Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Good Practices #2 - Calling Out Table Numbers

During the classic "End of Round" (EoR) procedure judges report to a central hub of information, the Scorekeeper, or more likely a proxy for the SK who has a printout of Delinquent Matches which are still playing when time is called in the round. I'll have more to say on another occasion about various ways to improve this task, but today's tip is about as simple as it gets.

When the EoR judge assigns you a table number to go scout out and you pass other judges coming back to the hub with match result slips, call out the table number you've been assigned.

"Hey, do you have table number 56?"

If they answer no, you keep on moving towards table 56. However, if they answer in the affirmative, stop, turn around, (do not pass Go), and return to the EoR judge for another assignment. Congratulations! You've just saved yourself a meaningless and time-wasting trip to table 56, which in case I forgot to mention, happens to be at the opposite end of the GP hall.

Today's good practice helps save your judge legs, optimizes your time, and preserves judge resources throughout the day for the tasks that we actually care about, watching games of Magic, not walking to tables where the players stopped playing Magic one minute ago.

If you're coming back from a table with a result slip, you should also get into the habit of calling out what table(s) you're coming back with to judges that you cross paths with, spreading this good practice from both sides of the traffic.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Good Practices #1 - Tracking Infraction Counts

Good practices is my name for a new feature where I blog about a judging practice that I use, or have seen others use, which could be useful to you. I don't like the name "best practices" because that seems a little presumptuous.

Today's good practice comes from Level 3 Judge John Alderfer. I don't actually remember where I picked this up from him; he and I tend to meet once or twice a month at a GP near you. At this GP Unknown, I discovered John doing something unusual on the back of a match result slip. What I saw was something like this:

John Alderfer, Player name, GRV W(1) Cast Wrath for wrong mana.

The unusual part was the number in parenthesis after the penalty ("W" for Warning). When I approached John about this, he told me that he had been doing this for some time as a means of tracking the number of infractions the player had in that particular type.

At Competitive REL, there are upgrade paths for players who repeatedly commit the same type of infraction. For Game Play Errors (GPEs), which encompass GRVs, Looking at Extra Cards, and Missed Trigger as the most common infraction types, a third infraction in each type can be upgraded to a Game Loss at the discretion of the Head Judge. For Tournament Errors (TEs) like Slow Play, the upgrade clause happens with the second infraction. This is why judges are instructed to ask players if they've received prior Warnings.

The infraction count on the back of the slip is a good way to reinforce that practice of asking the players. At a recent tournament, I actually caught myself as I was filling out the back of the slip. As I went to write the infraction count, I realized that I hadn't asked, and proceeded to do so.

There's also a good secondary reason to record this information. When a Scorekeeper (SK) enters penalties into the Reporter program, they will often flag players who have received multiple infractions of the same type and inform the Head Judge (HJ). There's a few reasons why a HJ might want to know this:
* If the infractions are suspiciously advantageous for the player, he or she may want to investigate for Cheating.
* To inform the Floor Judges, so that they are aware of the situation and make sure to ask players if they have received prior Warnings.
* To talk to the player and make sure that they are aware of the potential ramifications of additional infractions.

As the size of Magic events approaches bonkers status, there are also plenty of events now where the SK isn't able to keep up with the flow of result slips and penalty entry doesn't happen until a later time, either that day or the next. In such circumstances, judges recording the infraction count can serve as the check for the SK to talk with the HJ. The infraction count on the slip can also lead to situations where the SK notes a discrepancy. This could be because of incorrect information from the player, or from a judge recording the wrong infraction. Either way, it's a good opportunity to consult with judges and double check all of the information.

This is a real low cost way to do a lot of things that are useful for tournament operations, and something that I'd like to see become a world-wide practice. Thanks, John for showing this to me.