|Edison Scourge Prerelease - Judge Report
Location: Ramada Hotel, Edison, New Jersey
Date: Saturday, May 17, 2003
Attendance: 350 players
Organizer: Graymatter Conventions.
Head Judge: Seth Levy (Level 2)
Saturday marked my third pre-release as a judge, starting with Onslaught last fall. Scourge presented very few, it seemed, rules questions or difficult mechanics with the exception of some questions on Storm that were easy clarified by reminders to read the rules text.
Therefore, I'll spend this report explaining the logistics and operation of the tournament. Glenn Friedman, owner of Graymatter and tournament manager for the Edison site, did an incredible job, running five pods of 64 players, one "bonus flight" of 12, and twenty (yes, twenty) booster drafts all in the time from 8 o'clock, when Pod 1 began to the end of booster draft twenty, which wrapped up at about 7 pm.
The day began when I arrived at 7 am (an hour before doors were scheduled to open) to help with set-up for the site. Asking the judges to arrive earlier seems to be a positive suggestion - getting table numbers laid out, posters put up, and booster boxes made ahead of time is invaluable to getting Pod 1 started as early as possible and having the judge staff there, more than just organizer staff, is the only way to do it.
For the last two Pre-releases, Graymatter got a much larger demand than it was expecting, meaning that the main room (which had seating for about 200) overflowed and we had to desperately rent and set up another room as players from the fourth and fifth pods that were to be put in that room clogged the main room, looking for places to trade or just talk. It was a mess, but this Pre-release, we anticipated the demand and rented the second room in advance.
This had two benefits. First, it gave us access to a corridor where we were able to set up a table with a computer with DCI Tools and registration forms, allowing players to look up DCI numbers and fill out forms without ever setting foot in the main room. Second, we immediately had a place to put players in pods four and five, which kept them out of the main room.
We were able to open the doors at about seven-thirty, a full half-hour ahead of schedule. By having our corridor available, we lined up players outside and only let them in a few at a time. Two staff members took money at one table and passed entry slips down to the computer, which was at a separate table. This let us keep the entry person undistracted to type like the devil.
I was appointed pod judge for Pod 1 and I announced that pairings were going up at 8:00 am, far ahead of schedule. We decided not to use the traditional "land table" system and instead opted for the "mana pool" system that has been discussed on the judge list a few times.
For those unfamiliar, it works like so: We instruct the players to take their lands out of the tournament pack and place them on the center of the table. Players then take land from the center of the table for their decks. We had players raise their hand if they needed additional lands. Judges were armed with land boxes to supplement the supplies on the table.
I think this system can work, but I can offer the mistakes we made in our implementation that you should correct before trying it. First, the box I was given wasn't sorted. It was in the 'mana wheel' sort, so a for player asking for, say, eight mountains meant I would have to flip through almost forty cards to get it, wasting time and leading to a jumble of cards when I put the land I flipped through back in the box. Secondly, pod judges need to be diligent about grabbing up extra land on the table when the pods start, and our failure to do so on some pods hurt us later, as I'll explain. You either need to make sure there is a traditional land station set up to handle the over-flow or make sure that the land boxes the judges have are sorted in advance.
As we didn't have a land table, the place where deck lists are usually collected, we had pod judges collect them at the beginning of first round. This worked well.
When my pod (and others) got underway, I noted that, for one, Wizards chose an awful color for the Pre-release staff shirt. It's black, and black clothing on players at a Magic tournament is about as common as air. It made it hard to distinguish the four or so staff members wearing those shirts in a sea of over two hundred players. However, Wizards had a stroke of genius in sending those 10th Anniversary spindown life counters. It meant that I didn't have to remind anyone in my pod to have some way to keep track of life. I definitely suggest that Wizards make them a part of every Pre-release if possible.
Another tip for judges: If you have Zebras (black and white polo shirts that read 'DCI Judge' on the left breast), wear them. Players seem to instantly grant more respect to a judge wearing one of them, and it makes you easy to pick out in a crowd (see above).
At Graymatter, we use a 'score sheet' given to each judge (a copy of the Pairings by Table print-out available on DCI reporter) for judges to mark who won and lost each round. At the end of the round, the judge reads the list to the person at data entry, saying who won and who lost. As it can be easy to make a mistake in a sea of reading "2-0" and "0-2," make sure you can easily figure out who won and who lost. Instead of writing records along the side of the margin as some judges do, I instead circled the name of the winner and drew a line through the name of the loser. A circle when I read down the left-hand side meant "2-0" and a line meant "0-2". For drops, I put a "D" in the left hand margin which meant I knew to check for drops on that line, and a "D" next to the name of the person dropping. Using this system, I only had one mistaken drop the whole day, a match where both "Michael"s in the pod had the nerve to play each other and I got the last names confused.
We were also successful in another new technique. Instead of having players come up to the pod judge to report results (which often created masses of people swarming around the judge at points during the round), we instead had them remain in their seats, stick a hand up, shout 'Judge!' and wait until the pod judge came over to report results. This cut down on the amount of people swarming a judge and helped traffic flow. It also stopped cases where players would report matches where their opponent "walked off" or "wasn't here" and so could not confirm the result. With each judge only responsible for only 32 or so matches, this system is very doable, but it means that judges need to be constantly scanning the room for hands, even when watching a match or sitting down for a moment.
My pod went through five rounds rather quickly, ending around two pm. As I distributed prizes, I made sure that the player initialed the score sheet, which made sure I knew who I gave prize to and so I had proof that they had, indeed, gotten their prize - hey, you never know).
As pods ended, judges were given booster draft sheets to run the many drafts we had during the day. Booster drafting has been discussed many times before, so I won't rehash it except to remind players to stay in the general area, come to you for pairings, and most importantly (as we discovered) to collect land. The only bit of advice I can offer is to put the booster box the packs you handed out came in the middle of the table and tell players to put the booster wrappers in the box. It means you can swoop by later and just pick up the box, making trash less of a hassle.
Our only crisis of the day came during the later booster drafts. Our lack of land conscientiousness led to the land table being populated with only islands and plains during the mid to upper teens drafts. Players were forced to tell opponents, "Uh, islands are really mountains," and the last draft of the day, draft 20, was told that they had to fend for themselves as far as land went. Thankfully, all eight players were able to beg, borrow, or scrounge enough land to play.
After playing in the last draft (draft twenty, where I was forced to scrounge land), I can offer a key playing tip - Seven cards, one land down to a mulligan of six cards, one land, down to five card, no lands, down to four cards, no lands is not a way to win a Scourge-Scourge-Scourge booster draft. This is why I judge.
I'd just like to thank Graymatter and TO Glenn Friedman for the easiest pre-release I've ever worked (it's hard to look busy when you're only responsible for two booster drafts at a time) and all of the players who made life easier on me by getting to their seats on time and finding opponents in booster drafts. Hopefully, the things we tried at our Pre-release and their results (both good and bad) will be helpful to the rest of you out there.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org