[Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of the editorial staff and management of this website. As such, StarCityGames.com would like to begin by apologizing to any judges offended by the following article. You guys are swell. Honest. Blame Noah.]
I had lunch with Anthony Alongi (thump) today. We were talking about work and writing, and Anthony mentioned he was surprised about the generally positive response his Wednesday article received, since it addressed such non-casual topics.
“Me too! I expected a firestorm of responses about this semi anti-judge article, but everyone’s been pretty approving. I wonder why…”
I did in fact wonder until I realized everyone has an awful judge story. I think their commonality reflects a serious problem with the institution right now. For the life of me though, the only solution I can think of is to make Every Single Player a judge. Maybe set aside the space between rounds 2 and 3 for mandatory testing. Everyone just hopes and hopes for a fair shake.
Anthony also said he misses and loves StarCityGames.com very much, and buy his new book Jennifer Scales, which comes out this August.
That’s nice. I thought the plug and well wishes would be a pleasant buffer to the atrocity about to be revealed. Please keep in mind that I’ve only told the full story to a few people! And I don’t want anyone in trouble, so I changed the name of the offender! And I also don’t want the offender’s license plate to be invalidated again! This one isn’t pretty…
It seems there was an Urza’s Saga sealed deck tournament in some state, we’ll call Aowi, for the sake of the story. This fed a Pro Tour I was already qualified for, yet I traveled down there to root on the fellow Minnesotans. To pass the time and give me something to do, I volunteered myself as a PTQ judge (level 2). The head judge of this qualifier was a gentleman I’ll call **Merit Boy**.
After everyone got settled and deck registration began, Merit made an unusual proclamation regarding the recording of lands swapped and used on the deck sheet. I was standing around the main floor where I heard this request. While I understood it, it did seem a bit complicated and unnecessary. Dum dum dum…
Myself, other judge Erik Fink, and Merit were doing decklist examinations during round 1. Merit discovered that a person had somehow mis-wrote the land portion of the deck sheet which led to, according to Merit Boy’s new system of registration, a 35-card deck. This was a problem further exacerbated by us finding 10 more decklists with the exact same situation. What to do? These eleven people who wrote the lands “wrong” were not noobish; no I personally knew half of them as serious, intelligent competitors. Merit’s plan had simply bewildered them. So we three judges discussed options.
Me and Fink agreed that they should probably get a warning, and have to adjust their sheet accordingly. Merit “came over the top” and decided they all had illegal decklists, and all of them needed to be disqualified immediately.
This, to me, seemed like a bit of an excessive move for five missing lands. DQing 11 out of 72 players is quite a big deal, no? Merit was adamant though.
“Well, I guess Merit, if that’s what you think is best. But we really should give them their entrance money back, right? They’ve only been playing for one round…”
Merit looked shocked at this ridiculous idea. “Of course we won’t give their money back!” I’m sure Merit was just obeying the law, and disregarding the fact that he had a financial stake in the tournament. Really.
So where did all this leave me and Fink? Why, we got to DQ eleven people! Friends of ours! All right!
So I got to go on a disqualifying rampage, telling five respectable gentlemen that their tournament had come to an end. They were pissed and I was pissed. Their large, angry appeal went nowhere. But please don’t just take my word for it. Here’s an excerpt from Andrew Wieman’s famously short tourney report.
So I’m One and Zero and doing fine. My deck is incredible! If I win I’ll finally have enough to buy my son new kidneys! Today is going to be a great day!
Round 2 David Scheens
Game 1: The Crater Hellion and double Arc Lightning do him in.
Game 2: I play Voice of Grace to hold off his guys and when he plays more, I play my Crater Hellion. Don’t pay echo, and instead a Voice of Law. He plays a guy and I play another Voice of Law. He plays more creatures. I play the second Crater Hellion and attack for 4. He says go. I play Catastrophe for lands. He’s about to scoop when I see Fink walking towards me…
Props: All my 1 of my opponents.
