Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Two-Headed Giant Post

Did you guys know that the Shadows over Innistrad prereleases are about 30 hours from now? No, really. They are. I couldn't be more excited. This set looks awesome, mostly because there's so much Tamiyo in it. I have like a billion things preordered to pick up at the Open in Baltimore next weekend.

Prereleases are great for lots of reasons, but for many players, they're the only chance they have to experience Two-Headed Giant. This also means that for many organizers and judges, they're the only experience they have running 2HG events in WER.

2HG events are mostly the same as individual events. Player enrollment and seating are the big differences, and I have a few tricks that might save you some time.

Enrolling Teams

When you open a 2HG event, you'll notice that the "Players" tab that you're used to has been replaced with the "Teams" tab. It looks like this:

You have two boxes to enter player details before you can hit the Enroll button on the left, and you also have a second tab at the top of the player list on the right side.

The way the left side works is very straightforward: type in two DCI numbers and names, then hit enroll. Both of those players will be enrolled as a team. At the very top, you can enter a team name for them. If you don't, this field will auto-populate with the players' last names, listing the top player first. I recommend that you use the default or be very careful when you're letting players pick team names. I've never been to a team event where someone didn't try to name their team something wildly inappropriate :)

The right side is a little more interesting. I have the players tab highlighted here because it's the most interesting, but there's something you need to know first:

If you add players from the Local Player List, they won't actually be enrolled in the event.
That seems strange, right? That's how it works for every other kind of event. But, this is 2HG, and everyone needs a teammate, and there's no way to pair players from the Local Player List. Instead, it adds those players to this list of players. From here, you can create teams with the players that you've enrolled.*

You can filter this list a few ways:

  • All players.
  • Enrolled players (ones with teammates)
  • Unenrolled players (ones without teammates)
When you're signing people up, it's probably easiest to have the Unenrolled circle checked. That way, you can add players to the event from your Local Player List, switch back to this tab, and pair them.

(If you don't want to add players from the list to get around having to do this, you can always just type in DCI numbers on the left side.)

Creating teams from enrolled players is pretty easy:
  1. Double click the player you want to add to as Player 1 from the list of unenrolled players.
  2. Double click the player you want to add as Player 2.
  3. Click enroll.
Sometimes WER gets stuck and doesn't want to add players. If that happens, just click inside the DCI Number box for Player 1.

Ta da! You've added a team to the event! If you somehow clicked on someone who wasn't already in the event, no worries. You'll get a pop-up warning you that they've already been added.

When you're done pairing teams, you can start the event. Note that players without teammates won't be dropped from the event — they'll still show up under the players tab. To remove them, click their name once in the list (it'll highlight in green), and click the big, red "Un-enroll Player" button at the bottom.

*If you have players who don't have teammates yet, adding them to the list of unenrolled players is a great way to keep track of them. When you're getting close to the event start time, you can randomly pair those players together, or call them up to have them pick their teammates.


There's some good news and some bad news here. The good news is that you have about a million options for seating players for deck construction. The bad news is that you have exactly one option for table numbering for matches.

Deck Construction

This is from the Seatings tab, which is under the Rounds tab after you've hit Complete Enrollment:

OK. So by about a million, I mean four. WER handles seating for deck construction by player.

Create Across Seating. If you click this button, it will seat both members of a team at the same table.

Create Together Seating. This one seats teammates next to each other. Note that if you have an odd number of teams, it will seat the last team across instead of leaving empty seats.

Create Alone Seating. This gives each team two adjacent table numbers for build, so each player has their own table.

Create Name Seating. This is like Create Together Seating, And by "like," what I mean is that it's identical, as far as I've been able to tell. So, it doesn't really count.

Create Seats Manually. I never press this button. It's too much work. You can do some kind of silly things with it, though, like mix and match across and together seating.

If you add a team after seating players, you'll see a screen like this:

Check the box next to the team's name, then click create seat. If you select one team this way, they'll be seated across from each other. If you select two teams this way, teammates will be seated next to each other. (Keep in mind that seating players isn't essential to continuing the event. If it's easier to hand them their prerelease packs and point them in a direction, you can totally do that, and skip the part where you assign them seats. It won't prevent you from creating rounds or entering results.)


This is the part with the bad news. WER only pairs teams and assigns tables one way when it comes to the actual rounds in the tournament: each team is treated as a player. This means that each match (which has four players) is seated at one table. Here's what I mean:

This means that, most likely, you'll have to renumber your tables during deck construction. Fortunately, 2HG construction is 60 minutes, so you'll have plenty of time. Your event might also be small enough that table numbers aren't super necessary, and you can just let people play wherever they want.

