- Day one featured a Legacy main event with ~320+ players, head judged by the incredible Paul “Bearz” Baranay.
- Day two co-featured a Modern main event head judged by the inimitable Brogan King, and a Vintage main event head judged by the inestimable Tom Davis; each had over 100 players.
- Both scheduled and on-demand side events were run throughout the weekend (Legacy, Modern, Vintage, and drafts).
Knowing the formats, you might expect that these events would be a minefield of bizarre interactions and complex rulings. We definitely had our share of those – the most vexing of which had the staff collectively uncertain about the proper ruling throughout the weekend, until we eventually came to Judge Apps (you can see the question and official answer here – though the brevity of the answer doesn’t do justice to how much discussion was spent on the topic, I promise).
But this tournament report isn’t about wacky rulings or corner cases!
Goals going into the event
For me, this event was about goals. This was my second “large” multi-day event, so I wanted to go into this event with goals more specific than just “learn the ropes” and “do well”, but I was struggling to come up with anything that felt tangible and measurable enough.
I reached out to Bearz a few days before the event, and asked him what his goals were for the event – and inspiration struck: My goal for this event would be to write two reviews of other judges on staff. I hadn’t written reviews before, so this is something that I definitely wanted to start practicing (especially if I ever want to advance to L2).
This goal also guided me throughout both days of the events: I thought actively about who I would want to review, how to discuss the process with them, and how to set aside time to shadow my colleagues. It also encouraged me to be more attentive and observant to how my teammates handled calls and tasks (which also taught me when it’s more appropriate or efficient to take a back seat). The goal also informed my team preferences for the event: I wanted to work on teams with judges that I hadn’t worked with before. This was a great excuse to do things I should already have been looking to do: Meet new people and expand my network. (Working with unfamiliar judges is also a great way to learn new approaches to judging.)
The event had a lot of very good friends on staff, and I was already very excited to be working it. Going in with a clear goal, though – even one as simple and mundane as “write two reviews” – made me even more excited. I was starting the event with an action plan to do something new, and learn some specific new things along the way.
On day one, I was assigned to the “special ops” team (read more about the team structure for this event here), which was comprised entirely of judges I knew well or had worked with before. On day two, I was on the flex team, also with judges I knew very well.
I know the head judges considered my goals when staffing the event – after all, they’d asked for them up front. Balancing individual goals with the needs of the event is difficult and complicated (and maybe something that’ll come up in a future Bearz Repeating?). All the same, my team placement meant that it would be challenging to arrange to work with an unfamiliar judge long enough to get good material for a meaningful review.
Arriving at the venue, I made it a point to introduce myself to each of the judges I hadn’t met before, but once the event got underway we quickly went our separate ways. The first several rounds of an event this size are always the ones where the teams are stretched thinnest, so we didn’t have much sustained contact during this time.
My team was eventually going to be responsible for side events, which were going to be in a separate room from the main event. As the early rounds came and went, it became apparent that I wasn’t going to be able to get any more time with the judges I hadn’t already known for the remainder of the day. I had to reconsider my goal. What was the non-negotiable part of it? Write two reviews. Reviewing new faces was a perk, but not necessary. Reviewing judges I already knew (but hadn’t reviewed) also had the added benefit of being easier to do well – after all, I had some context and prior experience against which to evaluate their performance.
I reached out to another floor judge who I had worked with before – Anthony “Krug” Hullings – and made a point to stay in touch and be around each other. Before I had to start firing side events, I pulled him aside and let him know that I wanted to speak with him before the end of the day, if/when we both had time, so that I could work with him to better plan my review.
After that, I began firing off side events, and remained in the room with them for the rest of the day, at times being the only judge in the room (and therefore unable to leave).
Happily, before the end of day one, I did manage to get a few minutes with Krug. I let him know that I was looking to write a review. We both acknowledged that the two of us didn’t have much time together so far, and he even provided a helpful guideline for gathering enough material for a review (“at least three significant interactions with the review subject”). He was willing to talk about what he saw as his own areas of improvement, which was excellent both in being a source of material for my review, and in telling me what I should be looking for and focusing on as I spend more time with him on day two.
Communicate with your team!
At the end of day one, we had an all-hands debrief – which included talking about how we were progressing towards our goals for the weekend. I made sure to let the head judges for day two know that while I was having a great time, and still overall excited for the weekend, I was getting concerned that I would be able to achieve my goal at this rate. Being on the flex team for day two meant it would be likely I would again be running side events, and thus again separated from the staff I would want to review.
Brogan and Tom, the head judges for day two, were able to swap me from the flex team to the Modern paper team, so that I could have more consistent contact with other judges. My new team lead was Chase Culpon, a judge I was familiar with, who had recently advanced to L2, and was team leading for the first time – a perfect opportunity for a productive and important review!
However, Krug was on the deck checks team for the other event, being held in a separate room again. I asked if any accommodations could be made, and Krug’s team lead made plans with Chase for me to switch events for a portion of the day towards the end of day two (when it would be least disruptive), so I could continue working with Krug.
Midway through day two, I was approached by one of the TO staff with a player list for a side event. I wasn’t assigned to be running any side events for that day, but the staff member said she was sent to me by name, and told to have me fire the event. The flex team lead wasn’t in sight, the head judge of my event was occupied at the moment, and I wasn’t about to let my goal hold up the side event, so I took the player list to our scorekeeper, Matt Braddock, and proceeded to have the event created, collect the players, seat them, give them instructions, and get them started on round one.
No sooner had I finished, then the same staff member came to me with another player list, for another side event. If I ended up running side events all afternoon, I wouldn’t be able to have the time I wanted with my colleagues to be able to write good reviews – but again, I wasn’t about to make the event wait, just because I technically wasn’t supposed to be running sides.
I fired off the second side event, and immediately went to Matt: I told him that I was happy to run side events if the event needed it, however, it directly contradicted with a goal that I had for the day – and thus, that I wanted to make sure that side events ended up back with the flex team ASAP. I returned to tending the side events, and Matt got a hold of Brogan. They were able to figure out why the TO was sending side events to me specifically, and get them back in the hands of the flex team – which made the flex team lead happier as well.
Completing your goals
I made sure to stay in touch with my team lead throughout the day – for obvious reasons, in addition to shadowing him for my eventual review – and with Krug’s team lead as well. Later in the day, I was able to switch teams with another judge, and work alongside my intended review subject for a full round. The additional time together definitely mattered: You never know when an informative interaction can come up. In this case, a player interaction away from the table ended up giving me a great opportunity to observe one of Krug’s self-identified areas for improvement directly.
At the end of day one, after my event was finished, I sat down with Chase, and we had a great conversation wherein I went through the contents of what I would eventually write in my review.
Now, to be fair: Was “write two reviews” a herculean task? No. Was a major logistical issue to help me meet that goal? No. We weren’t short-staffed, we didn’t have major crises during either event, and our crew included a field of experienced and competent judges to back each other up. Could I have even tried to achieve my goal without having asked for help from the other judges all weekend? Maybe.
But what would it have served, to not communicate my goals and plans to my colleagues? Would I have performed better, somehow? Would any tasks have been better served if I didn’t attempt to achieve my goal? No – and, in fact, working with my head judges and team leads allowed me to guarantee that this was the case. By communicating and working together, I was able to make sure that the event’s needs were met, that I was accessible throughout the day, and that I could focus on completing my goal to the best of my abilities.
Working towards my goal – even a simple little one like “write two reviews” – taught me a lot about communication, in that way.