Saturday, November 19, 2011

WPN Boy (Part 1)

As I said at the end of The Road to WPN Part 27, I feel like that series had served its purpose. I set out to document the process and struggles involved in getting a store set up as a Wizards Play Network site, and bringing that store up to Core Level so that it could run Friday Night Magic, Prereleases and other such events.

A lot of oddities happened along the way (not the least of which was picking up a second store to run events at), and the series was overall very well received and developed a rather large following. Still, however, I felt that it had run its course (especially given that its name, which implied a trip to a destination which I feel has already been reached).

So, that brings us to this: the inaugural "issue" if you will of a new series. "WPN Boy" (pronounced "whippin' boy"*) will chronicle my further adventures in TO'ing for Novel Places and Beyond Comics. My intention for this series is to act as two functions:
  1. A simple diary of events after they occur (which will mostly consist of date, type of event, attendance, and then anything noteworthy that happened);
  2. A vehicle to answer questions from you, the audience, sent in either as comments to these posts, or via Twitter (I'm @TheSundry over there) or email (TheSundry at gmail dot com). So PLEASE feel free to ask away - it will give me something to write about!
*For those who are unaware, a whipping boy was a boy who would be punished instead of a prince when the prince had done something wrong. In this analogy, I will be taking the beating for you as I stumble through the always tricky process of being a TO, so that hopefully you can learn from my mistakes. I guess that makes you the prince - so make of that what you will :)

I will publish these basically as they fill up and seem a reasonable size for release out into the wild, so there will likely be no regular schedule to them. I hope that these posts continue to amuse and entertain, as well as (hopefully) shed some light on what happens behind the scenes at events you attend (for you non-TOs out there) and even offer advice and assistance for those of you who are TOs (or wish to be some day).

Q&A Session

The first question I want to answer came from Behrooz 'Bezman' Shahriari in the comments to the last Road to WPN entry:
I suppose one interesting point that you haven't really gone into would be what kind of advertising you do. Do you leave flyers at BC or NP? Have they had much success? Do you use FB to advertise events? How do folk tend to find out about it?
We do have flyers that each store uses, most of which are put together by my rather talented friend, Craig. Here's a sample, for the Innistrad Draft that I'll be running at Novel Places on November 26:
I thought the celebratory art fit with the fact that this event will be the weekend after Thanksgiving.
Craig usually makes full page flyers as well as smaller ones that cam be printed out 2x2 on a sheet and cut down to size. The stores post the larger ones on their door or in prominent locations in-store, then have the smaller ones out by the cash register as take-aways. For FNMs I make up a simple monthly list as a 2x2 for Beyond Comics to have sitting out by the cash register. It looks like this:
Not pretty, but functional. The Comic Sans can be forgiven - it's a comic store!

I used to get a pile of the event flyers (large & takeaways) and post them up at local community centers. I found, however, that when I asked folks how they learned about the event, not once did they say "I saw a flyer at the community center." so I stopped. I also used to post ads in Craig's List (different Craig), but found the same to be true.

I have found that the biggest source of new players (besides word-of-mouth, "come with me to this event run by this guy called Don" type referral) actually is the Wizards of the Coast Store & Event Locator. For those of you who don't know about this amazing resource, any officially sanctioned and scheduled event is in a large searchable database, complete with map, location info, etc. (you can see it for yourself here). You can search for specific types of events, like a prerelease or FNM. It's really quite something. I've lost track of the number of people who told me they found our events using this system, so I'm VERY grateful that it exists!


November 11, 2011: Not a very auspicious FNM on 11/11/11, I'm afraid. The format was Innistrad Draft, and only 3 players showed up. I joined in to make it 4. P1P1 for me was Bloodline Keeper, and I managed to get some good support. Lost Round 1 horribly, tightened up the deck, and won rounds 2 & 3 to take 2nd place in the event (this guy took first).

