Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Conspiracy: Take the Crown Release Post-Mortem

I've written articles like this for every Magic: the Gathering expansion released since this business blog began!  They are some of the most heavily read and linked articles on this blog, so evidently people enjoy these observations.  Good enough for me!  (Enough that I basically copy the template and write in the details afresh each time.)  Here, then, is DSG's experience with the release of Magic: the Gathering: Conspiracy 2: Take the Crown!
Conspiracy (2014) was successful out of the gate but then appeared to have been overprinted relative to that spike in initial demand.  The set was a special casual-focused standalone expansion where for the first time ever, cards actually had rules text that affected the conduct of a booster draft tournament.  New cards from the setting of the cutthroat-intrigue city of Paliano on the plane of Fiora brought the theme to life, complete with mechanics that played delightfully in multiplayer melees.  The balance of the set was casual-focused reprints, such as Exploration, Misdirection, and Pernicious Deed.  As of this writing, stores can still get the first Conspiracy at wholesale in distribution.  For how much longer?  We don't know.

I have written at length about the jam-packed Magic release schedule for 2016, and Conspiracy: Take the Crown is the fourth of five booster releases occurring in only a six-month span.  It is not part of the Standard cycle, which we left off with Eldritch Moon last month and will continue with Kaladesh next month.  Many players could skip this set if it didn't have enough cheddar.  Last month I wrote that the excitement level for Conspiracy 2 "will depend quite a bit on how saucy the first few spoilers are.  Nobody really thinks there will be fetchlands or anything..." and I speculated and whiffed on what cards we might see.  We did, however, get reasonable value in the set.  On balance it seems stronger than Conspiracy 1.  Show and Tell, Berserk, and a nice array of rare reprints give players across several formats some newly-foiled options and first-time-reprinted options.  Meanwhile, new cards like Sanctum Prelate, Recruiter of the Guard, and the planeswalkers Kaya and Daretti looked great and promised solid utility.  Regardless, I saw only modest pre-sale activity.

There was no pre-release for this set, just a release weekend.  We didn't hear a lot of buzz for the set but decided to spread a feast anyway and see who showed up.  Apparently about mid-evening Friday night, the entire city of players decided they wanted to draft C2 right freaking now.  We were so immediately slammed that even with a modicum of preparation, overcrowding became a problem and I ended up making a public apology.  Great business, though, and drafts happened on and off for the rest of the weekend.

I invented a format called the Conspiracy Megadraft and we ran that for half our start times.  The Megadraft admission was $17.50, and players drafted three packs of C2 and then two packs of C1.  It was meant to simulate sealed deck for the set while still allowing the draft mechanics to work.  Each 8-player pod was split into two 4-player games.  Once only two players remained in a game, that game ended and there was a finale of a 4-player game.  All participants got an additional booster, and players received a prize booster any time they killed another player in the game.  (Suicides counted and did take place!)  The last Monarch standing received a final extra prize of three more booster packs.  Drafts took a while and Megadrafts took even longer, but we had quite a bit of player feedback raving about how much fun the Megadrafts were.  I'll surely run those again.

DSG opened bigger than a usual non-Standard set, but not huge.  We broke 60 boxes for singles.  I wanted to get all our singles stocking done in one shot for this set because there was no Pro Tour with deck builds to follow and no ongoing metagame.  I will probably end up on the punt end of cash flow on that specific product for a while, but ten cases isn't that much cost.  It was nice to open some primo foils right away, like Show and Tell, Prelate, Inquisition of Kozilek, Daretti, Recruiter, Horn of Greed, Exotic Orchard, and some Birds of Paradise.  I was looking for a foil Expropriate for my Commander deck, but no such luck.

Was Conspiracy 2: Electric Boogaloo a success through its launch weekend?  I would liked to have seen more sell-through, but everything that did move, moved healthily.  It was something I did not order in high quantities and I will definitely not need to restock any time soon.  Now the biggest release of the year is mere weeks away, and the preparation must begin.  Kaladesh!

Have a safe holiday weekend, everybody.

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