The Riki Rules – A Japanese Judge at United States Nationals

Read Riki Hayashi every week... at StarCityGames.com!
Tuesday, August 12th – It’s another busy week for me. I was home for just a few days before heading back out for GP Denver. But my column is still a week behind, so here’s a few random stories from U.S. Nationals…

It’s another busy week for me. I was home for just a few days before heading back out for GP Denver. But my column is still a week behind, so here’s a few random stories from U.S. Nationals…

Billy Moreno

For me, one of the strangest moments of the weekend was when one Billy Moreno, PT LA runner up, came up to me on the floor to tell me how much he enjoyed reading my articles. I gave him my standard “Thanks for reading” schpeel, while my mind was racing at a million miles per hour. “But… but… you’re PT LA runner up Billy Moreno!” I thought to myself. “Why are you reading my articles?” Even with LSV and Paul Cheon as my close friends on the tour, and having met plenty of name players through them, having “someone” come up to me and know me for my own accord.

I informed Billy that we had actually met very briefly during his fateful run through the PT Top 8 when he stepped outside for a smoke in between rounds, and we started talking about how his match with Chris McDaniel had led to the end of table judging and a fundamental shift in many core judging philosophies.

Billy told me the following story about one of his Limited games. In game 3 of a quick match that still had 30 minutes left on the clock (60 minute rounds), Billy was dead for sure on his opponent’s next turn, so he had to manufacture a win. His opponent was at 3 life, and Billy had a 2/2 in play and some card that could make his opponent lose a life in his hand. If he could bluff his opponent into not blocking, he would win. Unfortunately, the Flame Jab in his graveyard (with no lands in hand) made that a difficult bluff.

With 30 minutes left for what amounted to the last two turns, Billy took his time to think things through carefully, and his opponent did not complain. However, a passing judge did step in after a full minute or two to inform Billy that he needed to make a play. Unable to come up with the appropriate mind trick, Billy lost.

Did the judge do the right thing? Should Billy have been entitled to more to think given that there were 30 minutes left for two turns? I talked to a few judges on this matter, but I imagine that player opinion may differ on this issue. Tell me what you think in the forums.

Judge Not

Some of you may or may not know that I’ve had a problem being mistaken for Mike Flores in the past. I present to you the next evolution in the series. I’d just been relieved from my Public Events shift on Friday night and was on my way with the other Saturday team leads to a dinner with Main Event Head Judge R. Jared Sylva when Adam Shaw pulled me aside. He took me over to meet a judge trainee (a.k.a. L0, a.k.a. judgeling), grabbed my shoulders and says, “This is Riki Hayashi.” The trainee made some statement about liking the Riki Rules, while I stood there a bit baffled.

Apparently, the whole story goes that Adam assigned Aaron Hamer to work with the trainee. Aaron, you see, is of the Asian persuasion and wears glasses and well, you can see where this is going…

The biggest mistake I made at Nats, or at least the biggest mistake that I had made previously that was pointed out to me at Nats:

I went to the main stage to get something and I was greeted by a Two-Headed Giant with 10 judge levels, Toby and Sheldon. Toby looked down at me from the stage and said, “So Riki, now that you’re a famous Internet columnist…”

This could not end well, and it didn’t as Sheldon completed the sentence:

” ‘Spell my name right!’ ”

Toby then when on to tell me that his last name was spelled Elliott, not Elliot, like I had been doing! I’ve only known this man for what, four years now. He’s administered every judge exam I’ve taken. You know, he’s only one of the top 5 most influential judges in my development. In my defense, I’m an idiot.

Figure of Game Loss

I am quickly growing tired of the Release promo foil Figure of Destiny. As I said in the very first installment of the Riki Rules, foils are not by definition marked cards, but they are more likely to become marked.

If foils are more likely to become marked, promo foils are the absolute Scarlet Witch of probability manipulation. Release foils, like FNM foils, are shipped out in non-shrink wrapped plastic in sets of around a half dozen. Compare this to normal foils that are both shrink wrapped and packaged with 15 non-foil cards. You can see how the difference in packaging might accentuate foil cards’ natural tendency to bend.

Promo foil Figure of Destiny has figured prominently as a problem card in recent events. Being a new and popular card, demand has been incredibly high and the plentiful supply of Release promos has filled that supply to the point where the Release promo was cheaper than the regular version at Nats. As a result, many people had sets of foil Figure of Destiny in their decks… as their only foils. Again, not necessarily a problem, but when they become curved, the deck can become marked with a readily identifiable pattern (“Hey, every curved card is a Figure of Destiny”).

I deck checked someone with precisely that problem. He had exactly four foils in his entire deck and they were highly curved Figures. A few judges looked at the deck and we could all find/ cut to the Figures. Making matters worse from the player’s standpoint, this was in the fifth and final round of an LCQ Grinder. The player was not happy with the game loss, nor did he like that he had to go and buy four non-foil Figure of Destinies.

