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Monday, May 30, 2016

Calling a Professional REL Draft

At Professional REL events, PTs and GP Day 2s, the booster drafts are subject to a timed calling procedure where all of the draft tables follow along to a called script that is read over the microphone. This is done to get all of the players drafting in synch and make sure that nothing goes wrong. It's a lot easier for judges to spot problems when everyone is doing the same things at the same time. At Pro Tour Shadows Over Innistrad, I called both of the booster drafts to start the days, and I thought I'd share a few notes and tips from that. At this point in my career, I've probably called about a dozen such drafts, and I've gotten things down to a science.

Always prep some water. Talking a lot makes your throat dry, and you'll want to have a glass or bottle of water at the ready so that you can take some swigs during the draft. Of course, don't drink so much that you will have to go to the bathroom.

I like to write out a script with all of the times for picks written down, and make marks next to the times depending on what pack I'm in. I also write down some key script situations like the review period and any quick instructions that I want to give the players. Normally, this is stuff like removing sunglasses and turning hats backward so judges have clear line of sight to player's eyes to make sure that they aren't wandering. For PT SOI, there were additional instructions about the sleeved cards like not being allowed to remove the cards to look at the backs during the draft. For the timing, I just use my stopwatch. I've heard that an app exists for this, but I don't have it.

Keep it short and simple and enunciate the key words. "Pick up," "draft," "pass," and the number of cards left in the pack are the keys. Everything else you say is close to filler that doesn't really matter.

Proper enunciation is especially important at the PT where there are so many players for whom English is a second or third language. If all they have to listen for are the words "Pick up," "draft," and "pass" that's enough for them to get through this process. Adding more words, especially long and complicated words, is a recipe for potential confusion.

Make eye contact with your Head Judge (or whoever is on the floor reacting to pack irregularities). When each pack is opened, the players are given time to count the cards face down and confirm that they have the correct number. They may also be looking for any discernible markings on the backs of the cards as well. If they discover any errors, the players will call for a judge, and the normal procedure is for the player to get a replacement pack. This might take up to about half a minute, and it's in the best interests of the entire process to just wait to start the clock on pick one while that table sorts this out because the alternative is to split that table off (more on this shortly).

You should also keep an eye on the floor during the draft process. I like to scan the room to see if there are any judges who look like they are responding to a call of some sort. If the problem can be solved in a matter of a few seconds, again it's best to pause the entire draft between picks to keep everyone together. If you don't, that table with the problem may need to be split off with a judge on the scene calling their draft separately. The floor judges should communicate with you in some fashion if the table is okay and you can continue.

At PT Shadows Over Innistrad, Riccardo had an unusual request that I had never considered before, but it led to me trying something new out. Shortly into pack three, he came over and told me that one table was a pick behind (about 30 seconds), and asked me to slow down to allow them to catch up. That way, the split off table can be synced back up with the rest. This usually means just holding the rest of the draft in between picks until the one table catches up. But because Riccardo used the words "slow down," I decided to try that instead. I added a couple of extra beats between actions, as well as slowed my pace of speech. I'm not actually certain that the one table managed to catch up properly, but I like how it played out for the crowd as opposed to the usual "We are going to wait for this one table to catch up" announcement that has happened in the past.

Interacting with the caller. In general, don't do it. If you have to say something to the caller, the best time to do so is right after a pack is picked up and the time limit has been announced. Right there, there's a window of 10-30 seconds depending on where you are in the pack.

I've seen a few questions about calling drafts at local events like PPTQs. This generally isn't a good idea. I once subscribed to the idea that since someone from the event is likely to go to the PT, it was a good idea to give them that experience. Well, now PPTQs are one step removed from the PT. Also, what experience? The experience of following instructions like "pick up the cards now"? Also, with PPTQs having smaller judge staffs, you're taking one judge out of commission during the draft, a judge that could be watching for wandering eyes. You're better off just letting the players zone draft.

1 comment:

  1. At GP: Vancouver Day on day 2 this January, I was able to catch up a draft table during the first draft.

    One of the players had called a judge because a count was off, but we quickly figured out that everything was okay. The full draft had continued about 30 seconds ahead. Since they were already 6-8 picks into pack 1, I was able to keep their pace up and catch up before the end of the pack.

    Its certainly doable, and from my experience, the players appreciated the problem being handled smoothly.

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