Golden Ticket

A lot of players seem to think of their result slip as a burden, that thing you have to walk up to the stage when you really want to get some food, or hang out with your friends, or watch the interesting match that is happening right next to you. Maybe you’re one of these players.

Many things would go better if you’d change your frame of reference. The damn thing is a golden ticket. No, you aren’t going to win a chocolate factory. But you worked really really hard to win your match and I can tell you from plenty of experience, you’re going to be pretty upset if you don’t get your three points for it.

Your result slip is the voucher for your three points.

Treasure it. You worked too hard to get it to screw it up in five seconds. Make sure the darn thing is filled out right (this is why we make you sign it – read the damn thing before you sign it). And then, as the winner, take the slip up and claim your points. Double check it before you put it in the box while you’re at it – it’s pretty disruptive when you feel the need to come back a minute later and dig through the box or “just make sure”.

Some of you are going to finish your matches early and be tempted to stuff it in your pocket to turn in later. You’ve got plenty of time, after all. Cut that out. Seriously. You’re probably going to forget. You are contributing to the roughly 10 minutes that players cost to the tournament because of missing result slips (and this is just a fraction of the full cost to tournament time that we suffer because of players … but more on this later). This happens. Every. Single. Grand. Prix. If you hate how long these things take, stop making it worse.

Not rocket science. Fill it out right. Check your work before you sign. Turn it in right away. Profit.

Jolly Good No-Show

All right, judges … your turn.

Sadly, try as we might, there are going to be jerks in the world. Which means there are going to be No Shows, which you need to fill out result slips for. This is the easiest penalty to file, and this might be old hat for many of you, but having seen an increasing number of random failures lately, perhaps not. Don’t worry, I won’t tell.

First of all – please please please make sure the slip is filled out right. Do not give the win and the penalty/drop to the wrong people. In the name of player accountability, the best way to do this is ask the player to fill out the 2-0 and sign the slip – presumably they’ll recognize themselves, and even if they mess it up, that’s on them instead of you (much more on this in the future). At the very least, you should make sure they look at the slip and verify that they got the win (good practice even if you have them fill it out).

Once that’s done, the rest is simple. There should already be a penalty mark to have denoted the Game Loss for tardiness, so nothing to do there. Since the offending player needs to be dropped*, just write “No Show” clearly in their drop column. Then in place of their signature, write your name (enough of it to be unique, in a clear and legible fashion – your scrawled initials look just like everyone else’s) so we can register the penalty for you.

That’s pretty much it. Simple for you, simple for us. Pardon the terrible mouse-writing, but it should look something like this:


*If for some reason it turns out they shouldn’t be dropped – they showed up at the 11th minute, or told you in advance they wouldn’t be there, etc … then this becomes the special case. Don’t just leave the drop column empty – if we see that somebody got a match loss for tardiness and an empty drop column, the safe assumption is generally that the judge forgot to mark it (which, of course, won’t be you anymore), as this happens far more often than this special case does. So if this actually happens, you should actually mark a note saying “Do not drop – <reason>” rather than leaving things blank.

Y U No Show?

It’s getting late. You’re not in contention anymore, and your buddies have just finished their matches and you’re finally ready to go get some food and commiserate about all the bad beats. So, you pack up your stuff and out the door you go.

News flash: You are a jerk.

Wait, what? Wasn’t the whole point of Swiss that you could play as many rounds as you wanted, then stop playing? Well, yes … but … you didn’t tell us you were leaving. Therefore:

1) You got paired against somebody. That somebody probably paid some real money to, you know, play Magic. Especially later in the day, not in contention, these people are still in because they want to meet some new people and play some Magic. Sitting around doing nothing for an hour is pretty close to the opposite of this.

2) Even worse, that somebody got to sit there for 10 minutes, just in case you were running late rather than not showing up at all.

3) A judge had to verify that you were missing and handle the result for your opponent, eating up limited floor resources that could be used answering questions faster.

4) Tardiness is a penalty, which needs to be registered. So that judge had to fill out the penalty on the result slip, and the scorekeeper had to register it in the system (which would, at best, be non-zero work that disrupts doing other result entry, but even worse, the current penalty filing interface is … um … let’s go with mind-blowingly awful, so the impact here is a really serious hit of time). More cost to limited resources.

This is all trivially avoidable. Just tell us you’re dropping. If you haven’t turned in your slip yet, mark your drop on the result slip, that’s what the drop column is for (to be fair, you probably figured this part out). If you have, though, come up to the main stage by the scorekeeper – there’s always a drop list or some other way to register a late drop, as long as we haven’t paired the next round. Just don’t wait until the last second to do this, come drop as soon as you know you want to leave.

