There are, I imagine, hundreds of Level I judges. Perhaps even thousands. Like locusts, they are hard to count, even when they are swarming together. But whatever their number, I am proud to be among them.
While I wish I had given myself more time to prepare ? I suffered a rather mediocre score ? I did indeed pass the Level I test, and since I was able to judge several events under proper supervision, soon after some paperwork it will be official: Our play group will have to accept I am right on every single ruling we argue over.
Hmmm. Perhaps they won?t give in so easily. But players at a prerelease tournament, since they don?t know me so well, are more gullible ? and for one week, I?d like to talk about my experience as a judge at the prerelease. After this point, I will cede all ground on rulings and related phenomena to the venerable (in mind as well as body) Sheldon Menery.
What You Already Know
If you?ve read any writing by any judge, ever, you know that the work is unpaid, and consists more of picking up wrappers than resolving thorny rules questions.
You also know that tourney organizers (Steve Port of Misty Mountain Games, in this case) go out of their way to compensate their judges by use of packs, which is very nice. In higher level events, there are other nifty perks, like set-aside time with illustrators for signing cards and what not. So try to be a judge. That way, the wrapper-to-judge ratio will go down, and I won?t have to pick so many up.
You may also know, if you?re really smart, that judges are always waiting to help those players who have any kind of rules question, no matter how basic, as long as it?s thoughtfully asked. Players who act like asses still get their questions answered promptly; but the judge keeps saying to him or herself,”Cripes, what an ass.” (Or, in Australian,”Crikey, what an ass.” Or, in French,”Mon dieu! Quel ass.”)
What You May Not Know
Here are some rulings questions (and answers) that several players had throughout the day. As you play at your kitchen tables and local shops, try to have the Frequently Asked Questions file for Torment handy (it?s on the wizards.com site). It will save arguments between friends, and will also give you more time to whale on them with your Carrion Wurm. Speaking of which:
Carrion creatures. Some players asked if they could wait until damage went on the stack before pulling cards out of their graveyard to”de-fang” the Carrion Rats or Carrion Wurm. Before ruling on this my first time, I checked in with several other judges who confirmed that no, you cannot do it then. The phrase”whenever [this] attacks or blocks” means that the decision must be made immediately when the creature is declared as an attacker or blocker. (Like Rotting Giant.)
So attack with the creature, and then wait a decent interval for opponent response. Tourney play needs to be stricter; but I?d give a casual group player until the point where blockers are declared (or, if it?s blocking, until combat damage goes on the stack).
By the way, Carrion Wurm should be good fun in multiplayer, though technically it loses a bit of its power (since more players are available to render it harmless). I would consider it with Bifurcate, or similar spells, to get out a full army of graveyard-eating Wurms.
Madness. Of course, the defining characteristic of the set is madness. There?s plenty of info elsewhere on how this works; but the most frequent question I got was, can it be a discard that was”my own idea”? Yes, it can. So for Wild Mongrel?s ability, or for the end of turn discard (if you have eight or more), or whenever.
The key is not to put it in your graveyard. At sanctioned events, you are signaling that you?ve passed on the madness option. Just set it aside as you discard and say,”I?ll play its madness cost.” Pay the mana and play it. Then put it into your graveyard (if it?s a sorcery or instant) or into play (if it?s a permanent). 99% of the time, there?s nothing else to it.
Madness is going to be one of those abilities that casual players forget about a year or so from now. Yes, someday, discard will be considered”bad” again! Keep it in mind and have fun surprising folks all over again with that instant Arrogant Wurm.
Radiate. Oh, how I wish I had seen someone play this card at the prerelease! But in 300+ players, I never caught one go off. I did see one opened as a prize; that?s it. But I can?t resist. From emails I?ve gotten, I can imagine the rules questions that would have come up, and can suggest ways of avoiding them:
First, read the card carefully. You?ll notice that it can only target a spell that targets a permanent (so Zombify and Counterspell are not options for Radiate). You?ll also notice the word”single”, which disqualifies Donate, Shower of Sparks, and the Fire half of Fire/Ice (on this last, you can decide to target only one thing; then Radiate would be okay).
