This past weekend, I did something that I haven’t done in…well ever. I judged my first tournament as a Level 1 judge, and I had a blast. While I had virtually no sleep thanks to waking up at 4:30 AM for the three-hour trek to Richmond, VA, I fired myself up with some Red Bull and was ready to go bright and early upon our arrival.
Once I arrived, I was greeted by a wife of sorts, who decided to be cuddly when others weren’t around but a “big ol’ mean boss lady” when people were watching. Suffice it to say, our interactions throughout the day were quite interesting. While physically exhausted due to lack of sleep, I was mentally prepared for the day and felt on top of my game as far as rules interactions go. I may have overstepped my bounds on a ruling or two with the head judge, but I tried my best and stepped down when I was supposed to (though I argued my case to him laterâ€”P.S. I was wrong). The ruling in question involved Windbrisk Heights and whether or not you could play a land from Hideaway at instant speed (assuming no land had been played already this turn). I said no, but I’m probably wrong.
I could probably have done a better job at being organized along with the rest of the group. I wasn’t always at the front desk to help post pairings, but I followed orders and did what was asked of me though I could’ve gone out of my way a bit more. The tournament was quite small so we had too many judges anyway, but that’s not a good excuse for doing less work than your partners in action.
I will say that I didn’t show up late! In other aspects of my life, this is generally a problem, but I made it a point to be punctual even though we had to drive three hours on the morning of the event.
Over the course of the day I saw all sorts of shenanigans, but I can honestly say that I didn’t think any mistakes were intentional, so various warnings were given out due to missed triggers, incorrectly tapping mana, and a few other awkward situations involving players having incorrect life totals. I will omit names from specific scenarios, but I’ll describe a few in detail along with what I decided, and you guys can tell me what you would’ve done in my shoes.
Player A tried to cast two red spells with only a Sacred Foundry in play. Player B pointed this fact out after player A put both red spells onto the table. Neither called a judge, but I was standing right there and saw the entirety of the interaction.
I stepped in after witnessing the entire situation, issued a warning to the player who tapped his lands incorrectly, and allowed the match to continue while I filled out their slip. As a new judge, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to intervene in this situation seeing as neither player called a judge and seemed to have worked the problem out by themselves, but I figured that the potential for abuse was there and a warning was definitely appropriate.
Player A revealed a card for Delver of Secrets and flipped the sleeved card over without taking it out as a representation of the Insectile Aberration. Player B said nothing. I politely asked Player A to take his transformed card out of the sleeve so he could correctly represent the game state, but I saw no real infraction.
Would you issue a warning here, ignore it completely, or do the same?
Player A had Friday Night Magic Promo Squadron Hawks that are foil, played one out, and searched for the rest of them. I saw that all of them were foil. As he attacked with the first, I could plainly see that they were misshapen, as a lot of foils tend to be after regular use. I informed the head judge that the player might have marked cards, and we planned to deck check him in the next round to prevent potential cheating (with marked cards). In this situation as a judge, do you let it slide, stop the match in progress to see how badly the cards are marked, or do what I did?
I feel like the potential for cheating, in this specific scenario, comes up a lot in competitive-casual tournaments such as PTQs and is rarely cracked down on. I’ve made it my personal quest to never play with a foil in my deck if I can help it because the ability to discern between one card and another in your deck falls under the guidelines as cheating, even if you have no intention of trying to benefit from it. This is one issue I’m all-in about, and I wish WotC would stop printing foil cards or find a way to keep them from becoming so easily marked.
Ate pizza on my lunch break; nothing to see here! This just happened and was awesome. Every time we go to Richmond I eat at this pizza place near the convention center, and I’m never disappointed.Â
This was easily the most awkward of any encounter I had during the day. For one, the guy in question was playing the Dredgevine deck I’d been streaming with over the last week or so and asked me about certain cards in the deck before the tournament began. I sat down next to them close to the end of the round, as requested by the head judge. When the round starts winding down, many players need judges to observe their match to prevent slow-play, monitor extra turns, and various other things.
