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Subject: Uncles Games Store Championship DRAFT : a TO Report rss

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Uncles Games in Bellevue WA held the first official draft tournament in the world this past week on 3/15! Originally scheduled to be a regular constructed Store Championship, the local Seattle Netrunner community was poised the idea of switching to the brand new draft format that Uncles had just received stock of. After a fair bit of debate online, it was decided that most people were in favor or breaking ground on the new format and seeing if their “on the fly” deck building skills were up to snuff!

As I had recently taken over running the local league night on Tuesdays (come by if you are in the area and need some friendly people to play with!), I took over as the TO for the event. I knew I’d have my work cut out for me since it looked like we were going to have a fair number of people showing up for the event, but I had help from the always awesome Neil Schmidt, the Uncles event coordinator.

So, Saturday rolls around and everybody starts showing up. We were trying to figure out how to split up the groups and, based of suggestions direct from conversations with FFG, we were going to try and split into “pods” of 8 for the draft, as evenly as possible. We ended up getting really lucky and exactly 24 people showed up so we could easily split into 3 pods for the drafting.

(During this write-up I also want to provide suggestions to future TO’s on how to smoothly run their draft events. All things said, ours went pretty smooth, but there were some things that I would have done differently given the chance. )

Advice: When setting up for the draft, randomize the seating of the players. While this didn’t become a real issue for us, I would have liked to have done this after I thought about it later. It keeps people from possibly trying to “hate draft” specific people or “game” the system to gain an advantage. I do want to stress something: this DID NOT happen at our event, but I could imagine it could somewhere, so you could pretty much completely prevent it by randomizing seating from the start.

Everybody was ready to go now (they had already checked in and received their starter packs) and we passed out the Corporation draft packs. As FFG states in the Starter Pack inserts, organization is key during the draft, so make sure players keep clear piles. One technique I saw that worked well was to count out all 4 sets of 10 cards, pile them on top of each other facedown (alternating horizontal and vertical) and then place the cards that you draft back into the packaging that the pack came in.

Our first issue of the day came up shortly: the players found that some of the draft packs had 34 cards and others had 46 cards. We had to do some quick work for figure out what looked like it belonged in another pack but we got that sorted out pretty quick and we were back on track. (We ended up counting all the other draft packs and it seems like only one box of the corp packs had the issue, so it looks like it was an anomaly, but it is worth keeping an eye out for.)

For the actual draft process we decided that since this format was new to Netrunner, and also a fair amount of the players, we would control the draft process step-by-step and put a minute and a half time limit for card choices. So the basic flow went as follows:
- Take the first 10 cards in your pack and choose one of them
- (Allow up to 1:30 min for the choice, giving appropriate time warnings)
- Ok, make your choice now if you haven’t and pass the cards to your left/right
- Pick up the 9 cards and make your pick, etc…
- (in-between packs of 10 cards, we gave everybody about 1 min to review their choices)

This format worked well to keep such a large group pretty organized and everything flowing smoothly. But, here is another major suggestion: Even if you have new people, 1:30 min is just too long for picking cards. It took about 2 hours for the draft to finish! If I was to run it again, with this many people, I would limit everybody to 30 seconds per choice. We ended up doing something like that for the top 8, but more on that in a minute. Another thought we had that you can do in a draft event is to switch seating in-between the corp pack and the runner pack. This will shake things up and get people to have different draft “partners” sitting next to them which would have been nice, but we thought of it too late. Next time!

We gave everybody a short break between corp and runner packs and after that we got started with the tournament. As per usual with draft events like MTG, your first random pairing is against the person sitting kiddy-corner to you, which prevents people from having to play people they just drafted next to. Also, another strong recommendation from FFG was to ensure that the Swiss rounds stayed within the draft pods, so nobody left the table they drafted in. There were 3 rounds of regular Swiss and then a cut to top 8. Because there was no software that we could use to handle keeping players in pods (I tried using the iOS app “NRTM”, which is fantastic for regular tournaments, but does not work at all for draft) we ended up having to handle the entire event by hand, which also slowed things down a bit. Again, Neil was a huge help here, having run many tournaments previous and being able to sort this all out relatively quickly!

After the cut, we handed out some prize support we had to 9th - 12th place players, and then got the top 8 together to get the second draft going. At this point it was a little after 7pm and everybody was starting to feel the drain, myself included. We decided to shorten the picks (as mentioned above) to 30 seconds and the players all agreed to no break in-between corp and runner. So we started the draft and we actually found that, with their previous experience, everybody was making their choices well within the 30 seconds so Andrew Veen recommended that we switch to “zone drafting” and everybody agreed. If you don’t know, that basically means everybody starts drafting and passing without any direction from the TO and you just ensure that 2 piles of cards never end up in the same place at the same time (receiving zone, hand zone, and passed zone). This worked great and soon everybody had all the cards drafted! We set a 30 minute time limit to build both decks and then we would start the final matches.

At this point we went to standard single elimination match play, with 1st seed playing the 8th seed, 2nd playing 7th, etc. This is where I made my final mistake of the draft event coordinating: DO NOT randomly seat the final table. Seat the players farthest from their upcoming opponents, which means kiddy-corner, like we did from earlier with first round swiss. While this didn’t become a huge issue, people did get randomly seated next to people that they would end up playing. Again, this didn’t break the game, but it would have been better to handle it as mentioned.

From here everything went pretty smoothly with standard match play working itself out. The event ended at around 10:30pm if I recall correctly and we crowned our Store Champion, Brendan Davis!

All in all, this was a great event and everybody seemed to have had a great time and really enjoyed the event! It was really encouraging to hear from so many players that they had a great time and thought everything went pretty smoothly (awesome to hear since this was the first event I’ve ever run!). Thanks to everybody who came out and made history with us! And thanks again to Uncles Games, especially to Neil and Patrick!
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John Griffin
United States
Renton
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Congrats Brendan! If memory serves, Brendan was also the only guy in our pod not wearing a black shirt. I may need to try that next time.
 
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John Fanjoy
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Virginia
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I think for MTG official drafts, the amount of time for each pick decreases by 5 seconds, so if it's 60 seconds for the first pick, it'd be 55 seconds for second pick, etc. That speeds things up a great deal (compared to doing the same time for all of them).
 
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Mike Cooper
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Thanks once again for all your hard work!
 
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