How To Run Your First Magic: The Gathering Tournament
There’s a lot to do before running your first Magic: The Gathering tournament. You want to provide the best experience you can to the players attending. You want to make sure you are prepared in advance for anything that might come up during the event. This is vital to providing that high quality experience.
I’ve been running events myself for almost 6 months now with a new store in Cheltenham called Incom Gaming, as well as being level 1 DCI judge for over a year. I’ve made a lot of mistakes at the beginning, which has allowed me to learn many lessons as a result. Hopefully I can provide you with some useful advice based on these lessons so that you do not make the same mistakes too.
So, what do you need to do to run a Magic: The Gathering tournament?
1. Wizards Event Reporter
Although you don’t NEED the Wizards Event Reporter (WER for short) it is a huge time and effort saver if you want to run a good tournament. If you’re set up as a Wizards Play Network venue then you can set up your events in advance and preload players into the event as they confirm their attendance. Don’t worry if you’re not you’re set up as a Wizards Play Network venue, as it’s available free to use for everyone.
You can use the WER program to run draft pods if you so wish, decide who will play who in each round, calculate tie-breakers and percentages, print match slips and standings for each round– it really does it all. I’d recommend downloading and trying it out first, before setting up your first event so you can get a feel for it, overall it’s a relatively easy program to use.
You can download it from Wizards using this link, as well as watch a series of tutorials if you need some additional help. I’d highly recommend using it if you plan on running any events as the time it saves you is immeasurable.
As a side note, if you don’t have WPN status, be aware that in this case WER will only let you set up events on the day so make sure to keep this into account.
If you are not planning on using WER then please make sure you have a clear idea of how you are going to run your tournament in advance and how you will do pairings, tie-breakers, etc. I’m going to suggest that you just save yourself a headache and download WER. I really can’t overstate how useful this programme is if you plan on running Magic: The Gathering events.
2. Supplies & Snacks
If you’re planning on running a limited event like a booster draft or sealed deck, then please make sure that you have a good stack of basic lands on standby. The number of basic land you’ll need will vary on the size of your event. If you feel that you may not have enough basic lands available for the event then do reach out to your players and ask them to help by bringing some on the day. Most players will have more than enough basic lands in their collection and will be happy to bring the lands along and/or donate them.
Having pen and paper on standby is always useful, although not always needed. Just being able to supply these things to your players if they request them is helpful and being able to make your own notes on things is never a bad idea. Please keep in mind that things can and often do go wrong. Having access to pen and paper could make the difference between salvaging an event, and not being able to run one at all.
It’s vital that you have a good stack of pens if you’re planning on printing off match slips for your players to fill in at the end of their rounds. Some will inevitably go missing. Having them set out on the tables in advance means less disruption during the event, so this is always good to do, otherwise have them sat in a pot nearby for easy access.
Make sure you can provide water to your players during the event as this is a must. Providing additional snacks and refreshments is always a big bonus too. Things like this help keep your players happy and healthy throughout the tournament. Happy players lead to a better tournament experience for everyone. Offering snacks and refreshments can also act as an additional revenue stream, and you will need to make sure that your endeavours are financially sustainable for the long term.
3. Get Some Support
Not everyone is an expect at Magic: The Gathering, and making sure that you have an experienced player– or even better –an actual Magic Judge at hand to help with rules questions is essential to providing a high level experience. If you can’t provide the support yourself then speak with local players to see if you can find someone to assist you.
When running an event solely as a tournament organiser you’ll need to be on ready for anything that comes up during the tournament. If you are planning on playing in the event itself then having someone else to help you input results into WER is very important. Printing and providing match slips using WER is a very easy way to get the results, leaving you free to do any other tasks, or play in the event yourself.
Keep in mind that if running a higher level event that you should not take part in the event. It’s fine for your average FNM, but once you reach higher levels of play it is not recommended or even allowed at times for you to be taking part. When an even number of players attend and event, not taking part in your event to prevent byes from happening. This is something I’d suggest doing once your numbers are high enough as it just leads to more Magic for your players.
