out there were 19 players at the event, not 18 (I didn't have time to do a head count, and had trusted Patrick's list to be accurate). What seems to have happened is that three brothers showed up together. Two already had DCI #'s, and just put their names on Patrick's sheet (only one of those two wrote their DCI # on the sheet). There was also a new DCI card for brother #3. Since the last name on the new card matched the last name on the sign-in sheet that didn't have a DCI # written down, I assumed they were one-and-the-same, and that the person had just used a nick-name when he put his name on the sign-on sheet. So, unfortunately, one of the brothers had not been included.

This meant that we had an odd number of players, so someone would have a bye each round. It also meant we had more players than we had seats for. And, unfortunately, it also meant I had to cancel the event since I had already started Round 1 in the software, and it wouldn't let me end the event, add the 19th player, then start the event again.

So, I canceled the event, quickly sanctioned another one, added 18 people quickly from the Local Players section (thank goodness there IS a Local Players section!), then added the 19th. I started THIS event, printed up new pairings (which annoyed a few folks, I'm afraid), and got things going finally. This incident drove home for me the importance of the registration slips that I usually use. Ironically it was the size of the group that stopped me from using them this time, and it was the size of the group that allowed for the mistake to happen (I doubt many of use can take a quick look at a group and tell if it's actually 18 or if it's 19 - I sure can't - where the difference between 8 or 9 is more obvious).

So, finally, Round 1 got underway. As seems to be the case in this format, the majority of the matches were over quickly, but there are always one or two that go to time (or close to it). At the end, I collected up the results slips, entered the data, and printed pairings for Round 2.

"WAIT!" was called out before folks could start. Another problem! This time a person who had lost the first match had been paired up against someone who had won the first match. And what was worse, the pairings printout showed that the one who lost had 3 match points - as if he had won. Had I entered in something wrong? I pulled out the results slips and found the one in question. No, I had entered what was written. Turns out the player who filled out the slip filled it out incorrectly, and marked the two wins next to the wrong name. So, I had to cancel Round 2, delete the results from Round 1, re-enter the results from Round 1 (with the correction), and print new pairings for Round 2.

UGH. Two Rounds in a row and I had to print new pairings. With 15 new people at the event! I'll be lucky if they don't think me a complete incompetent and never come to one of my events again!

I guess the lesson to be learned here is to either have a quick tutorial on how to fill in a Results slip when you have new players (especially a group this big) OR to quickly go over the results before starting the next Round (which is what I did after Round 2 to make sure I had the standings correct before having WER create Round 3).

The other thing I did between Round 1 and 2 was collect funds for a pizza run. The event was likely to run until 7:30 or 8:00, and I knew some (including myself) would be hungry. There's a pizza shop all of 2 minutes away that we use when we have later events at Novel Places. $4 gets you 1/4 of a extra large family size cheese pizza. I collected enough orders for 2 pies, and Patrick phoned in the order during Round 2. I went to pick up, and got back with 5 minutes still left in the Round (although most of the matches were done by then).

The mother of two of the competitors (and the ride for a third) had shown up at that point, as she thought they'd be done around then (eep!). She took it good naturedly, and bought the remaining 1/4 of the last pizza (I'd only had 7 orders). Also, after threatening that her three charges would have to leave early, she relented and let them stay "a little longer" while she left to take care of some other things. Ironically, they ended up being the last to leave, as she didn't get back for them until much later than she'd planned, I think!

Thankfully Rounds 3 and 4 went off without a hitch, although a few players had to bow out at Round 4 as it had gotten later than they had planned (we had advertised 3 to 7, and it ran a bit later). Again I provided each player a "thank you for coming" booster at the end, and we will use any leftover packs as prizes for future events at that store.

Patrick had only slightly less success with the T-shirt promotion, only selling 3 Toolkits during the evening. I think he'll still give the remaining T-shirt to whoever buys the next Toolkit (although I  would have been happy to take it off of his hands, as it was just my size :-).

