SCG Daily – Here Comes da Magistrate: Part 1

So, turn 1 kills in Standard and recipes for Pecan Pie. Let’s try this one…

So, turn 1 kills in Standard. Let’s try this one…

You’re playing Mono-Blue against Green/Red in the 7th round of some major tournament. In the first game, you mulligan to four and your opponent flashes the 3 Boils he maindecks. Things are looking grim but hark! Zebra the Evil comes over and says your opponent left a card at the last table, presented a 59 card deck, and gets a game loss. Quad Spectral Shift earns the 2-0. Any deck can get a turn 1 kill! Whee…

Judges are an interesting aspect to the tournament scene, yet are discussed much less often than something truly banal, like pick orders or Type One. Considering the power they have at their fingertips, this is a surprising state of affairs. Let’s see if we can correct that by adding some fun, useful, non-controversial data to the playing body.

Why would someone become a judge? In my view, there are four reasons. They are: compensation, ensuring a good time, ensuring a fair time, or wielding a desperately needed pseudo-power to feel some kind of pitiful self worth on the backs and misery of others. There is some overlap.

The compensation track is quite valid. A judge working for a full day usually makes at least as much product as a PTQ semifinalist. And a delicious lunch. And the delicious power.

Anyone working for the compensation package is probably a pretty good judge, as is any person who understands relativistic values. They would probably be a pretty good player too.

The second motivation is where things start to go a little South. I’m no languagifier, but I don’t think there’s a more subjective word in the English language than “good”. Some people like trying to assemble the Station combo, or playing land destruction. I like winning, but it’s all about what makes you happy.

The trouble is, the judge trying to ensure everyone is having a good time. This is often a serious conflict of interest. Sometimes the rules make unfun things happen. Match losses, forced mulligans, “Isn’t Magic just a game?”

I mean, c’mon. If the offender made an honest mistake, and no harm was done, let the infraction slide, right? This is common rhetoric, but puts the player who did nothing wrong in the unpleasant situation of looking like a complete jerk (yo) or giving up a free, deserved advantage.

Once upon a time I was playing in a qualifier in one of those Kansas Cities X years ago. It was by far the worst officiated tournament I had ever been to. We all had a sense we were in for a rough ride when the TO told us that all the pairings and tiebreakers were going to be done by hand. He did this because he said he did not trust “gee gaws”. This technophobe gave Sam Lewis, who started off 6-0 before losing the last round, 9th place! This also caused a local to magically make the elimination rounds. But I digress.

At the beginning of the tournament, the head judge made an announcement that anyone drawing an extra card for any reason was going to get a game loss. Fair enough.

In round 4 I was faced off against Some Guy. He cast a cantrip, which I counter somehow. Despite this, he draws a card at the beginning of the upkeep and draw phase. I sigh (see tomorrow) and call the judge.

Our arbiter coasts over and we explain the situation; we are in accord. The judge kinda looks disgruntled, pondering what to do.

I politely inquire about the pre-tourney edict regarding extraneous card draws. The judge, who looks like he ate a lemon, tries to talk me out of it!

The three of us banter back and forth, with some really choice, well thought out comments from my esteemed opponent. Finally the judge throws his hands up and says, quote, “It’s your call.”

Woah! I thought you had to take a test or something to get your stripes.

I tell the judge to enforce it, and he does, looking sick. The opponent is pissed, but whatever.

I won the round and the tournament, but that’s not really relevant. There were two opponents that day, exactly one more than there should have been. It’s not an uncommon situation either. Judges, if you can’t make a tough ruling, or can’t do it against buddies, recuse yourself. Or get out of the industry entirely. As the arbiters of fairness, it’s your duty to stay impartial. As soon as emotions come into the picture, the entire process gets derailed. Judges, don’t look down on a player who likes to draft Red/Black, just because you prefer Green/White.

David Argon confided to me that he used a trick I once did as an example of an “immoral”, but legal play. He showed it to fresh Level Ones as an example of the kind of maneuvers that go on all the time at high level events. They were disgusted at the time, I was told, but got it out of their system.

I am not going to get condescending or preachy here. Great judges exist, and are usually pretty high up for a reason. Ensuring equality is a Noble pursuit, and I think it most often springs from being a player and wanting to put a stop to cheating, often witnessed first hand. It was a major factor in my decision to get legal. Players simply make the best judges because they can look at the entire picture for a needed ruling. Context counts for so much.

Anyone who plays competitively, and doesn’t cheat, would probably make a fine judge. You should become one! Magic needs more good judges!

This is such a fun topic to discuss I’m going to continue it tomorrow. Included is the worst travesty of justice in all of human history, my personal technique for winning more rulings, and whatever else strikes my fancy. The byline? That means I call the shots. Delicious.

Mazel Tov,

Noah Weil

——————————————–Bonus Recipe———————————————

Speaking of yummy, here is the promised Pecan Pie formula. Bring it to a tournament some time and share it with the staff. Guaranteed a get-out-of-a-warning-free card if you include some Cool Whip (highly recommended).

Courtesy Ingrid H. from allrecipes.com. (Lest you think I just plucked this off the net, I really have made the pie [this plus my Green Bean Casserole makes me a popular fellow come Thanksgiving] and it really is tasty. This whole bit is basically humor and a Magic website besides, so I don’t expect many people to actually bake a pie. However, for those that don’t think this belongs here at all, see above.)


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons white sugar

1/2 cup butter, chilled

4 tablespoons ice water

3 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup light corn syrup

2 tablespoons dark corn syrup

3/4 cup light brown sugar

3 tablespoons butter, melted

1 pinch salt

1/2 cup pecans, finely crushed

1 cup pecans, quartered

1 cup pecan halves


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

2. To Make Crust: In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt and white sugar. Cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Gradually sprinkle the water over the dry mixture, stirring until dough comes together enough to form a ball.

3. On a floured surface flatten dough ball with rolling pin. Roll out into a circle that is one inch larger than pie dish. Place pie shell into dish and refrigerate until pie filling is complete.

4. To Make Pie Filling: In a medium bowl, mix together eggs, light and dark corn syrups, brown sugar, butter, salt and finely crushed pecans. Spread quartered pecans over bottom of refrigerated pie crust. Pour syrup mixture over top of pecans, then arrange pecan halves on top of pie.

5. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) oven for one hour or until firm; let cool for one hour before serving.


The pecans on the top and bottom are by far the best part. See your dentist every six months.