Preparing to Judge (and Organize) a Tournament

Posted in NEWS on July 17, 1999

By Wizards of the Coast

Jaap Brouwer

Organizing and judging tournaments since January 1996, I've learned quite a lot along the road. In this article I'll try to tell you what a decent preparation is. The preparation described in this article is probably not the ultimate preparation. But it'll give you a good start.

In this article judge and organizer issues will be mixed together. A lot of head judges are organizers. This article starts with an overview of the things that happen and things that are needed during the day of a tournament. In this overview a lot of items will be described. After that a summary of all those points will be given.

The day of the tournament

The day of the tournament is advancing and you wonder what can you do to prepare? Just overview the whole day. You'll think up some things.

  • Before the tournament starts you want to have the appropriate staff available. To run a small standard tournament only requires a small staff, to judge a rochesterdraft PTQ needs a whole lot bigger staff. Make sure you have the right amount of people and some extra, just in case somebody gets sick.
  • If you intend to use a computer-program make sure you and someone else of the staff knows how to operate the program. Make sure you have enough paper if you intend to use a printer. Make sure you have extra powercables. Lot's of places don't have the powersupply points where you want to have your computer and printer.
  • At the beginning of the tournament players need to pay and register:
  • Make sure you have change; lack of change can create embarrassing situations (and frustrations). Try to anticipate on the entrance and participation fee. For example, if the fee will be $15, make sure you have enough coins (or bills) to change bills of $20.
  • Make sure you have the means to register the players properly, i.e. paper, pens, tournament forms, deckregistration forms, and manamember forms. Very experienced players will look amazed if you ask them if they brought pen and paper! Bring some extra. Charge them if you feel like it, but just bring some extra. If there are preregistered players, make sure you have a list with all the names in a convenient format (e.g. sorted by name).
  • After registration's closed and before the tournament starts there is one very important thing you have to do, you have to brief the judges and the players. Think of the briefing you want to give them. It might be handy to make a list of points you want to tell judges and / or players. Some points could be:
  • Short introduction of the staff, the task for each member of the staff during the tournament;
  • The format of the tournament, the number of rounds that will be played, the length of a round, if there are any breaks (for lunch);
  • If it's limited, the time for deck construction, the kind and number of lands that players are allowed to add (and where they are located), what is and what is not allowed (like talking);
  • If it's a draft, the commands that will be used during the draft, the time between commands and when players can look at their cards;
  • The rules-enforcement level and what that implies;
  • The amount of prizes available and the way they are divided.
  • Dependent on the format of the tournament, first you have a draft and / or deck-construction and / or start of the first round (for constructed deck). If you play limited make sure you have enough product and other materials (like land) available.
  • During the tournament the players need to find their seat. Make sure you have table numbers to put on the tables. I myself always use those handy little yellow stick-it notes. Easy to put on, relatively cheap and easy to remove again.
  • Have all the appropriate judging materials available like a recent copy of the Oracle, the comprehensive rules, the DCI Penalty Guidelines, and the Standard Floor Rules.

As mentioned before, this is probable not a complete list of points. Every organizer / judge has other situations to think of and to anticipate on. If you have any suggestions to add to this list, let me know at


Make sure you have:

  • Have the appropriate staff for the event;
  • Have all the supplies to start & run the event well, like change, computer supplies, product (for limited events), pens, sufficient paper, land, tablenumbers, oracle, comprehensive rules, ; DCI Penalty Guidelines and the Standard Floor Rules;
  • Brief the judges and the players.

That's all basically. Hope you enjoy doing your tournaments as much as I do.

Thanks for your attention.

Jaap Brouwer