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Tournament Operations » Post: Introducing the Sealed Process Checklist (Grands Prix)

Introducing the Sealed Process Checklist (Grands Prix)

Dec. 1, 2015 08:04:37 AM

Elliot Raff
Judge (Level 3 (Judge Academy))

USA - Midatlantic

Introducing the Sealed Process Checklist (Grands Prix)

At the risk of sounding like an infomercial:
If you have worked a Limited Grand Prix before, how many times have you been asked the following questions on Saturday morning?
Judge, what are the announcements saying?
Judge, can I start doing ?
Judge, if both me and my partner are done registering, can we swap back and start building?
Judge, I just got my pool and it isn’t alphabetized. Can I have a time extension?

Or, you may have struggled to hear the announcements yourself, and scrambled to find another judge who hopefully did. One extreme example came earlier this year, when the PA system was so bad that it would cut out every few seconds, and when it was active, was so soft that nobody could understand. The system became to use judges as loudspeakers and hope that everyone was in the same general area of doing the same thing.

Let’s face it, no matter how you slice it, or how good the PA system happens to be (often not very), information gets lost all the time when hundreds of people are trying to all get the same information from a magical voice in the sky. What can we do to minimize confusion, save time during the most hectic part of the day, and make player and judge experiences better during what is the most difficult part of any Grand Prix?

Introducing the Sealed Process Checklist
With the introduction of the Madison Maneuver or the Sydney Swap or however you prefer to refer to the new process for Sealed deckbuilding, it has become exponentially simpler to detail the exact mechanics of the beginning of the day for any Limited GP. Many Tournament Organizers have, for Limited, begun handing out deck boxes or baggies that contain the players’ packs, tokens, decklists, waivers, and other goodies. It is my thinking that, included in this packet, should be a detailed checklist for the exact procedure that the deckbuilding process will follow. This checklist should be numbered with each step. This way, the directions that need to be understood by the Head Judge are minimized, eliminating confusion if players miss an announcement or are victims of the PA system. Players instead can refer to their sheet whenever they are confused as to what is supposed to be happening. As more and more Grand Prix clocks switch to projections or monitors, the step that the room is currently on should also be displayed in a location that is easy for players and judges to see.

Here is a rudimentary example, using an optimized process from Grand Prix Atlanta:

Grand Prix Atlanta - Sealed Procedure
Do Not Perform Any Step in the Process Until Instructed. Please refer to the projector if you become lost, or call a judge if you have any questions.

Once you open your deck box:

1) Check to make sure you have six packs of Battle for Zendikar, a GP Promo Griselbrand, an SCG goodie pack, and a sheet that is a decklist on one side and a waiver on the other. DO NOT SIGN THE WAIVER YET. Fill out your name where it says “Player Registering Deck” at the top of the decklist.

2) Players facing the stage should open their packs and show their partner the contents. Place the cards back into the deck box when you are done.

3) Players facing away from the stage should repeat Step 2.

4) Exchange pools with your partner. The cards are still the property of whoever opened them. You have twenty minutes to register this pool, which should be sorted by color and alphabetically within each color. (Include a tip about best practices for efficiently registering the pool)

5) Give the pool and decklist back to the player who originally opened it. Once you have your pool back, fill out your name where it says “Player Using Deck”. Then, turn the decklist over and fill out the waiver. You now have thirty minutes to register and build a forty card minimum deck, using the cards in this pool and basic lands.

6) When you are done, give your decklist to a judge. Good luck!

Potential Issues
Language Barrier
I realize that this process may not be able to be implemented in places that have a player base where player speak many different languages, such as many European GPs. It may not be feasible to provide instructions in all the languages that may be required. This process should be used only at the discretion of the Tournament Organizer and the Head Judge.

Increased Infrastructure in Assembling the Sealed Kit
With the addition of any new material comes increased cost to the Tournament Organizer (paper, staff to fold and insert the sheets, etc.). I believe that this system will enhance communication and the player experience enough to offset these potential costs, but realize that it may not be prudent for this system to be used universally. A “watered-down” version could also be used by only displaying the step in the process on a projector or other monitor, as well as a brief description of the step, such as “2 - Player A, Open Packs”.

