Thursday, July 05, 2012

WPN Boy: A League of Our Own

After some soul-searching on my part, I decided that I was very interested in giving the "Launch League" for Magic 2013 a try. Then I had to work on Patrick (owner of Novel Places) to convince him to give it a try. That done, I finally went to sign up for the League...

Only to find that I had missed the deadline. UGH!

I contacted my WPN Rep, and ended up speaking with a coworker of his (the extremely helpful Travis!) who let me know that they will make (if I'm remembering correctly) 2 exceptions per store in a calendar year. As we had not yet used any of ours, they could make an exception and let us sign up for League. What I had to do was just create 10 events (1 for each week of League) and he would change them on his end to be M13 Launch League events instead.

So we are now officially signed up, and thankfully hadn't missed the deadline by too much, so we were even able to get the League Support Kit sent out way (more on that later).

Why did I decide to run a League? WPN (via Helene Bergeot) has made it quite clear that this is something that they are "pushing" now, being almost aggressively enthusiastic about stores running this program (going even so far as to create Top 10 League Promo cards for this latest League). In fact it is the only special program left to brand-new (Gateway Level) WPN sites, now that they have killed Launch Parties. So, it seemed like a good idea for me to give it a try at least once.

So, why did this take such soul searching on my part, and convincing on Patrick's? Let me enumerate some issues for you...

 No Official Description

I could not find, despite a great deal of searching on my part, any Official word on how a League is run!

The official description (taken from this WPN site) is this:
Leagues are a great way to kick off the release of a new Magic: The Gathering expansion set. Beginning on the day it goes on sale, your players will have an exciting, ongoing event to participate in until the next expansion set is released.
The suggested play format for the league is Sealed Deck, however, the league can be run in whatever format best suits your store. Your league kit will contain enough materials to run two leagues. Prize supplements are included with your league kit, however, we strongly encourage you to add your own prizes.
You can report league play in your store whenever it happens with Wizards Event Reporter. Players will be able to see your sanctioned league in the store and event locator, so be sure to sign up now!
So I knew that the recommended format is Sealed Deck. From other sources (like the alternate League rules for Avacyn Restored) I knew that it's supposed to run for several weeks. But Sealed Deck how, exactly? 6 packs at the beginning and that's what you're stuck with? Then I found this information elsewhere:
Over the course of the league, you will be able to add more boosters to your league deck.
So, there should be a system in play that allows players to add additional booster packs. But how is that determined? Are they won (in which case the price of these must be built in to the cost of joining the League) or are they bought?

Essentially, I was left VERY frustrated at the lack of any official description, even if it was simply "there are a lot of ways to run a League, here are some suggestions..." So, I felt like I was not at all prepared to run a League, because I didn't know what was actually involved.

Time Dedication

Patrick's biggest concern was one of time commitment. Would he have to stay open later every night of the week now? Would he have Magic players showing up when he had a book club signed up or some other function? What, exactly, would be required of him and his store?

I was pretty certain that we could fit League into the time we have currently set aside for Casual Magic Night (when Patrick stays open late on Wednesday nights for players to just show up and play whatever). It has been an exceedingly popular event (we actually had 21 players last week!), and although it is only 3 hours officially, it often runs over, and Patrick has no problem with people showing up early.

Eventually, I was able to convince myself and him that it was worth giving a try at least once. If it's a thorough disaster, we can just never do it again.

So, what are we doing?

I finally decided to look online and see if I could find the rules for Leagues that other stores have used. As Avacyn Restored was the current League, I did a search for "Avacyn Restored League Rules" and found many sites from several different stores.

After consulting these different ones (many of which had very similar rules), I created a first draft of League rules and had some of my local players read it over and see what they thought. With some input and modifications, I announced the League in my newsletter and put the Rules up.

Then, earlier this week, Patrick received the League Support Kit. Now I was in for some surprises!

The Avacyn Restored Launch League was supposed to be a 4-week cycle (you can run two complete cycles of League if you wish), so I based my rules on that. Surprise! The Magic 2013 League is a five Week cycle! Gee, WPN - that would have been nice to know BEFOREHAND!

So, I hurriedly modified the Rules (you can read the final version here if you like) to reflect this, and hope that this is the last modification I need to make before we start our first League on Wednesday, July 18 (just under 2 weeks from now as I write this).

The other frustrating thing was the League poster that was included in the Kit. It looks cool (I forgot to take a picture or I'd put it in here), and has this neat cling that you can use to hide all but the current Week's "optional rules" if you choose to run with them. There are places to put the players' names, and (I presume) keep track of their progress. However, there is not one bit of instruction on how that (apparent) scoring section is supposed to be used! There are 6 boxes with the Nicol Bolas M13 symbol thing in them, and 6 boxes showing (I believe) booster packs. I would assume that the former are to (somehow) keep track of match wins, and the latter to (again, somehow) keep track of additional booster packs added - but why 6 of each? One would hope many players would have more than 6 match wins if they're playing up to 5 matches per Week. And if it's supposed to somehow be linked to the Weeks, why 6 and not 5? I have no idea how I'm supposed to use this thing!