All in all I think I can call the Magic Celebration a successful endeavor. I hope that WotC feels it worked well everywhere, and that they even consider making it an annual event. I certainly can attest that it helped bring players in. At Beyond Comics 4 of the 14 participants had never attended an event there (2 of whom didn't even have DCI #'s yet) before, and at Novel places a whopping 15 of the 19 had never played there (8 of whom needed DCI #'s). Many of them told me they plan to come back for future events (and some expressed disappointment that Novel Places won't be running an Innistrad prerelease since we didn't hit Core Level in time to register for one).

Which makes a great segue to bring you the WPN Report Card!
No more Red X!
That's right - you're reading that correctly! Novel Places has met the requirements for reaching Core Level!

A few things have me bothered and/or worried, however:
  1. As of right now, the issue with the very first event I ran (described in Part 19) has not yet been resolved. Until it does, the system only has us at 3 events, not 4. We still have all the other requirements, though - so worse case scenario the Standard event we're running there on Saturday (Sep 17) will count as our fourth event, and we'll officially be Core then, still with enough time to register for the Innistrad Game Day.
  2. If my understanding is correct, the clock on jumping through these hoops again to STAY at Core Level begins after you've made it to Core Level. If so, that means the 8 new DCI members from today's event will not count towards our 6 new players we need to maintain Core Level, which kinda stinks.
  3. For some reason the new Magic Celebration event I had to make shows up on my netbook's version of WER (and I got the email telling me it had been reported successfully), but after synchronizing my desktop PC's version of WER it doesn't show up there. I will assume that has something to do with it being the weekend, and it will show up eventually. But we all know what they say about assuming...
This coming weekend I have back-to-back Standard Events: FNM at Beyond Comics, and then a regular sanctioned event on Saturday at Novel Places. It won't be quite as busy as this past weekend, and will soon become the regular 2nd and 4th weekend pattern, so I'd better get used to it.


Friday, September 09, 2011

The Road to WPN (Part 19)

[This is part 19 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, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, and Part 18]

September 6, 2011: Today Wizards of the Coast dropped a bit of a bombshell in the form of a whole new ratings system called Planeswalker Points.

I'm not going to spend a whole lot of time discussing how the system works. If you're reading this and somehow haven't yet heard all about it, and wish to, I will direct you to the official announcement (written, by the way, by Mike Turian who you may remember from his role in Part 18), as well as a great article by Trick Jarrett from gatheringmagic.com on the subject.

What my takeaway from all of this is the following:
  • I may actually start caring about my rating. I never did before, as I never planned on having any kind of pro career as a Magic player. However, these Levels one can rise through over one's career I can see as kind of cool. My current standing is rather sad, and could definitely stand some improvement:
Not exactly a stellar performance.
  • This will, hopefully, draw more players in to events, ESPECIALLY the Friday Night Magics, as they get a x3 multiplier to points towards these levels.
  • However, part of the point system awards points based on the attendance level of the event. It is entirely possible that this will COST me players, who will choose to go to another store that can run larger FNM events.
  • I fully plan to spread the word about the system, especially to newly signed up DCI members who can follow their progress from the very beginning this way.
  • If the WPN is smart, they will send out to us TOs a small pamphlet giving the briefest of explanations of the system and the URL to check their records. Get these people excited about the program (as I say, especially the newbies!).
In other news, I had a bit of a panic today that came as a result of checking my Planeswalker Points standing. I had played in my very first event at Novel Places (described in Part 9), as we only had 5 people show up, so I had to cancel the sanctioned event and run a casual one instead. I played in that event (and actually won it), so it should have shown up in my overall detailed point break-down in the system. And it did not.

So, I fired up the WER on my desktop computer (not the one that I ran the event on - that was my netbook) and checked the completed events section. It didn't show up. Uh-oh.

