By the time you read this, I should be ready to start my latest 10-day Magic tour. An epic quest that takes in GP: Seattle, before jetting off from the west coast for Hawaii and the PT: Honolulu. I’m still not sure about the greatest feat: securing sponsorship from a large contingent of judges that was fighting over it, or convincing the wife I should go on my own! I am very lucky that my wife plays Magic as well. She’s not a lunatic about the game like me you understand, but she does put up with my near obsession for the game (when I was planning our â€˜secret’ honeymoon last year, the only stipulation was that there was no Magic to be involved).
This past month has been the usual mixed bag on the Magic front. Easily the biggest event was the return of Regionals. Regionals seems to epitomize how much travelling I’ve been doing over the last few years (I haven’t judged in the same city twice for the last five years running). Recent Regionals have seen me in Atlanta, Chicago and Indianapolis. This year was a new ground again head judging Memphis, TN with Bluegrass Magic. So how does a young boy (?) from Scotland end up in Memphis? Well, I’ve been working events in Little Rock, AR this past year, and was asked to come back and judge their respective Regionals.
The drive down for Regionals was a familiar one since the venue was the same one used for Worlds last year, albeit this event was on a slightly smaller scale. I have to say that I’m not a fan of the convention location in Memphis since there isn’t really a great deal of handy or obvious eating places within a reasonable distance of the tournament hall (bear in mind too that you might only have minutes to spare before the next round begins). Parking is at least easy and fairly cheap at $5. I arrived with some of the other judges at 8am and started scoping out the event hall. We had 7 judges, which was something of a luxury for a change, and so I felt we were ready to cover calls in a room with seating for 220 players. I quickly surmised that the center of the hall looked like the most spacious point to put up pairings (between two pillars), the microphone provided for announcements mostly worked (albeit that it seemed to get quieter the longer I talked) and so I started some of the lads on numbering tables. I had enough time to set up teams and duties for the other judges before we threw the doors open to the paying Magic public! As registration came to a close, we reached a fairly impressive 199 players for the morning. It’s not quite as many as we hoped for, but it was a big improvement on the figures that the previous TO had enjoyed last year, so I guess we’re heading in the right direction. The TO had only promised more prizes if the player pool passed 200, but he increased it anyway because this is Bluegrass Magic, baby!
In my experience, Regionals tends to bring in a bunch of players with a wide range of ability. For some people this is the biggest tournament they will play in (unless a GP shows up close enough). With this in mind, I remind players that the Universal Tournament Rules states players must shuffle an opponent’s deck at the start of a game, and must at least cut a deck when presented after shuffling effects during a game (they can still shuffle if they want but don’t have too). If your opponent does shuffle your deck, you can make one final cut when the deck is returned to you.
That said, we get the first of eight rounds of swiss started, and I decide (with the TO’s blessing) to include an hour for lunch after round 2: it seems reasonable considering that the Top 8 cut only plays one round to decide the Top 4 that are going onto Nationals in Kansas City later this year. Some of the rulings that came from the days play included —
Runed Halo. As it comes into play, you have to name a Magic card. You can’t name a token your opponent is using unless that token has the same name as a Magic card. Normally this won’t happen unless you have put into play a token that’s a copy of a card from, say, the activated ability of Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, or the triggered ability of Mirror-Sigil Sergeant. C.R. 216.1a tells us that the name of the token is the same as its creature types (unless the spell or ability specifies a different name like Goldmeadow Lookout does) . So tokens created by Spectral Procession have the name â€˜spirit.’ You can choose an instant or sorcery card, and copies of the named card made by Twincast will still be counted by Runed Halo.
Cascade Cards. The cascade ability triggers on the stack when you play the spell. As you remove cards from your deck, the card you find is still being played. Therefore if you remove another spell with cascade and lower converted mana cost, then its cascade ability will also trigger. The Cascade ability will still trigger if you play the card as a result of the activated ability of a Hideaway land. However, you are playing the card without paying its mana cost and can’t pay any other alternative costs like evoke, morph, or prowl. Additional costs like kicker and conspire can still be paid. Mandatory additional costs like Wren’s Run Vanquisher or Shard Volley still have to be paid. Abilities that trigger on a spell being played like storm and gravestorm will still trigger. If you remove a mono hybrid card like Flame Javelin its converted mana cost is always 6. Twincast makes a copy of a spell but the copy isn’t being played. Therefore, a copy of a cascade spell will not trigger since it was not played.
Planeswalkers. Redirecting non combat damage to a planeswalker only works if the damage is being dealt to an opponent and redirected to the opponent’s planeswalker. You can’t redirect damage from, say, Volcanic Fallout from yourself to one of your planeswalkers (nice try, but no cigar).
Slave of Bolas. If the Slave is used on a Reveillark, then the leaves play ability will still trigger. Since the controller of the triggered ability from Reveillark is the player who controlled it when the Reveillark left play, the Slave of Bolas controller gets the added bonus of bringing back up to two target creatures with power two or less!
