Running the Paper Team

Written by David de la Iglesia

Written by David de la Iglesia

Written by Carlos Rada

Written by Carlos Rada

At any Magic: the Gathering tournament we need a way to inform the players about tournament related information such as pairings and standings in an efficient and timely manner. We need to keep a record of the results of each match so the Scorekeeper can enter them into the reporting software, and if needed, the Head Judge can solve any dispute or mismatch in the results. We also may need to hand the players documents they might need to participate in the tournament (tax forms, deck lists, etc.)

All of these have one thing in common: they’re on paper!

At small events, these tasks may be dealt with in much simpler ways, but at bigger events we need to structure the different jobs that need to be done at the event. The paper team is in charge of posting pairings and standings for each round, of distributing the result slips to all tables at the beginning of each round, ensuring that it’s all done in an accurate, appropriate, and timely way, and to deliver any forms or documentation to the players.

The biggest workload for the paper team is at the beginning of each round, when they post the pairings and standings and distribute the result slips to all tables.

This is considerably easier in a smaller event, like a GPT or a PTQ, in which you will have around 100 players. When you face a Grand Prix with over 1000 players, things start to get complicated.

A tournament of this nature will be properly staffed; the Head Judge (or Head Judges if a tournament split is needed) will provide a schedule with different teams (such as Paper, Logistics and Deck Checks) and their Team Leaders (TL).

Day One

You are likely running nine or even ten rounds, so there is a lot of work ahead. Let’s take a look at the tasks your team has to accomplish.

The Tools of the Paper Team

Pairing boards

Where to post: You’ll need banners, headers, or some other kind of pairing boards that will allow players to easily identify the spot where the pairings/standings are going to be posted.

The paper team distributing pairing boards
The paper team distributing pairing boards

How to post: Tape. Lots of adhesive tape.
First thing is stressing how important it is to post paper high enough (above 1.80m/6 ft.), so the crowd surrounding the freshly posted pairings don’t block the view.

A common good practice is to cut pieces of tape and stick them beforehand to the sides of every pairing board, so when you’re going to post a pairings or standings sheet you just need to take one small piece of tape instead of cutting one while your hands are busy holding several sheets of paper. This will save up some time, and will make your job at the event easier.

Instead of using tape to stick the paper sheets to the pairing boards you can use instead transparent plastic sleeves, which can hold a page of paper each. You can stick these sleeves to a pairing board and then have your judges simply put the appropriate sheet of paper inside the plastic sleeve. This method is the preferred one at Opens.

Pairings boards, the SCG way
The SCG way


A paper cutter will be necessary to cut the entry slips. It is very important to make a “safety first” remark to your team about this tool. Make sure they know how to correct and safely operate the cutter and, if necessary, brief them with safety tips. Focus should not be on the speed the result slips are cut, but in being careful and avoiding rough blade movements, so there won’t be accidents.

Cutting machine
Don’t hurt yourself with your Trusty Machete!

Don’t take this advice lightly; you wouldn’t be the first to get injured at an event for not being careful enough.

Pairing boards placement and set up

One of the very first things your team should do is to determine where the pairings/standings are going to be posted. It should be an area of the event with enough room for the players to get there easily, check their table number and go back to find their table without much problem.

They should be able to reach the pairing boards and leave that area without trampling over other players or without getting imprisoned there by the horde of players wanting to do the same.

Ideally it should be in an area far from the main stage so the other teams and the Head Judge don’t see themselves overflown by the tide of players and can work on their tasks as well. You can set this up in coordination with the Head Judge. It is very important to make sure all team members know where these pairing boards are located, so they know where to go when posting pairings/standings.

In a rectangular-shaped room it will be easy to spot the boards from any point of the floor, but it might be the case where you have to work around difficulties, such as irregularly shaped rooms (in L form or with plenty of pillars, for example), or simply not having enough space between the last row of tables and the walls. In these situations you will need to get creative and find working solutions. This will mean that your pairing boards might not end up evenly distributed around the room, or perhaps they will need to be placed in a corridor or hall outside the main room.

Be mindful about not blocking emergency exits with the pairing boards. Once all pairing boards are placed check with the Head Judge and/or the TO for any problematic placements. Some venues are very strict about what can be placed where.

Don’t worry too much if you need to take these type of measures; the priority here is to have players being able to move to the pairing boards and back to their tables in a smooth fashion, avoiding the generation of jams or heavy traffic. Again, always check with the Head Judge.

The critical moment when it comes to player traffic is right before the player meeting. Observe the crowd’s behavior moving across the room, and make adjustments as needed for the following rounds.

At split GPs, you will need to prepare this for both sides of the event. Find the best way to distribute the boards within the space available, and if needed –maybe you will have a board right in the division line for both events- use both sides of the board, one for each side of the event.

Set up of name ranges

The Head Judge and the Scorekeeper should determine the division in ranges for the players’ last names to be divided in when printing pairings/standings. The complete list of pairings can be divided automatically by the reporting software in an even distribution of up to 6 ranges (A-C, D-F, G-I, J-M, N-R and S-Z for example). The goal here is to have an evenly distributed amount of players for each range, so we improve the access to each pairing board. The scorekeeper will be able to produce signs with the appropriate letter ranges so you can identify each board.

