Sunday, July 29, 2012

WPN Boy: Reflections on Return to Ravnica

At long last I find the time to write a post I've been meaning to do since the big MTG panel at the San Diego Comic Con on July 13. I was watching coverage of the panel live while my Magic 2013 Launch Party FNM was running, providing a running commentary for players as their matches were going!

At this panel (which you can watch in its entirety here if you somehow missed it), we learned quite a few things about the Return to Ravnica (RTR) set (as well as the set after that, Gatecrash [GTC]). I won't rehash absolutely everything, but I want to cover the points that are relevant to this post. They have to do with the prerelease events for RTR (and also GTC, as it was revealed that both sets will follow the same structure for their prerelease events).

Here are the pertinent points:
  • At the prerelease, players will choose one of the 5 Guilds covered in the set;
  • They will receive a "Guild box" which will contain:
    • 5 normal booster packs for the set;
    • a "Guild booster" which contains only cards that could be played by their chosen guild (cards of one/both of the two colors for that Guild, or artifacts);
    • a Guild-specific spin-down life counter (color coded to the Guild);
    • a sticker featuring the symbol of the Guild;
    • a letter from the leader of the Guild;
    • an achievement card specific to the Guild.
  • The "Guild box" is custom-made for the Sealed Deck format of playing (where you get 6 boosters and build a 40-card deck from their contents plus basic lands);
  • The prerelease foil promo card will be included in the Guild booster. It will be specific to the Guild, meaning there will be 5 different ones. For the first time ever, players will be able to use their promo card in their deck if they wish.
  • There will be 10 completely new (never before used in any Magic set) mechanics over the two sets (5 in each; 1 for each Guild). So there will likely be judge questions galore that day!
Now, I need to say this first and foremost. As a player, I am about as excited as I could possibly be about this. The set looks amazing. The structure (two large sets, then a small set) for the block is intriguing. The Guild boxes for the prereleases are a genius idea (and will make the TO's job somewhat easier, as there is no need to pre-make bundles of 6 booster packs like you normally need to do with a Sealed Deck event). The extras in the box, while not necessarily super-duper exciting, are a very nice touch and show that an awful lot of thought was put into making these prereleases Experiences, not just events.

As a TO, I am scared spitless. I have SO many questions running around in my head about the logistics of putting this together.

I realize that the players are probably going to want to attend multiple prereleases (some even will want to get in 5 to pick each Guild once and get all 5 promo cards!). As a result, we have decided to run 4 events at Novel Places on the Saturday (starting at midnight!) and will likely run 3 events on Sunday at Beyond Comics. That's 7 separate events over 2 days (and that doesn't count FNM the night before it starts).

While I was taking my time writing this post, I happened to get invited to attend the Alliance Game Gathering - a trade show where several game manufacturers were brought in to speak to owners & employees of gaming & hobby stores about their upcoming products. Wizards of the Coast was the first presenter, and I rabidly listened to everything that Mark Price (Senior Distribution Account Manager for WotC) had to say [even the first half, which was all about Kaijudo, WotC's new game which I must confess I have little to no interest in].

