Costa Mesa, CA
by Scott Gerhardt
Hey everyone! I wanted to get out and write this report and tell you a little bit about what went on at the Apocalypse Pre-Release in Costa Mesa. First of all, I am a brutally honest person. So, if you think you may be the recipient of a verbal lashing here, I encourage you to stop reading here, because you'll probably read it and just get all upset.
I am a dealer and a player. I, with my girlfriend Chris Amaral, own Shuffle & Cut Games. Seeing the pre-release as a tremendous money making opportunity, I contacted Dan Gray about setting up at the tournament. He gave me a price, I agreed, and boom, we have a table. Unfortunately, I am a player too. So, I was lucky enough to find Bill Guerin to run my table for me in my absence. It was kinda neat having an employee for the day, since I had never actually hired someone to help me, nor really trust anyone else with my cards.
So, the day of the pre-release came. Myself, Chris, Bill, and John "Nev" Balla all piled into the car and went down to Costa for the tournament. We got there early, and they had to finish setting up - no problem. After a while, Dan assigned us our dealer table. Now, there were two other dealer tables which were bigger, but Dan explained they were for his regular dealers. I don't like it since I was one of the first ones there, but okay - understandable - these were the dealers that were there week in and week out; they should get some special privileges for their loyalty.
So we get set up on our table, which was clearly just too small for us, but we made do, crunching binders one on top of another and making use of every inch of that table. In all, I think we got 8 binders on the table, plus our draw box. Now the true innovator of the money making, customer-loving draw box is Ed Fox. His box has been cleaning up in Dallas for years, and the players love it. It's a perfect blend of profit for him, and players being very happy with what they get. Here's how it works. You take a set number of rares (and for us, foils too), sleeve them up in penny sleeves, and slap them in the box. Then, you take a few premium rares, like Absorb, Urza's Rage, Bird of Paradise, and a lot more, and then you put those in the box. Then you take some super great things, like a sealed box, a Juzam Djinn, and a Mox Sapphire, and put cards for those in the box. People pay you $1 to draw out a card. People pull enough good stuff that the box makes money, and you get some good customers at your table. The concept is that simple. I simply wanted everyone to understand the concept of it, as I will be bringing it up again later.
After setting up, me, Chris, and Jon all sign up to play in the prerelease. Now, here is where I start to see some REAL funny things going on. First of all, we got our product at the door. Second of all, no decklists. I got real scared, REAL fast. I already knew that people were going to be cheating, and if I had been smart, I would have too. Lord knows I was a dealer and sure could have, but chose not to - I have morals unlike a good number of the people in the room. Anyway, we bust our packs. I guess having good morals can shine on you from time to time, as Chris busted a Foil Spiritmonger, and I got a Foil Urza's Rage. Good times. Nothing like paying for your sealed immediately. We built decks and sat around for a long time.
At this point, I go back to dealing, and the box is booming. As predicted, people are hand-over-foot to try their luck at the premiums. We are the most successful dealer in the room, by far at this point. Fast forward two hours. The dealer to my right rips me off. Yep, that's right. In his own words, he started his draw box because he directly wanted to compete with me. Unfortunately for him, though, he didn't take the time to analyze his box at all, and gave away so much stuff that if he told me he made a penny off the draw box I'd call him a liar. I think he gave away 6 sealed boxes and 3 Moxes. He only had about 700-800 cards in his box. Who here wants to do the math on that one? He still had plenty of cards left at the end of the day. Did he hurt me? Hell yes - people were more than willing to throw money at the dealer who stopped caring about profit. Who was the winner? The players and the dealer to my left who was supplying the other dealer with Moxes. Am I a loser? No. My box did almost 700 draws on the day. I could have done better, but oh well - I guess that's business.
Back to playing. First round I hit a guy who I guess it's best I don't know his name, because he was a cheating bastard, and if I knew his name, I'd post it all over the internet as such. He won 2 -1. Afterwards, we deck checked him. After stating his 3rd rare was a "bad white enchantment" (i.e. Harsh Judgement, Spirit of Resistence, or something like that), we discover he has no 3rd rare, but he sure has a Stalking AND Tsabo's Assassin. He also had 11 uncommons, nine of which were conveniently in his deck, including about every black removal spell you can imagine. It was his reaction when I joked at the beginning of the match that I was going to punch in the face anyone who cheated against me. He squirmed....bad. Whomever you are, I will see your name on my DCI Match History at some point. That's all I have to say about that. Oh, by the way, Dan Gray blew it off. The guy had other Invasion cards in his deck box, had incorrect counts, and Dan Gray blew it off. I got screwed....bad. Dan, you blew that one. 16k or not, when you know someone is cheating, you DQ them. But, it all goes back to no decklistings.
Anyway, from there I go 4-0 and win 12 packs. Whoopie. Shoulda been a box, but in an environment when cheating exists, I guess the honest can only hope for 12 packs. I play another tournament, get a crappy deck, go 1-1 before getting paired against Chris and conceding to her since her deck was better and I was tired - she won 6 packs from that tournament.
Back to dealing. The day was solid. I cornered the Apocalypse market. I probably bought 80% of the singles sold to dealers that day. I think one guy got a lot of good stuff by approaching individuals personally and paying more than my buy prices, but oh well - I'm not complaining a bit. So, what were the rewards of my success? The other dealers, whom I later find out are actually dealing WITH Dan Gray's cards, going to Dan and making it so no other dealers (i.e. me) can deal there again. Dan tried to say it had to do with dealers just wanting to show up the day of the event and deal (something I did NOT do - my e-mail asking Dan about it was sent on May 1st), but I think it was about money. I was a threat - a REAL threat to the profits of those dealers, and they wanted me gone. They had a bad tournament because I was able to out buy and out sell them. Overall, I know I did the best of any dealer in that room. I bought and sold more stuff, and ended up with the largest net profit on the day. The guy to my right took in a lot of money, but lost his shirt on the draw box, so that evens out. The guy on my left looked like he was having fun and made some money. He was unique in his having Chinese packs for trade (he was not allowed to sell due to an exclusivity agreement with another dealer - sorta understandable) and a lot of Chinese singles, so that was cool. In the end, I was the only person, to my knowledge, to walk with a set of Apocalypse, and duplicates of just about every good rare there is. It was a good day.
So what did I learn from my experience?
#1 - Don't attend pre-releases in Costa Mesa if you are an honest person trying to win. You won't. You will lose to someone cheating, and it will suck - bad. I think I'll be checking out San Diego for Odyssey. Now, I'm not bashing any other tournaments at Costa. While run a little...um...lazily, they are good. I have attended Dan's PTQs and Regionals, and I think he did a fantastic job with those situations. I certainly intend to attend those again. I don't want anyone to think I am going off an a Dan Gray rant - I'm not. I'm just calling it as I see it.
#2 - If you have a good idea, expect it to get ripped off. Yes, I ripped off Ed Fox's draw box, but I was not there competing with Ed, so that's cool. I just didn't think they would assemble something in 2 hours.
That's all I really have to say on the subject. I hope you enjoyed my tournament report/rant. I guess I have to do one of these from time to time to let some of the steam off. Hope everyone else submits their reports - I'd love to see them!