Well this is it. You have been judging for a while now and today is your big chance. You have moved up the local ladder and your TO has requested that you head judge an event. Maybe it’s a Grand Prix trial, a Pre-release pod, or even your state championship. Whatever it is, you think you are ready for it. You know the judges you are working with and have no problem assigning tasks and running the teams. You know the format and have a really good grasp of any rulings issues that may arise. You’ve even been at this venue multiple times and are very comfortable in that room.
However there may be one aspect of the head judge duties that has slipped your mind and that you have not adequately prepared yourself to do. During registration, deck construction if this is a sealed event, at the start of the tournament, and the beginning of every round you will have to make a few announcements. Will you remember what to say? What if you start blathering on for too long? What if you get in front of your players and freeze up entirely?
Public speaking is one of the more common phobias that people have. The best way to overcome this fear is to prepare yourself. And even if you are not afraid of speaking before large groups you may not be prepared to do it well. A disorganized speaker can lose the attention of his audience as easily as a poor speaker.
This is actually a series of two articles on how to make announcements written by two different judges. The first article on what announcements to give and when to make them is written by Chris Richter, the second on public speaking techniques is written by Ingrid Lind-Jahn. The guidelines in these articles apply to tournaments of all sizes and whether you are using just you own voice, a megaphone or a public address system.
When making announcements one of the more important rules is to keep it short. You need to do this for two main reasons: to pace yourself in order to save your voice and so you do not overload the player’s with info. The more announcements you give, the less players seem to hear and remember.
In order to prioritize what announcements to give and when to make them you need ask yourself three questions. 1) What do the players need to know? 2) Do they need to know it now? And 3) What other questions will players end up repeatedly asking the staff anyway? The answers to these questions vary depending on many factors such as the number of new players at this event, the total number of players and rounds, what type of event this is (FNM, Grand Prix Trial, Pre-release) and the format (limited or constructed).
Before the tournament
Before the event actually begins is often the most chaotic part of any tournament. Because of this you, and others on the staff, will have to make many mini-announcements on where and how to register, who to pay and how much, how to get a DCI number if you do not have one and when and where they turn in their constructed deck lists etc. And you will have to repeat this over and over again, because at this point the players are not one cohesive unit that you can address all at once. Make sure that everyone on the staff is aware of how the registration process works so you do not confuse players with conflicting information.
Here are some important things to keep in mind regarding these initial announcements. If you have changed your registration method in any way, you are going to want to make sure you make very frequent announcements about this so your regulars are not confused. Also, if this is a constructed event that appears close to the date when a set or block rotates in or out you are going to want to make sure that all players involved know what cards are now, or are no longer, legal.
- Where to pay and register
- How to get DCI number if needed
- When and where to turn in deck list
- Deck Construction reminders
Limited Deck Registration /Construction
If making announcements before the event begins is the most difficult due to the lack of order with the players, this would be the second most difficult. This is not because you do not have the players sitting in one group, but rather due to the interest in what they are about to open. This is especially hard at a Prerelease. The key to making your announcements most effective at this time is not allowing players to open their product until you have said everything that you need to.
Assuming that you are making a sealed deck swap, it is best to break down the announcements into two parts, those concerning deck registration before the swap and those concerning deck construction after the swap.
One thing I like to do is make players wait until they have completed a few steps before they can open their product. It may be annoying and didactic for tournament regulars, but it can save headaches later. For example, I will have all players take the deck registration sheet and write down their name and DCI # where it states, "player registering deck" at the start before they can do anything else. It seems obvious, but it is necessary. I will then run through the normal deck registration procedures, once again before I allow players to open their product. Below is a list of things to say at this time.
Limited Deck Registration
- Name and DCI # under player registering deck
- Mark down cards in this card pool under the ‘Total’ column
- Do not use check marks, use Arabic numerals. (2 instead of II)
- Double-check the number of cards (45 non-basic land card in the starter, 3 rares, 10 uncommons etc.)
- Be careful when registering, there are a lot of cards with similar names.
- Please keep these cards sorted alphabetically, by color and by set.
