The Justice League – Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Grand Prix: Oakland!

Thursday, February 4th – In my first article for StarCityGames.com, I’d like to write about what promises to be the event of the year in Spain: the European Legacy Grand Prix. Legacy is my favorite format for many reasons: the huge amount of playable decks, the power-level of some old cards, the complicated rules interactions…

Hola everyone! Please allow me to introduce myself, my name is David de la Iglesia, and I’m a DCI Judge Level 2. Well into my thirties, I live in Madrid (Spain) with my kitten Piruleta (Lollipop in Spanish!), and in my Real Life┢ I work in a TV station as technical director in live newscasts. I started playing in Onslaught, even though my first sanctioned tournament as a player was the Mirrodin prerelease. After some time I got into judging and finally I certified for L1 at Spanish Nationals ’08; eight months after that I became L2.

In my first article for StarCityGames.com, I’d like to write about what promises to be the event of the year in Spain: the European Legacy Grand Prix. Legacy is my favorite format for many reasons: the huge amount of playable decks, the power-level of some old cards, the complicated rules interactions…

When the GP schedule first came out a few months back, my first reaction was “I totally want to play this GP!”, but soon I knew I was going to wear the uniform once again.

I’ve been to quite a few tournaments these last 18 months, and everywhere I went there was always a constant amongst judges: hospitality, generosity, and friendship.

My first Grand Prix was GP: Rimini ’08, just a month after certifying. Cristiana Dionisio treated me like her own family; she introduced me to the Italian judge community, and all of them made me feel like I was at home. At Pro Tour: Honolulu, the one and only Riki Hayashi put me in touch with Mike “Big Zee” Zimmerman. We’d never met before, but Mike graciously offered me a slot staying at his timeshare, the Waikiki Hilton, almost for free.

Last September I went to GP: Prague. I was on my way in a plane with Carlos Ho, and at some point I said “first thing once we arrive, we get some beers.” Carlos nodded in acknowledgment, unaware of what was to come. Jara Karban not only provided free lodging for both of us, but also picked us up at the airport and drove us around the city. He also had two cold Czech beers waiting for us in his car’s glove box. I love the Czechs, they know their business.

These were some of the times my friends made me feel proud of them. Grand Prix: Madrid will be the time I’ll be there for them. Above anything else, I want them to enjoy their stay at my hometown, and this definitely is my chance to give something back to some of my friends from the DCI who will be arriving to Spanish shores. Behold, word is the Italian Armada is coming.

So everything is set for the GP… or is it? How do you approach an event like this? Legacy is a difficult format to judge. An enormous amount of cards are available in the format, and a lot of different decks with complex and unusual rules interactions will be seen. What about those judges not used to working on Legacy events on a regular basis? I felt like there was a need to provide tools to improve everyone’s experience and performance at GP Madrid.

In coordination with the four Spanish L3+ judges, I proposed Frank Wareman and Adam Cetnerowski, Head Judges for GP Madrid, to prepare articles on aspects that could be relevant during the GP; I offered in the Spanish Judge forum the chance to other judges to get involved in the initiative, and teams of volunteers were gathered to cover the following three features.

Barcelona´s Raül Rabionet, the man who got me into judging in the first place, is in charge of the Legacy Primer. This article will be aimed at judges, and its goal is to focus on errata’d cards and on explanations for some common issues and frequent scenarios found at Legacy tournaments. Particularly errata can be a huge potential problem in a format where a lot of cards work different from when they were originally printed. Friends don’t let friends answer rules questions without reading Oracle text!

Daniel Solé and Daniel Mencía, the latter one of my regular travel mates, wrote an Alterations Guide. Card alterations are really popular in Spain among Eternal fans. This can be a problem since some of them can be really extreme, and most of the Eternal players are not used to competitive play and/or never have heard about policy. This article is mostly aimed at players, but will also serve to explain other judges the current policy on alterations.

Finally wrapping up the article-writing initiative we will have, “Around Madrid,” by Sergio Pérez, the customary guide on transport, tourism and everything a foreigner may need to enjoy his stay in Madrid.

My next step was doing some actual judging. Prior to each European GP there are usually several GP Trials in my hometown, but since the GP was going to be held in our city the number of GP Trials went up in large numbers, giving the local judge community the opportunity to work in several competitive Rules Enforcement Level Legacy tournaments prior to the GP.

