A Magic tournament is a meeting for contest, often sanctioned by the DCI, where the game is played by individuals or teams according to the official rules. Winners will gain a prize. Tournaments are played using either a modified Swiss or a single elimination structure.
Sanctioned tournaments may be organized by a WPN member store, an independent tournament organizer (TO), on Magic Online or on MTG Arena. Current independent TO's are ChannelFireball Events (CFBE), StarCityGames (SCG) and Nerd Rage Gaming (NRG).
- 1.6 Tournament Organizer
The Tournament Organizer of a tournament is responsible for all tournament logistics including:
• Securing a sanctioning number from the DCI.
• Providing a site for the tournament that meets the tournament’s expected needs.
• Advertising the tournament in advance of the tournament date.
• Staffing the tournament with appropriate tournament officials.
• Providing all materials necessary to operate the tournament (e.g. product for Limited format tournaments).
• Reporting the tournament results to the DCI.
• Saving match result slips from each tournament for a period of 6 months (to aid in match appeals).
- An organized play activity where players compete against other players. See rule 100.6.
- 100.6. Most Magic tournaments (organized play activities where players compete against other players to win prizes) have additional rules covered in the Magic: The Gathering Tournament Rules (found at WPN.Wizards.com/en/resources/rules-documents). These rules may limit the use of some cards, including barring all cards from some older sets.
- 100.6a Tournaments usually consist of a series of matches. A two-player match usually involves playing until one player has won two games. A multiplayer match usually consists of only one game.
- 100.6b Players can use the Magic Store & Event Locator at Wizards.com/Locator to find tournaments in their area.
- Tournament Rules
- Additional rules that apply to games played in a sanctioned tournament. See rule 100.6.
The purpose of the tournament rules is to provide the infrastructure to run Magic: The Gathering tournaments by defining appropriate rules, responsibilities, and procedures to be followed in all DCI-sanctioned Magic tournaments.
There are two general types of Magic tournaments: Constructed tournaments, and Limited tournaments. In Constructed tournaments, each player provides their own deck, which much be constructed from a specified card-pool. At Limited tournaments, a random assortment of cards is provided by the tournament organizers, usually in the form of booster packs.
- Vintage — of all constructed formats, Vintage features the largest card-pool. Currently, this including nearly every black- or white-bordered card ever printed. The only banned cards are silver-bordered cards from the parody sets such as Unglued and Unhinged, physical Dexterity cards such as Chaos Orb, ante cards such as Tempest Efreet, and subgame cards such as Shahrazad. In other formats cards that are deemed sufficient powerful are banned; however, Vintage instead maintains a restricted list so as to ensure that a card will always be able to be played in at least one sanctioned format. The restricted list contains cards such as the famed Power Nine.
- Legacy — smaller card-pool than Vintage, with cards deemed too powerful (e.g. most, but not all, of Vintage's restricted list) banned, but other cards since Alpha allowed.
- Modern — limited card pool allowing cards from all core sets and expansions since 8th Edition, except for some banned cards. As a rule of thumb, any card with the modern (post-Eighth Edition) card frame is allowed. Supplementary products such as Commander and Conspiracy aren't included; however, the Modern Horizons sets are included.
- Pioneer — limited card pool allowing cards from all core sets and expansions since Return to Ravnica, except for some banned cards. As with Modern, no supplementary products are allowed.
- Standard — the most commonly sanctioned constructed format. The Standard card pool generally consists of only the most recently released Core Set and the sets from the two most recent Blocks, even if the block is not complete. It only rotates once per year, so before the first set of a new block comes out, it actually contains two core sets. After Magic Origins (planned to be the last ever core set), it will instead contain the last three (two-set) blocks, rotating twice a year. After blocks were retired, rotation was defined as removing the oldest four sets.
- Block Constructed — Block Constructed has the smallest card-pool of all the constructed formats. As implied by the name, the Block Constructed card pool normally consists of only cards from a specified Block. One exception is Lorwyn and Shadowmoor blocks, which only consist of two sets each, and are therefore grouped as the "Lorwyn–Shadowmoor block". This format has been retired from play, as nobody played it outside of when Wizards sanctioned it.
- Sealed deck — players are given a pool of six boosters from the current block to build a deck with. Usually the first day of a Limited tournament.