Quickly booted up the netbook. In case you're unaware, a lot of information gets stored locally from the WER (like a list of "local players" composed of everyone who's played in one of your events, so you can easily grab their info and register them for another event). I pulled up the completed events on that version of WER, and there it was. Without a Sanction #, and not marked as reported.

Now, what had happened was this. I must have somehow clicked "Create" to make that event, not "Create and Sanction". Probably because at the time I thought only Sanctioned events get sanctioned (makes some sort of sense, right?). I think this is a problem in the WPN terminology. To sanction an event is to create it in the full-fledged system. Even Casual events can be sanctioned, not just Sanctioned events. I'm not sure what word should be used instead of "sanction" but that obviously confused me that first time.

Since it was my first time doing this the lack of a Sanctioning Number didn't bother me for the same reasons I just discussed. It wasn't a Sanctioned event, so why would it need a Sanctioning Number?

The problem here, of course, is that we need to report 4 events to reach Core Level. I have been operating under the assumption that I had so far reported 3 at Novel Places. BUT, it turns out, I had in fact only ever reported 2! Eep!

Now I was putting this all together at around 8 pm my time, which is around 5 pm Seattle time, so I was worried that Brian may be already gone for the evening. But, in desperation, I started writing an email to him explaining the problem. Then in a wonderful bit of serendipity, as I was writing the email an email from HIM popped into my inbox! He was writing to answer my question regarding FNMs if under 8 people show up*. Huzzah! He's still in the office! I quickly replied telling him I was writing up a problem, would he be around a few more minutes. He quickly replied back: why don't I just call him?

So, that is what I did, which was useful as it's much easier to explain over the phone than via email. I explained the situation, and he offered a quick fix that we tried out (very not kosher, and not to be tried without express permission of your WPNWPN Rep. I seriously owe this guy the frosty beverage of his choice should we ever meet in person, at the very least!

So, we should still be in position to possibly attain Core Level status on Saturday at the Magic Celebration event. We so far have 6 people preregistered at Novel Places, 5 of whom have never played there before. This will give us our 4th event (so that hoop is jumped through) and if we can get 4 more new players that day, we'll have the 30 unique players which is the final hurdle (if I can mix my metaphors).

*The answer is, by the way, that if under 8 show up you need to cancel the sanctioned FNM and Create and Sanction a casual event for the evening. It won't count as an FNM for Planeswalker Points purposes, but you can still hand out the FNM promo cards as normal.

September 7, 2011: Well, this is weird. Patrick tweeted to me today to let me know that he received a SECOND box of the Magic 2012 Rulebooks. Perhaps the original box that was supposedly sent just took forever to get to him? Whatever the case, the Frederick branch of Beyond Comics is also starting their own journey to WPN Core Level, and I'm sure could use a batch of them, so (at Patrick's suggestion), we shall pass on this set to them to use. Spread the love!

September 8, 2011: Two things of significance today:
  1. I settled (finally) on what the regular schedule of events will be for Novel Places. We (John, Patrick and I) had settled on a split of time slots between the stores. Beyond Comics will get the FNMs (which Patrick is less interested in, as he sometimes has other events scheduled on Friday evenings) and Novel Places will get Saturday afternoon events (barring special events like this weekend's Magic Celebration, etc, where Beyond Comics can/will get a Saturday event as well). The question had been whether to run every other Saturday, or 1st/3rd/5th Saturdays, or 2nd/4th Saturdays. The final decision is to run on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of every month. So, I hopped onto the WER to register an event for October 8 and another for October 22, which is when I happened upon significant thing #2...
  2. When I went to run the WER, there was an update waiting to be installed (no surprise, WPN had sent us an email warning of the downtime & update). When I read the Release Notes (yes, I do read them), I discovered that Modern has been added as a new sanctioned format! Hot diggity! I wasted no time, and registered an Sealed Deck event for October 8 (we'll do Innistrad) and a Modern Constructed event for October 22. Can't wait!
September 9, 2011: Today saw an interesting Twitter clamor, another nice plug for the blog, and of course FNM. Here's what happened...

