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Ray Powers

*Level III Judge

*WOTC Tournament Organizer for Arizona & San Diego


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Plugging the Leak


It was a quiet week.

I half expected to get a bunch of hate mail over last weeks article. I expected some people to write telling me I was way off, money drafting was part of the game, there’s no rule against it, and I shouldn’t be telling how to live their life. I also expected a very small minority to poke their heads in with a “nicely done” note because they agree, but never wanted to really comment on it.

I got a bit of the second one, but none of the first. I was surprised. My first guess is that the sort of person who would argue with me about this sort of thing simply doesn’t read my articles. The Pojo is more of a “fun” web site, and not exactly Magic Pro Headquarters, so we tend to get more of the casual crowd to the site anyways. We draw the people still playing Magic because the LOVE TO PLAY Magic, not because they think they can make a living at it, and so in retrospect I suppose my belief that I was going to get a thrashing over last week’s article was rather unfounded. Nonetheless, I’m glad I wrote it, and I truly hope that people take my advice to heart regarding respecting the rules of the people who run these events for you.

Speaking of respecting the rules of others, I’m sure whomever is up there running the universe thought it would be fun this week to tell me to put my money where my mouth was over the past week. For those you that d not know, Wizards of the Coast has implemented a pack tracking system that started at Fifth Dawn. Every booster pack, display, case, and pallet has a unique identifier attached to it. The pallet ID can tell you ever case in the pallet. The Case ID can tell you every display in the Case, and the Display ID can tell you every pack in the Display. The Pack ID tells you, er, what pack it is. Obviously they don’t track what cards are inside each pack, although that would be very interesting.

Why are they going through this much effort? Because product keeps magically (pun intended) appearing before its release date. Sometimes MUCH earlier than its release date (like a couple of weeks).

Wizards does not like this, and I can’t say I blame them. If I had a product I was planning on unveiling, and I had done some teasers, and some promotions, and had set up this huge world wide prerelease event system, I would be pretty angry to find out that some guy down the street was selling my product early, ruining all of my great marketing plans for the product.

I would want to find that guy and beat him with a hot pepperoni pizza. Then when I was done with that, I would want to find out where he got the product from, so I could beat up those people with a hot anchovy pizza. And if it happened that there was one more level of leak in the system, well then a hot black olive pizza beating for them.

Obviously, I am hungry right now, but I need to finish this article, so I am holding off on the quest for pizza until this is done.

Getting back to the topic at hand, for someone like me, who runs multiple prerelease events I multiple states, this equates to a lot of extra work. I support Wizard’s plan to track the leaked product, and so I scanned in product left and right. I scanned what product went to the judges, and to which judge. I scanned what product went to San Diego, and what went to Phoenix. I scanned which flight the product was used in, and which product was used for prizes. When it was done, I scanned which product was left, and sent all of that information to Wizards of the Coast.

It was a huge pain in the butt, but a pain I was willing to deal with. I like running prerelease, they tend to help my pocketbook, and they are simply fun as heck. If I have to do some extra work to make them happen, well that’s my job. And in doing all of this, I am covered. Wizards knows from me where every pack I got went, and I certainly am not selling product early. No way I can get in trouble right?


Shortly after the data was sent back to Wizards, all of the Premiere Tournament Organizers got an e-mail of which this is a small snippet “If you know of anyone using Fifth Dawn product prior the release date, please let me know immediately. Fifth Dawn is not for sale until the 4th of June, this includes singles. If you know of anyone selling product early, please let me know immediately.“

Well, I own a store. My store had a table at the Prerelease. My store did what every other store does at a prerelease. We bought Fifth Dawn singles. We bought as much as we could. There is a huge market in singles before it “comes out” and to be honest, I don’t know any store that doesn’t try to capitalize on this. Its fun for the players, good for the stores, and in all honesty, good for the Tournament Organizers. I can not name how many times I heard of people going and selling their singles to a dealer to get money to play in “one more” flight or draft.

Obviously anything we didn’t turn around that same day, we took back to the store and put in the case. So, technically, I was breaking the rules. In my defense though, I did not know I was breaking the rules, and although this if agreeably the worst argument of all time, “everybody else was doing it.”

I confessed immediately. If I really was breaking the rules, I wanted to stop. I understood what Wizards was trying to do, and wanted to help, but in all honesty this put me at a serious competitive disadvantage as a store. I am very strict about not mixing my store business with my tournament organizer business, because I want to have a local community where everyone trusts me as an organizer and knows I am not “playing favorites” with my own store. I want the community to grow as a whole, and am a big believe in “bigger pie, bigger pieces for everyone.” So, if it means my store has to turn down a “perceived advantage” when doing the normal course of business, that’s the price I pay.

But with this policy in effect, I actually am being hit with a specific disadvantage in following the rules. The stores that are not premiere stores are not going to stop selling singles early. In fact, I doubt if even the other premiere store will stop selling singles early, because it will be virtually impossible to prove they are doing it. So in reality, by having a good relationship with Wizards, and wanting to continue that good relationship, I am losing the ability to make a profit on prerelease singles where others will. To make it worse, since my store is normally “the place” to buy singles in the Phoenix valley, I’m actually losing reputation as well by suddenly not being able to meet the needs of singles buyers during this critical time.

Now, don’t get me wrong, while this e-mail may sound pretty whiny, I am more than happy to do this for Wizards. I still believe in the policy conceptually, and my relationship with Wizards over the long term is far more important than the sales spike I get from extra single sales for two weeks after every prerelease. But I am hoping Wizards looks at this past prerelease event and realizes a couple things:

a) The people they trust to run their prereleases are the people they can trust. We are not the product leaks. We value our relationship with Wizards, and have no intention of stabbing them in the back over a quick buck.

b) We shouldn’t be penalized for being a business partner with Wizards. Right now, as the policy is written, we are. The policy needs to be reviewed a bit, and with any luck, changed so that we are on equal competitive footing with other stores. That’s all we want. We don’t need and advantage, although we certainly won’t turn it down. All we need is to be equal.

Thanks for listening! See you next week!


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