Magic: The Gathering Grand Prix Dos and Don’ts – A Players Guide to MTG GPs by Thomas Ralph

Grand Prix Manchester 2014 Report (Top64) by Matt Gregory
Image by Anna Przywecka

Magic: The Gathering Grand Prix Dos and Don’ts – A Players Guide to MTG GPs

by Thomas Ralph, Level 3 Magic Judge

Hi everyone. Many of you may know me as one of the UK’s judge leadership team, as a judge from an event in London or further afield, or as one of the administrators of the mtgUK Rules & Judge Questions Facebook group.

With the next MTG Grand Prix not too far in the distance and plenty of folks going from the UK to events around Europe and around the world, I’m writing this to help you and also help us the judges, so that you have a great play experience whether it’s in the main event, 8-player events, or bigger side events.

So without further ado, my recommendations for what you should and shouldn’t do to make your GP day go that bit more smoothly.


Do know your DCI number

Many of our hard-working and dedicated Wizards Play Network locations around the country have established a “local players” file which allows them to keep a record of your DCI number when you first register with them, and they then use that to add you to your event every week. You got this little scrap of cardboard when you joined (or maybe not; it’s mostly electronic now) and now you’ve no idea where it’s ended up.

At the Grand Prix, you will absolutely need your DCI number to register. You are not in the local players file of the GP organizer, and looking up a player’s DCI number from his/her name takes up to a minute, when it works at all on the venue’s flaky wifi.

So please, if you don’t know your DCI number, get your kind local organiser to look it up for you one evening and store it in your phone, as a contact, under “DCI Number”. Then you’ll never need to worry about it again. Or at least until you change phone.


Do write legibly

You’ll no doubt have cause to fill in a decklist at some stage, and many GPs now register for side events by way of registration slips. Please write clearly and legibly on these as some judge or scorekeeper needs to read it later. And don’t leave any fields blank. An example is the registration slip where you write your first name, last name, DCI number and country. “Why do they need the country?” one might ask. It’s for redundancy – if your DCI number is accidentally wrong or illegible, you need all of the other three pieces of data to look someone up. The Wizards Event Reporter software needs a country.


Don’t wander off from side events

The flow of eight-player on-demand events is often very fast, but if there’s a lull or you’re looking to play in a less popular format, you might have a little time to wait. If you do, you’ll usually be issued with a pager, or given an event number, and this will be used to summon your event together once it’s ready. If this happens, please stay nearby, and pay attention ready for your event to start.

One of the least favourite judge tasks at the Grand Prix is trying to find that eighth player who wandered off because he didn’t think his event would start soon, and then five people showed up wanting to play his format. Please don’t be that guy.


Do take care with your decklist

At the Grand Prix you will need to fill in a decklist. Please take lots of care filling it out. To help yourself and the judges, try to avoid these common mistakes:

  • Writing too fast/illegibly
  • Failing to write down your name in the right place/at all
  • Forgetting to write your lands
  • Registering the wrong number of cards (Constructed: minimum 60 main deck, maximum 15 sideboard; Limited: minimum 40 main deck)
  • Writing abbreviations for card names

Owing to the scale of Grand Prix events, it is difficult to impossible for judges to find your decklist in a hurry before or during the first few rounds, so please check and check again before you hand it in.

Because we’ve changed the way we process decklists at large events, penalties for illegal decklists can be issued at any time – even the late rounds.


Do check your points total

Your points total will be printed on the pairings board and usually online each round. Please check it’s correct especially if you’re doing well. Mistakes happen, and the sooner you report one, the better the chance it can be corrected easily.


Do eat and drink

magic the gathering water and snacks

It’s in your own interest to stay well-fed and well-hydrated – and it’ll keep you in a good mood too! Yes, it’s rarely cheap at GPs, but only in the remotest of venues is there no supermarket or convenience store nearby to stock up.


Don’t forget you can appeal

At Grand Prix events, just like other multiple judge events, if you disagree with a floor judge’s ruling, you have the right to appeal to a head judge or appeals judge. At GPs, these judges wear burgundy shirts.

To appeal, you need to tell the judge who gave you the ruling. You do this immediately after he has finished issuing the ruling. That judge will then fetch an appeals judge for you, who will hear the floor judge and both sides before rendering a decision. Note that decisions can’t be appealed at a later stage.

The appeal judge’s decision is final.


