Logistics, what is that anyway?
Logistics is the planning and managing of a set of complex tasks. Success will depend on how efficiently you manage the resources available and on how fast and easily you are able to adapt to the variances on the flow of those resources.
At your local Prerelease or FNM, your logistics are going to be pretty simple. Most likely you will be running the event at your local brick-and-mortar shop and tables, chairs, computer, printer, etc. will be already set up for you, since the venue probably holds events regularly. Also, the attendance will be small enough to be handled with the help of just a couple of judges. Distribute the product, address the players, and get the event running.
Now let’s consider an 1800 player Grand Prix. That is truly challenging!
For sure, a Grand Prix of this size will be properly staffed; the Head Judge (there will be several HJs if the event is split) will provide a schedule with a Team Leader (TL) system, a system where an experienced judge will be handling a team of four to six judges. These teams are normally Logistics, Paper, and Deck Check. Typically there will be one TL for Logistics on each side of the event, because with an event this big the event is usually going to be run as a split GP, this means there may be two (or even three) separate events on day one whose outcomes will be merged for day two, effectively duplicating the tasks and responsibilities for each side but lowering the complexity of operations by having a more manageable event size.
You will be running nine or ten Swiss rounds of Sealed play, so let’s get into the details of the tasks your team will be facing.
Top priority for the day is having a head count of the number of registered players in order to have prepared enough tables, table numbers, and chairs. This is a task the TO usually will take care of before the venue is opened to players, since moving around in a crowd of players (all of them with backpacks) will slow any operation you may possibly want to run after that. Once you have the room set up with the estimated amount of tables, table numbers, and chairs, it may be necessary to add more if attendance goes well over expectations. On Friday night you may have a prediction based on preregistrations. For European GPs, the rule of thumb is that two thirds of the final attendance will preregister on Friday afternoon.
For setting up table numbers, a task you will want to do before players swarm the room: two or three judges can write the numbers on foldable table tents with Sharpies (or stick printed numbers on those tents), and then the numbered tents are distributed and folded following the HJ’s instructions regarding the direction of the numbering, usually following a “snake” pattern.
Preparation of product and other materials
Product is the most important resource to be prepared for a limited event; do some math to figure out how much you need to prepare and distribute (six boosters per player) and get your team opening booster boxes like crazy.
For 1800 players you will need 10,800 boosters; 50 cases worth of product. Locate the product and get your team to prepare it in a way that facilitates its distribution. Count it and then count it again, it is of capital importance you get your numbers right. You can fit product for up to eight players in a single booster box, as shown in the following picture. If the format includes multiple sets you will also need to make sure boosters of the appropriate type are sorted and prepared so each player receives the right amount and type of product.
To perform the swap, deck boxes may be delivered to the players so they can put the contents of the pool they opened together with the decklist to pass it away easily. Other options may be used for the players to perform this task, such as rubber bands or plastic bags. Participation foils, play mats or any other goodies may be given out to players; if this is the case you will also need to count and prepare them for distribution.
You will also need to prepare and/or locate other materials that will be used during the day by your team or even by other teams. Your team will be responsible for facilitating the means needed by other teams for their assigned task. Find basic lands; verify you have enough for all players, considering that a small sleeve will be enough for 12-16 players. Deck lists of different colors for each side of the GP should be available; locate them and make sure there are enough of them. Deck Check teams will need deck list folders to store all deck lists alphabetically sorted, and the Paper team, who will most likely be busy at this time of the day with registration, will need to set up pairing boards. Locate those boards and coordinate with the Paper Team Leader where the panels need to be located and how name ranges will be distributed. The Paper team will also need tape and paper cutters.
Coordination of distribution
Figure out a system to distribute deck lists, product, deck boxes, play mats, participation foils, and/or other goodies or material. You can use flight cases as trolleys to move around all materials. Make sure judges don’t clump in certain areas and the distribution is done in a coordinated way so no players are left without receiving any of the materials they need.
When players start registering pools, a lot of trash will be generated – plastic bags will be needed to dispose all waste. Your judges will need to pick up all this trash with their hands, unless you take advantage of other materials used in the event. Once you have delivered the entire product contained in a booster box, instead of trashing that box, just leave it on the table. Players naturally will put trash into the boxes instead of leaving it on the table, facilitating the work for all floor judges in keeping the room tidy.
Distribute basic lands directly on the tables; leave a handful of lands out of the small sleeves for every four players. Also a couple land stations may be arranged somewhere in the room in case players need more of a specific type of land. This method is more effective than arranging only land stations that would get easily swarmed; players will have easier access to basic lands and will finish deck building earlier. The HJ will instruct players in his announcements to write the table number they are at their deck list to facilitate deck list sorting, and to give their deck lists to a judge once they are done with deck building. While judges are around getting those deck lists, they need to retrieve the spare lands remaining on the table for later use.
