Bill Guerin
Level II Judge



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Judge's Corner

Inside the Betrayers Prerelease

1.19.05  Prereleases are a very unique experience in Magic. You get to see and play with the cards from the new set for the first time. For many people, the event coming up on Saturday (and Sunday in some places) is one of only 3 sanctioned tournaments they will attend all year. (The other two, of course, being the other prereleases.)
My column today will take 4 parts. First, I will review some articles already written on the subject. Second, some links to rules and rules explanations that will help you with the Betrayers prerelease. Third, a first person view of a judge in a prerelease in San Diego, interspersed with some comments more applicable in general. Finally, some notes on special tournaments that are held at the prerelease, in addition to the typical individual sealed deck events.
First - a couple of articles already written on prereleases.
Betraying the Secrets of the Prerelease by Brian David-Marshall: Every set, Brian David-Marshall writes a primer for the website, detailing what you can expect from the prerelease. (Note that he mentions a deck swap in his column - some locations do that, some don't ... we in San Diego do not, preferring to let you play with your cards faster. You still have to play with only the cards you open, however - you are NOT allowed to trade or bring in other cards you have acquired.)
The Casual Player's Guide to Surviving the Legions Prerelease by The Ferrett: Yes, I know it's for an old set. But the first half of his article is a group of tips that can apply to any prerelease.
List of Prereleases - OK, so this technically isn't an article about prereleases. But if you need to find out where the closest prerelease is to you, visit this page.
Next, some links for Betrayers rules:
Betrayers FAQ: should be self-explanatory. I know some of you are "anti-spoiler," but I would strongly suggest reading this anyway. It helps with most of the common questions that will come up.
MTG Salvation Spoiler: By the time you read this, this spoiler should be getting close to complete. Not required reading if you are the Anti-spoiler type .. I know the excitement of seeing a card for the first time can be greater than the strategic value of being able to evaluate the whole set. But I personally find that knowing the cards that are out there helps me to be able to build my deck faster.
My Day (and a half) on the Day of a Prerelease:
The story of a typical day for me on a Prerelease day actually starts the night before. One thing I insist on is getting to bed by 8:00pm the night before a prerelease.
(Yes, I hear the murmurs of "he's crazy" in the crowd. Let me try to explain...)
My Prerelease day usually starts with me waking up around 4:00am. I also insist on getting a full 8 hours of sleep the night before, especially if I'm judging. So that makes me go to bed by 8:00pm.
(Which also means I skip Friday Night Magic the night before the prerelease. It doesn't matter this time, though, as I haven't played FNM in months, since before the Champions prerelease. But that's another story altogether.)
I also have to make a trip to Wal-Mart the night before for snacks. One thing that I find, playing or judging, is that I'm a much better player if I'm not on an empty stomach. Since there's no food within about 15 minutes of the tournament site in San Diego, I bring snacks to keep me "not empty."
Here's how I plan my day will go Saturday:
4:15am: Wake Up.
5:15: Leave my house.
6:15: midpoint stop at Denny's for breakfast.
Another part of my ritual involves stopping for breakfast about halfway there. The trip usually takes me about 2 hours from my house to the tournament site, and there's a Denny's conveniently about at the midway point. It also breaks up the monotonous car trip.
While I'm eating breakfast, I take time to review the FAQ, so I know the questions I'll get as a judge. If I were playing, I'd still review the FAQ, but I'd also have another look at the spoiler list.
7:00: Leave Denny's.
8:00: Arrive San Diego.
TWO special notes about the San Diego Betrayers prerelease:
1) We are in a different location this time -
Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina
1590 Harbor Island Drive - West Tower
San Diego, CA, 92101
It is right near the airport. Click here for a map of the location, and you can then get directions to the event on this page by inputting your address.
2) For our flights this time - we are only running FOUR ROUNDS in our individual flights, not five as we have in the past. Our Organizer (and my fellow columnist, Ray Powers) has gotten a lot of feedback from people who want to play multiple flights or just get home earlier, and they seem to strongly favor this change. Please let us know what you think about this change (good or bad) ... it helps us when planning future events.
Flight tips ...