Slops: **Merit @$#@%@% Boy** What the @#%#??? And he stole my damn hat!
Now here’s the fun part. Round 4 he pulls me aside into our special “hide from the angry DQ’d” room. He says:
“Noah, I know I’m in the wrong here. But I just can’t apologize and admit it to them. So, that’s too bad.”
What can I say to that? Someone wins the thinned-out field and everyone leaves furious. Bad things happen with bad judges!
So until the sweeping reforms hit the streets, here is my personal technique to win more than your fair share of your rulings. Not for the faint of heart.
Let us say you are playing a tournament and your opponent and you disagree on the order of the stack, Giant Growths and Lightning Bolts and whatnot. Or maybe a forgotten Kami of the Waning Moon. This is really something for the judge to sort out because you equally believe you’re right. So how do you get to the man in charge to side with you?
To start things off right, be the one who calls for the judge. Be the first one to shout it out, be the first one to raise your hand, etc. When the judge comes over, lean back a little and put on an annoyed/bored expression. Look like circumstances demand this called official, but everyone knows you’re in the right. According to your face, this is just a formality.
Take control immediately. Walk the judge through the entire sequence. My favorite line to tell the opponent is “I’ll just walk us through this and if there’s something you disagree with, say so then.” If they agree (and they can’t really disagree) I’d say 80% of the time things are going to go your way.
So you walk everyone though exactly what happened. If the opponent offers up a disagreement, immediately quash it and move on. When you’re done, confirm with the opponent what you said actually happened. The opponent will either agree or not, and if he doesn’t ask him why he didn’t say something when you went over it the first time. He’s either your yes-man or it looks like he’s a liar when he realizes things are about to go awry.
The judge might, for the appearance of fairness, confer with someone or take a moment to think about it. Don’t worry. The judge is going to side with the confident person who was in control the entire time. His spell fizzles, or he might get a game loss or a warning or whatever, and move on. Never gloat, just take it as the way things are supposed to be.
If you want an ally for life, compliment the judge on making the tough but fair ruling. He’ll associate ruling for you with respect and good feelings and will be yours forever. And never, ever ask them for a penalty. Suggest one obliquely, or ask if that’s the only warning they’ve gotten so far, etc. but never tell the judge how to rule. You really want them thinking they made the decision on their own.
Pardon me if the above sounds cynical, but it works. Really well. I don’t know if the person that speaks better or can take control of a situation better deserves to be favored, but I have a sneaking suspicion it’s how the real world works. When you’re on the receiving end though, there is a way to combat it.
You can try to overtake the initiative, but it’s dangerous. If you’re not good at debating, you’ll look pathetic or worse. The safe play is to diffuse the situation by interrupting the rhythm. Asking dumb rules questions or nitpicking on details or anything else to slow the other guy down. Try to win on merits, or at least make it an even contest.
From my favorite Italian poem:
As I walked to the base of tournament glory
An Angel came to me, smelling the sealed smell.
“Hark young one! A great journey awaits you!
Up wins and down losses, through and through!
Tough games await, and bad rulings besides!
Pray for the topdecks, pray for the mise!”
She spoke and drew seven cardboard “J”s on my brow.
“Each J is for a ruling, done poorly on the now.”
She looked at her creation, kicked her foot and swore,
“Wait, young one, I’ll get more.”
From Cowlin’s Il Corruptio
And that’s it for today. I hope these last couple have given judges and judges-to-be something to consider when making a serious decision. Motivation and good feelings count for a lot – probably a little too much these days.
Tomorrow is Friday, my final Daily. I’m going out with a bang! A guaranteed way to increase games won by 65%! My personal technique on making tons of money at no risk, right now! It’s going to be swell.
Proppa and Sloppa,
P.S. Jennifer Scales! When a member of City Council and a romance novelist team up, you know it’s going to be dragon hot! Buy two copies!
P.P.S. Thanks for lunch Anthony.