Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Road to WPN (Part 26)

[This is part 26 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, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, and Part 25]

October 14, 2011:Tonight's FNM (another Innistrad Sealed Deck event) was, unfortunately, as sparsely attended as last week's was. Only 5 players signed up, so I again joined in so there'd be an even number. Since we were under 8 I had to cancel the actual FNM and run the event as a casual one.

I found out one big strike against us is indeed Dream Wizards. As mentioned before, they are the "big fish" in our local gaming pond. They are at Advanced level in the WPN, allowing them to run two FNMs each week. As of this week, in response to the new Planeswalker Points system (mainly, I believe, although some expressed the opinion that this is perhaps to help market against us - I'm not quite that paranoid yet), they've changed their policy to make one of the two ALWAYS a Standard event, and will let it run extra long if they've got a large enough attendance (they used to run only 3 rounds, regardless of how many people show up). To quote their calendar description:
Weekly FNM Standard Format Tournament: • Best Chance to Rank up Planeswalker Points: 3X Multiplier • Participate in the proper Number of Swiss Rounds: • 9 - 16 players = 4 Rounds • 17 - 32 players = 5 Rounds
I can't really ask whatever store employee is running Beyond Comics to stay any later than they already are with a 3-round FNM (although since Standard doesn't have a deck-building time, I could probably squeeze in a 4th round now that I think about it).

Several people have commented that they would prefer to play a Standard FNM with us than with Dream Wizards, so I have decided that I will start alternating weeks with FNM. Every other week we'll do Standard, and on the "off" weeks we'll do Limited formats, other Constructed formats, Two-Headed Giant, etc. The big test will be October 28, as that's the next Standard FNM we have scheduled. I won't be able to start the new schedule until December, since November's FNMs are already scheduled, and you have to declare the format when you register the event.

October 21, 2011: What a difference a week makes! In all honesty I left Beyond Comics tonight feeling like I had just had the most fun running an event that I have had so far in my (granted, short) WPN career.

The evening started off with presents! I arrived at the store to find several boxes awaiting me. I started cracking them open and found that they represented two things. The first was a promo kit for the Innistrad Game Day on October 29, including a big advertising poster and the promos for the event:
My first Game Day promos :)
The second item (which was in two boxes) was a FNM promotional kit. WotC is really playing up the Innistrad/Halloween synergy and has pulled out all the stops with items to help promote FNM (especially the FNM on the Halloween weekend, next week's Oct 28 event). These included:
Big 3D promotional poster.

Planeswalker M&Ms. How freaking cool is THAT?!?!
 Quotes of the evening came from these M&Ms (I handed them out between Rounds 1 & 2):
  • "Should be dark chocolate."
  • "Hmmm....Tastes like Liliana...."
Garruk deck boxes.
 These deck boxes are really cool if you can figure out how to assemble them properly!
Liliana shopping bags. My boys will be using some for Trick-or-Treating!
Also included was a gigantic door-cling (like a window-cling, but MUCH larger) with the same Liliana art as the bag above. Yes, they are milking that Liliana art for all that it's worth. I can only hope Steve Argyle (the artist of the piece) gets royalties for every time it gets used!

So, anyway, when the event was ready to start I already felt like a kid in a candy store, excited to get going.

And then tonight's FNM (Innistrad Booster Draft) had 11 people at the start! SO much better than only 5!

There was no need for me to join in (I don't mind Byes if there's over 8 people, as I can play against whoever has a Bye if they're interested so they don't have to sit around bored for the round).

Of the 11 players, 6 had never played at Beyond Comics before. Of those, 4 were new to the DCI entirely, and needed to get cards. Always cool to have new faces.

After the Draft was over, one of the players dropped (he knew he had to leave early, he just wanted to sit in and draft some cards he was looking for), leaving us an even number of players for Round 1. Then after Round 1, someone else had to drop as he needed to get ready for the SCG Open tomorrow in Baltimore (more on that later). This left us with an odd number of players for Round 2. One of the DCI newcomers got the Bye, so I played a variety of my constructed decks against his drafted deck, as well as against a constructed one he had brought along. As he described it, he was here to learn (he had never seen any Innistrad cards before tonight, which gave the Draft an extra degree of difficulty for him, I'm sure!).

Everyone stayed in for Round 3, so I got to play one of regulars who had gotten the Bye. He had a Zombie deck he wanted to playtest, which seemed a good match against my Humans deck. So we had an epic Humans vs. Zombies showdown.

