A Google sheet version of this article can be found here.
Pastimes Events is committed to providing the best experiences at MagicCons for attendees and our staff. We have received tons of feedback that we have taken into consideration and have made some changes to the staff experience for MagicCons in 2024. We also have a deep commitment to transparency and showing action taken from feedback. We hope this article will help explain some of the changes we have made to upcoming MagicCons and show we have heard your feedback and utilized it to create a better experience. We will continue to solicit feedback and make changes when possible.
Running a MagicCon is a massive endeavor, with ticketed play being one of the areas with the most moving pieces. We found moments in the last year where situations necessitated one of us to either not attend the show or leave before its conclusion. On these occasions, we, along with our fantastic staff, made sure the show went on. While everyone rose to the challenge, advanced planning is preferable to adjusting on the fly.
The newly formed TO Assistant Team is intended to be assigned explicitly to a Pastimes employee and help them execute their duties at a show. Colloquially, the Pastimes Employees are called “Red Shirts” as you’ll often see us in red staff shirts. A reasonable way to think of the folks in these roles is to think of them as a “Pink Shirt.” In an emergency where a Pastimes employee is incapacitated or unable to continue the show, these staff members will assume most of the duties of the assigned Pastimes employee for the remainder of the show. The one exception to this is John Temple’s assistant. Details below. This team requires the staff member to be present for Setup.
Assistant Manager – Administration
This staff member will be assigned to Liz Richardson and assist her in supporting and maintaining the Scorekeeping, information, and any registration support for the show. All information desk staff, scorekeepers, and any coordination with Reedpop staff are under this purview. If there is a time when onsite registration needs to be enacted for more than On Demand Event/League registration, that would also be part of this position’s area of responsibility.
Assistant Manager – Logistics
This staff member will be assigned to Alex Hurley and will assist him in managing back-of-house logistics for the show. Back of House, Prize Wall, and Product are all under this purview. The Logistics Assistant Manager will (alongside Alex) ensure that Area Managers are supported and following Pastimes’ procedures while maintaining Pastimes’ expectations of professional appearance and performance. If there is a time when a staff member needs to leave the site to pick up materials for the show, that would also fall under this staff member’s purview.
Assistant Manager – Staffing
This staff member will be assigned to Meg Baum to help support and maintain the Judge and other ticketed play staff for the show. All staff members are under this purview; this position focuses on the people on staff as opposed to products or procedures. The Staffing Assistant Manager will (alongside Meg) ensure that Area Managers and Head Judges are supported and following Pastimes’ operations. Any Judge or staff functions (including but not limited to the staff party, coordinating any conference presentations run, or break room monitoring) are also under this purview.
Assistant Manager – Ticketed Play Events
This staff member will be assigned to John Temple and assist him in supporting and maintaining the tournaments running at the show and other ticketed play event logistics for the show. The color-coded ticketed play stages and events assigned to them are under this purview. While this staff member will directly report to John, this staff member’s main responsibilities will be being on-call when John needs assistance. Otherwise, they will be working with Meg Baum to ensure the successful launch of cornerstone events (Open, SLS, Unknown, etc.) and coordinating the distribution of Judges between stages to suit the current logistical needs of events on a case-by-case basis. With this position, in case of emergency, one of the other Pastimes employees will step into John’s role, and this staff member will be expected to ensure that the cornerstone events conclude and assist the other Assistant Managers in their roles while the other Pastimes employees close out the show.
With the massive changes to the Judging community and Magic environment in general in Q4 of 2023, we recognize now more than ever the importance of hearing the voice of the Community. In previous eras of the Judge Program, Regional Coordinators used Sundays of regional events to collect feedback, network, administer tests, and help maintain the health and well-being of their communities. At this time, Pastimes is not endorsing or adhering to any one Judging organization or certifying body. We, as always, are committed to our Judges and other staff members. The Community Team will now be an all-weekend position to maximize flexibility in scheduling one-on-one time with staff. They will also assist Meg with running the equivalent meetings for what used to be known as Planar Bridge and Level 3 meetings on Saturday and Sunday. More details about those and other Judging / Staffing related topics are coming soon.
When designing ticketed play for MagicCons, we were creating a brand new Magic experience. Not quite a Grand Prix, not quite a convention; a wonderful new cross between the two, with the triumphant return of the Pro Tour alongside. We received consistent feedback that the long shift, long break type of shift scheme is not well suited to the tournament structures of MagicCons. To better accommodate the needs and wants of staff and the event, we are moving to a model with three (3)nine-hour shifts instead of the two twelve-hour shifts. While this may mean that staff members miss portions of the MagicCon while on shift, it is also important to remember that the player experience at a MagicCon and the staff experience are fundamentally different.
