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GP-Tours - When Everything Comes Together

Cyril Grillon

I thought about writing this report for a long time. Certainly because it was one of the most exciting tournament I've ever run and maybe because I've spent a lot of time and energy in the realization of this event.

As a WotC employee in the local office, I was deeply involved in the organization of this major event in France since the very beginning. In consequence, this report is a judging report and a tournament managing report in once.

First of all, if you've not already read Michael Kastberg's report on GP Tours, do it now ! ! And don't forget to have a look at theEuropean Sideboard on-line coverage, there is a a lot of pictures of the event.

You'll find :

  • a brief chronological report on how the tournament went : the managing part of the report,

  • a Best Of the situations we've encountered during the all week-end from a judging point of view,

  • and the cherry on top of the cake, the famous Props and Slops.


Part I :  When everything comes together 

Running a Grand Prix is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult things to do in a tournament organisator's life. It's as big as a Pro Tour, but it's not a Pro Tour :

You'll run as many rounds as on a Pro Tour (at least), but in two days with registration instead of three without registration. It's a schedule's nightmare.

Registration requires a lot of attention. In addition to entering 400+ players in DCIR, awarding byes may cause a strong delay in your tournament schedule. Preregistration is really, really helpfull. Tell it to your local players, please.

The average experience of your judging team is lower than a Pro Tour's one and most of the time you don't have as many judges as on a Pro Tour.

Building the judging team was easy. I wanted an international team so I proposed a couple of judges from Europe to show up in Tours. 6 of them made the travel. In addition, I received a large number of application from french judges interested by the event. It's a pleasure when you're not running out of staff. Finally, the complete team was made of 8 level 3 judges (yes, it's not a misprint : eight really trained and well exprienced judges), 11 level 2 and 4 level 1. This include judges for the all-night events and for the judge certification program.

Scheduling the event just need you to be realistic and conservative. You can't expect to start the next round only sixty minutes after the beginning of a given one (assuming you're running a 50 minutes per rounds event). I've assigned

90 minutes per rounds on day 1 and

80 minutes per rounds on day 2.

Margin includes the unknown delay due to the 5 additional turns and the  crowd control  (400 players can't find their sits in less than 10 minutes, so count 15). In addition, I've assigned

90 minutes for deckbuilding and land distribution (in the master schedule, but only 50 announced to the public during the player's meeting) and

70 minutes for each draft and deck construction.

The goal is to have a realistic view of  How much time I'll loose with problems I've not already consider ? . For my own satisfaction, based on the DCIR Tournament Summary, we finished day 1 with 18 minutes of delay and day 2 with 25 minutes (untimed final can't be properly scheduled).

Setting up the site is not really exciting by itself…Banners on walls, tableclothes on tables…But it's so good to welcome another staff/judge/friend/official (cross out useless mention). It took more than 5 hours with more than 10 peoples, so do not consider this part as an anecdotal side of the event. And do not skimp this work, the global image of the event depend on how you've arranged you're site.

The Judges Meeting is a good memory. I arranged for the entire staff to have a relaxed snack together by having all of the french judges bring in a representative food of their region to share. I brought some bottles of french wines (a kind of sampling for 20 peoples) even if we do not want alcohol on-site…it was a private party !

Then, we had the regular meeting itself, with a detailed schedule of the event, a rules session, and the Gran'Pa session in which everybody explain his own Judge Mind Trick (see Tim Weissman's article on communication), what to do and not to do.

On-site Registration were improved with the use of a new computerized system. In addition to the preregistration system, we used a global database which keep track of every single awarded byes. In practice, a search by DCI number, a double-click and Joe is registered. Except when Joe uses several DCI PINs (see Elaine Ferrao's report for more explanation on this problem).

The dark side of the spoon is that you need several laptop computers to run such a registration process.

Swiss rounds are really boring. It was 8 rounds of prelisted (really boring…) sealed deck on day 1 and 6 rounds of booster draft on day 2. Nothing to do except waiting for the next call for the head judge. No I'm joking. Everything went well, but it's so easy to screw up and lose 30 minutes on your schedule.

I've divided my team into groups of three or four judges, leaded by a high level  senior judge . This system is already used on the Pro Tour, and works very well.

I've just assigned to each team additionnal little tasks for the entire day such as posting pairings/standings or main event cleanness control. Then each team rotates between four positions :

  • floor (2 teams),

  • deckcheck (see Russel Bulmer's article) and

  • forced rest (judging on major event is really tiring, and I don't want a zombie team by the end of day 2).

The Top 8 went smoothly. There is already an article on how to handle a Top 8 written by Sheldon Menery (by the way, here is a big thanks to all judges I mention for their article/report in this report, it's so cool for a lazy guy such me to make reference instead of writing).

If you need to learn only one thing from this boring report it's : Arrange your event as much as possible before D day, because you'll encounter unexpected problem anyway…And the less you'll have to deal with, the better for your health.


