Prerelease Tech

Posted in NEWS on April 12, 2006

By Wizards of the Coast

No tournament can compare to a prerelease, when it comes to fun - at least for the players. But the judges and staff can also have fun as long as they are organized and keep everything under control. Here are some tips for setting up and running a prerelease event consisting of multiple flights with some side events thrown in.

Tournament setup

It is good to know the site where you are going to hold your tournament: size, availability of tables and chairs and if there are food and drinks on the premises or nearby. It’s also useful to have an estimate of the number of expected players. This will help you set up the room to your needs (or if you are lucky, the site staff will setup it up for you).

You can make the flights as big or as small as you would like, but we advise 32 players per flight. For a 32-player tournament you should set up 2 rows of 16 seats or 1 row of 32 seats (preferably the former). However, this will depend heavily on the room available and the size of the tables. The area for each tournament should be distinctly marked. We suggest simply numbering them.

Set up the tournament area so that multiple flights can be run concurrently, numbering all the tables. Judges should have an overview of their tables and should be able to help out at other tables if needed.

The registration desk should be near the entrance to the site, so it is the first thing entering players see (see Registration for the setup).

You can put up some posters with useful information:

  • Costs for entering a flight (including things like discounts for multiple entries, etc.)
  • The number of rounds in a tournament (with 32 players 4 rounds will be fine, leaving you with 2 players with 12 points and 8 players with 9 points after the final round)
  • Prize payout (players with 9 and 10 points should be treated the same)

This can be posted at the registration desk for all to see as they register for their flight.

Tournament roles

At any tournament, there are multiple roles to fill. While some of them can be performed by the same persons, others are exclusive.

Scorekeeper – At big events, it is preferable to have two (or even three) scorekeepers. One of them will handle registration, while the other operates the tournament. At very large events with many side events, a third scorekeeper can handle all the side events himself.

TO Staff – This role is not necessarily filled by the TO himself, but may also be someone from his staff. This person will be responsible for preparing the product for the flights and handing out prizes at the end of the flight. This role can be filled by one of the scorekeepers as long as he can balance the workload.

Head judge – The head judge should coordinate the other judges and handle appeals and rules questions from the other judges. It is detrimental for him to take care of product, since he has less time to help out the other judges.

Floor judge – The floor judge will take care of the actual flight during play. Each flight (or side event) should be assigned to a flight judge, who will be responsible for it from start to finish. Most floor judges will handle two or more flights at the same time.


Registration should be set up in a clear area, giving people the space to get in line to register. For running flights the best thing will be using 2 computers with 2 scorekeepers.

The first scorekeeper will be registering players. When a flight fills up, he creates the seating and prints it. This is handed of to a floor judge, who gathers the players and takes them to the tournament area. The first scorekeeper then creates a backup of the tournament and hands it to second scorekeeper. The first scorekeeper keeps track of the starting table number of each flight, so the next flight can start at the next available table.

The first scorekeeper can also register people for 8 player side-event drafts. It’s recommended to use DCI Reporter Lite for this. (If Lite is not available, it may be best to use three computers and have a third scorekeeper register people for side-event drafts).

The second scorekeeper is set up to the side of the registration desk and has contact mostly with the judges running flights. He will create and print pairings and result entry slips for the floor judge responsible for that flight. He will enter the results, once the round is over and the floor judge brings the result slips back. He can also prepare the materials for the next flight and hand out the prizes. The second scorekeeper tells the first scorekeeper when a flight has finished and the tables become available for the next flight.

A typical flight

Each floor judge should be equipped with a watch or stopwatch (preferably one with multiple clocks), pen and scratchpad for notes.

Once the floor judge takes the pairings from the scorekeeper, the tournament can begin. The judge should collect the players and move them to the first available tournament area. Avoid using tables from an uncompleted tournament as this will lead to a lot of confusion.

Once at the correct table(s), the judge should make the seating list is available and wait for the players to take their seats. Once everyone is settled in, announcements can be made:

  1. Welcome the players
  2. Make sure the table is clear (sleeves are fine, Magic cards are not)
  3. Explain the deck building process (note that they can only use cards they have opened).
  4. Make sure everyone understands the directions.

Some judges will insert additional information, but some players have short attention spans. It is imperative that you do not hand out product, until all the above information is passed to the players.

During deck building, the judge can clean up the trash and pick up the pairings and result slips from the scorekeeper. Before the first round, some more announcements can be made:

  1. Number of rounds
  2. Round length
  3. End of round procedure
  4. Using the result slips

Rounds are run as usual. Result slips should be collected by the judge responsible for the flight (and only him). Once all the matches are finished, he can take them over to the scorekeeper for entry. It is a great timesaver if the result slips are sorted by table number.

Once the last round is entered, prizes are handed out. This can be performed by the judge, scorekeeper or one of the staff.

Parting advice

  1. Prereleases are about enjoyment and education, not just for players but also for you and your fellow judges.
  2. You will get a full gamut of players – from new players, who bought their first cards last week, to Pro Tour veterans. Don’t assume that everyone knows the rules and make sure everyone feels comfortable.
  3. You will get questions you would never expect. On one hand, beginning players will ask you very basic questions. On the other, new mechanics and new cards means dealing with new rules and interactions on the fly.
  4. Have fun and good luck!

Adam Cetnerowski and Henk Claassen