November 12, 2011: Standard constructed event at Novel Places. Two regular players brought friends (3 between the two of them) and a few other regulars showed up (plus someone who had been meaning to make it to an event for a while now). When the dust settled, we had 8 (without needing me) - so we could actually run it as a sanctioned event. Hooray! This was my first event with a "super promo prize pack" for the 1st place player (who was regular-attender and big supporter of our events, Roger). He took home, in addition to his prize booster packs, all of the following promo cards from my ever-growing collection:

  1. WPN Promo Maul Splicer;
  2. WPN Promo Vault Skirge;
  3. WPN Promo Auramancer;
  4. WPN Promo Tormented Soul;
  5. WPN Promo Bloodcrazed Neonate;
  6. WPN Promo Curse of the Bloody Tome;
  7. Innistrad Prerelease Promo Mayor of Avabruck;
  8. Innistrad Prerelease Promo Wolf Token;
  9. Innistrad Launch Party Promo Ludevic's Test Subject;
  10. Innistrad Game Day Promo Diregraf Ghoul
I plan to offer the same prize pack for the next three Saturday events at Novel Places (Nov 26, Dec 10, Dec 24). I figure I need some sort of extra draw, especially if I want people to come out the Saturday after Thanksgiving and (even worse), on Christmas Eve (that wasn't on purpose, I swear! It just happens to be the 4th Saturday in December this year!).

November 18, 2011: FNM at Beyond Comics. Format: Standard Constructed. 10 players made it (sanctioned!). One of them was new to DCI, and two others had never played here before. The former was invited by a friend, and is unlikely to make it regularly as he lives a good deal away. But they latter 2 (brothers) seemed to really enjoy themselves and I think will come back for events here as well as at Novel Places. We played 4 rounds, since it was a Constructed event and that would have us end about the same time as 3 rounds of Limited (once you factor in draft/build time), and we were still done around 9:30.


Friday, November 11, 2011

The Road to WPN (Part 27)

[This is part 27 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, Part 25, and Part 26]

October 28, 2011: FNM tonight went reasonably well. We had 8 participants for a Standard event (and I didn't need to sign up to make it 8!).

It turned out that the FNM&Ms that we received last week were supposed to be used TONIGHT (which I found out from the WPN newsletter this past Wednesday). It would be nice if the instructions on use of these promotional items went out in advance of their arriving at the store so that we know these things! [Side note on these: the reverse side does not have the Planeswalker symbol as I had previously reported, but instead the symbol of Avacyn from the Innistrad set.]

Anyway, the majority of the players had been here last week as well, so I handed out FNM&Ms and deck boxes to those who hadn't been. We ended up getting the ideal distribution after three rounds (1 player with 9 match points, 3 players with 6, 3 with 3 and one with 0).

This was, in a way, to be a test night for me. If, as I was concerned, the issue was one of format in competing with Dream Wizards, then (I hoped) running Standard more often at FNM would lead to larger turnouts. But last week's Draft actually had more players. Not sure what to make of this.

This is the beginning of a Magic intensive weekend for me, as I have not one but two Game Days to run tomorrow. And there's a rare October snow storm forecast for tomorrow, so I'm a bit nervous.

October 29, 2011: The weather this morning was mostly cold and rainy, not snowy. We ended up with 7 other players at Beyond Comics, so I joined in to make it 8. This meant that everyone got not only the participation promo (non-Foil full art Diregraf Ghoul) but also the "Top 8" foil full-art Elite Inquisitor promo as well (turns out it's easy to top 8 an event when there are only 8 players - who knew?).

I played my "Tokens of my Affection" deck, which does not have a sideboard at the moment. It played okay, but not great. I only won one match (Round 1), but, as mentioned before, still managed to Top 8. We had the same match point distribution as last night's event.