Random extras from the evening:
  • A girl in her teens stopped in and asked if she could watch, as she's never seen Magic played and is interested. That was fine with all involved - unfortunately a Draft is not the most exciting thing to watch at the beginning (especially if you don't know what's going on) and she had to leave before Round 1 began. I gave her a copy of the Magic 2012 Rulebook, and hope she may be back in the future.
  • One of the oddest "small world" scenes I've seen in a while happened. A guy dropped into the store because one of the women he was with knew Johnny, the guy running the store this evening. While he was there he happened to look into the back room and recognized one of the players. He came back to say hi, and realized he knew a second one of the players. After chatting for a moment, he called the 2 ladies back (as they had met these two players before) and one of the ladies realized that ANOTHER of the players was her cousin! So amazingly random.
Anyway, as I said - I had an absolute blast.

Tomorrow we have a Modern Constructed event scheduled in the afternoon at Novel Places (this months "4th Saturday" event). I'm a little nervous because:
  1. It's a relatively untried format (and therefore not as popular as it could be);
  2. Star City Games has their Open series in Baltimore this weekend, and many of our regulars will be heading up for that instead of coming to us.
I'm hoping we have enough folks who aren't interested in the big guys' tournament to run a decent event tomorrow, but we shall see...

October 22, 2011:Yeah, that didn't happen :(

Only three players showed up today, so I joined in to make it four. This meant, of course, that I had to cancel the sanctioned event and run a casual one. We played three Rounds, with each of us playing each other player at one point or another.

I don't really have a Modern deck, so I used my Blue/White Humans deck, which is Standard-legal.

To say it sucked would be an understatement.

I managed to win only one game all day with the deck. After losing in Round 1 and 2, I played my Mono et Mono deck against that opponent (as my matches were over much quicker than the other match each time). And even THAT deck just did not get the job done. I am just not cut out for the Modern world, I'm afraid. The decks I faced were just too nasty and fast.

Unless I get a sizable clamoring from my player base, I'm not sure we'll be running Modern again any time soon.


Friday, October 14, 2011

"Cool Metal Life-counter?"

Just a quickie, here. In case you're wondering what I mean by "cool metal life-counter" as one of the options you can vote for in the current Blog Poll to pick the next email newsletter giveaway prize, here's what they look like:
Bask in the awesomeness!
They're a bit heavy and will cost more to ship than my normal giveaways, but that's okay. Please note: I get to pick which one gets given away if this prize is chosen in the poll!

Saturday, October 08, 2011

The Road to WPN (Part 25)

[This is part 25 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, Part 22, Part 23 and Part 24]

Astute readers will have noticed that I abandoned the "WPN Report Card" a few installments back. Truth be told, it became too big a headache to keep track of the "unique players" at each site. Before we made it to Core Level, it was relatively easy. Had the person ever played here before? Easy to answer. But now it becomes "have they played here since we made it to Core Level?" and that's somehow a good deal more difficult to determine. I kept track long enough to tell that unless something VERY wrong happens, we will have no trouble maintaining Core Level by running our regular events.

I have never really mentioned before what is involved in making it to the NEXT level in WPN (yes, there's more beyond Core!) because realistically I don't ever seeing us making it there at either store. But, in the interests of being complete for those not in the know, here's the details on Advanced Level...

At Advanced Level you get these extra benefits:
  • The ability to run extra events (like 2 FNMs each week instead of just one)
  • "Advanced Support Kits" (whatever those are)
  • More special events (such as Premium Tournaments, Grand Prix Trials, WPN Championship Qualifiers)
  • Extra From the Vault product
  • The ability to schedule events up to 7 days after they happened
To make it to Advanced Level you need to do the following within a 12-month period:
  • Report a minimum of 20 tournaments
  • Maintain a delinquency rate of less than 10%
  • Have a minimum of 100 unique people playing in your reported events
  • Run and report a single tournament with 32 players or more
  • Introduce 20 new players to WPN events
The first two are no problem. Even if you just run FNM for 5 months you've got the first one, and there's REALLY no excuse for having a delinquency rate over 10% (or over 0%, IMHO!). But given the difficulty we had getting to 30 unique players to make Core, I'm not sure how well we'd do at making 100. Also, unless we rent out some larger space, we'll never be able to run an event with 32+ players. The last one could actually be doable (although doing it once a year would be tough unless we got big and STAYED big).

So, realistically, I think we're at Core and will stay at Core and I'm okay with that!

October 7, 2011: Today's FNM was a rather odd affair overall.

