Tournaments in West Virginia and the DCI

Posted in NEWS on June 4, 2000

By Wizards of the Coast

Brian Rogers

The function of the DCI is to provide value-added services to support Wizards of the Coast products. For Magic: the Gathering, these valued-added services come in a variety of different forms. Organized play creates an environment in which game value is increased based on increase product usability and serves to create a potential for return on a player's investment. Card rulings and errata, compiled in the Oracle, enhance the product value by insuring that when two players from different areas sit down to play a game, that there game will not be interrupted by competing rules structures. Ratings and rankings are compiled in order to give players an objective valuation of their play skill versus others throughout the world. The DCI league structure, Arena League, allows players not interested in or ready for tournament play, the opportunity to play in a structured environment with a reward system that is focused more at game play and less on winning.

However, the most vital part of the the DCI's system of value-added services would be it's certified judging program. It is this self-educated work force that enables the DCI to extend it's reach widely without the addition of tremendous cost to Wizard's products. As judges, we can request compensation form tournament organizers in exchange for our services. We gain access to information not readily available to the public and we receive special benefits from Wizards of the Coast and the DCI. Still this is much more effective that training judges and supporting their operation.

In return for this, it is our obligation to assist the DCI in carrying out the services it is trying to provide. We each have the responsibility to always speak with the best information available when referencing the rules of the game. It is our duty to present a good example to other players about how to act in a tournament environment.

Beyond these responsibilities, we have additional opportunity. As a judge you may organized tournaments with enhanced K-value, or you can offer your services at larger events. The primary focus of most of the DCI organized play structure is on it's premiere events. These events are able to attract larger crowds because of their pro-tour supported nature. By creating the pro-tour, the DCI created a magnet which gives a high reward to those interested in focusing effort towards archiving a very elusive goal. Being able to work within this structure is very important, however, due to the DCI oversight place on these events, as individual judges, this is not where our focus needs to lie.

Rather than focus our effort at further enhancing the premiere event structure, as individual judges, we need to work on improving our capabilities as they are associated with organizing and carrying out smaller local tournament. This tournaments are not strictly overseen by the DCI and as such require more focus and insight by the coordinator. Also, it is these tournaments, along with the Arena League, which are the forum for the largest grouping of Wizards of the Coast product consumers.

Towards this end, I would like to share some techniques I have found effective. The sources for these ideas come from a variety of places and there effectiveness may vary over use. However, it is my hope that the sharing of these ideas will provide other small organizers with ways to provides additional benefits to their players.

I run events in rural West Virginia under the name, The Arcane Events (T.A.E.). One of the most basic problems I first realized when I began running my tournaments was, because of the economically depressed nature of this region, it would be necessary to create a structure in which everyone had a equal opportunity to play, while still affording those interested the opportunity to win something. This provided incentive for more experience players to play as well as a reason for the store owners to desire tournament play. Any individual player could make his or her own decision as to weather to pay and play for prizes or simply to play for points.

This system, unfortunately, lead to abuse. In an attempt to increase tournament revenues for the store owners, I implemented a rating system for T.A.E. Players could still play for prizes or points, however, only those within certain ranges could play for free. Players which had certain match totals would be compelled to pay a lesser fee in order to play for points only. This system was also necessary because of the small number of players available in the region. Without this option, there would almost never be enough players to sanction a tournament.

Originally, I created a rating system not entirely unlike that used by the DCI. However, this system, though fair and not open to aberration much like the ELO system, was not favored by the players. Because of this I turned to a very simple system based on the Pokemon league system. My hope was that this system would provide the valence to those players who were not interested in high level play, and were more interested in seeing a simple time comparison of their play skills. It was a simple cumulative point system where points were awarded based on the inverse of tournament finishing position. At the end of each of these tournaments I award TheArcane Points (T.A.Points) to players. Almost no one in my region is interested in DCI ratings, but they are all intent upon increasing their points levels. As with the Pokemon League, I also have created, and presently are working on updating, a special plateau reward system. For Example, ever time a player reaches 100 T.A.Points, he or she gets free tournament entry with prize eligibility.

The next thing that became apparent was that many of the players with more experience were interested in becoming judges. This was due in no small part to the product that I returned with from a PTQ and the foil Balduvian Hordes I received for Christmas (Thank You DCI). The level of there abilities varied hugely, however, their desire was genuine. Because of this, and because I often go away to judge at PTQs on the weekends, I began running tournaments using the 3-judge system. At first, I would be head judge while I explained things I was doing to the secondary and tertiary judges, however, over time I was able to take a less and less active role in judging the tournaments and I usually now act as a tertiary judge and just observe how the other are handling themselves, only stepping in with suggests when a error seems to be inevitable.

