Saturday, August 19, 2017

Drink More Water

This summer has run me through a few very difficult events, it's got me thinking about the things I've learned in my 7 years of large event judging that help me take care of myself. Some of these won't work for everyone (Hi I am very tall and legroom on planes is at a premium) but maybe some of them will.

Pay for the upgrade, you're about to be on your feet for three days, do your legs the favor.

Remember that part about your feet and knees? Save the walk, pay for the Lyft.

Find a way to actively carry water on the floor, be it cargo pants, or a carabiner, or other.

Drink like one bottle of water a round. Are you in Vegas? Drink two.

Pack more socks than you think you need. Then pack some more.

Change your socks on your break. It's worth it.

Events can be stressful. Sometimes it's important to have a person you can talk to if you need to vent or get advice one-on-one. Find out who that person is for you.

Eat. Someplace. Local.

Events can be stressful, so can learning public transit in a new city, pay for the Lyft.

Convention center food is typically expensive, call times can be early. Hitting up a corner store and getting some light snacks for the weekend can go a long way.

Bringing a second pair of shoes means not having to wear the same pair before and after your shift.

Remember: Events can be stressful, convention centers are loud. Have a quiet dinner once during your weekend.

Air travel is exhausting. If you can avoid it don't fly to the event on the morning of your shift.

Sharing a hotel room? Make sure everyone has a key. You will be amazed at how much easier things are when everyone can come and go as they please.

Remember that for most of us, judging is a hobby. It is perfectly ok to tell someone you don't have the bandwidth for something.

Remember that for most of us, judging is a hobby. It is perfectly ok for someone to tell you that they don't have the bandwidth for something.

Noise. Cancelling. Headphones.

Take a weekend off. The event will go on without you, I promise.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

These Judges are Dope AF.

I can't even get slackbot on board.
Hello, Internet. It's been awhile since I've had an update, I've been kind of stuck in a rut and have had a hard time getting momentum going to write. Today we try to shake that. I'm going to take some time here to highlight some awesome judges and the things they did to take up my Exemplar slots for Wave 9. Sadly, I still can't get BPrill to change the name to "The Dope AF Program" so I guess "Exemplar" will be sufficient.

Grand Prix Pittsburgh

One of my first events of 2017 and me finally starting to feel at home with that "3" next to my name. On Sunday I was at the helm of a Deck Checks team with some solid judges that I had not worked with extensively before. One of whom was Andy Doyle, a Level 2 from Michigan.
On our Sunday deck checks team at GP Pittsburgh you absolutely crushed it. You came into the day already experienced with the Day 1 Index system and were able to take a lot of pressure off of me by quickly pulling lists. You saved me piles of minutes over the course of the day and those are precious when we're getting beginning of rounds and getting lists to coverage. Additionally you stayed the course and kept hunting down the decks on our watch list for Top 8 while I was on break. Thank you an excellent performance.
Our primary goal on Day 2 was to have checked all of the Top 8 competitors prior to the end of swiss rounds. This was accomplished by tracking who we've checked and how they moved through the standings every round. When I took my break Andy made sure that things kept humming along and made a lot of progress toward making our goal. Additionally, at GP Pittsburgh we used an index for decklists. I did not work Checks on Day 1, but Andy did! As a result, we were able to keep the index for Day 2 and his knowledge of the system helped us pull lists quickly and accurately throughout the day.

We also had some help from Princess Buttercup himself, Level 3 Judge Rob Castellon.
At Grand Prix Pittsburgh you were leading coverage and had a clever solution to a problem I had on deck checks. You helped facilitate an end-of-match swoop for an on-camera feature just before the end of swiss. This allowed us to see these decks in their presented configuration prior to the start of Top 8. As a result before a single land was played in the playoffs 100% of those decks had been checked. Thank you for your help!
Things were coming down to the wire and it looked like we were going to miss one of our Top 8 decks. Rob came in with some tech that he's "pretty sure he stole from a European judge" and swooped right after the handshake on camera. We were able to quickly check the decks in what was their presented configuration for Game 3 and get the players back on their way to the start of playoff rounds. This was a little unorthodox (and did get the nod from our Head Judge prior to execution) but it helped us accomplish our goal. I am all about outside-the-box solutions for our problems, not all the things we try will stick, but innovation leads to progress!

