Unexpected Challenges at SCG Regionals

Planning and Pre-Event Work

Let’s begin at the beginning for this event: staff planning.

First I thought about what I wanted to accomplish with the staff and their development. As this was one of the few large local events I wanted to give L1s experience and make sure the event ran well. Which meant I couldn’t just accept the best people but needed a mix of mentors and new judges. I didn’t have a lot of L2s apply but most of the L1 judges were experienced and people I certainly wanted on staff. So for what I expected would be a 200 person event my first plan was:

  • 4 L2 judges
  • 4 L1 judges with reasonable experience
  • 4 L1 judges with less experience
  • 1 L1 judge on standby

Out of this pool, I had three team leads that hadn’t team lead before and a lack of overall experience but a lot of desire. When you have this you seek to support your staff closely and elevate them to get the desired results. So I posted a lot of rules questions in the forum after accepting the staff.

A couple days before the event I confirmed that the preregistrations had hit the cap of 200 people so it was going to be a large event. I immediately contacted two solid L2s about their availability – the kind of judges who could team lead or support and help an inexperienced team lead. Thankfully they were both available which gave me more experience and support on the floor.

Since I figured the event was going to be a madhouse, I made a break schedule so my team leads had one less thing to worry about. I also didn’t want to undermine the confidence of the team leads by replacing them at the last minute with the more experienced judges. So I put the experienced judges in position to support and mentor the team lead on their team

This is the Part Where I use Diplomacy

I arrived at 8:15 the morning of the event and met up with Jason (the Tournament Organizer) to see what our max capacity was. Prior to us getting on site he could not get the information from the venue manager, who had just taken over the role and refused to give a number. Jason informed me that we had 276 seats in this room and he was going to see about getting more, but the manager didn’t like us and was in a bad mood. When the venue manager opened the doors earlier a player was there and had some food he had picked up somewhere else. The manager correctly let him know that there is a cafe and restaurant onsite so they didn’t allow outside food. Then he ranted on the player for about two minutes about the issue and was so rude that the TO apologized to the player for the manager ranting at him after the manager left.

One of my general rules is to always double check the information given, so I had a judge confirm that we had 276 chairs. He came back and said we have 273 chairs and a table without chairs, possibly because the dealers needed chairs so they had grabbed them. So we moved chairs from the planned judge area to the empty table which left us with 270 seats and a judge area.  This was our layout:

SCG Regionals


The next challenge was finding a place for preregistered players to pick up their tournament swag (notably their playmat). Normally we would do this in the main store area but with the manager expressing his disdain with us using the venue we weren’t sure this would be a good idea. Jason was able to work it out that we could use 38 more chairs from that room, but he had to pay $10 per chair. That brought our cap to 308 or 309 with adding a bye. Now that this deal was made, the manager was not going to be able to complain about the store space being used for preregistration.


I held a quick staff meeting basically saying to shadow each other on calls since it’s a good learning experience and that we are the first large event of the USA-North region.

After the short briefing, it was time to open the doors. I grabbed two judges to act as line control since it’s a good idea to have people reminding people to have their DCI number and money ready.

The Doors Are Open – The Chaos Begins

After about 25 minutes I checked on on registration and we were at 270 people, so the TO asked me to talk to the venue manager about possibly of getting more chairs. It was not a pleasant conversation.  The manager ranted a bit about how he “had to take chairs from five buildings for you” and “I sold you some of my place space” and “but you still want more!” He then moved on to further complaints about how “you will have 300 people and the store won’t even make that much money because magic players don’t buy anything more than a couple sleeves”. Figuring I couldn’t get anything out of him I just treated him like I would a upset player –  I empathized with his frustrations and elected not to push for more chairs. In retrospect, since he had taken over the managerial role of the venue quite recently he had little experience with the large magic tournaments we had held there in the past and how much food the 300 players in the event would be buying. His primary experience was with evening tournaments like FNM where players tend to not buy a lot of food.

At this point I went back to let the staff taking registration that we aren’t getting more chairs. We are approaching the cap based on what chairs and space we can get, so I started letting people in the line know that we are going to hit the cap shortly and we will take some names as standby in case of preregistered players no-showing, but that that number will be pretty small.

At this point, a nice woman came up to the registration area and asked about sneaking a member of their car into the event – everyone else in the vehicle had preregistered except for this person, and the members of the car really did not want this person left out. I politely tell her that there is no way, we’ve gotten as many chairs from the store as we can and they didn’t even want to give us the space they did. She then asks if she can transfer her spot to the other person in the car. It’s a reasonable request so I tell her I think we can do that – I just need to confer with the TO to make sure he is OK with it. I get Jason involved – she asks him if there is any way they can get the other guy in and he tells her no, but transferring a registration is something we can do. I’m not sure how far they drove but I think it was over 10 hours so it’s the least we could do. However we didn’t allow other people to do that as selling seats sets a bad precedent.

