Red Wire, Green Wire

The following Document contains information originally provided by Omar Diez

Starting: Roleplaying

Situation: With already won game, drawing extra cards with
Jace that’s not in play. Calling a judge, trying to explain it’s a game
loss. Player gets angry, opponent picks him for his mistake, begins
shouting, then insulting, then physically aggressive.
Brainstorming: Analyzing the roleplaying
What he did right?
What he did wrong?
What could have been done in a different way?
“Speech”: how to cut which wire
First, talk about our position as tournament officers, and how that
makes us responsible not only for the good running and the integrity
of the tournament, but also of the enjoyment of every player. If we
let a situation escalate, we’re not only making the tournament worse
for us or for the opponent, but also for the player that turns
aggressive, probably unintentionally.
Talk about prevalence of anxiety disorders and impulse discontrol,
and about differences between instrumental aggression (planned, as
a way to reach a goal) and reactive aggression (uncontrolled and
out of frustration), and how most of the aggressive conducts in
tournaments are reactive.
So when a player becomes uncontrolled, it’s a mistake to think it’s
his fault and evade all responsibility. Probably we could have
defused that bomb earlier. But how?
What we say:
– When approaching the table, try to be “the one that makes the
questions”, not letting the players argue between them and
trying them not to talk at all when the other is giving you his
– Don’t jump to the fix-and-penalty before you ask about all
information and inform the players about what the infraction
was and why.
– When a player gets stubborn about a point, repeat a short
sentence that gives him the information he needs at the
moment, so he can grasp it even if he’s mad about it.
– Don’t get into arguments about policy, or try to explain an
angry player the “why” under your ruling when he’s angry. Tell
him you can meet later to talk about it. Finish the ruling with
short and directive sentences (“This is the final ruling. You can appeal it to the HJ. If you don’t, please keep playing”). Also,
just don’t answer when a player provokes or taunts you.
– Try not to put words into the mouth of any player, because it
can make them feeling like “misunderstood” and escalate the
– Be polite and friendly, but don’t say “sorry”. We are not sorry
for applying the rules, they are good policies, they are there for
a reason, and we shouldn’t and the message that we regret
that infraction may add to the feeling of “unfairness”.
How we say it:
– Non-verbal communication is very important: try to get at the
same level as the players, and to make them feel comfortable:
smiling, showing your palms, or making eye contact regularly.
– The player will probably raise the tone of his voice when
getting angry. If you do the same (so to make yourself heard)
you will sanction his shouting. You have to appear firm, but in
a lower tone that normal, and a bit slower. That makes the
player stop and try to get silent so they can listen to you.
– Take in account that bringing a player that’s showing he may
get out of control out from his table is helpful for trying to
defuse him, as he won’t be feeling the “peer pressure” or try to
act. But also, making him isolated from other players makes
the event more secure for them: if the player gets violent, we
should prefer it’s to us than to players.
– Physical contact is a hard one: don’t try if you don’t know very
well what you’re doing. When you know a player from outside
Magic, and he’s risking to go out of control, a little contact from
your fingers on shoulders or similar, could take him “back to
reality”, where you’re his pal and not an enemy. But many
times it can be an opening for more violent contact, so usually
you should try to avoid it. If the player tries to run away, let
him, don’t try to grab, as it’s a natural movement to push
whoever grabs you, or even hit blindly.

Conclusions, summary, and questions.