Are you planning to play in a Tier 2 event in the near future? I've been playing in Regionals and high-level premiere events since 2006, and having done this a while both as a player and a judge, I think I can share some insight about the best behaviors and practices one can exercise before, during and after a tournament.

This week on Black and White: Tournament Do's and Don'ts!

Before The Tournament
Do: Fill out a deck list, preferably before you get to the tournament. List the full names of all cards. What's a good abbreviation? If you don't abbreviate, you won't have to worry about it. Easy!

If you use the official card database to make your deck list, the card names will be exact and this becomes a moot point.

DON'T: Fill out a deck list while you're waiting in line to register. You'll make a Mistake, guaranteed. Mistakes on deck lists lead to game losses. Don't handicap yourself unnecessarily. Prepare for the tournament accordingly so you don't risk deck list-related penalties.

DON'T: have someone else fill out your deck list for you.

Story time!

At a Regional Qualifier I Head Judged, a player wanted to look at the deck list he already submitted. This was during registration and I wasn't in the middle of doing anything, so I fished it out and had the player review the list. There he pointed out that he had listed Geargiano twice, running two of each. It turns out he had his girlfriend fill out the deck list and, her not being a Yu-Gi-Oh! player, didn't know that leaving off "MK-II" from one of those entries makes a big difference. Lucky for him, since this was addressed before Round 1 started, the Penalty Guidelines allow for an illegal deck to be made a legal deck with the only penalty being a Deck Error – Minor, which is a Warning. Had this occurred after Round 1 started, Joe Frankino – cool guy that everyone loves – would've become Joe Frankino destroyer of hopes and dreams, because the penalty after the start of Round 1 would be DE-Major (Game Loss) and the fix for an illegal deck after Round 1 starts is to remove the illegal cards. Then if the deck is short of 40 cards, he would've had to move cards from his Side Deck to the Main Deck without being able to replace the cards he moved from the Side Deck.

Do: Fill out a second copy of your deck list for your own records. This will save you some trouble if you need to refer to your list in the middle of the tournament. Especially do this if you're running a deck you're not familiar with. Although, speaking personally, it's to your tactical advantage to run a deck you've familiar with. But maybe that's just me.

Do: Have cash, your Konami Player ID number and photo identification on you! These are required for tournament entry and prizing. Having the Konami Player ID allows you to fill out the form without needing to lookup your number at registration.

Do: Get to the venue well before the end of registration. The longer registration is held up, the later the tournament actually starts. Seems pretty simple.

During A Game Or Match
Do: Get to your match on time! Be aware of when the previous round started and when the 40 minutes have passed. For big events, you can usually assume End of Match procedures will take somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes. On rare occasion, or during the later portions of an event after many duelists have dropped, round times can be even shorter. A new round is paired as soon as all match results are in whether you're ready or not, so don't stray too far from the tournament, and be sure to stay alert! Being late for your match will result in game and match losses.

Do: Keep track of Life Points on paper! Not only are you compelled to do so by KDE's Tournament Policy, but it's actually to your advantage to use paper to keep track of Life Points. You're also allowed to note what causes each change, which you should absolutely do. Humans aren't infallible, so Mistakes in keeping track of fast-changing Life totals can happen if you're not careful.

Do: Confirm Life Point totals with your opponent after every change, and at the end of every turn! This is a good practice that I highly recommend. If your recorded LP totals don't match your opponent's total, its best to figure out the situation as soon as possible. The longer a duel goes on, the harder it is to find where the disagreement stems from. Reconstructing a duel becomes nigh-impossible if the events that led to that point can't be agreed upon by both players.

Having paper to keep track of the changes and what caused them will allow you and your opponent the opportunity to quickly recover if something goes wrong. You may not even have to call a judge, which would be the best possible outcome for everyone involved. You don't even have to write the full name of the cards involved! I like using shorthand like "Upstart" for Upstart Goblin, and "SW" for Solemn Warning. For battles, I can jot down something like "Bear + 100 > Medraut – 800", which can mean that a Brotherhood of the Fire Fist – Bear boosted by a single Fire Formation Spell attacked into a Noble Knight Medraut affected by Forbidden Lance. It's easy if you can keep it consistent.

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DON'T: use just a calculator for Life Point tracking. As I mentioned before, the Policy Documents say you have to use paper. That should be enough of a reason to not use a calculator for keeping Life Points. You can use a calculator for assistance with the math, but the actual totals need to be on paper. Using only a calculator leaves the possibility for human errors wide open, like entering the wrong numbers or adjusting the wrong player's Life Points.

And practically speaking, bringing a $100 TI-83 graphing calculator to a Yu-Gi-Oh! tournament isn't a good idea. It doesn't matter if you had it anyway; if you don't bring it, you can't lose it. The Calculator isn't required, so don't bring it. If you lose a calculator like that, you're out a C-note. You lose a pen and a notepad and you're out only two bucks. No one's looking to gank your pen and notepad and flip it for $30. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Do: Raise your hand and keep your hand raised when calling for a judge! Especially at a Regional Qualifier, simply yelling Judge may turn a head, but in a sea of players, trying to find that one-time source of noise is like finding a needle in a haystack. Raise your hand and keep it raised when you call for a judge, and the judge will have a better time finding you.

