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Ravnica Allegiance: The Cold, The Artist, and The Players

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Those of you in and around the Boston area know that the Ravnica Allegiance Prerelease weekend was rough. While Saturday proved to be mostly reasonable weather, Sunday was no fun at all. Some parts saw six inches of snow, while others had mostly slush. Boston seemed to be right along the line of snow and rain, leaving plenty with a miserable mix of both.

For those of us with a Prerelease scheduled for Sunday, we were left watching the hour by hour weather report. My Prerelease is always on Sunday, starting at 10:00. The library lets me unlock the doors and use the entire library just for the Prerelease, so I like to take advantage of that. The downside is that it means it must be on Sunday. I like to try and wrap things up on the early side, so I try to start earlier in the day and finish around 3:30.

I had never had to cancel a Prerelease, or even reschedule it, in the eight years that I've been running them. The notoriously bad weather in the Northeast had been kind to me, invariably giving me decent weather for tournaments. Not so this time. The roads just were not going to be safe to travel that morning, especially the quiet residential area around the library. Putting it off until later in the day wouldn't make things better either, so I decided I would rather deal with the bitter cold forecasted for Monday, and postponed the Prerelease one day.

I thought briefly about pushing it back a week. The weather for the following week looked great, but considering what happened for Guilds of Ravnica, I couldn't see how I could let that happen again!

Monday was ugly. The temperature was barely six degrees and the wind was pushing the temps below zero. I was expecting emails from parents who were choosing to keep their children at home. While driving to the library, Griffin and I were guessing if even half of those registered would actually show up.

Everyone showed up.

I had seriously underestimated the desire of these players to play with Ravnica Allegiance! Everyone braved the cold; a few who lived nearby even walked over! After some problems with the library keys, we got everyone in and set up in record time. The packs were passed out and the deck-building began!

While all the players at the Prerelease are younger, when your players range in ages from 8-18, the skill level stretches pretty wide as well. Since I want the newer players to enjoy the tournament too, I offer a flat prize structure. No one wins a lot, but everyone wins something. I also tend to give away plenty of door prizes, as anyone can win those. The door prizes for round one were pretty impressive.

Titus Lunter is one of the Magic artists that is particularly involved in the Magic community. When he reached out to me a while ago and offered his support, I took it. The Saturday before the prerelease a package arrived with a bunch of swag from Titus, including these beautiful, signed playmats. The kids were blown away by the mats and the winners used the mats through the rest of the tournament!

My favorite part of the flat prize structure is something I've been calling the Oprah Round. During the second round, I give out one free pack of the new set to everyone. This was in reference to Oprah's famous giveaways during her shows where everyone in the audience would get a prize. The regulars at the Prerelease know it is coming and look forward to it. The gameplay often slows up as many of the players rip open the pack to find out what they got. This time around, Titus swag cranked up the Oprah Round.

When everyone at your prerelease gets a signed print, you know you have done something right!

This is Griffin and Viola. They are the reason this group exists. About nine years ago, Griffin started the Magic Club. Griffin and a group of his friends (including my youngest son) started going to the library to play Magic and they organized the Club. There was no adult supervising it; Griffin just took charge and ran it. I got involved and started doing the Prereleases, but Griffin and the Magic Club was the reason there were kids attending the Prereleases.

After a while, Griffin started helping me run the Prereleases instead of playing in them and he has been great. He has the rules down solid; he helps the youngest one's build better decks, and is a cheerleader for great plays and excited players.

When Griffin stepped away from the Saturday Magic Club, attendance started to drop. While the Prereleases have continued to be sellouts, I could see that games were taking longer. The younger players didn't have the support of the older ones at the Magic Club, so they were struggling with the rules and even some basic plays that were making the Prereleases run long. Viola had been attending the Prereleases since she was eight and was great. She loved the gameplay, the art, and the intricacies of play. As she got older, she read the Comprehensive Rules cover to cover. She was helping the younger players at the prerelease to build decks. She would explain the mana curve in a way that even the youngest players understood. I asked her if she would take over the Magic Club. She took to it right away. She organized small tournaments. She explained basic deck-building and gameplay to the kids. The numbers at the Magic Club have climbed while she has been there and the Prereleases are better for it too. Faster rounds and far fewer judge calls for basic rules questions have made things run far more smoothly and I credit Viola for all of it. She is heading to college in the fall and I'm already dreading it.

The feel good story of the Prerelease for me are Elliot and Jacob. The brothers started attending the Prereleases a year or so ago. They weren't very good, but they were enthusiastic! They were excited about every card and when they each won a match; they were so excited that they were good enough to win prizes, even if they had only gone 1-3.

This time, things were different. They faced each other in the first round and Jacob earned the win. Then he played in the next round and managed another win. In the third round he ended up against Griffin and lost, but he won in the fourth round to end 3-1. The brothers have improved dramatically in a short time, and they are still excited about every win! They are a joy to have at the Prerelease as their excitement is contagious. It is hard not to be excited to see them just completely enjoying themselves playing Magic!

With the Prerelease packs separated by guild, it just made sense to run a team challenge as well! We rated each guild based on the win percentage of the players who took that guild's pack to build. By the end of the third round it was down to Azorius and Orzhov, with Azorius just barely leading. The results started to come in and it looked like Azorius was going to win, since Orzhov's three players would all have to win. The first Orzhov player to finish managed the win easily, and the second one also managed a win. It would come down to the final match of the final round with Viola representing the Azorius and Dan representing Orzhov. The players went to Game 3 to decide it, ending the Prerelease with a great match!

The Prerelease wasn't easy to run. We had to postpone it a day. There was wind and cold. The lockbox with the library key was frozen shut, so I had to get a ride from a parent to a nearby home to get a key. When parking my van, I scratched the undercarriage on frozen snow and had to get a tow truck to bring it to a garage in the middle of the Prerelease. The Wi-Fi was out at the library, so we had to do the pairings by hand and load it on Wizards website afterward. In spite of all of this, I still had a great time! When twenty young Magic players are so excited about playing that they will come out in the bitter cold to play Magic, you really appreciate what a good thing you have. How can anyone not see that the trials and tribulations are all well worth it?

As we packed up and waited for parents to arrive, you see just how happy everyone is. They are checking out their prize packs and raving about a great card or a great play that helped them win a game. Some were wishing for better luck and bemoaning a loss, but even they were happy that they had just spent the day playing Magic.

Bruce Richard

@manaburned

And yes, of course the best guild won! Orzhov all the way!

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