Notes on a Demigod

I heard this question bandied about the judge circles: “If a player writes ‘Demigod’ on his arm and sits down for a match, does it count as outside notes?” Apparently, the player in question hadn’t read my previous article on Demigod’s trigger and the subsequent discussion. He probably lost a game to countering Demigod before resolving the trigger, and decided to go Memento and write friendly reminders on himself. “Demigod of Revenge killed my wife. Find him and kill him.”

Awesome Christopher Nolan movies aside – are there any non-awesome Christopher Nolan movies? – it was outside notes and the player was told to play with sleeves… long sleeves that is, as in a sweatshirt or jacket. I also saw Nick Fang explaining the Demigod trigger issue to PT: Valencia Top 8er Sam Stein. I don’t think that Sam was the player who wrote on his arm, but you never know.

Judge Dinner

The Judge Dinner took place at a fancy restaurant whose name I didn’t get. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of places like this because you pay more money for less food. At least Fogo is all-you-can-eat. The venue for the PT: Hollywood Judge Dinner (the Pink Taco) was AYCE as well.

Not only did we get very small portions, we got kicked out at 10:30, which made for very limited schmoozing time. We celebrated Jeff Vondruska’s advancement to L3 and got treated to another great Bryan Zembruski speech, during which he managed to say, “I want to become intimate with all the judges that are coming.” Awkward and a half.

The bus ride back from the judge dinner was a riotous good time. Adam Shaw very loudly declared, “I stole a napkin from the restaurant.” Nick “Goblin” regaled us with some of his classic stories, including the “pound it” tale. I entertained them with one of my own favorites, the PTQ arrest.

This was earlier this year in an Extended PTQ. During round 1, while my fellow judges and I were counting decklists, we observed a pair of police officers head into one of the play rooms (the venue consisted of 4 smaller rooms connected via the main hallway where the dealer and judge station were set up). We received quite a shock when the officers came out of the room with one of our players, a man in his late thirties or early forties, in handcuffs.

Head Judge Jeff Morrow and TO Conan Blackwell jumped up and immediately converged on the scene. I diligently continued to count decklists. The story, as later told to me, was that the player lived at home with his parents and his son. Deciding to take his boy to a Magic tournament, but lacking a mode of transportation, he “borrowed” his parents’ car. The parents didn’t much care for this, so they reported the car as stolen and told the police exactly where they could find their son.

As a final bizarre twist to this tale, the man’s son kept playing in the PTQ. I didn’t get any final word on how he ended up doing, or how he planned on getting home to the grandparents’ house…

Back at the hotel, I ran into artist Dave Kendall. He’s relatively new to Magic art, so his portfolio was somewhat limited, and he certainly didn’t luck into some key pieces like the other artist, Aleksi “Planeswalker” Briclot. After getting my cards signed at the special judge-signing time, I looked through Dave’s prints to get a few gifts for friends. He also pulled out some pieces of original art and when I heard the asking price of “only” $400 U.S… I hemmed and hawed over it all weekend, and when I ran into Dave in the hotel lobby on Sunday night, I finally caved, especially when Dave told me that I could pay him $100 on the spot and the rest later (note to self: don’t forget to PayPal Dave). So now I have the original art for Tradewind Rider and Flooded Grove.

Quick Hits

Patrick Chapin tried to ask me a ridiculous rules question. I stopped paying attention right around “…and there’s a Humility.” Patrick, if you really want me to try to figure out your crazy question, write in out and get me all the relevant Oracle text.

I’m pretty sure that Craig Stevenson thinks that I have a blood feud against Rich Hagon based on my forum responses to his articles. The fact is, Rich has written some things to which I’ve had some strong adverse reactions, and I’m not the biggest fan of his sign off (“err… bye!”), but he’s good folk. No matter what, I’m for having a good time with someone in person and checking Internet opinions at the door.

Rich and I had a very interesting discussion about judging, and it’s clear that his position as, well, whatever his position is – coverage host? – has given him some unique perspectives on judging. For his sake, I hope that he has the chance to judge more in the future, especially at something like a Grand Prix.

Speaking of Internet feuds, I finally had the chance to talk to one Kyle Sanchez, another one of my web nemeses. Water under the bridge and all that jazz. When I got home, he e-mailed me an article he had written about cheating. Kyle, I did have a chance to read it, and personally I think it would be interesting to adapt it into a judge article… written by a player. How wacky would that be?

I ran into Rueben Bresler, and had to give him the unfortunate news that I would not be rooming with him at GP: Denver. Sorry, bud. You’ll have plenty of chances to sleep with me in the future, I’m sure. That came out wrong…

Next week, I “only” have to judge a PTQ. Head Judge a PTQ actually, so I should be able to put together a more coherent article with some more stuff from Nats and Denver.

Until next time, this is Riki Hayashi telling you to call a judge.

Rikipedia at Gmail dot block
Risky on efnet and most major Magic forums
Japjedi47 on AIM