- How much time they have to do this. (20 minutes)
Once the players have completed registering their decks and a swap has been performed, I usually make players wait once again until I have made the necessary announcements. Similar to what I did before registration, I will have them take out the deck registration form and write down their name and DCI # under where it states, "player using deck." I will tell them to double check their card pool and give them instructions on how to make a legal deck and register it. Finally I will tell them what the procedure for getting the necessary basic lands is. (You may have to repeat the procedure for getting basic lands several times, as various TOs do it in different ways.) Once I have done all of this, I tell them they can open their deck and how much time they have to complete this step in the process.
Limited Deck Construction
- Name and DCI # under player using deck
- Double check your card pool; if there is a problem, call a judge.
- Mark cards you are using in the deck under the ‘Played’ column
- Make sure to register the basic lands you use in the deck
- How and where to get the necessary basic lands.
- How and where to turn in their deck list.
- How much time they have to do this. (30 minutes)
There are only a few things to announce when posting pairings. The first thing is to let players know where they are and if all pairings are in one spot, or if they are divided by names. For example, it is quite common at large events to post pairings for all players with last names A-L in one spot and M-Z in another.
Also, when posting pairings for each round after the first, make sure that each player double checks that they have the correct match points. If there is an error you want to that find out now before the round starts.
- Where they are
- Remind players to double check (Are they correct?)
Congratulate yourself; you have now made it to round one. It may not seem like much, but sometimes just getting the players here, registered and sitting in the right place for round one can be quite a feat.
You may have already made ten announcements today, but here at the start of round one is really the first and best opportunity to welcome players to the event. I like to mention the name of the event when I welcome the players as many newer players do not understand the difference between a GP Trial, PTQ or other tournament type. Some players just show up because they heard that there is a tournament; they really don’t know or care where it fits in grand scheme of things. But it may spark some questions in a newer player and help introduce him to the larger tournament scene.
I also like to introduce myself and the other members of the staff -- it's quick and simple, and it's good customer service.
At this point you should know the number of players and Swiss rounds in the event so let the players know that. Depending on the how many newer players there are and the importance of the event, I sometimes will make a quick announcement on the K-Value and REL of the event. Something simple like, “The K-value of today’s tournament is 24 and the REL is 2. If you have any questions on what that means, ask myself or another staff member in-between rounds.” Players who care about K-Value and REL will know what that means; players that do not care will not need any more information.
Once again, depending on the size of the event and the number of newer players I sometimes make a quick announcement on how to fill out the match result slips. If there are only a few new faces I tell players that they can call a judge over when they are done with a match to get help.
Finally if there are any recent rules changes, interesting interactions or confusing or common rules interactions that you expect to come up you should announce how that will be dealt with today. This would include the information that you shared with the staff earlier in the day on how to handle these situations. A fairly recent example would be concerning Morph at the Onslaught prerelease. We made an announcement that failing to reveal a face down card at the end of a game would get a player a warning for Procedural Error – Major. Another example that comes to mind was from Regionals in 2001 and concerned how Orim’s Chant worked. There was some debate on whether or not it affected creatures that were not in play when Orim’s Chant resolves when the kicker cost was paid. The issue was settled prior to Regionals that year, but not all players read the judges’ list or pay attentions to recent rulings. (Just to be clear, Orim’s Chant with kicker does not affect creatures at all; it changes the rules of the game.)
Finally you should ask the players if they have any questions. If they do not, start the round and tell them how much time they have.
- Welcome to [Event name]
- I am [your name] and I will be the head judge today.
- Introduce the rest of the staff.
- # of players and Rounds (cut to top 8?), REL, K-value
- What to do with the Match Result Slips
- Important Rule Interactions / Very recent changes (keep to minimum)
- Answer what you think will be common questions
- Are there any Questions?
- Time of round (Usually 50 minutes)
Early Rounds (2-4)
By now the event should be running smoothly and there really isn’t much more that you need to announce. Depending on when the event started and how long it has been going so far, you will have undoubtedly been asked whether there will be a lunch break. If you are planning on having one, let the players know as soon as possible so they can make whatever plans they need to. Also, even if you do not know how long of a lunch break you will be giving, try and give a rough estimate.
