Last week, I ventured to Grand Prix Las Vegas where I was fortunate enough to meet some amazing people, including several other content creators. This trip was a really big deal for me—I don’t have the ability to travel much, so being able to meet all these wonderful people meant a lot to me. Unfortunately, the trip was not all fun and games.

During the Modern main event, Wizards Large Tournament Reporter (WLTR) crashed and the entire tournament came to a screeching halt. Round 1 was supposed to start at 9:00 AM, but then Round 3 didn’t start until 2:30 PM. To make matters worse, no one from Channel Fireball communicated what was happening until 1:30 PM, when they offered a refund to those who wanted to drop and said it would be another hour until Round 3. I was 2-0 and had flown across the country, and spent hundreds of dollars. I wasn’t about to drop, so I went and got food and stuck it out. I really, really regret doing so as we were still playing very, very late into the night.

For those of you who don’t know, my muggle job is in marketing. I work for a non-profit as a community relations coordinator, which basically means I deal with social media and make sure that our customers are happy. Dealing with service issues is literally my job, so I’m not unfamiliar or unsympathetic to the position Channel Fireball was in.

The most important rule of community relations is to communicate with your customers, and I lost a lot of confidence in Channel Fireball when they failed to honestly explain the extent of the issues earlier than they did. It’s much easier for your customers to get frustrated and have a bad time when they don’t know what is going on. This clearly happened to players in the Modern main event—they room echoed with boos when we had been waiting for nearly 90 minutes between Rounds 2 and 3 and a Modern side event was announced over the loudspeakers. Later in the day, after the problem had supposedly been fixed and the tournament had started up again, we had another round where there were rumors of another WLTR failure, without any updates. It ended up being about 45 minutes in between rounds, and despite asking around, no one was able to share any information with me.

Another essential part of community relates is to offer some sort of refund to make up for subpar service. 90 minutes after the end of Round 2, Channel Fireball announced that it would be another hour until Round 3 and that players that didn’t want to wait could drop and receive an receive a full refund. That was the bare minimum Channel Fireball could do to make up for those unprecedented delays.

But what about those of us that had flown to Vegas specifically for the Modern GP and didn’t want to drop? I had assumed that we might be offered at least a partial refund, rather than getting all of our money back, since we still got to play. But due to the extremely poor experience I hoped we’d get at least half of our money back, or maybe a full refund in store credit. Would this have cost Channel Fireball money? Of course it would, but that’s part of running a business. Taking five or six hours to get to Round 3 is unacceptable, right? Instead, Channel Fireball and Wizards decided to offer everyone who entered, whether you dropped or not, what they call a Golden Ticket: free entry to another Grand Prix. Some people were really excited about this. Personally, I think it’s awful.

Why? This isn’t the first event where WLTR has had issues: it happened at GP Charlotte, GP Barcelona, and even HASCON was plagued by software setbacks. Why would I want to spend hundreds of dollars to travel to another Grand Prix when they can’t even promise me this won’t happen again? I understand that Channel Fireball is not in charge of WLTR; however, even if the entry is free, how much is a Golden Ticket worth if you can’t take any action to guarantee the same issues won’t reoccur? Rather than refunding us in another potentially subpar service, Channel Fireball should have refunded us in something we know will always work well: partial refunds or store credit.

When you’re asking people to spend (at least) $70 to play I think it’s fair to ask that the tournament software work properly. I understand that shit happens, but it’s hard for me to be understanding when you don’t tell me what’s going on. I have no issues with Channel Fireball as a whole, but I feel like they really dropped the ball on this. I would have preferred store credit—at least then I could have bought cards instead of feeling like I have to attend another event that has a decent chance of being equally bad. I really love playing at that level, but with CFB having the monopoly on Grand Prix and Wizards’s track record with software, I’ll think twice before attending big tournaments again.

Kate hails from Worcester MA and also does a bit of card altering. Check her stuff out on Facebook! She mainly plays legacy and modern though will occasionally find herself playing EDH.

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