Skipping Ahead
Sean Catanese raised the point that, if we provide players with a list of the procedure, they will skip ahead of the rest of the event, similar to students skipping ahead in a list of problems in math class. This is a valid concern, but many players in the event have the means already to “skip steps” because of the new system. Those who are inclined to do so have already been trying, and I do not think that providing this list will markedly increase the players who will try to save time. Additionally, with the instruction not to skip ahead provided on the sheet, players run the risk of a penalty if they try to skip steps.

How Much Value Does This Actually Add?
Right now, this question is impossible to definitively answer. I think this will help communication and the dissemination of information in an area that is badly needing it. More than anything, the Sealed Process Checklist helps newer players, especially those who may be playing in Competitive REL Sealed for the first time. Sealed brings in more new players to Comp REL because they don’t need to bring cards, which makes the format more accessible. The experience of being surrounded by hundreds of excitable Magic players while having to pay close attention to the announcements (which can generally be very hard to hear or understand) can make a daunting experience downright scary. This process is geared towards those players, and had the additional benefit of combatting what can be the biggest hurdle in getting the process that is the Limited Grand Prix underway - simply making sure players understand what is happening.

I would like to see the Sealed Process Checklist tested soon, and hope that it can be as big of a boon to events as I think it can be.

Edited Elliot Raff (Dec. 1, 2015 08:05:10 AM)

Dec. 1, 2015 08:45:16 AM

Federico Donner
Judge (Level 3 (Judge Academy))

Hispanic America - South

Introducing the Sealed Process Checklist (Grands Prix)

I want to add something that we tried with amazing success in a 240+ player SSS. If it can be done, print the decklists in two colors and give players facing the stage one color and players facing away from the stage another. That way your announcements can be “if you have a white decklist, do this. If you have a green decklist, do that”. Super easy, and much harder for players to mess up.

Also, if you stand at the end of a row of tables you can really easily see if the players performed the swap successfully. A white piece of paper surrounded by green ones means that someone screwed up. 

Dec. 1, 2015 08:51:00 AM

John Brian McCarthy
Forum Moderator
Judge (Level 3 (Judge Academy)), Grand Prix Head Judge

USA - Midatlantic

Introducing the Sealed Process Checklist (Grands Prix)

I like this idea, particularly in that I personally prefer comprehend better by reading than by hearing (especially in a room with 2000 people, with all the ones around me talking while the HJ is speaking), and I suspect that some others do too.

Where I'd really like to see it tested is during the Sunday Super Series. At the last few GPs I've worked, the SSS hasn't been given access to the mic (especially when the Main Event is Limited, so the draft is being called during SSS build), so I think they could really benefit from having written instructions and just being told to step through the process.

The only other thing I'd add is that Step 2 is probably the biggest stumbling block I've seen in the Madison Maneuver. Gamers gotta game, so I've seen more than a few of them make the process of opening packs into “Open a pack, sort it by color/rarity/playability while really thinking about how to build your deck” instead of “Open a pack, mentally note anything valuable so you can make sure it comes back to you, drop it in a pile.”

Dec. 1, 2015 09:54:00 AM

Riccardo Tessitori
Forum Moderator
Judge (Level 3 (Judge Academy)), Grand Prix Head Judge, L3 Panel Lead


Introducing the Sealed Process Checklist (Grands Prix)

Thanks Elliot for your initiative.
I would like to offer you another piece of information.
In this article
I tried to explain with players-friendly words the reason for the new procedure at sealed deck GPs.
I hope that the pieces of advice in the description of the new procedure will be helful for your future events.


Dec. 1, 2015 10:20:16 AM

Charles Featherer
Judge (Level 2 (Judge Academy))

USA - Northeast

Introducing the Sealed Process Checklist (Grands Prix)


Brilliant concept, I hope TO's rush to put the idea into practice. I particularly like Federico's suggested addition that shouldn't be difficult to implement regardless of the size of the event. One suggestion I'd like to make as an addition is statement(s) in the instructions about the time allowed to perform each action where appropriate. So many people hear: 'Exchange decks with the person across from you. . You have X minutes'. That last bit I consider to be very important, but is often lost in the noise generated by players performing the actions requested.


