When Judges talk about deviating from any of the rules, or policy documents, there is one phrase we always use:
“Significant and exceptional circumstances.”
One of the examples given in the Infraction Procedure Guide, and the one that most often comes up in conversation, is “a table falling down.” Usually when this is mentioned it’s with a tone of voice that suggests that although we should be prepared, it would never actually happen.
Well… it happened.
It was one of the later rounds of Champs, in a match that had potential for a fair bit of importance. I was at the opposite end of the room, and saw nothing but a rather large commotion, and our Head Judge, Mike MacPhee went to go check it out while I had the even more exciting task of doing deck checks.
So what exactly does a Judge do in this wild situation, that most (if not all) of you reading this will never see happen?
For starters, everyone involved should pray that it isn’t a mirror match between two players with the same sleeves. If the sleeves are the same color, and there are any shared cards, then it’s time to bust out the deck lists, and get everyone’s 60/15 (or whatever it may be) back to what it should be. As you can imagine, this would be quite a lengthy time extension.
So once all of the cards are with their original owners, we have to continue the tournament. To do this, there are two options:
1) Restore the game state.
This option is only viable if a definitive game state can be reconstructed. If it is early in the game or a Judge was watching the match, the game state may be easy to recreate. If this isn’t the case, but the Judge still feels that the game state can be restored, then it’s all up to interviewing the players and hopefully some witnesses. Talking to both players at once is a good way to identify the cards on the battlefield and in graveyards, whereas hidden information, such as hands and known cards in the library, are much trickier to determine and should have a corroborating witness. While minor discrepancies in the players’ memories of the game state can be moderated by the judge, if the game state is unclear, we move on to the other option.
2) Start a new game.
If the game state cannot be reconstructed, then that game is considered unfinished and the players should start a new game. This solution is obviously a second choice, but it is often necessitated if there were parts of the game state could not be confirmed. In many cases, this means that a game where one player had an advantage has been ended abruptly, and that player is likely to be very unhappy about it. You might argue that a lot of the game loss penalties handed out by Judges fall into the same category, but there is a distinct difference. Game losses are handed out due to an infraction that a player has committed, and are often accompanied by some form of (sometimes delayed) acceptance. I’ve had many players show a great deal of frustration when receiving a game loss, only find me later to thank me for the work I did that day. The difference in the case of a table collapse is that neither player has done anything wrong. Having to start a new game after a player was about to win is likely to leave a sour taste in their mouth for quite a long time, but sportsmanship can sometimes save the day here, as a player who was about to lose can graciously offer a concession.
There really is no perfect way of handle “significant and exceptional circumstances,” but as judges, we do our best to make sure that every situation is handled fairly, even when the world falls apart around us.
I try to avoid discussing my travel stories, as I figure readers can only hear so much about the Pro Tours before it all starts to sound the same, but since my recent travels are some of the best experiences of my life, I thought I would share some of them with you. Hopefully they will encourage you to play – or judge – the game, and see the world.
2009: A Year in Review
I was disappointed to miss out on Grand Prix: LA, but I enjoyed the reasoning. I wasn’t able to go because the staff list was full. It didn’t surprise me that a staff list would fill up at an Extended GP in Canada, but I thought it was cool that there was enough Judge interest to fill up a roster in California as quickly as it did. A year ago, I wasn’t as familiar with the Judge program as I am now, and I had no clue there was such a huge interest in Judging
January also brought some good news for everyone. Drafts! There was a lot of disappointment at the Shards of Alara Prerelease when Wizards took away drafts, but players had their voices heard, and we got our drafts back. I really don’t think this would have happened so quickly were it not for players caring enough about Magic to voice their concerns, so I extend my thanks to all of you out there.
I saw my first traveling of 2009 in February, when I went to Victoria for the first annual GottaCon. A gaming convention that saw me Judging from 8:30am on the Saturday, until 3:00am the next morning. That sounds very grueling, and it was, but it was also one of the most fun Magic experiences I’ve ever had.
