'm not only a casual Magic player, I'm also a tournament organizer (TO).1 A small local store sponsors the tournaments I hold at the local community library. I've been doing this for a few years now, and I think my tournaments are somewhat unique.
Our prize structure is fairly flat. What I mean by "flat" is that I don't give out most of the prizes to the few players at the top. Everyone, no matter where they place, gets a free pack. For every match you win, you get another free pack. While this means that a player going 4–0 will only get five packs, it does mean that the players at 0–3 still have a chance to win a pack. I also offer what I call "Consolation Boosters." For every match a player loses (or ties), he or she receives a booster that includes ten older commons, three older uncommons, a rare, and a foil card. These cards are provided by me and players in my regular Thursday night play group. Many of the foil cards are promos that were left over from previous tournaments, so the occasional Mayor of Avabruck or Wurmcoil Engine can end up in a pack you received for losing a match.
What's so unique about that?
The average age of the players at my Prerelease was twelve.
The Prerelease has a lot of young players just learning the game and a few who have been playing for a long time. To encourage all of them to come out to the Prerelease, I keep the prize structure flat and offer plenty of door prizes. Extra Booster Packs, Intro Decks, and playmats were offered to random players every round. At the start of the tournament I give a small gift to each player. This time around, it was sleeves.
My friend, Aaron Shi, came by and took several pictures, and my son Spencer also managed to take a few. I've included a few that highlight this unique Prerelease!
For the first time ever, I got the chance to play in my own Prerelease!
I was shuffling up to face my first opponent of the tournament: Theo.
Do not be fooled. He may be small, but he is fierce!
This is Quinn. Quinn only gets out to the library for the Prereleases, but he always has a good time. I think only one of his opponents honked during the tournament.
This is Jonny's (L) second Prerelease and Ben (R) is getting to be an old hand. Deck building is generally the time when I hear shouts about various cards being opened, and many people are excited to tell you all about the awesomeness of their decks.
Nate dragged the end table to this spot, slapped his playmat down, and played all his games here. I referred to it as the Feature Match Table.
Nate and I battled in the second round at the Feature Match Table. Nate has been friends with Spencer for more than five years. His understanding of the game has really grown and he sees things on a completely different level. Watching your players develop is one of the benefits of being a TO for this group.
Sean was our youngest player, a budding Vorthos. When asked what guild he wanted he announced, "I am part of the Selesnya Conclave!" He was a blast to have at the Prerelease.
Sam couldn't come until later, but we saved a place for him. While the others were breaking for lunch,2 Sam built his deck and crushed the two remaining rounds. Only two players ended undefeated, and Sam was one of them.
Jack was another opponent. For whatever reason, I constantly underestimate Jack's abilities. He has a comfortable style and plays quickly, so perhaps I believe he isn't thinking through his play. This is likely part of the reason why I was 0–X against Jack. Unfortunately for him, he was mana-screwed in two games that I barely managed to win. Don't worry, he came out ahead in the end. I split my prize winnings with everyone I beat, and I was Jack's only loss of the tournament.
Vlad is one of the younger guys in the tournament. He opted for an interesting RWU build that just never seemed to come together for him. Vlad was looking for some help early on in building his deck, but I was only able to help him for a couple of minutes. This is part of the reason why I don't think I'll be playing in any more of the tournaments. I can better help the players when I'm not playing myself.
The player seated in the middle is Griffin. He is the End Boss for our small Prerelease. He started the Magic Club and plays all the time. He has played in GPs, PTQs, and all sorts of major tournaments. I'm confident that with the right deck and a little luck, Griffin will be on the Pro Tour in the not-too-distant future.
We played in the finals, where I lost a close Game 1 and was blown out in the second by a better player playing a better deck.
This is my son, Spencer, who was the reason I could play this time. I asked Spence if he could run the tournament and he gave up his opportunity to play. I was nearby if there were any problems, but he got all the players into the system, handed out the cards, set up the land stations, tracked wins and losses, kept the Dragon's Maze poster accurate, and handed out door prizes and all the pack prizes at the end of the day.
The only problem he had was a judge call where some fool (on the left) used a Forest, enchanted with Contaminated Ground, for green mana.
I liken my interest in TOing to be similar to fathers who are Little League coaches. I get a chance to spend some time with my son doing something we both love. I'd say the Prerelease was a complete success!
1: I sound like an old 80s hair-club commercial. (return)
2: Another thing I learned a while ago: give your players some time to eat. The little guys will quit just for a chance to get food. Giving them a chance to eat without conceding just makes things more fun. (return)
Bruce's games invariably involve a kitchen table, several opponents, crazy plays, and many laughs. Bruce believes that if anyone at your table isn't having fun playing Magic, then you are doing it wrong.