Legacy’s Allure – Hosting a Legacy Tournament

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Tuesday, June 2nd – This week, Doug looks at how you can organize your own Legacy event and create a grassroots Legacy community in your area. He takes you from the reasons why you should host an event to the advertising, organizing, and hosting the actual tournament. What kinds of prizes should you give out? What makes for a good tournament venue? How can you create tourney-goers who eagerly await your next event? Get general tips as well as Legacy-specific advice in this week’s Legacy’s Allure!

One of the most significant challenges in playing Legacy is actually having a place to play Legacy. In many ways, the format is like Vintage was five years ago – small pockets of regular play, a big event here and there, and some national-scale events. However, most regions in the country do not have a regular tournament scene that people can depend on. Stable tournament scenes directly correlate to people investing more into Legacy as a format and making it grow, evolve and be even more fun. This week, I’m going to discuss how to host a Legacy tournament in your area. With summer approaching, there’s no better time to get a scene rolling, since you don’t have to compete against school, work, or the weather to the same extent as in other seasons. I’m coming at this article from the position of having helped coordinate and plan several Meandeck Opens in Columbus, Ohio, as well as being a veteran tourney-goer. The former gives me some experience with orchestrating an event and the latter with knowing what makes a tournament good or bad.

First and foremost, the reason that you create and expand a Legacy community is to have a good time and see the format grow. Notice how I didn’t mention “make lots of dolla billz”? Hosting an event that people like to attend and return to requires a long-term investment in what you’re doing, and is not a very reliable way to make money. Players have an uncanny ability to spot when a TO is trying to rip them off, and will post about it in forums before and after the event. I’ve seen monthly events stop because a TO makes $800 in a day but gives out $300 in prizes. Therefore, being reasonable about prize support is a good thing and helps build loyalty, a theme we’ll see over and over. Aside from building a Legacy community in your area, it’s also good for learning how to plan long-term events and coordinate several people at once. As such, I think it’s a good idea for high school and college students to get into planning events like Magic tournaments.

There’s also a question of whether or not you should play in your event. I think it’s reasonable to do so when it means you can get an extra round of play in, or if you need to get more players to get the numbers up. It’s also incredibly gauche, in my view, to play in your own event to try and take the prize. Again, players don’t like a TO who seems greedy. Since you know my opinion, what do you think? Sound off in the article response thread on this forum!

With that out of the way, where should you hold an event? Don’t give up if the card store near you has no room for play. Check out other shops in the area that host Friday Night Magic. Chances are, if they can support FNM, they have enough room for a Legacy tournament of decent size as well. Call and ask if you can host an event there. Many store owners need a little persuasion about hosting tournaments. They fear they’ll have to pay out money upfront, organize the whole thing, then nobody will show. If you’re calling a store to see if they will host an event, I suggest asking if you can set up a time to come in and give them your proposal. People are much more receptive in person when it comes to these things. If you don’t have a store nearby, there are plenty of other venues as well. I have played tournaments in church social halls, Parks & Rec activity buildings, university meeting rooms and more. Most of these are cheap or free to use as well.

Planning a weekend for a tournament is tricky in itself. Will it fall on Mother’s Day or a PTQ day in the same region? Is there going to be another tournament going on in the same store that day? Do a little bit of research and be respectful of other TOs who have already planned an event for that day in your city, especially if you think players would play in both. If you call the TO, you might even be able to hand out fliers at their event if you promise to promote theirs at your tournament as well. I’ve gone to several events just on the basis of hearing about them from another event. Then there’s the Saturday/Sunday issue. I love tournaments on Sunday, since I can have most of my weekend behind me and be relaxed for the event. However, for larger events that might pull people in who want a hotel room, Saturday events are better because they can make a weekend out of the trip and don’t have to haul back home that night for work the next day.

Next, you’ve got to find players who can come to the event. A lot of people have only limited exposure to Legacy and don’t know much about what’s really played. “Isn’t that format full of turn 1 kills?” and “is that Tradewind Rider deck still good?” are both comments I hear too frequently. My best suggestion is to pack Legacy decks with you when you go to FNM or other events and play in between rounds with friends, or with the person you just played against in the previous round. The strangers you play Magic with are better than gunslinging with folks you know, because those strangers might come to an event if they know you but probably won’t if they feel out of place at their first Legacy tournament. Besides, you can always count on some card-playing buddies to show up at your event anyway. Likewise, you can tell the casual players that you see at card shops that Legacy actually does have some of their favorite decks in it. There are Burn, Elves, Goblins and Merfolk decks, and they’re not only played, they’re good. If someone brings their Burn deck to a Legacy event and Top 8s with it, they’ll be hooked on the format.

There’s also the unfortunate problem of card access for new players. We’ve had tremendous success in Columbus with both Vintage and Legacy by allowing unlimited proxies (or very high numbers) for players to use. It’s really the only way to get people into Legacy and keep them involved and investing in more cards. The guy who comes with their Merfolk deck without Mutavault, Umezawa’s Jitte, and Force of Will is going to lose a lot and abandon the format. If they can proxy in some of the cards they’re missing, they’re likely to keep playing and actually buy the physical cards later. It has historically happened in Vintage, and Legacy can benefit from it as well. I also think that over time, you should scale back your allowed proxies in an area to encourage people to support their local stores and dealers.

