Report from GP Vegas 2017

If you’ve been to GP Vegas last month you might have seen a small crowd gathering around a few tables where two judges, Raphaël Delbarre and Gabriel Sousa (supported by Sophie Pages), spent their days running a Judge Booth for anyone interested. After the successful event they were kind enough to share their experience with us:

Raphaël Delbarre

Raphaël Delbarre

I have to admit it: Grand Prix Las Vegas was quite a thing for me. This gigantic event was my first GP in the USA, but also my first time in the Magic Judge Booth. I already knew the Web App, as I’m using it quite often to evaluate some Level 1 candidates, but physical Judge Booth was something I had never done.

In Vegas, the Judge Booth was run on Saturday and Sunday. I was expecting a few players to be interested into testing their rules knowledge or even the “Can you win this turn” puzzles we had spread out on our booth. But the success went way beyond my expectations pretty quickly : I was still setting up on Saturday morning that my fellow judge, Gabriel Sousa, was already taking care of several players. With two tablets to run the Judge Booth App, we could provide some challenging questions, and fortunately, the many puzzles allowed us to keep the players entertained while some were asking for more specific topics.

What’s nice is that players were simply coming by between rounds or tournaments, curious about testing their rules knowledge. Players were pretty surprised both by the questions from the app and the puzzles. Most of them would say at first that they were quite confident in their ability to play Magic and to figure out how these interactions were working, and yet, most of them ended up hesitating, realizing the answer wasn’t as obvious to them as they thought it would be.

However, I think the most impressive part of this was the number of players who came by, asking about how to become a Judge. In two days, we had about 30 to 35 players who were willing to join the Judge community. Most of them were coming from all over the US, in regions where judges were not that many, meaning they had a hard time finding someone to mentor them. And even better: most of them passed! I can’t even tell exactly how many as we were literally swarmed by moments, but I’d say North America now has about 25 new Level 1 judges. At the most, we had three candidates taking the test while two others were being interviewed, and one more was having his post-test debrief at the same time. Thanks to the judges who decided to come by before/after their shift (or even on days they weren’t staffed) to lend a hand!

We ran the Judge Booth on both days from 9 AM to about 8 PM. From the beginning of the day to the end, we were always busy, with many players sitting down, some even teaming up to figure out the trickiest questions. For once, they actually were allowed to have some outside assistance in Magic.

In the end, I really think the Judge Booth is useful in plenty of ways. Players are having fun with rules, they get a better understanding of how their favorite game works, and it’s also one amazing way to welcome new judges in our community, as several players are quite isolated, or just don’t usually dare asking a judge how to join in this awesome adventure!

Gabriel had this to say:

Gabriel Batista Vieira de Sousa

Gabriel Batista Vieira de Sousa

I gotta start by saying how enchanted for how big the tournament was. This was my first event outside of Brazil and i was completely blown away by the density of Magic lovers everyday. Channel Fireball gave us a beautiful stand that was always swarmed by interested players and judges all weekend. Me, Raphael and some volunteers worked all Saturday and Sunday applying L1 exams, challenging players with “win this turn” scenarios and judges with counting cards seminars and doing Judge Booth with whoever seemed interested in rules knowledge or wanted to be challenged with some harder questions.

The preparation was really straightforward. We printed lots of papers to get people attention and put in the information desk at the entrance hall and some at our space. We got two sets of tables, one in the front to deal with any curious parse-by and another in the back to do counting card challenge and apply L1 exams. At first we got only 6 chairs. Two for the back tables, two to sit and talk to people in the front table and two for people to sit, but soon we were swarmed by countless persons and we had to get some more chairs. Sophie Pagès gave a lot of support, she managed to get us a L1 exam (a few copies of the same exam for every judge), two tablets that we used for Judge Booth, all the prints of the counting cards and the win this turn challenges.

The main tool of such a stand was the Judge Booth page, that we used all week end long to test players rules knowledge. I think the main strength of it was the versatility of how we could use it. At first we were using it only to challenge curious people, but then i thought about using to measure candidates knowledge. I admit even I learned something using Judge Booth. It is so practical to have hundreds of questions on the go. On the second day one of CFB staff came to us and gave us around 60 tickets to distribute for people. We gave them to anyone who succeeded on getting three questions right in a row. This really pumped people to start asking about Judge Booth and trying to do it all the time. There was even a group of four people who tried it together and failed at the last question. It was really exciting to see all of them trying it.

If we want to bring community activities to events, I think that having L1 exams to apply is elemental. It makes players curious and willing to participate, as they often thought about it but took the opportunity on this kind of stand. The main issue we had was that the Judge Center is down for some time now, so we needed to use a single pre-made exam. We made a few copies and took care that candidates didn’t noticed we were using only one. When people approached us asking to become judges we did a quick interview to measure their knowledge, sometimes used Judge Booth to test them and if we thought they were ready we applied the exam. We also checked with the local RC if they wanted to be acknowledged before the testing, and as they didn’t, just let the candidate pass if the interview was a success. One really interesting person who approached me was a woman in her fifties. She was with her husband, they had this 4 digit DCI number and played since Revised. They seemed very passionate about the game and even talked about being close to one of her LGS and helping in tournaments, but unfortunately she was not ready to do the exam and I didn’t give her the opportunity to test. What I did was take her email address and give her mine and talk about finding a mentor that could help her study and get ready to become a judge.

I also think its really important to mark how CFB support was incredible. First of all the venue was incredible crowded, so the number of people coming to the booth was amazing. All day long the chairs in front of our tables were full. But not only they gave us an awesome opportunity they were more than attentive to all our needs. Every hour someone from the staff came by to see if everything was alright or to bring anything that could be useful to us like separator ribbons, more chair and what impressed me the most a big and beautiful banner with Judge Booth in it. I don’t have enough words to say how easy and motivating was to work with them.

I also asked Mashi Scanlan from Channel Fireball, the TO at GP Vegas, for a comment:

Mashi Scanlan

Mashi Scanlan

One of the greatest reasons to attend a Grand Prix, as a player or a member of the team working the event, is the energy and enthusiasm that permeates throughout the weekend. Everyone is brought together by a shared love of both Magic and the community surrounding Magic. Being a member of the team working at a Grand Prix puts all of us at the forefront of the Magic community to the world at large and nothing typifies that more than the team at the Judge Booth. Everyone that was a part of the Judge Booth Team at this (and any other) event promotes one of the essential elements to the growth and health of our community; they introduce players and passerby to another level of engagement for Magic as a game and providing them an entry into our corner of the Magic world.

Would they like to have a Judge Booth at future Grand Prix? “Absolutely!”