The Justice League – A Tale of Three Tournaments, Part 1: Judge the Game, See the World!

Claim your territory at The 2009's State and Provincial Championships!
Tuesday, November 24th – A PTQ player at 3-0 gets deck checked, and it turns out that while his deck contains Soul Stair Expedition, he has listed Sunspring Expedition instead. What do you think is the appropriate Infraction, Penalty, and Fix?

Chapter 1 – A PTQ in Gravesend

At the end of the Wednesday before the Gravesend Magic Halloween Weekender, Glen White – a premier TO in the South East of England, and himself a L3 judge – put out an e-mail. It turns out that the venue he had booked to house his PTQ had not yet been built, and he had only just found out. Days of phoning later, he found a venue, but sadly the weekender had to be cut in two, with the Game Day being held at a pub on the Saturday and the PTQ itself being held in a church hall on the Sunday.

I wasn’t involved in the Zendikar Game Day, but the PTQ would be mine to Head Judge. I went to the venue early with Glen to put to rest his fears that the venue was suddenly smaller then he remembered. The morning rain had given the venue a somewhat sweaty feel already, and that was without the players!

Eventually, 69 players made it to the tournament, and I’m still very grateful to the players who all waited for the final stragglers to be picked up from the station.

Seven rounds of Sealed Deck action ensued, with my focus mainly on a discussion with the infamous Stelios Kargotis about whether judging is black and white, or whether meaningful shades of grey exist. For what it’s worth, there’s a lot of grey in judging (and I don’t mean the grey creeping into my hair), and indeed there has to be.

Here’s one interesting situation judge-wise: a player at 3-0 gets deck checked, and it turns out that while his deck contains Soul Stair Expedition, he has listed Sunspring Expedition instead. What do you think is the appropriate Infraction, Penalty, and Fix?

The Swiss rounds went by largely without problem. No, removing a creature that has a Predatory Urge attached, in response to it activating its ability, does not save your creature. No, you cannot grow a Scute Mob when you have only four lands in play, even if you do play Harrow in your upkeep.

Unfortunately, the Top 8 of the PTQ was not so smooth. I took a different strategy here to my usual outlook with PTQ Top 8s, and did not call the draft. Instead, I instructed Stelios to watch over the draft, and told the players just to draft normally. The intent was to minimise the pressure on the Top 8 players by making a comfortable environment for them. It was partially affected by the fact that the venue conditions had been quite oppressive during the day, and that there were still quite a few players involved in side drafts, having a fun, if noisy, time.

It looked like it would be impossible to have a ‘serious’ PTQ Top 8 so near to a very casual side events area, so I figured that not calling the draft would help things mesh better. This, I believe, turned out to be a mistake.

I moved away from the Top 8 area whilst the draft happened, as is normal for a Head Judge. After all, I trusted Stelios to inform me if there was any problem with the draft, and I was debriefing Henry Guille, one of the best Judge Padawans I’ve recently met. (“Judge Padawan” is our affectionate term in the UK for uncertified judges working towards Level 1).

As far as I know, the draft went by without problem, but the seeds of a very casual environment had been sown. As such, I announced generally to all players that there was to be no talking with spectators during the deck-building portion of the Top 8. Usually I’d take this as a given, but I felt it was worth specifically announcing.

Unfortunately, despite a direct instruction to stop chattering and acting jovially with his mates, I ended up having to give a player in the Top 8 a Game Loss for Unsporting Conduct – Major. I’ve been trying ever since to work out what lead to this happening, and I now believe that my decision to not call the Top 8 actually factored into this, and that I could have prevented an unnecessary Game Loss by setting the standard for the Top 8 earlier.

I hope the player involved doesn’t take things personally from me. I ended up in a corner where I had a player ignoring the instructions of a tournament official, which is unacceptable, and thus he had to be penalised. But I hope he and everyone else involved realises that I do not think he is 100% to blame for the incident, and that even I continue to learn the nuances of running tournament Magic. I ran the Top 8 of Grand Prix: Brighton, and was very grateful for that task, so I’m certainly not inexperienced in the matter. Again, it just goes to show that we all have things to learn sometimes.

