I was reading the official EDH forums this morning, and I think I snapped.

The innocuous post was this one.  Posted by FinalLogic (A good guy all around we met at GenCon this past year), it was a simple question about the upcoming Prerelease:

“So who’s playing in a prerelease or release party? Post your tournament reports here.

I’m going to try and play in multiple events, starting with a Friday midnight prerelease.”

I started to reply, and found myself a page deep into an all-out bitch-fest.  Since I’ve built this blog on the premise that I wouldn’t be afraid to call out things in the community I feel are wrong or mis-handled, I’m bringing it here instead.

Seriously, Wizards.  What the hell is wrong with you?  For all the talk about how the casual crowd really drives the sales of the game, you’re doing a bang-up job of destroying the best way that casual players can come out and enjoy playing in sanctioned events they wouldn’t normally play in, and getting their hands on the new cards early, which is the real draw. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

HOWWHYWUZ, HOWWHYAM

Back in the day, this is what my typical Prerelease schedule would look:

Saturday, 5AM – Wake up, shower (you’re welcome), hit Dunkin Donuts for massive coffee, drive hour to Amherst, MA.
6AM – Pick up co-conspirators for the day.  Hit Dunkin Donuts for another massive coffee.  Drive to Boston or Hartford for the large prerelease there.
8AM – 7PM – Play in at least one or two flights, and draft at least two or three times.
8PM – Hit up a nice dinner on the ride home.  Proably hibachi.  Yum!  Discuss the day, talk about the cards we opened, the good and bad beats, and enjoy some Pack Wars.
11PM – Drop off co-conspirators
12 MIDNIGHT – Collapse in bed until mid-morning Sunday.

TOTAL HAUL – Roughly a box of the new set, from prize packs and opened product.

The reality of things is this – My inner circle of friends and I all in our mid-30s now.  We’re adult…ish people.  We have disposable income.  We want to enjoy our day.  We want nice lunches and adult beverages.  We want to maximize time spent by being able to get our hands on as much of the new set as possible.  We want lobster dinner on the ride home.  (You know…the usual stuff.  Right?) 

In all seriousness, there was a time where we would get hotel rooms locally in order to play for two straight days in comfort.  We made sure we were getting the most of what was offered.  It was fantastic.

Now, with life the way it is, Prerelease weekends are the times we get together and enjoy each other’s company and the game we love to play.  It’s not often these days that we can do this, with wives, kids, jobs, bills, and all of the other assorted ways that the real world keeps you tied up.  We want to enjoy ourselves for one weekend every few months.

You know what we don’t want?  Being packed into a smelly, standing room only shop for a whole afternoon, with the possibility of only pulling three lousy packs’ worth of new product.

WHERE IT’S AT

Let’s look at the new schedule:

Saturday, 11AM – Drive to meet co-conspirators at shop in Amherst or Hadley.  No hurry; since it’s local, everyone is taking care of business in the morning instead of making it a day.
12 NOON – Register for only available event of the day.  Grimace at the fact that a shop with a capacity of 30 comfortably has 45 people in it.
1PM – Open sealed pool.  Hope it doesn’t suck.
1:15PM – It does.  Lament the fact that I can’t go 0-2, drop, and get a chance to open something better in a new sealed pod.
2PM – Start losing.  Dump a quick two games to some other guys there that managed to open amazing, cohesive pools featuring several in-color bombs.  (Said players are discussing the Friday Night midnight event they played in.)  Huh…weird!
3PM – 6PM – Continue playing to a sad middle-of-the-pack finish.  Lament the fact that there are no drafts with which to savagely rare-draft in and enjoy games where players don’t cheat.
8PM – Home watching a James Bond marathon or something.  Frustrated and angry. 

Can anyone else spot the problem here?

.   .   .   .   .
THE KRUX OF THE ISSUE
Losing the big regional Prereleases was a bad hit.  Not only was it much more comfortable to spend a day playing Magic spread out in a college hall or gymnasium, but it meant that we had a reason to make a day of the event.  Now, we’re paying bills and grocery-shopping in the mornings instead, because life can and does intrude when you’re not stepping outside of it.  And what are we stuck with?  We’re jammed into a shop like sardines.  Wizards has dictated that each store is only allowed one event, so people are getting turned away.  Too many players to a table, so you get no elbow room.  The tables are too close together, so you can’t walk down aisles without having to squeeze past every other chair back.  It goes without saying, but good lord, the smell!  
In essence, Wizards has cut back the ability to be comfortable and enjoy the environment, and has also introduced disincentive to make each Prerelease an EVENT to begin with.
But at least we could always draft after the flights ended or we scrubbed out.  Until this announcement, anyway. 
So, to recap:
-No more “destination” events.
-Flights are limited, and people are turned away.
-Drafts are gone.
-Local stores are left to handle space and time considerations.  Comfort takes a back-seat.
-Cheating is easier and more common.
-Product is dramatically less-available.
Wizards, how do these changes mean an improvement to the Prerelease experience?
Flat-out, you’ve dropped the ball in a big way, and I’m absolutely disgusted with the results. 
—>DJ