A Quick Note on Pairings

When you print Pairings by Name (or press F9, because that's way faster), you're going to get pairings by team name. If you event is enormous (and I hope it is), you might want to let players know ahead of time that the team names are alphabetized by Player 1's last name (or by whatever they selected as their team name, if they named their own teams).

That's it! 2HG events are a ton of fun, and I'm looking forward to battling in a few with Todd this weekend. We have to defend our undefeated run from the Oath of the Gatewatch prereleases a few months ago :D

If you have any questions about 2HG that aren't answered here, let me know! Comment, or shoot me a message :)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

NE Spring 2016 Judge Conference: Five Additional Turns

The day after tomorrow (which is Saturday, March 26th), EDB and I are presenting a seminar on end-of-round procedure at the Northeast Spring 2016 Judge Conference (you could probably tell because that's the title of this post).

Leading into that conference, we agreed that we would both write posts about EoR best practices and post them today (which is Thursday). His has been done for at least a week. I've been procrastinating.

Part of that is because his post touches on almost all of the pieces of EoR. It's brief, and the seminar is more detailed (plus with, you know, live-action roleplaying, and stuff), but there's not much he left out. He even mentions two of the biggest problems I run into when I'm scorekeeping at EoR.

Since I need something to write about, and I only have an hour and a half before he scheduled his post to go up, I'm going to expand on those two things:

  • Matches with no players and no slip.
  • Reliance on the EoR printout.

No Player, No Slip

This comes up all the time: you're sent out to a table, but when you get there, there aren't any players and the match result slip has disappeared. These missing slips have the potential to delay the event significantly, and if there's no resolution, my only option is to assign a loss to both players (which can be fixed later with some work if it needs to be).

Fortunately, if I know about them early enough, I have time to track down the slip and/or the players who were at that table and find out what happened in their match. When I hear about a table with no players and no slip, there are two easy things I can do:

  1. Start looking through my pile of match result slips.
  2. Find the names of the two players and have them called to the stage.

Generally, I start with the first thing. The players might be on the way up with the slip, and this gives it some time to show up before an announcement is made. I often enlist the help of nearby judges to do this, because at this point in the round (at large events), I probably haven't finished sorting slips yet. I may have typed the wrong table number for that slip or it got stuck to another slip, and finding it in the pile helps me figure out if anything else might be wrong in the round.

There's also a chance those players are still playing--they moved to a different table or the judge glanced at the wrong table or whatever other weird things might happen at Magic tournaments--and calling them up could disrupt their match. This happens way more often than you would think.

Calling players up to the stage is a last resort, if you will. Most of the time, if I haven't been able to find the slip, it works. Sometimes only one player shows up, which isn't ideal if they're claiming to be the winner of the match, but it's better than not knowing what happened at all.

Sometimes it takes a few tries to get players to the stage. If I have more notice that there's a missing slip, I can make more announcements and wait a little longer for those players to show up. If I don't know about it until it's the last match out, I have less wiggle room: every attempt to find out the match result costs every other player in the event that much time.

"Leave the scorekeeper alone" is pretty solid advice most of the time, especially if things are breaking or are broken. Sometimes, however, it's the worst advice ever. This is one of those times. So:

If you're working on EoR and you discover a match that doesn't appear to be playing and has no result reported, tell the scorekeeper ASAP.

You'll probably have to help me sort through some match slips to find the missing table, but you might save the event from a delay.

EoR Printouts

Reliance on the EoR printout isn't a "problem" in the Something Awful Is Happening sesne. It's a "problem" in the sense that I've seen many judges rely on it as a crutch when they could be effective without it. The list of delinquent matches is certainly one tool to manage EoR, but it's not the only way to get things done.

For large events, even at the moment time is called, there could be dozens of matches outstanding. (Or delinquent. I prefer calling them delinquent.) For example, in Philadelphia a few weeks ago (which had about 750 players), I had more than 100 slips still out when time was called. That's not an usual number for an event that size. It's also not a useful number of tables for a couple of reasons:

  • There likely aren't enough judges on staff to cover all of them.
  • A bunch of those matches will be clustered together, so trying to send one judge to each of them isn't an efficient use of resources.
  • It's too much information to keep track of. In fact, it won't even fit on one sheet.