As I sat down, I saw it was a B/G Rock deck playing against Dredgevine. After using various fetch lands and Ravnica shock lands, the Dredgevine player had himself at fourteen life. After a turn that included dredging Life from the Loam, casting it to return a Watery Grave to his hand, and playing it to cast Skaab Ruinator out of the yard, I noticed that the Dredgevine player missed a trigger from Hedron Crab. I informed him that his trigger was on the stack, it resolved, and play progressed. As the round began to wind up and they got into turn 4 of extra turns, the Rock player asked what life totals were. The Dredgevine player checked his life pad, saw it had fourteen written on it, and the Rock player disputed.
Now, since there had been approximately 30 or more cards milled into the Dredgevine player’s graveyard, it would be quite difficult to retrace every point of damage from his lands. The kicker was that, on his life pad, I saw a fourteen with a cross through it and nowhere on the sheet did he lose two life. To me, this means that he had missed two points of life from his Watery Grave used earlier and he just forgot to write the correct life total down. Unfortunately for him, my ruling was that he marked his life total incorrectly, should be at twelve, and ended up dying for exact damage on the attack.
While frustrating for that player, I felt like a gigantic jerk. His main argument was that neither of them had the life correct and they should leave it as-is because it was virtually impossible to figure out how much damage he had taken from his lands. He also argued that he probably only took one point of damage from the shock land instead of two, which sounds pretty absurd, but weird things happen. My final ruling was upheld by the head judge, and the match ended with the player looking disgusted and angry. After turning in the match slip, I went over to him and tried to calm him down, as things like that happen all the time. I apologized for probably coming off as a bit of a jerk since the situation began to get heated towards the end, and his refusal to accept my ruling even after being upheld by the head judge left me a bit miffed.
The fact that this one didn’t end up in his favor stinks and especially so because he was still in contention for Top 8 before that loss, but you just can’t go through a tournament failing to take damage from your lands. While I don’t think it was intentional, it was clear to me that there was at least one occurrence of missed damage from his lands. Since it isn’t a trigger, the effect must change the life total to the current amount.
How would you have handled this situation? Would you have tried to back up through the entirety of the game? What would your ruling have been?
Well, as far as my judging career goes, I don’t foresee it ending anytime soon. I enjoyed myself, and having a bit of authority over the likes of Drew Levin, Josh Cho, and other durdles felt pretty good. I’m probably a little overly harsh on my penalties as I tend to hawk people from time to time, but whenever there’s a problem that needs to be fixed I’ll do my best to solve it. Judges are something that the game will always need while there’s a competitive level, and having top-notch people working events gives me a great feeling of pride in the game. We need these people to help the game grow, and I’m proud to add my name to that list (though I’m just a lowly Level 1).
As the tournament progressed, I watched Kenny Mayer pilot a pretty sweet G/W Summoning Trap deck, so I decided to build something similar on Magic Online and play some matches.
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Lotus Cobra
- 1 Terastodon
- 4 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
- 2 Nest Invader
- 2 Fauna Shaman
- 4 Primeval Titan
While the deck tech should give you guys some perspective, I can give you a quick run-through on how to play the deck a bit before we dive into actual matches with it.
After watching Kenny pilot this deck to the finals of the PTQ, I knew he had a monster. Summoning Trap was quite a beating against anyone playing Remand, Mana Leak, or Spell Snare. When you trap into a Primeval Titan on turn 2, not to mention an Emrakul, you get a fuzzy feeling inside that just won’t go away until your next round starts.
The next day, Kali and Brian Braun-Duin decided to battle in the Magic Online PTQ. Brian borrowed the Summoning Trap deck from me, and Kali played my U/W Tron deck. I laughed so incredibly hard when Brian got to free-cast a Summoning Trap into Emrakul on the 2nd turn, only to have Kali spurt out with: “I guess he got his Aeons Torn.” With Brian and Kali around, the puns just flow non-stop.