Grand Prix New Jersey

Sometimes a judge is just firing on all cylinders. At GP Totally-Almost-New York earlier this year Jacen Simon, an L2 from New York, did exactly that:
Prior to Grand Prix New Jersey we had never worked together. I had many opportunities to observe you during End of Round on Saturday and Sunday and I was very impressed with your work. You showed fantastic hustle but never looked stressed. You were always available to watch tables at the end of the round and you were just always doing *something.* Additionally, when taking calls you showed fantastic diplomacy with players while making concise, accurate rulings. Thank you for your hard work and I look forward to working with you again.

One of the cool things about Exemplar is that we don't always have to recognize things we saw ourselves, this next nomination from Jersey came from Baltimore's Liz Richardson:
For going above and beyond to help new/nervous judges feel wanted, welcome and comfortable. You dispel apprehension and radiate appreciation. Your approachability knows no bounds. The smile and happiness you carry at events despite tragedy and incredibly long to do lists certainly echoed through the hall at GPNJ.
I don't know if you've met Casey Hogan, a Level 2 from Georgia, but Liz's words here are spot on. New Jersey was a crazy event and emotions were out in force. Anytime you found Casey during the show, not only was he getting stuff done, he was smiling, he was joking, he was a beacon of positivity for the room.  I was honored to be able to submit this recognition of Casey for Liz, it was well deserved.

Grand Prix Orlando

Sometimes we make mistakes, how we handle those mistakes and learn from them is what can really set us apart. I wrote this about California L2 Angela Chandler:
While working together at GP Orlando you approached me about a ruling you weren't sure about. We quickly discovered that the ruling *was* incorrect, but what followed was really important. You bounced back immediately - You were diplomatic with the players involved, you were receptive to feedback about the call. You immediately wanted to learn why you got the ruling wrong and chatted with me about it to better understand it for the future. You bounced back and you didn't let it ruin your day. Failure is an important thing in the Program as it is something all of us have experienced and/or will experience at one point or another. Turning that mistake into a learning moment is what lets us continue to grow, and in Orlando you did exactly that.
Angela was able to do in Orlando what I wish I could do every time I make a mistake: learn from it. None of us are perfect, we can always find room to improve one thing or another. This isn't the first time, nor will it be the last, that I refer to a cartoon to emphasize my point:

I promise I am an adult.

Last, But Certainly Not Least

This last recognition came from Maxwell Berry, one of Richmond's L1 judges. Max worked an event where a player was not very happy that slow play was enforced:
Meg, your emotional resilience after a player got very rude with you for enforcing slow play was exemplary. I know you had doubts about yourself surrounding that event but you provided a very good example to the judges working with you. I believe that situations like this are going to make you a fantastic L2 in the near future.
Meghan Rickman, a Level 1 from "Norfolk kinda," Virginia stuck to her guns after giving a player a nudge to move the game along.  Meg is one of those judges that definitely has the stuff. She's super positive on the floor, never gives up, and cares a whole damn lot. And she writes! Did you know she also has a blog? You should especially check out this piece she wrote last year.


Wave 10 is Open!

I don't know about you, but I've already dug into my slots for Wave 10.  We've got about 6 weeks left in that window, that's a lot of time to get some recognitions written! Don't forget, you can always go back and edit your submissions so don't be afraid to get them submitted early. Are you an L1 or out of space for awesome judges? Reach out! Talk to the L3s in your network, email your Regional Coordinator.  If these judges are dope af then lets find a way to let them know!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Locally Looking at Legacy

Below is a post I made for the Magic community in the Greater Richmond Area regarding the health and growth of the Legacy format in our area. I moved it here so it had a more permanent home outside of my Google Docs. Additionally it shows a good use for data collection applied to community building and scheduling events.

