Head Judge O-pun-ing Announcements

Written by CJ Shrader

Written by CJ Shrader

At some point in most judges’ careers, they will need to stand in front of a group of players and tell them how the event is going to go. Head Judge announcements are an important part of running a tournament smoothly. Without them, players wouldn’t know what you expect from them throughout the day, and they won’t know what to expect from you.

Giving opening announcements should be a fun, easy portion of your day as Head Judge, yet for many it can seem like a daunting task. Whether you’re in front of a 12-person GPT or a 150-person PTQ, the good news is that Head Judge opening announcements all have the same basic structure and, with a little bit of preparation, can be a breeze.


“Hello players! My name is CJ Shrader and I will be your Head Judge for this event. Helping me today are fellow awesome judges Abby, Brian, and Charles!”

The welcome is easy: Simply introduce yourself and the other judges so the players know who you all are. Make sure to point out your fellow judges as you name them!

If you have too many judges to announce, just make a mention that you have a bunch of lovely, talented judges helping you and have them raise their hands. If you’re all alone, make sure to mention that so the players are aware that it may take longer for you to respond to their calls.

At this point, if the event is using decklists, it’s a good idea to tell the players a few things:

  • First, ensure their name is on the decklist.
  • Second, if you have them seated alphabetically, have them write their table number on the decklist. This makes it a breeze to sort decklists later.
  • Third, give them a minute to look over their decklist and ensure they actually registered 60 or more cards and have no more than 15 cards in their sideboard.

After the welcome is a great time to pass out product, if needed, or to collect decklists. A simple “Judges, please collect the decklists” is all that’s needed to let the players know that the judges will be coming to the tables.

Tournament Information

“Today, we have 75 players and will be playing seven rounds. This is a competitive-level event, so make sure to be clear and concise with your play. The rounds are 50 minutes long, and the tardiness policy is X/10, which means that if you are not in your seat within X minutes of when the clock starts, you will receive a Game Loss, and if you are not in your seat after 10 minutes. we will drop you from the tournament.”

After welcoming the players, it’s time to dump all the basic information they may need on them.  This includes the number of players, the number of rounds, the REL of the event, the length of the rounds, and the tardiness policy. Before coming up to give your Head Judge announcements, make sure you get information like player count from the scorekeeper.

When announcing the number of rounds, try to be sure of that number. Once a number of rounds is announced it should be stuck to, even if it’s incorrect. For the proper number of rounds for your tournament, see Magic Tournament Rules Appendix F. If the number of rounds is not determined yet, feel free to tell the players you will tell them how many rounds at the start of the next round.

Venue-Specific Information

“When you finish a match, bring your match slip to the scorekeeper’s table at the front of the room. If you need to potty, bathrooms are located at the back of the room. A food cart will be located right outside the double doors from noon to 2 p.m.”

Since you’re laying some facts on the players, why not lay some more? This is your chance to save your judges from answering the same questions repeatedly throughout the day. A player with an empty bladder is a happy player.

If this is the kind of event where you want your judges to collect match slips, be sure to announce this at this time.

Format-Specific Information and Policy Changes

“Since double-faced cards can be weird, I’m going to go over a few reminders for them. If you are using double-faced cards in your deck, make sure…”

“Due to a recent policy change, no electronic devices may be used during a match.”

If you need to announce any format-specific notes, now’s the time to do it. Innistrad limited particularly needed these kinds of announcements due to double-faced cards.

Also, if there were any recent policy changes the players need to know about, make sure to mention them. You don’t have to give a blow-by-blow account of everything that changed in the IPG, but if there’s something that is extremely likely to come up throughout the day and the policy is still new, feel free to mention it.

Calling a Judge

“If you have any issues while playing, questions, need a hug, or something just doesn’t feel right, be sure to call a judge. It is not enough to simply ask your opponent; your opponent does not like you. To call a judge, raise your hand and call ‘JUDGE!’ really loudly. Most important, keep your hand raised the entire time. A judge will get to you as soon as possible. If you are unhappy with the floor judge’s ruling, you may appeal to me. My ruling is final.”

Explaining to the players how to call a judge can save you a lot of headache later on. Make sure to tell them to raise their hand and keep it raised to minimize how many times you hear “JUDGE!” look around, and can’t figure out who called for you. If you are the only judge, make sure to mention this now and explain that it may take you some time to respond to the judge call.

