Windborn Musings: Mirrodin Besieged Prerelease TO Report

I thought I would try something a little different with this tournament report.  I was the TO for a small prerelease for my son’s regular Magic Club.  As the TO, I didn’t play a single game of Magic over the Prerelease weekend, but I saw more card interactions, card pools than most players.  Add in all the unique experiences for a TO when the average age of the players in your Prerelease is about 11 years old, and you have a unique tournament report.  Welcome to my Prerelease!

My Prerelease was at our local community library. 

The library before being covered in 3 feet of snow

It is a small library and our prerelease with just 12 players filled half of it.  The library opens at 10 and closes at 3.  While they agreed to stay open later for me (they are a great bunch), I don’t like to abuse their offer.

Tournament Organizer Tip:  Preparation the night before is key, particularly when you can’t get into your venue early.  For previous Launch Parties/Prereleases, I packed the boosters and a promo card together in a deckbox to make passing everything out easy.  Since I didn’t know who would be Phyrexian or Mirran, packing beforehand was difficult.

Once we got into the library, we spent 30 minutes getting everything set up.  My older son Max set up the tables and started the laptop, while the players rounded up their chairs.  Everyone signed up and we got started passing out the cards!  I had 8 Mirran players and only 4 Phyrexians.  I try to include an extra prize for everyone, and this time it was deckboxes.  I had seen a great deal before Christmas, so I bought 16 deckboxes and tucked them away for the prerelease.  The boxes were a big hit with the guys and they saved me a lot of headaches later.  The players are young and innocent, tending to just leave their cards lying around.  If they have a deckbox, they are more easily found and the owner can be determined by the deckbox. 

TO Tip:  With a younger group of players, you need to go over the sealed deck building rules carefully. 

  • A 40 card deck does not mean 40 cards and land. 
  • You can use the land provided, which means I brought land for you to use, not that you can only use the land in the packs. 

    With young players, deckbuilding is a group effort

Once they were ready to start, I set them loose.  This is an experience you don’t get at other prereleases.  Occasionally you’ll hear a person proclaim over a foil mythic or pulling a chase rare.  At my Prerelease, everyone cheered about almost every card they pulled!  I was told Pistus Strike was amazing.  There was no fear that their opponents would know what they were playing.  They just called out any card they thought was good.  Twelve jubilant boys is a loud and exciting experience.

Powerful Mirran Mage

After ripping open the packs, they got started building, and I finished getting set up.  I put up the banner, got the computer ready to handle the tournament, and set the pairings up for the first round.  I passed out everyone’s promo card and also passed out the stick-on tattoos Wizards of the Coast provided.  Not surprisingly, they proved to be popular with the players in my Prerelease.

With about 25 minutes to go in deckbuilding I went around to see how things were going.  Many of my players were building their first sealed decks and had almost no understanding of mana curve, limiting your colors or even limiting your deck size.  I gave little bits of advice as I moved around the group, then came to Robert, my youngest player. 

One. Cool. Dude

As you can undoubtedly tell, Robert is one cool dude.  This was 8 year-old Robert’s first Prerelease, and his first time building a deck.  Robert has only played Magic a handful of times, but heard about the Prerelease and decided he wanted to go. With only 20 minutes to go, I found that Robert had read through the cards and sorted them into a Black/Green pile and everything else.  This is when I chatted with Robert and discovered his experience level with Magic and deckbuilding. 

It was pretty clear that he was going to need some serious help building his deck, or he was going to have a terrible time never getting to cast any spells.  I had the time to spare, so I sat down with Robert and we raced to build him a deck he could use.  I know it wasn’t appropriate for the TO to do this.  I wasn’t helping anyone else to this degree.  This was a situation that was so far beyond the normal scope that I couldn’t not help.

TO Tip:  The Prerelease is a tournament where the players are primarily casual and there to have fun.  You need to keep that in mind and do what you can to make sure everyone has fun.

He’d chosen Phyrexian faction boosters, and he’d pulled some great cards.  Mimic Vat, Phyrexian Hydra, Geth, Tine Shrikes, Phyrexian Rebirth were just a few.  He had several pieces of removal including Arrest, so we went with a three-color G/B/w build.  It was hardly optimal, but given the tight time constraints, I figured it would be good enough for him to have some fun.

I called out the pairings and got everyone started.  I passed out pens and paper so people could keep track of their life and poison totals.  I’d had a problem at a previous tournament where there was a disagreement over the life totals and no one was keeping track, and my completely arbitrary decision would decide the winner of the game.  Not wanting to be in that situation again (and trying to encourage good habits among these young tournament players), I had brought plenty of pens and paper to track these things. I’ve learned that the players will never bring their own, since they always just keep track of their life totals in their heads.  This group also tends to use spare face-down Magic cards for counters, so things are always difficult to follow.  Passing out the pens and paper also provided me with the opportunity to remind all the players that the games were best two out of three.