When I'm scorekeeping, I print the EoR sheet based on the number of matches that are out, not based on the time left in the round. Normally, 30 matches is my target. This number changes a bit depending on the size of the event and the judge staff.

You don't need to wait for a printout in order to start end-of-round.

If you're the EoR lead, you can have judges sweep the room for slips that haven't come up yet or direct them to tables with time extensions (if you have a list; if you don't, you can just ask them to find those tables) while you're waiting. This has an added bonus of getting more slips in faster, which means a shorter wait time for a printout that's usable. If you're on the floor, these things are a great idea even before you report to the stage for an EoR assignment (whether there's a printout or not).

A few events in very recent memory have run into issues with printing the list of delinquent tables (because WLTR). Being able to manage the end-of-round process without a list of matches was essential for the EoR leads at those events.

Sigh. Even WLTR calls them "Outstanding."
(Oh, my Paint skills are the worst. In case you were wondering.)

They made their own maps of the tournament floor or their own detailed notes about the matches that were out and who was covering them in place of the printout. EDB, my conference partner in crime, is one such EoR lead. He wrote a blog post about how he managed it, complete with MS Paint maps that resemble the ones he made at the event.

End-of-round procedure is one of the most effective tools we have to keep tournaments on pace, and performing it effectively involves many roles and moving pieces: scorekeepers, floor judges, the EoR lead, the HJ, match result slips and players. We're going to touch on all of those pieces during the seminars on Saturday, and it's going to be awesome.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

GP DC 2016: Friday

Welcome back! The saga of scorekeeping Swiss side events at Grand Prix: DC 2016 continues this week. As I mentioned last week, the Tale of Friday comes in three parts:
  • Pairings board signs
  • Events that start on time (and why some don't)
  • Three stories
If you haven't read the first post in this series, I recommend that you do. It provides some context for the things that happened over the course of the weekend.

Also, you'll get to read the story of how I killed Shift, one of SCG's event printers. Late last week there was an important update to that saga: Shift lives! He's probably still recovering from his ordeal, but at least he's not dead-dead.

Yet. When's my next event on stage for SCG? May?

Pairings Board Signs

The table numbers for the weekend were set up by SCG when I arrived in the hall early on Friday, and they were glorious: each tent had two numbers on it, a traditional table number and a match number. The same match number was used for three consecutive tables, along with an A, B or C designation for which player was supposed to occupy each seat.

I mention this because these numbers snaked through the entire hall, and the events I was scorekeeping were placed at the high-end of the table numbers — most events started in the 2500s or 2600s.

On top of that, our use of pairings boards was limited. There were two or three designated for side events use, which means that events had to share pairings boards. Each board had 12 slots for sheets of paper, but we had to make it easy for players to figure out what bits of information posted there was relevant for them.

About the time that each event started, I gave the head judge a stack of papers. These were printed on the color paper that matched the match result slips for the event:

Oh. There were also schedules and prize payout signs on the pairings boards too!

These signs are super basic, but they get the job done. Each HJ got one copy of the sign on the left and four of the one on the right. Some of the larger events, like the Sealed Challenges and the Foiled Again! on Friday night, posted their pairings on two different pairings boards. Those events got twice the signage. Yay!

The slots on the pairings boards (which are just giant-sized top loaders) comfortably fit several pieces of paper, so they could hang up all of them at the beginning of the event and toss them as each round finished.

These signs, combined with the giant Gathering Point banners that now come in the GP kits, made it pretty easy to direct players to their seats. I pointed about a billion players to the round end signs over the course of the weekend, too: I tried to make notes of when I printed pairings for each round, but that only gave me a rough idea of what the round end time would be.

This brings me to a bit of advice if you're responsible for an event that's using these kinds of signs: make sure you announce at the beginning of the event that you'll be posting this information. Your players will appreciate knowing where to go to find the answers to their questions.

Events that Start on Time

For the most part, I had signs created for all my events at the beginning of the day, usually just before the first event fired. Once I've made the template and started printing things, it's easy to make the small tweaks for each other event. More importantly, it's something that each event needs to get started, and by doing it early, I won't have to remember it for the rest of the day.

Small things like this make it much easier to get events started on time. The other, biggest thing that helps is closing registration on time.

At SCG GPs, event registration closes ten minutes before the scheduled start time of the event. If you're in line by that time, you can sign up, but no one else can hop in line. This is super, super important. Ten minutes gives the awesome folks at registration enough time to get through those last few players (and some times "few" really means "dozens"), and it gives me time to get the tournament files set up and seatings or pairings generated and in the hands of the event's judges.