Name ranges FTW
Name ranged pairing board

The Jobs of the Paper Team

Handing out forms, deck lists, and other documents

Your team might be responsible of delivering any document that the players might need in this tournament. This includes, but is not limited to: Deck lists, tax forms, pay forms, surveys, etc. Note the exact task distribution may vary from one event to the other.

It's important to be in good form
No GP without [card]Bureaucracy[/card]

In case players are required to fill any form, your team members will be distributed across the floor, each one with an example form, helping players filling out the paperwork correctly and collecting them once they’re done. The Tournament Organizer may have specific requirements about this task – such as separating tax forms into two piles for US/non US players – so make sure you get properly briefed on what to do with all the paperwork once you start collecting it from players.

Posting of seat all players, pairings, and standings

The player meeting, as we already mentioned, is one of the most critical moments of the event. At this point we need to post a Seat All Players for the whole event, and you will need for this all the manpower you have available. The Seat All Players include the names of all players in the event seated in alphabetical order starting on table 1, including the corresponding table number next to each name. This way we can easily verify if someone is missing, and also helps to keep deck lists ordered, since when collecting those, players are already in alphabetical order.

At a split GP, and only for the Seat All Players, it is key to have both paper teams coordinate for this task. There will be two sets of seatings (one in green paper, one in blue paper, for example). These sets go up at the same time on each pairing board. Each pairing board will thus contain two sets of seatings, one for the blue side and one for the green side. The TLs for both paper teams should instruct their judges to wait to post until they have both sets, to simplify this task.

For every round just before the beginning of the round pairings by player will be posted. These are a list of all the names of the players in the event, and include next to each name the table they need to go to play their matches, as well as the name of their opponents.

In a split GP from this point until the end of the day, pairings will only be posted on the side of the tournament they are meant for (e.g. Blue side and Green side).

Pairings will be taken down more or less halfway through the round. If they’d be up at the end of the round there would be potentially some confusion among players, and we should avoid that.

Standings will be posted before the last two rounds, normally rounds 8 and 9. These include a listing of all players along with their total points and tiebreakers at the corresponding round (see MTR Appendix C for an explanation of tiebreakers). Not every pairing board will need standings – the exact choice is up to the TL in consultation with the HJ (make sure the SK knows how many copies you need!)

Final standings for day 1 go up after round 9. Note that it might be necessary to play a 10th round after making the cut that determines which players advance to day two. In this case standings will be posted after round 10 as well.

It is common etiquette to confirm with the HJ before posting anything on the pairing boards, so consult your HJ and make sure you two are on the same page.

Cutting result slips

Result slips will be cut and distributed as swiftly as possible.

Normally several team members will cooperate for this task, for example you can have one person to provide chunks of 10-15 pages (more will likely jam the blade), a second one to operate the blade, and a third one to keep the resulting piles in order. This way you keep a workflow where you have several members of your team participating, and of course the task gets done faster. Once slips are cut, give a stack of them to each team member to be distributed to the corresponding tables.

Once these tasks are completed, the whole team will float the floor along with the logistics team, taking judge calls and helping players.

Other tasks

Besides what we’ve described above there might be many other tasks the Paper Team might need to help with, such as crowd control, end of round procedure, event coverage, and, in general, assisting other teams: product preparation or setting up tables with Logistics, or collecting deck lists with Deck Checks, among others.

Day Two

The tournament will be much smaller than on day one, and so will be the amount work your team will need to take care of. Nevertheless, you need to check out some things before the tournament starts. If you’re new to Team Leading check beforehand with whoever was Paper TL on day one (he or she will likely know where to find all the tools you need, for instance).

You’ll be doing more or less the same tasks described above for day one. The biggest difference will be the size of the play area, so your pairing boards will need to be positioned accordingly. There might be small differences on how you deal with standings as the event comes to an end, make sure to engage the HJ on this.

Limited Extras

It is worth mentioning the extra work that a Limited format GP carries. For both drafts on day two you will need to provide seatings of players by name, seatings of players by pod, seatings for construction, and pairings by player.

Seatings of players by name will be an alphabetical listing of all players in the event, that will include next to each name the number of pod each player has to go to, very similar to pairings by player.

Podding for winners
Podding for winners

Seatings of players by pod and seatings for construction will be dealt on the tables, cutting the appropriate sheet of paper for each pod into small pieces. The former comes right out the reporting software, and has to be distributed as players are finding their pods (or before if you have the time and the manpower), and will specify what seat each player has to occupy within the pod. The latter needs to be done manually by the scorekeeper, and will be distributed on the tables while the last booster is being drafted, and will include the correct table for each player to seat for building his deck. Players from the same pod will be separated as much as possible from each other. Typically all players on seat number 1 for each pod will be sitting close to each other, then players on seat 2, and so on.

Generic Guidelines

You may assume that the procedures described above have the TL in charge of everything, but this is far from ideal. There are some subtasks that can (and should) be delegated, like for example making someone responsible to take down parings or to get paperwork from the printer.

Remember the goal is to successfully run the event, and as described, besides your own team’s priorities you might need to make your team available for other teams to complete their tasks, such as the end of round procedure or assisting with coverage. Identify the moments when you need to have your team focus on your own tasks, and when you can pool resources and be available for others.

The key for the paper team to succeed is to be timely and attentive at the beginning of the round. Have a good communication with your team members and brief them with the relevant information on the priorities the team has, and oversee them making sure tasks get done.

For more information about team leading and how teams interact:

Running the Logistics Team
Running the Deck Check Team