Wizards of the Coast announced today that it is expanding and modifying its Kaijudo organized play programs, adding four new events, and ending the initial league program that launched last fall (see "'Kaijudo' Sanctioning Opened"), with a promotional package for retailers (see "WotC Promotes 'Kaijudo' OP"). 

Those new events include Kaijudo Set Premieres, Kaijudo Duel Days, Kaijudo Master Challenges, and the Kaijudo Championship.  We spoke to Senior Kaijudo Brand Manager Kierin Chase and Kaijudo Organized Play Program Manager Chuck Arnett about the new programs in this exclusive interview. 
Tell us about the new organized play events you're announcing.
Chase:  We’ve been working on this since the summer of last year, leaking some information out here and there, getting some feedback, looking at message boards, talking to some folks.  We were also paying attention to what was happening in the market and making sure we had the critical mass needed to move to the next phase for organized play.
I wanted to talk a little bit about how we went through this process.  As I mentioned, we started leaking some of our early thinking just to see what people would think about it.  We talked to ICv2.  We did an "ask me anything" on reddit.  So once we saw the feedback and what was happening in the market, we started solidifying our plans a little bit more. 
Right after that we started talking to some specific members of the community, who have a good bead on what’s going on out there and started to get direct feedback from them on our thinking.  They gave us some good feedback, a little bit more of a concrete idea of what they are looking for and feedback on what we were looking to do.  This was happening in December right before our Wizards holiday break.
When we got back we flew four members of the community (people who create videos and have Websites for Kaijudo--respected members of the community) out to Wizards of the Coast so we could have two days of extensive meetings talking about Wizards’ strategy for Kaijudo and where we’re going and what our plan was for organized play.
It was a great series of meetings.  Energizing for them; energizing for us.  We were able to solidify and make sure that our plans were the right direction for where we’re going to go with Kaijudo in organized play in 2013.  We are ready to announce it.
You said you wanted to hit a critical mass. How did you define that?
Chase:  There’s a number of different metrics that we use.  We do qualitative and quantitative--number of stores that are participating, number of participants per store, that’s more of the quantitative data.  The qualitative data is things like, are people running tournaments on their own?  There have a been a lot of tournaments that people have been running that move past the league a little bit, showing us that it’s time and we’re able to start going into our more competitive programs.
Arnett:  What we’re going to have in 2013 is essentially four different programs.  We’ll go through those one at a time starting with the most casual. 
Let’s start with Set Premieres.
Arnett:  First of all there will be a DragonStrike Infernus Set Premiere.  This is a program that runs a little bit like the leagues you’ve seen.  It’s intended to replace the function that the league had before.  The players will all get an achievement card.  They’ll fill out some of the achievements while play games with people in the store, while they experience the new card set for the first time.  Once they receive enough achievements, they can turn in their achievement card and get a promo card and they can get a new achievement card if they like.
To play, they’re going to receive one of our demonstration decks and they can add boosters from the new set to the demonstration deck to modify the deck if they like.
Chase:  Those decks are 40-card decks, which are tournament legal, and we’re creating a system that allows people to add additional boosters into that so they have really good decks ready to go right away.
Do the players pay a fee for that?
Arnett:  We are not suggesting a fee, but it’s entirely possible depending on the store’s community.  If they’re going to have pizza or something like that, definitely they’re going to want to add a price, but it’s not set up to have one.
Chase:  It’s not mandated from Wizards to have a price.
We do Set Premieres four times a year and they’re league based.
What’s the release date for Dragonstrike?
Set Premiere events will start on March 16th, the first Saturday after release.
Duel Day Promo 1--Click for larger view
And you have a weekly program--Kaijudo Duel Day?
Arnett:  The weekly program is the next one to talk about: Kaijudo Duel Day.  The store will run a tournament each week.  They’ll pick the day that works best for them and their community.  They’ll run that tournament on a weekly basis giving everybody a chance to play at a more competitive level.  We’ve seen tournaments popping up, we want to support that. 
This kit will have promo cards for the store owner to give out for first and second place but it has additional promo cards to give out to people who are helping in their community, or a a door prize--whatever works best for that particular store.  Similar to the way we waited to see what people did with tournaments, we want to see what they do with prizes, too.  We want to follow the lead of our community so we’re going to give them the tools they need to show us what works. 
The KDD Preview Season (Season 0) is in April, and Season 1 begins May 3rd.
Duel Day Promo 2--Click for larger view
Are these something that you’re going to be collecting and posting scores from?
Arnett:  Participants will have DCI numbers.  The number of games they played and whether they won or lost will be recorded and we’ll have a system for ranking individuals so we can see who the best players are. 
Chase:  The Duel Day program is the bedrock of the new rating and ranking system. Players will be able to accrue points and be able to see where they are ranked in the world.
So is this everywhere where Kaijudo is?
Chase:  Yes, everywhere that Kaijudo is.
Are you in any other languages?
