I never met Stevie Kaufmann. However, whenever the community loses someone, especially someone young and in as tragic a way as Stevie, we can’t help but to share in the greater loss. Last week, StarCity Games, the largest venue for the Magic community outside of Wizards themselves, offered Matthew Keene an opportunity to reflect on the loss of his close friend and former SCG Open winner, Stevie Kaufmann, who was killed by a drunk driver on the way home from the SCG Open in Atlanta.

I’ve never been a tournament organizer, or owned a gaming store, or even judged a Magic event, so my perspective on what I’m about to talk about comes entirely from being a player. I no longer play Magic competitively, but from Invasion Block until Return to Ravnica block I played regularly in PTQ and Grand Prix tournaments throughout the northeast region, and occasionally branching out and playing across the nation. I often struggled to drop my competitive edge when playing casually with friends around the kitchen table. One place I never had this problem though was at prereleases.

Earlier this week, over at DailyMTG.com, Bruce Richard put together a nice piece called Leveling Up Your Prerelease Fun. I quit playing Magic competitively just before Gatecrash came out, but I still make sure to attend prerelease events. I read Bruce’s article and really enjoyed it. To me it seems that Wizards really understands what a Prerelease is all about. It’s about being introduced to the new set, for sure, but more importantly it’s about having a fun day playing Magic with your friends.

My prerelease experience for Theros was not fun. The event I went to was run more like a PTQ than a prerelease. I had never experienced such a thing, nor do I ever want to do such a thing again in my life. Based on article’s like Bruce’s, alongside the way Theros prereleases are run on MTGO, I had the impression that Wizards wants to do the right thing here. If so, they need to start laying down some guidelines for prereleases to ensure everyone has a good time.

Preregistration Must be Mandatory for Large Communities

Two years ago, when Innistrad was about to release, I waited on Marcy Ave around the corner of Twenty Sided with some friends to play in the morning event at the store. This would be the last time we would have to deal with this. Several people took video and tweeted to Wizards about this being their fault. Grey Matter had been stripped of their ability to run events (which is good) but stores like 20SS and Kings Games were not prepared for the massive influx. Preregistration was instituted at 20SS for Dark Ascension and has been used ever since. It is a boon to players and organizers alike.

The event I went to this weekend did not have Preregistration. I stood on the street at 8:45 AM for an event that wouldn’t begin until 11:00AM. By 9:30AM I had been given a number in line, and by 10:15AM I was seated waiting to begin. In order to play in a prerelease, which is not a Grand Prix, or a Pro Tour Qualifier, or a Grand Prix Trial, or even Game Day, Release Day or Friday Night Magic, I needed to wake up four hours before the event to wait around doing nothing. Preregistration would have allowed me to wake up at 10AM for an event that began at 11AM.

Wizards just mandated preregistration for Grand Prix events and I hope that this will trickle down to smaller events and ultimately to all prereleases.

Multiple Flights are Superior to One Main Event

There were over 100 players in my prerelease. After 12 years of playing in four-round events with 32-63 players setup in flights, I had found myself in a 100+ player prerelease with seven rounds of swiss and no top-eight. From my competitive days I can tell you how difficult it is to win seven straight rounds of Magic no matter what the format was. In order to place in the top-16 for prizes, one would have needed to win five of their seven rounds, at least, and that would not be a guarantee.

Competitive environments like this are meant for PTQs, not for an event like a prerelease which is meant to be friendly. Keep your prereleases small and limit them to four rounds. Run multiple flights. Casual players will appreciate that they don’t have to sacrifice their entire weekend day to play Magic and competitive players appreciate that they can play four rounds of Magic, win a bunch of packs, and then do it again! Trust me, this system is best for everyone.

Brief Tournament Report

So what actually happened to me? I woke up at 7AM and showered and had breakfast and got on the road. It took me 40 minutes to get from my hotel (on vacation with my family) to the tournament site at 8:45AM. There were already 40 people milling about the place. Around 9:10 someone came out of the store and gave everyone slips of paper with numbers on them and told us to come back by 10:30. I was already peeved because here I was in an unfamiliar city with nothing to do for over an hour. I went to a drug store to get some food and then read Hunter and Zach’s guide to all the commons in Theros.

Around 10:00 they had us line up and started processing payment for the event. I was sorted by 10:15 and went across the street to the hall they rented for the event. They handed out packs at 11:00 but we couldn’t begin building until 11:20, two-and-a-half hours after I showed up. We built decks for 40 minutes and then began round one at 12:00. My family was already getting on with vacation stuff in town and I was just starting round one. Of a seven round tournament. For a prerelease.

I split the first two games of round one. I was playing U/G with a red splash for three of the new Incinerate cards. My opponent was on R/G with a bunch of bad creatures. In game three I got flooded and dropped from the tournament to go tour the Ben & Jerry’s factory. On the whole I think it was the right play because touring an ice cream factory is infinitely better than playing seven rounds of Magic for nothing but packs. Let’s be fair, if I’m going to play seven rounds of Magic there better be a PTQ invite or day-two of Grand Prix at the end of it. Not a prerelease prize pool.

But I got Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. So I made the right call.

The Quick Hits

  • In round two of the EDH Battle of the Blocks, the classic Ice Age pulls out a bit of an upset on newcommer Innistrad. [StarCity Games]
  • Jason Alt did some investigative journalism and has things to say about the lack of video coverage of GP Detroit. Here’s my two cents on the situation: The reason Wizards can’t get coverage out to every North American GP is financial. They did not expect a large turnout so they didn’t budget to send the coverage team. This is wholly unacceptable. I have spoken in the past at lengths about Wizards keeping up with the growth of the game and GP Detroit was an example of a huge failure on their part. [Quiet Speculation]
  • Conley Woods read the comments on a recent article he wrote and then realized that people on the internet have very little to say that is insightful or thought out. He then wrote another article on the lack of critical thinking in internet comments. Something tells me Conley Woods should stay away from Reddit. [TCGPlayer]
  • Scotty Mac from The Eh Team podcast was featured this week by Heather Lafferty. He cried when Aeris died. So did I. If you didn’t, then you’re a monster. [Gamer Girl, Gamer Boy]
  • Geek & Sundry’s new show about Magic, named Spellslingers, has finally arrived. It’s not really my cup of tea, but it’s a great thing for the Magic community at large. If they start bringing in some great guests to talk about the community and the game then I see a successful future for them. [Magic Arcana]
  • I should probably read this guide to Magic writing, by Blake Rasumssen, more carefully. Then maybe people would read this article about Magic, by yours truly, more carefully. [Gathering Magic]
  • LSV ranked the top-eight draft formats of all time on Magic TV this week. [Magic TV]
  • Top-down design is here to stay. Jackie Lee goes over what it means for players and the community. [TCGPlayer]

Wallpaper of the Week

I’m a little surprised that Heliod made it as a wallpaper, considering we’ve had to look at his pretty face ever since PAX East way back in March. However, the artwork for the God of white mana in Theros is very slick to look at, even if that spear is really, really, awkwardly going through his head. That still bothers me.

Grade: B+

The Week Ahead

Next weekend is release weekend! While I was less than thrilled with my prerelease, I will be back in NYC for the release and have every intention of picking up the 2nd Quest while I can. See you there!

What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. The goal is to take some of the events and articles polluting the Magic world, strip out the chaff (tournament reports, game theory, economics) and give you our superior opinion. Complaints are encouraged.

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