Chapter 2 — Grand Prix: Paris in Disneyland

November had kicked off with a small hit to my confidence… so how would a record-breaking 1960 players at Grand Prix: Paris hit me?

As I remarked at the time, the event didn’t actually feel all that massive. From Brighton’s 800 or so players to this, I hardly felt any difference. However, I quickly realised that this was due to the amazing venue layout. The fact is that the two separate tournaments were managed so well that neither infringed on the other, making everything feel that it was running very smoothly, and it was not so overwhelming.

I do feel sorry for the players who had to begin the day in the freezing cold, as the initial seatings for deck construction were posted outside. I hope again that everyone realises that the layout of the venue would only work by getting everyone outside, but it’s very unfortunate that players were not too prepared for this, and that it was several minutes later that seatings could be posted. I felt especially sorry as I kept telling players at the door that seatings would be posted soon, asking them to please wait just a little longer, and a little longer, and a little longer. I wasn’t lying – I really thought the seatings were on their way!

Thankfully, that only lasted a little while in the morning, and the rest of the day was much warmer. I’ll also thank whoever organised the judge lunch and dinner buffets – they were most welcome!

My actual task for the GP was to be on the Deck Check team on Day 1, and to Head Judge a Sealed event on Day 2. Again, there were relatively few incidents. I think the most interesting problem I got called to was the following:

Player A has two 2/1 creatures in play, one equipped with something giving +2/+2. His opponent has (I think) a 2/2 and a 3/2 creature in play. Player A casts Marsh Casualties with Kicker, and places his own 2/1 in the graveyard. He then attacks with his other creature, and is surprised that his opponent hasn’t put his two creatures in the graveyard. When the opponent goes to block, a judge is called, and it’s quite clear that Player A thinks Marsh Casualties works like Infest, i.e. that it is not targeted. His opponent wants to take the action of putting the 2/1 in the graveyard as an implicit announcement of targeting himself. How do you rule here?

Probably the best part of Day 2 was when, in the Sealed PTQ, several boosters were opened which contained seven rares instead of one. What’s even better is that many of these packs made their way into the judge support for the weekend. Score!

My Sealed Deck tournament went by with hardly anything of note. There were several very new players in the tournament, so occasionally we had to step in and explain some very basic things, such as that equipment doesn’t unequip itself every turn. Other than that, the tournament was held in a very relaxed, friendly, and fun manner, as it was intended. At least I did not make the mistake of overreacting to the Gravesend PTQ by sucking the fun out of my next tournament!

On a personal note, whilst I believe my judging is still improving, my ability to mentor on the floor is coming into question. What can I do to make judging with me more fun?

Chapter 3 – The World Championships in Rome [Editor’s Note — This article was submitted before the conclusion of Worlds.]

Rome marks my third World Championships in a row that I haven’t had to pay to attend. That’s the amazing power of DCI sponsorship, and I consider myself incredibly lucky to have judged the game and seen the world. However, the adventure hasn’t started too well. Having made it to the airport in Bristol in the nick of time, I had a tricky connection to contend with at Paris CDG. I made it to my flight, which I knew was correct as soon as I saw Antoine Ruel and Manuel Bucher (of course, they would not recognise me). Sadly, my luggage did not make it with me.

Luckily, my luggage did make it onto the next flight, and by the time I had landed there was a message waiting for me to explain my luggage would only be three hours behind me. Ah well, so much for finding a nice place for dinner… I guess I’ll eat whatever the airport has to offer!

Three hours later, I make the train journey to Rome’s Termini station, and navigate the Metro to the judge hotel. Unfortunately, when I try to check in, I’m informed that this isn’t the judge hotel after all. Ten euros later a taxi brings me to the judge hotel, and I finally get to check in.

Sadly, I do not think I will be able to test for Level 3 this week, as the communication regarding the test was lost with our change of judge manager. Never mind; whilst the opportunity would have been grasped with both hands, I’m sure it’ll come around again.

What will become of me over the next few days? You decide! Err, no, wrong show. But tune in next time to hear more from Worlds!