Fridays are my "day off" from being a stay-at-home homeschooling dad (my main job, believe it or not - the Magic store and TO gig is a sideline!). My MIL takes the boys for a day to let me get caught up on whatever projects I've been unable to get to the rest of the week (usually Magic related). So, that's the one day of the week where I'm available to tweet more than usual, and today was no exception.

One question I had, and posed to my twitter followers, was this:
Hypothetical Q: If 10 show up for a draft, what's better: 1 pod of 10, 2 pods of 5, or 1 pod of 6 and 1 pod of 4?
I had read somewhere (in some DCI document) that the expected pod size for a Booster Draft would be 4 to 8 players. This is why in the first Draft event I ran, with 12 players, I ran 2 pods of 6. Either lots of people were available to tweet right at that moment, or I really struck a nerve with the question. Either way, tweets started flying fast and furious.

There was nearly 100% agreement with the following:
  • A 10 player draft should be just one pod.
  • Pods with odd numbers of players are to be avoided (to minimize byes). So if one were to divide the 10, a 4/6 split would be preferable to a 5/5 split.
  • The dividing line for when to split into 2 pods is 12 players.
  • If you do run more than one pod, you should NOT allow for cross-pod matches (that is, players should only play against players from their own pod, not the other one); only exception: winner of each pod against each other if a Grand Champion is desired for some reason.
That third point, however, was interesting. Because while all agreed that 12 was the dividing line, there was some controversy over whether it was the highest number at which one should run  a single pod (that is run one pod of 12 players) or the lowest number at which one should start splitting (into two pods of 6). At this point it was recommended that perhaps a quick poll of the players to see which they would prefer would be in order. After all, they are the ones who paid to play, right?

Speaking of asking for player opinions, I decided that at tonight's and next week's FNM I would poll the players as to what format(s) I should run the FNMs in November. October is already signed up and advertised, so I don't want to switch them, but I figured I'd get some input on November. What brought this on is that fact that as of right now I don't have a single person preregistered for the 4th week of September, which is scheduled to be Two-Headed Giant, M12 Sealed Deck. That makes me nervous. I certainly don't want to be running formats that no-one has any interest in!

So, I put together this ballot for the players to use to voice their opinions:
Original version had a typo: "Sead Deck". What?
The results tonight favor the top three choices with Modern and (surprisingly) 2HG Sealed getting almost the same # of votes. I'll poll players next week (Standard event) and see what happens then.

Somewhere in the flurry of tweets back and forth, I agreed with KYT of manadeprived.com to write at least one article for him, and maybe do so biweekly. I'm still not sure how that happened.

This blog gained another point of notoriety, making it into This Week in Magic on gatheringmagic.com. That's the second time this blog has made it (the first being for my controversial piece "A Case Against Speculation (of Any Volume)"). Very cool to be there again.

And tonight we had FNM. In a strange happenstance, I had 10 players show up tonight (as in the hypothetical question I had posed on Twitter), so we ran 1 pod. After 3 rounds of Swiss, prize packs and FNM promos were awarded. My "ideal distribution" got derailed as the third 2-0 player who got paired down against a 1-1 player in Round 3 lost, meaning I ended up with only one player going 3-0, and 5 players going 1-1, instead of 2 and 4 as I had planned for. So, we ended up with extra booster packs in the prize pool again. Everyone who ended with 1 or fewer match wins (4 players) got 1 booster each, and I randomly assigned the last one.

This was the first time I've run one of these where I had players afterwards immediately asking me if I wanted to buy their cards. I need to come better prepared for this eventuality in the future (more cash on hand, easier access to the prices). A lot of folks who draft aren't interested in the cards afterwards - they're there for the experience of drafting, and that's it. And among those cards looking to be sold were Gideon Jura and Primeval Titan, two very nice cards.

