Thursday, September 10, 2015

GP Charlotte 2015: How to Help Your Swiss Sides Scorekeeper

Yep, you read that title correctly. Grand Prix Charlotte was a few months ago, but I'm behind on my event posts and some interesting things happened, so here we are :) I enjoy writing things down (could you tell?), and I'm a bit of pack rat, so my notes from this GP are stored right between my notes from GP Vegas and the SCG Open in Baltimore that happened at the end of June. Yay!

Charlotte as an event city holds a special place in my heart: I attended my first GP there a few years ago, when the nearly 2700 main event players blew old attendance records out of the water. Yep. First GP ever. As a player, as a judge, or as stage staff. Man, that event was real. Anyway. Back to the present. Well, closer to the present at least.

Infinite Challenge Badges

The big news from the most recent GP Charlotte was the debut of's Infinite Challenge Badge. A single fee for the weekend got a player entry into any of the Challenge Swiss side events, which were my domain for the weekend. Here's a pic from my notebook to give you a rough idea of how many events that was:

Of the events on that list, only the Friday Foiled Again event wasn't part of the Infinite Challenge Badge. It's a little hard to see in the picture, but if you look under players for the Sealed events on Saturday and Sunday, you might be able to make out my notes about how many drops there were before round 1 of those events — about half of the total number of entries.

Turns out, when you tell players they can sign up for Sealed events for free as part of their Infinite Challenge Badge, they do it, take the packs, and drop. But, we have to have some record of them to help with product reconciliation at the end of the event and to track how well the Challenge Badges are doing. So, they had to be registered, and dropped.

Figuring out which half of a 300-person event doesn't want to play round 1 can be challenging (heh), and any method is bound to introduce some amount of error. This is what I did:

1. Printed an extra copy of the seatings by name that went up for deck building.
2. Asked the Head Judge of the event to announce that any players wanting to drop should remain in their seats until a judge comes by and gets their name.
3. Asked a judge or two to work through the seated players and highlight the names of those who wanted to drop, then bring me the list as soon as possible.
4. Traded a blank sheet of paper for that list as soon as it was done so players could drop from the build area, and I'd have a more condensed list to work from after I got through the highlighted names on the seating.
5. Asked a judge to stand in front of my computer and help players who didn't need my help specifically.

The process was time consuming for each event, but it worked. Players were dropped before it was time to pair the first round. A few players were dropped accidentally because they weren't in their seats when the judge with the list got to them, but that's pretty easy to fix.

The Challenge Badges posed a few other problems for the event, but most of them were beyond the scope of my scorekeeping assignment:

  • People were trying to sign up for events with their friend's badges.
  • The Badge line got lengthy, and some players had trouble picking up their badges and registering for events in time.
  • Players with Badges tended to try to register for events after the cutoff times.
The awesome registration and admin staff dealt with these issues as well as they could, and overall I think the Badges were successful. I also think they do something kind of important for Grand Prix events:

They make Grand Prix less about a single tournament and more about the festival atmosphere that comes with hanging out with your friends and playing Magic: the Gathering.

That's a pretty big shift from the mentality that's existed around GPs until now, and I'm excited about it. The way the Vegas 2015 venue was set up contributed to that convention feel — vendors and artists making the giant room seem smaller, lots of things going on — and I'm all for the community aspects of Magic over the competitive, tournament-winning aspects. Winning tournaments is fun, but so is making memories.

Judging Swiss Sides

Back to my title (How to Help Your Swiss Sides Scorekeeper): scorekeeping Swiss sides at GPs can be grueling. An event is firing every hour, rounds flip at around the same time, and there tend to be lots of people looking for lots of different kinds of information. Staying organized is critical, or answering questions takes longer. If answering questions takes longer, performing tasks gets delayed, and delays spiral into ... bad things.

There are many items on my list of things Swiss judges can do for their scorekeeper at large events, like volunteering to make a Starbucks run for hot chocolate, but these are the most important ones:

If you're Head Judging a Swiss event, let me know your starting table number as soon as possible.

As soon as possible means as soon as the previous event is seated and you know what tables will be free. If there are factors beyond your control preventing you from figuring out your starting table number, like On-Demand events or a table shift of the main event, let me know. If I can't help you figure it out, at least I know when to expect the information to be available. Setting high table numbers in DCI-R can take a bit of work, and the more warning I have the faster I can get the tournament started when registration closes.

Don't ask me how many players are in the event until about 10 minutes before it starts.

Chances are good that I have no idea. I don't usually get player files from registration until registration closes, which is at about the ten-till mark. If something crazy is happening at registration, like a massive line, I might not know until ten minutes after the event is supposed to start.

If you need this information for your starting table number — for example, if you know what you want your ending table number to be — or to prepare extra sealed product, please let me know instead of taking "I don't know" as answer. I can figure out the starting table number when registration closes, or try to get you the information you need.

Leave me your name, DCI number, and the name of the event you're judging, preferably in a tangible, papery form. If you go on break, tell me who's replacing you and when you'll be back.

I, personally, am notoriously bad at remembering to add judges to events. If you put this information in front of me, I'm more likely to remember. I want you to get credit for judging this event, but when things get hectic that's one of the first tasks to get back burnered. Also, feel free to remind me when things are quiet. Tracking you down later is a pain, and I'd rather get you in the file while your event is active.

Plus, if I need to find you for something it's much easier for me to ask for you by name than "whoever the Head Judge of the 5 p.m. Modern Challenge is."

Remember to make special announcements.

Some of the things scorekeepers ask you to remind players about — to take their fourth round result slips to customer service at SCG GPs — may seem inconsequential, but they're not. If you don't make these announcements, I have to answer "Where do I get my prizes?" for every player in the event, which takes time. Some players won't listen no matter how many announcements you make or signs you post, that's inevitable, but heading off as many of the questions as possible is a huge help.

Ask for the things you need.

I'm here, first and foremost, to facilitate the event that you're judging. If there's something you need that you don't have, and you think I can help you, please ask. When you ask, help me help you:

  • Tell me what you need.
  • Tell me why you need it.
  • Tell me when you need it by.
That second question is important because I may be able to give you something that's more helpful than what you're asking for, or offer an alternative for what you're trying to accomplish. If you ask for a player list, I'll want to know if you're using it for drops or deck checks because there are different kinds of printouts that better suited to each of those tasks.

The third question is important because I'm probably busy. If you need that thing right away, let me know so that I can make it a higher priority. If it can wait ten minutes or until after the next round starts, tell me that too. If it can wait, and I forget to do it, ask again. I'm human. I can juggle lots of different things, and I'm pretty good at remembering what people have asked for, but I'm not perfect.

Also, hot chocolate.

Not really. But if you keep these things in mind when you're working Swiss side events, your scorekeeper will thank you. At least I will. Most of the time.

Mid-Atlantic Judge Conference

The Mid-Atlantic region is having a judge conference next Sunday! (That's September 20th, 2015.) I've put together a presentation on WER topics for attendees that I'll make public, in the form of a PowerPoint, some notes, and some blog posts in the week or so after the conference. If there are specific questions you have about WER for your local store's FNMs, GPTs, and PPTQs, let me know! I'll try to incorporate suggestions into the presentation, and I'm always happy to try to answer questions directly.

Additionally, I'm going to spend the three presentation blocks I'm not presenting doing some (probably awful) coverage of the other presentations. I hope to wrangle some of the other awesome attendees to help my efforts, so look out for that: D

(I promise those posts will have more pictures than this one.)

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