Prerelease Tips and Gathering Feedback, Battle for Zendikar Edition

BFZ-Prerelease-Guide-Logo-bigger-trimmedYour store runs a great prerelease. It’s fun, players show up and are happy cracking packs from a new set, and have a blast jamming Magic with their buddies with cards they’ve never seen before. Awesome.

You know what, though?  The store up the highway also runs a great prerelease. And they do it differently. That’s cool.  What can you learn from them, and them from you?

The goal of this article is to talk about some of the common things we are doing at prereleases, things you may not do at your prereleases that could improve them, and some Battle for Zendikar specific things that will make your event exciting.

Survey Background

This summer at the Magic Origins prereleases, we ran a survey across a number of stores, talking to players for feedback on how their prerelease experiences went.  Some of this article will talk about the survey information we gathered, and how you can gather similar data at your store so you can find out what players like and don’t like about your prereleases.


The majority of comments and criticism came from a fundamental issue of communication between the judge and the players.  This is one of the most important things that can help both your effectiveness as a judge and the amount of enjoyment players get out of your events.

Effective communication first begins with making sure that you’re establishing the proper expectations for how the event is going to be run.  Will there be side events, special deals in the store for prerelease participants, or other events you want the players to be made aware of? Will start times be adjusted in case of late comers to the store and the TO wanting to make sure they can get everyone involved that they can?

Make sure that you have all the information you need before you can effectively communicate it to your players, and make sure to get that out to everyone during your announcements so you can focus on the event as it’s happening.


The most important thing about prerelease announcements is clarity.  Make sure to have very clear instructions at the beginning, especially when it comes to logistics.

Where players should be sitting to receive their card pool, what they will be getting, when you will begin deckbuilding, where the land is, where pairings will be posted, and how to report match results so you can enter them quickly. This is a lot of official things we talk about every event which will bore some store regulars, and that’s OK.  You’re making sure everyone is on the same page with your announcements and that everything is 100% clear to everyone involved.

Information Aids

Announcement Helper
We have put together a one-page announcement aid for your prerelease.  It covers all the things you want to know and talk about at the start of the event.
Announcement Guide Thumbnail
We also have a more in-depth info leaflet.  The first two pages are general event info – feel free to print and share this if you would like.  The third and final page is a few things for you to remember as you run your events.
Leaflet Thumbnail

What Should Your Announcements Cover?

  • Welcome! (Introduce the store, yourself, thank players for coming)
  • Deckbuilding Guidelines (40 Card Minimum, continuous build, Regular REL)
  • Remind players what could result in a DQ (Rolling a die, Bribery, Aggressive Behavior)
  • New Rules (Vancouver Mulligans, No Seeded Packs, Devoid, Ingest, etc)
  • 2HG Rules if applicable
  • Time/Round Limits (minimum 30 minute deckbuild usually until everyone is clearly done, 50 min rounds)
  • Prize Support (confirm with TO before announcing)
  • Questions on specific card interactions? (Be Prepared!)
  • Remind everyone to HAVE FUN!

Make sure to tailor your announcements to your store and your players.  If the players at your shop tend to leave all their prerelease material laying around, ask them to keep an eye on their stuff so nobody mixes their cards together by accident or loses their stuff.  If you know there are a lot of smokers in the crowd, remind them of round times a little more aggressively so they know when they should be out smoking and when they should get back in the store to get playing.
If you feel there are more newer players who don’t play often in tournaments, make sure to remind the room about improperly determining the results of a match. Consider adding an announcement in the last two rounds reminding everyone something along the lines of “We’re having a lot of fun, and want to keep it that way, so make sure that these last few matches are determined by playing Magic and not offering anything to your opponent for a result!”

Event Efficiency

One of the easiest points where you can begin in making sure that the Prereleases are as positive and fun for your players is being well prepared for the event, and making sure that it runs smoothly and on time.

There are a lot of standard things the store should have – most of these you won’t have to worry too much about.  Computer with WER, printer with plenty of ink or toner, existence of product and tables are all things the TO is responsible for.  Checking in on these is good, but should not need more than a little bit of confirmation.

Having a plan for the room is also helpful to be able to navigate collecting sealed decklists (if you opt to use them – most prereleases should not use decklists), for distributing sealed pools, and making sure your players can find their seats quickly. Also, clearly marking landmarks such as where pairings will be posted can save a lot of time turning rounds over. A clean and clearly laid out room reinforces a professional and efficient experience for everyone involved.

Finally, making the event run properly includes a special emphasis on deck build. This is the time where you can really get to know your players and demonstrate to them that you know them and care about their experience. Our survey shows that players want to see their judges more involved with helping them get better at the game. You can find certain players you have gotten to know and help them out with their builds if they need it, or help them decide between builds that they end up on the fence about. This may be for more inexperienced players but this is the point where you can show them that you’re there to help, not just issue them game losses and whatnot in the future.

Judge Perception

While communication between judges and players was certainly the most mentioned as a result of our survey, there was a startlingly high number of comments made about how judges are perceived by the players.

Whether it be a passive and silent arbiter, or an uninterested robot who could easily be replaced by the internet (real examples from our survey!) it’s difficult for some players to understand who we are, what we do, and most importantly what we bring to the game.

So how can you make sure that the prerelease is fun for everyone involved? It’s simple. Have fun yourself! Many judges who get the most positive reviews from players often get commented that it seems that they’re having fun, and that’s absolutely infectious to players. Engage the room, get excited when someone casts a monstrous Eldrazi, opens an Ulamog or Planeswalker, and just find ways to make sure you’re having as much fun as you can and you will be remembered positively for it.

Player Feedback

We strongly encourage every judge who works closely with a single store to gather feedback on their performance, either in the form of a survey or something less formal. How you become better at anything comes down to repetition with constant feedback. Just as in our Reviews on Judge Apps, and how we advise each other with feedback at events, our players are the best source for honest unbiased feedback on how well you’re performing, and where you can perhaps improve.

We ended up taking this survey at the Magic Origins prerelease, and a note from many judges were that they asked random players for a few minutes of their time between rounds and would ask a few standardized questions, but try to have genuine conversations as to how they felt and explore topics that the players brought up when being questioned.

So please, feel free to put together some questions that can help you understand where you can provide a better experience for your players. Be sure to ask for complete honesty, and ask for things that may be more specific to your LGS – how has your performance been in the past? Do they have any negative experiences from the past they’d like to discuss or mention? What positive memories do they have of judges? You can even ask what they feel about how the Battle for Zendikar prerelease is being run and proactively start working on what you’re going to do for Oath of the Gatewatch!

Time For YOUR Feedback

Now it’s time for us to turn the table on you. What do you want to see from this project? How do you feel you could use improvement or training, and how could we best present that for you?

Drop us a line at – we love to talk about what Judges can be doing better.  If you are interested in being part of the Customer Service project, as a judge or player, get in touch with Rob McKenzie and he can get you added.



Marcos Sanchez

Marcos Sanchez

AJ Kerrigan
Survey Management

AJ Kerrigan
Survey Management

Jacob Kriner
Prerelease Announcement Helper and Leaflet

Jacob Kriner
Prerelease Announcement Helper and Leaflet

Charles Featherer
Prerelease Announcement Helper and Leaflet

Charles Featherer
Prerelease Announcement Helper and Leaflet