Yawgmoth’s Whimsy #328 – You Be The Judge

The StarCityGames.com Open Series comes to Seattle!
Thursday, June 10th – You are the head judge of 200+ player event. You have a staff of a dozen other judges and a scorekeeper working under you. Here’s a round by round description of the event, and the decisions you would need to make. I’ll describe the issues first, to let you decide how you would handle them, then give my solution.

You are the head judge of 200+ player event. You have a staff of a dozen other judges and a scorekeeper working under you. Here’s a round by round description of the event, and the decisions you would need to make. I’ll describe the issues first, to let you decide how you would handle them, then give my solution.

Let’s assume that you are working at a $3K Standard event put on by a tournament organizer just starting to offer these events. (Why new TO? Because I want to use some situations that the StarCityGames.com folks would handle long before the head judge even became aware of the problems. So — a TO new to the whole $Xk thing.)

You have 400 players. That means 9 rounds of Swiss plus the Top 8. It also means that you are in for a long day — but not quite as bad as it could be. You have established your teams of judges — logistics, paper, deck checks — and the scorekeeper is ready. After the TO welcome the players, you make your initial announcements and the judges collect the decklists, you begin round one.

Round 1:

During round 1, at least half of your judge staff is going to be counting decklists. They will be checking to make sure that all lists have at least 60 cards maindeck, have either 15 or zero cards in the sideboard, and that the lists do not contain more than four of any non-basic land or any cards banned in the format.

You get one call, early in the round. One of the floor judges has come to you because he does not know how to handle a situation. A player is attacking with Hurloon Wrangler — an Unglued card. The opponent called the judge.

You arrive at the table. The player with Hurloon Wrangler looks to be about ten years old, and is barely taller than his deck. That deck, however, looks to be about 150 cards. What do you do?

{your answer here.}

First of all, the player is playing cards that are not legal in the format. It is either an Illegal Decklist (assuming the player listed the Hurloon Wrangler on the decklist) or a Deck / Decklist mismatch if he didn’t. Either way, this is a game loss, and you need to fix the deck. The fact that it is 150 cards makes it more likely that you can simply remove the illegal cards and wind up with 60 legal cards. Probably. The only way to find out is to try. If you cannot find enough legal cards, to make a 60 card deck, add basic lands.

You can’t justify downgrading the penalty, or fixing the player’s deck by raiding the commons box. Yes, the player is just a kid, but being young is not exactly an exceptional circumstances. The one thing that you could do, if the player is unhappy about continuing, is ask the TO to refund the player’s entry fee, or get him entry into side events. That is a public service that does not conflict with judge policy.

A quick note — you probably want to discuss handling calls with the floor judge at this point. In general, floor judges should make the call first, then call you in if appealed. Hurloon Wrangler is a very unusual card, but the infraction was pretty simple, and the floor judge should have been able to make the call.

Round 2:

The deck check folks bring you a problem. Two different decklists have the same basic issue. Both players are playing Polymorph builds — decks that produce tokens and then cast Polymorph sacrificing the token to produce the deck’s only creature. That creature is usually either Progenitus or one of the big Eldrazi. The decklists list one card that could be the creature — “Kozilek.” The question is whether to penalize. There is no creature named “Kozilek” in Magic. There is Kozilek, the Butcher of Truth.” There is also “Kozilek’s Predator.” Is a decklist with just “Kozilek” legal?

The relevant standard for illegal decklist is:

A player is considered to have an illegal decklist when one or more of the following conditions are true:


F. A player lists ‘Ar.Wurm’ which could be either Argothian Wurm or Arrogant Wurm

{your answer here}

Pretty much either answer — penalize or don’t penalize – is correct. The answer to this question tends to vary depending on how strictly the judge interprets the language. At PT: San Juan, the two L3s heading the deck check teams felt that the “obvious” answer was that this situation was not ambiguous, and no infraction had occurred. They didn’t even consider the question serious enough to find the players and educate. On the other hand, an L4 running a GP recently ruled that any potential ambiguous card legal in the format was grounds for a game loss.