When the first match ended, I was asked if we were doing the “Rare” game again.  At the prereleases I had been to, there was a lot of downtime between rounds.  If you finished your match early, you had all this time to wait for the next round.  I knew that with younger kids, this sort of downtime would drive them crazy, so I added a mini-game within the tournament to keep them busy the whole time.  When they report their tournament result, they can find anyone else to play with.  When they finish a game, they let me know and I give them cards at random from a box.  My friend Josh had about a thousand cards that he wanted to dump from his collection, so I scooped them up and gave them out to the children at the tournament as prizes in my game within the tournament.  It has always been a success in the Prereleases and I did it again this time. 

First Round Player Feature:  Jack dropped the first match he played, then managed to win 2 straight.  In the fourth game he conceded to Sebastian and they agreed to split Sebastian’s 4 pack winnings.  His deck wasn’t any kind of crazy build, but he is a solid player and he worked hard to get the packs he won.

First Round results (head to head matchups):  Phyrexians 2, Mirrans 2

The second round is always the worst round for me.  I know that some of the players will be eliminated from prize contention after this round and that is always a shame to me.  I suppose I could change the prize structure, but prizes down to 3-1 make sense to me.  I am pretty sure this bothers me far more than the kids though.  It is in the second round when I pass out the bonus pack to everyone playing.  Losing the first two rounds is made easier by the extra pack. 

Something else I try to do is a door prize for each round.  I have given away playmats, posters, dice, and older promo cards as door prizes.  I pick someone at random to win the prize each round.  I don’t want to see anyone in the tournament walk away empty-handed and if Wizards is going to provide free swag to give out, I’m going to give it out!

Parents usually start coming up to me in the second round, since I do a little more standing and watching at this point.  Whether they want to thank me for running the tournament, or ask when lunch will start, or want to know a little more about Magic, I try to make myself as available as possible. 

TO Tip:  For players this young, how much they play will be very dependent on what their parents are willing to do.  When I talk to the parents, I focus on the fun of Magic, learning resource management, improving math skills and logic, and getting them out from in front of a monitor all as positive aspects of Magic.  I want the parents to know that their child is playing a game that college students regularly play and struggle with.  That their ten-year old already has a grasp of the fundamentals is something to be proud of. 

Second Round Player Feature:  Sebastian was the most excited player at the tournament.  Every card looked like a winner to him and he seemed to have a good time all the way through.  His 3-0 record for Phyrexia was huge for them.

Second Round results:  Phyrexians 3, Mirrans 3

After the second round, we break for lunch.  I think Tom’s Pizza, the nearby pizza place, loves me on tournament days!

TO Tip:  This was a hard lesson learned.  At my first tournament, I hadn’t put in a break.  The players were quitting games to run and get a bite to eat, I’ve always included a half hour break.  Young players need the break and playing in a library means no food in the library.  A half an hour break is perfect for the players, and the TO! 

Looking back at the cards to this point, I’d seen Venser and Tezzeret make appearances.  No Blightsteel Colossus, but there were a couple of Phyrexian Rebirths.  The most interesting interaction I saw involved a player using Vedalken Certarch to tap one of his opponent’s attacking creatures.  He wanted to tap one of his opponents’ attackers, but he wasn’t getting the chance to do that before his opponent would declare attackers by tapping them.  It took a bit to explain to the opponent how this was a shortcut and he needed to make sure that his opponent knew he was going to attack before tapping his creatures. 

The third round started the minute the players returned from lunch.  I had given them a half an hour and warned I would start exactly then.  Thankfully, they were all back in time.  The round ended very quickly with all the games wrapping up quickly.  It is at about this point that the focus on the tournament starts to fade, particularly for those who are no longer in contention. Very few players drop from my tournament, since there is nothing to jump into.  They might as well continue playing rather than do nothing. 

Awesome gear!

Third Round Player Feature:  Asa has had amazing improvement in his play in the last three months.  At the last prerelease he was unsure of combat and the second main phase was nonexistent.  This time around he put together a great deck, piloting it to a 3-0-1 finish.  Oh, and the sweatshirt is just straight up awesome!

Third Round results:  Phyrexians 5, Mirrans 5

After I announce the pairings for the final round, I try to go around to any pair that could win prizes, just to let remind them they are playing for a chance at prizes.  I regularly encourage the players who are both 2-1 to split the four packs.  I would rather see more players get packs, so splitting is always a good thing to me. 

Most of the games end quickly, with games ending in draws or concessions.  The last game to finish was between Robert and Jacob.  Nate has won his game this round to put the Phyrexians ahead 6-5.  Robert was representing the Phyrexians and could seal the win in this match.  As the rest of the Phyrexian players realized what was happening, Robert and Jacob found they had a crowd watching their game.  Both players played well, and Jacob managed to earn a draw for the Mirrans.

The Organizers... and a YoMTGTaps shirt.

