The scheduling window for the first wave of Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifiers (PPTQs) is right around the corner. Players, judges, and store owners are all looking forward to these events which will crown a champion for each advanced level store during a PPTQ season, culminating in all the store champions dueling it out at the Regional Pro Tour Qualifier for a chance to earn a spot on the Pro Tour. These events will be great for all involved if everyone plans accordingly. Let’s look at this from three perspectives and include suggestions for each.
The Store Owner Perspective
In the past Pro Tour Qualifiers were regionally run events hosted by select TOs allowing players to earn a spot on the Pro Tour. While the new setup is similar, an additional step has been added allowing each advanced level store to host their own PPTQ and help bring new players from surrounding communities. Obviously this is a great opportunity for stores to host a premier event and widen their customer base. Here are a few things to consider when planning a PPTQ:
TOs are required to have a Level 2 Head Judge and should consider having 2-3 floor judges for the event based upon expected attendance. This means you will need to determine compensation for your judges before the event and contact the head judge prior to choosing a date. It is easier to have your head judge confirm a weekend that is good for them and their judge staff rather than choosing a date and hoping it works for them. The best advice I can give is don’t under-staff your events. Judges will make the event run smoothly and players will appreciate a well-run tournament. Additionally, more staffing dedicated to the event (including a designated scorekeeper) allows your store staff to focus on making sales and helping customers as opposed to running the event. As this is the first time these events are being hosted, it can be difficult to predict attendance and anticipate how many judges to staff. I recommend having your head judge and at least one other floor judge locked in for the event with 2-3 other judges on standby, giving them free entry for the event if they are not needed to judge.
Choosing a Date
Numerous stores will be scheduling PPTQs in a small window of time meaning numerous events might overlap. Be sure to speak with other store owners in the area to determine when they are looking to host their event. Players would like to play in as many PPTQs as possible and making sure you give them the opportunity to play in your event is key. You also want to make sure judges are available for your event as they cannot work every weekend and their schedule should be taken into consideration.
Venue and Logistics
This should go without saying, but if your location is not set up to host a large event find a venue that can or consider advertising a cap on attendance. Many players will be looking to participate in these events. Having seating for 30 when 60 players show up for your event will lead to delays and unsatisfied customers. The key to these events will be in the planning and the stores who do it properly will benefit from better-attended events based on how they do with the first PPTQs they host. Consider your location, usual tournament attendance, and promote pre-registration to estimate attendance during planning.
Players like knowing the prizes they have for the event before they attend. While you do not have to lock in 100% what you’re giving out, be transparent with how you will provide prize support. “Prizes based off attendance” versus “3 booster packs per player” goes a long way in a player deciding which event they will be attending in a weekend.
I would recommend fostering an in-house judge staff that you can use for larger events. This will assist you in making sure you always have the proper staffing for your PPTQs in the future. Simply put, there will be too many events and not enough judges to go around so make sure your shop is prepared. This can be a great time for you to widen your customer base and players from outside your area will be heading to your location for the event be sure to make a good first impression. Encourage your local judges to connect to the greater judge community in their region and get the help they need to develop their skills and assist the stores in running these events.
The Judge Perspective
As a judge, let me go ahead and put this out there for you: things are about to get real! I have already been contacted by thirteen store locations to assist them in getting their PPTQ together. These are the stores I consider being ahead of the game and best prepared. Lots of stores are going to be asking for help. It is OK to say no. You cannot work every event, nor should you be expected to. I recommend helping stores that may need assistance running a bigger event and guiding them with your experience, but remember you are being compensated to be a judge, not the tournament organizer. The relative roles are described in MTR Section 1.
Strive to be the best at what you do, but allow others to handle their responsibility or they will not learn. Do not take on judging one of these events by yourself as that is not fair to you, the players, or the store. It will make you look ill-prepared when it comes time for the event. Be sure to negotiate fair compensation and do not work for less simply to help someone out, as this will hurt other judges who work for that store down the road. Be prepared for your event and put in the best effort possible. “Good” judge staffs will be sought out for events. Being a judge who is sought-out to work events not only feels good but means you’re doing your part for the community.
The Player Perspective
This is going to be a great time to be a player, with lots of events happening every weekend. Be sure to talk with your local game store about hosting a PPTQ so you can have one right in your backyard. Also, put together a schedule of events so you have a good idea on what you will be attending in the coming months. Most of all, have fun and be patient with stores, tournament organizers, and judges, as many of them will be hosting/working these events for the first time and it takes time to become great at it. Give stores suggestions and constructive criticism to help them host better events in the future. Everyone will benefit from feedback!
Hopefully this primer will generate discussion between the three parties. Feel free to pass along this article and discuss topics with your players, stores and fellow judges!