The afternoon Game Day at Novel Places was not so rosy a story. By the afternoon, the snow had really started coming down. We ended up with only 4 players (1 of whom was me). This meant that I had to cancel the official Game Day and run things as a casual event instead. The good news was, though, that all four of us got both of the promos!

I played the same deck, and defeated two of my opponents. One of the players lost each match, while the other three of us won 2/3 matches. Strange ending record.

This makes two events in a row at Novel Places that only had 4 players show up (and I was #4 in both cases). I'm really not sure what to do about this. I had seriously thought that having a Saturday Magic option was going to be attractive to folks, and it may simply be that I'm not doing a good enough job getting the word out that we're doing them.

So, mixed results on my first experience running a Game Day. My hope is that the weather was a major factor and things would have been different attendance-wise if we didn't have the snow.

November 3, 2011: Stopped by Novel Places today to pick up some books I had ordered, and discussed with Patrick some conflicts that will be coming up on some of our Saturday events. The 4th Saturday of November and the 2nd Saturday of December he had to schedule some other programs that will be set up in the space we normally run the events. We think we have a solution moving into an alternate space. I think it's important that we maintain our "2nd and 4th Saturday" schedule so that folks get used to it and know that if it's one of those Saturdays they can come out to Novel Places and play Magic.

November 4, 2011: FNM tonight was Innistrad Sealed Deck, and we only managed to get 6 players out (not including me - if a seventh had shown up I would have joined in to make it 8). This, of course, means cancelling the official event and running a casual instead. I am, to be quite frank, getting sick and tired of having to do that.

The other big news tonight was that John asked if it would be possible to cancel the FNM scheduled for November 25. Here in the US, the Friday after Thanksgiving (Nov 24 this year) is known as "Black Friday" and is, historically, the biggest shopping day of the year. It's the unofficial beginning of the holiday buying season, and a day that most retailers depend on for a huge influx of revenue.

As could be predicted, then, Beyond Comics plans to have a huge sale, and will need some of the tables we would ordinarily use for an event to set up special sales items. Also, whoever is on duty that day (and they're down an employee at the moment) will likely be wiped out by the end of the day, and not really looking forward to having to stay late for a FNM. Add that to the fact that I had scheduled that night to be Innistrad Sealed Deck (the most expensive of the formats we run) which would likely reduce the potential number of players....yeah, you can see why he'd want to let this one go.

BUT, I had already received the FNM promos for that week. And there was always the possibility that Patrick would be interested in running an FNM for once (if the event could be transferred from one location to another). So I resolved to check with Patrick and find out.

November 6, 2011: Turns out he would, so I contacted Brian (through the new interface system with WotC customer support) to ask if it was possible. He told me it would be possible - I needed to create an event at Novel Places for that evening and send him the sanctioning number. He would change that event to an FNM, and I would then need to cancel the scheduled FNM for Beyond Comics.

We got that all cleared up, and now Novel Places will host its very first FNM on November 25. I decided to make it a Standard event, in the hopes that it will be more attractive to folks (a Constructed event is the cheapest of the events). We have an Innistrad Draft event scheduled there for the day after that as well. It is the Thanksgiving weekend, and many folks will be away. But, on the other hand, a number of college students will be back home for the holiday, so maybe those two will cancel out?

ON ANOTHER NOTE: This will likely be my last regular update to The Road to WPN. As many regular readers already know, it's rather overdue anyway. Things have become a bit more routine lately, and simple reports of FNM attendance does not for riveting reading make.

If something of note should occur (like the FNM transfer mentioned above, or an especially large event, or some random big-name Magic celebrity showing up - something like that) I will be sure to post an update on it.

I want to thank everyone who has made this journey with me, both by attending events and reading about it. Without the former, neither store could have made it to Core Level, and been able to run FNMs, Prereleases and Game Days, not to mention that I've had a blast meeting new people and playing more Magic than I've been able to play in years. And without the latter, well - this certainly would not have been as easy a trip without the support and well-wishes I have received from readers.