Judging Local Tournaments

Posted in NEWS on December 8, 2015

By Wizards of the Coast

Dave Taylor

A lot of focus on the web recently has been on the large-scale tournaments. You see tournament reports from States, PTQs, and even reports from Pro Tours and even the Invitational. Even the judge reports tend to focus on these large-scale events. This article is meant to focus on the running of local tournaments and the issues that arise in doing so.

Roles - Tournament Organizer

Usually when you are judging at a larger event, you are assigned to be part of a judging team, with a senior judge as your "superior." At the smaller events, such as PTQs or Prereleases, you will most likely have only judging duties, with perhaps an added responsibility of starting and running events on your own.

At the local tournaments, however, you are likely to take on the role of Tournament Organizer as well. In many cases, you will also be the one responsible for scheduling future events. What does this mean?

First, you need to take the time before each of your tournaments to sanction your event with the DCI. In the past, this used to involve submitting paperwork for each of your events at least 28 days before the tournament was scheduled to be held. Now, thanks to the folks at the DCI, you can sanction your events electronically via the web. This process is very quick and you should have a sanctioning number for your event within five minutes of submitting the form. Note that while it seems you can actually submit the form and get sanctioning numbers on the same day as your event, I do recommend planning your events well in advance and obtaining the sanctioning as soon as possible. After all, the DCI doesn't guarantee that you will be able to get your events sanctioned unless you submit them in advance! Note that you will also need to have time to submit the results to the DCI. I recommend using DCI Reporter for all of your events and uploading the results. Combined with electronic sanctioning and DCI Reporter's ability to upload new mana memberships, this makes the process virtually paperless! Remember, players appreciate when their results are submitted quickly and their matches show up on the Thursday after the event.

What should you do about choosing events? It makes good sense to offer local tournaments that mirror the format of the local PTQs. Usually this will allow you to get the "serious" players to your events as well as the local crowd who might not care too much whether you focus on a particular format from time to time. It is important, of course, to offer variety, even during the PTQ seasons, as it does offer a change of pace for the "serious" player that is most likely playing one specific format week in and week out. The next suggestion is that you pay attention to which formats you run bring in the most players. Finally, the last bit of advice that enters my mind is simply to ask your players. Quite often you can get a good sense of what players would enjoy by asking them. You can do this by either physically asking them at one of your events, or you can take the high-tech approach and use a poll on your website. For the latter part, if you have a website and would like to place a poll on it, I suggest checking out the free services of www.bravenet.com.

Dave Taylor has put a lot of time and work into making his tournaments succeed.

Perhaps a short example will demonstrate what I mean. This year, August and September were the Invasion Block Constructed PTQ season. My tournament schedule here (Harrisburg, PA) was:

July 14 Invasion Block Constructed Main Event
  Standard Side Event
  Booster Draft Side Events
August 4 Invasion Block Sealed Deck Main Event
  Standard Side Event
  Booster Draft Side Events
August 25 Invasion Block Team Sealed Event
  Booster Draft Side Events
September 8 Invasion Block Constructed Main Event
  Standing Side Event
  Booster Draft Side Events

For the July event, I chose IBC because the upcoming two months would feature that format. As we usually have a subset of players around here that love to play Type 2, I tossed in the side event. I also advertised that it would be 16K, regardless of the number of players, in order to bring in some of our younger players that sometimes feel our regular crowd is too competitive. I chose starting times so that the Type 2 event started right after round 2 of the main event, so that the few IBC players that weren't feeling good about their chances could drop and play Type 2. I always schedule drafts, as it seems like one of the more popular formats to play in recent times.

The event on August 4 is almost the same, except IBC was dropped to favor Invasion Sealed Deck. This let the players who enjoy limited over constructed a chance to play in a bigger event and still let the players who enjoy IBC play to work with the cards from the sets or even pick up a fourth Urza's Rage or other cards that they needed. Having limited events around a block PTQ season seems to be a great idea as you'll see more trades made between players and your attendance should rise.