End of Round Procedures
This task is vital for the event to run timely, and it can be performed by any member of the team under the TL’s supervision. The procedure is as follows: a few minutes before the end of round you need to flag those tables with extra time so a judge goes to the table and keeps track of the time extension and instructs the players to go to extra turns at the appropriate time. Then the scorekeeper will give you a list of outstanding tables, and all remaining tables should be checked to see if the match is still ongoing, or if there is an unaccounted entry slip. When there is only a handful of tables remaining, each of them need to have assigned an experienced judge to take care of potential slow play. It is important to track which judge is assigned to each table.
Now the event consists of two drafts, six rounds of Swiss play, and a Top 8.
Right after round 9 of day one you need to figure out how many players will advance to round 10 and day two competition, and how many pods will therefore be needed for day two. The room configuration will be smaller in size, but will need to be prepared for a dual purpose: drafting and playing. This means table numbering needs to be duplicated; besides setting up regular table numbers, also pod numbers on separate foldable tents will be needed.
Preparation of product and other materials
I’d like to strongly advise in favor of having product prepared at the end of day one. The product may be stamped; this is usually the case for European and North American GPs, where Wizards of the Coast provides the product. Note this may vary with different TOs and/or over time. In WotC’s system, boosters are opened, the foils are replaced with random commons, cards are stamped and sealed with labels marking the number of the draft, the number of the seat within the pod (1 to 8) and the order for the product to be opened (A, B and C). You will need to make sure you have enough of this for both drafts and the Top 8.
Again, deck lists are needed. Using a different color for each draft is optional, but a good practice for sure; coordinate with the Paper team on the location of pairing boards and set up the necessary tensa-barriers or other crowd control tool around the drafting area. It is important spectators are kept at a distance during drafts so they don’t interfere.
Coordination of distribution
Brief all team members on whatever system you intend to use to distribute the product. I’d advise to avoid distribution-per-seat systems; always pre-sort and distribute material by pod.
It is a good idea to have some spare booster replacements handy in case they are needed due to any potential problem with stamped product. For day two you only need to consider two aspects regarding product distribution. First, some pods will have fewer than 8 players, and you will need to remove exceeding product. Second, if you use the numbered labels system, you will need to get the product distributed in the appropriate order (clockwise). Make sure the product is well guarded until players are allowed to sit at the tables to start drafting.
In order to keep the product safe from unwanted hands and to not lose too much time by waiting to distribute it all in the last minute, I suggest using a technique I learned from the Italian judges. What they do at their National Championship is prepare the product for each pod, then put the necessary product each pod in an empty booster box – remember, you will have plenty of empty booster boxes lying around from day one – and simply place one box per table, so the product can’t be manipulated in any way without opening the box itself. Then at the very last minute it can be distributed very easily and fast within each pod.
Again, you’ll need to pick up some trash and to distribute lands and possibly also set up a couple of land stations.
End of Round Procedure
No changes from the procedures used on day one, the event is of a much more moderate size, and easier to manage regarding this task. If your team is more proactive you will save lots of time; for example, if there are ten outstanding tables with 15 minutes left in the round, don’t wait for the round to end – make sure those tables get covered as soon as possible.
The procedures described so far on this article always say “your team,” but it is relevant to stress how important is to communicate and coordinate with the other Logistics Team Leader if your GP is split. It may happen there is a Logistics “overseer” for the event, and then separate Team Leaders for each side. Keep in mind that the Logistics team is responsible for arranging how these tasks are executed, but when it comes to do the actual work you will need to communicate with other Team Leaders so you have judges from their teams available to implement what you have planned.
Some of the tasks, like product preparation, need to be done together with the other Logistics team; while others, like table numbering, will be done separately for each side of the GP. Identify the areas where you need to pool resources and the ones where you need to diversify operations and staff to carry out different tasks at the same time. For example, deck boxes can be prepared by a few judges and at the same time a few other judges can take care of getting deck lists ready. The schedule may have a certain team assigned to “assist Logistics.” When you have other teams helping your team, give them a defined subtask and put their team leader in charge of its coordination.
The key for Logistics teams to succeed is to have a good flow of communication between TLs. Your interaction with the other TLs will define how effectively your plan will be implemented, and remember to not only have that plan, but also to not micromanage every single task yourself: split efforts, brief judges with the relevant information and oversee them making sure tasks get done.
For more information about team leading and how teams interact: