The Justice League – Trials and Tribulations from Austin to Arkansas

SCG 10k St. Louis Offers First Chances to Qualify for the 2010 StarCityGames.com Invitational!
Thursday, December 10th – At tournaments recently, a couple of players have remarked on the fact that I haven’t reported on my experiences at PT: Austin from a few months back when I was testing for Level 3. The reason for that was quite simple: too painful!

At tournaments recently, a couple of players have remarked on the fact that I haven’t reported on my experiences at PT: Austin from a few months back when I was testing for Level 3. The reason for that was quite simple: too painful! I think most people understand that a judge newly inducted into the family of Level 3 status has just reached a juncture much more significant than their passage from either Level 0 to Level 1, or from Level 1 to Level 2. I think everyone realizes that being a Level 3 certainly means a mastery of the comprehensive rules. Most would also quickly point to a ‘photographic-like memory’ of the infraction procedures and penalties. However, while these qualities are certainly a foundation for a Level 3, they are not the end of the story. The rules policy documents could never be expected to anticipate every possible situation that happens during a Magic tournament, and certainly doesn’t try. That’s where in part the Level 3 judge comes in. A Level 3 judge uses the underlying philosophy of established infractions and can apply them to the unknown. Suddenly, the unknown becomes a natural and logical extension of the rules that nobody has had time to write down on paper yet! Have you ever read the penalty guidelines (as it used to be known), or the infraction procedure guide as it’s now known? If you have on even a remotely regular basis, you’ll know how much the rules have been constantly tweaked and changed over the years. Sometimes entire new sections appear. It’s not because judges can’t make up their mind on things, but rather because higher Level judges are constantly evolving the ‘why things are done,’ as well as the ‘what we do.’ Simply put, they understand the underlying philosophy of our great game. Level 3 judges are part of a team of guardians trying to help the game grow and constantly question how the game can be judged better.

So what happened to me? Well, I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you. There are two infamous movie phrases that spring to mind when people ask me about the Level 3 process. “First rule of Level 3 fight club is that you don’t talk about Level 3 fight club.” Level 3 isn’t about memorizing a list of rules or patching together clues from others, but rather showing that you have worked it out for yourself. Understanding what the nature of the test is, by rites of passage, part of the test itself! Let me use my second movie quote to try and clarify. From the end of the first matrix movie, we have the important revelation from Morpheus to Neo, “there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” What I can tell you is that there is still a written test involved for Level 3, but the interview is much more involved and normally lasts longer than it takes to complete the written test. The interview normally has a panel made up of at least four judges, one of whom will be a Level 4 or 5 judge. The panel of judges throw situations at you to test your philosophy and sometimes act out their ideas in role play situations. Anyway, if I say anymore, some of Toby Elliott ninjas will descend from the ceiling and take me off to an undisclosed location for an undisclosed period of time.

Being told you’ve not made the grade can be traumatic in any situation, but the important factor is how you deal with it. Not advancing doesn’t mean you’re a bad judge, it may mean that you’re not ready for the next step – yet! More than half the judges taking their Level 3 test fail first time round. A vital first step is to understand what you’ve learned from the experience, since even in failure, you can take the frailties exposed by the interview and start growing stronger. Remember, that the people examining your under a microscope at your interview want you to be the best judge possible and are also your cheer team. Everyone involved in my testing at Austin was incredibly supportive towards me throughout. The DCI is a family, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. For my own experience, I understand now that my preparation for Austin was not aggressive enough, and I need to challenge ideas more in the months ahead. Talking with people at Austin afterwards on Sunday afternoon probably gave me more ‘food for thought’ than the previous 12 months combined.

For anyone thinking of embarking on this road of discovery, I would hope to be able to get their thought process started by asking them simply, “Why do they want to be a Level 3 judge?” Most important of all, be proud of your Level. Level 2’s are the coolest judges anyway.

