Ted Yee of T&N Games in Burnaby, British Columbia (Canada) read Scott Thorne’s recent column regarding the Magic: The Gathering--Dragon’s Maze Prerelease and why he thought attendance was down (see "Rolling for Initiative--The Power of Curiosity and the Frustration of Surprise"), and had this to say.

In response to Scott's comments about the Dragon's Maze prerelease events, I have to say that we didn't have the same experience as he did.  On the whole, our numbers were up significantly over Avacyn Restored. Not only did we have more players, but we also had more new players.

I've found attendance goes up and down due to a number of factors.  The first is the popularity of the set.  We usually sell out of our pre-order allocation at least a couple weeks before release and are working on wave 2 allocations during prerelease weekend.  For Dragon's Maze, we were still taking pre-orders during prerelease weekend.

The second is advertising.  Because our store caps out at 66 players (and that's a pretty crowded 66), if I think we'll be close to those numbers, I'll tone down the advertising for the event.  The last thing we ever want to do is turn people away when they took time out of their day to come see us.  I could see this set was going to be a bit of an uphill struggle, so I spent the preceding weeks pushing and promoting the event to anyone who would listen. For Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash, I did almost no advertising and promoting and we had record numbers.

Other factors include the fact that it's the third set of the block (and those are historically not as well attended) and new competition can impact your numbers.  For Dragon's Maze vs. Avacyn Restored, I don't think the Helvault was the difference. It's just the fact that Avacyn Restored was a more interesting set to the prerelease-going crowd.

There's very little to be curious about these days when it comes to Magic.  WotC puts full spoilers out before prerelease, so there's nothing to be surprised about when opening your packs.  Things like Helvaults are only cool when implemented properly.  The super-premium Helvaults were kind of a debacle for Wizards because it rewarded random luck instead of a store's merit.  The Implicit Maze was dull, people were indifferent about it and we got more complaints about only the Foil Plains being handed out instead of the other four basic lands.  Hopefully, the other four lands will be given away at other prereleases.

If you want the element of surprise, I think it would be better to tell everyone that every prerelease will have a twist and leave it at that.  No clues.  Just keep touting that there's *something* cool. Package up prerelease sealed pools like they did for this block and the surprise is inside.  That way, they can even keep it as a surprise from storeowners as some have proven to be completely untrustworthy when keeping secrets.

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