Written by Kim Warren
Level 4, United Kingdom
Most in-store events are run at Regular REL. Some event programs explicitly require it – Prereleases, Launch Parties, Game Days and Friday Night Magic events all must be run at Regular REL. This also acts as the default for most of the other tournaments which might be run at your Local Game Store (LGS). The defining feature of Regular REL is that the focus of these events is on fun and education, which means that we are more forgiving of player errors and technically incorrect play than we are at Competitive or Professional REL events. So far, so good – but there are a couple of common misconceptions about Regular REL which I hope to tackle here.
Regular REL is not Competitive REL
This sounds very obvious, but the implications of this can be easy to overlook. The big one becomes apparent when Tournament Organisers (TOs) decide to add significant prize support to their Regular REL events. The motivations behind this are understandable and include factors such as local competition (especially true for events such as FNM or Prereleases that happen at very restricted times) or desire to reward a loyal player base. However, there is a cost to adding desirable prizes to an event: it makes people really want to play in the event to win that prize, rather than simply wanting to play in the event to play in the event. This has an impact on player behaviour, making people act in a more competitive and less helpful manner towards their opponents and generally changes the atmosphere of an event from one where people are just there to be social and have fun to one where people will do anything to win. And when something in a match goes wrong, the fact that Regular REL is not appropriate for this kind of environment becomes clear.
An example that I have encountered included a store which ran three prereleases over the weekend and had a promotional foil Wasteland as a prize for the player who had the highest number of points over all three events. As we got into the second half of the last event on the Sunday, things started to get ugly. Two events which spring to mind in particular involved an eight year old who missed a trigger against a much older opponent competing for this overall prize, who was harsh enough about enforcing this kind of mistake that he made the kid cry. Another incident involving different players had one accidentally drawing an extra card. At Regular REL, we fix this by putting a card at random back on top of the library and allowing the match to continue. The opponent was incensed that the judge was not applying a Game Loss penalty, as would happen at Competitive REL, and felt significantly cheated as a result.
One other thing that often comes up when discussing REL is the use of deck lists. It is not recommended to use deck lists at Regular REL – basically, it is a dull, administrative task which gets in the way of people actually getting to play Magic, which doesn’t really fit in with the philosophy of this level of play. The choice does exist to use deck lists if it is what your players want – for example, some stores request players to register their pool in limited tournaments so that there is a record which can be checked if there are concerns about someone potentially adding cards to their pool. However, finding yourself in a position where you think that deck lists may be required at an event is another flag that this event may be falling outside what should really be covered by Regular REL – normally because something in the prizes is desirable enough that people think it could be worth cheating to win it.
Prize support and the REL at which an event should be run is a TO decision, not a judge decision. However, judges can talk to their TOs and try to influence their choices. Explaining how desirable prizes can influence player expectations and behaviour and thus can result in poor customer service if those decisions are not met helps in most cases. Suggesting alternatives also tends to be productive. Some successful options include running a separate Competitive REL event with the larger prize, or else awarding the prize in a way which is not tied to performance – the store that I mentioned above has now started doing a random draw from the people who complete all three prereleases to decide who to award a special prize to (for Born of the Gods, it was a sealed From the Vaults: Twenty). Another option is to encourage a flatter prize support, where everything gets something and there isn’t a huge difference between the prizes awarded to each position in the final standings, which works well with booster prizes.
Casual Magic is not Regular REL
The Magic Tournament Rules (MTR)are still applied intact at Regular REL. What this means is that Regular REL is not synonymous with ‘anything goes’. Occasionally, TOs will advertise an event to be run at Regular REL which technically cannot be, because it violates some aspect of the MTR. Some common examples of this that I have encountered include Commander or Duel Commander tournaments, Chaos or Bag drafts (where players do not get the same product mix at the start, and where occasionally you will find silver-bordered cards) and ‘Food Bank’ charity tournaments which allow players to donate cards in order to ‘cheat’ during games. These events can only be run as Casual Magic, the practical impact of what is visible in the Planeswalker Points awarded – you receive one single Lifetime Planeswalker Point for participating in a sanctioned Casual event, rather than receiving Seasonal points for wins with multipliers based on event type and attendance.