1) Read the spoilers. It helps, especially in San Diego when they only give 20 minutes of deck building time.
2) Play 17+ land. This isn't Mirrodin, folks ... time to go back to the tried and true land count. (And even a little higher, maybe, based on my Champions prerelease experience.)
3) Play a maximum of 3 colors. More, and you're just asking for mana problems.
4) Don't be afraid to call a judge if you have a problem.
This is the number one judge tip I can give in this. Call the judge right away, and don't wait until the end of the round. They can fix a problem if it's happening right now. They can't fix a problem if it happened any amount of time ago. Related to this judge tip, we have ..
5) Your opponent is not the rules expert - the judge is.
I don't care if you're playing against me. I don't care if you're playing against Collin Jackson (a Level 5 judge). When we're playing in an event, we're not in charge of the rules of the event. We're playing, not judging, after all.
You can ask us, and we'll likely give you the right answers. But who's to say "Random Level 1 Judge" will? And that person can even give you wrong information ON PURPOSE. He's trying to beat you, after all, and if he can make you believe something that's not true (and not have a judge hear it), then it might just work out for him.
This relates back to the tip previous... if you're at all unsure about what's going on, call a judge. It's their job to get it right.
6) If you think (or know, if an answer the judge gives you goes against something printed in the FAQ) the judge got the call wrong, you have the right to appeal to the head judge.
99% of the time you will get an answer from the judge, it will be the correct answer. They have been put on the staff to oversee the event because they have shown they know their stuff.
But in the random case where a judge might have his mind wander and get something wrong, you can ask for the head judge to review his ruling - kind of like an appeals court. You have to let the judge who answered your call finish his ruling first, though.
(I have an experience to relate to this here. Back for the Stronghold prerelease, the Utah players had to travel to Colorado, because Utah had no prerelease due to a recent change in organizers. The FAQ didn't come out until the day before, so no one in our car had access to it, since we had to leave very early Friday morning. [I was a judge back then too - it just hadn't been posted yet.]
So during round 2, I ask the judge what would happen if I cast Cannibalize, targeting my Acidic Sliver and another random creature, and then sacrificed the Acidic Sliver before Cannibalize resolved? He tells me the creature still left would be removed from the game, because the spell did things in the order written on the card, and the remove from game effect was first.
So I thank the judge, and continue play.
Later, in round 6 or 7 [it was one big event back then, and we had 9 rounds], I play Cannibalize on my opponent creatures, and he sacs one and puts the counters on the one still left! I call over the head judge on an appeal, and he informs me that that was the way it worked ... and gave ME a warning for Misrepresentation!
I got the warning removed by writing the DCI after the event ... but better to ask if you're not sure when it first happens anyway.)
7) Have fun!
This is the most important one ... that's why you're here, after all, isn't it?
Post Flight Tips (some of these will work between rounds too):
1) Bring some decks to play with between rounds or afterwards.
It's not just about the event, after all. There will likely be 300+ people there you've never even met, or only meet at the prereleases. They're there to have fun, and you can get some pretty cool games going on the side.
2) Bring a trade binder.
All those rares you can't trade to your friends? Bring them. You'll have 300+ new trading partners for a day.
3) If you need cash, there will be a vendor on site to buy your cards. (At least, that's what I've seen at every event I've gone to.)
If you mostly play Magic Online, and don't care for paper cards, this is a great way to cut the cost of attending the event. If you have older cards that you just don't want any more, they'll be happy to buy those too.
And regarding the cards you get Saturday and Sunday - The prices the vendors pay may never be as high as they are that day. After all, they have to get their stock started somewhere too, right?
I promised I'd expand this more when I wrote the Champions version of this. Now I'll go on to talk about the team event ..
One special event that happens around midday (we have a goal time of 1pm for this to start in San Diego, or after the first flight has ended, whichever comes last) is an event where you form a team with 2 other people. This is nice because it allows a group of friends, a family, or any other set of 3 people that know each other (and sometimes some that don't!) to not just rely on their own skill, but the skills of two other people.
