Back to the OP...
I'm a comp noob with no credentials to speak of. The garnish issue is totally hypocritical, IM lowly O. I'm of the understanding that the garnish, or lack thereof, shouldn't affect a cook's score. However, when you scan the criticisms on this site along with BBQcritic, almost all will mention the garnish. How can a judge comment on the garnish if they were supposed to ignore it? I see comments like too low, too sparse in an area, not an even "frame," etc. For something that shouldn't matter, it gets a lot of attention. It is obvious, to me anyway, that judges are looking extensively at the garnish. It takes effort for a judge to determine if your garnish "frame" is uneven, for example. If a judge is actively comparing the size of the top row garnish to the bottom, he/she is burning calories on criteria that shouldn't influence their opinion. I have a hard time believing that a judge who has evaluated the garnish to this level of detail is just going to discard his evaluation. It WILL influence his score.
So the message that garnish is immaterial is not resonating with the judges. I think that this falls on KCBS training.
Knowing this, a cook can whine/bitch/complain (sorta like I did above) and lose, or adapt and pretend that you are being scored on presentation and not appearance. Because you are.
White Sox UDS, Black UDS, Weber OTG and Performer, Orange Thermapen