Let’s talk about Legacy in Richmond.

There has been a lot of huff about our LGS community and their ability or desire to support Legacy. There have been concerns that stores simply don’t want to run Legacy tournaments because they “don’t care about Legacy.” The fact of the matter is that from an LGS standpoint they are going to care about what ultimately makes them the most money. Many stores have tried and all of them have failed to cultivate a weekly Legacy event. The first one is always large and people are excited, the second one is a little smaller, the third one rarely launches. This isn’t an anomaly, this isn’t isolated, this is every time. As a result of stores not scheduling Legacy tournaments the community took to scheduling their own. The now very popular bowling alley events spearheaded by Eric Oberholtzer. These caused a lot of tension on the LGS side of things due to being scheduled on top of PPTQs and other events. Discussions were had, tempers flared a bit, the “divide” between players and stores grew larger.

Since then things have relaxed, the bowling alley tournaments happen, and Battlegrounds has started supporting Legacy with two tournaments a month. The last Monday of every month gives us Legacy replacing Modern, and a monthly weekend event -- including a GPT coming up April 15. The Monday tournaments are consistently 5 rounds with a cut to the playoff rounds; the last Saturday event I attended was similar in size. These have been great. I have sadly been unable to attend a bowling alley tournament myself due to scheduling conflicts so I can’t speak to those. But with all this said I am prepared to make a bold statement:

I think we can play more Legacy.

Now, I don’t want to get too crazy. A weekly Legacy event is simply NOT going to happen. It’s never worked, people can’t commit. A store sets aside time and space and just ends up losing money on events that don’t launch. We don’t want this. We want our stores to still be there so we can keep playing Magic; to accomplish this we need to try something that works for them. We have to remember that at the end of the day, our LGS is still a business. 

Now let’s talk about data.

If you’re reading this, you likely contributed a response to my Google Form. When all was said and done we had 70 responses. This is a good chunk of data for a gaming community. Right up front we can go after the big question: Why don’t we play every week?
How often do you want to play?
We don’t play Legacy every week because people simply don’t want to play Legacy every week. Out of 70 responses only 17 rated playing every week a 5, that’s less than 25% of people surveyed. Playing every other week or once a month we’re both incredibly popular options. We’re already playing two events a month so we’re pushing this data a bit, but I think we can go a little further.

What day do you prefer to play?
The next question shows us that Thursday and Friday are awful, with an overwhelming preference toward playing on Saturday. Why is Saturday a problem? Remember before when I mentioned scheduling conflicts? PPTQs, Game Days, and other game systems having Organized Play events cut into a lot of Saturday time. And not every LGS is going to be able to support another whole event in their space on those days. Saturday is clearly ideal according to the data, but will consistently be met with conflict.

What tournament structure do you prefer?
In my heart of hearts I would love to have a league. I will happily toot my own horn that the Modern League last year at Jacques was my baby and I was very proud of it and thought it was very successful. However, dear reader, the data is not on our side. Having a modified swiss event with playoff rounds seems like the clear choice. There are some other issues with league play, primarily that without a weekly event it can be very hard to generate momentum. It also means we’re playing for *something.* Someone who joins late is going to feel like they don’t have a chance and are less inclined to play. An idea I would consider for the future is a “Tournament of Champions” of sorts. Win a monthly event? You qualify for the big one at the end. No points, no showing up late and getting daggered. I’m not taking this idea off the table, I’m just taking it off the table for now.

How do you feel about playtest cards?

