cataclysm80 wrote:The first thing I noticed is that they had Alpha, Beta, Unlimited all with the same release date, which is obviously incorrect
This has been interesting reading. I need to see if I can find the lists I printed out while in Korea. Those were early but not sure I still have them.
I sure hope the release date for First (Limited) is just one date. It is easy to forget that there are no 'alpha' or 'beta' publications--only Limited and Unlimited. The edition was released at GenCon of that year so you can nail that date down easily. If you want an 'official' date, just look up when GenCon happend that year. If any subsequent printing by WotC or anyone else lists a different date, please disreguard. Almost the entire company (I don't remember if Jesper was there or not) was present and it has to be as official as anything because they did take orders and deliver product.
Want a humorous story from the "release".
While demoing the cards that they had just received from CM by air, in order to make the con (now you know why so many details were missed in the first part of the printing). Which they had to go on the cuff for the air shipment cost.... oh, I don't think I'm supposed to mention that...knoff knff.
Back to the story. The owner of a distribution company (I am not sure if they still exist or not so won't say who) was quite impressed with the game. In fact he was so impressed that he did something they never expected. He ordered a WHOLE CASE!!!! The first BIG sale ever. Talk about a celebration...
Back at The basement in Kent WA. the had broken out the libations to celebrate their success. They got a call from the above distributor asking a question..... "What is your return policy?" Well after coming up with something on the spur of the moment they were told that he was considering returning the case. Bummer, Downer, bad day.....
Well, it never came back, as you can well imagine. But that is not the end of the story (are you still awake?).
Ice Age release (again at a GenCon--so date is easy to find). Peter ends up 'manning' the booth while everyone else is at the event. Place is empty. This is Milwaukee. Peter looks over the edge of the floor he is on to see in a booth below, sorting through the new cards, the distributor mentioned above. "Hay, ...... I still have that check for you and am waiting for that box you wanted to return.....".
Tav, you gotta be careful about getting an old fart started on the old days.
That's alright Gary, anytime you want to talk about the old days, I'm all ears! I think of you every time I see a Mystical Tutor now. I'm sure that you could add a lot to this conversation. If you could find your old lists that you mentioned, I'm sure it would be fascinating. Especially if it had anything to do with what order the foreign 4th sets were released!
Gen Con started on August 19th in 1993, so that's the day Wizards started selling Alpha at Gen Con. According to the following links (one of them dating back to September 1993) Six Hundred Thousand Alpha cards were sold to distributors before Gen Con, and Peter also sold Alpha to game stores while driving across country to Gen Con.
I completely agree that Beta should not have an official release date.
However, Beta is noticeably different from Alpha. Not just the corner rounding, but also cards were added to the set, casting costs were changed, etc. (that's for the benefit of other readers, I'm sure Gary is fully aware of the differences between Alpha & Beta)
Even without a release date, if I wanted to chronologicaly locate Beta in my card collection, I would always put it between Alpha and Collector's Edition.
EDIT: One of the links listed above doesn't work anymore. I was able to dig up the text from it and post it below for future reference.
Dave posted this to USENET on September 8th 1993, so these events were pretty fresh in his mind at the time.
Enchanting the Masses,
What the Wizards did at GenCon.
We arrived on Wednesday and managed to get people into the hotels w/o much trouble. Setting up the booth was more interesting, since we'd bought a new backdrop, and the first anybody had actually seen it was sitting in it's black boxes in our booth. We managed, somehow, and were pretty ready for opening day on Thursday. New products were Thystram's Collectanaea, Chessboards: The Planes of Possibility (written by yours truly), and, of course, Magic: The Gathering.
We had airshipped about 600K cards over from Carta Mundi, our printer in Belgium, and had the whole shipment sell out to distributors before we left for GenCon. As a result, the last week before we went we were running around scraping together every deck we had left, so we'd have something to show on Thursday. We were supposed to have the rest of our first 2.5 million cards by then, but they were shipped to Oakland instead of Seattle, and would arrive by train on Thursday, after we were at GenCon. After dazzling footwork and frantic phone calls by Lisa Stevens, we found we'd have about 3000 decks for sale at GenCon. They would be air shipped from Seattle, and arrive Friday.
Thursday, we sold out what we had around noon, and started a reserve list. By the end of the day, we had reserves for about 100 decks. Nobody really pushed a product we didn't have yet, so it was a relatively quiet day, which was good. It gave our staff some time to settle into a routine.
Friday at 10:30 our shipment arrived, and we already had a line. That line lasted until noon, and picked up again around 3. There was a mad rush right at 6, when the hall closed. We were playing 2-3 demo games at a time in the booth, so people could see the cards moving around. This proved to be unnecessary on later days.
We started running two challenges Friday afternoon. At the booth was a "Challenge the Masters" competition, where one of our experts (usually Rick D.S. Marshall, the husband of Wizard's editor and a fanatic at assembling deadly decks) would offer all comers the chance to take him on. Why would someone challenge a person going by the title of "master?" Because the challenger would ante up a card from their deck, as normal, but we were ante-ing two booster packs. The final record was 1-18 for our master players. Each card that was won by the master was mounted on the wall behind him as a kill record.
As anyone who saw these challenges can tell you, there were four decks that were being used, three of Rick's and one of mine. Generally considered the most dangerous was the 'decay' deck, which consisted almost entirely of swamp, sinkholes, and plague rats. Lots of plague rats.