The language in the IPG itself is ambiguous. It is up to the judge to decide whether the decklist clearly identifies a unique card. In a Polymorph decklist, it is pretty clear which “Kozilek” a player would work to Polymorph into, but making that conclusion is not always so straightforward. Suppose you did not understand what the deck was doing? Should the question of whether a card is ambiguous be based on the judge’s knowledge?

Personally, I disagree with the call at PT: San Juan. I would have penalized.

Round 3:

This round, a player has discovered that he forgot to remove all the proxies. He is sideboarding after game 1, and spotted a proxy Jace. He has the real cards in his pocket — he borrowed them before the event, but missed the last two. He also never drew or saw them in the two earlier rounds.

What do you do?

{your answer here.}

The key fact is that the player is sideboarding. He is not involved in a game at the moment. While it is likely that he did not present a legal deck in any of his previous games, those games are over. You do not back up into a previous game to apply a penalty. If caught during a game, this would be deck/decklist mismatch (or possibly cheating if the player was deliberately playing forgeries designed to pass as real cards.)

In this case, just thank the player for calling a judge, have him replace the proxies and move on. If the player did not have real cards with him, he has three minutes to find/buy replacements or he will be tardy for his next game. Worst case scenario — he loses the rest of this match for being tardy, and has until the beginning of the next round to find real cards.

Round 4:

This round you find out that the venue’s cafeteria has run out of pretty much everything except Fritos and Diet 7Up. They didn’t believe the TO when he said that players eat a lot. There is nothing close, except a chain sit-down restaurant. The TO has no suggestions.

Is this your problem?

{your answer here.}

Yes. Hungry judges are not happy. They are also generally not on top of their game. You want to talk to the TO, because someone will need to bring food in for the judges. What and where depends on a lot of things, including whether the venue approves of outside food. If you can get pizzas delivered, that’s easy. Worst case scenario — well, I have once had to carry empty booster case boxes to a store, and fill them with soda and sandwiches, seal them back up and smuggle them into the judge break room.

This is also why I didn’t make this a StarCityGames.com event. SCG would have dealt with this problem long before you even found out about it.

Round 5:

Nothing much happens in round 5. You get a chance to talk with some other judges. In addition to actual judge stuff, you discuss classic 1980s movies.

Name the greatest movie from the late 1980s. (Hint — it ain’t Garbage Pail Kids, the Movie.)

{your answer here.}

I’ll accept either Princess Bride or Big Trouble in Little China.

Yes, that’s a cop out.

One of your trainee judges is asking random rules questions, trying to stump you. See how you do.

1. What State Based Actions end the game? There are at least four.

{your answer here.}

Player drawing on empty library, 10 poison counters, zero life, 21 points of general damage.

2. A player finds a way to creates 6 million Merfolk, then uses Drowner of Secrets to mill your entire library. Can you put the cards into your graveyard in any order?

{your answer here.}

If the effect milled the entire library as one effect, yes, but Drowner requires separate activations for each card, so no.

3. When would a player start a game with other than 20 life? Hint: There are three situations.)

{your answer here.}

Players in an EDH game start with 40 life. Players in 2HG games start with 30 life. Vanguard players start with 20 life plus or minus the Vanguard card’s effect.

Round 6:

Three more questions from your trainee judge.

1. There are artifact subtypes. Name them.

{your answer here.}

Contraption, Equipment, and Fortification.

2. Player A casts Brainstorm with two cards remaining in her library. After Brainstorm resolves, does Player A lose the game?

{your answer here.}

Yes. Even though Player A’s library will not be empty when Brainstorm resolves, Brainstorm forced the player to attempt to draw a card from an empty library (the third draw from Brainstorm), and the state-based action will cost him/her the game.

3. Can you name the two subtypes for instants and sorceries?

{your answer here.}

Instants and sorceries share two subtypes (known as “spell types”): Arcane and Trap. (Tribal is a type, not a subtype.)

