Grand Prix Melbourne 2016 was definitely not a Grand Prix to be forgotten, breaking the 4-digit player mark for Australian Premier events. The Shadows over Innistrad escape room was also a highlight for many players, and the dominance of the Eldrazi over the modern format that weekend created a perfect storm of factors that made it an unforgettable weekend.
With the number of players present, and this being the TO’s first Australian GP, there were a number of things that happened throughout the weekend, both good and bad. Here I share my experiences of the weekend with a number of small stories and anecdotes.
Tape is not the solution to everything – but maybe more signs would help?
In GP Melbourne, the TO had a good idea – they decided to manage lines by using tape to mark out a line on the floor. This would have been a good if the Grand Prix was located in most of Eastern Asia, or in Japan. Being Australia, people didn’t really pay attention to what was marked on the floor and decided to form long, straight lines anyway which rendered those taped lines useless.
There was also pretty poor signage around what lines you’re waiting in for. On Friday, there was a line for collecting your RFID tags, and several others for different side events. The problem is, no one actually knew which line they were meant to be in, and several rounds of announcements didn’t do much to alleviate the muddle. This resulted in reports of people lining up for over 2 hours, and a lot of frustrated players. Perhaps we should try out what the Japanese do with line management – at large conventions booths often have a sign stating that the “end of line” is here, which is held by the last person in line. The sign is then passed backwards as more people line up, so it’s easy to find, and gives the players lining up something to do.
Who’s looking after the scorekeepers?
We all know that your scorekeeper is your greatest asset – or your worst enemy when things go wrong. It was likely that the TO did not anticipate the popularity of side events down under, and we only had one scorekeeper juggling 3 different side events with over 250 total players across them. With the day already chaotic, our poor scorekeeper was overworked and underfed. What ended up happening was that he accidently deleted a round of the legacy side event as he was about to print the result slips. The round was manually recreated using the pairing lists already printed, but the table numbers had to be manually changed. When the pairings for the next round went up, there was a line of players with incorrect results. We finally figured out that the reason for that was the scorekeeper accidently entered results based on the tables printed on the result slips, and not the tables the players were actually playing at. All in all it took 3 sets of pairings to set the round straight. Luckily the players were very understanding, and the scorekeeper got himself fed and watered, allowing for the rest of the event to conclude with no further problems.
GP Melbourne 2014 had ~930 players. GP Melbourne 2016 had 1105. In the same location. With the same space allocation. Some of the problems we had during the weekend was succinctly summarised by this image on reddit:
Space was consistently a problem, especially on the Saturday. Here were some things I had to deal with:
- Some of the table numbers were renumbered between rounds 1 and 2. I received a call at the start of round 2 – 4 players were trying to fit into 2 chairs. The problem? There were somehow 18 tables numbered on a row of tables that only had 17 chairs. Luckily, this was the round that the staff decided to have some coverage matches, so we managed to fit a pair of the players into a vacant seat left by the featured players, and everyone was happy again. The table numbers were subsequently renumbered again at the end of the round. Sometimes, it pays to double check that what you’ve done is correct, as it seemed like this problem could have easily been corrected if the person who were doing the numbering did a count of how many chairs there were beforehand.
- About halfway through the day I was called over to another row of tables. The table was set out in a way that the ends had more space between seats, but pushed all the seats towards the middle together in a way that it was almost impossible for every player to sit and play (similar to the picture above). Some of the players requested to move, which I allowed – if we needed to track them down for the end of round, we can deal with it then, as they’re not going to be able to actually play with the space they have there. I ended up rearranging the seating to something less claustrophobic, and don’t think I heard any more problems for the rest of the day.
The lack of space also meant that the pairings had to be posted outside, which caused huge traffic jams when the pairings were posted as 1000 players tried to squeeze through 3 small entrances. Perhaps it would have been better to designate entry and exit doors so we had better flow, but with the number of players it probably would not have worked well regardless. Sometimes you’re stuck with a lemon and you’ll just have to make do.
The thing that goes ping
I was in the deck check team for Saturday. Our Team Lead, Fabian brought a kitchen timer (pictured).
His reasoning is:
“Something I tried this GP was having a kitchen timer for deck checks. It was set to 3 minutes and when you got to the deck check area you hit start.
The idea was that if it goes off after three minutes of checking that’s enough time to stop (assuming you haven’t found a problem), scoop everything up and get it all back to the players with no more than a 7 minute time extension.”
I am a fan of this idea – deck checks are in place to catch players who may be trying to gain an unfair advantage through illegal decks. If you don’t spot a problem after the first couple of minutes, you’re probably not going to find any problems at all (players are almost always honest). Floor coverage tended to be spotty at this Grand Prix due to the attendance so being able to return decks quickly helped with floor coverage as well. Sadly, I didn’t really get a chance to use the timer, but a lot of the others in the team, all with good things to say. Perhaps I can do this in my events further down the track.
Not quite the all-seeing eye
Day 2 was a lot roomier for the main event, and we could actually watch magic more closely! I was watching a match between 2 U/W Eldrazi decks. Player 1 had the overwhelming advantage, and after thinking cast an Eldrazi Displacer for 1 mana, except that he had no Eye of Ugin on the battlefield, which I caught, but didn’t think too much of it as the player had eyes out on both games before, plus the clock was running down. After the match ended a spectator pulled me over and informed me that if he didn’t pay the full 2W he would have had 6 mana to activate his other displacer twice to win the game on that turn, and he should have known that there was no eye due to his pace of play. I knew that was a possible line of play, but did not realise it was lethal. It would not have mattered in the end, but being able to end the game one turn earlier is a definite advantage. This reminded me why it’s important to always ask a couple of questions to investigate what happened, no matter how busy you are or how innocent the play looks. This also served as a good reminder for me to actually play a few more competitive events to “hone” my assessments, to speak.
The importance of watching Magic
A few rounds later I was standing behind a player (playing UW Eldrazi) against another player playing UW Control. I noticed as the UW control player was fetching and searching through his library, a subset of his cards were upside down, and it appeared they were all sideboard cards. He seemed to not notice or care while going through the deck either. When he went to draw he did a little finger flicking as if to check which ways the sleeves were facing. Suspicious, I thought, so I got another judge to watch the match and checked in with the Head Judge. After the game the HJ had a chat with the player and determined that it was not suspicious – the player only drew his sideboard cards when they were dead, and a few cards in his maindeck was also upside down. It’s not something that you would have usually caught unless you were paying attention to the game being played, so please do watch some matches closely if you have the capacity to when judging!
There were a lot more things, big and small that happened during the weekend that I could not possibly fit into this report. It was definitely one of the more busy/chaotic Grand Prix I have done in a while. There were certainly a lot of things that did not go as well as hoped, but the TO has been very receptive to player feedback and I look forwards to an improved experience for everyone involved at the next Grand Prix they run in Australia.