I’m going to preface this by saying that this report will be very light on policy and rules, and focus more heavily on logistics and recovering from mistakes.
Once I was selected to TL sides, I composed a brief message for my team, found them all on Facebook and sent it out in a group chat. In the past, I had not sent an email or any other form of communication, because I felt that I could bring things together at the event. However, at those events, team cohesion wasn’t as strong as it could be.
Using Facebook (or some other messaging service, such as Slack) allows for a conversation to take place, and allows team bonds to begin to form before the event. You can also use this opportunity to see how the Judges interact with each other to determine who you want to have work together. My team was relatively small (Jon Celso, Charles Featherer and Chris Rumore), so this format worked out quite well. For larger events or teams, this could very easily get messy, but I wanted to at the least try it out. I definitely got more feedback and interaction with my fellow Judges before the event than if I had just sent out an email.
For this event, I was relatively loose with my planning. Two members of my team are L1s who are interested (to one extent or another) in progressing to L2. I wanted to provide a growth opportunity by letting them in on as much of the operational planning as I could. That meant that I did very little pre-event planning (Hint: This isn’t going to go well for our protagonist).
Beginning the Day
When I arrived at the Venue on Sunday, Chris was managing the registration line, and Charles was helping with the Sales Booth. This meant that I was unable to have the sort of team meeting I would normally desire. However, because of the introduction chat, my team already knew each other and we had a (vague) plan in place.
I sat down for a brief chat with Jon, and introduced him to the way Star City runs their On-Demand Events (ODEs). We grabbed the buzzer that alerts the ODE judge when there is an event ready to fire and the clipboard for carrying the brackets.
I also took a moment to scope out the tables available to me. The Classics hadn’t launched yet, so I didn’t know how much table space they were going to use. To be safe, I decided that we would place our ODEs at the end, approximately in the 400-460 range. At this point Chris joins us, and helps Jon fire the first couple of On-Demand events. After those get seated, Charles also joined us and the whole team is together now!
I sit us down for our pre-event briefing, and go through quick introductions. While unit cohesion wasn’t significantly damaged by the lack of one earlier, goals may have changed in the week since we had our chat and face-to-face conversations are always valuable. I make a mistake here, and I don’t have a goal for myself that I’ve spelled out in advance. When it comes around to me to introduce myself and my goal, I stumble a bit.
Pro Tip: If you’re going to ask for other people’s goals, be ready when they ask you the same question.
I do, however, have a goal for everyone on the team. I challenge them to make two players laugh every hour. I always want players and Judges to be enjoying themselves, and this is a tool that can be used to help remind us of that. It does seem a bit weird to be applying a meter-stick to something as ephemeral as ‘fun’, but it is a way to measure customer service. (We’ll see how this turned out later!)
The Challenge of Challenges
Before we started our discussion about the scheduled events in earnest, I want to show off my schedule that I used. It was a huge opportunity for me to learn, and hopefully you’ll get something out of it as well. If you want to see the original, you can find it here. Take a good look, and figure out what went wrong.
Sunday Sides ‘Schedule’
8:45 – Call Time
10:30 – Chris on break
11:00 – Sealed Challenge Start (Charles)
11:30 – Jon on break
12:00 – Legacy Challenge 1 Start (Chris)
12:30 – Charles on break
1:00 – 2HG Challenge Start (Jon)
1:00 – Vintage Challenge Start (Chris)
1:30 – Jonah on Break
2:00 – Modern Challenge Start (Jon)
3:00 – Standard Challenge Start (Jonah)
4:00 – Legacy Challenge 2 Start (Charles)
First, before I start pointing out my mistakes, I want to walk you through my thinking. Both Charles and Jon were interested in more experience, and I wanted to give them their own events where they would be in charge. This would give them the opportunity to show what they had, and potentially make some mistakes. Hopefully, any mistakes they made (like the ones I did) would come around to help them learn and improve for the future. I also gave each of them one event they would be comfortable on and one that would intentionally challenge them – with regards to format.
Now – what’s wrong with that schedule? To start off, I have Chris and Jon both starting two consecutive events. This means that they’re probably firing a round for their first event at the same time they’re launching their second event. This means that they’re going to be too busy firing those events to be able to provide much support for the rest of the team and they’ll be running around frantically between the pairings board and the stage, so they won’t be available for their events. Furthermore, I’ve assigned everybody to at least one Challenge. That means we aren’t going to have anybody dedicated to running ODEs. This is the part of the day where my lack of planning from earlier is treating me poorly.
But don’t worry! Things get worse! Charles and I decide to have the Sealed Challenge start at table 367. By the time we get to the Legacy Challenge at noon, we’re not sure where we can place the event so that it doesn’t run up against the other events we have seated. We make our best guess, and seat them. However, we over estimated the number of players, so we have nearly a full row between the Legacy Challenge and the Sealed Challenge. Because we’re seating from the high numbers and moving forward (ie. seating at 370-400, then seating from 340-350) and we’re not sure how many players we have for each event, we start having gaps, and the Challenges get spread out. By the time we’ve fired all of them, we’re spread out from around table 200 to table 460 at the end of the ODEs. Yeah… I spread the four of us over the same space as the space used by two Classics and an Open. Oops.
Why did I do that? I did that because I wanted to keep the events as close together as I could – so I put the first event as close as was safe, and then the next, and so on, but that created more gaps.
Lesson Learned: In the future, running Sides, I’d probably start at the lowest table number I have, and working up, instead of starting at the highest and working down. That means I can start one event right at the end of the previous event, and not waste space. This will let me keep the sprawl to a minimum, and allow for the team to be better able to support each other, and not rely on Judges from the other events to sometimes answer calls from them.
What About ODEs?
I ended up running the ODEs for most of the day – while this wasn’t intentional, and I had wanted to give the experience to other members of my team, but it turned out to be valuable. Since I was regularly going up to the stage to launch side events, I had good communication with the two side event scorekeepers. In turn, I was able to find out what they needed from my team, and get that information to them.
Thankfully, the way I learn best is through practical experience and making mistakes, so I learned a lot running sides. Throughout the event I was talking with my team, and together, we figured out what we could have done to improve the events.
During our end of day wrap up we discussed my goal for everybody. While not everybody was getting the requisite number of laughs, the team felt that it encouraged them to make jokes, which relaxed them. It worked out better for the Judges when they were working the ODEs, because they simply had more face time with the players – gathering them up for their event, seating them, collecting match results, etc… With the scheduled side events, since there were pairings and match slips, the amount of interaction was less. So let’s chalk that up on the success side of the board, with opportunity for improvement.
In all, while things were frantic throughout the day, and I didn’t get as much team building in as I would have liked, our events ran smoothly, and everybody on the team learned a lot. My goal for next time (See, I learned by not having one before!) is to have the events run as smoothly, but at a much more relaxed pace for the Judges.
Finally, the pre-event chat has evolved into a post event chat. I was able to share links for feedback as well as this Tournament Report with my team. It gives us an avenue to continue conversations we had at the event.
Thank you for reading this, and I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have!
Sunday By the Numbers
Drafts: 16, Commander: 9, Standard: 1, Modern: 1, Legacy: 4
Totals: 31 Events, 212 Players
Scheduled Event Players:
Sealed: 25, Legacy #1: 37, 2HG: 42, Vintage: 30, Modern: 33, Standard: 9, Legacy #2: 10
Totals: 7 Events, 189 Players
Jonah: Wishes he had a smart phone, but probably a lot.