Proxies. Playtest cards. Illegible sharpie scrawl on the back of a terrible common. We’re going to dig into this one a little bit because I’ve got some thoughts on these. First and foremost I was surprised to see a dead heat for needing them to participate. We have a LOT of people using playtest cards at these events when the data indicates we should be more evenly split. Two people said they wouldn’t participate if playtest cards are allowed, while I love playing against real dual lands, if we sanctioned every event we would probably play less Legacy. 

Give me a moment to equip my soapbox:

Here’s my thing with playtest cards. They serve a purpose, they let us try new things without investing in Magic cards. They let people who don’t normally play this format experience how ACTUALLY AWESOME it is because we can play ANYTHING. This all sounds great, right? The other edge on this sword is that they don’t incentivize people to actually invest in the format. When the sanctioned events come around we very likely don’t have anyone new playing the format because they haven’t needed to buy cards. Long term this matters for Legacy. Yes, these cards are expensive. No, Wizards probably won’t abolish the reserve list. But the bottom line is that if people don’t keep investing in the format and going out to things like GPs and Opens they are simply going to stop happening. “SCG is killing Legacy!” This statement infuriates me. Star City Games saved Legacy. The Power 9 series, the 5ks, the Open Series? These formats gave people more places to play the game. Yes, prices went up. Yes, the format got more expensive. That’s how supply and demand works. Attendance went down and as a result SCG scaled back the number of Legacy Opens they run. Do you know how many people played in the last Richmond Legacy Classic? Less than 60. Remember the statement about an LGS not running an event if it isn’t going to launch? This is the same thing at a larger scale. My long-winded point in all this is that while playtest cards help us play more Legacy locally we have to keep investing in the format. If you are using a printed out deck and really are having fun consider getting into the format. Yes, it’s expensive, but more than any other format right now it is an investment. 

Show up and play, keep Legacy alive.

Now back to the data...

What kind of prize support do you want?
The results here are pretty clear in my opinion. People want to play for store credit. Buying cards to finish your deck is sweet, being able to buy other swag like board games or sleeves is also sweet. Not too many people are into the idea of qualifying for a big event so I’m more inclined to make standalone events better and eventually look at a qualifier.

So what’s next?

What’s next is applying this data, which I’ve started to do. I tried to get the ball rolling on another tournament in April, but it simply isn’t going to work. However I am happy to announce that One Eyed Jacques is going to give us some table space on Sunday, May 21 at 2pm. Playtest cards will be allowed, entry fee will be $5, prizes will be paid out in store credit to Top 4. I’ve cleared that day out in my calendar to go play some Magic cards, will you?

Friday, September 9, 2016

Embracing Accountability

So I kept getting stuck trying to open this post, I finally decided to just look up some dictionary definitions for "accountability" and see if that could inspire me. Have you read these? I encourage you to look them up.

I had to share my epiphany with someone, why not on
Seriously! They're full of words like "blame," "control," and "justify." These are scary words! As I was reading these I was no longer surprised that people tend to shy away from the concept of accountability.

So what do we do about it? I want to use this post to explore some of the ways I have been holding myself accountable this year. I want to talk about how they're helping me hit my goals and helping encourage my peers. I also want to talk about some ways other judges are doing it as well.


What is this made up word? Well, earlier this year I co-wrote a post for The Feedback Loop with Riki Hayashi. The tl;dr is that Riki and I have invested in one another to help us hit our review goals for the year. I won't go into too much detail here other than to say that it's been highly effective for me. I suggest giving it a read if you're working with judges who are working on review goals as a way to check in on each other. Think of it as your gym buddy (or I guess for Riki a running partner) except with feedback and spreadsheets!

