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Prerelease Prizes and You

The Prerelease for DarkSteel is coming up! Exciting times for everyone in the Magic Community. First, Iíd like to say, I hate spoilers. When I used to be able to actually play in pre-releases (long ago in a land far, far before Exodus) I would go to a prerelease because I enjoyed the events. I loved playing the cards for the first time. I loved opening up the packs and looking at the new cards and ooh-ing and ahh-ing with them amongst my friends. It was the excitement of discovery that made prereleases so fun for me.

Nowadays I am required to read the FAQ the night before the event, and know every card and ruling I can before the players ever show up. But you can rest assured I donít touch the spoilers before that, and stay far away from places like MTG News and Star City who seem to thrive on spoiler info. Nothing against these web sites, but it just ruins the fun for me.

So, obviously you wonít see me talking about spoilers here, or the new cards, or theories of the new set. But the prerelease is coming, and I want to talk about something related to it. So Iím going with what we all know and love and hope to get on that faithful day: PRIZES!

Almost every year, the Tournament Organizers get together for a conference to discuss changes in policy from Wizards and get an understanding of the events coming in the next year. Wizards of the Coast also uses it as a feedback process so the organizers can tell Wizards what is and is not working for them. Now, ignoring the fact that this conference is held in a Casino in Vegas and we may or may not be half drunk and looking for the next break to go gamble, we actually get a lot done during these conferences. Last yearís, one of the big topics was Prereleases and there was a lot of discussion on prizes. It was very interesting to see how peopleís opinions varied on prize structure and event structure, and I thought it would make a good article.

Keep in mind, this is not to compare and say who does things "better." I donít think there is a best way to do prizes. I just am showing how different events get run, and why to give some insight into how Organizers often do things. All data I have below came from the different Organizerís web sites, and I apologize in advance if I misread anyoneís information.

Disclaimer: This article is in reference to the United States tournaments only. Different countries around the world use different prize structures and requirements for their events, and the event you attend may have a prize pool completely unlike this. Just remember this is just to give you an idea of why people use certain prize pools, not establish any form of standard for prizes.



32 Person Flights


5-0 24 packs

4-0-1 18 packs minimum

4-1 12 packs minimum

3-1-1 8 packs minimum

3-0-2 6 packs minimum

This is a very common method of giving out prizes, by record. This is a really good structure as it gives a pretty good prize to first place, but also gives prizes down to 3-1-.1

There are two odd things about this prize structure though.

First, it gives FEWER packs for 11 points (3-0-2) than for 10 (3-1-1), which seems to indicate that they donít want to see draws.

Second, they then give 18 packs for 4-0-1 when 5-0 only gets 24 packs. This strongly encourages 4-0ís to draw since the total prize pool is the same for them and if they draw they donít have to arrange a prize split and therefore collude. In short, this method makes it convenient for people to draw, and in a non-hyper competitive event, this is not a bad thing. Iím unsure how to explain the 10 points get more than 11 points thing, however. Maybe it is a typo.


California, Los Angeles

32 Player Flights


5-0 20 Packs

4-0-1 12 Packs

4-1 10 Packs

3-0-2 8 Packs

3-1-1 6 Packs

This prize pool is very similar to the first one we looked at, except some slight changes, and the fact that 12 packs for 4-0-1 is less than the combined 5-0 and 4-1 prizes means the opposite in terms of what it says about draws. This prize structure suggests that its better to play, and puts more emphasis on going 5-0 than the previous event, but goes down the same level as the previous one.


One Main Event


1st through 8th 36 Packs

9th through 16th 18 Packs

This event is much different than the previous ones. First, one large event is a massive difference in prize pool and scoring. Going this route makes the prerelease a more prestigious and high-level event with higher competition. Prizes only going out to the top 16 make it more competitive as well. This event is targeted towards the more serious player, or simply wants to make the idea of winning a prerelease more of an accomplishment.

Pennsylvania, Ohio, MichiganFlights and Main Event

Flight Prize:

1st 1 Box

2nd 18 Boosters

3rd/4th 9 Boosters

5th/8th 6 Boosters

Main Prize:

1st 2 Boxes

2nd-8th 1 Box

These states go for both formats, with a huge main event, and flights. Their prize pool seems very standard, but again, they keep the prize pool pretty top heavy, especially in the main flight. These guys want to make winning the event more of an accomplishment, and will tend to have more competitive events because of it.

Itís interesting to note that they also give out product by ranking instead of points, even for the flights. For the lower rules enforcement level events, Iíve found it better to go by points. Often a new player doing well for the first time, but missing "the cutoff" based on tie breakers will end up with a very negative experience about the event, especially if they donít understand why someone ended up higher than them on tiebreakers. But interestingly enough, when I did this same sort of thing, not one player complained, so maybe Iím reading too much into the playersí minds.



