Preparation is key for any event, even more so when you’re the gal in the red Head Judge shirt. This tournament report focuses on the behind-the-scenes activities leading up to a legacy premier invitational qualifier for Star City Games. If you’ve judged events small and large, been a team leader and are interested in serving as a head judge for a multi-teamed event my hope is that this article will provide you with some background knowledge and the impetus to submit your application for the top job.
I knew three months in advance that I would be in charge of the Legacy Premier IQ, so I began brushing up on the format. This included applying to judge nearby Legacy events and of course the invaluable judgewiki format guide, http://wiki.magicjudges.org/en/w/Formats.
Shortly after my acceptance I received the “Open Head Judge Primer” which describes many things that are unique to a Star City event. I had head-judged Opens for them before (two and three years ago, for Sunday Legacy Open events of 350 and 270 players) but the Premier IQ format with its “three-ring circus” on Sunday (last six rounds of Saturday’s Standard, plus Legacy and Modern PIQs) had a structure all its own. The document described how the three head judges (and an appeals judge) would participate in the judge selection process by reviewing cover letters and adding recommendations. It included suggestions for balancing the number of judges needed in various roles. It described how the day would flow, the details of feature match coverage, and when to hold the final wrap-up with judges.
About a month before the tournament weekend the Star City organizer announced which judges would be on the staff. This was conveniently sandwiched between two large east coast events, GP Providence and SCG Baltimore. Not that I was closely scrutinizing applicants during those events but I did try to pay attention to people I hoped or expected to see in Richmond.
Two weeks in advance the three head judges began to shape judges into teams. Star City’s guidelines contained instructions on using their Google.doc and how many judges to assign to each event. Sunday roles include Coverage for Standard, Floor/paper teams for Standard, Legacy, and Modern, and the Sides team. We tasked the Deck Checks team with filling this role for all three tournaments, something we had seen done in Baltimore that seemed to work well. There were Judge Mentors and Candidates, who needed to be paired together. We “put our heads together” using the Google.doc and a chat window. We kept the Saturday assignments in mind to give everyone some variety during the weekend. And we tried to honor requests made in cover letters. In the back of my mind I could hear one of my mentors saying “Set it and Forget it.” The goal was to put people in positions of responsibility who would carry out those responsibilities with little supervision.
After the teams were announced, I exchanged a series of emails with my “Everything but Deck Checks” lead. This gave us a chance to swap expectations, iron out gray areas, and eliminate the need for a pre-event team lead meeting. On this team of four judges one would be helping Side Events in the morning and one might be testing for level 2 in the afternoon. In addition, I was preparing my opening announcements and the agenda for the judge meeting. The Modern Head Judge and I wrote a welcome letter, and requested volunteers for judging the two Top 8s.
On the day before the event I made a point of observing the “microphone technique” of the head judge and stage staff. This particular room had carpet and paneling, which gave it beautiful acoustics. The mic was powerful and needed to be held about eight inches away. In a moment of overkill I took notes on the head judge announcements to compare them with my own.
Sunday morning arrived, and with it a list of questions I needed answered: the name of our scorekeeper and printer, the number and location of our pairings boards, what table numbers and what color paper we’d be using, and the expected number of players. In hindsight I could have nailed some of these down the day before.
There was some last-minute reassigning: three judges were moved to different teams based on player turnout and the need to move a mentee to his mentor’s team. While I sorted things out the teams for the various events met, then I held a brief “all hands” meeting after the Standard Day 2 launched. This was an awkward arrangement – team leads had covered most of what I had planned to say (take care of yourselves, spread out, have a goal, write reviews) so we did introductions and I reminded those who had Exemplar submissions to write to be on the lookout for exemplary behavior.
Suddenly it was time to step on the stage, groan at the pun, and welcome 73 players to seven rounds of Legacy. It reminded me of planning a wedding or a lengthy trip: lots and lots of preparation for something that was over in the blink of an eye. The teams carried out their missions while I prowled the floor, staying visible and “looking for trouble.” The team leads set up coordinated breaks and staggered the absences of experienced judges. The three head judges and the appeals judge slotted in their breaks, then juggled our Top 8 judge schedules.
For the most part rounds turned over very quickly, which I attribute to a mixture of the speed of the format (and not too many High Tide decks), the attentiveness of the judges to ongoing matches at the end of the rounds, the presence of online parings, and of course the number of players. I don’t like to put too much emphasis on round times, but I do think it’s important to the player experience to keep things moving. I made a few tweaks over the course of the day. At first it was difficult to tell when to start the round because there were other events in progress which meant the players in the aisles weren’t always Legacy players rushing to their seats. For a few rounds I made an announcement that “The next Legacy round will start in one minute.” Then the floor team lead, stationed near the back of the Legacy section, began giving me a “thumbs up” when players were seated. This worked beautifully.
No event is complete without a wrap up and evaluation. After the Top 8 started I held a brief meeting with the departing judges. Their hard work made the event the success that it was and I wanted to be sure and tell them this. Later I exchanged emails with the Deck Checks team lead, who reported that planning to start our three events at 9:00, 9:30, and 10:00 worked out pretty well. The five-person deck checks team had a dedicated leader who kept tabs on the flow of multiple tournaments.
In conclusion, I hope that this article on how to plan and execute a multi-team event has provided you with some insights into how I managed my portion of the “three-ring circus.” I have found that taking a long view, identifying and heading off potential problems in advance, and delegating to good people can be the keys to an enjoyable event.