There were many return customers, but among the 10 were 3 who had never played at Beyond Comics before tonight at all, and several who haven't played since we made Core. So, of course, the Core Level Report Card needs an updating!
That red X will be gone tomorrow, I swear it!
Tomorrow is Magic Celebration, and we're running it at both locations, so I will be CRAZY busy all day. 10 am we start at Beyond Comics, then 3 pm we start at Novel Places. The format is M12 Mini-Master and it should be a blast. We have 15 preregistered for the morning session (there were 16 but one dropped) and we can only seat 18 (if John gets two more chairs in the morning!) so that will be packed. That will give us our event with 12+ players. Also, we'll have at least 2 players getting their DCI numbers tomorrow there, so that last goal will be met as well. And, since it's the fourth event, the first goal is taken care of also. That leaves only the "30 unique players" goal (and many tomorrow will count towards that as well).

Meanwhile, Novel Places may well finally hit Core Level tomorrow. It will be the fourth event, taking care of goal #1, and we have 9 folks registered so far, 7 of which have never played there before. So if we get at least 2 more walk-ins who have never played at that location, we've got it made. And that will be in time to register to run an Innistrad Game Day (deadline being October 2 for that).

I'll probably have an update posted tomorrow after the insanity. It will be a good test for how the Innistrad prerelease day with two events will go (although for that one at least both events are at the same store!).


Monday, September 05, 2011

The Road to WPN (Part 18)

[This is part 18 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, Part 15, Part 16, and Part 17]

I don't recall ever discussing one aspect of advertising for my events before this, so I thought I should add this in, as it's a great way to help get the word out. Mail Chimp is a free online service (there is a paid version, but the free one is all I am likely to ever need) that I use for generating to email newsletters. One is for Store News (like announcing sales, letting folks know when cards for the new sets are available, etc) and the second is a weekly newsletter to find out about my events. The most recent one (send out September 5) can be seen here if you're curious: eepurl.com/fBMMo. I have a signup sheet with me at registration so folks can add their email on if they so wish (and there's a signup form on my calendar page of my store as well).

Which reminds me, I've never described our registration procedures either. What I have taken to doing is giving the guy at the register (who has so far been John at Beyond Comics and Patrick at Novel Places) small slips of paper for folks to fill out, giving their name and DCI #. When the person comes in to register, they pay at the cash register, and are handed a slip. They fill it out and bring it to me, and I add them to the event in the WER on my netbook. No slip, back to the cash register. That way I know they actually paid for the event. At Beyond Comics I handle preregistrations (through a Google Docs form like this one), and I give John a small pile of colored slips (prefilled out) to hand to the pre-registrants when they arrive to pay. That lets John know how many preregistered people we're still waiting for.

September 5, 2011: Yesterday something extraordinary happened. If you don't to read me gushing about something that isn't really directly related to my work as a TO, then you may want to skip the rest of this post and just come back for Part 19 after the Magic Celebration this coming Saturday. But I have just GOT to write about this.

To get the full picture, though, I need to head back almost a month. On August 8, when I posted Part 13 of this series, Mike Turian (MTG Hall of Famer and WotC employee) retweeted my announcement of its posting. I thanked him, and he responded:

I was rather pleasantly shocked to learn that the blog had somehow become noticed by anyone at WotC. Not only that, but it was being well received! I smiled to myself, enjoyed a moment of basking, and went on with my life...

Then, on August 17, Elaine Chase (Brand Director for Magic: The Gathering at WotC) made this Tweet, which was then promptly retweeted by @wizards_magic (the official Twitter account for MTG):

Okay - this was getting a bit more serious! This blog got more hits in a single day than ever before (hitting 335 page loads). Again, very, very cool - and I was humbled that this thing was being read by folks who help make this game that I love so much.

A few days later (August 19), I got an email from Twitter saying someone had started following me. Not a completely unusual occurrence, except that the person following me was Aaron Forsythe - Director of R&D for WotC! He only follows ~275 people AND I WAS ONE OF THEM!?!?!?! Needless to say, I needed to Tweet my shock, and he responded...

