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By: dangerlinto, Mike Linton
Mar 08 2007 1:00am
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 By the end of this article, I hope everyone will have an understanding an appreciation of MTGO's best (worst?) kept secrets - the PRE!

The PRE is one of Magic Online’s dirty little secrets. And when I say dirty, I mean… wait? What’s a PRE? Oh – sorry – for those of you who are not aware, the PRE (not to be confused with PE - Premier Event) is the Player-Run Event. Generally a player-run event is a tournament that a player or a group organizes within the game of Magic Online. 
Why run a PRE, anyway?
So perhaps if you were unaware that the PREs even exist, it might be prudent to tell you why they exist. The answer is quite simple: they are fun. Though, “fun”, being such a subjective term, probably warrants a more in-depth and cohesive look at why some players and clan choose to run a PRE.    The most immediate reason that a player goes out of their way to run a PRE is too fill a void that Wizards of The Coast is not providing in MTGO.   For example, there are a host of Pauper Deck Challenge (PDC) events that the community of pauper players participates in. This community has been left to their own devices that they are currently running their 5th season of their many PDC events. Another community, one that I’m actively involved in, is the Classic community. Since MTGO hasn’t run a Classic-format Premier Event in over a year, the classic community has banded together to produce its own bi-weekly event to fill void of the classic tourneys that a small number of people wish to participate in.
When I say small number, the average PRE is usually getting anywhere from 16-32 people if it is fairly popular. This may seem like a nice size tourney, but considering the Standard and Extended PE usually hit 128 people, you can see why Wizards of the Coast choose to focus on those Events and not the ones people are generally running PEs for.
Wait – WoTC allows you to do this?
They sure do. There is nothing really wrong with a player running a tournament, provided it is run properly. However, if you were in the dark about the fact that WoTC even has player-run events, you wouldn’t be surprised to find out what WoTC doesn’t allow is for you to advertise your PRE in game. I think some of the reasoning behind that is obvious, but to be honest, I’m not really in a position to say exactly why that is. Sufficed to say, take it as read that if you see a player trying to advertise a PRE in the game, that person will be muted.
Ok, if you can’t advertise in game, how do I find a PRE?
There are several methods. Firstly, just because you can’t spam the casual or tourney or marketplace chat rooms with PRE info doesn’t mean the tourney organizer can’t drop you a line in a game. Often, I’ll play a classic game against someone (particularly in the Tourney Practice room) and if they seem really interested in classic, I’ll give them the info. However, there are two places you can go to find a LOT of information about PREs. The first and possibly most useful place is www.mtgopre.com This is a Google calendar that will show you the dates of many upcoming PREs. The other place is Wizard’s own message boards – http://boards1.wizards.com/forumdisplay.php?f=590 While the information on this site isn’t laid out in a nice calendar format, the threads are generally used to provide all the info you’ll need to participate in the calendar.
OK, I see those – all of them say that the tourney will be played in the /join XXXXXXX room. I’ve gone into that room and it’s just a chat room – where’s the tourney?
Ah – now we come to it. A player run event is exactly that – player-run. Not MTGO-run. Basically, everything that is being done in a player-run event is being manually managed by someone. So, on the date where the PRE is being run, people will conglomerate in the indicated channel and get ready to receive instructions from the tourney organizer. 
Now, at this point I just want to say that not *All* tourney’s are run in this manner – I can speak to the PREs that I’m involved in or have been to, but the following is a general run down of how a PRE will commence.
Entering the Tourney
Generally, the tourney organizer will have listed a time when “registration” starts. Say 2:30pm EST (it’s important to know your universal time code). So at 2:30, the organizer will be ready to accept registrations. The default method right now is for you to simply type ‘register’ in the chat window (old timers just type ‘reg’). What this does is let the organizer know you want to enter the tournament, and aren’t just there as a spectator or some other reason. Generally, that’s all there is to actually registering, as the vast, vast majority of PREs are free – for good reason. It’s very hard to get people to simply hand over tickets in trust. 

Entering the Tourney: Type 'register' or 'reg' to let the orgainzer know you want to join the tourney

Starting a Match
Once the registration is over, the tourney will start. Assuming a Swiss tournament, you will be randomly paired up with one of the other registrants. For the most part – the organizer is using the DCI software that a tourney organizer uses to run paper tournaments – DCI reporter. So if that is the case (it is for every event I’ve been to) then rest assured you are actually going through the same steps you would in a paper event, or that the MTGO PEs are doing automatically. Once everyone is paired, you will be asked to start your match – for the most part, these matches are played out in the Anything Goes room, since that room is generally empty and makes it easier for the organizer to oversee the tournament. In almost all cases, you will be asked to make sure your matches are 60 minutes (they must be timed to keep the tourney round length down and to make sure wishes are properly used) and watchable.  

Starting a Match: Remember - timed and watchable.  Now you know what the Anything Goes room is really for!

Reporting a Match
Just like in a paper event, you report your matches to the organizer. In MTGO, the job is made easier by the fact that your match is sitting right there in the completed matches section, so in case of discrepancy, you can usually just go back and check. In some PREs, you will be asked to report your results in a different channel, such as /join <tourney_name>_results – this allows the organizer to better view the results instead of having to wade through the chatter that usually takes place in the main channel. You should report your match results like this: W 2-0, L 1-2, W 2-0-1, D 0-0-3. These are examples of (in order): A match where you win 2 games and lost none, a match where you lost 2 games but won 1, a match where you won two games and drew one (yes, draws are possible), and a match where you and the opponent intentionally drew.

Reporting a Match: The organizer will take these results and enter them into the DCI tournament software

Following the Tourney
Some tourneys have varying methods by which you can follow along. Some update the thread on the MTGO forums with the updated standings and new pairings, while others use a website designed specifically for the purpose of reporting the results. The MTGO thread where the player-run event can be found will tell you what method of reporting is being used, and the organizer will be happy to let you know.