I’d like to take the opportunity to give a shout out to my friend, fellow Level 1 judge, my own Judge Mentor, and all around great guy, Chris Aston. He always helps out without being asked when he attends my events and this kind of support is always appreciated. Thanks Chris!
On The Day Of The Event
So, you’ve planned out your first tournament. You’ve got the details of the event set up (on WER I hope!), gathered your supplies and got your top notch support crew on standby.
What do you actually need to do on the day?
1. Be On Time
This seems fairly obvious, but making sure you are prepared and on time is absolutely vital to running a good event. No one wants to turn up to an event and be waiting around for the organiser to set everything up.
As I’m currently working with a non-WPN verified store I have to set up my events on WER when I arrive, as well as set up tables and chairs and ensure everything is ready for the event. Being on time is vital to ensuring the event runs smoothly.
Try and turn up at least an hour before your event is due to start so you have enough time to set up, test the printer and be there for when your players start to arrive. This way you can greet players, take any payment needed for the event and answer any questions that players may have.
Time management is also vital for running each round. Make sure you run a timer for each round, usually 50 minutes, and include deck building time when drafting or running a sealed deck event. This is usually 20 minutes for draft or 30 for sealed deck. WER has an inbuilt timer, so you can use this to keep track of the time. It even conveniently beeps at you when it finishes!
2. Provide Support
Make sure you are available to provide support at any point during the tournament, and make sure that this is very visible. New players will want direction to the bathrooms, experienced players might have a question about upcoming events, people might just want to know where the nearest shop is. Being able to answer questions on demand is important to providing an excellent experience. Letting players know that you are always at hand to answer any questions that they may have is equally as important.
Try to ensure that you know your venue and local area well so that you can answer any questions a player might come to you with. Good customer service will encourage players to come back to your events and store. Being able to provide that is essential to running your events successfully.
Providing support also includes any interactions involving the actual games themselves. If you have a judge on hand then ensure that everyone is aware of him/her before the event begins. so they know who to go to for any rules related queries. If you’re going to be handling the judge calls yourself, running the event, and playing in it too, then make sure you let your opponent know why you are leaving the table and that you will add a couple of minutes onto the clock if you do go over the allocated time. Make sure that both players are happy before you make a ruling and walk away from the match. Reading the Judging at Regular document is how you can ensure any rulings are correct for a regular event. You can find the document at this link.
If you need further support for rulings, get in contact with your local judge or ask them on the mtgUK Rules and Judges Questions page.
Hopefully the information above should be enough to get you started with running your first Magic tournament. Running events is never easy at first, but time and experience will allow you to smooth out the process and make it a relatively stress free experience. You being prepared and feeling positive for the event will only give a better experience for the players, which is ultimately what it’s all about.
Let’s finish by summarising the key points:
- Preparation – Make sure you have the event set up on WER (seriously, use WER). Have pens and paper ready, as well as match slips, before each round.
- Support – Make sure you are ready to provide support to players for anything they may need both in and out of their matches. If you need experienced in-game support, get in contact with a local judge.
- Be on time – Make sure you arrive with plenty of time to set up and prepare for your event. You don’t need to be rushing around on the day. This way you can cater to your players needs instead of being busy still setting up.
- Be enthusiastic – I didn’t mention it above directly, but being enthusiastic and upbeat adds huge amounts to the player’s experience of your event. Your mood will affect the room, so make sure to keep a positive attitude throughout.
It’s not a very difficult task to get a Magic event up and running, and you can do a lot in advance to ensure that the day runs as smoothly as possible. Being prepared will give your players a great experience and you will encounter a minimal amount of issues on the day. Being prepared in advance is key to running a good Magic event, so do as much as you can to set it up everything up in advance.
Thank you for reading, if you are after some more specific tips and pointers then please feel free to send me a message on Facebook (Joshua Gordon), and if you happen to be heading over to Cheltenham, then please make sure that you check out Incom Gaming on Church Street, Cheltenham GL50 3HA. We are open Tuesday evenings from 7pm and Saturdays 11am-6pm. You can find our website (incomgaming.co.uk) and our Magic events are run through our Facebook page (Incom Gaming MTG Group).
PS. Make sure you test the printer the night before, and then again before the event starts!