My name is Brent George. I was a judge at Pro Tour Boston this year and I must convey to you the values of attending a Pro Tour. I'll explain what happened bit by bit to let you understand the "making" of a Pro Tour judge.
I started out driving to Nashville to catch my flight on Thursday night. My plane left at 7:30pm so I got there about 6:30. It was raining hard outside as well as all across the southeast. The hurricane turned tropical storm was really beating the region. I was informed that my plane would arrive 45 minutes late, which meant that I would be 20 minutes late catching my connection flight to Boston in North Carolina. Then, the wheeling and dealing started. The woman at the desk was extremely helpful and I commend US Airlines on their courteous personnel. She helped me grab a flight to Atlanta where I would have 10 minutes to make my connection flight. I agreed to this and went to the terminal to wait on my flight. The plane came and we went out to taxi. Unfortunately, we would not be leaving just yet. The captain informed me that we were going to have to wait on another plane and we would not be leaving for another 25 minute. Oh well, this meant I was staying in Atlanta that night and flying out the next morning. We finally left and arrived at Atlanta. I hurried along just in case my plane was still there. I checked and it was still there! The departure time was in 5 minutes but it was there. I had 18 gates to run so I grabbed my stuff and ran to the gate. I got to the gate sweating and out of breath and the woman at the desk knew it was me. The woman from US Airlines had told them to look out for me. **Mad props to US Airlines again.** I finally made it to Boston at about 2:00am. I grabbed a cab, who got lost, and made it to the hotel about 2:30am. I checked into my room and went upstairs. My roommate was Toby Elliott. He would be doing judge certifications. We introduced ourselves briefly and I crashed on the bed.
The next morning, Friday, started at 8am. All the judges were there as well as some I was not expecting. Here's the list of who I knew was coming.
- Nat Fairbanks (Head Judge)
- François Laroche
- Brent George
- Bruno Barracosa
- Misha Zagorski
- Scott Elliot
- Mike Goodman
- Chris Wong
- Ben Drago
- Glenn Cannon
- Akio Sugaya
Others included: James Lee, my mentor for the weekend, John Carter, my old mentor, Jeff Donais, Mark Rosewater, Elaine Chase, David Vogin, congrats again on level 3, Suzy Life, and Collin Jackson.
I'm sure there are more that I'm forgetting so my apologies.
After a quick judges meeting we prepared for the day. The format would be day 1 sealed deck and day 2 Rochester draft. This was a team event and there were 121 teams I believe. The day started out really slow and then picked up pace slowly but surely. The deck construction went well.
One thing to remember when judging is to actively judge the floor. Don't just sit down at a table and watch from afar and don't just grab one table and look at the others from around that table. Walking around the tournament venue encourages questions and discourages cheaters. Keep an eye out for things that are obviously wrong. Don't let others near the teams when they are constructing their decks. Also, inform people that the ultra metallic sleeves from Ultra Pro are just asking you to be looked at more in a tournament. For those judges that don't know, the shiny metallic gold and silver sleeves act like mirrors to the card above. With the gold you can make out the color but the silver sleeves can show you the whole card. I have banned these sleeves from my tournaments and I suggest other people do this as well. I don't like to encourage anything in my tournament that could be used to increase the chances of a cheater succeeding. Back to the tournament.
Team sealed deck at a Pro Tour is very different than that of a regular sealed deck. Every two rounds the teams would rebuild decks from new cards. This is a long drawn out process but you get used to it quickly and makes the tournament much more enjoyable.
The day went by fairly fast. The routine is what keeps you going. Having a list of which teams are doing what part of the event during each round helps speed things along also. This round I'm deck checking, next round I'm on the floor, next round etc. Nat had us into three teams with team leaders and I was in Rhode Island. Team leaders are there to help distribute judges where we're needed and tell us where we're patrolling. I like to browse around the venue and fill any gaps I see where judges are in currently. Having an overlapping area of view full of judges helps people feel better to ask questions. We're here for the players and we need to give them every opportunity to get their questions answered and answered in a quick professional manner.
Day 2 was team Rochester draft. This is where most of the "trouble" came into play. Most minor things during the tournament are taken care of easily but one thing that you must look out for in a Pro Tour is the language barrier. Judges must convey to the players that they are not to speak at all during the draft and they are only to say the result of their match to their teammates during a round. Speaking and pointing to a card, no matter what language you speak it in, is cause for a game loss. Making your teammates stop while you get a judge is acceptable but stopping it and then pointing and such is not. This happened a couple times throughout the day. It happened once with myself and once again with another judge. People are inherently suspicious of people talking in other languages other than their own. Just don't do it. If you must speak, speak in English and only to convey authorized information. A Pro Tour is done at REL 5 so there is no excuse for disobeying the rules. Don't let little things hurt you in a major way.
Another thing to remember in a Rochester draft is to remind players to "bounce." Forgetting to change directions in a draft will cause the draft to be halted while the situation is corrected. In Rochester, routine is the key. Around the table, back and forth, the players will get into the routine and disrupting that routine can throw people off. Try as best as possible not to have to stop the draft. It will make your job easier and the players will thank you for it.
Sunday was the finals and I was assigned to running side events. I kept up with the match as best as I could but I kept a constant 6-draft line in my area. Running 6 drafts at the same time is not hard. The key factor is keeping up with where they are. Don't let your players pick their own place to play. Tell them where they will be playing so that you can check up on them periodically. Write down notes on the results entry sheet. This will also help you keep up with where they are as well as how much time they have left until their match is over. Keep the drafts in a circular fashion so that you can easily get to any one of them if they have a question.
I would encourage any judge to come and work a Pro Tour. The experience you gain here will be more than any other tournament you have been at. Don't expect it to be a vacation because it won't be. It's more like a job seminar to further your judging experience. I learned a lot during this weekend and I hope to learn more as I continue in my judging. Judge to help. Judge to explain. Judge to further the game. Best of all though, judge because you like to. My main reason for judging is the experiences I have when I am on that floor in that zebra shirt. I love to meet new and interesting people and I get great joy in helping magic players better their understanding of the rules. Again, if you can, try and make a Pro Tour, or three. It will be an experience you'll never forget. I know that I never will.
I would like to thank James Lee for being my mentor for the weekend and for giving me this opportunity. I hope to make you proud. Also, I extend my hand to all the other judges as you did a great job. I look forward to working with each of you again. I'll see you again soon hopefully.
- Brent George, DCI Level 2 Judge