Before the event starts, you will decide what "slots" each person on your team will play in. There are three slots, indicated by the letters A, B, and C. The person who is assigned the letter A will only play people on other teams who are assigned the letter A - they will never play someone assigned a B or C. (Likewise, Bs will play Bs, and Cs will play Cs.)
When you sit down to receive your product, you will receive product for the whole team. Whereas you would receive one tournament pack of Champions and three boosters of Betrayers to build one deck with, in the team event you receive two tournament packs and four boosters to build THREE decks with.
(If your site does deck registration and swapping you will go through the same process of registering the cards and swapping them before you get your cards to build your decks with.)
You must assign each card you open to one of the three people on your team. Once the card is assigned, you can't give it to someone else. (For those who do deck registration, you will receive three decklists to record your individual cards on.)
Then, when it comes time to play another team, you will sit down and play the person indicated by the same letter on the other team. (Remember, Player A plays Player A, Player B plays Player B, and Player C plays Player C.) You will each play a best two out of three match, just like you would in an individual event.
When all three games are finished, you will report the result to the judges based upon how many MATCHES your team won. Game scores of the individual matches are not reported. (So, a couple examples:
a) Your player A beat their player A, your player B beat their player B, and your player C beat their player C. You would report that you won 3-0. 
b) Your player A beat their player A, your player B lost to their player B, and your player C lost to their player C. You would report that you lost 1-2.)
The flow of the rounds goes much like the individual flights. Prize structure will differ, as it is based on the number of teams playing. Ask the judge running the event if you have a question about that.
Finally, I'll get to the drafts. Once you are done with the main event (or even if you don't play the main event in some places), you can sign up for a booster draft.
To give you an idea of how much a draft costs, I looked on Wizards' website to find information about how much a few of the organizers charged for drafts, and this is what I came up with:
(The following price information has been taken off of the individual organizer's website, and the accuracy of said information is the responsibility of that organizer. I take no responsibility as to the accuracy of this information.)
Los Angeles, CA - $30 if you haven't played a flight or draft yet that day, $16 if you have.
Gray Matter (NY/PA/NJ) - $18
Richmond, VA - $15
Chicago, IL - $18
Salt Lake City, UT - $15
(If I have not listed your area, you can got to Wizards' website and find out more information about the event in your area. I just took a small sampling to show the average price for a draft.)
A booster draft at a prerelease is an 8 man, single elimination tournament. You sit down in a circle around a table, and each person is handed three Betrayers packs. At the signal from the judge in charge of the draft, each player opens their booster, picks one card out of it to keep, and passes the other 14 cards to their left. That person then takes the 14 cards that were passed to them, picks one to keep, and passes the other 13 on. This process continues until each person has 15 cards that they have picked.
The next booster is then opened, and the process is repeated, only you pass to the person on your right instead of your left.
You do the same thing one more time for your final booster, passing left. At the end of the third booster, you should have 45 cards. You then build a deck out of those 45 cards. Minimum deck size is 40, and you can add as many basic land as you want to make your deck.
After everyone has built their decks, you play another player that you drafted with. The winner stays in the tournament, the loser is dropped. The remaining 4 repeat the process, with the winning 2 from those matches playing to see who wins the whole tournament.
Additional packs are given to the two people who play in the last round as prizes. (Some places may even give packs to the two people who lost in the round previous - please check with the judge or organizer at your event if you have any questions about the quantity of prizes or how many people get prizes.)
Well, that about sums up what goes on at prereleases. If you have any suggestions for when I revise this for the Saviors prerelease so that I can make this better, please pass them along.
Have fun at your events this weekend, and see you Friday.
Bill Guerin
DCI Level 2 Judge

Copyright 1998-2005


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