Tournament Reports as Tournament Essays

Written by Joshua Feingold

Written by Joshua Feingold

There’s a new requirement that you must write a “tournament report” in order to test for L2. A page of tournament reports exists on JudgeApps for reference and sharing. These tournament reports vary widely in format, length, and style, so figuring out how to write your own tournament report and what to include in it can be daunting. This article will examine the inherent value of tournament reports and formulate an approach to writing tournament reports that will bring more value to the reader.


Critical Essays, Not Book Reports

The purpose of writing a tournament report is for someone else to read it and learn from it. If the reader is going to invest time into reading your tournament report, you should strive to make it worth that time.

When you were young, your school may have required you to write book reports. These were essentially brief summaries of the book to prove you actually read it and followed the story. If you read the book, then reading a book report on that book is unlikely to have any value.

When you were older, you probably wrote critical essays examining themes of a book, recurring elements, references to outside events, and literary influences. You chose a point you wanted to make about the book, and focused on whether, how, and why that book had some specific characteristics. If you read a book and then read a critical essay regarding it, you learned something new.

Your tournament report should aim to be a critical essay, not a book report. Don’t just tell readers what happened. Explain why it happened and what can be learned from your experience. The value comes from analysis, not recitation.



Being overly broad in your report will dilute useful content. You don’t need to make your tournament report for everyone and about everything. Trying to do so will probably make it useful for no one.

Instead, focus your report on a stated topic. Use the first paragraph to help the readers understand what information you will take for granted and what you are hoping to teach. This will mentally prepare them–or let them know this report isn’t for them.

Do: Focus on discussion and insight

“This tournament had a number of very unusual rulings arise. During the day, floor judges approached me with four separate situations they thought a deviation might be appropriate, and I additionally deviated on one appealed ruling. While deviations are rarely advisable, I will examine each of these cases and discuss why I chose to deviate or not. I will be assuming the reader has a thorough knowledge of policy and focus instead on the philosophy behind each potential deviation.”

Do: Highlight specific challenges

“Last Saturday I had the challenge and pleasure of running a PTQ where two of my three floor judges had never before worked at a competitive event with more than 12 players. This tournament report will focus on how I managed each judge’s duties to maximize the quality of the event for the players and opportunities for mentorship for these new judges.”

Don’t: Emphasize unnecessary details.

“This event was a Standard GPT. We had 26 players. The event was scheduled for noon. The players’ meeting started at 12:13. Round 1 began at 12:19. The average round turnaround following that was 61 minutes.”


Exploring Themes

Your tournament report is built around the topic you set out in your introduction and molded to suit your audience. You should include enough detail that your target audience can both learn from your experience and offer constructive feedback.

Do, in a report on logistics for running an efficient tournament:

“I chose to seat players for round 1 at the player meeting. With two floor judges in addition to myself, we could quickly sort lists alphabetically after collection for a tournament of this size. This would allow us to avoid the 5 minutes of shuffling players into and out of their seats, as we would have had with an alphabetical player meeting. This also still allowed us to account for all deck lists of all players in the event before they began play – a key feature of the player meeting – and gave us ample time to sort lists prior to the planned round 1 mid-round deck checks.”

Do, in a report on logistics:

“Three deck checks were planned for each round without a full-round break: one start of round and two mid. As soon as each check finished, the judge who was not returning decks would go look for another table to swoop. This reduces delay between checks. As soon as he got back to the judge station, both participating judges began sorting. The match slip was then handed to the third judge who would pull the list for each before returning to the floor until he saw the judge swooping new decks. This speeds up the check itself. Using this technique, we managed to get three decks done before 25 minutes had elapsed in each round, making it easy to give half-round breaks following the end of deck checks.”

Don’t, in a report on logistics:

“Round 4 started at 3:09 PM. We did 1 beginning-of-round check and 2 mid-round checks. Each resulted in a 6 or 7 minute extension. During one mid-round we gave a Marked Cards warning and asked the player to replace his sleeves after the match. We had 2 appeals. One was a player who didn’t want a game loss for Drawing Extra Cards. The other regarded the interaction of Blood Moon and Fulminator Mage. The player thought Blood Moon made the lands Basic. Both were upheld. Three matches went to turns, but all finished quickly after time was called. Jeff went on a half-round break this round.”



In a report focusing on tournament logistics, the topics of round times, extensions, and deck checks are all things worth discussing. However, easily upheld appeals generally are not. In a report focusing on mentorship or deviations, the number and type of appeals may be very important to discuss.

Resist the urge to simply state things you know. Stay focused on the parts of the event that pertain to your theme. In your introduction, you made a contract with the reader. Some people stayed, and you don’t want to waste their time with miscellaneous facts. Others moved on, and you don’t want them to be missing valuable content because you told them the topic was something else.



Don’t let the idea of focusing of your report affect the notes you take during an event. It is critical to take lots of notes during the event. Don’t worry about your theme for now. Write down any information you think may be even potentially useful later. Don’t worry about writing too much down.

You may not know what lessons you learned until the tournament is over and you’ve had time to process feedback from players, staff, and the TO. You may even think you know what you want to write about, then discover later another theme would be better. Missing notes can hamper your ability to write the report you want to write. It is far easier to skip over notes that aren’t relevant than to recall facts you didn’t record. Write everything down.



When you wrap-up a tournament report, give the reader just enough information to succinctly remind them of everything you discussed. Remember, the reason you are writing this report is for other judges to take this knowledge with them. If you were going to quickly scrawl some notes to yourself in your judge notebook about your topic, what would you write? That should be your conclusion. Examples include how you can run a smoother tournament, decide on deviations, handle a DQ investigation, organize a deck checks team, rebuild a tournament after a WER crash, mentor floor judges during an event, collect information for writing a review, or whatever else.

Do: Conclude with analysis

“For the first couple rounds, I shadowed Bert whenever I had the chance. I was looking not just at whether he was correct or incorrect, but also at the way he presented information. I let him make a small mistake (i.e., LEC where it should technically be GRV), but I stopped him when he was about to make a big one (i.e., GRV vs DEC). After I had a rough feel for his knowledge level, I used some additional scenarios to dig a bit deeper. At the end of the day we talk about what I observed, and he reminded me of a couple important things I had been too busy to note as they happened.”

Don’t: Wrap up with details

“We had 5 appeals, 4 upheld. We checked 26% of decks in the field. We had one potential cheating investigation, but determined it was just very sloppy play. Except for round 6, we kept turnaround under 60 minutes each round. Failure to reveal morphs actually resulted in more game losses being given out than D/DLPs.”

Make your tournament report valuable. Think of it as a critical essay, not a book report. Determine what aspect of the tournament was worth talking about and who would be interested in that topic. Explore the relevant aspects of the event in enough detail that your target audience can learn and give feedback. Write down plenty of notes from the event, but don’t bog down your report with extraneous information. Give a summary they can quickly refer to or copy down to remind them of the lessons of the report.

Now get out there, and share your lessons with the judge community!