The second worst deck was the "walk into this" deck, which had no creatures, no direct damage spells, really no offensive capability at all. What it had were counterspells, power sinks, black vices, brainguysers, and psychic venoms in abundance. In effect, the deck caused the opponent to kill himself. Tremendously frustrating.
The third deck was the 'white weenie' deck, and contained holy strength, benalish hero, and pegasus, along with plains. They all band, the pegasi fly, and they needed so few plains to cast that the challenger was usually quickly overwhelmed by the little buggers. The banding is a key to this strategy.
My deck goes by "The X Deck," which was originally eXperimental. It consists of forests, Llanowar Elves, wild growth, and sol rings to allow a lot of mana to hit the table fast, and mountains, fireballs, and disintegrates. A typical game against this deck has me playing mana cards on turns one-three, and doing a 6,7, and 8 point fireball on turns four through six.
Most such decks (we call them degenerate decks), have critical weaknesses, and if you know that's what you're up against, they're easily defeated. However, against a general deck, they're devastating.
It should be noted that one of the playtesters managed to come up with a deck at the con that makes all four of these look like dirt. I'll just say it was very green.
You might also note that of the five decks listed, the colors are black, blue, white, red and green, and green. You can make a killer from just about anything...
Far more interesting was the "weenie pack" challenge. We gave three of the playtesters a total of three decks and three packs. With just this raw material, they assembled three decks, and took on challengers, one card to one booster pack. The challengers, of course, were given no restrictions on their decks. They could play from a deck made from 20 booster packs, and enhanced by trades with anybody they could find. Despite this supposed handicap, the win-loss record was 28-4.
Lesson: Even if you only get one deck and one pack, and trade with only two friends, you can still put together a competitive deck.
Saturday we really got into gear, with our tournament starting at noon. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of rules confusions, and one round of 2 out of 3 ran for almost two hours. Someone recorded a blow-by-blow of the final set, but I don't have it here. The finalists were showing an excellent grasp of the game. The winner, Alex Parrish, was playing a red and black deck, and the 1st runner up was playing green-white. Alex took home a free membership in the Duelist's Convocation, our Magic Dueling organization, a Magic T-Shirt, a certificate, and a display case of (36) booster packs. That's 540 cards. Finalists got the membership an shirt, and the 1st runner up also received 5 booster packs.
Sunday, we were even more swamped. About 10:30, we started running two receipt books, and still had a line until closing.
What many of our staffers reported, and I experienced first hand, was that you could wander the Mecca halls and spot a game of Magic just about everywhere you went. Wearing a Wizards exhibitor badge gave me a celebrity status that was intoxicating to experience. Retailers were telling us that they were tremendously excited to have a hot new product. The last big seller, 2.5 years ago, was Vampire. Gamers would say "This is such a great game" over and over, until I walked away. Darwin Bromley, the head of Mayfair games, called Magic "The Babe of the Con."
Of course, what really stands out are the other company's reactions. TSR did nothing, of course. White Wolf had already expressed interest in the game, after just seeing prototypes. They reaffirmed their desire for a Deckmaster game based on Vampire: The Masquerade. It goes to playtest soon, and should be out early next year. R. Talsorian signed a letter of intent for a Cyberpunk game. Both they and the FASA Shadowrun team lamented that there isn't any good way to simulate network warfare, so the Cyberpunk Deckmaster is hopefully going to be a netrunner game. The Camarilla had already given serious thought to using Magic as an optional method of resolving battles between vampires. Presumably they'll switch over when the vampire Deckmaster is out.
Unfortunately, R. Talsorian beat FASA to the punch, so the Shadowrun Deckmaster that FASA wants will probably not be out in '94. The status of a Battletech game is still iffy, but an Earthdawn expansion set for The Gathering is very likely. I had more than one FASA artist tell me how excited they were about that, since their contract prohibits them from taking outside work on a competing product.
Other too-soon-to-say-for-sure items would include distribution in B. Dalton and Waldenbooks, and what might come from the Marvel (or was it DC?) rep that was seen around our booth.
But enough blue-sky speculation. Cold hard facts, that's what we need. Remember that shipment that came into Seattle? Well, a bit less than half of it was already spoken for before we left for GenCon. On Tuesday, the day before it actually reached our warehouse, it was all sold, and more. Some distributors called three times that day to increase their orders. The bad news is we won't have the rest of the print run until mid-September.
At the present time, our near-term plans for Magic include a new edition of the Gathering, visibly different on the face of the cards to distinguish them from the first edition, and a Collector's Edition complete boxed set of the cards, marked on the back so they can't be used w/o an opponent knowing of them. We're hoping to get all of the above out in time for Christmas. Also scheduled for a mid-December release is 1,001 Nights, the first expansion set for The Gathering.
The company hopes to maintain a strong presence at cons throughout the country. Those we can't get to ourselves we will cooperate with local people to provide prizes for tournaments and such. If you're involved with a con and wish to run such a tournament, call Wizards at XXX XXX-XXXX and ask for Steve, our Convention Coordinator.
I will see some of you at WorldCon. Drop by the booth and say hi.
I'm having so much fun!
Dave Howell, aka Snark
Production Manager, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
Keeper of the Magic FAQ