We ended up taking down 20 people as standbys since that was the amount of people that hadn’t claimed their preregistration rewards yet.

Now that we had dealt with the issue of getting as many registered and listed as standbys as we could I could finally take a moment and confer with my team leads. Mostly to make sure that they knew what I expected of them and that I had made a break schedule and would get that to them. Also that they should get to know their team members so they would feel like a team and not just a group of people doing a job. The first step being to ask their judges if they’ve had breakfast. If they hadn’t, then giving them a round 2 break is an excellent choice.

I discussed the pairings locations with the paper team, the one on the store side is actually by a set of doors, which is normally great. At this point the doors were locked and after my discussion with the manager, I didn’t figure it would be a good plan to ask about unlocking these doors.

At this point we also relocated the preregistration pickup point from the green tables to the registration/scorekeeping and handed off handling later preregistration reward pickups to the TO.

We then had to sort out another issue – we lost our six highest numbered tables.  Since we didn’t have good communication with the manager we had put these seats on the green tables, which were reserved. As it turns out, we were supposed to put them on the long table instead.  Which didn’t have all it’s chairs since we had grabbed some to fill out the other table in the room and take up less of the stores area. So I made sure we filled it with chairs from tables that didn’t have a reserved sign, preferably tables that had miniature terrain on them, because people tend to spend a lot of time standing at these tables managing their armies rather than sitting.

At this point I thought we were ready to actually start the event, but two more issues cropped up. While we were fixing the chairs the manager came and talked to the TO, and mentioned that some people were parked in the wrong spots.  He wanted to make an announcement about them having to move. The TO of course said “No way! we will make the announcement ourselves.”

While this was happening, Zach the scorekeeper tried to print the seatings, but the printer won’t work. After fiddling with it a while, he made the good suggestion that we seat the players for the player meeting via scrolling pairings.  During the announcements and decklist collection we wout have time to solve the printer issue.

This is the Part Where the Tournament Starts

I was the head judge for the prior SCG Regionals, which had 194 players; one of my biggest issues at that event was being heard by everyone during announcements. This time we had a microphone!  I used it to start off the announcements, and asked the players to raise their hand if they had trouble hearing me; I got a lukewarm response to this, with lots of people having hearing issues. I tried cupping my hands and yelling, and got a resounding “yes, plenty loud”.  I finished announcements via normal voice and shouting.

We then find and double check the no shows, if you’ve been to a SCG open it’s the same procedure as getting a name and then calling to make sure they weren’t present. We had one guy who wasn’t in his seat and was in the next room filling out his decklist. Then we called for the four standbys, two of which are my local players who I had told to clear out of the room while we were dealing with the pairings issue. I saw their friend Teghan and had him call them but they weren’t answering so I was puzzling over whether I’m going to have to get with the next two players but thankfully they walked in from having a cigarette. We enrolled them and I made sure to grab their decklists for deck checks.

In round 5 WER crashed but you can read Zach’s report about that.


Rulings and Appeals

I have a couple of the more interesting rulings to discuss

Aubergine cast Vines of Vastwood on his Spellskite and attacked Nectarine’s Liliana of the Veil which had 4 loyalty for 4. Aubergine passed with one card in hand.

Nectarine started her turn with no cards in hand, drew for her turn, played Spellskite and passed.

After Aubergine drew his card for the turn it was pointed out that Night of Souls’ Betrayal was in play so only 3 damage should have been dealt to Liliana.

The decision of the floor judge was to back up to the damage being done on Liliana, minimal game decisions were made and no cards would be changed. Aubergine made the argument that too much time had based.

It did seem like a lot of time had passed but I couldn’t find any issue with the floor judges ruling as there is no clause about how far we can back up.  It is based on disruption, not time.  I upheld the floor judge’s ruling. There is a clause for how long with missed triggers so that may have been what Aubergine was thinking about and why they appealed.

It was tempting to spend a lot of time thinking about the appeal but the floor judge was very experienced and since the situation wasn’t  raising any red flags I felt it was best to not over examine the situation.


The next appeal dealt with Hidden Card Error and is very interesting.

Aflredo at the end of the previous turn activated Academy Ruins to put Ensnaring Bridge on top of his library. As a shortcut he put it in his hand.

On his turn Alfredo cast the Bridge then looked at his hand and realized he drew a card for his turn after untapping his lands.

The floor judge ruling was Hidden Card Error, return the Bridge to the players hand, and then apply the fix of having Nougat shuffle in a card from the hand of Alfredo. There was a lot of debate as to whether the Ensnaring Bridge could be taken as it was a known card.