The "Tournament Files" Part

To start each of the Swiss events, I had to export a player file from SCG's registration system and import that file into WER or WLTR. Often, this process is pretty simple:
  1. Confirm with the registration stations that everyone's signed up.
  2. Click the export button.
  3. Save the file in the event folder.
  4. Alt-tab into the appropriate bit of tournament software.
  5. Press the import button.
All in all, it takes a minute or two. If the event is large, exporting the player file might take a little bit longer.

Sometimes, if you're me, you forget that the main event gets exported by default, so you have to twiddle your thumbs while your computer generates a .csv file with data for 3000+ players and their team affiliations, but we're not going to talk about that. Much. It only happened twice. OK, maybe three times. Maybe.

Two-Headed Giant events, on the other hand, are the absolute worst. Creating events for those is ... well, it's an adventure (and the headline of my Saturday post, so stay tuned).

After the import, it takes a few more clicks to get to seatings or pairings printed. Those have to be walked to the pairings boards, and someone has to make an announcement that they've been posted.

None of the pieces of this process are particularly time-intensive, but each one does take some time. If registration stays open until the scheduled start time of the event, there's no way that it's starting on time. Even if registration closes on time, there's a chance that Something Wonky happens, and the event starts a couple minutes late.

My pile of Friday match result slips.

So, signs have been created beforehand and registration closed on time and I have a functional tournament file. What else is there?

Starting Table Numbers

This is where side event judges can help their scorekeepers get events started on time. I need to know where to put this event.

In WLTR, once you've seated or paired the event, you can't change the starting table number. (Well, OK, you can, but it's has consequences, especially for limited events. Just pretend that you can't.) This means that I need that information ASAP.

In an ideal and perfect world, I have the starting table number for an event as soon as the one before it is seated. This makes sense, right? As soon as you know what the last table number for the noon event is, you can figure out where the 1 p.m. event should go.

That's not always the case, though. Lots of factors can influence what space you want to use for an event:
  • The number of players
  • The number of other events firing at the same time
  • The number of players in those events
  • The events that might be wrapped up (but also might not be) before this new event starts
Because WLTR makes it harder to move events than either DCI-R or WER, it's important to keep these things in mind when you're finding a spot for each event.

I'd prefer to have a tentative table number for that 1 p.m. event at 12:15 than a definitive one at 12:59:59, especially if you know under what circumstances and how that number might change.

For example, if you have an ending table number but don't know how many players are signed up, let me know that. Worst case, I can't do math, but my computer can, and I can figure out the starting table number for you or help you adapt your plan to whatever's going on.

The Friday Verdict

Friday started off on the right foot. The 11 a.m. Legacy Challenge fired on time. The Vintage Challenge started a few minutes late, but that was because we were short players and had to recruit a few more to sanction it.

The 4 p.m. events also started a little bit late because the registration system blew up. By "blew up," I of course mean that there was an update to it to fix something that was causing issues, and the update kicked everyone out. Naturally, this happened at about 3:48. Some not-panic ensued, and after the update went through, it took a few minutes to get things back up and running.

Everything else that ran from the Swiss section of the stage went out on time on Friday, which is kind of a feat by itself.

Three Stories

All three of these are player interactions. Scorekeepers interact with hundreds of players in a day, from the all-too-common "Does my slip go here?" to problems with match points and event registrations. Those things are pretty mundane. Only the wonky thing end up in my notes, and these are the highlights from Friday:

#1: "My name's not on the seating."

At first, this one seemed to fall into the mundane category. A player who had signed up for the Sealed Challenge wasn't on the seating assignments. He had an Infinite Challenge Badge (which means that he could have registered for free), so I didn't need to try to figure out whether he had actually paid for the event. Instead, I was just going to add him to the tournament and send him to his seat with six packs.

Some background is necessary here. When players pick up their Infinite Challenge Badge (which is card-sized laminated card that can hang from a lanyard), a small sticker is placed on the back of the badge. This sticker has a bardcode that's tied to the player's DCI number, and the registration stations had scanners to read it. The sticker also has the player's name and DCI number printed on it.

This player's badge didn't have his name or DCI number printed on it — it had someone else's.

Well, I thought, that's interesting. I poked around a bit to verify that this player should have had a badge, and it turned out that Customer Service just printed the wrong sticker for his. I checked, and the player whose name was on his badge was registered for the event.

