PPTQs: Head Judge-TO Communication

Written by Kyle Evans

Written by Kyle Evans


Since the PPTQ system has been introduced, there have been a lot of stores running a larger- scale event. Keep in mind for many of these stores, the largest event they have ever run is a pre-release, so it’s important to establish some facts and expectations to make events run as smoothly as possible for yourself, your TO, and most importantly, your players.


Types of Stores

There are two main types of stores you will encounter as you are asked about events:

Established Store

  • This store had a PPTQ in a previous season, and the previous Head Judge is unable to work this event or wants to give another judge the opportunity.
  • This store may have been part of the “old guard” PTQ rotation.

New Stores

  • This store might be new to being an Advanced Store, new to the PPTQ game.
  • This store may have done GPT’s in the past or is new to Organized Play.

Both types of stores have important steps, but for the purposes of this guide I will be focusing on the New Stores. Established Stores normally have a history of understanding expectations, but if you feel like the store isn’t fulfilling these expectations, you might consider discussing some of the line items in this guide.



This is the most important step for several reasons. You want to establish yourself as an authority on these events and be respected as a member of the community. If the store is close by, consider going in person to talk to the TO. This will also allow you to scope out the play space and find potential issues.



TO’s have the choice for their PPTQ to be Limited, or Constructed. The Constructed format matches the Pro Tour if will feed (Standard or Modern). The key distinction you need to stress with any TO is Sealed events require the store to provide product and are going to take at least an hour longer, perhaps another two if you include a T8 draft. Limited events are challenging to determine their margins because they either have to charge more for entry, or slash their prize support in order to keep costs low. Limited events are rarer and you may receive an attendance bump due to players traveling, but it is likely negligible compared to the increased cost. Make sure you talk to your TO and they understand the scenarios for each Format. If that particular store has a large Limited base it may be of greater benefit to them to host a Sealed event. If you don’t feel comfortable advising the store about the format they choose you can suggest they talk with another store who has been running PPTQ’s or another judge who may have experience in this area.



During your pre-event visit the store in person is a good time to scope out the layout. Take note of the physical space and available tables and chairs. If you feel the event is going to be too large, encourage the TO to offer pre-registration and set a cap. Remember that maximum capacity does not equal comfortable, so factor player comfort into determining the cap. Ensure both pre-registration and the cap are announced well in advance. If the store does not have table numbers, make some before the event. You do not have to get fancy with table tents. Paper and tape have served us well for years.



Ideally, the HJ is solicited before the PPTQ date is set. Regardless, you can make some suggestions on setting or changing the event date. Choosing the optimal date is important because it can directly affect attendance at the event. Try to avoid nearby SCG Open Series and GPs. You should also try not to hold a PPTQ the same day as another store in your city/metro area. Not as many stores utilize Sunday as a viable option, so I advise you and the TO consider a Sunday PPTQ to avoid scheduling conflicts with other events.

For timing, highly encourage stores to start before noon. A well-run event has an hour allotted per round (50 + turnaround time). Knowing this, for an event with estimated attendance to have 5 rounds of Swiss or more, you can well assume your event will last no less than 6 hours with a more accurate representation of 8 hours for a 5-round tournament. Also, with preparation time before and debriefing after the event, you are easily in for a 10 or more hour day, not including drive time. Stress this point to the stores, possibly even encouraging them to open earlier if necessary, to make a 10 or 11 am start time.


Developing Responsibilities

Now that the major factors of your event are in place, it’s time to sit down with your TO and hammer out some specifics of what they expect you to be responsible for. This can help guide your actions in the following sections as well as understand your responsibilities prior to the event to avoid confusion.


Pre-event Preparation

These are the items important to consider prior to any PPTQ:


Make sure tables and chairs are set up in preparation to meet the expected attendance and at maximum comfortable capacity for the players. It’s usually easier to set up more tables before the event than trying to rush to get more seating while the venue is full of players. 

Deck Registration Sheets/Pens

Whether it’s Constructed, or Limited, you will need Deck Registration Sheets. Have these printed prior to registration and allow players to complete them for Constructed events during registration. For Limited events, especially those involving multiple sets, try to organize these sheets to make it easier for you and your players. Consider front/back printing for multiple sets (usually no more than 2). This is also a good time to remind the TO to stock up on paper products and toner and ensure their printer is working correctly. Printer problems top the list for unnecessary delays for store-level events (and some larger events too!).

Limited Event Product

Limited product should be set aside and prepared ahead of time if possible. Coordinate with your store to get an idea of what to expect completed before you arrive so you can plan your expected arrival time.


