The Riki Rules – Judge Potpourri

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Monday, December 15th – Obviously, everyone knows that lying to a Judge is a seriously bad thing. What sometimes slips through the cracks is how equally serious it can be to lie to your opponent or to intentionally ignore infractions until it is convenient to do so. Like a broken record, if you discover something wrong, you need to… (wait for it)… call a Judge.

There are only two words to describe the response to my article last week: Wow.

I guess that’s only one word, but the sentiment still remains. People had a lot to say about spectators in the forum response. Due to my travel arrangements for Worlds I was unable to reply and interact with people like I usually do. Then my plan was to write a follow up piece on the topic addressing some of the issues that popped up. I think that such a piece my still be a possibility, but that won’t be for this week. Again, I just didn’t have the time to fully read through everything and organize my thoughts. To give the subject and the responses the respect they deserve, I need some time to process the information. Please stand by.

Very briefly, I think one of the things that struck me the most was how some players felt like they had a right to step in and interrupt a match to fix an error just because. Just because of what? Because you’re a good player who knows the rules? Because you are a Judge (although not at that event)? These reasons just aren’t good enough, primarily because we, the Judges in the tournament, have no way to know who is knowledgeable and who isn’t. That’s just one of things that I noticed in my quick scans through the forums. If you still have some thoughts on the issue, please feel free to continue the discussion going either in the forums or with me personally via e-mail.

At a local event run at Competitive REL, we had a DQ. By “we” I mean that I wasn’t involved in this at all, but I got most of the relevant details of the incident. Player A called the Judge over and told him that his opponent’s deck only had 59 cards in it. This was a little unusual because the players were well into game 3. In fact, as I understand it Player B had Player A soundly on the ropes.

Rather suspicious of this timing, the Floor Judge investigated, asking “How do you know that it’s only 59 cards?” The player said that he had counted the deck while pile shuffling before the game. Some more questions followed, and the investigation quickly boiled down to a case of the Frauds for Player A intentionally ignoring an infraction and only bringing it up at a time when it was very convenient for him. The player objected, trying to claim that he wasn’t quite sure if it was actually 59 cards. This was rather easy to dismiss because the player clearly knew that 59 cards was a serious offense. If you count your opponent’s deck and you’re not sure if you just counted 59 or 60, the natural inclination would be to count it again, or call a Judge to count the deck.

Obviously, everyone knows that lying to a Judge is a seriously bad thing. What sometimes slips through the cracks is how equally serious it can be to lie to your opponent or to intentionally ignore infractions until it is convenient to do so. Like a broken record, if you discover something wrong, you need to… (wait for it)… call a Judge.

Bonus Update from Worlds
Lots of stuff has happened at Worlds, probably multiple articles worth of stories, rulings, and general Magic goodness. Very briefly, I want to share a conversation I had with Matt Murray, the Web Producer for Magic. I met Matt for the first time at Pro Tour: Berlin. He was acting as the liaison to the artists, herding people away during lunch breaks and generally catering the whims of John Avon and Zoltan and Gabor.

A quick aside on artists… I always take the time to talk briefly with the artists, and if I have a stack of cards to get signed I buy a few prints. It always amazes me when someone brings up a stack of 50 basic lands, drops it in front of Mr. Avon and expects him to motor through them for free. Buying a few prints is akin to leaving a tip. It isn’t required, but it is highly recommended. In fact, at one point, I heard Mr. Avon say, “Look. I’ve been doing this for three days straight. My arm’s about to fall off. I’m not a robot.” It was a little persnipity, but it was late on Sunday night and he was looking to wrap things up. Technically, he was done for day, but Matt asked the artists to make a special case for me as I had missed the usual Judge signing period due to having a two-on-one interview with L3s Nick Sephton and Carlos Ho.

I had spoken briefly with Matt earlier in the week and had mentioned that my busy schedule might prevent me from getting around for the card signing. Matt was very friendly and mentioned that he might be able to slip me in at some other time. Come Sunday night, my shift was ending just as the artists were closing shop for the day (and weekend as it were). Matt flagged me, and asked the artists to stay just a little bit longer. Players talk about networking all the time, especially in the context of playtesting. It turns out that it’s pretty important for Judges as well. My very brief conversations with Matt gave me an opportunity that I would not have gotten normally. I thanked him and talked some more and as it turns out the opportunities would continue as we met up again at Worlds to further discuss his digital projects for the future.

As I mentioned, Matt is involved in a lot of the digital parts of WotC, some of which I’ve had some unkind things to say about in the past. Okay, I basically bashed the look and feel of the new website. The overriding message from Matt is that “things are getting better. They’re getting better all the time.” And it’s true. I’ve noticed a lot of small changes here and there. One of the big ones for me was the links to the articles. When they first did the relaunch, the only way to get into one of the content articles was to click on the words “read more…” That was the only way. I frustratingly clicked on the title of the article repeatedly to no avail in those early days. Now that’s fixed, and it’s just one of the many small changes that they have made.

The best thing I can say about my conversations with Matt has been his enthusiasm and willingness to listen. In my talks with him, I’ve taken plenty of shots at the website, and he has taken it in stride. I’m not saying that all of the changes I’ve suggested will be made, but he makes notes to look into them to see if others have the same issues or whether it makes sense to make the changes. All of the so-called bug reports go into a queue that gets discussed at regular “Triage Meetings” where the programmers have to prioritize and rate the bugs. What I got from Matt is that they look at all the feedback, whether it is personal or via forums/e-mail.

One of the bigger changes that Matt is working on is the new Gatherer Beta. In case you don’t know, Gatherer is the card database on the Wizards site. The old Gatherer is pretty basic, but functional. The new version is a vast improvement. The advanced search feature allows you to filter cards with all the usual categories like mana cost, color, card type, subtype, power/toughness, and any keywords in the name and rules text. Unlike the old Gatherer, which only lets you choose one of these per category, the new version allows multiple choices per category field. You can look for a legendary creature that has Black and Blue, but does not include White.

So far I’ve had some very brief experiences with the new Gatherer, but they’ve all been positive ones. For 2009, Matt is involved with making a new Store Locator to match the new Gatherer. Along with the reboot of the website, he says that these projects are all aimed at building a solid infrastructure from the base up. He also has a bunch of smaller projects on his plate like the “Art Fight” and “Tiny Adventures” Facebook apps and the “Here I Rule” marketing plan.

I’ve got one more PTQ before my Magic year is over. It’s possible that I might even choose to play in that one again. I know this article was a little short and scattered. I should be back up to full power next week. Coming soon to this space will obviously be some stories from Worlds in Memphis, a comprehensive look at Slow Play and Stalling, which should include my experiments with a chess clock (finally!). Look for these and more in the upcoming weeks.

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

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