The Worst Tournament Ever

Matt Wells, Level 2, Athens, Georgia, United States

Matt Wells, Level 2, Athens, Georgia, United States

It was a mini-con, but billed as “Worst Tournament Ever.” There were DQs, cheating, marked cards, aggressive behavior, USC minor, OA, etc. etc. It was a pretty huge disaster in the best way possible. There was also A LOT to learn from this.


This is the brainchild of Nik Zitomer. A mini-con where we aren’t actually having presentations. Instead, we are having a tournament where everything goes wrong. The idea was to get L1s (and L2s) experience with things outside of what is normally experienced in a tournament. How do you handle a belligerent player? What do you do if someone accidentally shuffles their hand into their library? How slow is slow play? What if someone is stalling?

So we created an event where we would make all the worst things we could imagine happen. And unleashed it upon L1s. To my knowledge, this is the first event of this type (where we were just trying to burn the building down) so I think there are a lot of lessons learned here as noted below. My perspective is from the role of the organizer as I did not get a great view of the actual errors, how rulings were handled, etc. as I was overwhelmed trying to get (and keep) it running.

Each round I have between 3-4 planned errors. At the start of the round, I get the appropriate number of random tables from the scorekeeper and hand out assignments. We have set this up with 4 volunteer L1 Head Judges and each L1 is assigned as a FJ for a round in a team of 3 floor judges. This allowed every L1 that was present to participate in both the playing and judging side of the event.


Round 1

Things get fired up, head judge gets going and immediately “Judge” is shouted from around the room. Things are already crashing. It’s great. People are having fun while playing Magic (something we judges don’t get to do enough of) and there are enough calls that the judges are busy. Probably too busy.

Lesson 1: If you tell judges that this is going to be a broken tournament. EVERY judge is going to do their best to break it. I probably should have maintained a bit more control and limited the number of calls (when initially I was more worried about there not being enough).

Round goes to time and I head over to the judge station to get the next team set up. BUT, there is something like a 20-30 minute extension even after all the other matches have finished.

Here I make two decisions: 1) we are ending that match and 2) we need to cut back from 50 minute round time down to 40 for the additional calls going around.

Things I fail to do: communicate #2 in any way other than changing the timer.

Round 2-4

These go off without the problems of round 1. I end up swooping in and killing a match during its time extension almost every round, but I’m just trying to keep things moving. Here is where I realize I forgot to tell people of the change in round times as there were a couple of questions.


We wrapped things up and ate some pizza. And I realized where I think the most improvement can be made to this format of mini-con.

It was hard to keep track of all the feedback and who judged what round and who I interacted with. As a result feedback was hard to provide at the end of the tournament. In the future I would chop a round off (so only three rounds) and provide 20 minutes after each round for both players and judges to talk through what happened that round. What did you see that was good? What did you struggle with? Any points of policy that were problematic? Complicated game states? Troublesome rules interactions? How did you handle the belligerent player and anything you think you could do better? Etc. etc. We created a channel in our regional Slack to discuss things, but there is nothing quite like the immediate feedback – it helps those of us with a bad memory and lets bad habits be corrected/good ones promoted immediately.

Personally, I need to do a better job of delegating the tasks here (both in planning and in execution). I did not get to do much observation as I was preoccupied with running smoothly. I should have either given up on participating and/or delegated some of the ‘mechanical’ tasks to others.

I was somewhat worried going into it that the scenarios would not be ‘enough’. Really the opposite was the problem. I think we could have locked it at 3 scenarios a round, done a better job of communicating with the players about how the event was going to progress (you don’t need to break the tournament because I am going to break the tournament), and a better job of communication overall to smooth things out.

With streamlining the feedback loop and limiting over-eager judges (come on, you know you have all wanted to burn a tournament down before) I think this format can be a good ‘next step’ for L1s with basic IPG knowledge and/or a good refresher for L2s.I have to give extra credit to the L1s that stepped up to HJ. They had no clue what was coming.

I’m going to ask for attendees to chime into this thread as well as I would love to hear their feedback.

Decklist Errors

DFCs in the same sleeves as main deck along with checklists
Deckbox has extra cards in it that could conceivably be played
Named too simply (Nissa, Jace, etc.)
Deck with no double sleeves on lands
Marked sleeves

Round 1
Referring to notes in the middle of a game
Lifechange discrepancy
Dropkick Cheat in Game 3
“Woops I put my hand in my library”
Preemptive appeal

Round 2
Insufficient Shuffling
Timer stops working mid-round
“Did I play a land?”
Riding the line for Slow Play

Round 3
Belligerent Player
GY shuffled into library
‘Light’ Cursing

Round 4
Demanding a Penalty
Phone as a life tracker

[Editors Note:https:Join in on the discussion regarding The Worst Tournament Ever here via the Judge Apps Forums!]

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