My ruling was that the bridge had been cast so we were past that point and the back ups outlined in the Infraction Procedure Guide are for something like Brainstorm. In this case we know the point the extra card was drawn but it doesn’t matter since we don’t do backups. So we applied the Hidden Card Error fix on the two cards in the hand.

In Matt Niemi’s tournament report Scott Marshall said that a future change is to say that only a unknown card can be taken. Since presently if the player had said something after drawing his card the Bridge would have been taken. Which opens up the possibility that he drew an extra card and played the Bridge before he called a judge to avoid it being taken. However it fits the natural play pattern to play the bridge as that’s why he put it in his hand and then look at the remaining cards in hand to figure out his next play at which point he notices his error. Now if the opponent would have said something about him taking time between his draw and playing the bridge then we have more to investigate.


Hidden Card Error was again the next interesting ruling and a real corner case.

Adelle cast Path to Exile on her opponent’s creature.  Naomi decided to resolve her fetch at the same time to save time and after resolving both couldn’t find her hand as she had shuffled it into her deck.

First off I deviated as I had actually discussed this previously with another L2 judge and letting the player opt to have no hand seemed like a fine fix. In this case it’s what the player opted for, now having said that I’m going to discuss the correct ruling and why I think the deviation is probably not part of the IPG.

The correct fix is to determine the number of cards that the player had in his hand and then have the opponent choose that many cards from the library and those are put in the players hand. Or the player can concede. So the steps are

  1. Ask the player how many cards they had in hand, confirm with opponent.
  2. Do a count to verify that the number is correct since the player just shuffled their hand into their library they may not remember correctly or could be opportunistically cheating since if I’m getting a hand full of land I might as well try to get an extra card.
  3. Have the opponent choose the required number of cards. Make sure they don’t take too long because of course they will want to examine the whole deck.

Since that can take some time to complete it made sense that the player should be able to choose no hand as it’s similar to the mulligan option in Hidden Card Error.

However in talking to Rob McKenzie he said that why should the player get to choose their penalty. Which makes sense as in Hidden Card Error it’s the opponent that chooses the cards to move back to the zone when applicable.

Also there are some extreme cases where shuffling in your hand could be a good thing.

Since they can’t choose their penalty we would leave the choice up to the opponent who normally would choose to see the library even if it meant thinning out the land in the opposing players deck. Which is exactly what the penalty is, but the player does get an option to concede which is a rather harsh punishment but if that’s what they want then sure.

Wrapping it up and Reflecting

Despite all the challenges the tournament ran well considering the number of players ending about 9pm, I had plenty of players come up and thank me for doing a good job, which is reflected on my staff who all did a good job.

Now what are the things we could have done better since that is one of the most important evaluation we can do.

  1. Make sure that TO knows the capacity at least a month before the event. Then make a plan of if that capacity is reached such as bringing in more chairs.
  2. If you are taking player standbys have a designated area for them to stand in so you can quickly find them when you know they are needed.
  3. Have a better plan for how judges are going to get food. The TO did give more meal vouchers to top 8 and IQ judges but as the event finished after dinner it could have been planned better for other judges. The day of the event is not as good time to say “You need to pay 200-300 more for your judge staff to eat.” Additionally we had already done with a bit with asking for more compensation
  4.  Have a better plan for how many judges we need, not knowing the cap see number 1 meant that I needed a lot of judges to prepare for a higher cap. In the end the compensation wasn’t as good as I would have liked and if we would have had fewer judges it would have better.
  5. Test the printer on the computer that is going to be used before the seatings are being printed. As we had printed off staff schedules when we arrived but that was a different computer hooked up to the printer than the one we were running WER on.
  6. Test scrolling pairings on additional monitor before seatings are posted.



Now I would like to give some praise to specific judges for a job well done.

Will Israel it was your first time team leading and you did an excellent job. Zach said your paper team was always at the printer when needed.

Josh Marin as I said you are always a leader in this community. You’ve mentored a lot of us and we can consistently count on you to help someone new learn.

Chris Schulte it was your first large tournament as a judge. It was great for you to step up and fix the seating situation. As someone who has played a lot you know how important the layout of the play area is and it’s great to see you using that experience.

Lee Henderson aka Tigger when WER dumped the round you did an excellent job helping sort the slips and do what Zach needed you to do.

Tom Wanous I asked you to head judge the IQ because I thought you could handle it. Then we put you in charge of answering players questions about the IQ without knowing what the answers would be because of the space issue. You handled yourself and the players well.

Brandon Arsenault for joining the staff late and being a strong mentor for all the newer judges.

It was a long tournament and a long report, I know it was good for me to reflect upon how it all went and I hope you have learned something as well.

Till next time

Ken Bearl