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If I Ran the DCI - Part IV – Bad Tournament Organizers!  No Cookie!


Up to this point, we’ve focused mainly on how Magic matches are played. We have tried to determine the best way to determine who the best player is at any event, and have tried to add to the integrity of the events by removing political aspects of events in favor of determining a real match winner for every match.


Now we need to take a step up and look at the events themselves, and how they are run. Specifically this article targets the Tournament Organizers and what I think needs to be changed in the way that Wizards of the Coast interacts with the Premier Tournament Organizers. I’d like to send a quick thank you out to Wizards of the Coast for previewing this article. There were a few things in this article that I was concerned would break my Non-Disclosure Agreement, so I sent the article out to Wizards for review early, and they nicely spent the time to review it and let me know if there were any problems.


There were. And I had to do some changes, so if this article seems slightly less coherent than usual, it is due to last minute changes to avoid NDA issues (including completely removing one of the changes). Sorry about that.


Its kind of strange to list the things I think need to fixed with Premier Tournament Organizers, when I am guilty of everything I am about to list as the problems. That being said, let’s jump right into them.



Change Number One: The Head Judge shall not be the same, or related to the Tournament Organizer.


I do this all the time. If the event does not require too much staff, I double as Head Judge and Tournament Organizer for the event.  But I should not be allowed to take on both duties. The Head Judge has a duty to make sure the event runs with maximum integrity. It is the Head Judge’s job to make every correct ruling, and to catch every cheater. The Head Judge’s job is not to do customer service. It is not their job to be nice, although obviously a level of courtesy and professionalism is helpful.


A Tournament Organizer is there to make the event run right. They are there to make sure the event is timely, and efficient. They are there to make sure that the players are happy, and willing to come back to another event.


These jobs conflict highly.


Example 1: A judge gets called over for a life total discrepancy late in around. The issue turns out to be much more complex than originally anticipated, and the judge feels that the they will need some time to try to completely retrace the game to understand what happened.


The Head Judge answer should be that this is fine. Go as fast as you can obviously, but get to the right answer.


The Organizer answer should be that two people should not hold up all of the other players in the event, and the judge should just take the best guess they can, and go with it.


Example 2: A judge catches a player in a situation that looks like cheating. The player is a regular player, and has no history of cheating, but we all know this may just mean that he may have never been caught before. This player is part of a playgroup of about six people that are good friends, and disqualifying one of them may stop the others from coming.


The Head Judge answer here should be that if the player is cheating, I need to disqualify him. End of Story. I am here to maintain the integrity of the event.


The Organizer answer here often is that this player brings a whole community with them, and losing all of them because of a potential miscall would have bad effects. We should err on the side of leniency.


You can see how they have very different viewpoints, and both are valid. The problem here is that the Organizer’s should not matter. The Organizer answer should be that this is not their call to make, and they need to stay out of it.


But this does not happen. It doesn’t happen when the Organizer and Judge are the same, or even when they are closely related, and a bias can occur.



Change Number Two:  Predefined Prizes


This other change goes back to an earlier article where we discussed the removal of Top Eight, and the potential changing of prizes to “Top Heavy Minus One.”


Right now, Wizards of the Coasts gives Tournament Organizers a lot of room for movement in prize support for events. If you read my article a while back about Prerelease Prize support, you can see that there is a huge difference in how prizes are handed out from one area to the next, even though the total amount of prizes handed out is roughly the same.


I think this creates disharmony among the Premier Tournament Organizers, and makes for a lack of standardization and coherency for events. When I was at Pro Tour San Diego in charge of Side Events, we had a piece of paper which said for a to b players award prizes as follows, for b+1 to c players award prizes as follows, for c+1 to d players award prizes as follows, etc.


Why not get this for every Grand Prix Trial or Pro Tour Qualifier I run, with a little more detail saying exactly what to pay for each place? It would be so much easier. And I wouldn’t have to listen to the traveling PTQ player explain to me how the Organizer in Nevada gives out prizes slightly different and he likes that way better (mainly of course because it benefits them this time around). And it would allow us to force the “Top Heavy Minus One” prize award system that would make the no Top Eight system work. It would also be better for the players, as the prize pool would be less uncertain. They would walk into the event know what the prize pool based on how many players there were, and no one would have to ask. It would be easier administratively for the Organizer as well, who can just segregate the prizes out at the beginning of the first round based on how many players he has, rather than trying to figure out how many packs he has available, and how he should split them.



Two simple things that help to solidify the integrity of the event, bring some cohesion to the events nation wide. These can be implemented with minimal costs and fuss, for maximum return.


Tune in next week for more ideas for changes for the DCI. I still haven’t touched the Penalty Guidelines, or the Pro Tour itself. I’m just getting started….



E-mail me at

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