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A GP of Ice and Fire


Hello everybody!

The first international tournament of 2017 took place in beautiful but cold Prague… but we had the “opportunity” to warm us… it just wasn’t the way we expected.

I will call this GP “the GP of Ice and Fire” for quite a long time!

Enjoy reading.

Grand Prix Prague 2017

Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic, one of the “small” countries in the center of Europe.

Small but really beautiful.

And a classic for the Grand Prix circuit:

2001, 617 participants

2003, 951 participants

2009, 1543 participants

2011, 1236 participants

2013, 1508 participants

2014, 1396 participants

2015, 1464 participants

2016, 1480 participants

2017, 2005 participants

Here you have a short video to have a glimpse of the city.

A Grand Prix of Ice and Fire

Yes, the reference is quite obvious: The books (and TV series) created by George Martin.

Why this Prague?


Yes, these are the temperatures at midnight (the beginning of the sheet), while during the day it was much much warmer: MINUS SIX!

Yes, this was the tournament location.

Actually, even if it may give the impression of a big incident, it was “simply” a small food store that took fire… and then some gas tubes exploded and…

Well, MAYBE this photo is a little scarier!

Tournament Operations: The beginning of a Limited Grand Prix, from inside the head of the head judge

One of the goals of the head judge is to anticipate needs; for the logistics of events, in simple words, it means asking ourselves “What is going to happen in the next 30 minutes and what should judges do?”.

This would be the introduction of a guide called “Headjudging in 100 lessons”.

Today, we are going to have a journey together; it will be a journey in the mind of the head judge of a Limited event.

Fasten your seat belts and enjoy your travel!

Step 0: Before the Player Meeting

8:45 Greet the players and announce that Seat All has been posted (in English and in the local language)

8:47 Check again that the Stage team is ready to assist players with problems

8:48 Check again with the Logistics team leader that all teams have the necessary product and area assigned for distribution and that the “operation table” with extra material is ready (you may remind them about lands on tables and extra land stations, but I would do it during pool registration)

8:50 Check again with the Decklist team leader that his plan for collection and sorting of decklist is prepared

8:52 Think about when you opened a goodie bag and remember that you also saw the waiver (on the back of the decklist or as a separate paper).

8:53 Keep an eye on the line of players who are being served by the Stage team (with their extra copy or two of Seat All) or by the scorekeeper(s)

8:54 Keep an eye on the floor and on the seatings/pairing boards, to have an idea about how the traffic is going, and if there are visible issues

8:55 Make a second announcement, saying that the player meeting will begin in approximately five minutes

8:57 Breathe ^__^

8:58 Check with the TO or with any host that you and him are ready to start the speech

9:00 IT BEGINS (let’s assume that players were fast when going to the tables and that there are no players needing assistance by the Stage team; in some cases, it’s actually possible to start the meeting at 9 sharp!)


Step 1: Welcome

Say hello (do it yourself in the local language too!), introduce yourself, welcome them, thank the TO/Wizards/judges and also thank the players for coming (important!). Remember that how the day starts will “set the mood”; I am convinced that this step is more important than we may think!


Step 2: Bag Distribution

Announce that the judges will be distributing the bags (this is the signal they were waiting for). Keep their attention on you, waiting for all bags to be distributed; tell them what they will find in the bags (ask to check and report if they are missing any objects); ask them to wait before opening the packs and anticipate how it will work (a brief “the cards you open will be yours and you will build and play with them; the person in front of you will only register them”). If judges need more time to finish distributing, you can give instructions about communication, results and die rolling, and eventually greet the national team, new member of the Hall of Fame or anything you may have prepared beforehand.

When you consider it appropriate, ask “Please, raise your hand if you haven’t received the bag yet”, so that you will have a very quick visual update on the percentage of completion of this step.


Step 3: Decklists and Waivers

Note: you may choose to anticipate this part, instead of giving information about communication, results and die rolling (I prefer waiting for almost everybody or everybody to have received the bag and checked the contents).

Ask them to get the decklist and write the table number (this is fast). Ask them to get the waiver and to fill it out; give quick instructions (country, name, date of birth, signature). Waivers may be collected at this time, but it’s not my favorite moment.


Step 4: Boosters

Boosters should be opened in a way that reduces the chances of anyone substituting them with others brought from home (note: tape them on one side on Friday; it’s relatively quick and effective!); half of the players will open the boosters.

