Stage 1 of the NATC tournament, the preliminary round, will be held at all NATF organizations on one set day in January each year:
In the preliminary round, players will be randomly split into groups of four. Players will take to their assigned lane, then throw the equivalent of 3 matches (a total of 45 throws) and 9 Big Axes:
Once all preliminary rounds are complete, competitors will be ranked based on their average score, using the cumulative big axe score as a tie breaker if needed. These rankings will be used to determine who moves on and who gets eliminated:
Competitors will also throw 9 big axes, recording their total score. In the event of a tie in average score, the cumulative big axe score will be used as the tie breaker:
Their position within this stage of the tournament is determined by the champions points accumulated throughout the calendar year, not the preliminary round scores.