Captain’s log – March 2018

Welcome to the first report from the Planar Bridge project. As stated in the Mission page, we’ve ran meetings since last December, so this might be a longer-than-usual report.

The meetings

Let me first explain how meetings typically work. Right now, we invite every L1/L2 attending the GP, and ask for topics and questions during the weekend, and communicate with the Level 3 meeting organizers for shared topics. The meetings consist of two sections: first, we have a CFBE representative to answer questions and discuss topics specific to CFBE. Sometimes we might have an L3 for similar purposes. Sometimes there’s a chance to have someone who covers both roles.

Once they leave, we list proposed topics, and vote on order of discussion. Meetings typically last 1-2 hours, so we try to keep the topics flowing and not stagnate on anything. In this report, I’ll try to focus on recurring topics, especially ones that have been answered or solved already.

This log will follow a similar style as the meetings, so some highlights on CFBE topics.

Channel Fireball Events

One of the recurrent topics at the beginning of the year was judge shirts: there was a rumor that judge shirts will no longer exist as they do today. However, it’s been confirmed that WoTC/CFBE will continue to provide shirts to judges. There’s going to be some updated design, presumably still black but with the new logo, and WoTC will use special shirts for the Pro Tour. Shirts will stay free of charge for judges.

The most common questions revolve around staffing. Questions like who selects the final staff, L1 staffing, 2/3 day, ways to improve your chances of being on staff or in a particular role, etc. CFBE has shared that while Chris Richter is the main Judge Manager, their entire management team looks at applications. They see L2 as the main GP Judge, but there’s a small slot at most GPs for L1s, mostly ones that have been recommended (for example, by their RC). They agree that a judge has a better chance of being accepted for an event if they know them, and the same holds true for being selected for a specific role such as being on a particular team or being TL. They do listen to feedback from other L2/3s and RC, so that’s maybe a lane to improve your chances.

When it comes to being selected for 2/3 days, usually local judges get only 2, and the more experience you have, the better the chance to get 3. They did say that if anybody feels they’ve been selected for only 2 days repeatedly, to reach out for CFB and they’ll try to help. When it comes to cover letters, they recommend being brief, and stress that your event history is unnecessary.

Another topic of discussion was compensation, specially cash vs boxes. The current system is what CFBE has determined to be the best balance of total value, but they are open to feedback. More so in special cases like GPs in Latin America, where they received a lot of feedback about this (compensation was perceived as poor, and CFBE specifically asked judges to tell them what would be good). Going back to Channel Fireball credit is not possible right now.

Another suggestion that’s been given but we don’t have a definitive answer for yet is the use of different color tags or badges for L3/Team leads (as a way to recognize them when you have a backup or HCE).

Finally, we want to remind everyone that there’s a Google form to collect feedback that’s being shared after every GP, and to invite everyone to use it.

The L1/L2 meeting

The first thing we want to address when it comes to stuff being discussed at the meeting itself, is the mere existence of this report. The dissemination of information from the meetings was a topic for discussion early on. The current stance is that meetings are anonymous (and will continue to be) but not secret. If we cannot share what’s being discussed, the benefits of meetings decrease.

Second, is the possibility of L1/2 judges having some sort of opinion or input in the RC/PC selection process. This has been discussed many times, and the general consensus is that L1/L2 should have some sort of voice in this. We have received feedback from the program leadership, and they agree that more input in the selection for advanced roles would be useful, and are considering ways in which it could be done in a productive manner.

The first thing that everyone seemed to agree on, was that the process needed to be more transparent. The program leadership has confirmed that the list of applicants was sent to the L3 forum list, and from now on this information is going to be public for everyone. This allows every judge to provide feedback on candidates if they are interested.

Possible ways of “direct” involving included allowing individual judges to vote with opportunity to comment, but there were concerns about the process becoming a popularity contest (specially for RC), and the added work of parsing all of this information. For the PC role, some sort of simple thumbs up/down voting after sharing all/part of the applications seemed was discussed, but no decision has been made yet.

Another idea was to select a L1/2 delegate to be part of the selection committee. This idea was well received in the meetings, and would mean the delegate should have full access to the process, in order to have educated opinions. This opened another door on how to select the delegate (at random was agreed to be a terrible idea). As you can see, there has been some advance in this topic, but the discussion on how to make this happen is still open.

Another important topic was the judge levels redefinition. As already stated by the PCs, we’re in the middle of a re-evaluation of the level system and this may bring changes to the current definitions, new levels, or even a completely new system. We’ve been told that this evaluation is currently underway, and one of the focuses right now is on L1.

Topics involving Level 1 judges have been discussed at many meetings. They include the struggle to define their current role and purpose in the program and Organized Play structure; difficulties finding events to judge, specifically competitive ones; ways of finding room for L1 to be part of PPTQs; poor value perception from adding a L1 at Regular REL and little chances to change that; process for becoming L1 too “loose” especially in regards to policy knowledge, with no guidelines on what the interview should be checking; chances of adding Competitive REL to L1, against judges who just want to help their community; etc.

Topics related to Level 2 judges included: L2 being too broad of a level; the possibility of separating PPTQ HJ and GP FJ as roles or certifications, without one necessarily being on the path to the other; the big jump between PPTQ and GP, because of the lack of events in the 100-200 player range; etc.

There were a few actionable item that were proposed in this regard. First, we’ve asked that Team Leaders take the time to know their team members, with better morning meetings and/or pre-event emails; it’s really important to check their teammates experience. Saying your level doesn’t give enough information; first time judges really need your help and sometimes they’re afraid to ask. In that same vein, please remind judges that asking questions is encouraged, not just for player experience.

Another proposal to help newer judges is to staff them them on the Sunday PTQ as a way to gain competitive experience.This event provides the learning of Comp REL without the stress and potential pressure of the GP main event.

One frustration discussed was team leads providing less mentoring to team members. Examples of this include eliminating team briefings and pre-event emails, as well as reduced or no feedback. All of this has been discussed with different L3s, and they have brought these concerns to their colleagues and want to improve this experience.


Last but not least, I’d like to quickly share some other topics that were discussed:

  • L2 RCs be included in the meeting (yes)
  • members of this project being promoted to L3 and staying in meetings (mostly yes)
  • the need to update JAR, maybe with language that more closely resembles the IPG (debated)
  • usefulness of L2 Tester certification (should be part of the current re-evaluation) and the fact that an RCs gets to choose if the certification is used in a given region (received some complaints about it)
  • questions about scorekeeper staffing (usually 1 without GP experience, 2-3 with some experience for sides and 1 “expert” for main)
  • standardization of PPTQ payment (really difficult, only plausible at the regional level)
  • mentality of side events.

About this last item, while many came to the meetings feeling like Side events are less important than Main, or that lesser judges are staffed there. This perception has varied, and some judges have discussed their perspective that sides are a major consideration for CFBE, since it’s where providing excellent customer service is most important, and they’re trusting you to fly solo. So, how do we affect this program-wide perspective? One idea is for judges staffed on side events to write more reviews and reports from judges.

Thanks for reading!