Second, note that permanents that can?t be targeted by the original spell, can?t be targeted by any of the copies generated by Radiate. So no matter how many creatures are on the board when you Radiate a Shock, Paladin en-Vec will survive. (In fact, a copy is never made for the Paladin.)
Third, bear in mind that destroyed permanents (everyone is thinking of Vindicate) can still be regenerated.
If you remember those three things, you?ll have a better Radiate experience. Of all the cards I?ve considered and received so far, my favorite ideas to date are the Ice half of Fire/Ice (because of its low cost) and Seize the Day, with creatures that do not tap to attack. Have fun with those, and other, ideas! (And you?ll be hearing about that Seize the Day deck soon.)
Things You May Never Want To Know
Toward the end of the prerelease evening, Steve Port held an unsanctioned group sealed event. Since the event wasn?t sanctioned, I could play without running afoul of the DCI… And it?s rather key not to run afoul of the DCI when testing for judge levels.
I put my head together with Jeff Konz, a past member of our playgroup; and another Level I judge I had met thirty minutes before whose name I now forget. (Hey, he?s a judge. We?re interchangeable, right? Make up your own name.) We busted open a fabulous set of cards, including Cabal Patriarch, Mystic Enforcer, Skullscorch, Nantuko Blightcutter, Possessed Aven, and Gurzigost. Since we split up the cards later, I don?t have decklists for you. But for those of you thinking of picking up team sealed strategy as the block develops (and that time of season is coming up soon!), here is what I noticed:
- Very obviously, up to two decks could ? and should ? have heavy black. There will be exceptions, of course, but it is hard to imagine the Odyssey-Torment card pool that will not be able to support two black decks. As the true qualifier season gets under way, Judgment will come out and this may change. But for now, while you?re doodling with friends, keep in mind that every team has two black mages.
- Green/white is a possibility. While suicide under past blocks, a green/white deck with bare removal that concentrates all pro-black power now has a 66% chance of tearing through an opponent. (Two-thirds of every team is black, remember?)
- If one deck is green/white, and the other two decks use black, then red and blue probably each go to one black player. In our case, I took a controlling deck with Balshan Collaborators, Possessed Aven, and Chamber of Manipulation, while our other black mage took a crash-and-burn deck with tons of red removal and a feast of Carrion Rats.
- Concentrate mono-black into one deck? None of the eight teams that played that night did this; but I can see down the road testing pure black into one player on your team, and pushing a green-red deck (which will often be amazing) and a white-blue one (which probably won?t). Reality will probably force black to leak into one deck or another.
- With all of the global sources of black damage, be on the lookout for a black/white possibility. This would let black/blue and red/green decks, often considered optimal in Odyssey limited formats to date, shine. Our card pool wasn?t right for this, but I could easily see equilibrium end up here by the end of the season.
So enough strategy; how did we do? Well, in our first matchup, we played a fearsome trio of high-level judges at the event and played them to a virtual draw; at the last moment they graciously conceded, since they felt our bomb-filled decks had a greater chance of success. In the second matchup, our green/white deck went ballistic, crushing the opposing red/black deck in less than eight turns twice. (Gurzigost on turn four is pretty good.) Our own red-black deck did poorly in both rounds, which makes me think that red/green and black/white (instead of green/white and black/red) may be a better consideration in future teams. And the amazing blue/black deck I lucked out with turned in two match victories in a row.
Now that I?ve seen Torment played, I?m even more convinced that Odyssey was an amazing set from a limited perspective. And Torment alone is an amazing set, well up to traditional expectations of the”middle” set from both constructed and limited views. I can?t believe two expansions have already passed since the last Hall of Fame update; it?s time to do it again soon! Torment will be well-represented; feel free to send in any nominations you may have. (If you don?t know what I?m talking about, check out past Multiplayer Card Halls of Fame in the archives.)
Thanks to Steve Port and all the other judges who made judging my first event such a fun time. And thanks to you all for putting up with a slightly”off-topic” Casual Fridays. I promise not to deluge you with card rulings in the future! Sheldon?s still your man for the tough questions.