The certified judge system is a great asset to the DCI. This system allows players an opportunity to feel a part of the Games they play. Also, by creating a tie to the player, that player's love of the game is fostered.

The store owners and I have also been working together to create "Learn to play Magic and Pokemon" days. These are days when potential new players can come in and it will be arranged that myself or one of the more experienced players will be there to teach these games. I have been using the Guru program to increase interest in these events along with special benefits offered at the store.

I maintain a small mailing list for all of my regular player. I send out two announcements for every tournament and I also answer questions via email at Also, on a periodic basis, I compile questions, deck, and rants that have been sent in and distribute them as T.A.E. Not-So-Weekly Issues. I have combined my forces with that of other email mailing lists in order to reach a larger player base. This helps to bring new players to TheArcane Events every weekend.

Another important step was just archived over the last week. The store where I run most of my tournaments now, just became a premiere store. Now, the store owner can act a coordinator, so I don't have to. We will, hopefully, be starting Friday Night Magic in two weeks! This is a great chance to get some special cards out to all of our players, and it give the player who can't normally play for prizes something they can win as well. It also support sporting play, something I hold at the forefront of each of my events. I, also, am encouraged by the way it promotes good players as well as players by giving the winner a specific prize but also giving one luck person who just wanted to play, a door prize. Previously, I have no experience with these events, but I am looking forward to meeting the challenges that they present. I do not feel that I will experience the types of thing that many judges have mentioned on the judges list, but I can see avenues for new situations to arise.

Finally, the biggest problem I am still trying to work out, is how to handle penalties. Thus far, I have only given out one official warning. This warning was for a player who insisted upon talking during a booster draft. This began as a minor incident. He is one of the more experienced players and he was talked during the draft. I requested that he stop and he continued. This was not so much a problem, as it was a casual draft but he keep on referring to cards in his pack. Eventually, I gave him a Procedural Error - Minor. If he had continued after this, I was fully prepared to eject him from the draft and let him play with the few cards he had already drafted.

Often, we have players who have illegal cards in there decks. The way a handle this varies. Often, I offer to check decks before an event. If I check it and, for some reason, it is still wrong then, we simply correct the error and go on as it is my fault. If I offer and you refused the offer then you would get a game loss and have to replace it with a basic land if it's removal would make your deck less than 60 cards. If I don't offer, it would depend on the specific situation. I would not be willing to give an official warning out because someone thought that Goblin Cavalries was a good card.

Fortunately, I have yet to witness anything close to cheating at these events. I only have to deal with those issues at PTQs and the like. I realize that many judges are not this lucky. I am continually watching for the signs that a player may be cheating, more so when an experienced player is playing one of the younger players. From time to time I have seen people misrepresent cards, but nothing to the degree that I would say they were intentionally breaking the rules. Also, I make it known to all of the players that if a situation occurs where they do not understand what is happening, that they need to call me, or another judge to explain exactly how the situation is supposed to work.

At present, it is my plan to make Friday Night Magic tournaments into the casual tournaments for every one to play in. This will be run at a lenient R.E.L. 1. Also, For the more experienced players, I want to institute a weekly booster draft or extended tournament. This will be somewhere that players who want a real challenge can come an play in a more furious atmosphere. My goal is, just like the DCI, to create programs that target all of the major segments of players in my geographic region. I am trying to take full advantage of all of the DCI systems I can to help accomplish my task and I have created strategic alliances with many others to help aid in my cause as well as assist them in their endeavors.

I hope that every judge takes time to help foster new players into the game. I feel that it is important to give special consideration to new players and help to build their love of the game. This task, though less appealing than judging at large tournaments, is more vital to the overall health and future of Magic. The scrubs of today are the Pros of tomorrow. As a judge, we must mold these players into the types of players that are going to act as ambassadors of the game. I have been blessed with a group of players who just love to play. From time to time, some of them accompany me to a PTQ, or a Prerelease, and sometimes they don't do excessively bad (They may be reading this so I will be nice). However, all of my players are courteous and they continue to play because they love the game. It is not always possible to promote sportsmanship above all else, especially when there are large prizes on the line. I recall something that Dan Gray mentioned on the judges list. He said, (Something to this effect) the major hurtle for new judges to get over was to get over the desire to be fair in each situation and to judge based on the guideline and tournament rules. I agree with this sediment, as it applies to large important events, however, I feel this may be the wrong approach at the local level. It is more important that everyone has fun, and that takes a lot of knowing the area you judge in and the players who play there.

Brian D. Rogers
Level 1 DCI Judge (Comments/Suggestion Welcome)