Tournament Reports, What are they Good for?
To figure out “what makes a good report?” we need to identify our audience and their interest in reading a report. In other words, “why do people read tournament reports?” By polling literally no judges, I’ve come to the conclusion that judges read tournament reports primarily to harvest information that might help them level up their rulings and event administration skill trees. Therefore, the first element of a good report is relevant information.
But Toby, if we just wanted dry information, couldn’t we read the comprehensive rules or the IPG?
Why yes, yes we could. You are 100% correct!
So what does a tournament report have that the IPG doesn’t have?
Well, interesting content hopefully! Interesting content is our second component of a good tournament report.
In this article, I will mostly be talking about providing interesting content in a tournament report, since your tournament report must contain Magic tournament information; if it somehow fails to do that, I do not know if I–or anyone else–can help you.
The Human Element
What makes a good report different, and more interesting than simply reading the MTR, is that everything written has been filtered through human perception, which is fun and wonderful and hilariously flawed sometimes. When writing a report, use your opinions to your advantage: adding how you felt about an interaction or ruling and providing your opinions on events that transpired really improves the quality of your report and the level of engagement with the reader. If, for example, you mention in your report that a certain investigation method was effective, but made you and the player extremely uncomfortable, that is very interesting! You’re providing a valuable insight for potential HJ’s who might want to implement such tactics, and will perhaps give others insights into potential flaws of the program!
Don’t be afraid to say what you mean and give your opinions, talk about what was difficult and what you enjoyed! This not only makes you a more endearing narrator, but also colours your report with a little bit of it’s own character and makes it a unique and enjoyable read!
Whatever Doesn’t Get You Decertified Only Makes You Stronger!
Something a lot of people seem to compliment me for in my reports is the sheer amount of my own mistakes that I report. The actual motivation for so brazenly advertising my inadequacies actually requires some background information, so let me tell you a little story:
I wrote my first tournament report as a requirement for L2, as most of us usually do; however, I was too shy to ask any of the senior judges in my area whether it was a requirement for every event. Rather than bothering my seniors, I decided that I’d rather be safe than decertified, and just wrote a million reports. I was a relatively new L2 at the time and was just as shy online as I was in real life, so I tended to stay away from things like forums and bulletin boards, and anywhere else where I had to interact with others. Naturally, because of this aversion, I had never read a tournament report, and I erroneously assumed that no one else read them either. So my first few reports felt, to me, much more like a personal diary and catalog of mistakes than an actual report. Because I wasn’t really sure what goes into a report, I just decided to write down the stuff I felt was most interesting and memorable, which, to me, was every mistake I had ever made.You can imagine how terrified I was when people started commenting!
However, my misunderstanding of tournament reports showed me that mistakes are probably some of the most interesting and educational parts of any event. So don’t be afraid to share them. Besides, you will probably never interact with any of the people that read your report and most of them probably don’t care enough to remember your name anyways!
It’s the Little Things…
Good tournament reports are really just a bunch of little stories. Every time I run or work an event something happens that has not happened before. Something is challenging or different than last time, and I learn a new thing from those challenges. Most of us have had an absolutely ridiculous call that we can’t wait to share. That’s the kind of stuff that should be in your report!
Seize on the excitement in those small moments. My personal writing process involves, first, pouring out all the unfiltered information I can remember from the event. When I get back from an event, either the evening of (if I’m not too tired) or the Monday after, I sit down for an hour or two and just write out all the exciting stuff I can remember about the event. It’s a cacophonous mess and is probably unintelligible to anyone but me, but these notes crystallize a bunch of stuff that I don’t want to forget. If you’re like me, you have probably often heard that the best writing advice is to simply start writing and not stop. Well, that’s basically what I’m telling you to do here. It’s much easier to edit and clean up a piece of writing than it is to start a brand new one. When you have time you will be refining that pile of messy notes into something that others can interpret, rather than trying to start fresh, clawing memories out of your skull.
You are Not as Good a Designer as You Think
As much as you might not want to think about this, a report is for other people, and so you want to make sure it’s as digestible as possible for those other people. Don’t go nuts with formatting, just keep it simple. And make sure everything is spelled right. For many folks, grammatical or syntax errors make writing impossible to read. With the technology we have access to, clean writing is actually fairly easy to achieve. If you make sure you’re writing clear and simple for your audience, your computer will handle most of the errors that arise. Just take the extra 10 minutes and make sure your report doesn’t look like a first draft. Another tactic that I didn’t have when I first started writing: headlines. We are a Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram generation, so writing longer than 280 characters feels like a novel, and items that are an entire page might as well be The Iliad.
Break up your stories with little headings to make them more digestible. This helps people pick and choose the parts they deem most relevant to them. It also makes them think that they don’t have to commit to an entire report, because for the Tinder generation, commitment is hard.
If You Aren’t Having Fun, No One Else Is
While the above statement is not at all true in Magic, it is true for your reports. If you didn’t enjoy writing your report, it probably means you think it’s boring, which means it probably is boring and no one else is going to enjoy it either. Have some fun. If you think a call was especially ridiculous or weird, make sure that comes across in your retelling of the story. If you think someone was being absolutely irrational, make sure the wackiness comes through the page. Because your reports are really just little stories, don’t be afraid to add literary embellishments. While we might not want to know the precise insults your cheater flings at you after you unveil your masterful investigation, it makes it kind of interesting to hear that they got so angry! In the end, a tournament report is just a piece of writing, so make it silly, make it informative and share it with the world so we can all learn something new!
This article is part of a series of articles dedicated to completing your L2 checklist–and being an awesome L2 after that.