My first GP Trial for Madrid was a 72 player event; that is seven rounds plus Top 8, with third round byes for the Top 4. I was the Head Judge with just Omar Sagol on staff, a local L1 and two times Spain National Champion. We averaged an astonishing 48.9 minutes per round, which proves how fast the format is.

We did some deck list counting and sorting, finding just one mistake: a player listed Urborg when he was playing Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. Note that the original Urborg from Legends is actually playable in the format.

Of course we had some interesting rulings and situations; one of the most repeated queries was to provide Oracle text. If you want to get rid of Argothian Enchantress just name human or druid with Engineered Plague, and half of the Enchantress deck draw engine will be gone for good.

What if a match is tied 1-1 and you, the Burn player, are about to lose against Zoo’s lethal alpha strike? That Price of Progress in your hand can tie the match by making both players lose the game at the same time, the score will be 1-1-1 and, time permitting, you will play more games until a player gets two wins. Better drawing than losing.

The dreaded Dream Halls deck ended up taking 2 slots in the Top 8, showcasing its potential as a powerful combo deck. When Show and Tell resolves each player in turn order (active player first, then other players) selects an artifact, creature, enchantment or land card in his hand and puts it on the table face down. Then, when all players have made their choices, all cards are first revealed simultaneously, and then put on the battlefield at the same time. This avoids one player from gaining information about his opponent’s choice, but still you get to decide what to name with a Runed Halo once your opponent’s choice has been revealed. Just in time to save you.

What about the ubiquitous Tarmogoyf? We all either love them or fear them, right? The problem when putting dice on them is not that you are not allowed to represent the Goyf’s Characteristic Defining Ability (CDA) that sets its P/T. Counters sure can be more confusing, but dice seems more reasonable to most players to use. The truth is that there is no ability or rule that enforces a representation of this CDA, so if you want you may place dice on the table or even on the card itself to remind you what is the card type count in all graveyards, but remember, the information on the dice has no official meaning. Imagine your opponent is playing Cabal Therapy’s flashback, being the Therapy the only sorcery in all graveyards. For some reason you don’t notice and unintentionally forget to update the value on the dice. Have you done something wrong? I’d say probably not, but sure this can lead to a confusing and inaccurate representation of the game state. My advice: don’t use dice to represent Tarmogoyf’s CDA, and if you do, don’t place it on the card itself.

The following weekend I HJed another GP Trial, this time I had 85 players for me and Miguel Calvo, a promising Level 0 who I expect to join the DCI family very soon. Again seven rounds plus Top 8, and this tournament was much more difficult than the previous one, first we did not expect such a huge attendance, and he had to move chairs and tables around to make room to make sure no one was left out. This meant almost a 45 minute delay. The room configuration we ended up with clearly wasn’t optimal, it left very little space between tables, and moving around to distribute entry slips, give rulings and perform deck checks was a daunting task. The players also faced this same difficulty, and they finding their seats got the tournament delayed for around ten minutes every round.

Anyway we managed the best we could and got away with it, counted deck lists during round one, and were prepared to give deck lists penalties at the beginning of round two. Eight of them. How do you give eight penalties with only two judges on staff?

There is this little trick I borrowed from Finland’s Johanna Virtanen: use a yellow marker on the pairings highlighting every offending player’s name, make an announcement to make sure those players don’t start playing, get them queue for their penalties, and you’re done. There was one deck list with a 16 card sideboard. The player listed 16 cards, and indeed had those same 16 in his deck box as sideboard. We removed the sideboard’s bottom card in the deck list and instructed the player to remove it from the deck as well.

On the interesting rulings side of things this tournament gave us a few remarkable questions. Can I play Natural Order sacrificing my Gaddock Teeg? No, the restriction on Gaddock Teeg forbids anyone to cast spells with converted mana cost 4 or higher, and you won’t be able even to start announcing Natural Order, since Gaddock Teeg wouldn’t be sacrificed until costs are paid, well into the process of casting the spell.

Can I play Firestorm with X=3 with no creatures on the battlefield? No, because you’d need to choose 3 different targets. Well, can I target my opponent twice? No, because of what is said in rule 113.3 from the Comprehensive Rules: “The same target can’t be chosen multiple times for any one instance of the word “target” on a spell or ability”, and Firestorm has the word “target” printed just once.