While the deck can have incredibly powerful starts, your one weakness is cheap sweeper effects or just a torrent of removal. You’re heavily reliant on your mana producers to survive. They fuel both Windbrisk Heights and help you cast Through the Breach and Summoning Trap. Without them, your deck turns into this slow ramp deck that has a tough time hitting six mana. If Lotus Cobra and Knight of the Reliquary ever survive you should be golden, but there are a lot of decks that have a ton of dedicated removal. Jund is particularly harsh at times because they can apply early pressure while killing off your important mana creatures. Jund Charm out of the sideboard is also pretty rough to deal with.
In the current metagame, I feel like this deck is pretty sweet. You punish any control deck severely, since most rely on haymaker effects to sway the game rather than sweepers, which gives you an edge since you have the biggest haymaker of them all. Emrakul is pretty tough for most people to deal with, though he’s quite abysmal against Splinter Twin. I occasionally side out all my Emrakuls against Splinter Twin because he just gets tapped and is usually a lot of work to get into play. I also tend to cut Through the Breach in that matchup because Dispel exists and just crushes you. Even if it doesn’t, a hasted Emrakul doesn’t look good against a Pestermite when it’s going to die at the end of turn.
Against most decks, your main plan is to get Emrakul into play as quickly as possible through whatever means you see fit. I’m a fan of casting Emrakul off Windbrisk Heights, but that doesn’t get to happen all that often. You’ll usually be casting Through the Breach or Summoning Trap, slamming down the gigantic tentacle monster, and annihilating your opponent’s side of the board. Without Emrakul, your deck plays out like a weird G/W Ramp deck, relying on things like Primeval Titan. Primeval Titan, should he resolve, usually grabs a pair of Windbrisk Heights, but he can aid in generating creatures to trigger existing Windbrisk Heights through fetching Khalni Garden, Mutavault, or Stirring Wildwood.
As you watch the videos, you’ll notice that I entered the tournament with a slightly different version of the deck than what I wanted to play. At the end of the article, I’ll give you guys my current list for Summoning Trap.
After playing with the deck for a few tournaments, there are a few things you need to know about the deck. It feels very much like a Glass Cannon combo deck. If your opponent casts Pyroclasm or Jund Charm against you, then your day will probably end rather quickly. However, since most people are currently skimping on the sweepers, I don’t think this is a bad metagame choice.
Here’s the current list I would play:
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Lotus Cobra
- 4 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
- 2 Nest Invader
- 4 Primeval Titan
- 2 Spellskite
The obvious change to the maindeck was cutting Fauna Shaman for Spellskite, since Spellskite can protect your Lotus Cobras and Knight of the Reliquary not to mention keep your Emrakul from being tapped via Deceiver Exarch or Pestermite. It also shuts down Flame Jab from the Life from the Loam control decks. Spellskite is pretty sweet, and I’d highly recommend playing it in the maindeck.
The small change to the mana base that you might not notice is the Dryad Arbor over the Khalni Garden. I wanted to try out Khalni Garden in the video, but I think Dryad Arbor is just better. Being able to fetch it from a Misty Rainforest or Verdant Catacombs is just sweet, and it allows you to snag an extra creature for Windbrisk Heights pretty easily. I added a 26th land so that it doesn’t actually hurt you to play Dryad Arbor since it’s functionally a spell most of the time. Being able to search it up is just a bonus.
The sideboard changed a little, but I think this is the best course of action. People are relying more and more on their graveyard, and having Relic of Progenitus alongside Bojuka Bog is pretty sweet. Canonist also slows down their draws featuring Raven’s Crime and Flame Jab, though it looks quite silly when staring down a Seismic Assault.
Seal of Primordium is pretty solid, since it doesn’t get countered by Dispel from the Splinter Twin decks, but also just function as a Naturalize in other matchups where you need to kill pesky artifacts and enchantments.
I ended up cutting the Terastodon as it didn’t do much for me and it took up a slot in the deck where I thought we definitely wanted another land. It could make its way back eventually, but I really like the current list as-is.
I hope you guys enjoyed the article and videos this week. I’ll be back next week with more videos and coverage on some relevant format. With me playing so many different formats and tournaments, it’s hard to know in advance what I’m going to write about since it really just depends on my mood. It might be a tournament report from Indianapolis. It might be about a sweet new Modern brew. Who knows?
Thanks for reading.
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