My regular readers know that I run tournaments for the local players. We get together at our local community library (the store that sponsors the tournaments is far too small) and take it over for a Sunday afternoon. Griffin, the player who started the library's Magic Club, and I show up an hour early and start setting everything up. We bring everything but the chairs. Tables, laptop, cards, prizes, lands. Everything. We get it all set up, then everyone starts to arrive. Everyone has preregistered weeks earlier, and we fit everyone in every nook and cranny the library has. At that point, it becomes just like every other Prerelease with deck building, four rounds of playing, door prizes, and the general fun feel of a Prerelease. Although there is one difference: no one is over seventeen.
The Magic Club started as a group of young Magic players and has pretty much stayed that way. The parents prefer the safe confines of the local library to a larger game store where their ten-year-old could face anyone. There is far less intimidation facing another good player your own age, than facing a twenty-two year old college student!
I thought I would share some pictures of my Prerelease and some of the players involved. I hope you enjoy!
Hernan won a playmat
I give away a couple of door prizes every round. Many of them involve a couple of packs of cards, or a deckbox. But Hernan, at his first tournament, won a playmat! He was a little surprised when I presented it to him, but as he began to realize what he had won, he got more and more excited. I've been giving away the playmats as prizes for a little while now, so many of the "regulars" already have the mat. It was nice for Hernan to feel part of the group, and having the same playmat as the others certainly didn't hurt!
Jack and Matt, Prerelease Regulars
The brothers Jack and Matt have become regulars at the Prereleases, and are quite the gauntlet to play against. Jack is the group's resident ace and Matt is right behind him. When it comes time to pick your Prerelease pack, there are a group of players who follow Jack's lead and choose what Jack chooses. So much so that players will even ask to return their Prerelease pack to get whichever pack Jack and Matt choose. Both boys picked Kolaghan and both had devastatingly fast builds. I expected a lot and both boys finished 3-1, which was actually lower than I expected. I'm confident I'll see both of them at 4–0 in coming Prereleases.
Colin won a deckbox
Like Hernan, this was Colin's first time to the Prerelease. He struggled, as most of us did at our first Prerelease. Normally I like to try and check in on the newer players to see how their decks are coming together, but Colin fell through the cracks. In spite of my failings, Colin had a good time. Colin chose Atarka and attempted to smash face for the day. Colin picked up a deck box as a door prize, earned a couple of Dragons of Tarkir prize boosters, and a handful of other cards. I look forward to seeing Colin again at the Magic Origins Prerelease!
Sam's High-Speed Promos
Sam managed to win three of the promos in the Dragon Fury game. The players loved the game! An opportunity to win a prize just for throwing your dice was just too cool. Once players realized that throwing the dice with some vigor was the way to go, the game just seemed even better!
The downside was in organizing it. Dragon Fury proved to be a big time-sink. We had it set up at a separate table and that was a mistake. I was usually busy loading match results, leaving Griffin to be in charge of the game. This meant there was no one to answer rules questions, so often the game was put on hold so one of us could deal with the question while the other handled inputting results. It was not ideal. If something similar is done in the future, we will want to make sure that whoever is scorekeeping could also easily run the game. Not surprisingly, planning is key.
I take a lot of pictures of the players lined up on the folding tables, but we are spread all over the library. Willy and Jacob opted for the comfort of the couch in this round. Since I don't have assigned seats, I know Jacob spent most of the tournament at that seat. Who could blame him? His Silumgar build took him to 3-1, while Willy ran into a couple of the tougher players and ended 2-2 with his Atarka build.
Stationary Jacob vs. Wandering Santiago
As I mentioned, Jacob had a nice seat and managed to stay there throughout. Santiago was all over the library and proved to be a challenging player no matter where he was playing. Santiago and his brother Tomas had been to one of my previous Prereleases and had a good time. After a couple of years living abroad, they had moved back and were back at the Prerelease. I like to believe they moved to get back to the Prerelease!
Sam and Willy, not as relaxed as they look
I like to think of this table as the feature match spot. It is a huge round table that can easily accommodate two games. Today, one of the parents set up his laptop and was getting some work done, so the space was reserved for just one pair at a time. Willy and Sam were playing this match and things were far more tense than the picture suggests. Every time I walked by, both players were deep in thought.
Fun for everyone, even the organizers!
Before anyone thinks that the kids are the only ones having fun, the organizers find a little time to goof off as well. While the setup, deck building, and first round are generally crazy busy; by the Oprah round, things are under control and stay that way until the last round. This gives us plenty of time to take pictures and behave more like our usual selves.
Griffin has been helping me organize Prereleases for a while now and does a great job. During deck building, he can take a group of cards and turn them into something that can contend faster than most. He ends up helping several of the younger players. His rules knowledge is solid, and he enjoys getting to see Magic from an organizer's perspective on Sunday, after playing in a Prerelease on Saturday. We can handle eight or ten more people with Griffin helping than I could on my own. He has become an indispensable part of the team.
Sam had good cause to smile
Sam had several tight games, but the one before the lunch break, against the "Other" Sam, was the most impressive. Both Sams were running Silumgar colors. "Other" Sam had a 14-8 lead in the third game with five creatures out to Sam's two. Sam had been color-screwed and had no Swamps in play after more than eight turns. Sam played another creature, then swung in for 6 damage. "Other Sam" swung back, leaving Sam to chump block with the only creature available and take 7. Sam could hit for 6 with both creatures coming in, but "Other" Sam had a blocker that could stop the 4/3 Icefall Regent. Sam pulled a Taigam's Strike and played it, making the Icefall Regent unblockable. With the extra 2 points, the Icefall Regent and the megamorphed Gudul Lurker gave him the 8 points he needed to pull out the win!
The "Other Sam"
And here is the "Other" Sam, suffering with a less dignified Griffin. Sam may have taken a hit from Sam in the second round, but overall had a solid tournament. Sam's play-skill and deck building have improved as he has played more. He is a fun guy to have at the Prereleases and I hope to see him at many more.
Alex also won a playmat!
After seeing Hernan win the playmat door prize in the first round, Alex asked me about the door prizes every round. He loved the idea that someone else could win packs or deckboxes, but he was checking out the other playmat. I told him I was saving the second playmat for the final round of door prizes, but he was very curious about who won and what his chances would be. When the die roll came up and Alex won, I laughed just a little. It seemed almost justice that he would win the mat.
Overall, the Prerelease went well, but the younger players said they were looking forward to playing against each other since they expected to lose to the older players. While I can't pick their opponents for them, the standings unfortunately did. By the end of the second round, the younger players were all 0-2 or 1-1, while the older players were all 2-0 or 1-1. While some of that is skill, some of it is also deck building. I can try to help, but I can't get around to more than a couple of the players, and even then only for a short time. Something I'm considering for the Magic Origins Prerelease is to pair a younger and an older player together so the older player can help with the deck building. A small prize to the top teams should keep everyone interested and up the fun quotient. If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them. Tweet at me or drop me an email (both are below).
 During the second round, we give all the players a booster of the feature set. We refer to it as the Oprah round, as it is reminiscent of the times when she gives gifts to everyone in the audience. “You get a pack! And you get a pack! And you get a pack!”