DON'T: Leave your bag loose under the table or your chair. This has been a piece of advice I used to hear all the time. If you have a bag, keep it looped through your leg so that the bag doesn't shift around under the table while you're playing.

Do: Announce your actions. The Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG allows for an opponent to respond to pretty much any action a duelist can take during the course of a game. In fact, the game also allows players to activate cards and effects before going into a new Phase or Step. To best avoid messy communications-related arguments, play the game the right way every time. Announce "Main Phase 1" when entering Main Phase 1, wait for your opponent to say that it's ok to proceed and you'll never have to worry about your opponent wanting to back up because you didn't give him the chance to activate Mind Crush.

Have a clear field and your opponent pushes all their monsters forward? Insist they do it the right way every time; declare each attack one at a time and take the damage off for each attack. Doing it the right way will camouflage when you're actually holding onto that Gorz, the Emissary of Darkness. Playing Light monsters? Ask "Damage Step" and "Damage Calculation" every time, and your opponent will have to play around Honest even if you don't have it.

Please don't misunderstand me here. I may be a judge, and I may want you to follow the rules of the game, but it's not just because they're the rules and they should be followed. It's also because doing it this way gives you a tactical advantage. If you play the game properly, you'll lose fewer games.

If that's not the best reason to take this advice, then you should reconsider playing in competitive environments.

DON'T: Use Yu-Gi-Oh! cards as tokens if they're not marked as Tokens. This seems obvious, but don't do it. At another recent Regional I Head Judged, I was forced to give a penalty to a player who was using a Korean Gungnir, Dragon of the Ice Barrier as a token. On first glance, he had a Gungnir on the field. Even though OCG cards aren't legal, the fact that I very easily mistook the Korean Gungnir for an actual Gungnir at a glance was enough to make this an infraction. If you have a card, write Token on the top of the card by the card's name to identify it as a Token. This is also in the Policy Documents. Or, just use Token cards as found in Legendary Collection products, YCS promos or what-have-you.

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Do: Make sure you're playing the right person at the right table. On the pairings sheet, your name is listed alongside your table number and your opponent's name. If you have a notepad, write down that information so you don't have to go back to the pairings board. When you get to the table, confirm it's actually your table by looking around for the tables surrounding your number. When your opponent gets to the table, greet them by name so you know for sure you have the right player. Don't wait for the result slips to come around, because you can't control when yours will get there. If the names don't match and you're at the wrong table, it's your fault.

DON'T: Get up from the table without a match result slip.

For tournaments I Head Judge, I always insist that players stay seated until they're done with their match and a judge picks up and verifies with both players that the signatures and winner on the result slip matches what the players confirm. Doing this avoids later scorekeeping issues. When players don't do this, rounds are delayed. And I'm not a fan of this. In a worst-case scenario, the players and the result slip leave the table and the slip never makes it to the scorekeeper, delaying the tournament further. Don't do this.

Do: Count your Main Deck, Side Deck and Extra Deck before and after each match, and between games. If cards go missing, you'll know exactly when if you count before and after each game. Also, count after siding before shuffling and presenting your deck, because once you present your shuffled deck to your opponent, there's no turning back. If you sided incorrectly, it's too late to fix it.

At The Tournament, Outside of Gameplay
DON'T: Buy and sell from non-vendors. Almost all of Tournament Organizers will have this rule in place. If the TO catches you, you can be removed from the venue, and by extension, removed from the event. From a competitive standpoint, you don't want to lose like this.

DON'T: Eat or drink on tournament tables. Even if a tournament game isn't in progress around you, don't eat on a table that can still be used in the tournament. A spill can affect future games at that table, and it's completely avoidable.

Do: Follow Judges and tournament officials' instructions. If a Judge needs you to move or otherwise get out the way, you should do that. The Judge may need to answer a judge call or attend to other required duties.

AND FINALLY…

Post-Event
Do: De-brief yourself.

You just got done playing 8-9 rounds of Yu-Gi-Oh. Take what you experienced and analyze it. What went right? What went wrong? Which cards put in work? Which cards underperformed? Where could you have made different decisions? Would that have affected the outcome?

Post-event is where you grow as a player. Experience is nice, but it's best used when you can use your experience to shape future decisions, be they deck choices, card choices or in-game decisions.

This week's Black and White was definitely geared more towards tournament players than judges, but hopefully everyone got something out of it! If you have any questions about card interactions, game mechanics or tournament policy, punt over an e-mail (one question per e-mail please!) to askjudgejoe@gmail.com and your question could be answered in a future Court of Appeals!

-Joe Frankino