Fourth Round Player Double Feature:  The picture shows the two guys who pretty much run the Magic club now, and my YoMTGTaps shirt.  My son Spencer is on the right and the winner of the Prerelease was Griffin, on the right.  Griffin has been playing Magic longer than the rest of the players and he created the Magic club that runs in the library twice a week.  He is great with the younger kids, showing them how to play, and good with the parents, making them comfortable enough to leave their children in that environment.  Griffin is one of the good guys. 

Spencer regularly gets the raw end of the deal at the tournaments, since I seem to spend so much time with the smaller children who don’t know the ins and outs of the game as well.  He is also great with the younger players and is responsible for spreading the word about the tournaments.  Spencer’s prerelease record wasn’t so hot, but he did pull a Venser and several other cards that he was excited about, so that worked out well for him. 

Final results:  Phyrexians 6, Mirrans 6

There were a few more TO Tips that I learned this time around that I’ll be using next time:

  • Spend more time showing players how to build a sealed deck.  Robert was the prime example from today, but many of the players could use some basic understanding for how to build a sealed deck.  I’m not sure if that is something I should do at the start of the next tournament, or if it is something that should happen on a separate day.
  • Expand my email list.  I need to get the email addresses for either the children or their parents.  Many kids come and go from the Magic Club, but I know they would come back for the tournament.  Building the email list would make the advertising even more effective.
  • Teaching parents to play Magic.  Several parents mentioned that they don’t understand the game themselves.  Being the TO in the middle of a tournament is not the time to teach them
  • Bring more land.  I thought I had enough land, since I was bringing what I had brought to previous tournaments.  With 8 Mirrans though, there was barely enough Plains to get through.  Always assume the worst case scenario and prepare accordingly. 

Finally, this is my fourth prerelease / Launch Party at our community library.  The staff (all volunteers) are just great.  It is a very small library, so when 12 children play Magic through a Saturday afternoon, we take over half of the library.  The patience of everyone else in the library has to get frayed.  My thanks to all of them for being so understanding. 

@manaburned on Twitter


About Windborn Muse

If you seek limited or constructed tournament knowledge, wrapped up with excellent comedic writing, you are in the wrong place. Planted firmly at the kitchen table, Bruce (the Windborn Muse) is all things casual, focusing primarily on strategies for multiplayer games wrapped up with horrific, train wreck attempts at humour. Bruce is married to an extremely tolerant woman and has three children who will not go near him in public. In real life Bruce works as an attorney and lives just outside Boston.
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11 Responses to Windborn Musings: Mirrodin Besieged Prerelease TO Report

  1. As I started in Onslaught, I can’t stand face-down cards representing anything other than 2/2 creatures with no name, converted mana cost, creature type, or color. That’s what they ARE!

  2. Joshua says:

    Great article Bruce, it’s really nice to hear about this side of a prerelease, and to see what you’re doing with and for these kids. I’ll second Brandon’s statement regarding face down cards, my group (Brandon’s group) has always used dice or the actual token cards, mostly due to the warping influence of certain people who enjoy Brine Elemental way too much *couch*Brandon*cough*.

  3. Jesse says:

    Great writing as always and as someone who absolutely hates teaching people how to play Magic (I’ve successfully taught 2 people in 16 years), seeing people who are actually good at it and willing to do it are one of the game’s greatest resources.

    I think way too many people in the MTG community have the spike tendencies to forget that everyone has to start somewhere.

    And next time you need some extra cards to give away, I’ve got plenty that I’m sure the girlfriend would love for me to get rid of.

  4. Bruce says:

    Thanks for the comments guys. I have stacks of glass beads, the cube of little dice, and most recently, I picked up a dozen yellow six-sided sponge dice with huge numbers on them that are easily seen from the other side of the room, forget about the other side of the table. The boys don’t seem to want to buy anything other than cards, and they invariably forget to bring the stuff even when they have it. Perhaps some dice instead of a deckbox would be the right choice for the next prerelease.

  5. Jen Wong says:

    What do you think of sleeves as door prizes? (Start ’em young!) I’ve started resorting to bringing my own basics because I couldn’t stand the horrifically shoddy condition the TO’s were in.

    Sounds like you had a great prerelease. I know I’d never have the patience to supervise a dozen boys (of any age) by myself.

  6. Gina says:

    Thank you for contributing to the future of Magic. I think you’re right that doing a coaching session on building limited would work best for a separate time, especially since you’re dealing with a limited time frame available for your prerelease.

    You could also do a “Teach your Parents to Play” — not just teaching the parents, but letting the boys be the “experts,” helping introduce their parents to the game.

  7. I do NOT enjoy Brine Elemental too much. That isn’t possible. And sometimes it’s a Willbender. Last week I Willbent Primal Command, meaning that its controller searched for a creature card but I gained 7 life.

  8. Pingback: Windborn Musings – Calling the Bluff | Muse Vessel

  9. Pingback: Windborn Musings – New Phyrexia Prerelease Tournament Organizer Report | Muse Vessel

  10. Pingback: Windborn Muse – Commanding a Commander (Launch Party) | Muse Vessel

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