Saturday, January 19, 2013

WPN Boy: Catching Up is Hard to Do...

To say this post is overdue is an understatement of mammoth proportions. Generally it just never felt like anything really momentous occurred, and yet as I sit down to start to gather my thoughts here, I realize that there are more than enough things to get a treatment. So I will stop blathering and apologizing and just get down to it.

Gen Con

Really, this should have gotten its own post back at the time, but for whatever reason I just couldn't wrap my head around the whole thing. I will be forever grateful to WotC for inviting me out, paying my way (and my stay), and basically treating me as if I was actually something special instead of just some random Magic geek whose blog just happened to fill a niche that wasn't at the time being filled :)

I think also since I spent a great deal of time on Twitter during the weekend, I sort of felt like I had already documented the whole thing. A fallacy, of course, since tweets aren't really searchable easily from that long ago (at least I don't know how to do it), so it's not quite the archive of my thoughts as this blog would be.

So what do I want to make sure gets noted "forever"?

  1. Favorite memory: The handful of us who were invited to GenCon by WotC (Omar H, Adrienne R, Matej Z and myself), along with an additional guest each (if we wished - I didn't really have any one to invite - see point 2 below) were treated to a dinner on the Wednesday night before the Con really got going. From WotC Helene Bergeot was in attendance (Aaron Forsythe had gotten too late a flight out of Seattle to make it in time for the dinner) and someone else whose name I didn't catch. He sat next to me at the end of the table, and we chatted about why I had been invited (this blog, essentially) and about my thoughts on recent events (the Helvault fiasco, RTR allocations, etc). When we were all done, and walking back to our hotels, I asked Helene who the gentleman was that I had been chatting with all evening. "Oh, that was Greg Leeds, president of Wizards." Eep. Mr. Leeds - it was wonderful chatting with you, and I profusely apologize for not recognizing you!
  2. Bring a friend. While I loved the experience, it would have been 100 times more enjoyable to have had someone (or several someones) there with me to share it all with. While I did get to meet several people in person with whom I had previously only shared a Twitter relationship, there was no-one there that I knew well enough to "hang" with as it were.
  3. Aaron Forsythe and Nathan Holt are tall. Or I am short. Or both.
    'Nuff said.
  4. All of Indianapolis gets into the spirit of GenCon. They even have a whole park just for elves.
    You can't make this stuff up.
  5. I would definitely say that GenCon is one thing anyone into gaming should experience at least once in their lives. Again, thanks to Helene Bergeot, Aaron Forsythe, and the rest of the team who made it possible for me to say that I have done so.

Return to Ravnica Prerelease

So the Return to Ravnica (RTR) prerelease was, to put it simply, awesome.

We ran a marathon at Novel Places of 4 events starting at Midnight on Saturday. So we had 12:00 am, 5:30 am, 11 am, and 4:30 pm. Many people signed up for all four events, and most of them were wiped out by the fourth one. I ran (and played in) the first of these, then had someone else take over for me for the 5:30 am event while I went home and got a few hours' sleep. Then I came back to run the last two. Every single one of the events was at capacity (30 players each).

Now, some background. Unfortunately the allocation of materials for this event was not what I feel it could have been. Specifically, we were allocated enough Guild Boxes to cover a total of 120 players (thus the 30 player cap at each of the 4 events). However, we were only provided with 180 free booster packs for prizes. Using the mandated 2-packs-per-player prize pool, this meant we could only cover 90 players for prizes. And that's without factoring Open Dueling into the equation.

Anyway, we had to resort to IOUs for the excess packs.

Thanks to Craig Sybert for putting these together!

I will be honest - we were no too happy about having to do this. It sticks a little in your craw to be told you must give out a certain prize payout, and then not be provided with enough materials to do what you've been told to do! Since the launch date was a week away the store was not allowed to order any additional product, so we were forced to choose between limiting attendance to our events, or disappointing players by not being able to give out all the prizes we needed to.

There are many reasons this sort of situation can come about, many of which I am probably not privy to. Here's what I know:
  1. The Guild Box structure made it such that there weren't any "leftover" booster packs. In a normal prerelease you get a whole bunch of regular booster boxes, which can be used either for the prerelease Sealed pools, or prizes, as needed. The only way leftover Guild Boxes could be used as prizes would be if they were broken open to retrieve the booster packs from within. Note that this is not in any way a criticism of the Guild Boxes! I still think they are an awesome idea, and I think WotC did great putting these together.
  2. Allocations for prereleases are based upon past performance only. And they tend to not factor Core Set prereleases into the equation. In this case, we only ran 2 prereleases for Avacyn Restored (the last non-Core Set prerelease), when we were still only a Core Level store. Now that we're Advanced Level, we scheduled 4 prereleases. However, this fact is in no way taken into account when they determine how much product to allocate to us. How do I know for sure? The other store I TO for, Beyond Comics, only signed up to run 2 prereleases for Return to Ravnica and were allocated the exact same number of Guild Boxes and prize packs. Frankly, I think this is short-sighted. Yes, past performance is important - but if a store doubles the number of events they are running, you have to factor that in as well!
  3. WotC grossly underestimated the popularity of this event. They knew RTR was going to be big. They just didn't know how big. The number of players I have seen come back to the game because of this set is astounding. The number of players who wanted to get in multiple prereleases so that they could experience different Guilds was unprecedented. It all added up to more players playing in more events than any prerelease before this (at least that's how it felt on my end). It was awesome.
Unfortunately the events at Beyond Comics the next day were not as well attended (24 or so per event), which was a shame because: a) they were allocated the same 120 Guild Boxes as Novel Places, so they still have leftovers as of now; and b) they rented out a large space (an empty storefront in the same strip mall) to handle the hoped-for large crowds which did not materialize. I think the 4-event marathon at Novel Places definitely dried up (and tired out) a large percent of the local player pool, which didn't leave much left over for Beyond Comics. I still feel bad about that.