I thought that maybe that player wasn't actually in the event, and just made it into the file because this player's (incorrect) badge had been scanned.

Nope. They were both supposed to be signed up. No problem. The judges seated the payer whose name hadn't shown up, and I tracked down an appropriate replacement sticker for his badge.

As it turned out, he wasn't the only player to experience that problem over the weekend. From what I was able to discover, it seems like one of the Customer Service printers had somehow gotten off by one sticker for a little while on Friday morning, so players were getting the sticker that should have gone to the player in front of them in line. Most of them caught it quickly because they noticed that the name and DCI number on the sticker were wrong.

Some of them hadn't caught on right away, though.

#2: "My name's not on the seating."

Well, this sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Completely unrelated to this particular story, I had problems all weekend with people who didn't realize what the drop box on the match slips were. WLTR slips look pretty different than the ones from DCI-R and WER, and in addition to people accidentally dropping themselves because they thought they were supposed to initial there, there were all sorts of other weird slips turned in. But, I digress. Back to the story.

This is what slips generated by WLTR look like. They print a little bit differently, but it's close.

When this player gave me his name, I recognized it as one of the no-shows from the previous round. I dug the slip out of my pile (which I hadn't gotten to sorting yet), and showed it to him.

He seemed ... perplexed, and then insisted that he had, in fact, played a match. He even signed the slip. Not the no-show slip with his name on it, obviously, but he had definitely signed a match slip.

He recalled that he won the match and his opponent had dropped, so I flipped through the slips that had the loser dropping. The event was on the small side, about 50 or 60 players, so there were a handful of those, and it only took a minute to find the one with his signature on it. He understood what had happened: he sat at the wrong seat and filled out the slip for a match that he wasn't a part of, all without noticing that his name wasn't on that match slip.

No big deal. We can fix this. I got him back in the tournament and paired him with the player who had the bye — because the Challenge events awarded points based on record, a bit of a mismatch wasn't a Problem.

I also had to explain that, even though he won the match he played, that wasn't a match as far as the tournament was concerned. He had been assigned a match loss for that round, and that would be reflected in his match points. I also had to adjust the result that was reported on the slip that he filled out.

#3: "I want to give my opponent the win."

Players can't be enrolled in more than one Challenge at a time. In order to sign up for one, they have to be dropped from their previous event. Some players didn't know that when they went to sign up for their second event of the day, but most of them were fine with it.

One player felt really bad that he had beaten his opponent and was then dropping from the event. That didn't feel right. The least he could do, now that he knew he wouldn't be able to play anymore, was concede.

But, they had already turned in their slip. At that point, the results of the match were final. This is enforced for lots of good reasons: we don't want players going out into the hallway, threatening or bribing each other, and then coming back in to change results. That concern doesn't extend to this case, but the policy is still the same: once you've filled out and turned in the slip, the result is final.

[Side note: There's actually quite a bit of nuance to the point at which a match result is final. Most of that conversation is impractical.]

He just didn't want to be That Guy. I explained what the rules are and why, but I also pointed him toward Kali, the event manager. I expected that she would give him the same answer that I had (spoiler: she did), but I thought that this was one of those situations where escalating would make him feel like we understood what he was trying to do and wanted to make it work.

The Future!

I have two more days from DC to write about. The most "exciting" thing that I did on Saturday was start the Two-Headed Giant event. That was in WER, and it gives me an excuse to talk about how you can edit players and teams in a 2HG event :D

BUT ... before I can get to the Saturday and Sunday reports, I'm going to be putting up a post about End-of-Round. That post ties into a seminar that I'm presenting this weekend at the Northeast Spring 2016 Judge Conference with my roommate and Area Captain, Eric Dustin Brown — who will also be writing a complementary blog post. Both of those will be up on Thursday night, and you can look also look forward to some seminar reports after the conference. If there are specific things you want to ask about EOR, let us know!

(Did I mention that Shift isn't dead? :D)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

GP DC 2016: Getting Started

At around this time last week, I was looking forward to venturing a few hours north for GP DC. It was shaping up to be pretty big, even as far as GPs go. From my comfy seat in the present (which is a couch at a friend's house), it turned out to be exactly that: more than 3.000 players teamed up with their friends to wade into Battle for Zendikar Sealed.

Somehow, I have a habit of finding myself at giant events, which works out: they're way more interesting than smaller events.