Part II :  JUUUUUUDGE ! ! 

And the Pavlovian reflex comes back….

Alice Coggins (European Sideboard and Dojo contributor from UK) was in our database with a 1 round bye awarded. When she showed up to the registration desk, she explained me that she was in discussion with Gordon Culp (Organized Play System Analyst in WotC) regarding a discrepancy on her rating (some misentered tournament reports or associated K-Value, I don't remember anymore). As a proof, she provided a copy of some e-mails from which it comes up that she deserved a 2 rouds byes. Let's do it, she had 2 byes in Tours…

Between you and me, this is the example that proves the opposite rules. I mean, there are approximatively 7.8 billions players who want to complain on their byes/rating (just because there is a delay between the event date and the processing date) , so do not go into an exception system (when you award byes for any event in this particular situation), it's the best way to enter an endless loop of complain.

As Michael Kastberg relates in his report, we were not really consistent on the Cinder Elemental - Muzzle interaction (yes, the Elemental deals his damage) on day 1. Correction of wrong rulings is always unpleasant. In addition to spread the correct ruling among the staff and every affected players, I added this topic (not the ruling itself, but what to do in such situation) to the day one's debriefing. We agreed on an announcement at the beginning of day 2 fixing for everybody (at least in the Top 64) the ruling on this interaction.

The real topic is  consistency . Being fair basically means applying the same thing to every player. From a penalty point of view, consistency is so important. There are approximatively 9.4 billions players who want to complain on the unfairness of their last penalty ( I had a game loss and my friend received just a warning for the same infraction…   hum, your friend didn't put the additional card in his hand, this is a major difference regarding the integrity of the game). This is the purpose of the Penalty Guidelines and consistency have to be one of our major concerns when issuing a penalty. However, I think that on the ruling side, truth is more important than consistency. So, if I realize that I screwed up on the Thieve's Auction – Food Chain – Bifurcate ruling, I'll apologize to all affected players and make the proper ruling on future calls.

On day 2, I disqualified 4 players for Illegal Main Decklist, and I feel bad with that. We all know that the penalties structure is build to protect the integrity of the event and players from potential misconduct. And, for this particular infraction, the philosophy is pretty clear and obvious…in most of the case. But I think that we have to make a difference between recording a 56 cards decklist in extended, living 4 slots for an amazing attunement, and a 38 cards decklist in booster draft. This deck is used during 3 rounds only. My experience showed me that we punish more innocent_but_so_dumb players than Bad™ guy with this penalty. I would say that a game loss in each of the following matches played with that deck is a more balanced penalty in a limited event.

In the other hand, this penalty will open the door of temptation. This is the reason why the worldwide warning database maintained by Elaine Ferrao (DCI Policy Administror) is so important. She keep track of redundant Bad™ behavior and this job can be done only if we register every single warning we give around the globe. Just to say that it's from your warning report that creates good control by the DCI.

Anyway, this is an opened discussion, feel free to send me some bombs…

And tons of regular rulings you find everyday on the dcijudge-list.

Part III : props and slops.


  • Judges : The most reassuring judging team I've ever had. Guys, you were amazing, thanks a lot.

  • Organized Play Staff from both Belgium, UK and French Office. One more well-done GP.

  • The  staff & judges only opening ceremony  on Friday evening was a good relaxing introduction to a long week end. Just ask everybody to bring some foods or drinks from their regions and you'll have a great buffet (Matt's foie gras and Thierry's dried sausage were so good…thanks again). And by the way, if someone have a picture or two of the party, I'll be happy to have a copy…

  • The mighty Cajus for another perfect scorekeeping.

  • Carl Crook (Level 4, WotC UK) and Didier Monin (Database and Computer Manager, WotC France) for their hard work on the preregistration and byes database system. It's a great tool.

  • Judges again, because they were really awesome.

  • Didier and his computer network. It's this kind of feature that turn a Grand Prix into a great event.

  • Quinton Hoover. Do I need to tell you why ?

  • Thanks to all judges and players who send me a written constructive feedback after the event. It's so important.

  • The site. All week end long, I felt like Jean Luc Picard on a USS Magic spaceship coming from Star Strek.

  • The site and the bunch of beautiful hostesses…

  • 85 side events.

  • 36 judge tests.


  • 474 players. My dream was 600 (and it's not unrealizable on the european market).

  • Registration. We could have done better. It was not that bad (Pairing of round 1 completed 27/11, 1999 12:01:34), but I loose a friendly bet on the timing (I've bet on a beginning of round 1 at 11a.m which was doable, but not done…).

  • Me, because I'm sure that I forget to mention someone or something in the props, and I don't like that.

  • The french train company for going on strike Saturday morning.

See you in GP Cannes ! The first team Grand Prix ever run ! 

Do I have to tell you that the site is the Films Festival site, only 50 meters from the seashore, 1 hour from the first ski track ?

Cyril ‘ !oNk$' Grillon


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