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.



Anonymous said...

wow woudl've loved to be there but had other plans for that time :/ great job with the blog@!!

Greg said...

I'm glad that your events are going so well! It definitely seems like you're struggling with WER, though.
I was at the Judge Conference in Atlanta recently and Jared Sylva (L4 judge, has run every single Star City Open for the past year+) gave a presentation about head judging on your own. He was not very keen on WER and pretty much all the judges there with experience with it chimed in that WER is terrible. They use DCI Reporter. Not sure if that's an older name or a different version, but there's some info in this thread:

Don said...

@Greg: Thanks for the support! I think my main issue with WER is just learning how to do it. Once I figure out all the bibs and bobs I should be okay. It would be nice it there were a decent printed manual for it (I'm one of those who does much better with a real physical manual in my hands).

Bruce said...

I have never used WER live at a tournament yet. I randomly pair by die roll for the first round, then do my best to match identical records after that. Since my tournaments are generally 16 people or less, this has not been time-consuming and has saved headaches like you have been having with WER.

I intend to set it up for the coming Prerelease, but if there are any problems, I'm going to switch to pairing manually right away.

Don said...

@Bruce I honestly don't think I can blame WER for most of my problems, so much as I can blame my unfamiliarity with WER.

NLi10 said...

Can't believe I just read 20 articles!

I found a local start-up FNM that hadn't got core status and dragged along 6 of us in total over the weeks (2 new DCI numbers). Glad to see I helped in my own little way.

We missed the FNM deadline for Sep so will be battling for the other promos from Oct!

Don said...

@NLi10 Neither can I :-) I'm very humbled and gratified at the attention this thing is getting. I'm glad it's found an appreciative audience. Welcome aboard!

pureval said...

My LGS ran things a little differently. We did single elimination with the winners getting a booster and moving on. You just added the booster without looking and never took cards out. Final round you got to add 2 more of each basic land.

Once 8 or so people were out of a tournament he started another one up, anyone from a previous one who lost during the first round was added in with a bye. It worked pretty well and we all had a blast. I did open anything great but everyone around me did and it was to discover your rare halfway through the game.

Glad to see your events doing so well, keep up the good work.