A Beginners Guide To Organising A Magic: The Gathering Tournament, by Steve Wilson

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Kitchen Table To FNM: What To Expect From Judges And Other Players, by Morgan Mcgowan

How To Organise A Magic: The Gathering Tournament For Beginners

Lets start with why you should listen to a word I have to say, after all who am I and what do I know about anything? I have been living in Greenhithe, Kent for just over 8 years now and for the last 3-4 have been part of the team that runs Manufactured Conflict Gaming in Dartford Town Centre. We meet every Tuesday 7pm-11pm to play, well, pretty much anything from pen and paper RPG’s to great sprawling games of 40K, you name it someone plays it. Every other month we run all day gaming events on Saturdays and as such always try to make them special be it running drafts of old sets of Magic: the Gathering, Warhammer 40K tournaments, through to running Star Wars X-Wing games and the like.

After attending the Magic Madhouse Open in London I got the bug, I wanted to play competitively more often, however with a young family I need to be able to travel to an event and back again in a single day and this limits where I can play. So I asked myself how difficult can it be to run an open?

Having decided to run a Magic: The Gathering tournament, I needed to know where to start and naturally I turned to the internet. I couldn’t really find any ‘how to’ guides on how to get started. So I did it the hard way from the ground up and on January 29th Dartford Open Series will hold its first Competitive REL tournament, and what follows is something of a how to guide and what I learned in the process.

At the start it seemed a monumental task to undertake and the only people that had done it were businesses with lots of staff and a company to back them. To make it more manageable I broke the whole project down into several smaller segments, and tried to tackle it piecemeal. It seemed to me that the core parts were:

  1. Venue
  2. Pricing
  3. Dates
  4. Promotions and Affiliates

Choosing The Venue

I noted that the Magic Madhouse event in London was held in a Hotel Conference Room right in the middle of town, there was a good attendance for the event, but I can be fairly certain that they were paying a hefty price for the venue itself. Something like this was clearly out of my range.

So what I asked myself was, “What do I actually need from a venue?”, the obvious came to mind like chairs, tables and toilets, these are a must.  Then things like drinks and food facilities can be just as important, after all a large tournament will consist of upwards of 7 rounds before cutting to top 8, meaning you can be playing for 10 hours, and while I’m sure many players keep sugary snacks and drinks in a bag, its always better if players have the opportunity to get a substantial meal.

Many gaming clubs meet in large halls and clubs, and mine had a nice size venue in the Dartford Conservative Club where I was able to book a function hall capable of holding a couple hundred people on a Sunday. Saturday was a day that does not normally attract a large amount of customers to the club meaning my costs were not as high as they could have been. If you don’t know your local gaming club then there is a wonderful resource available in the GCN (Gaming Club Network) and most clubs organise themselves on Facebook these days.

The Pricing – Prizes

This will be something that would need to be considered carefully. Obviously the more you charge the more you can spend on your prize pool, and what percentage of the field you wish to take home as prize matters too. After a lot of consideration I decided on a fee of £25, which if the event should sell out would yield a fund of £1800. However there is no guarantee that the event would sell out. This left me with the quandary when it came to working out my prize structure. I felt that prizing the top 16 would be best as it left each player with the a ¼ chance of hitting the prize bracket. I was also certain that I didn’t want the prizes to be based on attendance numbers, after all who wants to travel to an event to find out that only a dozen people made it and the prizes no longer cover the cost of travel?

After a fair amount of number crunching I settled on the following:

1st £300 + Eternal Masters Booster Box

2nd £160 + Battle for Zendikar Fat Pack

3rd £100

4th £100

5-8th £50

9-16th £40

This meant I had spent £1200 on prizes and needed to source a booster box of Eternal Masters, there is now a line in the sand if I don’t populate the event I could be out of pocket, if I’m setting a fixed prize table if I sell a dozen tickets I need to explain to the wife where about £1000 of savings went. But just like Kevin Costner in field of dreams (Google it if you’ve never heard of it) “If you build it they will come” at least I hope they do.

With the prizes set at around £1200 I had to consider that I still needed to pay for the hall and by running it as a competitive REL I would need to pay for Judges and have enough wiggle room if the event doesn’t sell out, leaving me with a lot of bills.

Choosing Suitable Dates

Now picking suitable dates at first seems like the most simple of things to do, in actuality there are a lot factors to take into consideration. For example, we have a release schedule that dictates where a lot of players expendable income goes. Also Magic: the Gathering, for me at least, is never more exciting than when a new set comes out and new decks are being brewed, with all sort of creative craziness going on.

With less information out on the internet I believe you see the most amount of variety in the deck being built and it’s a really fun time to be playing competitive Magic. With Aether Revolt on the horizon, I thought lets go for the first weekend after release date itself. People will all be fired up to get to the grindstone and solve the format where anything could be possible, but at the same time plenty of players with have an established deck to build upon.

Promotion and Sponsorship

At this point all the work is done, I know exactly what this event is going to cost and now I need to get people to travel and come to the event and that’s where promotions and sponsorships come in. My local store that runs FNM saw what I was putting together was also keen to see it become a success. They wanted to help by offering an amazing offer: anyone playing on the day can buy a booster box from them for only £70!

In this world of social media getting the message out that the event exists is easier than ever, most FNM’s and gaming centres have Facebook pages for you to highlight your event, however it is always worth messaging the admin of a given group first to see if they are ok with you advertising your event. You also have access to Wizards store locator which often has emails for the stores nationwide that hold events and a simple email/flyer/link to your event will help spread the message.

Facebook is the best way you can advertise anything these days, so with a webpage and poster available its time to start getting the message out there and encourage people to travel down to Dartford in the New Year and bag themselves some prizes and play some Magic.

Thanks for listening to me ramble on about running events and I have one question for you, if you were to attend an event like this how important would it be to see a singles seller at the event?

Fancy coming down and see if you can take the top prize visit us at:

http://dartfordopenseries.co.uk/ or find us on Facebook: Dartford Open Series

Thank you for reading,

Steve Wilson

A Beginners Guide To Organising A Magic: The Gathering Tournament, by Steve Wilson
After getting bitten by the competitive MTG scene earlier this year i noticed a lack of bigger events in the UK and certainly in my area, to that end i have decided to start the Dartford Open Series Event and here is what i learned in the process if you want to do the same.

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