Murphy’s Tournament

Written by Niko Skartvedt

Written by Niko Skartvedt

A guide to what could go wrong when it’s up to you to hold it together

This article was inspired by my experiences at PAX where I got to be Head Judge all weekend.  It will cover many of the little things most judges don’t think about, or sometimes forget. Some of these things are the TO’s responsibility, but occasionally they are busy or need to rely on our professionalism.  This can be used for a small event, a PTQ, or a weekend convention with 25 scheduled events.  All of these are things that will go wrong.

Way Before the event:

Make sure the event is advertised, and advertised correctly.  Players should know when and where it is, how much it will cost, what format it is, and approximate prizes.  It is hard to run an event when half your players show up an hour late because the facebook event was typed wrong.

Before the event:

On the morning of the event, the Head Judge can show up one-and-a-half to two hours before the event and go through a quick checklist to prepare for the day.  Hopefully the store will open for you.

  • Table Numbers:  Setting up is easier when no one is there yet.  Make sure the order is intuitive, and if you have some in another room, make signs to direct the players.  Snaking is good.  Also, people will steal these (especially if you are expecting 840 players or more) and put garbage inside the numbers.
  • Chairs:  Make sure there are chairs for every table.  Set up seats for 25% more than you expect, and be prepared to set out more.  Make sure there is a 24 hour restaurant nearby for the top-8.
  • Judge Station:  Have an area for judges to perform deck-checks, and make sure it has chairs at the beginning of the tournament.  They will disappear in round 3.
  • Registration:  There should be a system for registration.  Sometimes the players pay, then go to the tournament area and enter their DCI number.  If your system is not working well, make it better.  See appendix one.
  • DCI Look-up:  Have a separate DCI look-up computer.  When the Tournament area does not have internet, *download the database before the event*.
  • Have new DCI cards available.
  • Paper:  Have a printer, paper for it, and a paper cutter (scissors are slightly better than a pocket knife).  Your printer will also run out of ink.
  • Pens:  Players will steal these, and judges will need them.  Make sure you are well stocked.
  • Product:  If it is a limited event, have the product out and arranged into sets of the correct number (be it Sealed, 2HG, Team Sealed, Draft, or Giddyup Turnstyle Flying Octopi).  Have Promo cards and other special prizes ready to be distributed.  When you run out, know where to get more.  Also know where the next closest store is.
  • Lands:  Have a basic land station, and make sure it is well stocked.  It will run out during the day, except the islands.
  • Garbage: Having a garbage can at the end of every table is a really good idea.
  • Clock:  Have a round clock that is visible for the players, and in the case of multiple tournaments at the venue, judges with watches.  You will forget to start this every other round.
  • PA System:  It’s nice when the players can hear you.  Make every announcement twice.  Be warned, though: they still won’t listen.
  • Note Cards:  Be skilled at running an event by hand.  Keep your round slips organized.  Your computer will crash in round 5.

Right before the event:

Your staff should have arrived by now, and that guy that’s late is bringing coffee.

  • Teams:  Some events work well with teams, some without.  The usual teams are Logistics, Paper, and Deck Checks.  If you have lots of judges and Logisting to do, then you can have a Floor team as well.  Even if you don’t have teams, you should have one person in charge of each of these areas to make sure the tasks are done.  Remind your crew of the basic responsibilities, and know the strengths and weaknesses of each judge. (See appendix 2)
  • Testing: If anyone is testing today, they will take one round to write, and one round for the interview.  You will not be able to find them at the start of the round they are testing.  Count on being short one judge for that round and two judges for the interview.  Judges do better on tests after they have eaten lunch.
  • Lunches: No one will want to go for lunch in round 2, but everyone will be starving in round 3.  Make sure the lunches are staggered and no one dies (or kills).  Don’t forget your scorekeeper, or the person running the drafts in the other room.  You will want to take your lunch last.  You don’t have to do that.

During the event:

  • Speech
    :  In writing your speech, keep it short.  You only have their attention for 45 seconds, beginning 15 seconds after you start talking.  If you pause for more that 3 seconds, you lose them.  There are only three things you have to say:
  1. Your name
  2. REL
  3. Number of players and rounds

Everything else is either gravy or in the TO’s speech, but you can also include: house rules, prizes, cut, appeals, pass if sealed, or “Count your list” if constructed.

Practice your speech.  More importantly, practice the transitions from one bullet to the next.  This is where most pauses take place.

  • Limited reg: If limited and there is a pass, think about how you will do this before you start talking.  Especially in team sealed.  Again, think about everything before you start talking.
  • Do not have the HJ call the draft.  There will be an investigation in pack two.
  • Before, WER had some problems with:

–Starting a tournament at a table number other than one
–Seating 2HG teams
–Seating the child with polio in the same seat every round
–Setting the margins on the pairings so as not to cut off two people per page
–Something new you will discover every tournament.

Keep these in mind.  Writing “Add 50 to your table number” can help.  Writing “Add 47 to your table number” will not.  Remember the margins! Oh good, you got that.  But you forgot the child with polio.

Players do not need to be reminded about 2HG rules.  They will play and have fun.  If they have a question, they will ask.  And you will probably get it wrong.  No worries, it’s regular REL.

Remember to make sweeps to check lands, chairs, and garbage every other round.

Go Home!  Your judges will not tell you when they are exhausted.  They would rather pass out on the floor than admit ‘weakness’.  It is your job to get them to stop judging when they are hurting or hurting the tournament.

Well, your tournament is over, and the players are thankful.  Things did not go perfectly, but you learned a lot.  There are no bad experiences, just more material.  Go home and teach others about tournaments.


Appendix 1

SCG events and GPs have you pay and type in your DCI number at the same spot.  In a store, you don’t always have cash next to the reg computer.   You can:

  • Have the players write their name and DCI on a reg sheet, and have staff initial when they pay, and run the paper between the two locations.
  • Give the players slips, and when they pay it gets stamped.  Then the players take the stamped slip to the reg computer.  At least 3 will forget it in their pocket.
  • Trust that the players paid.
  • Something better.

Whichever method you use, post a player list and have them double check that they are in the event.

Appendix 2

  • Logistics:  This team is responsible for everything outlined above, and checking on those areas throughout the tournament.  Also End of Round procedure.
  • Paper:  Paper team is responsible for posting pairings and standings somewhere that is easily accessible and won’t get confused with another event.  (They should also take them down.)  Paper team should hand out result slips, and have decklists for limited events.
  • Deck Checks:   DC Team Lead is in charge of the deck checks: start-of-round and mid-round.  During a tournament, we try to check at least 10% of the crowd, and we aim for 20-25%.  This breaks down as: 100 players, 8 rounds, 2 checks in each of round 2-7, sneaky check in round 1 (if you have the people; they’ll never see it coming), ears and eyes open for collusion and bribery in round 8.  Have a master player list so you can make sure you have everyone’s decklist.  Sucks to get to the top-8 and be missing an important one.

Special thanks to:

Mike Macphee, Max Knowlan, Tim Shields, Will Laycraft, Kyle Ryc, Marc Payment, Callum Milne, & John Carter