- Booster draft — players sit down in a pod of eight players and construct a deck out of a series of card selections from three boosters. Usually the second day of a Limited tournament, but some older Pro Tours had full draft tournaments.
- Rochester draft — eight players take single cards out of twenty four boosters sequentially with full information. Used for a time until the size of tournaments meant that every player doing one of them would take an untenable amount of time.
- 1.1 Tournament Types
Sanctioned, rated tournaments are divided into two types: Premier and non-Premier. Premier tournaments are run by Wizards of the Coast or select Tournament Organizers. They have unique names and features. Non-Premier
tournaments are tournaments that are not explicitly Premier. There are two major tournament formats: Limited and Constructed. Each has rules specific to its format. In Limited tournaments, all product for play is provided during the tournament. In Constructed tournaments, players compete using decks prepared beforehand. Some Premier tournaments may consist of multiple formats within the same tournament.
The Swiss-system tournament is the standard scoring and pairing for Magic tournaments. The first known tournament to use this style of pairings was a chess tournament in Zurich, Switzerland, all the way back in 1895. The system is designed to make players face opponents with the same record within the tournament, and also to make sure players can only play against the same opponent once (though exceptions to this can occur in multi-format events). It is common for tournaments to have a Swiss portion followed by a single-elimination portion that includes only the top eight (or top four for small events or for team events) players after the Swiss rounds. Players in the Swiss portion of the event are awarded 3 points of a win, 1 point for a draw, and 0 points for a loss. The number of rounds is typically determined by the number of participating players. The minimum number of rounds is as follows:
|Players||Rounds of Swiss|
Note that for the purpose of determining the number of rounds, players who are awarded byes (if any) count as more than one player, depending on how many byes they have. Players with one bye count as two; players with two byes count as four; players with three byes count as eight.
In the 2021 season of Magic tournaments, the Swiss system had an extra modification; players who had achieved a certain win threshold were given byes for the rest of the tournament, to avoid intentional draws and playoff-locked players influencing the tournament unconsciously.
Also in the MPL era, the single-elimination knockout rounds were replaced with double-elimination brackets, turning a seven-match day into up to a fifteen-match day. Part of this is due to the lack of the best-of-five architecture on Magic: The Gathering Arena, the major client in which the tournaments were held.
A round is a best-of-three-games match (Bo3) against one opponent. You'll sit across from another participant and play at least two games, maybe three. After each game, you'll have a chance to exchange cards from your deck with your sideboard. After the introduction of MTG Arena, which features a best-of-one play (Bo1) mode, Wizards of the Coast started to experiment with similar Quick Drafts at the FNM. However, Aaron Forsythe has stated that there is no desire anywhere to use Bo1 at competitive REL tabletop events.
Publishing Tournament Information
- 1.2 Publishing Tournament Information
Wizards of the Coast reserves the right to publish DCI-sanctioned tournament information at any time (including during the tournament). Tournament information includes, but is not limited to, the contents of one or more
players' decks, descriptions of strategies or play, transcripts, and video reproductions. Tournament Organizers are also allowed to publish this information once their tournament is complete. Wizards of the Coast reserves the right to publish penalty and suspension information.
- 1.3 Tournament Roles
The following roles are defined for tournament purposes:
• Tournament Organizer
• Head Judge
• Floor Judge
The first four roles above are considered tournament officials. The Head Judge and floor judges are collectively considered judges. A single individual may act in any combination of tournament official roles. Individuals who are not judges at a tournament are spectators in any match in which they are not playing. Members of the press are also considered spectators.
- 1.11 Spectators
Any person physically present at a tournament and not in any other category above is a spectator. Spectators are responsible for remaining silent and passive during matches and other official tournament sections in which players are also required to be silent. If spectators believe they have observed rules or policy violations, they are encouraged to alert a judge as soon as possible. At the Regular or Competitive Rules Enforcement Level, spectators are permitted to ask the players to pause the match while they alert a judge. At Professional Rules Enforcement Level, spectators who are not members of the official coverage team must not interfere with the match directly. Players may request that a spectator not observe their matches. Such requests must be made through a judge. Tournament officials may also instruct a spectator not to observe a match or matches.
- Jeff Cunningham (February 03, 2007). "Your First Tournament". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Gavin Verhey (February 23, 2017). "Your First Tournament". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Scott Larabee (July 18, 2016). "Magic Tournament Rules Release Notes". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Aaron Forsythe on Twitter (January 11, 2019)