Judge Staff

Store-level PPTQs are a great opportunity for judges to get Competitive REL experience and will run much more efficiently with more than just the Head Judge. Encourage the store to support a Floor Judge to work with you. Some stores would rather have another Judge on staff without considering attendance. If attendance is uncertain, at the very least a standby judge should be available for a predetermined number of players. This number can vary depending on store layout or staff experience. TOs can provide free PPTQ entry to Standby Judges that do not get activated to offset their time with travel. The goal is to have your event adequately staffed for a positive event experience.

Some stores that prefer to have their store L1 or employee be the Floor Judge for the event. I encourage this as it promotes familiarity and education between the store, judges, and players. It’s a good idea to communicate expectations and the plan with the judge before the event, so I suggest contacting the store judge before the event to introduce yourself. Use this as a mentoring tool as well as a way to evaluate possible candidates.

If the store does not have suggestions and is uncertain how to solicit judge staff,  it will be your job to post the event and get some extra help. Try to post your event as early as possible to give other judges advanced notice to apply and plan on the event. Try to have a contingency plan if there are no applications such as directly contacting local judges. Regardless of who finds staff, post your event in JudgeApps with the correct judges and their roles to show future Judge Managers that you have event experience.


Event Staff

In addition to judge staff, it is imperative that you discuss who will be in the store during your event. It is unreasonable for you to be  expected to do all actions of a tournament alone, and agreeing to this is likely to be a disservice to the you, the players, and the store. Ask if someone is going to be available to be a Scorekeeper. It’s important to know if you or your judge staff will have to register and/or do a portion of the Scorekeeping. Often this is handled by an employee or designated SK from the store. As an L2, you should have familiarity with WER and be able to handle common problems if the store has issues with the software. The store SK may not know how to do is register penalties. Make time to show them how penalties are entered into the system. Educate the SK that timely results entry is key to minimizing round turnover. Ideally, the SK should have minimal other responsibilities such as starting other events or handling customers at the counter.

Clarify ahead of time if the judge staff will be responsible for distributing prize support. Usually the TO has players report to store staff but they may defer to you. Asking ahead allows you to provide final results to the store staff or prepare prizes yourself. It’s best to have these prepared in the last round to facilitate players to “cash out” and leave when they want to.



This should not be a touchy subject, but is one that often causes discomfort in judges, especially when the TO and HJ have not worked together. Less-experienced stores are probably acustomed to providing an L1 less compensation for smaller events. PPTQs require an L2 with more complex skills and the TO should be educated about event needs and the judge’s experience. This discussion can be more comfortable if the judge can objectively discuss some comparable events and compensation. Don’t be afraid to ask other judges what they request for compensation or ask the store what their previous compensation agreements. This gives you a baseline to think about when you craft your own conversations with the TO. To protect against low turnout, you might offer a minimal compensation as well as an attendance “bonus” with an upper cap. For example, if I were to agree to HJ a PPTQ that expects 12-20 I might agree to work for 1 Box minimum with 1 pack per player to a maximum of 2 boxes.

Describe your expected compensation, be it in cash, meals, and/or money. If you want 2 boxes of a specific set, tell them. If you want Lunch, tell them that as well. It’s reasonable to request reimbursement if you have to travel a long distance to attend the event. Be honest about what you think is fair to meet your time and travel needs. Be fair and cooperative if the store doesn’t understand your compensation needs. Do not feel that you have to devalue your time if compensation cannot meet a minimum expectation. Judge compensation should be a factor in the store’s operating cost to run the event and sometimes it can’t work.

Be specific on compensation and get the agreement in writing before you commit to the event. It is not acceptable for compensation to change without discussion. If the TO deducts compensation due to turnout or a disagreement with your performance, let your RC know. This should be discussed and addressed before you or another judge agree to work with that TO again.




You should never feel obligated to do an event because you are their normal judge, live closest to a store, or any other reason. I would highly recommend you do not bail out on a commitment a few days before an event, but there is no shame to saying “no” to a store. If you are a newer L2, you might feel obligated to do what you can to make an event happen. That’s an appreciable quality for high drive in the Judge Program. However, you should not be subjected to poor tournament conditions, inadequate compensation, extra work, or any mistreatment just because it’s an event to run. Try to talk to the TO beforehand and see if issues can be corrected, in writing if possible, before you decline their event. Talk to your mentor or RC about the situation as well. It is your choice in explaining why you are declining their event. Be polite but honest if you are not interested in working with the store again, and be cautious of stores that promise to make changes to attempt to bring you back. Always get agreements in writing and explain your expectations and limits.



From beginning to end, I’ve stressed that communication is the most important aspect of planning PPTQs. Good communication with your TO ensure your event will be fun for everyone, including yourself. Hopefully this was a good primer on discussing these important topics before your event!