This past weekend saw another marathon trip around the Midwest, this time down to Little Rock Arkansas to act as TO for State Champs. I’ve been a TO longer than I’ve been a judge, but I think the biggest tournament I’ve run before this was probably a 40 player tournament at the Eclipse bookshop in Rolla, MO. I travelled down from Illinois on Friday afternoon and made it to Little Rock in time to Draft at The Daily Planet store before heading to the hotel and catching up with my HJ for the weekend, Kevin Binswanger. SCG readers may remember Kevin as past writer for SCG, and will certainly remember Kevin as something of a regular at GPs and 10K Open events this past year. Kevin will also HJ one of the first Legacy $5K tournaments for SCG, in Dallas on Sunday 10th January next year (with the most bodacious Level 3 Hector Fuentes HJ for the Standard on January 9th). Being TO for the day made me feel a little removed from the action for long spells, as I was almost permanently glued to the chair managing DCI Reporter. I always thought score keepers were a little cranky at times, but now I understand why. Telling players again and again that, “yes, even your match slip goes into the box” does start to wear thin after the thousandth time. If you really think you need something from a scorekeeper, it’s probably better to check with a judge first before you say hello. The few times I did manage to get out from behind my chair were mostly to look after the judges and run errands buying them lunch and dinner. There was still time however to get involved in a few judge calls that you might find interesting!

Eldrazi Monument may make your creatures indestructible, but they can still die if their toughness is 0 or less, if two legendary creatures with the same name are on the battlefield at the same time and can still be sacrificed to costs or effects. More interesting is the wording of the second ability. It’s obviously a triggered ability, but the wording had us scratching our heads briefly, wondering if we should class it as a triggered ability with a default action (IPG 3.3). The wording is similar but ultimately not similar enough! A default says in part, “…do XXX. If you don’t, sacrifice it”. A good example of this is creatures with cumulative upkeep (C.R. 702.21). This implicitly implies a choice to do XXX or not. However the Eldrazi Monument says in part, “…sacrifice a creature. If you can’t, sacrifice Eldrazi Monument.” Cards with fading (C.R. 702.29) are a good example of this kind of wording. This on the other hand is a clear direction to sacrifice a creature, with no choice in the matter, so the sacrifice of the artifact is only a last resort if you can’t sacrifice a creature. The importance of this subtle wording comes when handling a missed trigger from the Monument. While a missed trigger with a default would result in the default being carried immediately, the Monuments wording means that the ability is put on the stack (if caught within a turn cycle). However when the ability resolves only creatures that were on the battlefield when the ability actually triggered can be chosen to be sacrificed.

Oracle of Mul Daya’s first ability lets you play an additional land card on your turn. So if you control one copy you can play two lands, if you control two copies you can play three lands etc. Make sure that you specify whether you are playing your land for the turn or using the Oracle’s special ability. If you use the special ability and then the Oracle leaves the battlefield and returns during the same players turn, it’s treated as a new permanent and allows the player to play yet another land. You can never play a land during your opponents turn (C.R. 305.3).

Back with my TO hat on, I’d been thinking about what I could do to put my stamp on the event and hit upon the idea that it might be a good PR move to buy pizza for the Top 8 between the swiss rounds and the start of the quarter finals. As you can imagine, nobody minded eating pizza while the judges checked the Top 8 decks. I might try and start this as a tradition for the Top 8’s of events I’m either running or head judging.

Looking ahead to this weekend we have the next part of the SCG epic 10K series and it’s finally coming to my home town of St Louis (well, my adopted home anyway). The most excellent Jason Lemahieu is your head judge and then the Justice League’s very own favorite son, Nicholas Sabin (with a silent ‘e’ on the end) takes over the reins of HJ on Sunday for the legacy championship. To add extra spice to proceedings the 10K this weekend is the first opportunity players will have to qualify for the StarCityGames.com Invitational in Richmond, VA, on December 3-5, 2010. I’ll be judging on Saturday in St Louis, but will clean the dust off one of my old legacy legal decks and play on Sunday. Don’t forget that the following week sees one of the last chances to qualify for PT: San Diego being run by Pastimes in Indianapolis on Saturday December 19th.

Merry Christmas to everyone and I hope Santa leaves you a foil Baneslayer Angel to topdeck.