Iâ€™m Elaine Chase, and Iâ€™m currently the Brand Director for Magic: The Gathering at Wizards of the Coast. Iâ€™ve been working for the company since January 1999 when I started in the Organized Play department as the DCI Policy Manager. It was my job to do things like write the floor rules for how our tournaments ran and investigate people who did bad things and ban them (like the kid who sanctioned 5 straight days of 18 round tournaments with him winning every round and using (get this) his cat as the tournament organizer).
I got hired into the company primarily though my work as a level 3 Magic judge (I wasnâ€™t level 4 because back then level 4s werenâ€™t allowed to play in sanctioned tournaments and I didnâ€™t want to give up playing), although I like to think that my winning personality didnâ€™t hurt. I also played on the Magic Pro Tour. I â€śqualifiedâ€ť for PT 1 in NY (otherwise officially known as the Black Lotus Pro Tour) because I was really good at hitting redial on my phone when they opened up phone registration (thanks for the practice, Ticketmaster!). I dropped out when I had no chance of ending in the money mostly because I was hungry and wanted to go get something to eat. Brian David-Marshall (the current Magic Pro Tour Historian) tried to tell Kierin (my then boyfriend/now husband who was also playing in the event) and I to stay so we could make the cut off for invites to the next PT in LA, and our attitude was, â€śyeah, sure, like they are going to keep doing this. Want us to bring you any food back?â€ť Youâ€™ve got to understand that at that time, WotC had a penchant for doing weird, one-off events. Case in point, the little known Homeland prerelease, officially known as â€śMagic: the Gathering I.â€ť This was only the second prerelease for Magic ever. (The very first prerelease for Magic was Ice Age and it was held in exactly one location in the world: Toronto.) Magic: the Gathering I was also held in exactly one location: New York. In addition to some tournaments, there were artist signings and other â€śhappeningsâ€ť like the live dungeon where you walked through elaborate sets creating the 5 different colors of Magic with people in costumes. There was no â€śMagic: the Gathering II,â€ť so why would there be a Pro Tour 2? Ah, to be young again. (Random Magic trivia: Prereleases the general way we know them today didnâ€™t start until Alliances, and they didnâ€™t get really widespread until Mirage.)
Â I also played in PT LA 98 by winning a decent sized qualifier in New England. I actually showed up to that QT to judge, but they didnâ€™t need me so I played a deck of my own creation and stomped through the field beating a number of established pros along the way. The PT itself was Tempest only constructed. It was obvious to me the deck to beat would be a quick red deck with lots of little creatures, lots of burn, and Rathi Dragons for the big kill, so I played a green/white deck that decimated the quick red deck (it even ran Pacifism for those pesky dragons). Of course, no one outside of NY realized that red was the deck to play, so I wasnâ€™t paired up against any red decks at all and scrubbed out miserably. My consolation is that David Price (from NY, incidentally) won that PT with exactly the deck I set out to beat, leading me in my own delusion to conclude that obviously if I had more favorable match-ups that I could have (nay, should have!) won the whole shebang. Ah, delusions. Comfy, comfy delusions.
In October 2000 I moved into R&D as a TCG Game Developer. In my nearly 4 years in R&D I worked on lots of things, with a main focus on licensed TCGs and a secondary focus the big Magic set that comes out each October. (IMO, those were the best Magic sets to work on because they established the world setting and mechanical hooks for the year and let you work on a higher strategic level than smaller sets do.) I was the Lead Developer for Harry Potter and Neopets (the combination of the two British properties means that I now default to spelling flavour with a â€śuâ€ť and I just donâ€™t see that changing any time soon) and worked on a number of Magic sets (Onslaught, Legions, Mirrodin, Champions of Kamigawa, 8th Edition and 9th Edition). I was also on a few committees like the Magic Rules Team (which, incidentally, is where the Morph mechanic was born) and the Beginner Games Counsel (which focused on how to best teach people how to play our games).
I was a natural fit for the Beginner Games Counsel because in a previous life I was an elementary school teacher. When kids first brought Magic cards into the classroom it was great â€“ I asked to see their decks and their reaction was, â€śoh no, please donâ€™t take my cards! Iâ€™ll put them away!â€ť and when I responded back with, â€śoh, you play blue? Do you have any Mahamoti Djins?â€ť they flipped out. Cards started pouring out of back packs and they were all clamoring for me to look at their decks.
I taught in the same school district that I grew up in and my old high school chess club had become overrun by Magic players. The faculty advisor had no idea what to do about it. He didnâ€™t much want to try out the new fangled thing, but all his students were playing Magic so what was he going to do? Cancel chess club? As a side note, I think I may be the only person in existence who was both president of the chess club and captain of the varsity cheerleading squad at the same time. Conincidentally, Worth Wollpert, the Director of Magic Digital (who also came from TCG R&D) was captain of the football team and president of the chess club at some other school far, far away. We also both married our high school sweethearts. I find this parallel of our high school and then later professional lives very interesting. Anyone else out there fit this profile? Or is it just us?
After nearly 4 years of the most amazing dream job in the world (being paid to play games is hard to beat), I wanted to get more involved with the business side of things and voluntarily left R&D to move into the brand team working on licensed TCGs. In December 2005 I was put in charge of Magic. I actually found out about the promotion on site at Magic Worlds in Yokohama. Yup, I was at worlds in Yokohama when I wasnâ€™t even working on Magic. At the time, Kierin was the Senior Manager of the Programs Team in Organized Play (currently heâ€™s Brand Manager for D&D), so he was going to Japan for work. At the last minute, United sent out a list of low priced e-fares, and happened to have seats available on his exact flights for less than the company paid for his trip months in advance. It seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up, so I bought my own ticket and joined him. Japan is always great to visit. The highlight for that trip was visiting (and eating at!) the ramen museum (www.bento.com/phgal3.html) and eating ramen on at least 4 other occasions. (It bums me out that I canâ€™t get good ramen in Seattle.) After I got the promotion, the Pro Tour Manager said, â€śwell, I guess I should pay for your trip,â€ť so my ticket all the delicious ramen was free! And I didnâ€™t even have to take vacation days!
Since then Iâ€™ve been honored to help drive Magic to new heights (2009 was Magicâ€™s best year ever!). Being in brand is still playing games for a living; now the games involve marketing plans, vision statements, and forecasting meetings instead of hand-scrawled play test cards. In this blog I hope to share with you some of what itâ€™s like here. I wonâ€™t pretend that Iâ€™ll have tons of time to update, though. For more immediacy, follow me on twitter! twitter.com/ElaineChase