About Cascade Games
Cascade Games runs premier tournaments and convention events including large tournaments for Magic the Gathering and other card games.
We accept cash and checks. We are unable to take credit and debit cards.
For the latest news and announcements visit our blog at http://cascadegames.wordpress.com/
This is intended to be a FAQ (frequently asked questions) guide for casual players, who are interested in going to a tournament.
The information is not specific to a single game, but is useful general knowledge for tournaments as a whole.
Am I allowed to play? (Eligibility)
Most tournaments are “open”. Anyone can show up, register, pay the entry fee, and participate. Make sure that you understand the format, and have the appropriate materials to take part.
Some tournaments are “closed”. They require some form of qualification to participate. These can be based on your rating, where you live, your age, or based on performance at a previous “qualifier” tournament.
How do I get a rating? (Organized Play)
When you play in tournaments that are sanctioned the results of the match are
reported to the game company, and they will keep a rating of how well you have
done in those tournaments.
To track this, the game companies will often issue an ID number. This number is used at each sanctioned event in which you play.
Your rating starts at an arbitrary level (like 1600 or 2500), and then goes up or down depending on how many games you win or lose, and how good the competition is. The amount of points you gain or lose from match results is modified by the rating of your opponent. If you beat someone rated higher than you, you will generally gain more points than if you beat someone rated lower than you.
How do I get an ID number? (More Organized Play)
You will need an ID number to play in a sanctioned tournament. If you don’t already have an ID number, they are free and the Tournament Organizer (TO) will have a way for you to sign up for one.
I’ve found an “open” tournament, how do I sign up? (Registration)
Find out from the Tournament Organizer (TO) when you will need to be at the site to register. Often you can find the information on their web site. Sometimes it’s as easy as asking your local shop owner when to be there.
When you arrive, there will be an area set up for registration. It can be as simple as the front counter of a store, or some tables near the front door. The staff for the event should have a piece of paper or two for you to fill out.
A decklist is a piece of paper, usually with a bunch of lines, which you will use to write down the cards that you will be playing with.
If you are playing in a constructed tournament, then you will have brought a deck from home. Write down the names of the cards on your decklist, along with your name and ID number. If you are playing in a limited tournament, then you will be opening sealed product as part of the tournament, registering the card pool, on your decklist.
Why can’t I keep those cards? (Limited events)
The two most common ways to play a game in a limited format is a sealed tournament, or a draft tournament. In each of these events, you do not use cards from your personal collection. Included in the entry fee for the event is the cost of some product. This is usually several booster packs, or even sometimes a larger pack of cards called a starter deck, or a tournament pack.
In a sealed event, everyone is given a set amount of product. You will be given the same packs of product that everyone else is given, but since most games have some sort of randomization of cards within packs, you are never sure exactly what you will open. This can add to the excitement, and challenge of playing in such an event.
You open the packs, you sort the cards (alphabetically, or by card type, or some other way. The tournament officials will tell you how to do it), you write down the cards (known as a card pool), and then… they take the cards away from you.
Why, because it time for the A deck swap.
The great thing about a deck swap, is that one person will record exactly what cards are in a card pool, without knowing who will actually get to use those cards in the tournament. This means that if this person were to cheat, and add good cards, they would be helping someone at random, not themselves. If a player tries to add a
card after the deck swap, the judges will have the decklist to prove that the cards added were not originally opened by the first person who registered the card pool. This will be discovered when the judges perform a deck check.
Limited tournaments are not only a lot of fun, but also a great way to build your collection. You participate, get cards to start the tournament, then if you do well, you can win more cards as prizes.
Who’s the guy with the microphone? (Announcements)
When the tournament is ready to begin, the Head Judge will make some announcements. Pay attention! You may notice that a lot of players will talk during the announcements, or just not pay attention. They may feel that they have done this before, and they don’t need to worry about it. They are wrong.
Things change. Things like rules, format restrictions, procedures, policies… these tournaments are complicated. When something changes, the judges need to let the players know about the change, so that they don’t get a penalty for something that could’ve been avoided.
The Head Judge will talk about a lot of things... rounds, time limits, pairings, finals, a lunch break… all of this and more. The Head Judge may also talk about your rights and responsibilities in the tournament.
