Yawgmoth’s Whimsy # 228 – Pro Tour: Hollywood

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Thursday, May 29th – I spent the weekend at Pro Tour: Hollywood. I was working – and playing – and had a great time. I watched the Top 8 coverage. I watched a Block Constructed PTQ. I stayed up until the very wee hours playing EDH. I watched eight high level judges – including myself – try to draft, and mess it up so badly we abandoned it.

I spent the weekend at Pro Tour: Hollywood. I was working — and playing — and had a great time. I watched the Top 8 coverage. I watched a Block Constructed PTQ. I stayed up until the very wee hours playing EDH. I watched eight high level judges — including myself — try to draft, and mess it up so badly we abandoned it. I also flew home — an adventure that so destroyed my day that this is going to be short and still quite late.

My problems in getting this done have everything to do with my tour of U.S. airports on the way home, and nothing to do with hanging out in the lobby with other judges until — well, the last time I looked at my watch, it was past 3:30am.

Relevant Magic Tech

I was doing web support stuff on Sunday. This means I got to watch and listen to the entire webcast. It also means that everything I learned there you can get by watching the videos.

It was a great job, I can say that.

I also watched parts of a bunch of matches on Day 1. My favorite nostalgic old-school match was Adrian Sullivan playing Rob Dougherty. I watched Zvi, and Patrick Chapin, and a ton of others. Actually, I saw a number of StarCityGames.com writers, but I will let them write about that.

The decks that almost made it are interesting. Ninth through sixteenth broke down as follows:

Faeries: 3
Elves: 2 (One included Gaea’s Anthem)
Doran: 1
Merfolk: 1
Quick — n — Toast: 1 (This is Wafo-Tapa and crew’s deck)

The next 16 decks included:

Toast: 2
Faeries: 2
Reveillark: 2
RG Aggro (Nom Nom): 2+
Furystoke Giant / Nantuko Husk: 1 (Matt Hansen)
Doran: 2
Merfolk: 2
RGB Dues of Calamity: 2 (e.g. Zvi Mowshowitz)
Ashling the Pilgrim: 1 (Tsuyoshi Ikeda)

Take a look at the coverage — the decks I identified are worth a second glance. They are not really like anything in the Top 8.

What to Expect as a Judge at a Pro Tour

Jeff Morrow and I developed an orientation seminar for judges at their first big event. It’s title is “Stuff I Wish Someone had Told Me before my First Pro Tour.” We give it the night before the event, for whomever can attend — and the attendance is not usually all that high. A very large percentage of the judges working any given Pro Tour have PT experience. This time, three judges were both new to big events and in town in time for the seminar. (Flying on U.S. airlines is getting worse and worse, but that’s another story. ) We also had a few experienced but interested judges sit in.

Starved for entertainment, I guess.

We ask an icebreaker question — something to get everyone talking, and to make everyone feel like other people are in a similar position. It is “what’s your name, and what is the highest level tournament you have ever attended, as judge or player.” The answers were “a Grand Prix” (2 judges), “a PTQ” (one judge), and “Worlds” (the other 12.)

We may need a new icebreaker.

For what it’s worth, here’s a rundown of our new judge orientation.

* Thanks for coming.
* You can do this.
* You are here to learn.
* Public events — not “side” events – are important.
* Reminders on what to wear, bring, and so forth.
* Reminder to drink water and take breaks — 14 hours days are long.
* Pictures of various VIPs (WotC staff, coverage, etc.) because it is embarrassing to be shooing spectators off the floor and discover that one of the “spectators” is BDM.
* Judging is like playing, except no one notices when you win, just when you blow it.
Don’t stress out. Ask for help when necessary.
* What to do when you blow a call.
* What to do when you get appealed.
* Shadowing, feedback and learning from other judges.
* Judge team responsibilities (deck checks, logistics, paper, etc.)

We finish by dividing the group into teams to do deck checks — I have a bunch of decks with errors. We cover deck check timing, penalties, etc. One question / comment that always comes up: “These decks suck.” They do — they are built entirely of spare Xth Edition commons, and bad ones at that. That’s intentional — it’s a teaching tool. I make the point that bad deck design is not an infraction of the penalty guidelines — not even when decks contain cards that are completely uncastable. True, running a deck with 4 creatures and 14 auras will result in game losses, but those losses will be administered by players. Provided the deck and decklist match, running Grave Pact in a mono-Blue deck, with no means of producing Black mana at all, is not illegal. Not smart, but not illegal.