The M13 League ran pretty well, although participation was much lower for the second cycle than the first. At a players' suggestion, we made an adjustment in that cycle to make matches single-game instead of best 2-of-3, as players were having a hard time getting all 5 matches in each week. This proved to be very disappointing for most, as a single mana screw could cost you the entire match.

So for the RTR League, I ran only one cycle, and I changed the rules to make a maximum of 3 matches per week instead of 5 (and went back to best 2-of-3). This proved to work beautifully. Not too difficult to get 3 matches in, and best 2-of-3 matches are much more satisfying, viscerally.

We will do the same for Gatecrash League coming up.

Modern at FNM!

So one huge change that's happened recently that I am crazy excited about is that Modern is now a format that can be scheduled for Friday Night Magic. I have been wanting this pretty much since I was able to start running FNMs, so I am very glad to finally be able to do so.

We ran our first Modern FNM last week (January 11, 2013) and it was a smashing success. 22 players came out (which is in the ballpark of our usual Standard attendance these days - Standard usually brings out 22-26 players) and had a blast.

The need for variety is inspiring me, and I am thinking of running two other odd-ball formats at upcoming FNMs:
  1. Pauper Standard. Only cards that are printed as commons in the current Standard environment allowed.
  2. Guild-centric Return to Ravnica Block Constructed. You must choose a Guild, and build your deck using only cards with that Guild's watermark, or unaligned cards from one of the two colors (so, for example, you cannot use Deathrite Shaman in a Gruul deck, even though you'd be able to cast it using only Green mana). Only Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash allowed.
I think there's a real need out there for something other than "the same old Standard" week after week. At least it's true amongst our player base.

Awesome Round Clock!

So a few weeks back Patrick (owner of Novel Places) contacted me saying his distributor had a special deal going. They were obviously looking to unload their back stock of Magic 2012. If a store bought one of three bundles (all of which included at least 2 booster boxes of M12) they would get a special round clock for use in their store. I told Patrick I'd buy two of the M12 boxes if he ordered one of the bundles, which would leave him with two boxes each of M12 and Avacyn Restored to sell. Most of that has since sold, so I'm glad he didn't get stuck with anything he couldn't move.

We had a special "retro" Innistrad Draft on January 12, and held a grand unveiling of the clock for those in attendance. The unveiling was filmed (on a smart phone, so picture & sound quality are not the greatest) and can be viewed here for those who so desire.
I found out last night that Beyond Comics also received one of these round clocks. I do not yet know the full details of what hoops (if any) they had to jump through to get it.

Home Brew Standard continues to be popular.

Last night we had the latest in our quarterly "Home Brew" Standard events at FNM (our fourth), where players are encouraged to go crazy and build a Standard deck that is not from the 'net, not the latest tournament-winning powerhouse. You know that crazy deck you've been itching to build but knew would never survive in the current metagame? Yeah - bring that one.

We had a whopping 23 players last night. And has become my custom, I present the top 8 decklists for you to peruse if you're curious:
Unlike the Pauper Constructed or Guild-centric Block Constructed, this format is impossible to really enforce (chances are if you look hard enough you can find almost any deck online somewhere), and there will always be new players who show up not knowing what's going on (we had 3 players new to the store last night). However, I think it is truly worthwhile running this this, if only 4 times a year. I have several players who look forward to this every time, eagerly asking when the next one will be. If you've never run one, I would strongly recommend giving it a try, if you believe your player base will truly get into the spirit of the thing.

Gatecrash is almost here!

As I write this, the Gatecrash prereleases are only a week away. I learned some lessons from the RTR events, and made some adjustments to out schedule.
  • Beyond Comics will get the Saturday events this time, and Novel Places the Sunday ones. The one exception is a midnight event, as Beyond Comics was not interested in running one at that time. Beyond Comics was willing to experiment with three events on Saturday, though - a first for them.
  • Three events per store, instead of 4 for one store and 2 for the other.
  • Final schedule: NP Midnight on 1/26; BC 8 am, 1:30 pm, 7 pm on  1/26; NP 10 am and 3:30 pm on 1/27
Novel Places' allocation of product is significantly higher this time owing to the fact that they had so many large events last time. No need for IOUs this prerelease! Unfortunately Beyond Comics' allocation actually went down from last time, so we may need to issue IOUs there depending on attendance. Again, we see the problem of not factoring in the number of events the store signed up for. Last time they only ran 2, but this time they're running 3. So they will need half again as much as they needed last time, but what's available to them is actually less than they had available to them for RTR. We'll have to see how this goes.

Caught up?

Well, that seems to bring us up to the present. I will endeavor to not let myself get so far behind again. I think regular smaller updates would be preferable to a massive catch-up post like this (especially since I'm sure that some things have been forgotten and fallen by the wayside that would have been documented otherwise). As always, thanks for reading!


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