I was part of the staff for the SCG Summer Regionals in Iselin, NJ, held on the 1st of August 2015. Being my first ‘large’ event as a Judge, I wanted to share a few of my experiences. I was assigned to the Deck Check Team, as I had had several experiences with Deck Checks as a Judge Candidate.
Now that we have the setting established, here’s what I learned.
Semper Gumby: A borrowed turn of phrase helps to remind us all to be ‘Always Flexible’. Due to a technical issue (sorry, I don’t have more info on this as whatever it was happened above my pay grade), we had a delay in launching the event once sign-ups concluded of approximately 35-40 minutes. Instead of sitting idle, Mike Noss with the team leads devised a way to distribute tokens and playmats. We set up at a table at one end of an aisle with three Judges seated and 1-2 runners. The seated Judges were told to distribute the playmats and tokens in return for a completed decklist. My job was to collect decklists, confirm they were filled out with names (table numbers were moot at that point), and hand off batches of collected lists to a runner. The runner would take the lists to another station, away from players where they would be sorted. While seemingly simple, this allowed us to engage players for about ten minutes of the wait time while technical issues were sorted.
Decklist Refinement: I need to preface this section with a bit of personal information. I’ve worked in a library for 20+ years. Aside from giving me a great sense of customer service and a raging case of bookitis – it’s also taught me to look at organizational systems to find ways to improve efficiency. Even small changes can net large rewards. Coming into the event, I knew about a day in advance that I would be a part of the Deck Check Team. I thought about my previous experiences working in that area of events. I identified an area I wanted to try to improve and brought a simple, inexpensive item with me to try out if my Team Lead would let me.
The previous day, my Team Lead had sent out an email, detailing what his expectations and goals were. At the end, he asked us for our goals. I responded with three. My first was to help him reach his goals (fast turnaround of deck checks and more). I didn’t see this as trying to endear myself to him – rather I wanted to be a strong, contributing member to his team and to be a part of helping him reach his goals. My second goal was to continue to learn and ask questions when appropriate (sometimes I jump the gun a little). And my final goal was to try to find a way to help improve communication. This is where the last idea came in – I didn’t have the ideal fully thought out and I framed it in an open manner.
Here is the set-up I’ve seen several times: Decklists are reviewed a couple of ways. They’re checked for names/table numbers. They’re checked for card counts. They’re checked for legal/clear naming conventions (remember, there are two Jace’s legal in Standard at the moment). And they’re checked for card counts. I wanted to help identify problem lists clearly, without turning them sideways, upside down, or outright pulling them from the alphabetical sort piles or out of the accordion file. I brought with me some 3-M Post-It Tape Flags in assorted colors. I figured that we could use the flags to help identify problems, going so far a to color code problem issues.
My Team Lead liked the idea and wanted to give it a try. I gave him some flags and let him figure out how he wanted to use them to mark problems. He liked the idea of not turning pages at a 90 degree angle to the piles in which they resided. At the end of the day, I think the experiment was a success. We only had approximately 200 players, but we could still – at a glance – look into the accordian file and ID decklists that had been problems for us during the day without them blocking the view of the letters at the top of the files or having multiple extra notes on the page (unless warranted). Christopher thought that this would be even more helpful at larger events. As no idea like this is worth anything unless others try it, I invite you all to give it a look and add your own refinements.
(One final note on this, I believe he used the different colors to differentiate between problem types. Overall I think it’s something he’ll use in the future).
Check 1, 2, 3: One of Christopher’s goals was to perform start of round and mid-round deckchecks from the very beginning of the day and through 7-8 rounds of play. We met that goal on all but two rounds. We stumbled in round 4 or 5, when we came across two decks that received warnings for marked cards at the start of the round. One of the two had to be resleeved, before play could continue, so he elected to have the players resleeve both decks. As one was double sleeved, that took additional time to expedite. It ended up being that both of us helped the players resleeve, and the time lost meant that a second deck check that round wasn’t feasible. The other issue was my mistake. Round 8 we needed to target two decks in play to resolve decklist issues. We were going to do one at start of round and one mid-round, but I pulled the wrong table for the first check. So instead, we both swooped on the tables for a mid-round check. Since they were targeted, we didn’t check both decks – just the ones in question. Both players were issued game losses after we sorted through the problems. The deck I checked had a list that came up 59/15, but when counted was actually 60/15. It had an undeclared Treasure Cruise.
Floor It!: Being on Deck Checks, I was encouraged to spend about half the time on the floor taking calls. For the first two rounds I did this, I shadowed another Judge. I felt I hadn’t spent enough time recently reviewing the IPG and wanted to watch some interactions to learn as much as I could. Around round 3 I was cut loose. Overall, I took about ten different calls on the day. About half were simple interaction questions. Of my other calls, 3 of them resulted in issuing Warnings for GPE-Looking at Extra Cards. The funny thing to me about this was in two cases it was a simple matter of a player drawing too many cards (not to hand, just from the Library) and the other was a player communication issue. I did botch one of my resolutions (I didn’t ask about Scry effects before having the player shuffle), but on the whole I had no appeals and felt my interactions were solid.
Final Notes: I just want to thank the TO, Top Deck/Cardtitan, as I feel once the early glitch was worked out ran an outstanding event. The Judges I worked with were all wonderful and more importantly to me, patient. Everyone gave of their time and it felt great being a part of a team that respected and worked with one another so well. As to my team lead, Christopher, I think I learned the most from him.
A few take aways 🙂
1. Bring a second shirt. I only brought the black polo that was on my back. When I left in the morning, I knew I should take the five minutes to turn around and grab something else – but I thought I’d be fine since I don’t yet own one of those spiffy Judge shirts. Next time, I’ll be better prepared.
2. Take more time to make better notes. This one, I’ll just chalk up to inexperience. Next time round, I’ll devise a better system.
3. Remember to hydrate. I honestly didn’t realize how thirsty I was until either Erik or Krug asked if I had drunk anything recently.
4. Bring deodorant. Simple thing really, but I should have done so. I hope I did not offend towards the end of the day. I know I tend to run warm and sweat a bit more than average. As a player, I don’t worry about this because the level of activity is so much lower.
5. Food is good. I brought a couple of easy to wolf down snacks. They kept my energy up when I needed them most.
6. Judging is awesome!
7. Take my time. I did have one interaction on a call where both players knew what fix that should apply and wanted it done ‘right now’. I made them both wait for a moment while I looked up the relevant section of the IPG, just to make sure I had things right. Don’t let others impatience effect your call or your timing – that’s what extensions are for.
8. And speaking of extensions. I need to be mindful at all times to remember to give an extension when needed. One interaction was so brief I thought it to be unnecessary, but another Judge passing by asked me about it and suggested that I give one when I hit more than thirty seconds. I think he was right, and I’ll be more careful in the future.