From his discussion (and some q&a with audience members, myself included), I learned the following additional points regarding the RTR prereleases, some of which helped answer questions or alleviate fears I had about the events:
  • Because they recognize that this event is likely to be extremely popular, and that there will likely be a run on select Guilds, allocations for the prerelease will be bumped up. They will figure out what the normal allocation for a store would be, and then increase it. Exactly how much it will be increased was not stated, but at least they have recognized the potential problem here.
  • The Guild boxes will be sold as multiples of 5 to stores - so stores will have an equal number of all 5 Guilds (they can't request extra Izzet packs or anything like that).
  • If a site finds out their allocation and a certain that it will not meet needs (like, as an example, they already have more preregistrations than they are getting materials) they should contact their WPN immediately to see about getting additional product. It may be possible to get more.
  • Allocations won't be known until late August (the prerelease is the weekend of September 29/30). They have to wait until the window for sanctioning the events closes, and then it takes a week or two to figure out allocations. I put the bug in Mark's ear that we need to know these numbers as soon as possible to be able to plan properly.
  • When asked how Two-Headed Giant would work with these Guild boxes (since 2HG normally starts with 8 boosters, not 6, and not 12), all they could say is that 2HG is a valid format to sanction. None of the WotC people on site had any idea how it would actually be done, however.
  • The Guild boxes have an MSRP ($24.99). Since we ordinarily charge $25 for a prerelease, this works just perfectly.
  • It was not at all clear if we would be able to order additional normal booster boxes of RTR to supplement the prize pool beyond the free boxes that are ordinarily allocated to us. Someone asked about this, but Mark did not understand what he was asking.
  • The Guild boosters will not be wrapped like normal booster packs, but will be in clear plastic wrapping (like wrapping around a preconstructed deck inside its box, or like the packaging they use for sending out promo cards). It will, however, be randomized, and he believes the rarity distribution is the same as a normal booster pack.
  • Signing up to run a RTR League will get your store the normal League things, but will also get a special bonus Marketing kit (not available any other way) which includes:
    • 25 special Guild card boxes
    • a wall clock with interchangeable Guild faces
    • 5 Guild banners
    • a RTR standee
    • [Full details on this kit can be found here]
  • There are no plans at this time to return to the old format of Launch Parties (although I was very gratified to find out I am far from alone at being upset that these were done away with!)
  • One very nice image from his presentation expanded on the Guilds, giving them "mottoes". Apologies that it's so blurry. I was way in the back and using my 2-year old phone's camera!
Image from Mark's presentation. Love the Guild "mottoes"!
With all of that said, I am still left with questions and concerns about the RTR (and GTC) prereleases. As I know this blog gets read by some of the folks at WPN, I want to use it to pose the questions/concerns to them. I think it is highly likely that many (if not most or all) of these are things that they have already thought of, and will be addressing. However, the "premium" Helvault promotion proved that the first time something gets done, it's always possible that something gets missed. Just in case any of these issues have not been thought of, I want to get them thinking about them as soon as possible. These are in no particular order.
  1. How, exactly, will Two-Headed Giant be run using Guild boxes? Or will it, instead, be done the normal way (8 regular booster packs)? If the latter, how will participants get a promo card (one of the biggest draws for players to these events) and how will we get the 8 packs (break open Guild boxes?)?
  2. Will we be able to order additional booster boxes of RTR to be used as additional prize support beyond what is provided by WPN? Or will we have to break open unused Guild boxes to get boosters that way?
  3. How soon will we know how many Guild boxes we will be receiving? It is vitally important that we know as soon as we can, so that we can have people sign up properly. Players are going to want to sign up in advance and pick the Guild(s) they want to play. We cannot effectively allow them to do this if we don't know how many boxes of each Guild we will have for each event. Even just a rough estimate could he helpful.
  4. What can the stores do with any leftover Guild boxes afterwards? Do they need to be broken open? Can they be sold as-is (once the Release date arrives, of course)? I assume the latter, given that they have an MSRP, but we need to know for sure so that we don't violate any policy.
  5. I assume it is WotC's intent that players get some say in their Guild, and that we not assign these randomly. It is very likely that one or two Guilds will prove most popular and get picked quickly. I don't think you can stress to stores enough that they should consider taking preregistrations (I have made a sample signup sheet that anyone can feel free to use as far as I'm concerned).
So that's it. Hopefully we will be seeing answers to some (or all?) of these in time that we can make appropriate plans for this event, which I am sure will be absolutely insanely popular and cool. If I think of anything else, I'll post a supplementary article, but I think those are the major issues.

I will be a dead man by the time the weekend's 7 events are all done! This is going to be crazy!

[TO BE CONTINUED IN Catching Up is Hard to Do]


Anonymous said...

Nice work, regards

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for all that info! As a tiny gaming store doing Core releases, I too am terrified of the consequences of not being prepared. I already have several players who have pre-registered in order to secure a spot in both of my tournaments (one sealed deck, the other 2HG sealed...) I am going to start taking Guild choices as they register - fairest way I know...thanks again!