Chase:  Not yet, but we do have international plans for this year.
Tell us about Kaijudo Master Challenge.
Arnett:  Two more: This one is Kaijudo Master Challenge, which follows the same tournament format and deck construction rules as the Kaijudo Duel Day.  They’re connected in the same kind of play, but Kaijudo Master Challenge is going to be run by select stores.  The people who gets first place and second place will get an invitation to the Kaijudo Championships.  The person who gets first place will get travel to the Kaijudo Championships as well. 
We’re also going to be encouraging players to ally themselves with one of the civilizations from the game.  The person who does best for each civilization will receive a prize package, and for the civilization that wins, everyone in that civilization will also receive prizes. 
Chase:  Using an example, we have five civilizations in Kaijudo.  We have light, water, darkness, fire and nature.  When you join a Kaijudo Master Challenge, you’re going to choose to ally with one of those civilizations.  Let’s say I choose Nature.  The top placing person in each civilization will earn a prize packet for that civilization, so even if I end up 16th in the tournament, and I play in Nature, but I’m the highest ranked Nature player, I will get the Nature prize pack.  Additionally, let’s say there’s someone higher than me who played Nature but that person who placed first in the Kaijudo Master Challenge, because Nature won the Kaijudo Master Challenge, I will also win an additional prize.
That’s an interesting structure.  It seems it would encourage an equal distribution because you would have better odds of winning if were in a group that had a smaller number, so that evens things out a little bit.  What are the other goals of having structure like this?
Chase:  There were two we wanted to have.  We wanted it to be not so heavily weighted toward the top.  Obviously whenever you play in a tournament, it’s always first place, second place, top eight--those are the ones that get the heaviest prize.  Obviously we still have that here. If you win first place, obviously you’re getting an invite to the Kaijudo Championship and you’re getting travel.  In additional you will also be getting one of those civilization packs, but we wanted to bring it down a little bit where people would be earning those civilization packs, no matter where they are in the actual event.
The second part that was very important to us, was the notion of being vested in what happens in the event, even if you don’t necessarily win. So the idea--and we’ll talk about this with the Kaijudo Championship as well--is that I’m going to ally with a civilization, and let’s say I’m not doing particularly well in the tournament, I will still be interested in what happens because if I’m playing Fire and Fire wins, I going to still win additional prizes even though I might not be doing well in the tournament. And that was a goal that was very important to us.
How many of these events are you going to have the U.S.?
Arnett:  There will be 24.  We’re trying to figure out the best criteria for picking the stores.  We want to make sure that we provide an extremely high quality tournament so we’re going to be looking to our best stores that have our biggest Kaijudo communities.
Will the retailers run that event or will they have outside support from Wizards?
Chase:  The retailer will be running the event, but obviously as larger event they will be getting a lot of POP support from us as well as prize support.
All these winners have to go somewhere.  Where are they going?
Arnett:  They’re coming here or very near here.  We’re going to host them out here [in the Seattle area].  Probably the most important thing for the players is that we’re going to have a tournament that is going to decide who the best Kaijudo player is--who’s the champion.  We’re also going to treat them while they’re out here.  We’re going to introduce them to R&D, we’re going to show them how Kaijudo’s made, we’re going to show them what our world looks like a little bit.
Chase:  One of the coolest things we can do with Kaijudo is we can bring players into the Kaijudo TCG world.  So some of the prizes we’re going to be doing with the Kaijudo championship is the ability to become an actual character in the Kaijudo TCG.  This is including having things like cards made up of you. We’ll also do flavor text that has direct quotes, so you can imagine a player having a direct flavor text quote.  We also have Kaijudo TCG Online where a player can be turned into an acolyte and the top decks that are played in the Kaijudo championships will be turned into digital opponents in Kaijudo TCG Online.
When will that be?
Chase:  We’re looking to have the Kaijudo Championship in the Seattle area in August.
When will the Master Challenges be?
They’ll start May 3rd
Chase: So we talked about the invites to the Kaijudo Master Challenges for the first and second place will get invites.  In addition, a number of the top ranked people from the ratings and rankings that we talked about earlier, will also be invited, with first place in the rankings getting travel out here as well.
And then the last part which I’m really excited about--If you’ve noticed, most of these players are coming from a store.  The winner of the Kaijudo Championship will be earning a celebration event for their store that they can go back to, probably in September, and be able to celebrate with the store that they were able to achieve their victory.
So let’s say that I play in the Kaijudo Master Challenge somewhere, and I wasn’t able to qualify, I have a vested interest in paying attention to the person who won for my store, because if that individual goes on and wins the championship, they will come back and bring an exclusive event with exclusive prizes for our store. 
Can you talk about the overall participation for Kaijudo organized play at the retailer level? Has that been changing?
Chase:  It’s been very stable, going up a little bit.  We’ve had great support from the retailers but what we’re really excited about is that the number of players in stores has been going up.  That’s what’s most exciting and is most important to us.