The Goals Thread

Here's a trend that has started to pop up a lot at Mid-Atlantic SCG Tour events and I've started to see spread. Usually the week before an event someone will throw up a thread in the forums on JudgeApps talking about their goals for the weekend, and encouraging others to share theirs. At Mid-Atlantic events it's usually Jennifer Dery who gets it going. (Who also happens to be the person that keeps poking me about updating this blog.) It creates some fantatsic opportunities for mentorship on the floor. And allows for people to follow-up after the event to encourage people to hit their goals. It was especially effective at GP Indianapolis. Southeast L2 Kali Rainwater got the thread started and it saw a lot of participation. She along with another judge targeted me as a review subject which got me involved with the thread. I have since received reviews from both of those judges. The thread also helped motivate me to get my reviews from the event completed.

The Goals Board

My personal favorite of what I've seen so far this year. At SCG Tour Worcester the Goals Board was unveiled by Northeast L2 Abby Kraycar:

The Goals Thread come to life! Maybe there are some judges who aren't paying attention to the forums, maybe there are some judges that didn't get motivated by the thread. Now this gives you a very in-your-face, very interactive way to promote accountability. Check out all of this participation! Check out that goal in the top left of the board. I wonder who's handwriting that is...

Spoilers: It me.
I took her idea and I ran with it back to SCG Tour Baltimore. I made a small alteration in that I got the first two people to use it (Riki and myself) to claim our goals. This takes the accountability a step further. This lets you look at the board and know exactly who you may be able to help out there. It lets you know who you can follow up with after the event to see how they thought they did! Abby did a similar thing a little later at SCG Tour Syracuse:

Now with color coding!
I like how Abby changed it up in Syracuse. Each team on day one of the event had it's own color. Then each Classic on Sunday had it's own color. One more thing that we can try to promote accountability. This idea is also spreading, Mid-Atlantic L1 Samantha Harr saw this idea in action at SCG Baltimore and at SCG Richmond and has adapted the technology to her workplace:
Not just for judging!

As the year goes on and more events come along I'll be talking with Abby and Samantha to see what works and what doesn't work for them. I really think this is a great tool for promoting team building at events and embracing accountability. (Ohmygosh! He said the name of the episode!)

A Long Time Coming

It's been entirely too long since I've updated this blog and I'm hoping to get back into the swing of posting regularly. For awhile I was busy finishing up the L3 advancement process, which completed with my panel at GP Pittsburgh. I've worked a handful of events since and I'm just now starting to settle into my new role in the program. For the first couple of events nothing felt different. It wasn't terribly surprising, I was performing basically as an L3 and just had the number adjusted. In Indianapolis the scale of what I'm doing now really started to set in. Working with judges from outside of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast really helped me realize the differences in perception that little number could cause. I was also a Team Lead for the first time as a Level 3 at the Grand Prix, that certainly helped everything a bit more real. I'm excited for October. I'm gearing up for a very busy month with five events in five different cities. Plus a bonus event I've applied for in the first week of November.

I feel like I had better find someone to hold me accountable for a blog post somewhere in there...

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Just Another Grand Prix Weekend

Saturday at GP Charlotte started out for me just as many others before it.  The big task of my day was Head Judging what would be a rather large Sealed Challenge at 1pm. The challenge? About one third of our event was expected to drop before ever opening a single pack. The goal? Minimize the amount of players waiting for opponents that will never arrive during Round 1. The solution? Make players drop before they can receive their packs.

I set out to accomplish this goal with four judges (Meghan Rickman, William Blanks, Tim Zimmerman, and Zach DeLadurantaye) who all put on their best rock star faces. Two took point with me on setting up our area and getting paper ready, two took charge and helped get our product ready.  The plan? Set up a zone where players could line up to drop and collect their packs.
It was basically like this but with less Gary Busey. 
No big deal right? We set out with 300 players registered for our event. A handful of other judges are brought on to help us with product. I make the announcement for players to form the queue off to the side of our event. They did so in a very fancy line made by pulling chairs away from the row of tables and turning them around. (Credit to Emilien Wild for that technology.) Over the course of our 30 minute build 74 players drop from our event. In Round 1 we had 6 no-show drops, 2 in the same match. Which means the system we put in place and the judges that worked with me made sure only 4 players of the initial 300 registered had to wait til Round 2 to play Magic. This was an event where SCG expected between one-third and one-half of the event to want to drop before ever playing a land. Challenge accepted. Challenge completed.