In Vintage, you can make a Mox or other piece of the Power Nine the prize, but in Legacy, it’s a bit harder. The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale is mad expensive, but most players cannot utilize it the way they could a Time Walk. Similarly, it’s also silly to give out a prize like a Mox for a format where the players cannot actually run the card! The best candidates for card-based prizes are Dual Lands, fetchlands, and high-dollar cards like Force of Will and Tarmogoyf. You can simplify the whole thing by giving away a percentage of the prize pool to players in cash instead, which requires no pre-event investment and nicely scales with the turnout for the event. If you are giving away cash, you need to have a working understanding of gambling laws in your state. You can find your state statutes online and you’ll want to look for whether it’s prohibited for a venue to have card events where the door makes a percentage based on attendance or the prize pool. In poker, this is referred to as “the rake,” and in most states, it’s highly illegal. Do a little research so you’re compliant with the law. One example can be to offer a set cash prize pool that scales up based on how many people turn out. As a law student, I remind you that there is no substitute for doing your research, and there is a good chance that you can give out a cash prize if you follow the statutes. This can make for really fun “banner events” like StarCityGames.com $5000 Open events (did you know they’re having a $5000 Legacy event in Boston soon? You should go!). If you give away cash, make sure folks know how many people attended the last time. I don’t want to drive three hours to play in an 11-player event, but I would do that to sling cards with 35 people in a heartbeat.

Advertising an event is relatively simple. Make sure to post your Legacy event in the SCG forums, as well as on mtgthesource.com and any other Magic site you frequent. Put up fliers at local stores and personally invite players at events you attend. It’s all a matter of getting the word out. Experience here pays dividends for any other advertising you do in the future and builds skills for entrepreneurship and marketing, so you get some experience outside of the Magic arena.

If you’re hosting your event in a store, they probably sell single Magic cards. If they don’t, you can see if they would be fine with dealers setting up a table. The backpack dealer at the PTQs that you know might be delighted to show up and deal some cards for a modest fee. Several TOs also order pizza and make a little money on the side to bankroll the venue rental that way.

Next, get a competent judge that you have met or spoken to before to judge your event. You can offer cash, packs, dinner, or other incentives. Make sure they know how cards like Humility interact with Mishra’s Factory and the current wording on Phyrexian Dreadnought. A good judge makes things move smoothly and makes the event more professional. You, and anyone you bring in, should be enthusiastic about the entire event. One of my few gripes about GP: Chicago is that the judges making announcements before the event sounded like they were having the worst time of their lives, and that we should have felt privileged to be in their presence. Fire anyone around you with this attitude, as it makes Magic players miserable and unlikely to support you in the future.

For the day of the event, have DCI Reporter on a laptop, a printer to print out matchslips and pairings, and a paper cutter or scissors. Be sure the venue has enough chairs, and have some paper and pens. You can use some of the tournament fees to offset the costs, and I don’t think any player begrudges a TO who provides pens for the players. Make your announcements to the group short and sweet, and start the event on time. I cannot stress this enough. Have pairings ready to go and be quick about moving the event along. Where I go to school, there’s a FNM very close to me that I do not attend because they take about 20 minutes in between rounds every time to get the new pairings posted. You don’t know tournament misery until you’ve spent seven hours playing four rounds of Magic. This is unfair to people who have to drive a distance home after the event, and dissuades those who want to do something additional in the evening. If you are prompt and efficient, players will be loyal to you.

During the event, if you are not playing, you should be circulating and talking to players, getting ready for the next round and getting a vibe on what is working and what is not for the next event. Again, people are more likely to come back if they like the tournament organizer and have personally met them. Ask for their opinion on the venue, the prize pool, the turnout, the top decks and more. Remember that getting a tournament community running involves getting players to invest finite money and time in the format. The more they like the format and the people that organize it and play it, the more likely they are to play!

In Columbus, we like to have something that everyone can go to afterwards. We often adjourn to Thurman’s in German Village, home of a 2lb cheeseburger that at least one person invariably attempts. Having things to do afterwards, like going to a nearby restaurant and bar, can get normally awkward Magic players to get to know each other and build a tighter community. If you’ve got something in mind to do after the event, be sure to put it in the advertisements and let folks know throughout the day as well.

That’s my best advice for hosting an event. I’d love for other tournament organizers to share their successes and challenges in the forum or send me emails, as well as players to share what they like and dislike at an event. I really like getting emails and answering posts, and everything you send me is read and replied!

Until next week…

Doug Linn

legacysallure at gmail dot com

P.S. I was planning on this week’s article being more on Lorescale Coatl Grow, but I am still tuning up the deck and I only want to give you results with something I feel is fully developed. I really enjoyed the forum and email response from last week’s article, and I’m testing a lot of your suggestions, so you’ll get another article on that soon! With summer fast approaching, I also felt this was the best time to write this week’s article, which has been on my mind for several months.