AARON FORSYTHE READS MY BLOG!!?!?!?!?!?! Okay, no pressure or anything.... Another bump in page loads followed this (not quite as large as after Elaine Chase's, but he wasn't specifically pushing people towards the site, so that's understandable).

Even at this point, crazy ecstatic though the attention (and praise) was making me, I decided to not make a big deal bout it here. Be cool, I told myself. Be cool.

On August 31, in an email conversation with Brian (my WPN rep), I asked him if there was any way I could give feedback for the great job he does (turns out the best I can do is write to his supervisor, which I still need to do). As part of his response he said:
I keep reading your blog and many here in the building do so.  One of the Magic brand managers tweeted your blog out a couple weeks ago for people to read as they were talking about it in meetings.  It is really good.

They were talking about it in MEETINGS!?!!? What??????

Okay, really, relax, it's just a couple of WotC people (yes, in some cases some highly placed people), but that doesn't mean it's really anything noteworthy over there, right? Right?

But then, yesterday, this Tweet popped up in my stream:

OH. MY. GOD. Mark Rosewater. I cannot believe this. For those of you who don't know (and, really, if you're reading this you probably do), Mark Rosewater (or Maro as he's affectionately called by MTG folk) is the Head Designer for MTG. He is probably the best known mouthpiece for the game, and is very prolific both on the Daily MTG website (where he has a weekly column on Mondays) and in social media circuits (Twitter, tumblr, Google+ at the least). He is arguably the most read figure in Magic, I think. At this writing he has nearly 12,000 Twitter followers, all of whom would have received the above Tweet in their feeds. He also linked to the blog via his tumblr feed.

Needless to say (but I will anyway), the blog had a few more page loads that day. In fact, the Tweet was made around 9 pm EDT. In the next 3 hours my page loads went from 26 to 1710. So far today (I'm writing this around 10 pm) I've had 2863. I don't think I'll hit 3000 by midnight, as the loads have slowed down considerably, but that's on the order of 4500 page loads that I can almost 100% thank Maro for.

Some of you reading these words are almost certainly only reading them because he (and Mike, and Elaine, and Aaron) took the time to Tweet about this blog. I am extremely awed, humbled, and thankful to them for doing so. And to Mike, Elaine, Aaron, Brian, Mark (and anyone else at WotC) - if you're all still reading - thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope it continues to live up to your expectations.

I can't say that I have seen any appreciable increase in business at the store from all of this attention, and it's too early to say if the WPN events will show any results (although I certainly hope that we'll gain some new players who happen to read this and live in the area). But even if that shouldn't happen, it's still amazingly cool to know that maybe, in some small way, I'm giving back to the people who literally make the Magic happen.


Friday, September 02, 2011

The Road to WPN (Part 17)

[This is part 17 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, Part 15, and Part 16]

August 29, 2011: Today I learned, much to my embarrassment, that the non-foil basic land cards in the booster packs are supposed to be removed (along with the Token or Rules Tip card), and the players only draft from the remaining 14 cards. When I ran my first two draft events, I had had the players leave them in. Whoops! I'll get it right the next time!

September 1, 2011:  I just noticed today that the logo promotional kits from WPN for Innistrad are already available (not sure when they got put up - if there was an announcement shared with TOs I missed it). That's MUCH better than the Magic 2012 ones that went up after the Launch party and so were mostly superfluous. I was VERY happy to see those up already!

Getting excited and nervous about tomorrow night's FNM. Really it shouldn't be so daunting. I've already run several M12 Sealed Deck events - so why should this one be any different?

September 2, 2011: Got word from Patrick today - Novel Places has FINALLY received their Magic 2012 Rulebooks. I had contacted Brian (my WPN rep) earlier in the week, and he assured me they would arrive on Friday, and they did (shipped 2-day mail - I'm afraid SOMEONE may have gotten in trouble over this). But I'm very pleased we got our shipment. We have several players who are new or returning, and these rulebooks have been great giveaways to those who are a little rusty and unclear on the rules. I split the one shipment we got at Beyond Comics between the two stores, but that left both stores with a short supply.