Dec. 1, 2015 10:30:46 AM

Kevin Binswanger
Judge (Uncertified)

USA - South

Introducing the Sealed Process Checklist (Grands Prix)

This seems like a big win for deaf players. They can't hear the
announcements, so if there's not anything printed, they could very
easily miss out on key information or instructions.

Also for talkative players ;)

On Tue, Dec 1, 2015 at 10:21 AM, Charles Featherer
<> wrote:

Dec. 1, 2015 10:57:57 AM

Scott Marshall
Forum Moderator
Judge (Level 3 (Judge Academy)), Hall of Fame

USA - Northwest

Introducing the Sealed Process Checklist (Grands Prix)

In addition to comprehension, hearing difficulties, or even attention span challenges, written instructions may be much easier for people with English as a second (or third, fourth) language. While that's mostly a factor for GPs, esp. those outside of North America, it can occur anywhere, any time.


Dec. 1, 2015 11:29:01 AM

Mani Cavalieri
Judge (Level 2 (Judge Academy)), GP Team-Lead-in-Training

USA - Northeast

Introducing the Sealed Process Checklist (Grands Prix)

Having the process be a written checklist seems like a great idea. It's an obvious, excellent way to get everyone on the same page (pardon the pun) during what is the most confusing part of the event for players and judges alike.

Having the “current step” be projected also seems like a great idea. Projectors might be tough, but in a pinch, you might even be able to use a spare clock to indicate what step you should be on - set it to “1:00” for step one, “2:00” for step 2, etc.

If you're planning on working an event that has access to a projector, I'd even be inclined to make it a little power point presentation - one slide for each step, and the only things on the slide are the step and maybe a little image to help people follow along.

It's probably a good idea to have a copy of that checklist (and/or presentation) in, say, Google drive at all times so that you always have access to it if you need to print it out the night before.

I'm getting carried away thinking of all the cool ways we could implement this - which, I guess, just goes to show what a clearly good idea this is, and how many other knobs it gives us access to, to help sun smoother events.

Dec. 1, 2015 05:31:58 PM

Yonatan Kamensky
Judge (Uncertified)

USA - Northeast

Introducing the Sealed Process Checklist (Grands Prix)

This is one of those ideas that are so good, it seems obvious in retrospect. Well done.

We can eliminate a good chunk of the added prep time if the copy can fit on a card-sized insert. 8 to a page, and lots of folding turns into a few minutes at the cutter.

Even 4 to a page, reducing each slip to a single fold, will do wonders.

Edited Yonatan Kamensky (Dec. 1, 2015 05:32:47 PM)

Dec. 1, 2015 07:32:44 PM

Io Hughto

USA - Northeast

Introducing the Sealed Process Checklist (Grands Prix)

My only concern here is the added logistics of including the sheet as part of the product distribution. Depending on the TO and/or the way they do distribution, this could be a significant addition to the complexity of product distribution at the beginning of the day. It makes me wonder whether the cost is worth the benefit for some events.

Dec. 1, 2015 07:41:32 PM

Rick Salamin
Judge (Level 2 (Judge Academy)), TLC, Scorekeeper, Tournament Organizer

USA - Northeast

Introducing the Sealed Process Checklist (Grands Prix)

I like the idea at first pass and look forward to seeing where this goes.

My first thought is if they were printed at a size that fits into a card sleeve it would go into the kit with the promo, playmat/goodie voucher (if applicable), and tokens.

Dec. 1, 2015 08:02:25 PM

Eric Levine
Forum Moderator
Judge (Level 3 (Judge Academy)), Grand Prix Head Judge

USA - Central

Introducing the Sealed Process Checklist (Grands Prix)

As far as product distribution goes, I think it makes sense to do this if
players are being handed a prepared kit with all their materials in it.
Organizers that distribute lists/product/etc separately might experience
some time issues during the player meeting if they try to have staff
distributing these as well.