First of all, we only had 5 participants, so I joined up to make it an even number so we wouldn't need to worry about Byes. This meant cancelling the scheduled FNM and scheduling a casual event instead, as we didn't meet the 8-player threshold.

I'm not completely sure what caused the problem, but I'm guessing there were two major factors:
  • The event was Innistrad Sealed Deck. This carries a $25 price tag, and a lot of folks have shelled out a lot of money on Innistrad lately (between Prereleases and Launch Parties and even buying whole boxes) so there's a drop in interest in spending $25 for an event right now. Unfortunately this is what I've scheduled for next week as well.
  • Dream Wizards (the "big fish" in our local pond) was running a Standard FNM (in addition to a Sealed Deck - THEY are at Advanced Level, and have the space, so they can run 2 FNMs). I think that was more attractive to folks.
I'm coming to the realization that despite my personal dislike of Standard events, I need to run more of them. The lower price tag (only $8, since players are only paying for the prize pool packs) is just more attractive on a regular basis.

But, back to the odd FNM. In an ideal distribution, after 3 rounds of Swiss we would have had 1 person undefeated (9 match points), 3 people who had won 2 rounds (6 match points) and 2 people who had won 1 round (3 match points). We had 12 packs in the prize pool. So I set up the prize allocation as:
  • 9 match points = 4 booster packs
  • 7 match points (2 wins & 1 draw) = 3 booster packs
  • 6 match points = 2 booster packs
This would, theoretically, leave me with 2 boosters to randomly distribute among those who got under 6 match points (which under ideal circumstances would have been just two players, so effectively you would have had 1 booster pack for earning 3 match points).

To say the match turn-out was not ideal would be an understatement.

In the first round, we had two matches play out as expected, but one ended in a draw. So instead of having match points of 3, 3, 3, 0, 0, 0 as expected, we instead had 3, 3, 1, 1, 0, 0.

That in and of itself wasn't too bad. But then in round two we had two of the matches end in draws (including the match between the two winners from round 1). As a result we were left with no-one undefeated at the end of two round instead of the theoretical 2 players we should have had (point distribution after round 2 was 4, 4, 4, 2, 1, 0 - for the record, I was the 0 at this point).

Round 3 went as one would expect, with three winners. But while the 4 pts vs 4 pts match ended up with someone getting 7 match points (and therefore in the prize range), the 4 pts vs 2 pts went to the 2 pt person, leaving neither of them in range, and the 1 pt vs 0 pt went to me (bringing me to 3 match points). But neither of us was in the running at this stage. Final point distribution was 7, 5, 4, 4, 3, 1. Only 1 of the 6 players ended up in the prize range, and he wasn't even at the top point level!

After giving him his 3 packs, we were left with 9 more in the pool. And I had always sworn that I would give out every pack in the prize pool (I don't want to end up with "the house always wins"!). So each of the remaining 5 players got 1 pack each, and the final 4 packs I distributed randomly among the 6 of us.

Like I said - VERY strange outcome!

October 8, 2011: Today's event went quite smoothly. It was another Innistrad Sealed Deck event, this time at Novel Places. This was the first of what will be our regular 2nd and 4th Saturday events. I want to establish a regular pattern for players who are looking for events on a Saturday (something that, outside of special events, is lacking in our area - see a need, fill a need!).

I was worried that we may not get our 8 players, as we only had 2 preregistered (and prepaid) and one person (Darren) who had told me they were likely to come out, even though he didn't think he could play more than 2 rounds. When I arrived, Patrick told me that he had had someone call and ask about the event (confirming the time), and a local guy (Ian) who has been buying some MTG product from Patrick told him that he'd try to make it as well. So we had 3 for sure, and 2 possibles at this point. Then Serg arrived (I figured I could count on him!) although without Vish (boo, Vish!). Then Craig called to say he was coming up (wasn't expecting him - BONUS!). Ian did indeed make it. And then the gentleman who had called earlier turned up, with a friend along for the ride. Suddenly we had 8. Awesome! No need to cancel and run a casual event, and no need for me to jump in to make the minimum.

Some sick pulls were made. We had a Liliana and a foil Snapcaster Mage (two of the most expensive cards in the set) and several other Mythics (including Olivia Voldaren, who is an absolute beast in a Limited environment).

Round 1 and two went as an ideal distribution would predict. Then Darren, as he had forewarned, needed to drop after round 2 so the only person who was at this point winless got a Bye. This put everyone into prize range (I give out booster packs for the highest levels, but use WPN promos even down to only 3 match points [1 match win]).