Our day continues, players are playing, judges are judging. I take lunch. I am up in the judge room overlooking the venue when the Fire Nation attacked Jared Sylva makes the announcement that WLTR, Wizards Large Tournament Reporter, had experienced a critical failure. (My friend Jennifer Dery wrote a highly informative post about the back end of this issue and her experiences on the day. It can be found on her blog.) The announcement continues to say that any player who drops from the event now will be given an "Infinite Challenge" badge, allowing them to play in scheduled side events for free for the rest of the weekend. They will also be adding additional challenges to the Saturday schedule, including a Sealed Challenge at 6:30. 


I finish my lunch and watch as roughly 700 players form multiple lines to drop from the event and make their way toward side events.
It was basically like this except with Magic cards instead of soap.
This is the part of the film where the score flares up and our heroes try to escape. This is the part of the film where asteroids fall from the sky and we watch New York (Charlotte?) get razed. This is the part of the film where everything falls apart.

Except it didn't.

This is the part of the film where I watched my friends, colleagues, and coworkers go to work, This is where the staff at GP Charlotte did what they were brought on to do: Handle it.

Nicholas Sabin, Level 3 Judge and Rap Battle Regional Coordinator of the Mid-Atlantic, takes the helm of what is about to be a Grand Prix within a Grand Prix. A satellite station is set up for our scorekeeper, the aforementioned Jennifer Dery.  Product is prepped (Kudos to Sean Heath and the judges he drafted for getting SO much product ready SO fast), teams are made, a drop station is created, and we launch the event. Build starts with 680 registered players, product is distributed, players begin to drop. Round 1 is paired with only 436 players, the lines for players to drop were quite long. We pair Round 2 with under 300 players and things have calmed down considerably.

At no point during any of this process did I see panic. At no point did I see anyone discouraged. At no point did I hear anyone complain. Every step of the way every single judge wanted to know how they could help. People took initiative, people showed hustle, people showed drive. The judges assigned to this task helped keep a bad situation from getting worse and I was proud to work alongside them.
It was basically this except without bowling.
WLTR threw our event a curveball that broke harder than any I've seen in 12 years of judging and 3 years on the GP circuit. WLTR broke and we didn't let it break us. When people in Richmond have asked me about Saturday in Charlotte I've been able to tell them about working with my friends to fix a problem...just another Grand Prix weekend.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

If You Build It

I want to talk about Richmond, Virginia.

I want to talk about a city that has six stores running PPTQs every season.

I want to talk about a city where every LGS works together and treats their players as one community instead of six.

The Meeting of the Families

We do it every sanctioning window. Each store sends one or two representatives, I attend along with another L2 in our city, James Kerr.  We sit down over dinner, drinks, and then get down to business. James will hand out some calendars he has prepared with the full sanctioning windows, complete with blackout dates - SCG Opens, Grand Prixs, Regionals, anything that may cause a conflict with our players. We make our way around the table and stores start penciling in dates. They choose their date, their format, their start time, their entry fee, and talk about anything special they may have lined up.  The result of that looks something like this:

Shout out to Rick Ralsten at The Time Capsule for going the extra mile with these flyers every season.

And just like that, two hours later our city is scheduled with zero overlap. Our city is scheduled where every store won't schedule other events on top of a PPTQ. Our city is scheduled and each store encourages their players to attend every event. But how did we get here? 

The Social Network

Richmond is fortunate that it has a history of stores being civil. It was a community that after Wizards ended Champs decided that we were going to do it anyway:

Majestic, isn't it?

