A couple of weeks ago I released an article (http://www.channelfireball.com/articles/silvestri-says-how-to-run-a-better-event/) on how to set-up a tournament. Since the Return to Ravnica prerelease is nearly upon us, I wanted to take this time to go over some of the specific guidelines for running a prerelease.
Make absolutely sure you inform players of how many people can attend your prerelease ahead of time. Make sure you have a cap and people know what it is, unless it is very high. If someone is going to attend and knows your store only seats 24 people, it gives them a better idea if they should try and go there or if they should have other plans.
This is going to likely be the most attended PR ever, you don’t need to hedge your bets and piss people off by just trying to max out your store and wreck anyone who comes to play after you’ve filled up.
Be clear that the amount of product you get is in line with the number of players you max out at. If it isn’t, adjust accordingly, don’t just guesstimate and run out of guild packs or something else embarrassing.
Have a judge on hand. Please. Having someone impartial who has actually read the Ravnica FAQ is going to solve a lot of issues that crop up. There are also plenty of resources for retailers that they should take advantage of.
I understand that small events can be run without a judge, but prereleases above everything except the PT needs clarity when rules issues arise. There is a non-trivial amount of players that get the wrong ruling, find about it later during the event or when they come home and simply don’t come back because they feel cheated.
People underestimate how much one bad experience, especially if it comes from a store employee or pushy player, can absolutely ruin the whole day for new players. Please read the FAQ and encourage everyone to call a judge when they have any questions or feel uncomfortable about anything.
Players will also often seek out judges when they are within line of sight or near the table instead of across the room. Having many judges can answer a lot of rulings without the HJ even knowing about it. On average I answer more questions when somebody stops me when I’m passing by a table or watching a game instead of the usual-raise their hand and shouting judge. It really makes a difference over the course of a day.
While this is last second, if you haven’t set up preregistration and still can, please do it. It’ll help so much for gauging demand, and make getting everything passed out that much easier.
Remember that you’re giving out guild packs so instead of just passing out packs, you need to find out who is playing what guild and do it accordingly. This isn’t tough with 20 people, if you plan on doing one with 100 or 200… Well then logistics get a lot trickier.
The simplest way is likely to just ask every player once seated and pass them the appropriate product. For a large number of people this is going to be very time consuming, and people may decide to switch their guild at the last minute, so you really need some way to provide proof of what they signed up for. Whether that be a receipt, such as a card given out when they register, or some other method, you want a way to make sure your inventory isn’t depleted for one guild.
Another way of going about things is to have five different stations set-up and have them providing their proof of payment at the time they get the packs.
One way you really shouldn’t go about things is giving them the product as they give you the money. Obviously this eliminates any chance of them trying to scam you out of product or switching guilds. What it doesn’t do is provide any incentive for them to stay once they have Sealed packs in hand and it increases the chances that a player will wander off unintentionally and come back once you’ve already tried starting deck construction or even round one.
Be very careful with later prereleases and keep an eye on people, with the guild packs it’s going to be very easy to build a super deck without using rares. Being aware is going to keep people in check, since it isn’t super difficult to pick these decks out. The old 15 uncommons in the deck should not be a real thing that happens.
Past that, my advice with any larger event run by WER is to get started early with data entry, because things will be slow going until the tournament gets going and possibly through the actual tournament. Also note having all your prereleases set up ahead of time with sanctioning numbers can be quite important and the amount of prep you do is going to smooth out the inevitable WER delays.
Important things to know before playing in an RTR Prerelease as a Player
Be clear as to what guild you want to play as. Sign up early (if possible) if you want a specific guild. To my knowledge, Golgari has been the most popular sign-up for our prereleases, followed by Izzet and Selesyna.
What you should bring to the event: Some way to keep track of life. Preferably paper and pen, dice, tokens or some way to represent tokens.
Know the rules of the event: You receive a guild pack which has 1 guild booster and 5 normal boosters. The promo in your guild is playable and your guild pack will contain cards specific to your guild. Otherwise the normal Sealed rules apply, which is making a minimum deck of 40 cards out of the cards you’ve been given and any number of basic lands. You’ll typically receive 30-40 minutes for deck-building. Remember that the prerelease is continuous construction so you can alter your deck from round to round.
Please call a judge if you ever have worries about how a game is playing out or if you have a question about a card in your hand. Even knowledgeable players who are just trying to help can be wrong with new cards, especially with newer keywords and unique rares, so it’s always good to double check with someone who has access to the FAQ.
Cards that shouldn’t be played
(Also see wrongwayback’s funny take on it)
[card]Destroy the Evidence[/card]: You should definitely destroy any evidence of this card. Land destruction by itself is not typically worth playing, one that mills cards for the opponent in a set with scavenge seems even worse.
[card]Drainpipe Vermin[/card]: Rats!
[card]Shrieking Affliction[/card]: The Rack isn’t good in Limited.
[card]Chronic Flooding[/card]: As with all mill cards, don’t get cute.
[card]Crosstown Courier[/card]: I’ll let Yelp explain for me: “Terrible. Plain English they are awful, they misrepresent delivery time on furniture all the time very expensive even the drivers who work there complain about them.”
[card]Guild Feud[/card]: This card seems fine, but I suspect will be one of the more common judge calls with all that text.
[card]Racecourse Fury[/card] & [card]Survey the Wreckage[/card]: What a wreck your deck must be.
[card]Blistercoil Weird[/card]: Come on.
[card]Slitherhead[/card]: [card]Bond Beetle[/card] isn’t that good, honest.
[card]Volatile Rig[/card]: Constant suicide watch enabled for both you and your opponent. Possibly the most tilting Limited card in the set.
New Ravnica feels like old Rav in the sense that the format is slower and creature stalls happen quite frequently. It isn’t quite as bad in terms of creatures you plan on brawling with, where the [card belltower sphinx]2/5 is king[/card], but it still goes a long way. Solid creature abilities are a huge plus in this format and makes certain keywords very effective, picking a Golgari or Rakdos guild means build your own creature.
Know what the promos for each guild are since you’ll see them for sure and can be prepared for in some fashion. It also let’s you plan better when you know the opponent may be trying to build to a board where he populates multiple 8/8 vigilance onto the board.
Same goes for playing against Azorious and saving a removal spell when they haven’t committed their double [card]Frost Titan[/card] to the board quite yet.
Golgari feels like the best or second best guild from the get-go with a good chunk of the common/uncommon removal, one of the best Guildmages, and both unleash and scavenge being very good Limited abilites. Black and green also have a good core of common creatures and combat tricks to build off of. All the usual [card]Grizzly Bear[/card] and 2/x for three usually have scavenge or some value mechanism attached and are aggressively costed.
Azorious and Izzet creatures tend to be a lot smalle,r and their abilities are spread out a lot more in terms of effectiveness. Detain is amazing on most cards and some overload cards are really powerful, but they all tend to be more clusted in the uncommon and rare section for the best ones. Even an average scavenge card can make a large impact later in the game.
Know what all the relevant overload cards are, especially the ones that can occur at instant speed:
There are also rares and a few other overload spells, but most of those will either be impossible to play around or better off used at a normal mana cost.
I hope that I’ve provided you with some useful information no matter what aspect of the prerelease you plan on participating in. I’m really looking forward to the RTR prerelease and a little sad I’ll have to work through most of them. I’m hoping to get at least one in though since the set and format look so amazing. Oh, and anyone attending the prerelease at Channelfireball should really prereg sooner rather then later. Golgari is already sold out for most PR queues and Izzet & Selesnya will be there soon enough. See you this weekend!
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom