Scorekeeping Vignettes

A couple weeks ago, I spent my Saturday playing in a PPTQ. Since I don’t play Competitive events regularly, this was a notable and revealing experience. The very next day, I engaged in yet another Magic-related activity I don’t often find myself doing: I scorekept a tournament!

Specifically, I scorekept the $5K Eternal Extravaganza Satellite in Newington, Connecticut. Although a mouthful to say, the event was basically an old-style $5K, with the TO (Tales of Adventure/Michael Caffrey) projecting 200-250 players. The TO staffed 8 floor judges, plus the Head Judge (Mani Cavalieri) and myself, which would have been more than sufficient to handle the projected attendance. In actuality, the event ended up with just under 100 players, which was positively luxurious.

I was quite excited about this 5K for several reasons. First, I got to stretch my legs in a role I don’t often perform. Second, judging an event in Connecticut was like a homecoming, as it’s the state where I really started my judging career. Third, the 5K was the first event I’d judged in the Northeast in 2016. Finally, the Head Judge happened to be my boyfriend. Mani had previously done a great job as Head Judge of the Modern Premier IQ at SCG Philadelphia, so I was excited to observe his repeat performance.

Before I could do that, though, I had to conquer one last hurdle: getting to the event.

Newington is about 2 hours from my apartment in Manhattan, and with Mani wanting to arrive a little before the 9am call time, that meant departing at around 6:30am. Only problem: neither of us owns a car. Fortunately, the friendliness of the judge community always makes it easy to organize travel. Abby Kraycar, another judge on staff, was going to be driving from Long Island, so it would be easy to pick us up on the way. Since we all wanted to avoid even the slightest possibility of an issue with New York City traffic, Mani and I decided to take the train out to Long Island to meet her.

Synchronizing with the subway and train schedules meant I woke up somewhere around 4am to attend the event. Yuck. Needless to say, once we met up with Abby, I was very eager to catch another hour or so of sleep on the drive up. (Thanks again, Abby! You da real MVP.)

As it turns out, a snafu with the event description could have saved everyone on staff another hour. The event description listed a call time of 9am, based on a 10am start for the event…but at least one of the online advertisements stated the event would start at 11am. Unsurprisingly, Mani and the TO chose to honor the later time. Although the crossed communication was frustrating, I also somewhat welcomed the extra time, as it gave me a chance to work out some issues with the registration process before we were truly slammed.

Like many other TOs, Mike uses paper registration slips to keep track of event entries, but with one added piece of tech: the slips are numbered consecutively. This helps greatly with confirming that you’ve registered all the players in WER (Wizards Event Reporter, our scorekeeping software — at least for this event). All you have to do is compare the number of your final slip (or the latest slip you’ve given out) to the number of registrants WER currently shows. As long as these match, you’re golden.

Although this system was great, it was complicated by one factor: there were two stations for accepting players’ payment, depending on whether they were paying with cash or credit. The station for cash was next to my computer, which made entering those players’ slips easy. But the other station, where Mike had set up his credit card reader, was across the room. Since we wanted to hand out slips consecutively, we couldn’t just drop half the slips at each station. So we directed everyone to stop by my counter and pick up a slip, which created a bit of a jam at times. To assist me with taking registration and money at the busiest times, I asked Joe Achille to pitch in. Joe was more than happy to help, and his assistance made everything go very smoothly overall.

With everyone entered and the player count confirmed against the slip number, I was able to fire the event promptly at 11am — always a good sign! And indeed, from my side of things, the rest of the event was quite easy.

My primary goal for the day was to avoid making any entry mistakes. Unfortunately, I did make two. Here’s what they were, and how I fixed them:

In one early round, I forgot to drop a player (“Jim”) who had put their name on the drop sheet. Fortunately, I noticed the mistake early in the round. And as it so happened, one player (“Bob”) had a bye this round…and Bob had the same points as Jim. So it was easy to break Jim’s original match against “Susan,” re-pair Susan with Bob, and get them playing Magic. Then I handled Jim by assigning him a match loss for the round (no Tardiness penalty, of course), then actually dropping him. (Of course, I made sure to export the event from WER both before and after this operation, just in case.)

The second mistake occurred going into the penultimate round. I somehow typo’d a match and entered it as a draw, instead of the 2-1 result it should have been. Fortunately, when pairings were posted, one of the affected players came right up to me and said his points were wrong. I fished out his result slip, silently kicked myself for the mistake, and immediately set about fixing it. The first step was to correct the player’s result in the previous round, but then I needed to fix the current round. I had at least three options: leave things as they are, manually re-pair the affected players, or re-pair the whole round. The mistake was my fault, so the first option didn’t make any sense. While I’m usually gung-ho about manual fixes instead of complete re-pairs, I very quickly started a total re-pair. My thinking was that, in addition to a full re-pair requiring less manual effort on my part, the mistake definitely impacted tiebreakers and standings that were relevant for Top 8/intentional draws, and I wanted to be sure players had full access to the correct information. For an event of this size, I think that was the right choice, but I’d love to get other people’s input!

Some other quick notes:

  • WER’s Penalties tab has gotten a lot better recently. Every field lets you type text into a search box: for example, I can type “Bara” to find myself in the list of judges, instead of being forced to use the dropdown menu. This is a huge boon since it’s now super easy to enter penalties with nothing but the keyboard.

  • That said, WER’s list of infractions lags behind the IPG’s. Notably, WER still specified Drawing Extra Cards, not Hidden Card Error. The only workaround is to enter Hidden Card Errors as Drawing Extra Cards, but you can prefix each so-called DEC penalty’s description with “[HCE]” to call explicit attention to the policy change.

  • When printing standings for the last and second-to-last rounds, make sure to print standings before actually pairing the round. This is because WER’s standings function doesn’t really give you the standings after a certain round: it simply spits out whatever the standings are in your tournament at the present moment. So if you’ve paired a round, the standings will include the result of any matches that had byes. Although this is rarely a big deal, it can be confusing and is easy to avoid.

  • I had a lot of downtime. Consider: even with our maximum size of 100 players, that’s 50 matches. I could enter one result slip a minute and still be fine. Of course, that simple average is very misleading, since slips often arrive in staggered intervals; on the flip side, I’m a fairly inexperienced scorekeeper and 1 slip/minute is still a major under-estimate of my actual entry rate. All that being said, using my downtime effectively was still a relevant challenge. I often spent the first few minutes of each new round “cleaning up” from the last one: sorting any slips that I hadn’t sorted yet, entering penalties I hadn’t gotten to, wrapping slips neatly, and generally keeping my station clean.

  • It doesn’t matter that scorekeepers can have “a lot of downtime” or that you’re not floor judging: taking care of yourself is still important! I was pretty hangry (hungry-angry) by the time Top 8 rolled around, which I could have alleviated by eating more snacks and with better self-care.

  • Louis Annino introduced the judges to a fun social activity (the “token game”) that I think he learned from the Brazilian judges. The activity itself is pretty cool, but primarily, I was struck by the fact that Louis specifically asked people not to bother me. This definitely makes sense for a bigger event, but as I mentioned up above, I had a lot of downtime. So once I found out about the game, I asked Louis to tell folks it was OK to include me, too. I definitely enjoyed the increased opportunity to interact with everyone!

  • Another of my goals was to chat with everyone on staff, which I’m happy to say I accomplished. I’d especially like to call out Zachary Apony, who gave me some great feedback, even though we interacted fairly little. In particular, Zachary shared that they thought I was a bit intimidating or even scary. This definitely wasn’t my intent, but it makes perfect sense. As demonstrated by how Louis asked people to leave me alone, judges quickly learn to give scorekeepers at large events a wide berth. Whether that mindset’s actually productive is up for debate (and definitely dependent on event size), but I do believe that’s our current state of affairs.

    Zachary also pointed out that I was a bit terse. I especially like this feedback because it goes beyond applying a “label” to me (scary/intimidating) and instead focuses on a particular behavior (terse communication). I might not know how to be “less scary,” but I can definitely work on being less terse. Thanks for the feedback, Zachary!

Overall, I had a fantastic time at the 5K. I’m definitely looking forward to the next time I can scorekeep a similarly-sized (or larger!) event. Beyond striving once again to avoid any entry mistakes, I’m excited to work on my communication and interact with the judge staff more.

Thanks to Mike Caffrey and Matt Daigle for being our tournament organizers, Mani for head judging, AJ Kerrigan for being our judge manager, and all the judges (Abby, Blizz, Jonah, Joe, Justin, Louis, Megan, and Zachary). Special shout-outs to Joe for rocking it at the start of the day, Abby for driving, and Zachary for great feedback.

Oh, and as if this event weren’t already awesome enough, I got to be a Pokémon master at the end of it:

Megan with Squirtle, Bearz with Pikachu, and Abby with Charmander!

3 thoughts on “Scorekeeping Vignettes

  1. The “Token Game” sounds fun. I couldn’t search it from anywhere so would you mind share us the game detail? Would love to hear some new fun activity ideas 😉

  2. I very much approve of doing a complete re-pair in the final round. The weird bit, as far as I understand (and somebody with more experience please correct me if I’m wrong) is that the final round is not actually random. Assuming none of the top players have played in an earlier round it should be paired seed 1 vs. seed 2, 3 vs. 4, 5 vs. 6, etc….

    When breakers change, even a slight bit, it’s entirely possible that it matters much more so than just making your math a bit different. It’s possible that you should be playing somebody else entirely based on how WER pairs that round.

    I’m also curious if you were printing standings and pairings for the last 2 rounds at the same time, or if you were waiting to print pairings until after standings came down. On the one hand it’s very convenient to be able to get both out at the same time and get a head start on the slips (which the players appreciate, the people who are planning to take an intentional draw are very happy with the least amount of waiting possible so they can go get food, or mai tais). On the other hand, if you wait just a few minutes you can correct any issues with records before anybody has seen pairings at all.

    1. The re-pair for this event was actually in the second-to-last round (if memory serves), but you have a great point about how an entry mistake would have an even greater impact on the final round.

      For this event, we posted pairings and standings simultaneously. However, given that WER essentially forces you to print standings first, hat’s another reason to post standings first/ASAP, and then pairings — especially for a small event, where it’s not a big deal for judges to go to the pairings boards twice. That being said, I’ve never seen the value in taking down standings (especially in an era of cellphones), so it sort of washes out in the end.

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