As a service to the local players and to the local TOs you can make short announcements regarding upcoming tournaments at this point.
Finally if during the previous rounds the staff was asked the same or similar questions over and over again, you might want to make an announcement regarding this.
Early Rounds (2 - 4)
- When / If lunch break
- Upcoming tournaments
- Address common questions from earlier rounds
- Any Questions?
Round Before Lunch/Dinner Break
There are only a few simple things to announce at the start of the round before any break. The first thing is pretty simple, what time the round after the break will start.
You also might want to offer some suggestions on where player can get food. Even if you traveled thousands of miles to the event, in the eyes of the players you are somehow a local and know all of the places to eat in the area. When I drive to a venue I try to keep my eyes open to see if there are any fast food or convenience stores nearby.
Finally if there is a cafeteria on site, or any restrictions regarding bringing outside food into the area, make sure that all players know about this.
Round Before Lunch/Dinner Break
- When next round will start after lunch
- Possible places to eat (if you know of any)
Late Rounds (last 2 or so)
You are in the home stretch, only a few more things left to announce. Towards the end of an event you are much more likely to get players intentionally drawing. Due to the different ways this has been treated in the past some players will fill out the match result slip as 1-1-1, others as 0-0-3, and still other will just write ‘ID’ on it. DCI Reporter has you enter intentional draws as 0-0-0, so I generally instruct players to just write 0-0-0 or ‘ID’ in big letters on the results slip. With these two methods it is nice and easy for the scorekeeper to understand what to enter.
Finally towards the end of the day there will be an increased interest in exactly what the prizes are for the tournament. Prizes are often based on attendance, so you should have had able opportunity to figure out what the top finishers will get.
Late Rounds (last 2 or so)
- How to ID
- What Prizes will be
After all Swiss rounds
Once you have completed the necessary Swiss rounds you can print out a copy of the standings and make the dramatic Top 8 announcement. It always builds tension to start at player #1 and move on down to #8.
If there are any other non-Top 8 prizes like the sportsman or youngest player prizes you can make these as well.
After all Swiss rounds
- Top 8 & Standings
- Other Prize Winners (Sportsman, Amateur Prize)
- Any information for Top 8 players
Top 8 playoffs and/or Top 8 draft
In most cases you do not make any real announcements to the Top 8 players. At this point the group is small enough that you can address them individually if needed. Just make sure that all of the players in the top 8 do know what is going on, when the quarterfinals will begin and who each of them are playing. However you may need to make some general announcements to spectators regarding what they are allowed to watch, where they can stand etc.
Some final notes
Players may not be not allowed to use outside notes, but you can. Feel free either to write down or print out a list of announcements that you want to give during the course of the event. I keep the information on my PDA. (In fact attached to this article is a link to where you can download a bookmarked iSilo file with the announcement guidelines listed above.) I’ve found that the more tournaments I do, the more useful these ‘cheat sheets’ are. Occasionally experienced judges will neglect to make announcements about obvious tournament policies. This is extremely unfortunate, as newer players usually need to hear what experienced players consider to be repetitive.
Keep in mind that while the number of announcements listed above is quite extensive, they are just guidelines. At a small tournament where each player is a regular that you know fairly well you will not need to be as formal and you will not need to make that many announcements. Play it by ear and decide just how much information you can and should give the players. The important thing is to try to put yourself in the shoes of the players -- what will they need to know in order to play the game? Good communication with your players will help an event run smoothly. But don't be overwhelmed by the number of possible announcements - you won't always need to make them all.
And one final note, be sure to read the second part of this series on public speaking for judges written by Ingrid Lind-Jahn. She covers the presentation side of public speaking and talks about how to get the player’s attention, to project your voice and how to speak clearly. Unless the players can hear and understand you, the information in this article goes to waste.
Chris Richter, DCI Level II Judge
Announcements Guidelines (3KB Palm OS iSilo)