Running a Tournament 101

After all of the articles about player types, sportsmanship, dedication, etc., I decided to take a few moments to reflect on what I feel makes an effective and fun tournament environment and to get feedback from players on how to make tournaments better.

Here are some things I do (or have seen others do) that I feel makes for a good environment:

1. Consistency. I run my swiss constructed tourney usually the last Sunday of the month at my local store. I change this if it is a holiday weekend (my family is all out of state), but I generally stick to it.

2. Decent prize support. Yeah, Decipher gives out a few packs, but I began collecting $3 per player to also put some retail money back into our store. I give out the same to every player and often give out quirky awards on a whim (my notorious “69” and “77” awards are known throughout Pennsylvania and NJ) I may give out a current expansion pack or two to the winner and/or the last place player. Usually every experienced player will give his prize support to a new player or the last place player too. Some local players “Donate” a shirt to win (and occasionally win them back). For larger events we’ve had trophies, gift certificates for card stores or restaurants. Your imagination is the limit.

3. Fairness in rulings. Given the level of talent in our area, I rarely have mondo difficult rulings. I may miss “yesterdays ruling” on some card or action, but I do follow up on it or get some concensus among the top players before committing a decision. I try to give the players a lot of leeway to sort their games out on their own. I also have to be tough with a few hotheads too…fair, but tough.

4. Special Events. We had the Philly Grand Slam down here last January. We were the first one and it was moderately successful. I also try to run bigger events in new areas and will be doing “Coruscant Civil War II” in Syracuse, NY in November. It is a little out of my way, but there is a great crowd there that does not get to big events due to their ages and location. Scott Lingrell, “Mr RamapoCon” himself, has set the pace for running blockbuster events with donated prizes and space and great turnout!

5. Know the Rules. Most rulings are a matter of reading the cards, but always keep up on big rulings and erratum. Keep a glossary and CRD around at all times!!! Know the phases of the game and what can happen when.

6. Treat Newbies like Gold. A lot of players forget that they were newbies too. If you are writing a tournament report on DT or listserve, don’t write “Game 3 vs. some scrub’s HB/insert deck.” First of all, that scrub has a name which you should have learned before your game. Write it down if you are gonna do a TR. Even if you are gonna be a differential hog, stop and explain everything you are doing so that they can learn the game from the best. I am guilty of placing low despite going 3-3 or 4-2 because I let them work their deck as much as they want. Battling is more fun than outdraining, so let them experience that too. If you don’t encourage your players to do this, then the newbies won’t be old-heads in a few months and you will see them playing Pokemon or DBZ or some other no-brain game. Then everyone will complain, “Why can’t we sanction our tournaments?”

7. Entry Fee. (related to prize support) Always a debate over this one. Keep it low, make sure they are getting something for their money that adds up to their investment. My store owner has made a special deal for DS2 when I buy it as prize support. For $3 all my players got at least 1 DS2 and 1 CC booster. I know stores that charge more to play, but the top 3 all get store credit and everyone gets a pack of a current expansion. Some folks (myself included) shy away from a larger fee for one top prize because it only reinforces winning. Wait until you see the joy on some 15 year old’s face when they finish 4(-69) at a tournament and they get a special prize for it!!

8. Feedback. There are a lot of players, TD’s and SM’s on this website. In you reviews I’d appreciate your feedback and suggestions for making our tournaments fun for both the veteran players and newbies alike!!