The Challenges were my domain over the weekend: along with Meg Stephens, I was on Swiss sides scorekeeping. As was the case in Philly a few weeks ago, we were doing this in WLTR (except for the Two-Headed Giant events, which you'll hear more about later - a lot more).

Meg is fantastic, so I was prepared for this weekend to be relatively easy despite the player count. We had a spot on the side of the Customer Service stage with one seat facing front and one seat facing the side. This gave us enough spaces for laptops, printers, notes and elbows. Meg took the front of the stage on Friday and Saturday, and I took the front on Sunday (because there are only so many times you can tell players that their slip also goes in the box before you go crazy).

Splitting Events

Because no one gets byes in Team Sealed GPs, there weren't any grinders to run. Star City Games filled that spot on the Friday schedule with flights of Team Sealed events and Team Sealed Spectaculars for prize wall tickets. Those events were run from the GP stage, as was the Two-Headed Giant event.

Additionally, the Super Sunday Series events and IQs on Sunday were run from their own mini-stage on Sunday, with Jeff and Kristen scorekeeping. That left Meg and me with the Challenges all weekend, including the team events on Saturday and Sunday. We divided them up between us. On Friday, my event list looked like this:

I swear those last two events are done. Really.

There was some method to the madness: we alternated launching events. I took the first event of the day, which started at 11 am (doors opened at 10), and we went back and forth down the list until we got to the 6 pm Foiled Again event.

SCG's schedule was packed with Challenges, and multiple events were firing at the same time in the busiest parts of the day. On Sunday, Meg had to start two events at once (more on that when we get to Sunday), but we otherwise managed to avoid that.

Splitting Paper Colors

I love colors. If you couldn't tell that by the number of colored pens I have at an average event, you can probably tell by the number of colors that tend to show up in my notes.

Colored paper is the sweetest tech for scorekeeping multiple events. It makes it super easy to distinguish slips from different events, which is extra crucial with how inconsistently WLTR prints match result slips. We had four colors (pink, yellow, green and blue). I had pink and blue on Friday, because cotton candy. Meg had yellow and green, because daisies.

There was some overlap throughout the day. For example, the 1 pm Sealed event was still going on when the 4 pm Standard event started, and they were both on pink paper.

Turns out that the second-sweetest tech for scorekeeping multiple events solved this problem pretty handily: a highlighter stripe down the match result slips for the Standard events until Sealed was finished.

If you don't have a highlighter handy, a sharpie or marker works just as well--anything that can make a bold line will do, and it doesn't necessarily have to be colorful. Unsurprisingly, this also works amazingly well if you only have white paper for multiple events.

Some Technology Stuff

Dropbox Files

This was a fun one! I prefer to scorekeep on my own laptop rather than using one of the admin laptops provided by SCG. It's familiar, I know where my files are, and the keyboard is awesome. It's also a little bit faster than the admin laptops, which I find pretty important. At the beginning of the day, Meg and I needed access to the Dropbox folders that SCG was using for each event.

That sounds way easier than it turns out to be*. See, you have a couple of options when you're sharing files with someone by email with Dropbox. One of them, the one we wanted to use, actually adds the new user to those folders and files, which means their changes and additions will sync across all the computers with access. The other just creates duplicate versions of them for that person's Dropbox that they can see and edit but that don't affect the original files.

Guess which one we started with? Hint: it wasn't the one that let anyone else on stage see my tournament backups or exports. Whoops.

We figured that out, and Kali, the event manger, shared the root folder for tournament files with us. That folder is enormous. It was too big for Meg to add to her Dropbox without going over her storage limit, so Kali made a new folder, with just the files we needed for the weekend, and shared that with us instead.

*Okay, it isn't really that hard. We just made it extra hard, because why not?

I moved this sticky note around in 
my notebook all weekend :D

RIP Shift

"Shift" is the name of one of SCG's printers (they're all named to make it easy to figure out which printer you need to set as your default), and before there were event players in the room on Friday, I killed him.

Okay, that might be a bit dramatic. There was still some hope for him last time I checked. (I should have prefaced this story by pointing out that I have a miserable track record with printers.)

We had an all-hands meeting at 8 am, two hours before doors opened. It lasted about an hour, which gave me two hours to fiddle with laptops and printers and paper and whatever else I needed to fiddle with before the first event of the day started. Most of that time was spent updating software, which had to download on super-slow Internet, but I also had to get my computer to print things to Shift.