If it turns out you didn’t know until the last second, and we already had to pair the round, please have the courtesy to find your pairing and go concede to your opponent and mark the drop. Still bad that they don’t get to play (hence, not waiting until the last second), but it only takes a minute and it saves them the ten-minute wait and saves the staff all of the administrative overhead.

Technically speaking, with the change to Planeswalker Points and the fact that losses don’t count against you, there are no real consequences (yet … crossing my fingers that this will change someday) to not doing this besides the abstract hit of a penalty in the system.

Except that you’re a colossal jerk.

Don’t be that jerk.

Consistency and The Trance


This is the final collation of Grand Prix – Sacramento matches for submission to Wizards of the Coast. A total of 6160 matches were played over the course of this tournament, each of which has to be entered into the system. OK, we’re talking two days, 10-12 hours each. Not so bad, right? Let’s drill deeper.


This is round 3 of Grand Prix – Washington DC.  Not all hours, or minutes, are created equal. Let’s cut to the chase. Generally, the bulk of result entry happens in a wave about 20-25 minutes long, starting from about 15-20 minutes remaining in the round, depending on the specific tournament size and format. So, let’s say roughly 600 results in 20 minutes, or 30 per minute, or one every two seconds.

Every scorekeeper that I know enters what I call the trance when they get to this point in the round. You probably recognize it if you think about it. That moment where you stand in front of them to ask some question and it doesn’t really seem like they register that you’re there, or when they look disturbed if you really try and get their attention.

Nothing that’s being done during this time is particularly complicated – it’s just that it’s being done a lot, over, and over, and over again.

If you had to sit down and think in your conscious brain about each of these events, it’d just take too long. Just like with muscle memory for musicians, the way that you handle this is by having your brain recognize some basic patterns and falling into an instinctual rhythm. Your brain helps you process some of the data without you having to stop and really think about it, kind of like you never think about breathing, or how to swallow.

Blah blah blah, armchair psychobabble, right. Here’s all that actually matters: Anything that disrupts the trance rhythm is disproportionately expensive to efficiency. Different scorekeepers will handle this with differing levels of effectiveness – some will merely be thrown off their a lot, whereas others will be thrown off dramatically so. Regardless, though, there is a hidden cost to any such disruptions – not only the time to address the disruption, but the cost in time to get yourself back into the flow of things.

In practice, this means that effort put toward preventing unnecessary disruptions and lapses in consistency will have an outsized effect on the ability to get a round turned. Let’s look at some concrete examples.

Turning upside-slips around, or unfolding crumpled slips? Brutal. Informal, back of envelope measurement suggests that a single unexpected upside-down slip in a pile will cost you a full four slips worth of processing time. People who’ve worked with me will note that even though TOs keep getting more professional and have become more and more prone to bringing a fancy plastic tub for result slips, I continue to cannibalize an empty booster box for this purpose. Why? Because it’s closer to the size of a result slip and doesn’t result in as messy of a giant pile of skewed slips. Players? Take the time to make your slip go in the box nicely and face the same way as the slip before yours. Judges? One of the most impactful things you can do if you’re around the stage (much more so than outstanding table handling, generally – more on that in the future) is to get all the slips into a single pile facing the same direction, though if you’re going to do this, you have to do it right. A recent epidemic has been judges who do this quickly and miss a few slips here and there. No big deal, right? Well … not so much …

Don’t be that judge that takes the next small batch of slips, gets them into a pile, then stands there and holds them out at the scorekeeper and refuses to do anything else until they acknowledge you and take the pile. You’re costing a lot of time by breaking their trance over and over again. Just keep collecting slips, they’ll take them when they’re ready.

Don’t be that player that makes a mess on your result slip because you write life totals on it, or because you’re careless and then have to scribble out a typo, or because you feel like drawing smiley faces and writing “No” under the Drop column because you’re so happy that you won. Anything other than game scores and signatures is, in and of itself, a disruption. A necessary disruption, in the case that we need to slow down and parse a drop, or a penalty, or a name correction. But when those stray marks are there for no good reason at all, it slows things down far more than you realize.

There are many more such examples, which I’ll get to when I start codifying things into practical advice. For now, though, just understand – there’s a rhythm to data entry. If you disrupt it, especially if it was for no reason at all besides carelessness, you shouldn’t wonder why I’m so grumpy.

Seriously, Why So Grumpy?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always gotten this question quite a bit (for who knows what reason, really …).

Not as much as after the great rantfest of Grand Prix – Sacramento, though. Which, I stand by and suspect won’t be the last you’ll see (when people stop doing stuff worth ranting about, then I’ll consider it …).

While I think a good collective kick in the ass to the field is warranted sometimes just to get people’s attention, the responsible part of me knows that it’s probably more handy to attach the education aspect to the corrective.

So … let’s take a journey. Why you (not specifically you, the general and generic “you”) make me grumpy, and how to stop.