Tonight was my first ever Friday Night Magic as a TO. I've attended several in the past, but this was our first opportunity since making Core Level to run an event. I picked Magic 2012 Sealed Deck as the format, as it's a simple one to run, and I've done it at least three times before.

We had 4 folks preregistered (although one of those didn't end up attending) and had 5 just show up, so that gave us exactly 8 in the event, which is a nice number. Three rounds of Swiss style pairings were played.

Bomb of the evening (money-card wise at least) was a foil Jace, Memory Adept (around a $65 card at the moment). That player can easily make back his $25 entry fee! Also seen were a Grave Titan and a Gideon Jura.

Quote of the night was: "The rest of my pool was crap, but at least I got the rare token." (Referring to the Wurm creature token created by Garruk, Primal Hunter - the rarest token creature card in M12). Said player ended up with 4 match points (1 win, 1 loss, 1 draw) so his pool couldn't have been THAT bad.

The ideal distribution of match points would have had a single person at 9 points, 3 at 6 points, 3 at 3 points, and 1 at 0. I therefore planned on distributing 5 prize booster packs for first place, and 3 packs for those with 6 match points, which would leave 2 left over in the prize pool (2 packs per player = 16 pack prize pool) to be randomly assigned among those who got below 6 match points.

Because of a draw in Round 1, however, the ideal did not get met, and we ended up with only 2 players at 6 points, meaning only 11 packs were used up in the regular assignment. That left me with 5 packs still in the pool, and five players with under 6 match points. PERFECT! So everybody left with at least 1 prize pack. The top two players got the FNM promo (Teetering Peaks is the FNM promo for September) and two other players were randomly selected to each get another (one of whom didn't even know there WERE such a thing as FNM promos - so it was even more special for him!).

Three of the players were brand new to WPN events, and had to fill out DCI cards (one of whom went on to be the second place promo winner!). That means we're only 2 events in to our first year of Core, and already have 5 of the 6 new-to-WPN players we need to maintain our Core Level status. Awesome! Several of the players indicated this will not be their last FNM, and many of them are also planning to come out for the Magic Celebration event on September 10.

One of the new players found us because he subscribes to the store's email newsletter. The other 2 we can thank the Wizards Event Locator for. This is an amazing free service that WPN provides whereby a player can enter their location (city/state or postal code) and select the type of WPN event they are interested in. It generates a map of nearby locations for said events. I've had several people tell me that this is how they found us, so I'm very grateful that it exists!

During rounds I discussed some plans with the store manager, John. We decided to go ahead and open up preregistrations (with prepayment) for the Innistrad prerelease. I quickly signed myself up for the morning event (Sealed Deck) as I try to always go to one prerelease per set - why not attend my own this time?

One outstanding question that I have emailed to Brain (who has not yet had a chance to respond) is what happens if the FNM ends up with under 8 participants. FNMs are sanctioned events, and sanctioned events need at least 8 players. If there's under 8 I know I can cancel the sanctioned event and schedule a casual one, and run that. The question is: am I allowed to assign the FNM promos if it isn't an official sanctioned FNM? Realistically I know there's no way the WPN could ever find out if I did so (unless some one ratted me out, or I happened to mention it in this blog), but I'd like to know what the official policy is. I do know that if there are any leftover FNM promos, we are allowed to use them as additional prizes at FNMs as long as they are no longer the current FNM promos. Maybe this is how you could end up with leftovers (since it seems they send you only 4 per event you signed up for).

Anyway, I will leave you withe the current WPN report card. It's looking like we will have no problem maintaining the Core Level status at Beyond Comics at this rate. I still look forward to getting Novel Places up there as well. I hope the Magic Celebration event gets us out final 9 unique players!
The red X. It tasks me!