When I first came to work for StarCityGames.com, I signed on for many job duties, including Magic Card managing, tournament covering, convention working – but most of these tasks related directly to either the mail order business or to the web site. I didn’t really have much to do with the physical Star City Game Center. I take that back – I was actively discouraged from having anything to do with the physical Star City Game Center by one Pete Hoefling Senior, a.k.a. The Old Man.
Pete’s dad (who answers to both Senior or Old Man) might be in his fifties, but he acts like a stereotypical penny-pinching miser who wakes up with a terminal case of cranky every day. A typical conversation with Senior goes like this:
Senior:”What, am I still paying you to work here?”
Me:”Senior, why are you so old?”
Me:”You’re ugly, too.”
Ha ha! What great comedy! This routine goes on every day of the week. I like Senior, but he’s an acquired taste. Even though he’s cranky and detail oriented, his observations and work methods are usually spot on. His biggest concern is making sure that the cash registers upstairs balance each day. To this end, he will absolutely not teach anyone to use these registers unless he trusts them implicitly to not screw up the numbers. Because of this, Senior would not teach me how to use the damn registers for over a year, even though I would bug him daily about learning to use the damn registers. You never know when you might need to jump on the machine when you’re upstairs, and the regular store guys get busy.
In March/Aprilish of this year, I came into work one Sunday, just to stop in and see the turn out of the Magic crowd – Sunday was draft day. My office days were Monday to Friday, excepting when I would go out of town with Pete Junior [you all know him as Darth Jr. – Knut] to help run an event. The store was pretty packed that particular Sunday, but nobody was really drafting. I don’t want to go into the details, but it basically turned out that some of our employees had not been pushing Magic in the store itself, and as a result our local Magic scene had decayed significantly.
This wouldn’t do. Star City is, without a doubt, one of the biggest Magic supporters in the world. This is not braggery – Pete has an investment in the community as a whole, and wants Magic to be the better for the existence of StarCityGames.com. This is one of the reasons I signed up to work for him – he genuinely loves the game, and wants our existence to be a symbiotic one with the Magic world. The website was very healthy. Our premier tournaments were very healthy. Planet Star City Games was rotating around the universe beautifully… except for our in-store events.
I went to Pete the Monday after I had witnessed Sunday’s events, and told him that we needed to change. He agreed, and I volunteered to be the one to take the Magic program in my own hands. This meant I would be working Fridays and Sundays – Fridays for Friday Night Magic and Sundays for our special events. Pete hired Matt V a week earlier (though he had not yet arrived in Roanoke), so Matt would be on board to help us come up with events. I wanted to run tournaments twice a week, one day for the more competitive tournament player, and one day for the more casual gamer. With this in mind, FNM became a weekly Standard tournament, whereas Sundays were populated with more wacky and fun formats.
I had spent a year and a half working for Neutral Ground in the mid-90’s (and you’ll be getting a lot of Neutral Ground stories in the coming weeks in this blog), and had been party to many great casual formats – Two-Headed Giant, Reject Rare Draft, Anaconda backdraft; you name it, we played it. I had also designed a few interesting formats for our play group at Tulane (more on this in a few). Pete, Matt and I put our heads together, brainstormed, and came up with a host of ideas for Sunday events. But would people come? We got a lot of players who showed up to run their own group games every Sunday, and every now and then we’d get eight players who’d want to draft. Would they show up for more organized play, or would people just want to keep on having open gaming?
After much deliberation, we finally had the first new schedule of events. These Sundays included:
Reject Rare Draft, where we make booster packs with fifteen reject rares, and people run a normal booster draft with these cards.
Ben’s Deck Challenge, where I designed thirty-two unique decks. Each player would randomly be assigned a deck the day of the tournament, and they would have to win out with this deck.
Draft Til’ You Drop, a day of cheap booster drafting, where the winner of each draft got free entry into the next draft.
Mirrodin Block Constructed, just cause we could. Actually, we had intended for Limited and Constructed formats to rotate weekly on Sundays, and we wanted the first few tournaments to be as simple as possible. Each of these initial four tournaments were low maintenance for the players – hell, I even made all the decks for one of the Constructed formats!