Use a very visible object or banner as a reference and ask half of the players to open the boosters, check that the rarities are correct and put them in a single pile in front of them (they can quickly see the cards, of course, but I would recommend not to sort them by color now, as I prefer the person in front to do it because he will be faster); example: “If you see the huge Chandra’s banner in front of you, you can open your boosters”.

Have the second half of players open their boosters.


Step 5: Pool Registration

Ask all players to give all their cards to the person in front of them (judges will take care of “triangle-registration” in case of missing players). Ask them to write their name in the top left field (“player registering”). Ask them to sort the cards by color and to register all of them.

Note: you may have asked them to write their name on the decklist, as “player using” on the top right field; I prefer giving them fewer instructions about this, as I believe that they will sort it out easily.

If the waiver is on a separate paper, the end of pool registration (the last five minutes) is a good moment to collect them, as most of the players will have already finished and the waivers will be on a table that has a single pile of cards and a few other lands and tokens.

For this step too, it can be very useful to ask “Please raise your hand if you or the person in front of you is still registering”; I recommend waiting a few extra minutes before proceeding to the next step. Note: with this system, judges will be able to identify and help the slowest players.

Informing them “There are 10/5 minutes left for pool registration” is a good habit.


Step 6: Verification and Deckbuilding

Some HJs prefer giving five extra minutes for verification of the pool, others don’t. Today, we give them five minutes.

After verifying (“Raise your hand”, as always) that everybody has finished registering the pool, ask the players to return the cards (+decklist) to the owner.

Ask to write the name in the top right field, “Player using”.

Quickly instruct them about lands (tables+landstations), about not forgetting to write down the lands they play, about the need of reporting mistakes on the list in the first five minutes… and then start the clock (35 minutes).

Informing them “There are 10/5 minutes left for pool registration” is a good habit.

During deck building, you may check with all teams that they will be ready for their next tasks (Logistics: lands; Paper: pairings; Decklist: decklist collection and sorting area

Step 7: End of Deckbuilding

Quickly inform the players about “10 minutes remaining” and quickly remind them about basic lands.

Quickly inform the players about “5 minutes remaining” and invite them to choose the last cards and start registering the main deck, so that they aren’t late.

When the time ends, kindly ask them to give their completed decklist to any judge.

Inform them about the moment pairings for round 1 will be posted (like “will be posted at 10:20, which is in ten minutes”, mentioning both the exact time and how much later it will be); make sure to mention that those ten minutes are for sleeving, going to the bathroom and get some fresh air outside, and then recommend them to be back in time (repeat the time!).


Step 8: Post Pairings

At the announced time, post the pairings.

In those ten minutes, you may check the tasks that each team is performing (it’s a busy time!) and about how many decklists are still on tables.

… and we made it to Round 1!

Now, everything will be easy :)

Great Judges of the World: Jaroslav Karban

Jara is the most representative judge of the Czech Republic.

He’s friendly, skilled, smart and has become very wise in the years… I believe that the first time I met him, he arrived to the judge meeting with a giant (two meters high) rubber dolphin… and I will always remember him as a kid, with that dolphin in his hands!

(photo by the official Magic photographer in Italy: Alessandra Farina)

Goodbye Prague

… and another awesome adventure has come to an end.

Prague, seven GPs in the last nine years, yes, it’s one of the city that most represents the world of Magic in Europe… and also a very beautiful city!

I hope you enjoyed this article, and I’m looking forward to reading your comments.

The next article will be from Pro Tour Dublin and I am going to talk about the “Combat” shortcut.


About Riccardo Tessitori

Riccardo Tessitori
Riccardo Tessitori

Riccardo Tessitori is a level 3 (former level 5) judge from Italy (and former Pro Player ^__^); he judged more than a hundred professional events, headjudged more than 40 Grand Prix events in Europe, the United States and Asia and has been headjudging Pro Tours and World Championships since 2009:

  • Pro Tour Kyoto 2009
  • Pro Tour Austin 2009
  • Worlds Chiba 2010
  • Pro Tour Philadelphia 2011
  • Pro Tour Barcelona 2012
  • World Magic Cup Indianapolis 2012
  • Pro Tour Dublin 2013
  • Pro Tour Valencia 2014
  • Pro Tour Brussels 2015
  • Pro Tour Madrid 2016
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