Five of the eight players had never played at Novel Places before, and 1 of these was completely new to organized play and needed a DCI card. So all-in-all it was a great event for us as far as maintaining Core Level status is concerned.


Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Road to WPN (Part 24)

[This is part 24 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, Part 22, and Part 23]

September 28, 2011: Today I heard from the DCI that last week's FNM (the Two-Headed Giant event that only had 6 players) had also been invalidated.

Brian got back to me later in the day to confirm my suspicion that this event (as well as the second prerelease event from Sunday) were both invalidated due to being under 8 players. Fortunately, he was able to allow me to submit two casual events in their place, and at least get people credit for having played.

The answer, it turns out, to how do you create a casual 2HG event is: you don't. I have finally managed to get this fact through my thick skull: for a casual event the DCI and WPN does not give two hoots about who played against who, or how many games each player won/lost/drew. They only care about who was present. That's it. In fact if you submit a casual event, you're supposed to check the box labeled "player list only" to make it even easier. To me that seems rather sad, but there you have it.

September 30, 2011: Tonight, instead of running an FNM, we had the Launch Party for Innistrad at Beyond Comics. Throughout the day I was keeping tabs on our preregistrations. We had hit 14 early in the day, but two wrote to me to let me know that their circumstances had changed and they needed to cancel. We had planned on capping at 18, since that's the number of chairs we have available normally (extra tables and chairs had been brought down from the Frederick branch of Beyond Comics for the prerelease last weekend). So, I figured with 12 signed up in advance, that only had us at 66% capacity, and we should be fine.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

I arrived at the store at around 5:40 this evening. The posted start of registration was 6:00, with the event scheduled to start at 6:30. I always try to get in 15 to 30 minutes before registration even begins to get set up. I arrived to find that John had already started processing people in - without knowing who had preregistered and who didn't (or even how many preregistrations to expect). He was asking folks if they had preregistered, but as we weren't requiring prepayment for this one it didn't really matter.

This proved to be a bit of a problem, however, because there were WAY more people waiting to sign up than I had expected! By the time the dust settled, we had 15 present and paid for, 2 still on the preregistration list, and 5 more who wanted to sign up! We waited until 6:30, the posted start time, for the final 2 preregistered people to show up. One was a name I didn't know (and who reported in their signup that they needed a DCI #) and the other was Roger, a regular. I felt bad giving up both slots. Roger had proven to be a solid supporter of what I'm doing, even advertising the events among his play group. As for the other person, I would hate to have their first experience with us be showing up despite preregistering only to find that his seat was gone.

However, we needed to start, and we had 5 eager people willing and ready to pay (some of them even willing to STAND for the event) there in-store. So I finally made the decision to sign up the 5 people waiting in the store. That brought us to 20 people, 2 more than we had chairs for (and making it the largest event I've run to date). Many of these had never played an Beyond Comics before, and 4 were attending their first event (and needed DCI cards).

While the 5 were paying John, Roger did make it (traffic was awful, it seems). It wasn't a total wasted trip for him, as he had placed an order from me he was going to pick up that evening, but I still feel bad that there just wasn't room to fit him in. If you're reading this, Roger - my sincerest apologies yet again!

The lessons to be learned here are:
  • I should have contacted the store and let John know how many sign-ups we already had (and sent him a list, so he could check people off);
  • John should not have started processing people in until I had arrived to give him said info.

So, we finally got started around 6:45 or so, and after 4 rounds of play we ended at around 11:30. My warmest thanks to Jawhara, who had to stay that late on a Friday night to man the store (her shift would normally have been done at 9!) - I don't think anyone had warned her that this particular event would go extra late (FNMs usually run at most an hour later than normal closing time).

So, why was this event so well attended? I'm not sure. My best guess is that since Friday is the first day one can hold a Launch Party, and (to the best of my knowledge) none of the local places were doing so, we were the "only game in town" for anyone who wanted to attend a Launch Party today. I had originally thought this would be our only Friday night Launch Party (since we run FNMs now) but now I wonder if it may be worth sacrificing an FNM each time to do this instead.

On a side note, I'm a bit concerned. The FNM promos for October I would have expected to arrive by now, but everyone at Beyond Comics reports that there have been no such deliveries. We need those promos starting next Friday, so I hope they come early next week!