Needless to say, these events went quite well! My Deck Challenge had a full complement of players, and everyone had a blast at each of these events. Rich Jacques (one of our regulars) got the Wall deck at my deck challenge. It had a full compliment of White and Blue walls, with Unnatural Selection and Sunwebs in the sideboard. It also had some of the best removal of all the decks, including four Swords to Plowshares and four Smite. Rich got paired up against Erhnam and Burnem in the fourth round, and complained bitterly about losing to River Boa two of the games. “He has four Boas, and I have only four Swords! I have no other way to deal with them!” I picked up his sideboard to find he had sided out Stinging Barriers. “Uh Rich, these guys are pretty good against one toughness creatures. “Oh my God!” yelled Wes Moss, one of Rich’s friends. “That’s like the best card in your deck. Why’d you side it out?” “It’s not too good,” replied Rich, obviously deranged. Rich knew it was a mistake, but he likes whine more than a seasoned sommelier. Even though he lost that round, even he had a blast with his deck.
Since then, we’ve had many different events in store – Pick Your Pack Sealed Deck tournament, Two-Headed Giant, Highlander, Vanguard Type 2, our Red, White, and Blue 4th of July extravaganza, Mini-master, and Sunburst sealed. Some have been successes, and others were experiments that didn’t quite click with our players. Matt, Pete and I have only one rule about which tournaments we’ll run on Sundays: They must be tournaments that we’d want to play in ourselves!
Pete, for instance, loved the idea of the pick your pack sealed deck – each player was allowed to buy a single pack of any five expansions in Magic, and had to build their deck out of these packs (with additional basic land provided by us, of course). Many players opted for Invasion/Apocalypse/Mirrodin/Darksteel/Legions (for the creatures). Though I didn’t get to play, I think I would have gone Ice Age/Tempest/Urza’s Saga/Invasion/Torment had I played, and hoped to get a broken Black/Blue/Red deck – each of these sets has a really high concentration of amazing common cards in these colors, and picking these five sets would maximize my chances of ending up with X spells (Rolling Thunder, Lava Burst), creature kill (Dark Banishing, Pestilence, Expunge, Befoul, Agonizing Demise, and others), bounce/countermagic (Repulse, Exclude, Counterspell, Power Sink), tricks (Ray of Command), and solid creatures. I don’t think anyone went that route though.
Coming up this Sunday is my Scavenger Hunt tournament. The details of the Scavenger Hunt can be found here. I created Scavenger Hunt as a fun format for my friends at Tulane – I would make up lists of sixty cards, and we would all show up and battle it out using my checklists. The Scavenger Hunt went over so well that it was adopted as a format at the Event Horizons Invitational, and then as a regular side event at Grey Matter Events in the Tri-State area. This is one event that I’m really looking forward to, and plan on playing in myself! I haven’t really pre-planned any decks that can be built with these cards, but I’m trying to figure out of maybe I can build The Rock, or Domain, or some other deck with the checklist. We’ll soon find out!
I used to run all the Friday and Sunday events myself, but though I really love our players and want to see Magic do well in our store, I had to cut back on my hours these days because an eighty-hour workweek, every week, with virtually no days off was killing me. Joel, one of our locals, has done an excellent job of running FNM alongside our Raw Deal events (helmed by Dave Hedge) on Fridays. Pete, Matt, Daniel Crane, and I have been platooning Sundays for a couple of months now. If you are within driving distance of Roanoke, come check out some of our Sunday events – you can find the full schedule of events on our”Complete Calendar” option on the bottom left hand corner of this page. You can also click here if you’re navigationally challenged and/or lazy. I hope to see a lot of people at my scavenger hunt this coming Sunday! Go check out the ultimate spoiler generator at www.mtgnews.com for some card ideas if you’re stumped.
I also want to thank all the great people who have come out to support Magic in Roanoke at our Game Center over the past few months. There are too many to name right now, but I have appreciated the hell out of each and every one of you. We have a great group of players, who share a love of Magic and a friendly attitude towards the game. I can’t think of a single spoiler in the bunch, and new players have been welcomed into the existing play groups with open arms.
I also want to thank our players for making one other thing possible. Remember how I said Senior wouldn’t teach me the cash register? He was forced to teach me the ins and outs of cash transactions in store once I started working Fridays and Sundays. I swear it took ten years off of his life. But you know what? He’s still Old, and I’m still the Bleiweiss.
You can contact Ben at [email protected]