This Prerelease almost didn't happen. Several months ago, I decided I was going to attend IlluXCon, a convention featuring art from imaginative realists, aka science-fiction and fantasy art. It is held every year in Allentown and I encourage all of you to go. However, this article is not about my trip to IlluXCon (that will come someday down the road). It wasn't until after I had booked the rooms and bought the tickets that I discovered the Prerelease landed on the weekend of IlluXCon. After looking at the schedule, I decided I could skip the final day of IlluXCon and run the Prerelease on a Sunday. The problem is that the library is closed on Sundays.
The library where I've held the Prereleases is a small, V-shaped building that is run completely by volunteers. That, and a tight budget, limits how long the library can be open each week. They need volunteers to staff it, and they need to pay to light and keep the building warm or cool as need be. All of this has forced the library to be open for limited hours. I have always run the Prereleases during Saturday business hours. The volunteer staff has been great about staying a little late if the Prerelease runs long, and are more tolerant of the noise than any library staff I've ever met!
When I explained my predicament to Lynn, the woman in charge of scheduling at the library, she immediately offered me use of the library on Sunday. The volunteers who run the library want to see it being used to support the community, and particularly love seeing the young players there, helping each other out and having a good time. They didn't want to miss that simply because I couldn't be there on Saturday. Sunday was a go and the Prerelease was on!
Running a Prerelease while the library was closed offered a few benefits I really hadn't considered:
We could use the entire library. With some late additions, I had more players than ever, but there was room for everyone. On Saturdays, we try to stay on one side of the library to allow regular patrons some room to peruse the books on the shelves. This can make for a tight squeeze.
We weren't tied to the clock. Knowing that we needed to try and finish when the library closed meant really encouraging some players to play quickly. Turning over each round quickly was essential, and cleanup at the end of the tournament was frantic. With no pressure to end at a particular time, we could let the players play at their own pace. The extra turns at the end of a round weren't anxiety-inducing like they were on Saturdays. I found this format encouraged many long games, so running without time pressure was a good thing.
Vlad is one of my younger players, and has been for a while. Vlad has been to almost every Prerelease for the last two years at least, and he is always fun to have around. Vlad is always happy to get the free sleeves I give out at the start of each Prerelease, and the free pack during Round 2 always brings a smile. Vlad seems to appreciate everything. Griffin, one of the founders of the Magic Club at the library, was able to spend some time with Vlad during deck building to help point him along the right path. The next time you go to a Prerelease and mutter to yourself about the seeded booster in your Prerelease pack, know that it is really helping out the younger players like Vlad put together decks that will be fun for them to play.
One of the things Vlad and many of the players really loved was the guild wars during the Return to Ravnica Prereleases. The idea that they were part of a team that was competing for a prize really appealed to them. I would be asked repeatedly in each round who was winning. The players would get very excited and start to closely follow how the other players on their team were doing. I knew that I would continue to do that at each Prerelease when the situation presented itself, and it certainly did here.
I weight the points so each team, no matter how many players, has an equal chance of winning. Initially, I expected Abzan to win easily, but that was not to be. Jeskai, with only three players, became the team to beat early on. Mardu had a weak first round, but the four Mardu players put up solid numbers for the rest of the tournament. The points came down to the last game in the final round, with either Mardu or Jeskai winning. Mardu pulled out the come-from-behind win and the four players each saw another pack of Khans of Tarkir added to their prizes.
While I tend to discourage too much trading, as you would expect at any Prerelease, trading does happen. I discourage it, mostly because I don't want the younger players to include the cards they are trading for in their decks during the Prerelease. I make announcements to that effect, but sometimes it is just easier to discourage it to prevent it from happening. I also want to protect the newer players who don't understand the play value of their cards this early in the season. I had two players both ask me what was so good about fetch lands (the lands that sacrifice and cost one life to let you search for either one or the other type of land). They understood that people say they are good, but they couldn't see why.
Andy and Tyler were the second set of brothers who were paired against each other at the Prerelease. Tyler's first Prerelease was the last one I ran and he has improved by leaps and bounds. His deck was better and he just understood how the tournament runs and what is expected of him.
Andy has made a significant improvement as well. With his younger brother there, it almost seems that Andy is stepping it up a notch, just to be able to keep beating his brother! Andy's decks were always a little rough around the edges, but he understands card evaluation much better and his decks also tend to have a lot more synergy. He is able to express why he has made his choices, and they make a lot of sense.
Andy took the opportunity here to crush Tyler, just as every older brother should. Younger brothers need to know their place. Just ask my brother about my year-long winning streak in our tennis matches. Others might let you win a game, but when you beat your brother, you know you earned it.
I like to keep a flat prize structure at the Prerelease. A player at 4–0 wins four packs of cards, while a player who finishes 1–3 (or 0–4) wins one pack. I also give out a prize pack to every player in the second round. I give out Consolation packs, sleeves to each player during deck building (tears well up when I watch the young guys destroy fetch lands while shuffling their cards with smaller hands), and door prizes every round.
Joe was one of the lucky winners of the playmat. The image on the mat is of our library. A friend added some ghosts and treefolk to the picture and I had it printed on playmats. I give away two mats at every Prerelease. So far, only one player has received two of the mats, so things are going well!
Today (Tuesday) is my birthday. Tyler helped me run the tournament and gave me an early birthday present. The players loved it and I think it is awesome. If you're looking for me at a future Grand Prix or Magic event, just keep an eye out for that shirt! Thanks for the shirt Tyler!
This is the Prerelease Team! Tyler is a friend from my Thursday Night Magic events, while Griffin has been running a Saturday Magic club at the library for many years. The guys were great. Both came early to help set up tables and chairs and get the library ready for the Prerelease. They answered questions about the new cards, helped the younger guys build decks, and just generally made sure everyone had a good time. They stayed right through to the end, making sure the library looked as tidy as it did when we got there. I have run Prereleases without help and I can manage everything, but I can't give the extra attention that some of the players need to make their tournament fun. With a little help, everything runs smoothly. My thanks to Tyler and Griffin for making this another great Prerelease.
The last picture goes to Willie. He played one of our younger players, Sean, in the final round of the tournament. They were the only match still playing when time for the round was called. They started through the extra turns, but it was pretty obvious that the game was going to end in a draw. When games end in a draw, I give both players Consolation packs. No one won, so no one gets the pack for winning the match. Willie understood that it would mean a lot to Sean to get the win, since Sean doesn't win as often as Willie does, so he conceded the match.
It amazes me that someone as young as Willie would have the empathy to understand the value of a win and the importance of sportsmanship and just being a good person. When Willie received his prizes for the tournament, I made sure to include one of the Magic 2015 packs I had brought for a door prize. His actions deserved a prize far more than a match win.
Before I wrap up, I want to encourage everyone to check out DailyMTG.com every day next week. We have some great content coming and checking out my article on Monday will get you ready for all of next week! We worked our butts off to make it happen, and I hope you enjoy it! See you Monday!
1: Packs from cards my friends donate. Each pack has a rare, three uncommons, and eleven commons. Some packs have ten commons and a foil card, but not always. Consolation packs are provided for every match loss. (i.e., A player who finished 1–3 received one pack of Khans of Tarkir and three Consolation packs.) (return)