Some events, like the Open, have a separate team and shift structure from the other ticketed play stages similar to the Pro Tour. Almost all shifts across ticketed play and the Pro Tour are intended to follow the nine-hour shift length. Some roles are exceptions to this, such as Area Managers, Community Team, and the Tournament Organizer Team. Those roles are expected to be eleven-hour shifts with multiple breaks divided to suit the staff member’s area. Other positions that traditionally would not be in shifts have also been updated to have an AM and PM system. The Head Judges of the Open, Pro Tour, SLS, and other events expected to run past the nine-hour mark will have shifts. These positions are considered equivalent to Area Managers and have the same compensation and shift length expectations. The AM Head Judge is the only Head Judge expected to do work prior to the event. At the event, the Head Judges are equals for the purposes of tournament hierarchy.
The hotel stipend for all staff for MagicCon Chicago 2024 is being increased from $100/Day to $175/Day, still with the stipulation that any staff member working three or more shifts will receive an additional $175.
With MagicCon: Barcelona the Open was added to the list of events we would offer attendees. This also necessitated a change in the staff assigned to that event. After receiving feedback from the Limited Open in Barcelona, there were updates for the Open at MagicCon: Vegas. The Head Judge and the Appeals Judges of the Open were paid at the same rate as the Pro Tour and Worlds Head and Appeals Judges. While the PT and Worlds HJ/AJ need high experience in coverage and global public relations, the Open HJ/AJ needs that experience in high-attendance logistics and staff management. We are making further adjustments to reflect this mirroring of responsibility and expectation. For 2024, the Head Judge and Appeals Judge compensations packages will match their Pro Tour counterparts.
The Floor Judge rates were kept the same because there is a level of autonomy needed in Floor Judges of the Pro Tour and of Worlds that is not expected of Open Floor Judges. Pro Tour or Worlds Floor Judges may be called upon to do a high-level investigation in more than one language and to be able to make independent decisions within a stressful environment. Open Floor Judges are not expected to do this in the same way. They will have more people to ask for help, more people to back them up when needed, and may be moved on or off the Open between the other competitive events at the MagicCon in a way that the PT and Worlds do not. This also leaves the floor of the Open as a place where more opportunities can be spread out and help maintain the health of the Magic and Judging environments. Team Leads for the Open have an elevated expectation and responsibility similar to the Floor Judges of the Pro Tour. Similar to the mirroring of the Head and Appeals Judges, this elevation is more regarding tournament logistics and attendance than coverage and language. Team Leads of the Open will receive the same daily compensation rate as a Floor Judge on the Pro Tour; these staff members are ineligible for the rest of the Pro Tour compensation package.
We are committed to fostering the community we have and supporting its growth and the next generation of talented events professionals. We are now taking applications for Head Judges of the Open, not just Appeals Judges, as well as specific Scorekeeper applications. We understand that opportunities like these are aspirational for many community members and something they can work towards. Conversely, roles like these are precious few. Taking the next step or getting the spotlight is an opportunity that rarely presents itself, even for the most experienced Judges and Scorekeepers. Anyone applying for these roles is highly encouraged to explain their experience in their cover letters for the event. The skills you have will be weighed more heavily than the certifications you have. A certification is not guaranteed access to opportunities.
With 2023 we ushered in the return of the Pro Tour. Many things have changed since the last time the Pro Tour ran and still continue to change as we adjust. We have been ironing out various logistical wrinkles and constantly trying to improve. Similar to the Head Judge and Scorekeeper roles on the Open we acknowledge that Scorekeeping the Pro Tour is one of the highest aspirational goals for a Magic: The Gathering Scorekeeper there is. We want to make that goal attainable for those who wish to work towards it. We are now accepting Pro Tour Scorekeeper applications. As with the Open, applicants must explain their experience in their cover letters. We have removed any level requirements for the Pro Tour. As with other changes to application eligibility, applicants are encouraged to expand in their cover letters on their experience and should still list past certifications in the certification section.
After extensive feedback from Pro Tour staff, in addition to the shift scheme changes, we will be increasing the number of Floor Judges on Friday and Saturday, and we have made adjustments to the Pro Tour compensation packages. The first and possibly most impactful for many is the change to the Travel Assistance (previously referred to as Travel Stipend). Starting with Chicago, staff of the Pro Tour will receive flights as part of their compensation package instead of the predetermined travel assistance added to their check. The details for completing this process will be provided to members of the Pro Tour staff after acceptances have gone through. The second change to compensation is to the Team Lead daily rate. The Pro Tour Head Judges requested that Team Leads not be chosen in advance of the event so they had greater freedom in assigning Team Leads themselves. To accommodate this, combined with the change in shift structure, Team Leads will be compensated the same as and chosen from the Floor Judge staff assigned to the Pro Tour.
Thank you for your time, and we are looking forward to seeing both familiar and fresh faces in 2024. A very special thank you to all the staff members and players who provided feedback and to every staff member who helped make MagicCons a success.