October 2, 2011: Today was Novel Places' Launch Party for Innistrad. It was scheduled to start at 1:30 (with registration to start at 1). We only had 4 people signed up in advance (two had gone through Patrick's website and gotten the 10% discount; 2 had signed up through my web form just to reserve a space). And two others (Serg & Vish, who have become regulars) were there when I arrived.

I actually got there a bit frazzled today, as when I was packing up this morning I discovered that my netbook was missing. The only thing I could figure is that I somehow left it at Beyond Comics on Friday night. Unfortunately they don't open until 12 noon on Sundays (unless they're opening early for a prerelease!) so I couldn't call them to check. And if I was going to head south to Gaithersburg to pick it up, and then head back north to Clarksburg for the event, I would have to leave at 12. So, I left (my two sons along with me for the afternoon), hoping it wouldn't turn out that the computer wasn't there after all.

Fortunately it was sitting there right where I had left it, so I grabbed it and skedaddled, and arrived at Novel Places around 12:30, when I had planned to get there anyway.

When the time came to start the event, we had no others show up, so my two sons joined the 6 we had to make it 8 for the event so as to allow it to run as a competitive event. With only 8 players, I set the event for 3 rounds and the playing began.

While the event was running, I borrowed Patrick's camera as our household one has been acting up, and I needed to get pictures of the cards from Innistrad from my store. Thankfully my netbook has a built-in card reader so I could extract the photos from his camera card for processing later. I didn't get everything photographed (the commons and uncommons will have to wait for later - I'm just going to buy a new camera to use exclusively for store work).

October 5, 2011: I called in to Beyond Comics to check and see if the FNM promos had arrived as yet, and was told that nothing was there. So I used the WotC customer service system to ask if they had been delayed, or could be tracked (past experience has taught me they ship these things with tracking numbers).

Later I heard back from them, with a FedEx tracking number. That shows the package having been delivered last Thursday, signed for by "CCOHEN". Now Jon Cohen is the owner of Beyond Comics, and usually works in the Frederick store. But last week on Thursday he was manning the Gaithersburg one (where I TO events - the Frederick store has since started running events of their own). Unfortunately he is on vacation this week, and no-one else has any clue where he may have stashed the package of promos after he signed for them. I'm going to have to get there extra early on Friday and help tear the place up looking for them...

October 6, 2011: Today I got the weekly WPN newsletter, and it linked to an article detailing some changes they're making to prereleases starting with the next set (Dark Ascension, releasing the first weekend of February next year). There are some interesting changes, namely:
  • Sites at Core Level will be able to run THREE events now (up from two for Innistrad);
  • Booster Draft will no longer be an allowed format at prereleases (only Sealed Deck and 2HG Sealed Deck).
So that removes the question of whether to run a Draft event next time (if you recall, that was the event that only had 6 attendees). But it adds in a complication factor. Can I realistically run 3 events at each of 2 sites in 2 days? Single-handedly, I don't think so. But, my good buddy Craig may be willing and able to help. We'll have to figure out if there's a way to schedule events such that he can run two of the 6 events for me (I think I can pull of two each day that weekend, so if he can manage the other two I'll be set).

The only questions that remain are:
  • Which store gets which events on which days? Since Beyond Comics is closer to the "big fish" store (who runs the HUGE events on Saturday), it would make more sense to let Novel Places get the Saturday events (especially since we will have established a pattern of Saturday events at that location by then).
  • Just because we CAN run three events at each store, does this mean we WANT to do so?
  • What format(s) to do? Two-Headed Giant didn't work so well as an FNM, but there were many mitigating factors, and perhaps the prerelease would be different.
The two possible schedules I have come up with are:
  1. Novel Places runs two events on Saturday (am and pm), and Beyond Comics runs just one. Craig runs the one at Beyond Comics.  Then, on Sunday, Beyond Comics runs two events (am and pm) while Novel Places runs just one. Craig runs the one at Novel Places.
  2. Each store runs two events on Saturday (am and pm). Craig would run both events at one of the stores. Then each store runs a single event on Sunday (one in the morning, one in the afternoon). I'd run both of these, going from one store to the next like I did for Magic Celebration.
The first option requires Craig's help on two separate days, but only for part of each day. The second option requires his help on only one day, but for the WHOLE day.

And, of course, I'm not so sure how his wife Misty will feel about this!

On another note, Patrick got the new batch of WPN Gateway promos in today (and Beyond Comics got theirs later) and he kindly took photos and sent them to me. So, starting with his event on Saturday, I'll be able to offer these lovelies as additional prizes:
I actually prefer the promo Neonate to the original!
So cool! I just love getting new promos in!