My overriding message when it comes to Magic is to have fun. In particular, I really want everyone to have fun playing Magic. For most of you, this simply means playing Commander games using decks that everyone enjoys. For me, at least four times a year, this means running a local Prerelease. My prerelease is a little different than the usual prerelease though.
Over ten years ago, my son and two friends started a Magic Club. To be fair, it was my son's two friends who started the Club. We had just moved to a new neighborhood and my son saw a way to make new friends with the Magic cards he hadn't touched in almost a year. In any event, the Club took off and I offered to try and run some tournaments for them. I become a TO, found a great local store, and we have been off and running since! While my son and his friends have moved on from the Magic Club, I continue to run a prerelease for the local kids.
So what makes my prereleases different?
First off, I run them at our local community library. The library is completely run by volunteers and funded by donations from the community. The Board graciously lets me open the library on Sundays so we have the entire library just to ourselves. They want to encourage children to come to the library. I needed a place to run the tournaments. We all get a safe, nearby place to play! Everybody wins!
Secondly, everyone who attends is under eighteen. This is not a hard and fast rule, but more just the way it has worked out. I send out an email to everyone on my mailing list and that is usually enough to sell out my supply of Prerelease packs.
Finally, I also spread the prize support wide. If you win a round, you win a booster pack. This means that someone who is good enough to go 4-0 only wins four boosters. It also means that the newer players who are 0-3 and battling it out, are still fighting for something right to the end of the tournament. With children this young, the talent in the room can be pretty disparate, so I wanted to make sure everyone would win a prize.
During the second round, I pass out a free booster to everyone who is playing. I like to refer to it as the "Oprah" round. A booster isn't a car, but it is still fun to pass out boosters to everyone in the room! I also do door prizes to further "spread the wealth."
The library is a wonderful venue for Magic. Our library has high ceilings and a very open floor plan. We are lining the floor with rows of books, but trying to make a space that is useful for community events. This means that the walls are either windows or lined with books. The kids love playing here and it requires very little for me to transform the library into a tournament area.
This is Eli and Adam. I know no one whose hair is as spectacular as theirs! When they found themselves paired up, how could I not take advantage of it!?
While I left everyone on Twitter wondering what happened, I'll share it here with you. It was a tight battle with the boys splitting the first two games. In the third, Eli was able to take control of the game. Both boys agreed that Eli had the better deck (his pulls were impressive) and they weren't surprised when Eli got the win. Eli ended the tournament 3-1 while Adam earned his standard 2-2. I was surprised when he told me that he has been 3-1 once, 1-3 once, and 2-2 at every other prerelease! The very model of consistency!
Something else we do is a lunch break. At the first prerelease I ran, there was no lunch break. Many of the players simply conceded so they could eat their lunch! This seemed ridiculous to me, so since then we have had a half an hour break for lunch. I tell all the players about the lunch at the start of the round, so those who finish early, often get almost an entire hour. This works out well for the local sandwich place, Tom's, who get inundated with young Magic players looking for a slice of pizza or a sandwich.
I asked one of the players to get me lunch about six prereleases ago, and she offers to do it every time now. Luna, on the left, understands that I can't leave the kids alone in the library and sees it as one way for her to do her part for the prerelease. I really appreciate it, particularly at the end of the third round when I would be starving!
Also, Luna is no fool, when seats this good are available, she gets them! It really gives the feel of 2 powerful wizards sparring!
Once Ryan (left) and Vivek (right) reached 2-0, I was sure they would be duking it out in the final round. Ryan's deck was just outrageous. He had already played in two prereleases and it was clear that he was running a powerful deck. I don't believe any of his matches took more than thirty minutes and he didn't even take a loss until the third round.
Vivek is just straight up good at this game. He finished 4-0 at the last prerelease and that was his first tournament! I wasn't sure if he had a good deck, was just lucky, or was talented when it happened, but this would be his second 4-0. I'm confident at some point he'll lose a game, but it is going to take a good player with a better deck to make it happen. I look forward to seeing him in April to see if the streak continues!
The final round was something of a changing of the guard. There are a group of players who come every Saturday and have been playing together for at least four years. All of them have gotten better and it has shown in their results. This time around, most of them finished 1-3. Younger players are getting better so variance is starting to play a bigger role in their results. I expect they'll all improve next time, but it is fun to see the younger players get some success.
It was also great to see how all of them took the result so well. I have watched them get better as players, but I have also had the joy of watching them mature as people. A poor result doesn't produce tears or frustration. Now, they simply shrug off the losses. They still think about what they could have done differently, but they just don't let it bother them.
One of the joys of running these prereleases for as long as I have, is watching eight and nine year-olds grow and mature into seventeen and eighteen year-olds. While their parents see them every day and don't see the slow, gradual changes in their children, I see them less often and marvel at the changes. Watching children who barely understand the rules grow to where they recognize the strength of cards when paired with other cards is great. Watching these children grow as people is a delight.