Keeping Busy: Ongoing Judge Tasks

Posted in NEWS on October 22, 2007

By Wizards of the Coast

As a Level 1 judge, one of the hardest skills to pick up is knowing what to do throughout a tournament. It is very easy to get into conversations with other judges or players during lulls and lose focus. The following article is a group of suggested tasks for Floor Judges to take upon themselves, or for Head Judges to assign.

Prior to Tournament Start – As a judge, your primary responsibility before the tournament is to make sure that you and the venue are ready for the tournament. Number and clear all of the tables that will be used for play. Make sure that everyone in the registration line has a form and a DCI Number. An easy way to do this is to move along the line with both registration forms and DCI cards. Verify that a player has never had a DCI number before giving them a form for a new number. In addition to assuring the venue's physical preparation, make yourself available to players for questions. Speak with the Head Judge and be clear on sleeve policies and tournament policy questions (prize distribution; grace time before a tardiness Penalty). If you don't know, refer the player to the Head Judge or Tournament Organizer.

Immediately Prior to Tournament – This is the point when many tournaments bog down. Last-minute registrations and partially filled-out decklists can cause the start of the tournament to be pushed back, frustrating both players and staff. In order to prevent this, staff should circulate through the players, making sure that players are filling out decklists and encouraging anyone who has not registered to do so before the last minute.

Start of the Tournament (Start of the Round) – The beginning of the round is one of the most important times to be available to the Head Judge. Pairings will need to be posted, results slips will need to be handed out, decks will need to be scooped and the corresponding deck lists pulled for deck checks. Unlike most of the activities in this article, these activities must be handed out by the Head Judge. At larger tournaments and Premier Events, you will often be assigned to a specific team, (Paper, Deck Checks, Logistics), but at smaller tournaments, these tasks are often handed out round by round. As a judge, it is your responsibility to be in the proper place to receive any of these tasks. Make yourself available as a resource.

Early in the Round (First 10 Min) – Usually floor staffing is thin at the beginning of the round; deck checks often pull judges away for up to 10 minutes. When you are on the floor during this time it is very important to cover all of the matches. Circulate through the players; do not watch a single match for very long unless you suspect slow play or another infraction that requires prolonged observation. Almost all matches will be running throughout this period and it is most important to cover the floor. It is also possible to remove excess table numbers at the beginning of the round. This can eliminate confusion in later rounds and prevent damage to table numbers.

Middle Round (10-40 Min) – Most matches will end during this time. Make sure that players completing their match fill out their results slips and bring them to the administration desk. As a judge, you will also see most of your questions during this period as there are the additional complications of sideboarding and between-game procedures. Covering the floor is a priority, but with additional staff from completing deck checks and a dwindling number of matches, it is also important to make sure that the venue is being prepared for the next round. Clear off tables and straighten table numbers. When possible, direct players to clean up their own messes, especially in the tournament area, but if necessary, clean it up yourself.

End of Round (Last 10 Min) – Players will be winding up their matches and, as the number of outstanding results begins to shrink, it becomes possible to verify that all of those tables are still playing. Get a list of outstanding results from the Scorekeeper and check each of those tables before time is called. If any tables are not accounted for, report to the head judge so that the players may be called to the judge station and the result of their match determined. The reason for doing this now is that identifying any problems prior to the end of the round will prevent them from holding up the tournament. Players may be slow in bringing up their results slip or may have forgotten all together. Once all tables are accounted for, circulate between them with an eye on slow play. Slow play is most often used as a tool near the end of rounds to ensure a draw or to keep a game from finishing, so this is the time when we must be most vigilant.

Time Called for the Round – At this point, the outstanding tables should have been identified. If they have not, see the Scorekeeper for a list of outstanding results and check in with each table to ensure that the players heard time called and are proceeding with end of match procedure. Split the remaining matches between the judges so that each judge can facilitate the end of match procedure and watch for slow play. Remember that being in extra turns is not an excuse for slow play. Players are still expected to play at a reasonable rate. Once a match that you are watching ends, present the results slip to the players politely for their signatures and verbally verify the result before quickly taking it to the Scorekeeper. If there are still outstanding matches without judges, aid a judge who is watching two or more. Once all matches have a judge watching them or all matches are reported, prepare for the beginning of the next round.

Other tasks will certainly pop up throughout the tournament, but keeping this list in mind can help to avoid end of round problems. A large part of being a strong Level 1 judge and a Level 2 candidate is the ability to motivate yourself and find important things to do without direct supervision. I hope that this article can help give you ideas to keep busy.

Time Period Tasks
Prior to Tournament Number tables
Clear tables
Make sure registration line has necessary paperwork
Answer player questions
Immediately Prior to Tournament Encourage players to register
Remind players about decklists
Start of Round Be at the disposal of the Head Judge
Post Pairings
Distribute Results Slips
Conduct Deck Checks
Beginning of Round Circulate the floor
Remove excess table numbers
Middle of Round Make sure Results Slips are filled out
Clean tables and tournament area
End of Round Check that all outstanding results are still playing
Resolve any outstanding results issues
Watch matches for slow play
Time Called for the Round Ensure all tables are in end of match procedure
Ensure players continue to play in a timely manner
Expedite filling out and turning in of Match Slips

Jared Sylva, L2