I succeeded at that, by the way. I installed drivers and set him as my default printer and printed a test page and everything. I was set.

And then I opened the paper tray.

And it wouldn't close again.

And now Shift is dead. Maybe. At the very least, his paper tray is still recovering from having gotten very, very stuck.


Next up: Friday, featuring pairings board signage, events that start on time (and some that don't), and three stories.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Walter, Our New Overlord (SCG Philly Saturday, Open SK)

The SCG Tour stopped in Philadelphia on February 27th and 29th last month, and I was on staff. On Saturday, I was scorekeeping the 755-player Open (details to follow), and on Sunday I was in charge of Swiss side events (which will be its own, separate post).

Scorekeeping the Open was the second chance I've had to work in WLTR, the first being GP Atlanta last November. There's a new build from the one I used in Atlanta, and it made some significant improvements, like being able to print pairings and slips together rather than separately.

Wizards Large Tournament Reporter (WLTR, or Walter)

Since late last year, large events have been using WLTR exclusively for scorekeeping. It replaced the very old and well-loved (but also problematic) DCI Reporter.

There were a two glaring issues with using DCI-R for events like GPs:

  1. Events can't be directly uploaded.
  2. It's impossible to enroll more than 2,000 players into a single event.

Once upon a time, no one imagined that the second thing would be a problem. A 2,000+ player event? Really?

That's not only a possibility, it's become pretty common. In the past few years, events have grown massively. My first GP ever, Charlotte in 2012, set the record with almost 2700 players, and that was a Big Deal. This past weekend, Detroit capped out at around 2500, and that now seems pretty normal. GP DC is coming up this weekend, and attendance expectations are higher than both of those events.

The Past: Split Grands Prix

The "solution" to the maximum player cap was to split the GPs that had more than 2,000 players. Day 1 ran as two or three (or, in the case of GP Vegas last year, 8) different events, and then the events were combined for Day 2. That's all fine and dandy as a workaround, but it creates some awful tiebreaker situations.

Because Day 1 and Day 2 aren't actually linked, tiebreakers didn't carry over. Day 2 was treated as a completely separate, seven-round* event, which means that only your opponents from Day 2 and their records on Day 2 mattered.

For example, a player who went 9-0 on Day 1 and then from 0-2 to 4-0 on Day 2, for a total record of 13-2 could miss Top 8 while the player who went 7-2 on Day 1 and 6-0 on Day 2 could make it instead.

This isn't how tiebreakers are supposed to work. They're supposed to reward losing to better opponents, which translates to later in the event. But, because of the way Day 2 had to be implemented for these events, it instead rewarded losing later on Day 2 or not at all on Day 2, and when you lost on Day 1 didn't matter.

*Yep, seven. In DCI-R, you could assign any number of match points to a bye. To combine the events for Day 2, every player started with a bye that was assigned the number of match points they earned on Day 1, then "round 2" was paired, which would actually be round 10 of the event, and round 1 of the day.

The Present: Walter

Now, in the Age of WLTR, that won't happen anymore. Since there's no player cap and there's support for multiple scorekeepers at multiple computers to actively work on the same event, GPs no longer have to split.

While WLTR does a lot of cool things and has some nifty interface updates, it's still new. As Patrick Vorbroker and the SCG team described it, "It's a great program with some landmines."

He wasn't wrong.

I ran into three WLTR-related issues over the course of the day:

1. Some Bye Issues

These always come up, but the ones from Philadelphia were of a slightly different flavor than normal. At GPs, some players inevitably think they should have byes but aren't listed with them. This can be the result of a number of things:

  • A GPT wasn't uploaded by an LGS
  • A Last Chance Trial winner wasn't communicated from the side events area
  • Planeswalker Points weren't updated
  • There was a typo somewhere
  • The player registered with no DCI number or an incorrect DCI number (usually online)

That last thing was the source of the bye issues in Philly. SCG Tour events have a preregistration site that players can use if they want to sign up in the weeks leading up to the event. This form asks for DCI number, but it can be left blank.

*Unlike in WER, you can enter a player with a "Joe" DCI number in WLTR. It serves as a placeholder, and you can change it later on in the event to the correct number. This means that we can fix missing or invalid numbers after the event has started, and we don't have to track players down before we can pair round 1.

For Philly, a few players who should have had awarded byes registered online without entering their DCI number. When that list was imported into the platform SCG uses to manage event registration, it didn't flag those sign-ups with byes because it checks DCI numbers to do so.