But this was only a small step. It really got going with a Facebook group.  A small group that was created specifically for all of us to work with one another. Store owners and managers were invited, along with some members of the judge community.  I truly wish that every community would do this. It took very little effort and opened up a line of direct communication to everyone else.  This has helped us coordinate events on special release product, communicate about potential cheaters in our events, and even help us crack down on a thief or two.  But most importantly for us it's the heart of the machine that makes our PPTQ system work. 

When a new sanctioning window opens, usually the first one to open WER is the one that puts out the call. It's usually along the lines of "New window is up, lets do the thing. Who's turn is it to pick the restaurant?"  And within a few days were sharing beers, stories, and crushing out a schedule.  

Since their inception Richmond has not skipped a PPTQ nor cancelled a PPTQ (except for that blizzard).  

One City, One Community

So how do you get your LGS to buy in? In Richmond the concept is simple:

More stores means more players.

If six stores work together as one community, your players have six places in your city to play Magic. They have six places to buy and sell cards. They have six places to teach new people the game.  Additionally, when we work together and don't schedule on top of one another these players will travel to each store to play Magic. This extends beyond PPTQs, here's how a week in Richmond may look:

Monday: Modern at Battlegrounds
Tuesday: Standard at Battlegrounds
Wednesday: Standard at The Time Capsule
Thursday: Modern at One Eyed Jacques
Friday: FNM at every store.

We have players that play at every single one of these. 

When you have multiple stores sharing a Magic community you can work around each other during the week to maximize Magic for your customers without denying business. This schedule lets me focus on other game systems on other nights very effectively and has also allowed those communities to grow. (Namely My Little Pony and Game of Thrones 2E)  

That's the sell. Rather than dividing the pie 6 ways over and over, we're getting the whole pie on any given night and devoting time on other nights to different dessert analogies.
It's like this, except with people and Magic cards instead of sugar.

But They Don't Like Pie...

So what do we do when someone really doesn't appreciate my dessert analogies want to play ball and work together. In my opinion? You let them. There are some communities in Virginia who are experiencing this problem -- either a store thinks they're the "old dog" and don't want to work with the new guys, or a store just wants to try to do it bigger and better than everyone else and gets pushy. I don't think there is any sense in fighting with them, but you also don't want to ostracize them.  If they are communicating with their judges and scheduling their events reasonably I think we still work with them -- to a point.  You can refuse to work for a store that is intentionally scheduling against other local events.  We're ambassadors to the game and we want to do what we can to help stores succeed and communities grow, but we aren't obligated to any store or tournament organizer, especially ones who may not have the community's best interest at heart.

If a store really decides they don't want to share the pie, they're going to end up on the outside looking in while the people they see as competitors instead of colleagues chow down. Hopefully after awhile they want to get in on it, too.

It's Already Happening

Check out this glorious thing -- Matt Braddock "Channeling his inner EDB"

Pictured above you see what L2 Matt Braddock posted on Facebook for his area.

Michigan judges keep an active spreadsheet with PPTQ dates, formats, and Head Judges -- for their entire state.  Northeast L2s are using a set of Google forms to compile a master list for their whole region. The Mid-Atlantic is starting to implement a similar strategy via our Slack channel.

As I write this more and more judges are sounding off telling me about their advanced spreadsheet technology -- my hype levels are real.

More Guidelines Than Rules

Judges are like pirates -- right?

I want to close by saying I know these concepts aren't going to work for everyone. For some areas it is just not logistically possible for a number of reasons, and different things will work in different regions. But I encourage people to try. Start small. Social media is free and is often the most effective first step. If you can get stores and judges communicating as a group and even avoiding overlap for just their premier events then I would consider that a huge success and a step in the right direction.

I also want to encourage people to reach out and tell me about what they are doing in their areas, I want to know what's working, what isn't working. I am always happy to lend an ear and discuss new ideas or strategies. I want to start gathering stories, thoughts, and ideas to keep sharing and keep the ripple effect going.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

In Five Additional Turns

Your tournament is massive, your scorekeeper is busy, your round is ending. What now?


