In the middle of May, Wizards of the Coast announced several changes to in-store Organized Play events, which may signal the direction they want to go in with OP for the foreseeable future.
Metrics Still Frozen. Prior to the epidemic, increasing the size of in-store events was the way for stores to increase the quantity of pre-release materials they would receive, as well as a qualifying factor in reaching Premium status. Store metrics as of the first quarter of 2020 have determined a store’s status regarding pre-release quantities and other benefits. Stores may request an increase in allocation by contacting Retail Support and asking, but should offer a rationale for asking for an increase (we received an increase by pointing out that another store in the area had shuttered during the pandemic, causing players who had played there to move to other stores). Player metrics will remain frozen for the foreseeable future, at least a year, as WotC’s announcement says that, once events start counting towards play metrics again, stores will have a year to build their play metrics back up to pre-pandemic levels before they starting counting toward store status again. Even at that point, if a store’s frozen metrics are larger than its current metrics, the frozen metrics will count toward quantities.
Health and Safety Requirements. Although it has long been WotC policy that all WPN events should be open to anyone allowed in a store, WotC has modified the policy to allow stores to implement restrictions on players. Stores may put in place whatever health and safety requirements they feel necessary in order to provide a safe environment for players. Of course, the implemented policies must also comply with whatever local laws and regulations that may be in place at the time as well.
Play Modification. Stores may, if they so wish, modify the rules of Magic play to minimize player contact with other plyers. Of course, said modifications must comply with local laws. WotC provided examples of such play modifications as:
- Players may only shuffle or cut their own decks.
- Cards must remain on the owner’s side of the table when control is changed.
- Cards attached to cards owned by other players should not physically touch.
- Mechanics that require an opponent to search a player’s library, hand, or graveyard are performed by the owner displaying that zone to the active player without cards changing hands.
Essentially, it appears that it that stores may implement any change in the rules of play that would prevent one player from touching another’s cards.
Private Sanctioned Events. This is the WotC policy change that struck me the most, as WotC OP policy for decades has always been that if a store chooses to run a Wizards’ sanctioned event, it should be open to anyone otherwise allowed in the store. Under this policy change, stores may offer private group events and may host after hours limited attendee events as well. All other WPN policies, as well as local regulations, must be followed. I can see where the WPN might want to provide an environment for small groups who might have one or more members with underlying health issues that would cause them concern in playing in a more open and exposed environment. It is still a very striking change from past policies.
WotC does say all of these changes in policy are optional and temporary and I do not foresee any changes in store metrics until 2023. But then, I did not think WotC would open in store play in North American until the Q4 of 2021 (see "Rolling for Initiative -- Three Predictions for 2021"). Ah, well, at least Konami and Pokemon still do not have in store play sanctioned.
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The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.