My favorite story from the weekend actually comes from after 2HG wrapped up at so late. None of us had dinner yet, so we went to Denny’s, where I decided it would be a good idea to order 8 pancakes. I got through about five and a half before I had to stop. After our weird breakfast/dinner hybrid, I managed to score a couple hours of sleep before getting up for another day of Judging. Have you ever had a pancake hangover? I have.
March and April saw nothing of particular excitement, but Vancouver did find itself two new Judges in those two months.
A drive down to Seattle finally returned me to the Grand Prix scene, and what a way to come back it was. Grand Prix: Seattle exceeded our expectations by about 400 players which made for a very busy event on the road.
A busy Day 1 means a busy PTQ on Day 2, and Seattle did not disappoint. Our PTQ started in the early afternoon, and finished sometime in the early hours of Monday, and to top it all off, we finished it in the hotel lobby.
Yes, it turns out we only had the event hall for so long, and we got kicked out in the middle of the semi-finals. Turns out the hotel wasn’t too excited about four players, three Judges, and forty or so spectators barging in at 11:30 to play Magic in their breakfast hall. Without anywhere else to go, we managed to talk them into letting just the players and Judges into the area, and the spectators had to stand behind a velvet rope. As you can imagine, every single person that walked by gave us very strange looks. (Including other Magic players and Judges.)
Unlike all the cool kids, I didn’t fly directly from Seattle to Honolulu, which I’m sure Hasbro wasn’t too happy about. I had flight sponsorship, and the difference between flying out of Seattle and flying out of Vancouver is revolting. I cringe when I hear Americans complaining about the costs of flights.
A couple days later, I was packed once more, and heading for my first Pro Tour. At the time, Honolulu’s weather was actually cooler than it was back here in Vancouver, and being someone that isn’t a fan of the heat, it made the weekend even more enjoyable.
I even got to stay an extra day, free of charge. Why? Because my flight got canceled. Why? Because when the plane started to pull out, the power died. Better on the ground than the air, I suppose. Unfortunately, the extra day wasn’t all that enjoyable as I was stuck in bed with the flu, which may have been of the H1N1 variety.
I got another first in July when I attended my first Canadian Nationals. Our Head Judge was from south of the border, but he was willing to put on the Head Judge hockey jersey, so we welcomed him as one of our own. This was the last event I attended that had lifelink, deathtouch, and combat damage going on the stack. May those aspects of Magic rest in peace.
I’m not sure if I answered a single rules question in August, so we can forget about that.
I got to Head Judge my first regional prerelease for Zendikar. Head Judging a large prerelease is a lot different than it would be at a PTQ. There are a lot more logistics to deal with due to the larger judging staff, larger player turnout, and multiple events. It was a bit of a tough day, but we came out the other end looking quite good.
It was time for my second Pro Tour. I have to admit, I wasn’t quite as excited to go to Texas as I was when I went to Hawaii, which is really nothing against Texas. Austin ended up having a lot to offer me. A combination of good food, great weather, and seeing a very touching promotion of two Judges to Level 4 made the trip well worthwhile.
I would have loved to travel to Worlds in November, but it was not to be. A guy on a student’s budget can’t really afford a plane ticket to Rome, so a trip to where half my family holds its roots will just have to wait for another time, as will a trip to Worlds. Hopefully Chiba will be my time to shine.
… Is right now, and everything seems to be wrapping up. As mentioned earlier, I was Judging at Champs, where only one thing crashed, and nothing burned. It was actually a pretty exciting event, as we were expecting 3 Judges for 75 people, and had 2 Judges for 90 people. Judging understaffed provides a whole new learning experience.
Doesn’t all that sound exciting?
What’s up next for me? I’ll be traveling on New Year’s Day, to Los Angeles, for StarCityGames.com first Open Series event of the year, and I hope as many of you as possible come help ring in the New Year with me.
Until next time, stay out of the penalty box. If not, you may find yourself with some lumps of coal.