Let Them Know You’re Here to Have Fun

“I’d like to remind everyone to clean up your trash and make sure you have all your belongings with you when you get up. If you have any drinks on the table, please put them on the ground.  We wouldn’t want your Delver of Secrets to become a Seltzer of Regrets.”

Ah, yes, the bad pun. What better way is there to bring players together than a horrible sense of humor? You want to let the players know that you’re there to have fun too, and something I’ve seen StarCityGames do and have since adopted myself is to either make a bad pun during my announcements or tell a bad joke at the start of my announcements. (Why should you bring two shirts when you go golfing? In case you get a hole-in-one!)  It’s not so much about getting a laugh (Nothing better than cracking a joke and getting absolute silence from the room!) than just showing your players that we don’t have to be serious all the time.

Pool Registration (Sealed Events Only)

“At this time, we’ll pause to allow everyone to write their name and table number on the deck registration sheet. [Pause.] Now, please open all of your packs at once and put the trash in the middle of the table for a judge to collect. Make sure to sort your pool alphabetically and by color, and to register it in the ‘Total’ column. If you open any foil lands, make sure to register them. When you are finished registering, you should have a total of 84 cards.”

To prevent a bunch of deck registration errors, explain clearly to your players how to register their pool. Registering a pool may be one of the most confusing parts of a sanctioned event for newer players, so I’ve found that it’s worth the extra time and effort to explain how to register the cards fully.

Having players sort the pool will make verification of the pool a lot easier. As mentioned earlier, having players write their table number on the registration sheet will make alphabetizing decklists much faster, assuming you sat the players alphabetically. (It also helps if you ever need to find the owner of a no-name decklist.)

Have Fun!

“Make sure to shuffle thoroughly, play fast, and most importantly … have fun!”

Your players are there to play a game, and you’re there to help them have fun doing it. End your announcements with a friendly reminder of this fact.


Now that you know what to say, it’s time to prepare to say it. Preparing ahead of time can go a long way in improving your announcements.

Before an event, I recommend navigating to judgebooklet.com and taking a look at the Head Judge Announcements reminder page you can generate. Much of this article is based on that helpful little page. Use it as a basic skeleton for your own announcements.

When taking notes for your announcements, the trick is to write down the bare minimum amount of information you need. Sure, you could write out your entire speech, but by only writing down little reminders your announcements will sound much more natural. You will also be able to keep your eyes on your players instead of a sheet of paper.

For example, an outline for the Head Judge announcements used as examples in this article might look like the following:

  • Welcome
  • Names of judges: Abby, Brian, Charles
  • Have judges pass out product
  • # of players:
  • # of rounds:
  • 50-minute rounds, 0/10 tardiness policy
  • Where to take match slips
  • Bathrooms
  • Food is at noon
  • Format-specific and Policy Change announcements
  • How to call a judge (raise hand, leave hand up) and how to appeal
  • Clean up trash/Seltzer of Regrets pun
  • Pool registration
  • Write name/table number on decklist
  • Open all packs
  • Sort pool
  • 84 cards total
  • Have fun!

Note that I left some of the information blank (number of players and number of rounds), but the vast majority of this information can be prepared ahead of time.


The goal of the outline is to ensure you don’t miss any of your important points, while also giving you the ability to sound natural. However, if you were to take this outline in front of your players right now you might end up stopping a lot to glance at it, filling your announcements with a lot of “ums” and “uhs” along the way. The easiest way around this is to simply practice your speech ahead of time!

Stand in front of a mirror and rehearse that bad boy. After only a few rehearsals, you’ll need to look at your outline less and less, and you will sound more and more natural. By the time you actually give your announcements, you’ll sound like a pro. I once had to fire four different prereleases in a single day, and I can guarantee that final set of announcements sounded way better than the first. If I’d rehearsed my announcements, they all could have sounded great.


Finally, it’s time to actually give the announcement. If you’ve followed all the steps above, you should be more than prepared to blow these announcements out of the water. Speak loudly and clearly. Smile. Look at your players as much as possible, but don’t be afraid to glance down at your outline to make sure you’re covering all your important topics. If you make a mistake, don’t worry about it and just keep on moving.

Remember, you’re giving the announcements to a group of people about to play a card game. Have fun with it. They’re here to have fun, and you should be too. The opening announcements are a great time to set this fun tone that can carry all the way through the rest of your event.