Also included in the Kit, for those who are curious, were two sets of 10 Goblin Tokens (to be given to the Top 10 players in each League) and two sets of 4 Nicol Bolas mini-posters (to be given to the Top 4 players in each League).

I will, you can be sure, write again once we have gone through a cycle to let you know how it went.

Suggestions for WPN on League

I have been told that many people in WotC and WPN in particular read this blog. In the hopes that this is the case, here are some recommendations I have regarding Leagues, especially if you're really trying to get more stores to run this!
  • There needs to be more details on the officially suggested format. Even, as I said before, if it's simply "Here are how some other stores have run League in the past..." with links to rules from past Leagues (used with permission, of course, or with any info that could identify the store removed if you need to). My single biggest barrier to giving this a try was having no idea what running a League entailed!
  • Basic information like HOW MANY WEEKS should be available earlier in the process. It seems like the 5-Week cycle for M13 was not announced officially until the week that the Kits got released. This is too late in the process (in my opinion) - I had to rewrite rules I had already been sharing with my players because of this!
  • Explanation on how to use the score-sheet portion of the League poster would be VERY appreciated. I still am clueless on what the intended use of that is!
  • You need to be sure that TO's and store owners know how to sign up for the League. If I had not missed the filing deadline, I most likely would have signed up for a single League event, thinking that was all that was required of me. Only because I was working with Travis on the exception plan was I made aware that you're supposed to schedule one (at least) for each Week you're running League! This information is, to the best of my knowledge, nowhere to be found on any of the official WPN sites.
  • The official Magic 2013 League site says "Are You a Store Owner? For more information about running a Magic 2013 League, visit the information page on the WPN site." By the time this site was active, I believe, it was already too late for anyone to sanction the M13 League (it certainly is too late now, and yet this text remains). It seems rather cruel to tease folks with the possibility of doing something that they cannot, in fact, do. It would seem to be more truthful to say "Are You a Store Owner? The next opportunity to run a League will be for our Fall set, Return to Ravnica. For more information about running a League, visit the information page on the WPN site."or something to that effect.

So, what's next?

This Friday will be our second "Home Brew Standard" FNM - this time around we want to gather decklists from the players so we can publish a "Top 8" list somewhere.

This weekend is the Magic 2013 Prerelease. We are running only 2 events at each store this time, on separate days, to avoid competing with ourselves. Novel Places will host 2 on Saturday (July 7) and Beyond Comics gets 2 on Sunday (July 8).

Next weekend will be the official Launch Party for M13 at Beyond Comics (at FNM), then we'll have our "Launch Party" at Novel Places on Saturday (July 14).

There are no special events (like the Helvault from Avacyn Restored) for Magic 2013's prerelease, so there probably won't be quite as much excitement to write about this go-round, but should anything notable happen, I will be sure to chronicle it herein!



Mike said...

As a new TO, I find it very difficult keeping track of everything to ensure that I don't miss anything for my players. This is just one more example of that.

NLi10 said...

Great, informative post as always. Wish I'd realised you'd shared your rules before I created mine from scratch last night! Your write up of the rules is much better than mine - am I OK to copy chunks?

Are you using the deck lists on the Wizards site? I hadn't considered that option and it'd be a great idea to use those to prevent (more accidental than planned) cards being added from outside. We want to allow players to take their cards out of the store, as we are more like a play group than a serious store and keeping the card lists in the prize jar will be enough to check back and ensure no confusion. If we go over 8 players we HAVE to leave the store to play else no-one can shop... (it's small...)

We are running differently to you, but as I see mention of the 400 count white box I think we Googled the same pages!

As our store is starting the league as if it was a launch event (we are but a humble gateway) so most people will be buying packs anyway on the day. Despite only having a likely 6 players in the league (with me as TO and our beloved store owner making the 8) everyone wanted different options so we are allowing people to do it via the intro packs (for those with little deck-building experience or reduced budgets), and the packs as normal, but the collectors (like me I guess) who are picking up Fat Packs will play out of those with the extra booster purchased on top at the end.
Personally I love the idea of declaring your sealed pool from the Pre-release to be your league deck when you sign up before any packs are cracked (saw this online) and suggested it to another store I play in more locally. I think if we ever make core this will be the Digital Dragons plan too - it eases the financial burden and causes more people to be aware of the league.

Also we are only currently allowing one booster a week, but are discounting these slightly in line with the bulk buy purchases (we felt this would increase the likelihood of players returning). I think that from my Limited experience (pun intended) adding bonus packs to loosing decks will not make them that more viable. I think that spending time with players that loose to develop their card pool is more valuable and didn't want a situation where players hovered around the 50:50 mark and hoped to pull bomb rares.

I was initially just as confused as you - I'd heard a rumour that they sent out boosters to use for the league and we were initially pricing based on this! I emailed Bill Stark and soon found out that it was prizes that were supplied (which is better really as boosters we can just order). Our stuff arrived this week too and although I haven't seen it another store I spoke to said they were a bit underwealmed compared to the higher level events such as the old Launch.

Will have to see how this develops. Unfortunately I have to miss our league launch - but will write up week 2 as I crack my fatpack and try to play/TO 10 league matches AND a standard event on the same day.

I am @Nli10 on Twitter and the store is Digital Dragons - Lichfield UK.