Player A controls two Noble Hierarch and attacks with a Knight of the Reliquary; opponent asks how big is the Knight and player A says it is 8/8. You all see it coming, right? First thing first, abilities that don’t have a visual representation on the game state such as Exalted, Tarmogoyf’s CDA or Knight of the Reliquary’s static ability fall into derived information. This means you don’t have to assist your opponent in figuring them out since they may require skill and/or calculation. Obviously you cannot lie to your opponents, but you are not required to answer them either. As you may have expected player A was wrong in his calculations since there were 5 lands in his graveyard; luckily for everyone he found it out before assigning damage. After a short interview I determined this was an honest mistake, thus issuing him a Warning for Player Communication Violation.

The following weekend we had a big event consisting of Worldwake Prerelease and what was my last GP Trial for Madrid, this time with 59 players. We also had very special guests, Hall of Famer RaphaÔl Lévy attended the prerelease and after a few rounds of limited play hosted a deck clinic and also did some über-fun gunslinging. We also had a superb artist, Slovakia’s Martina Pilcerova, who gathered a long queue of fans to get their cards signed GP style!

This tournament was a test of endurance for us. Right after the 6 rounds of swiss Carlos Ho’s computer decided to shut down. Something was wrong with the hard drive, and all of the tournament files were lost, and the backup for some reason didn’t work either. We had to rebuild manually the entire tournament; at least all entry slips were sorted and well kept in an empty booster box. We reconstructed the entire tournament during the Top 8, meaning we had to first re-enter every player in the tournament and then perform ordered pairings every round according to the entry slips, and also input results and drops as needed. Fun times, I say.

We also had some interesting situations here; even though I always ask the players at the beginning of every tournament to be clear on their plays and to keep an open communication with their opponents, there are always going to be situations that can misrepresent the game state. If you play a Vendilion Clique the target of its triggered ability won’t be announced until the legendary faerie resolves and enters the battlefield. Make sure you know what the game state is, don’t respond to abilities not yet on the stack, neither reveal your hand before it is required. These simple tips will save you some trouble and will make sure the fun is not spoiled out of your game.

Next we had an awesome play by a skilled Aggro Loam player; his 4/5 Tarmogoyf (land, creature, instant and sorcery) was not enough to kill his opponent at 5 life in one turn. A topdecked Mox Diamond meant good game; the Stronghold rare’s Oracle text says “If Mox Diamond would enter the battlefield, you may discard a land card instead. If you do, put Mox Diamond onto the battlefield. If you don’t, put it into its owner’s graveyard.” So you announce Mox Diamond and when it resolves you may choose to not discard a land, if you do so, the Mox will be right on its way to the graveyard and the now 5/6 Tarmogoyf is on its way to victory. His also well skilled opponent made another game-deciding play the next game shrinking a Tarmogoyf’s power and toughness when casting a Tombstalker. Delve means “As an additional cost to cast this spell, you may exile any number of cards from your graveyard. Each card exiled this way reduces the cost to cast this spell by {1}.” So you can exile as many cards as you want from your graveyard, not just a maximum of six. A 5/5 flier with an uncounterable goyf pseudo-removal attached seems like a good deal for a measly BB.

Again the Dream Halls deck was well represented in the local metagame, and it was the subject of players and judges attention due to the complexity of its interactions. What happens if I cast a Firespout using Dream Hall’s alternate cost? Nothing. No mana was spent on Firespout, so it will deal no damage at all. Can I discard a blue card to pay for the alternate cost when casting Fire from Fire / Ice? No, you can’t. Dream Hall’s Oracle text says “Rather than pay the mana cost for a spell, its controller may discard a card that shares a color with that spell”. It says “with that spell”, not “with that card”. Fire / Ice has two sets of characteristics anywhere except on the stack, and remember you choose to use the alternative cost granted by Dream Halls after the spell is announced and has moved to the stack. Once the Fire half of Fire / Ice is on the stack it only has the characteristics of the half being cast, and the other half’s characteristics are ignored, so in our scenario it is red and you’d need to discard a red card to use the alternative cost.

That’s all for today from The Justice League’s Spanish branch. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I did writing it. If you attend GP Madrid, feel free to stop by, say hello, and discuss karma and justice.