On Wed, Dec 2, 2015 at 10:33 AM, Joe Hughto <> wrote:

> My only concern here is the added logistics of including the sheet as part
> of the product distribution. Depending on the TO and/or the way they do
> distribution, this could be a significant addition to the complexity of
> product distribution at the beginning of the day. It makes me wonder
> whether the cost is worth the benefit for some events.
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Dec. 1, 2015 08:43:28 PM

Fabian Peck
Judge (Level 3 (Judge Academy)), Grand Prix Head Judge, Tournament Organizer

Australia and New Zealand

Introducing the Sealed Process Checklist (Grands Prix)

Depending on format, and length of these instructions, it may be possible
to print it directly onto one of the forms that's already being printed out
to cut out extra effort bundling it.
If the waiver or the OGW checklist only take half a page it can be added in
the other half.

Also, have you tried having players pass the sheet with the pool and then
pass back? This means instead of telling players *not* to write their name
on it you're telling them *to* write their name on it. Then they know which
piece of paper is theirs and will make some effort to get it back.

Dec. 1, 2015 09:55:54 PM

Elliot Raff
Judge (Level 3 (Judge Academy))

USA - Midatlantic

Introducing the Sealed Process Checklist (Grands Prix)

Fabian - at GP Atlanta, this is how it was done - however, because of the way players were accustomed to filling out deck lists, they were instructed to fill out the waiver first. This resulted in half of the room filling out both the waiver and “Player Registering Deck”, when they should not have because the waiver needed to be the deck they were playing.
This was my proposed fix - have the players fill out the list like they are accustomed to, and fill the waiver later.

Dec. 2, 2015 01:42:42 PM

John Carter
Judge (Level 3 (Judge Academy)), Tournament Organizer

USA - Northwest

Introducing the Sealed Process Checklist (Grands Prix)

A few thoughts:

1) I always like documentation, so this idea seems an obvious winner. ;-)

2a) Waivers are not tournament documents.
A waiver is a Tournament Organizer document collected from players in an event but is not necessary for the operation or integrity of a specific tournament. Waivers may be mandated for an event, but that's an external demand not a physical requirement of operating the event. Combining the waiver and decklist into a single sheet can present problems. For constructed events, there is very minimal concern (combining is actually preferred), but for limited events, the transfers of custody and the potential for a two-sided decklist requires some forethought.

2b) Why are waivers always full size?
I don't believe the physical dimensions of a waiver are a legal requirement. The amount of information collected on most waivers is usually small, and most people don't bother reading waivers. What if “the fine print” were ~actually~ fine print? What if waivers were 1/2 or 1/4 sheets instead of full sized? Perhaps this is a line of Inquiry for Aaron Hamer.

3) Beware the checklist that is neither a list nor checked.
If a player opens a checklist that is a Wall of Text <tm>, they're going to ignore it. Elliot's original list is 219 words across 6 steps–more than a quarter of that in step #1. A shorter, simpler list is more likely to be useful in mass distribution. Magic players tend to be reasonably smart and get used to procedures, and judges can clarify if someone needs help.

Shorter… (In this scenario, I'm assuming the waiver is separate, adjust as needed.)
6 Battle for Zendikar boosters, 1 promotional Griselbrand, 1 decklist, 1 waiver, 1 pen,

Deckbuilding procedure:
1) Sign the media waiver
2a) Players facing stage–open your boosters, reveal pool to opposite player.
2b) Player facing away from stage—repeat 2a.
3) Exchange pools with opposite player.
4) Write your name on the decklist under Player Registering.
5) Register that player's pool. (20 minutes)
6) Return pool and decklist.
7) Write your name on the decklist under Player Using.
8) Verify your pool registration, build your deck, and register your deck. (30 minutes)
9) Turn your completed decklist and waiver to a judge.

That list has a more detailed breakdown of steps and is about half as many words. A better wordsmith might improve it as well. Use of the possessive was very specific.

4) The decklist dinosaur
In writing this out, I also wonder if our decklists use phrasing out of habit rather than effectiveness. What if “Player Registering Deck” and “Player Using Deck” were “Registered By” and “Played By” respectively? “Played” and “Total” might work better as “Main” and “All” or “Pool.”

5) Colors everywhere
I prefer different colors of paper for each different form at a large event. This provides a visual cue for all involved. I think different colors of paper for different sides of tables would be a bit hard to pull off. My concern is that it would introduce more potential confusion than it prevents.

6) As is often the case…
Running good events is a collaborative prospect. We build on each others' improvements, and I want to thank Elliot for opening this discussion. I'll look forward to the next improvements as they come.