One of the things I love most about Prereleases is how they bring everyone out to play. Prereleases are tournaments where casual players will come out. The older guys and the younger players all tend to take part. Several years ago, my son and a couple of his friends formed their own Magic group, meeting every Thursday and Saturday at the local community library to play Magic. They ran mini-tournaments and began to build a solid group of sixteen or so players. I looked into the Wizards Play Network as a way for them to get prizes without having to pilfer their own collections, and things just started to take off from there. Within a year, I hosted our first Prerelease, and the kids loved it. I sold out weeks in advance and things just took off from there. Now, six years later, every Prerelease has sold out and it is more popular than ever.
A great setting for a Prerelease.
When I started, it was a solo show, with just me running everything. After my son Spencer helped me at one Prerelease, I realized we could accommodate a few more players, and our capacity grew. The library stewards have been great and recently allowed me to open the library just for the Magic tournament! This meant we could take over the entire library! More happy carousing, excited shouts over mythic rares, and more places to play and deck build.
The short table in the preschool room offers a private space for a few players to build decks.
For the last couple of years, Spencer lost interest in Magic and stopped coming to the Prereleases. These Magic "breaks" seem to happen to everyone, so I didn't push, but made sure Spencer knew that if he was looking to get back in, the Prereleases would still be there. Sure enough, a couple of Spencer's friends expressed an interest in playing so Spencer jumped back in.
Spencer altering his Mardu build.
Spencer opted for Mardu and finished with a respectable 2-2. The deck saw some serious retooling after a quick first-round loss. Unfortunately for Spencer, his friend who has been playing Magic less than a year finished 3-1. I'm sure that will be a source of taunting for quite some time.
For the last year, Spencer's friend Griffin has been helping to run the tournaments. Griffin is a hardcore Magic player. After regularly finishing 4–0 at the Prereleases, it was clear that he was just getting too good. He has played constantly for years and is beginning to see the results at more serious events. He is regularly battling into the final rounds of PTQs and finished in the money at Grand Prix New Jersey. I asked Griffin if he would rather judge the event instead of being in it. He has acted as the quasi-judge at our Prereleases and has kept things running smoothly ever since. He handled most of the rules issues and was great about helping to keep the library clean. Setup and teardown have run smoothly, and I can't imagine doing this without his help now.
"Come on, just WORK!"
Griffin's value really showed itself at the start of the Prerelease. Since we run the Prerelease at our community library and not at a store, we need to bring everything with us. This means that the morning of the Prerelease I load tables, cards, lands, extension cords, lists, tokens, my laptop, and a hundred other things into the van and drive over to the library. Griffin helps unload and set everything up. Land stations, tables, chairs, the registration tables, and on and on. That morning, we had computer issues, and WER (the software we use to run the Prerelease) would not run. Players were coming in and still nothing. Griffin handled the players, checked everyone off on the list, and we started everyone on deck building—all while working out a way to do the pairings by hand.
Thankfully, we finally managed to get everything working and were ready for Round 1 without any players being the wiser.
Our playmat winners, Bennett and Sam.
I like to try and load the players up with all sorts of extras. Right at the start of the tournament, I give out a pack of 50 sleeves to each player. This time around, I also gave out 400-count, white cardboard boxes. We had four 5,000-count boxes (donated by my friend Harry). Everyone could take as many cards as they could fit in their box. The cards were mostly commons, and most of them were older than the players at the Prerelease. The players did a good job, and the boxes will be a lot smaller next time.
I also give out a couple of door prizes every round. Some prizes are smaller (a deck box), some prizes are useful (three packs of Theros boosters), and some prizes (like the playmat) are awesome. The image on the mat is the outside of the library. A lot of people did a lot of work putting it together and the players love them. It was Bennett's first tournament, so I'm afraid I may have set the bar a little too high!
The smallest Wizard.
I believe James was the youngest player at the tournament. James has played before and really enjoys the game. He has it tough, playing against older players every round, but he battles hard every time. His skill showed through and he finished 2-2. Even the youngest players can be sharks!
Jacob and Joe made up the entire Team Sultai. At the start of the Prerelease, we track who takes which clan Prerelease pack and offer a prize for the best team. To be fair, the prize is determined by win percentage rather than total wins. This means a small team like Sultai can still beat a bigger team like Jeskai.
Jacob and Joe started the tournament with wins and held the early lead, only to see both players fall to 1-1. Team Jeskai started to pile up the wins and, by the end of the third round, it appeared to be a runaway victory for Team Jeskai. However, after doing the math, it turned out that Sultai could still win—assuming Jacob and Joe both won, and Team Jeskai lost several games. Unfortunately for Jeskai, many of their players were playing each other, so they still held a commanding lead, but two Sultai wins and the battle would be theirs. Match after match completed, but Jacob and Joe played on. Finally, only two matches remained: Jacob and Joe. With minutes left in the round, Joe triumphed, leaving all the pressure on Jacob. He was facing Wolf, then at 3-0 and looking to finish undefeated. Time in the round was called and things looked bleak for Sultai. The numbers didn't add up and it looked like things would end in a draw, and that wouldn't be enough for Sultai. Jacob tried every out and squeezed what he could, but it was not to be. Rather than end in a draw, Jacob extended the hand and conceded, giving Wolf his 4–0 victory.
Sultai may not have won the battle, but they fought the good fight and proved to be excellent sports.
This Wolf is no 2/2.
As I mentioned, Wolf finished the Prerelease undefeated. In only his second tournament, he found a way to march through each of his opponents. He was talking about this Prerelease weeks before and has really thrived in the competition. I look forward to seeing if Wolf can keep his winning streak going.
Since Griffin has stopped playing in the Prereleases, Jack has become the new End Boss at the Library. Jack is a talented player who knows how to put together solid decks, even when his card pool is not optimal. This time, that wasn't even an issue. When you pull Ugin and Wingmate Roc, the deck practically builds itself. Jack swept the Prerelease, winning all four matches, and even swept his games, finishing a clean 8-0.
Jack was quick to downplay his abilities, claiming the cards were winning the games. While the cards certainly made things easier for him, Jack still created game states where those cards could shine. Eventually Jack will lose a few games, but his opponents will have to wait for the next Prerelease.
Jace Beleren battles for the Abzan.
The big event for the Prerelease was the arrival of Jace "Andy" Beleren! Andy dressed as Jace for Halloween and saw the opportunity to reuse his costume here. As the players got closer to saving Ugin it became clear that it would be a missed opportunity if Jace wasn't the one to do the big reveal.
Beleren prepares to amaze.
Many of the players were unaware of what was inside. Some were playing during Avacyn Restored and recalled opening the Helvault, and this inspired them similarly.
Jace shows you what he wants you to see.
Once Jace revealed the contents, everyone was excited to get their chance at a prize. We were lucky enough to have a player open the alternattiveart Ugin!
The Prerelease went perfectly. Plenty of loot and games for everyone involved in a safe location that the parents love. The Dragons of Tarkir Prerelease can't happen soon enough!
 I do this at least partially because it pains me to see the smaller players with smaller hands try to shuffle a foil Ugin by smashing the cards together.