The Plan

A successful end of round procedure starts well before the clock hits zero, it starts before the event even begins. We can instill best practices into our fellow judges at our very first team meeting.  End of round starts with being proactive as we watch Magic.  Aside from policing slow play (which is probably another article altogether) we can do things like sweeping for match slips, tracking time extensions, and sometimes just sitting down at matches as the round nears a close. In my last post I talked about how we handled Charlotte's end of round without a printout from our scorekeeper, and it was simply by applying these and other practices.

One of the things I like to do as end of round lead is encourage other judges to report time extensions to me.  This way when the round nears it's end I can prioritize sending judges to those matches...more on that later. Additionally I encourage judges to just sit down on matches as they see them when we get down about 10 minutes in the round rather than waiting for an assignment.   As we're walking the floor we should also be making sure that slips are making their way to the scorekeeper -- sometimes players will chat after their match, sometimes judges will hoard slips as the round comes to a close.  We can collect these slips from players -- usually offering to make the trip for them in exchange for filling it out is a trade they are more than happy to make! And we can grab slips from other judges as we're heading to the stage so they can keep watching Magic and those slips can make it home safe.

The Clipboard

It's time, you've taken your place at the main stage and you're ready to send judges off into the trenches to end some matches...but how? Remember those time extensions? Lets attack those first! You can do this before you ever get a printout from your scorekeeper. These are the matches that are going to potentially cause our round to run long. A great practice here is to start learning the names of judges, make a note of who you've sent out so as more judges come for assignments you don't double-up until everything is covered.

Ok, we've got our extensions covered, but we still don't have a print out, what now? Send a couple judges on sweeps of the room. Start with the back corners farthest from the stage, have them sweep for slips, record time extensions, and get a general feel for how many people are still playing cards. Use this information to send out your next wave of judges. Anyone that comes up before your sweeps are complete you can send right back out to sit on a match.

Over the course of your event you'll start to get a feel for your fellow judges skill level, this will let you utilize their skills to tackle lengthy time extensions, double up with less-experienced judges, or send them back to help your scorekeeper -- I am confident they would love help sorting slips. Around this time is when I think you can look to get a printout from your SK, this is a great tool to make sure what they have in the computer matches reality. This brings me to the next point - EOR procedure isn't over when the last slip is in, it's over when you are confident that all your matches are sufficiently covered. If all of your tables have a judge, and you have people sorting slips, it's time to put the clipboard down and either take a breather until the next round or see how else you can help your event.

The Floor

I've covered the most important thing you can do as a floor judge to end your round -- and that's to be proactive.  After that there are a few low-effort things we can do to help. My favorite of the bunch is really simple: Get sent to a table and see someone walking up with a slip? Ask them what they've got! You can save yourself a trip across the venue if they're bringing up the slip you're hunting. The important bits on the floor are a lot of what NOT to do.

Match slips don't belong in your pocket, don't do it, not ever, please no. That isn't their home, their home is with the scorekeeper. Get them home safe.  Speaking of getting them home, try not to hoard them -- as we're sweeping for slips they will start to accumulate but we still need to make sure they get to the main stage quickly so we can have a smoother turn over.

No players, no slip? Don't sit on that information, let your EOR lead know immediately so that information can move up to the SK, At that point either start hunting for that slip, because if it isn't there it's time to call those players to the stage.

Don't depend on the printout. Your scorekeeper is busy, your tournament is probably large. A printout with 100 tables isn't going to help you. Practice best practices and be proactive about end of round procedure and you'll find that your printout won't be necessary.

New Jersey - New Seminar!

Next week at the Northeast Judge Conference I will be talking about End of Round procedure with scorekeeping wizard Jennifer Dery. We're going to talk about best practices and how you can not only help your rounds flip faster, but how you can help your scorekeeper, and how to deal with tricky situations when the round draws to a close.  Her post about this weekend can be found here!