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Sealed-Mesa, AZ

What have you done for me lately?

Ray Powers

What have you done for me lately!!!

Ever since Eddie Murphy uttered that line in his stand up show, it embedded itself in American Pop Culture. Why was it so, popular? Because its true, not only in your love life, but your magic life as well. To be a successful event organizer, you need to be continually keeping your players happy, offering them new and better prizes and tournaments, and creating an atmosphere where they want to keep coming back.

This applies not only to event running specifically, but the magic community as a whole. I'd like to think I run good events, but I have had very little time lately to spend on visiting with the magic playing community, and keeping in touch with their wants and needs. so, when Atomic Comics approached me and asked if I could sanction a sealed deck event for them, I agreed. Atomic Comics is not a "player" in the tournament scene, but does cater to some casual players, so I was likely to get to interact with some players I normally never get to see.

Boy was I right....

The Place: Atomic Comics, Mesa, Arizona
The Time: Sunday, February 13th, noon.

The scene: 38 magic players playing sealed deck for EIGHT DOLLARS trying for the following prizes:

First place: A Booster Box
Second: A Booster Box:
Third: A $50 gift certificate
Fourth: A $35 Gift Certificate
Fifth: A 420 gift certificate

And finally, the first new player under 5th would get a $20 gift certificate. Out of 38 players, we had TWENTY FOUR new DCI cards. Evidently, casual play is alive and well.

The cheap entry fee, plus the nice prize structure brought a very interesting array of players there. We had two thirds of the players never having played in a sanctioned tournament before, and at the other end we had 2 pro tour players, and 4 other "serious" players. Atomic Comics was very interested in keeping it casual, so it was a major adjustment for me, as I normally do not judge anything under a PTQ level. Trying to keep the atmosphere fun and keep the serious players from rules lawyering the new players in some cases proved a challenge.

The first major issue we ran into in the tournament was seating. First, Atomic Comics suggested moving their gaming tables outside to let people play in the sun. This may sound scary to you east coasters, but in Arizona, the forecast was for 75 degree either, so the temperature was not an issue. I vetoed it on the basis of the infamous "gust of wind" that would inevitably occur and destroy several games, and they relented. Our second seating issue was lack of space. We had seating for 34, and 38 players. The last two tables were some barrels they had set up for decoration, with the encouragement of "win, and you won't be on the barrels." Not the best of situations, but the players were okay with it, and the atmosphere was nicely casual.

As we were doing deck registration, many questions occurred. Although I did not require deck swapping, I did make them fill out a deck registration list. I believe it is valuable if for no other reason in that it is good practice should they move onto more serious events. Over half of the crowd did not understand the 5 land swap rule, or exactly how to fill out the decklist, but we still managed to make it through deck registration with 2 minutes to spare.

During the registration, I found some more interesting news: the store closed at 6:00PM. Considering we started the event at noon, this presented somewhat of a challenge. I finally settled on 5 rounds of Swiss, which, when doing the triangle, came out the most accurate way to make clear cut winners.

For those of you that have not done it, it is my opinion you try running an event straight Swiss, no cut. It is wonderful. With the proper amount of rounds, you get a clear cut winner, and you also stop players from using the Intentional Draw rule to help their friends, making it a much more unbiased tournament. I love straight Swiss and would suggest it everywhere.

No one argued with straight Swiss (after I explained it to them), and, after a longer than normal introduction on things like Paris Mulligan, and how a match winner is determined, we began.

The first thing I realized was I assume too much. :)

Two rules calls immediately occurred when a player chose to play first, AND draw a card. Both were in their first DCI tournament, and simply did not know the play/draw rule. A kind warning later, and a shuffling of a card back into their library, and off they went. I briefly stopped the tournament to explain the play draw rule, then continued. Its amazing how quickly you forget how casual magic is played, and consider tournament magic the de facto standard. most of the issues I ran into this day centered around things that are normally okay in casual play, but not in tournament play. A second example of this was a player who dealt himself six card, played first, laid a land, drew another card, played a land, and during his opponent's turn, picked up his deck and just absentmindedly started shuffling it. No real reason, he was just in the mood to shuffle and had no idea it was against the rules. Since there was no previous library manipulation, *I* shuffled the deck (on the off chance some odd stacking had occurred), and gave the player a warning. Throughout this event I tried desperately to give no game losses, as these were all very new players, and it was a very casual event.

Around round 2, Atomic Comics sent out for Sonic. Life is good.

One of the issues with an event like this is the serious player that truly wants to win often ruins the fun for the casual player. Suggestion to WoTC, hold events where only people ranked 1700 or under can ATTEND. I think it would get good attendance. Many new players were very intimidated when playing against serious players, and it dampened the mood somewhat. Not that all serious players were bad, I saw one of my better players happily joking with his newbie opponent while suffering horrible mana screw. Although the older player was well on his way to losing because of lack of land, he was still having fun, and making sure his opponent had fun as well. Another who went on to win the event, seemed to be taking particular care not to be "overly serious" towards his opponents.

Still, there were some less than wonderful moments. During round 3, a serious player called me over because he thought his opponent was stalling. I walked over and watched the opponent. He was a brand new player, had not played with Masques before, *and* had an arm cast, so was essentially playing one handed. I saw his hand, and even without that consideration, he had a wide variety of choices of what he could do based on his hand. I watched for a few rounds, then left, saying I felt he was playing at a reasonable pace. Towards the end of the round, the serious player called me over again, his opponent had just renounced, basically putting him out of range to be killed in the last two extra turns going on, which would make the match a draw. The serious player argued that the new player had tapped three mana for a Renounce instead of two, and therefore should take a point of mana burn. This new player was the one with the cast. I asked him to reenact it and he said his announcement was 'tap two for renounce' and he tapped the land with his casted arm, so it was entirely likely that he had accidentally knocked and extra land, although he did not think he had. In the end I ruled that I would not rule against someone because they have a physical handicap that may have caused them to knock an extra land, and it was a correct renounce and no mana burn would occur. Afterwards I had a brief conversation with the serious player, reiterating that this was intended to be a fun tournament, to very little avail. Can't win them all.

The rules questions for the rest of the day were very straightforward, so I won't go into detail on them. simple question like how to deal with trample damage, and if you can regenerate a creature when Maggot Therapy is on it were the order of the day.

We ended at exactly six, with a nice finishing. One of the five was a brand new player, and 6th, was as well, earning the top new player prize. Everyone had fun, and may players asked when the next event like this was, and I walked off with a sense of accomplishment and feeling more in touch with the local players than I have in quite a while. At the highest level we forget what Magic is supposed to be about, the social aspect. Friends getting together and playing and talking and having fun. Towards the end of the day I saw some of the players that had dropped out playing a 6 person free for all. One of the protour players looked on, making suggestions, and cracking jokes with them. Its something we all should try some time.

Ray Powers
Level 3 DCI Judge
Arizona Tournament Coordinator

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