32 Person Flights


4-0 12 packs

3-0-1 9 Packs

3-1 6 Packs

18 packs are given out to a random player in the flight.

This is a very interesting prize payout. First, youíll notice they are only doing 4 rounds, so while the prize pool looks lower; theyíre paying it out to more people. A quick look at the Swiss Triangle shows they should end up with 2 people getting 12 packs and 8 people getting 6 packs for a total of 72 packs PLUS the 18 packs they give out to a random player for a total of 90 packs or so a flight. They make the prize breakout for drawing the same as if the top players played it out, so thatís fair, but the surprising factor is he half a box given out to a random player. This is a very exciting promotion, as it supports the top level of players while not making the prizes too top heavy by going to a fifth round for a "one winner." At the same time, the lower level players can still enjoy themselves, and have a chance of winning a half a box of product no matter how well they do! This is an exceptionally creative idea.



72 person flights


1st - 8th 1 box

Yes, you read that right, 72 person flights. I think what they were trying to do for this event was make sure they got at least enough players to warrant a box for each of the top 8, and then made an event to suit that need. This is nice compromise between the one main event vs. flight system, making the flights big enough to warrant a big prize and a greater sense of accomplishment for winning it. On the other hand, this prize pool does not go down very far for an event where most of the players are very low-level casual players.



32 person Flights


4-0 1 box

3-X-X 4 Packs

Nevada, like Minnesota, also is a fan of the 32 person flights with only 4 rounds. They make their prize structure extremely top heavy however, and make it extremely disadvantageous to draw. This format and prize pool seems to orient on rewarding the top players while making the flights go fast and fun, letting those who want to easily join multiple flights.



Unknown size flights, likely 32 person


5-0 15 Packs

4-0-1 12 Packs

4-1 9 Packs

3-1-1 6 Packs

3-2 3 Packs

This one may look the same as many of the others, but there are a couple of glaring differences. First, they give out no prize for 3-0-2, but I think this is simply a typo or something left out on accident. Second, they give product down to a 3-2 record, the

First Tournament Organizer we have seen to do this. This still gives a nice 15 pack prize to the flight winner, but also gives the lower end players something to shoot for to still get a prize.



32 Person Flights


4-0 16 Boosters

3-x-x 6 Boosters

This is similar to Nevada in that they do 32 person flights and 4 rounds. The big difference here is their prize pool is not as top heavy, giving less for the 4-0ís, but more for the 3-x-x players. This makes the event a little less competitive, while maintaining the idea of quick fun flights players can easily join multiples of throughout the day.


Arizona/San Diego California

32 Person Flights


15 Points (5-0): 24 Packs
13 Points (4-0-1): 12 Packs
12 Points (4-1): 9 Packs
11 Points (3-0-2): 7 Packs
10 Points (3-1-1): 5 Packs
9 Points (3-2): 2 Packs

And then, we get to me. This is the format I use right now, which is very similar to Utah. My primary difference is I am fairly anti-drawing, and therefore I penalize my players for drawing in the event prize wise. I try to balance between giving a good prize out to the top player, while spreading the prizes down as far as I can for the more casual players. For my last few events, I had it a little more top heavy for the 5-0 with the 4-1ís suffering for it, trying to get as close to a box as possible for the flight winner. Well, the 4-1ís rose up against me saying they felt the gap was too huge between first and second, so I changed it for this event.

One thing I know for sure, someone will complain about this prize structure. Someone complains about EVERY prize structure. I have changed my prize structure roughly every other event in an attempt to make people happy, and someone always has a complaint. I think even if I gave every person who walked through door a box of product, someone would complain that they should get more because they won their flight.

Speaking of which, someone mentioned a vastly different prize structure during the Tournament Organizer Conference, but I canít remember who it was and I canít find any evidence to support this on anyoneís web site (although, admittedly, half the Tournament Organizerís did not have any prize information on their web site). Their prize structure was this: there was no prize structure. Every person in every flight (they ran 32 person flights I believe) got 3 packs when they dropped out of their flight, or the flight ended, regardless of their ranking or points.

The initial response by some of you to this may be disgust, but think about how appealing this is to the casual player. They get three packs just for playing no matter how well they do. And if youíre a good player, and you are playing for points. If you donít like the cards you have, just drop, get your three packs, and try another flight. The first flight wasnít a loss; you got three packs out of it!

Although Iím not sure I have the guts to do a prize structure like this, I think itís a unique concept, and admire people for trying it out.

Well, Iíve gone over quite a bit on space this time around, but I hope you liked it. And I hope that the next time you wonder why someone set up their prizes the way they did, that this article helps a little in clearing it up.

Until next timeÖ.


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Have a great week!

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