As you are wandering around, you see two Eye of Ugins in play, one enchanted with a Spreading Seas. Is this a problem? What do you do about it?

{your answer here}

Yes. Spreading Seas makes the card an Eye of Ugin with the type Legendary Land — Island that taps for Blue. You resolve State Based Actions — in other words, you put both Eyes of Ugin in the graveyard, as well as the Spreading Seas. The controller of the Eyes gets a Warning for Game Play Error — Game Rule Violation, and the opponent gets a Warnings for Failure to Maintain Game State.

Round 7:

Side events are getting busy. The TO wants to steal some of the main event judges for sides. What do you do?

{your answer here.}

Well, the TO is paying the judges, so it’s his right. It is also expected. By now, the main event should have shrunk. You won’t need that many judges. Send some over.

You want to send a mix of skill levels. Unless the TO already has someone to do this, you want to send one very experienced judge to coordinate the other judges. That judge can also serve as a reference for any judge with a tough question or call. Beyond that, send a mix. Both main and side events should have a mix of judges, so they can learn from each other.

Round 8:

Player A activates Jace, the Mind Sculptor’s second ability (0: Draw three cards. Put two cards on top of your library.), and passes the turn. During Player B’s precombat main phase, Player B casts Mind Rot targeting Player A. After resolving Mind Rot, both players realize that Player A forgot to put two cards on top of his library while resolving the Jace ability. A judge is called. The judge wants to rewind the game to point where Player A should complete the Jace ability. All requests to rewind need to go through the head judge.

Would you allow the rewind?

{your answer here.}

I would. Player B drew a card, and Player B discarded two cards, but nothing else happened. Having Player B pick up the discarded cards, have Player B put a card at random on top of his/her library and backing up to the Jace ability seems feasible.

Round 9:

You spot two players kickboxing. They seem to be goofing off, but they are throwing real punches. You stop them and ask what the heck is going on.

Here’s where you use the Spinal Tap player stupidity meter, because that one goes to 11. Yes, players can be this stupid. You can’t make this stuff up.

The players explain that if someone won the match, that person would get some packs. If they drew, they were both out, so they decided that whoever scored the first solid hit would win the match.

Like I said — this pegs the player stupidity meter.

What do you do?

{your answer here.}

You have two infractions here — Improperly Determining a Winner and Unsporting Conduct — Aggressive Behavior. When two violations come from the same root cause, you apply the more serious penalty. In this case, that would be the DQ for aggressive behavior. The DCI does not tolerate fighting. In your DQ report, you may want to explain the situation, and the DCI investigations committee may choose to take that into account in determining whether, and how long, to suspend the players, but you really can’t waive the DQ.

Top 8 Quarterfinals:

The only prizes in the Top 8 are varying amounts of cash — the TO is not offering qualifying points or anything like that. The eight players in the Top 8 all want to split the prizes and go home. The TO has no objection.

Do you object?

{your answer here.}

With nothing but the cash on the line, players can split evenly. Altering the result of a match for money is bribery, but in this case — with an even, across the board split — that is not happening. You will need to resolve the tournament in some way, but the scorekeeper should be able to make it work. The easiest method is to cut to Top 8, then drop all but one player. That player “wins,” the tournament software is happy because the event finished, but ratings are not affected and everyone goes home early.

Note that if other things are on the line — a trophy, an invite, or anything else not evenly divisible by eight – then you are going to have to play at least until the finals.

Big Caveat: much of the above is based on the Comprehensive Rules, Magic Infraction Procedure Guide and Magic Tournament Rules in effect as of June 5, 2010. I have heard that the MIPG, at least, may change soon. If it does, some of these answers may be outdated.

Next Week / Coming Soon:

I may have some free time in the near future. If so, I want to revive the Ultimate Standard Tournament project. The concept is to choose the 32 best Standard / Type 2 decks of all time and play them off against each other in a 32 player single elimination event.