If anyone is really interested, I can provide our speaking notes. Email me at [email protected]

Side Public Events

Saturday, I worked the Public Events. That’s the official new name for what used to be side events. Public Events. It is going to take a long time for me to stop saying “sides.” For that matter, I still say “fizzle” and “Type II.” The concept behind the change is important, though — it is one more indication that Wizards is seeing the importance of the non-pro players. True, several hundred pros / qualified wannabes show up for the Pro Tour. Thousands of players show up for public events. The Last Chance Qualifier had something like 380 players.

It’s great that Wizards is realizing the importance of these players. Wizards wants to reach out to the non-pros. This is a start.

It’s a shame that the Public Events venue wasn’t better.

Actually, that’s a cheap shot. Wizards found a decent venue, with a good location, a great hotel, a really nice ballroom for the main event — but the rest of the conference area was kinda so-so. It was still a lot better than many venues at which I have played. At least there was enough room to walk between tables, and the lighting in the public events area was better than in the main.

Wizards really has started paying more attention. I remember my first experiences at large events, like Pro Tours and Worlds. The main event was professionally run. Public events — then Sides — was often run by the local TO, with whatever judges he or she could scrounge up. The quality varied. I remember Kansas City, where I just failed to grind in and spent the weekend in side events as a result. Round turnarounds were terrible, judges hard to find, and events started way late. Registration was a joke.

It wasn’t just that event, too. I also remember one weekend when I was sent to sides on event to help out. A few of our local pros were playing in the PTQ, and they actually said “You are judging? Thank gawd — we might finally get some correct rulings.” If they are seeing my arrival as an upgrade, things must be bleak indeed.

Over time, Wizards started sponsoring additional judges and having pretty much all the judges split their time between sides public events and the main event. They also hired really gifted TOs to run the public events, and brought in professional scorekeepers and assigned experienced judges to handle judge assignments.

The difference: I worked on the PTQ on Saturday. I think we had more judges working that one PTQ than worked all of the side events in Kansas City combined. All of the judges on the PTQ were high-level judges, and most had worked at several PT level events. This was true for nearly all of the events all weekend.

To give you some idea of how much the quality of judges has changed at public events, I think all of judges that write for Ask the Judge Feature Friday worked there over the weekend. Chris Richter was on the Last Chance Qualifier crew, then sides public events on Friday. Seamus Campbell, Johanna Virtanen, Ingrid Lind-Jahn, Jason Lemahieu, and I were on public events Saturday. If I missed anyone, sorry.

Oh yes, Nick Fang was running booster drafts. For that matter, Riki Hayashi also worked a shift in sides. His debut StarCityGames.com feature article was up Tuesday. Welcome, Riki.

Whoops — I guess I lied about all the Feature Friday judges working the public events. Sheldon Menery did not work there. He was busy head judging the main event.

*Public events. Public events. I just caught myself writing “sides” — now I have to go up and edit the last couple of paragraphs.

I’m hoping I’ll learn to say “public events” by the time Worlds rolls around — I think I may be running a Type I event there.

Block Constructed PTQ

I worked the Block Constructed PTQ on Saturday. We had something like 280 players. My shift was just under 10 hours, so I arrived at the end of Round 1, and left during the Top 8. I don’t know what won, and I don’t have the decklists. Sorry — it looks like the PTQ was not covered. Had I known, I would have copied the Top 8 decklists.

Actually, that’s another lie. I, along with a bunch of other judges, got sprung from the public events just before 10pm, so we could meet a lot of other judges for an unofficial judge dinner at Fogo de Chao. This is an expensive Brazilian steakhouse — the original, and still the best churrascaria I have ever attended. It’s the place where people bring you meat on swords, and keep doing it until you cannot eat any more. 41 out the 65 judges attended, and the total bill (which Wizards most definitely does not cover) came to about $3,800. It was great. Would I have skipped that to copy decklists for your edification, had I known that they would not be included in coverage?

It would be nice to think so, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Here’s what I do know.

Number of Faeries decks in the Top 8: 5.

Number of Faeries mirrors leading up to the Top 8: many.

I did see some Chameleon Colossi decks in the final rounds, and I think two made it in. Mainly GB, but a few Elemental decks were present, as were a number of decks surviving despite a five-color manabase built around Vivid lands and Reflecting Pool. I can’t give many details — the wine and steaks have blurred my memory, and the decks are all running together.

The deck I remember most from the top tables in the final rounds was a Mono-Black deck built around Dusk Urchins, Beseech the Queen, Corrupt, Makeshift Mannequin, and Shriekmaw. I can’t remember whether he used sideboard Trip Nooses to handle Chameleon Colossus, but I do remember a maindeck Grim Poppet. [Intriguing… – Craig.]

If I could get my hands on just one decklists from the PTQ, that would be it. The others were about what I had expected.

I gotta go. More later.