Finest Hour. If you have multiple copies of this enchantment in play, then each will trigger independently if you declare one attacker in your first combat step. So two will create two additional combat steps (total of 3) and three Finest Hour will create three additional combat steps (total of 4). However, since the abilities all resolve during the first combat step, declaring the same creature as an attacker in the first extra combat step will not prevent it from being tapped as you declare it as an attacker (unless of course it has vigilance).
By the end of the day, we finished with three B/W Token decks, one Reveillark, two or three Boat Brew, and at least one Jund Ramp deck. Round turnaround time had been a little sluggish for my liking throughout, with about 70 minutes needed per round on average. With such a large staff this was especially disappointing, but oh well. We were never going to be able to table judge every single match using five extra turns, and there’s always someone who thinks the end of the round means it’s time to have a nap! Excuse me, but there are almost two hundred people waiting on you to finish! Maybe they only add 5 minutes, but multiplied by the number of rounds means that’s almost an hour is added to the day as the best case scenario! Players can be guilty of slow play during the extra 5 turns, and a warning is often appropriate in these cases — so beware!
I’d like to thank the TO Brennan Moody and all judges working Memphis — Chris Waits, Daniel Neeley, Clay Baker, Glen Wallace, Alex Stambaugh and Kevin â€˜Harry Potter’ Lowrey. They made my biggest event as HJ â€˜easy peasy,’ and in truth they didn’t really need me. Congratulations and thanks also to Christopher Greene who helped out in the morning and passed his L1 test with me in Memphis. It’s also rumored that the HJ hit a certain monumental event the following day, but I can’t remember what it was now. Well, I tried to forget, but my wife kept reminding me that it was my 40th birthday all the way home to Illinois (She is so sweet and considerate about things like that).
This past weekend was a bit of a blur, as I had business in Carbondale on Saturday night, but didn’t want to completely abandon TO Donnie Noland and his latest PTQ in Nashville, so I agreed to come out and help in the morning to get things going. I had a sneaking suspicion the event would be big and sure enough, the close of registration brought in 206 players. Only trouble was, we only had 196 chairs! We delayed the start of those 5 matches slightly, but did end up politely asking them to play on their feet for a bit while judges kept swooping on chairs from matches next door that finished early. By the start of round 2 more chairs had been purchased and playmats were dispensed by Donnie Noland to the players who had briefly drawn the short straw in this manner: Kudos again to Casey Hogan who came all the way from Atlanta, GA to HJ the PTQ in Nashville. At this point my time was up and I had to head back!
Sunday morning is usually a much quieter time for me and that usually translates to one of the few times I have to write judge reviews for an event. Even the best judges are â€˜works in progress,’ and it’s the feedback provided by fellow judges that helps make everyone better. Most reviews include some words of encouragement to reinforce to the judge what his strengths are and some positive feedback for him on how he can improve on things to be even better. I usually get to write at least one or two from an event, but it’s not easy. I was quite pleased with myself when I passed the 100+ total mark some months back. It briefly made me optimistic about catching up with Eric Shukan, the leading judge review writer in the galaxy. Eric is a legendary L3 judge from Massachusetts and recently went through the 200+ barrier in his review writing for judges. He’s also going to be the HJ at the StarCityGames.com $5000 Open in Minneapolis on June 27th. For â€˜Jedi-like’ judging skills and a phenomenal record of judge reviews, Eric Shukan is my MVJ, most valuable judge of the month!
While on the subject of singing the praises of zebras from the herd, I’d just like to mention that the most excellent Falko Goerres will be running a seminar entitled â€˜How to Become a Judge’ at 11.00am on Sunday morning of PT: Honolulu. Falko stresses that it’s aimed at players who might be curious about what’s actually involved in becoming a judge and how you can take that initial first step. Remember, it doesn’t mean you’re obliged to judge, and most judges still play more than they judge anyway. I guarantee that all attending will have their lives changed forever!
Looking at last month’s poll on why turnout was down for the spring prerelease, the major factors were —
1. Exams at College (24%)
2. Less money at this time of year (23%)
3. Better things to do in when the weather is sunny (20%)
I think the positive thing to take away from this is that almost nobody thought Alara Reborn â€˜sucked’ and was an unworthy set (only 5%). And although I correctly predicted that Cascade would be a lot of fun, I got it completely wrong by suggesting more professional players wouldn’t like the ability. One look at the Top 8 for GP: Barcelona shows how wrong I was. I guess free spells are too good to resist.
If you’re reading this, then GP: Seattle is almost upon us. It’s not often we get the chance for a standard Grand Prix event, so I hope as many people take advantage of this event as possible. June also sees no less than four StarCityGames.com $5000 Open tournaments in Atlanta, Boston and Minneapolis. As much as I’d love to be at these myself, I have duties lined up judging PTQs in St Louis on Sunday June 14th and Little Rock on June 20th. Looking ahead to this weekend, if I you see me in Seattle then do stop me to say hello and ask questions. Until next time, may your top deck be lucky.
Thanks again to the most bodacious Eli Shiffrin with his comments on putting this article together.