Do drop if you’re leaving

Lots of people have come to the GP, just like you, to play lots of Magic. If you don’t think you want to keep playing your event, whether it’s the main event or a side event, please tick the drop box on your results slip, or contact the scorekeeper or a judge from your event, in order to drop out. If you don’t, you’ll be paired against someone for the next round, who now won’t get to play Magic for a round.


Don’t assume things are the same everywhere

There are around six Grand Prix organizers operating events in Europe. Most things are fairly standardised these days, but a few details tend to vary from time to time and event to event. So if there’s a stack of forms on tables when you’re queueing up to register for a side event, check if you need to fill one in. If you’re looking at playing a scheduled event, check when registration closes (such as 15 minutes before the advertised start time). If you want to pay by card, ask whether it’s accepted. And if you want to know about prizes, ask a judge, because we are still trying to work out the best way to give prizes out.


Do note down judges’ names

If you get a judge’s permission to do something out of the ordinary, such as go to the loo during a match or at the start of the round, note down the judge’s name. Most judges have name tags but if not you simply need to ask. This will avoid trouble if that judge isn’t to hand when you get back.


Don’t block table numbers with slips

Image by Anna Przywecka
Image by Anna Przywecka

When you get your results slip each round, please check your name and your opponent’s name are correct (call a judge if not) and then put the slip somewhere nearby. But the one thing we would really like you not to do is rest it against the table number. Why? Often judges need to rapidly locate a certain table. It may look like a very convenient place, but placed there, the slip blocks the table number and it’s then impossible for judges to know where the table they want is.


Do hand in your slip right away

Your winning result slip is your golden ticket to 3 points. Don’t stuff it in your pocket or forget about it – it can cause delays to the event. Judges will bring slips in for you once there are 10-15 minutes or less remaining on the round clock – any earlier and we’ll often ask you to pop it over to the stage yourself, so we can focus on giving rulings and monitoring the matches that are still on.


Do think about your bags

Please don’t bring suitcases or big backpacks if you can avoid it. There’s rarely a safe place to store them (or even any place at all), although cloakrooms and bag checks are slowly starting to become available at GP venues. Check on the GP organizer’s website as it’s usually advertised.

Of course you have to bring a bag for some things. Please keep this under your table or chair, so that passing players, judges, and staff don’t trip over it, and so that judges can get to your match quicker when you call.


Do make it easy for judges to find you when you call

This one’s easy – to make a judge call, just raise your hand and call “judge”. Lower it when the judge is at your table. Lowering it any earlier means that the judge might lose track of where you are, and at the Grand Prix they probably don’t recognise your voice!


Do bring pen, paper and tokens

MTG score pad life totals banner

It’s always best to keep track of your life total on pen and paper – using your phone for this is not allowed at GPs. This helps to sort out any disputes that might arise. And there are plenty of spells in the current formats that give counters or tokens, so it’s good to have something to represent those. Shredded pieces of paper (more of which in a second) are only just below coins on the list of things not to use. My recommendation is to use token or tip cards for tokens, and 6-sided dice for counters. And if you see me at a sealed deck event, chances are good I’ll have some tokens to hand if you need them 🙂


Don’t make a mess

Nowadays Grand Prix venues are usually well equipped with rubbish bins. Please use them for your food waste, drinks bottles, damaged sleeves, bad decks, scoresheets, wrappers, and anything else you don’t want. Aside from being good manners and all that, it generates more work for the staff and judges.

If you do accidentally make a mess such as by spilling something, not to worry; accidents happen. Do in this case let a judge or tournament staff member know so they can sort it.


Don’t put rubbish in the table tents

Following on closely from the last one, having decided to take your rubbish away (thank you!) please don’t be tempted to stuff it into the table tent. The main reason for this is that judges and staff often need to move or reuse them, and if we pick it up and a load of papers spill out, it’s disruptive.


Community Question: What are the top 3 things that can be done to make your GP experience better?

What are the top 3 things that can be done to make your GP experience better

Thanks for reading, see you at the Grand Prix, and have fun!

Thomas Ralph

Thomas Ralph is a Level 3 Magic Judge from Cork, Ireland, living in London. Views in the above article are personal and do not necessarily represent those of the Judge Program, Wizards of the Coast, or anyone else. Thanks to Jack Doyle, Michael Chamberlain, and Christian Genz for proof-reading and feedback.


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