You might now ask why I chose the Team Sealed event on August 25. The simple response is that the players requested it. Surprisingly, we were able to get seven teams of three, making 21 players, which is just slightly lower than our average limited attendance. The players appreciated the event, had a lot of fun, and we will definitely be running them again. Why did I not schedule a Type 2 event? This time I wanted to focus the players on the Team Sealed event. Usually, proposing no alternative will entice the players that prefer a particular format but love to play the game to play.

Finally, you might ask why I offered another IBC event so late in the season. Again, there is a simple answer: our local PTQ was scheduled for September 16, so this gave our local players another chance to practice.

Roles - Judge

Whew! Well, we're not quite done yet. You still have your natural role of judge to fill. For the sake of dividing this article nicely, I will count virtually everything you do on-site to be of a "judge-related" nature.

First, you will most likely need to register your players. Again, I highly recommend using DCI Reporter and its PIN database. This will allow the simple exchange as follows:

You: Good morning, how are you?
Player: Fine, thanks. How much is this event?
You: It's $X, but only $Y if you're preregistered.

  • Situation 1

    Player: I believe I'm preregistered, I'm John Smith.
    You: Oh yes, I have you right here [takes money]. You're all set!
    Player: Thanks.
  • Situation 2

    Player: Oh no, here's the $X [take money]. How do I preregister?
    You: You can call 555-1234, or go to www.mysite.com.
    Player: Thanks.
    You: Could I have your DCI number, please?
    Player: Sure, it's 12345678.
    You: [after typing number and seeing name] You're Joe Smith?
    Player: Yup!
    You: You're all set then!
    Player: Thanks.

I really love the feature of DCI Reporter that will bring up a name if you type their 8 digit DCI number. As a quick note, if you type a 7 (or less) digit DCI number and hit Enter, it will enroll them with their name as long as they are in the PIN database. Otherwise you'll need to type their name.

Starting events and running them is something that you are probably used to by now. However, I do suggest taking a relaxing attitude during the event. What do I mean by that? Give players a few minutes between rounds (especially near lunch time) and allow them to spread out along the tables if you have the space. They will be happier if they have room and will certainly appreciate it.

If you are good with names, it's usually nice to get to know your players as well. As long as they know that you are the judge and you are being completely unbiased, there is no reason not that have a good relationship with your players. When you can greet them in the morning by their name and know that they're preregistered just from knowing who they are and who is preregistered, the event becomes a lot of fun for you and your players.

Creativity / Features

This last section is meant to toss some ideas out there for those of you that really like to give your time and effort to your players to make Magic fun for your area.

Website / Newsletter

In today's world where (almost) everyone has their own website, having one for your tournaments is a great idea. For an example, check out my tournament website at twctournaments.com. Here I list the upcoming tournaments, have a section for players to log in and see their history at my events, and even preregister for future events. In addition, I'll post decks, reports, and results from my tournaments and sometimes news from around the Magic world.

To go along with this, a weekly newsletter sent out through email to your players is also a great idea. You can offer them a weekly reminder of your next tournament, as well as giving them DCI news (new rules, bannings, etc), or rumors about upcoming sets. I have many players that religiously read my newsletters each week.

Challenge Events

I'm sure everyone has heard of the famous Neutral Ground / Your Move Games Grudge Match. An interesting idea is your own grudge match between you and another local store or tournament organization. Here we are trying this for the first time and hope to have a great time doing so. The first Grudge Match Qualifier brought in an average turnout and hopefully the other store's event went over good as well (as of this writing, I have not heard from him yet).

The next idea is your own local Invitational. This can be modeled after the yearly DCI Invitational, and, while not offering the right to design your own card, you can offer prizes for top finishers and a plaque for the winner. This January will mark my second time running a local Invitational, and it is shaping up to be a lot of fun. Players really enjoyed the first Invitational, and this year's formats are similar to those used at the 2000 DCI Invitational. The right to attend is dictated by a few qualifier events as well as a points system used at most of my events this past year.

I would welcome any feedback or suggestions, so please feel free to email me at dave@twctournaments.com. I wish everyone the best of luck in their judging and running their local tournaments. Also, Happy Holidays everyone!