Fast forward to the beginning of the tournament. The player list was imported from that platform, and those players weren't assigned the correct number of byes before round 1 was paired. We didn't realize this was the case until partway through round 1, when the judges started issuing No Show penalties.

Fixing It

The fix here was straightforward: since their opponents had already been told they'd won their match and we were already 10 minutes into the round, the best thing to do was to split those matches and award the opponents byes manually in the pairings screen (this works basically the same way that it does in WER, but things look a little different). Then, we'd make sure those players who should have had byes to begin with had them now.

Everything worked beautifully.

At least, I thought it did. I started entering results, and Everything Was Wonderful.

Fast forward to the end of round 1. According to WLTR, there are about six matches outstanding. The EoR lead only knows of three that are still playing. The other three tables are clear.

Well, that's a problem.

I looked at the names of the players at those tables, preparing to have announcements made for them to come to the stage. Except I recognized them: each of those three matches was one of the ones where a player should have gotten byes.

So, the changes just didn't take, right? Not quite :(

Those three matches were still waiting for results, but the three opponents (so not the players who should have received byes at the beginning of the event) are listed with their assigned byes in the reported matches column. Yep. They were in the round twice.

Well, that's a much more interesting problem.

Ward and Patrick remembered something about a similar issue that had happened at the last event with re-paired matches not saving, and they had to manually edit the tournament file to fix it. Patrick got on the phone with Jason Flatford, master wizard, to talk him through the changes that needed to be made, but it was taking some time and it sounded like they were having issues with that approach.

So I started fiddling with things. I found a solution (which involved deleting the table they were paired at and not just the pairing), but it added a few minutes to the round turnaround time.

2. The Unsticky Re-Pair

At the beginning of round 2, I had to switch two players, a la Editing Matches. But, no matter how hard I clicked the button to assign them to their new seats, it didn't save. It looked like the swap was complete, but if I tried to move to a different process, like entering results, those players magically unseated themselves.

Thinking the problem was something like the one I ran into while fixing the byes, I went through a few iterations of deleting the pairings and tables and recreating them, but nothing stuck.

In WLTR, you can't start entering results until all the players are paired, so this meant that I couldn't, well, start entering results. With about 20 minutes left in the round, I had to find an interim solution, and that turned out to be assigning byes and losses to those players. This cleared them from the list of unseated players, and I could go back to it when their slip came in and adjust which player won and which lost so they'd have the correct match points.

It's not an ideal solution; it means that they won't show up on each other's tiebreakers.

3. The Floating Player

After the first two rounds, everything on the software side was pretty smooth. There was one more wonky WLTR thing, but I couldn't figure out how to fix it and it didn't seem to be impacting the tournament. It was, however, pretty amusing:

A player was dropped in round five. Except...he didn't appear to actually be dropped, according to WLTR.

His name showed up every round after that, in the list of unseated players for the round. Normally, an unseated player means that you can't move to the results entry screen, but this one didn't cause that problem. He just hung out, spying on the pairings, for the remaining four rounds of Day 1. He didn't even show up anywhere on the results entry screen.

During rounds six and seven, I kept trying to drop him. Nothing worked, and he didn't seem to be causing any problems for the rest of the event. He dropped with three match points, so he wasn't going to make the cut to Day 2, and I decided that doing too many weird things to try to fix it might cause more substantial problems.

It also seemed likely, based on the fact that he wasn't paired and wasn't preventing the tournament from moving forward, that, as much as WLTR wanted me to think he was still enrolled, he wasn't really. I shrugged it off.

At the end of the day, there was a clean cut to Day 2 at 64th place. I performed the cut in WLTR with the place rather than the match points because it was so neat and tidy: 64 players into the next set of rounds.

Guess how many players were active in the event after that?

65. Obviously. And one of them had three match points.

I laughed, and then I went back to my hotel to sleep.

WLTR and Penalties

WLTR's penalty entry interface is very different than the ones from WER and DCI-R. In fact, WLTR has two different penalty entry interfaces.

This means that the preferred format for writing penalties on the back of the slips has changed. This is what's been used at GPs and SCG Tour events recently, and it seems likely to stick:

[Table Number] - [P1/P2] - [Judge] - [Infraction] - [Penalty] - [Description]

Of note here, you don't need to write the player's name anymore. Instead, use P1 for the first player listed in the slip and P2 for the second. Beyond that, the rest is pretty much the same.