Following the Tourney: An example of an Eternal Struggle PRE standings.  The tourneys are usually swiss.

OK, all this sounds really great, but I have some doubts. How do I know my opponent isn’t cheating?
There are various ways this is controlled. For one thing, a PE generally takes 4-6 hours to run (and win) and the prizes usually aren’t worth a lot. Cheating for 5 hours to only end up with, say 4 tickets worth of prizes isn’t really a constructive use of a cheater’s time. However, here are some of the measures that are often taken:
Firstly, all the matches have to be watchable for this reason. Because the MTGO software isn’t being used, it’s impossible to force the player is using the same deck from match to match. And registering decklists is also an impossibly long task to perform. PREs are, in this case, run on the honour system. However, tourney organizers are often called upon to watch for suspicious behaviour. For example, if I see a round 2, game 1, turn two Meddling Mage naming Burning Wish, I’m going to look very carefully to make sure in subsequent matches that a) the player draws meddling mage game 1 again – if they don’t it looks like the switched their sideboard before the match started; and maybe b) that the player uses Meddling Mage in another situation where the deck might call for it – perhaps they are loading hate for each and every deck. In either case, since prizewinners are often called upon to post their decklists, it’s easy to check then the contents of their deck – so if you win prizes, you will be checked.
In some formats, there are deck restrictions that MTGO can’t enforce. In every case I’ve seen, the restrictions are so obvious (like for example, only 1 of each artifact land) and so easy to get caught breaking (Duress – hey, that’s Vault of Whispers #2!) that cheating would be very ill-advised anyway.
Sufficed to say, cheating is not as easy as it sounds – it’s possibly much harder than it is in a paper tourney, though it not as 100% as it is in a MTGO run event.
This is great! But who is giving away prizes for these tournaments?
In some cases, prizes are provided by sponsors. You’ve seen the really big bots on MTGO?   PREs is just one of ways these bots are stretching out to advertise. Others rely on donations – there are many people out there who are willing to sacrifice a card of value if it means they can keep playing in tourneys of their favourite formats. Kinda like PBS. In some cases, it’s a combination of both. Tourney organizers are always looking for sponsors or donations, so if you are interested, contact them.
What’s the competition like at a PRE?
These are tournaments – not a new-player free for all. Expect the best at each format, but know that the people who are the best of the best are generally able to make better use of 4-6 hours than to maybe win a Goblin Ringleader.   Because most PEs are not of the extended/standard format, and therefore information is much harder to get on the meta game it’s harder to get a read on what is a competitive deck. For example, I’ve seen people come into the Eternal Struggle thinking there combo deck would clean up only to find the turn 5 combo that they smoked the casual room with in classic was ill-equipped to even win a game.   At the same time, I’ve seen first-time players clean up with a simple, destructive low cost strategy. 
Whatever your play skill in the respective format, since most PREs are free to join, if you were going to be online for the next 4-6 hours anyway, might as well participate in a tourney for prizes and make some new friends while you’re at it!
So…now that you are in the know with respect to PREs, you should know that they are always looking for support. You don’t have to donate, just participating and spreading the word will do!
Some final thoughts about PREs – show respect to your organizer and your fellow players. Everyone is there to have fun and the organizers are there to make sure everyone enjoys the tournament as much as possible. 
I sincerely hope this article will drive more of you to join us in the growing PRE movement. (And for you would-be sponsors and donators - to help us along!)


newbier by maderj241 at Thu, 03/15/2007 - 19:18
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had no idea these even existed, wow am I happy i was unable to log in today

The Haze Has Lifted... by thescale99 at Wed, 03/14/2007 - 14:12
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Great Stuff! Ive seen these sorts of things before , but I never understood what was going on. Also, great that you included the links to the PRE calander and thread - they've been bookmarked!

by Necro1783 (Unregistered) (not verified) at Wed, 03/14/2007 - 12:42
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three cheers for PREs!!!

News to me! by jinx_talaris at Mon, 03/12/2007 - 22:37
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Thank you for making people like me aware of PRE's. I was completely in the dark about this until now and I have to say I will be participating in quite a few in the near future (whenever I can find that much time however). Thanks again :D.

Good Job! by Dreager_Ex at Tue, 03/13/2007 - 05:07
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Nice article, great content... I do have to say. You do need to upload an avvy and possibly post your real name or something since it kind of defeats the purpose to post your screename twice... and it doesn't look nearly as professional...

Avatar, Name and Thanks by dangerlinto at Tue, 03/13/2007 - 07:33
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Well, I got my mug up there for you all, but I'm not in the habit of putting my real name up in public. So you'll just have to know me as dangerlinto unless I email you.

Perhaps it should be a user setting to allow showing the person's real name - that way it doesn't look silly seeing it like I have posted.

And of course, thanks for the kind words.

Now get out and join some PREs!

Very Helping by Lord Erman at Tue, 03/13/2007 - 13:43
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I wasen't even aware of such events! What was I doing all the time?!!? Anyway, you helped me learn something, I therefore I salute you.

by NeoNetGen at Tue, 03/13/2007 - 08:26
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by SpikeBoyM at Tue, 03/13/2007 - 09:14
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Very informative without being too convoluted. Perhaps in the future, you can talk to the people who ran (run?) the Sunday FFA's, which are a very different matter of PRE?

Overall, great job (and thanks for using PDC screen schots)!

Awesome by dragonmage65 at Mon, 03/12/2007 - 22:00
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Great article - looking forward to more!

Avatar by mtgotraders at Mon, 03/12/2007 - 21:38
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Great article on pre's. Make sure to post an avatar! :)