Okay, I’ve got my cards, they’re registered, I want to play! (Tournament Procedure)
When the Head Judge is done talking, he will indicate where the pairings for round one are. The pairings are a list of everyone’s names, usually in alphabetical order, telling you where to sit, and who you play.
This is what you have been waiting for! Find your seat quickly, as there are penalties for taking too long. If you absolutely have to take a quick break, talk to a judge first. If you don’t, you are likely to lose a game just because you are late.
There are a variety of ways that a tournament can be structured. The two biggest are single elimination and Swiss. Single elimination works pretty much the way it sounds. If you lose a match you are out of the tournament. Single elimination is used most frequently for small events. A common tournament format is a quick 8-person single elimination pod. This is most frequently a draft, but can also be used for constructed events.
Swiss is the most common style of tournament for larger events. If you have more than 8 people in your tournament, odds are that you will be playing some form of Swiss. If you see something listed as “modified Swiss”, don’t worry about it. A Swiss tournament is almost never actually run according to the real Swiss method. It is changed a little, hence, “modified”.
Basically, the way a Swiss tournament runs is that you will play a number of rounds, based on the number of people in the tournament. At the end of these rounds, it is common (but not necessary) to have a playoff of the top players from the Swiss rounds. This is called “making the cut”. The most common number of players to include in a playoff is 8. They can actually cut to the top 2, top 4, top 16, top 64… whatever makes sense for the size of tournament you are in.
In the first round of a Swiss tournament you are paired to play against an opponent at random. After that, each round, you will be paired against someone who is doing about as well as you are in the tournament. If you win the first round, you should expect to play someone who also won. If you have a 2 - 1 record (2 wins and 1 loss), you will most likely be paired against someone who is also 2 - 1 in round 4.
There are many situations where you will not be paired against someone who is at exactly the same record as you. Don’t worry. This is normal. People use the phrase “paired up” or “paired down” to describe playing against someone with a better, or worse record, respectively.
I beat my opponent, why do I have to play them again? (Tournament Procedure)
Most tournaments use a “best 2 out of 3” match system for determining who wins each round. You usually play until someone wins 2 games, although this can get complicated by draws. Let’s say that I win game 1 of the match. You win game 2. Now, we play game 3, but we run out of time before we finish. In some game systems, the game would be a draw, while others use some form of tiebreaker to force a winner of the game.
The same thing applies to a match. Some systems allow a match to be a draw, while others don’t. From our example above, say that we have each won one game, and the third game is a draw. This could force a fourth game, in some systems, or others would allow the match to be over, and call the entire match a draw. Be sure to ask a judge which way your game system works.
Why am I just sitting here?! (Tournament Procedure)
Delays are inevitable. Maybe your deck is fast, and you finished your match before most of the other people. You will have to wait until the start of the next round to play your next opponent. This is a good time to get in some trading, play some games for fun, or just take a break. Just make sure not to go too far, and keep track of the time, so you don’t get a penalty for being late to the next round.
Everyone else is playing, and I’m not. Who’s this “Bye” person supposed to be, anyway? (Tournament Procedure)
In a perfect world every tournament would have an even number of players. Sometimes that doesn’t work out so well, and you are left with an odd number of players in the tournament. This leads to someone not having an opponent.
When you are “awarded” a bye, you get full credit for winning that round. That’s pretty good, right? The bad news is that you came here to play, and now through no fault of your own, you have to “hurry up and wait”.
I’ve been playing all day, am I going to make the finals? (Tournament Procedure)
This is tough to know for certain. The simple answer is, if you win all your matches, you should be in the finals… if not, who knows. There are some other pieces of conventional wisdom that I can share, but it comes with the warning… there are exceptions to everything.
At most Swiss tournaments you will make the cut to the finals if you win all of your matches except for 1. This is called “going x and 1”. At most Swiss tournaments after you lose 2 matches, it is unlikely that you will make the final cut.
Sometimes you will be tied with other players in the standings, this is where your tiebreaks matter. If there are several people with the same record, and only one or two of them will make the finals, the player with the best tiebreaks gets the slot. How do you get good tiebreaks? As I said earlier, every game system calculates them differently. It really just comes down to trying to win all of you matches, and then hoping for some luck. It usually takes skill and luck to win a tournament.
Do you have any tips for players?