One of the major factors in making Magic: the Gathering successful and popular is how well Wizards supports the game with an organized play program. The strength of organized play has set the game above the other CCG’s. Taking advantage of the systems in place is critical to building a great Magic shop.
The events that make up your weekly schedule will have a huge effect on your overall sales. Filling your calendar with a variety of events will promote the sale of the relevant cards. Standard tournaments will encourage the sale of Standard cards, Modern tournaments will sell Modern cards and so on.
When it comes to planning Magic tournaments it’s important to understand what your community wants and the formats they want to play.
This is a matter of being observant. When customers come into your store, watch to see what kinds of decks they use. Track which cards are selling from your singles inventory and from which format. You can also ask your customers for feedback, sometimes the easiest way to find out what your customers want to see in terms of competitive options is to just talk to them.
Once you know what your community wants to play, the next step is to run great events and fill that need.
There are a few universal rules when running a Magic tournament that you should always follow if you want your events to not be terrible. Adhering to the below rules are the foundation for success when it comes to Magic tournaments.
This is true regardless of what kind of event you’re running, at all times and in all places. That’s not hyperbole either, break these rules at your own risk. These are the 7 immutable laws of Magic tournaments.
Rule #1 – Start on time
If your schedule says the event starts at 5:30, start it at 5:30. Nothing will frustrate your customers more than your tournaments always running late and pushing back the start time. The maximum you should delay a tournament is around 5 minutes and only if someone has called ahead saying they are going to be late. Ideally the person calling in late isn’t someone who makes it a habit either. Any more than 5 minutes and you’re being inconsiderate of your customer’s time which will eventually come back to bite you in the ass. Magic tournaments tend to run late into the night already without extra unnecessary delays.
Rule #2 – Lay out the details up front
When posting the event on social media and in your store it should be 100% clear what the entry fee is, what the format is, what the start time is, and what the prize support is. If the prize pool depends on how many players attend the tournament you should include how the calculations work. Everyone involved should understand exactly what they are getting into.
Rule #3 – Don’t change the event mid way through
Something catastrophic should be the only reason for altering the plan once the tournament gets going. Anything less shows a lack of respect for your players and the time they invested into preparing for the tournament.
Side story. This one’s personal.
I used to play Gears of War very seriously. Me and my team actually drove about 11 hours to play in a tournament in Providence, Rhode Island. We had been practicing for weeks before this tournament based off of the rule settings and map playlist the organizer posted on their website.
We felt good, we were winning consistently, we were excited to get there and crush the other teams.
As we were preparing to play our first match of the event we found out that one of the other teams had convinced the organizer (they were friends) to completely change the settings and maps of the tournament. It would be as if we went to play in a Standard FNM at an LGS and one of the judge’s buddies said “Hey, let’s make the format Modern instead!” and the judge just does it. Sure, everyone can play their Standard decks in a Modern tournament but it isn’t exactly what they were expecting to do that evening.
We ended up playing a strange homebrew style event that we weren’t prepared for. We performed fairly well regardless but didn’t go far in that tournament.
This is a great example of what not to do as an tournament organizer.
End side story.
Rule #4 – Choose your goal
When planning a tournament you have two options for goals: try to make a profit off the entry fees or use the event as a promotion and just break even. Neither choice is wrong, each goes about achieving a profit for your business in a different way. One is meant to generate a profit immediately and the other focused on generating profits through the increased sale of cards. Pick one strategy for your weekly tournaments and try it out then try the other. Find out which kind of event your customers respond to most. Players will favour one over the other, the trick is learning what kind of players make up your store’s community.
Rule #5 – Come prepared
You should have all the equipment you need before hand like a computer and printer as well as understand your way around Wizards Event Reporter. Your premium image relies on being professional. Not having a grasp on the tournament software before you run a tournament smacks of being an amateur, and we are not going to let that happen. Test everything before you start as well, technical issues aren’t a good reason for delaying a tournament.
Rule #6 – Know the game
You should have a reasonable grasp of the rules of the game if you are organizing a Magic tournament. Understanding how the game is played is important to being able to resolve disputes as they come up. Magic is a very complicated game, rules questions will happen and you should be able to answer them. If not you then make sure you have someone on hand who can handle them. Beyond that, in order to run bigger and more competitive tournaments than Friday Night Magic you need to be able to access judges. Be sure to have at least one person you can tap (get it) to judge your events because a judge is required to sanction many of the most profitable tournaments you can run for your business. Learning the rules and going through the judge process yourself is a good way to do make sure you always have access to a judge. Having a certified judge work for you is another good option.
Rule #7 – Sanction your tournaments
The seventh rule is simple. Make sure your tournaments are sanctioned through Wizards and definitely make sure you submit them when they are completed. Wizards Event Reporter makes this easy, you should take advantage of that as climbing the WPN ladder is important to growing your Magic: the Gathering business and should be one of your top priorities.
These rules alone won’t take your events to the next level, but they are the foundation you need in order to run excellent tournaments. If you adhere to these rules consistently when running Magic tournaments you will be on the right path to growing your player base.