I want to share with you all the experiences I had up to and including the RPTQ on december 9th. I hope you find some cool takeaways for yourselves.
RPTQ’s were definitely on my ‘Judge bucket list’. With them moving out of organized play this would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. I blocked the day in my schedule and wrote this cover letter:
I have not judged an RPTQ and would very much like to change that. As you probably remember from the last 2 Dutch Nationals I am highly motivated to ensure the tournament runs smooth and everything resolves correctly. I have tons of PPTQ experience and am really curious about the atmosphere and level of play at this kind of tournament.
Having worked for Martijn (the TO for the RPTQ) in the past, he did not hesitate to accept my application. Thus began the process of prepping for the tournament.
The first thing I did was make a post on the regional L2+ forum looking for information on RPTQ’s. Niels gave me a reply that contained some of the information I was looking for, and set me up for the next steps in my preparation.
When the HJ (Jasper) was selected, we started mailing back and forth to discuss how to do things. I scoured the blogs for articles and set goals for preparation. The format was Modern and I wanted to be completely updated. That meant a couple of things;
- watch coverage of modern GPs
- read meta game articles
- listen to the GAM Podcast Modern Mammoth episode
- listen to the Pro Points podcast RPTQ Modern episode
- talk to Kenneth Pletinckx, modern specialist and one of my closest friends
- read a tournament report of a modern RPTQ
- read another tournament report of another modern RPTQ
I want to stress the importance of tournament reports. Reading about the good practices other Judges are applying is setting me up for success in a big way. Don’t underestimate the value of just one good take away in a report. Also, I love reading how someone overcomes a particular challenge, interprets and executes policy, etc. This report is also meant to set you up for success.
You probably noticed I do a great amount of preparation. That has mostly to do with these being activities I enjoy a ton, and also lessons learned from the past. I used to take a lot of things for granted and made many assumptions for which I’ve suffered the consequences. So nowadays I do a lot more prep, because it is fun and because my performance will be better.
The tournament logistics would not be a challenge as the HJ has worked a lot in this venue and we had a dedicated scorekeeper. My task would mainly consist of covering the floor, handling deck checks and paper.
An important part of prep is getting a good night’s sleep before the tournament. SoI made sure I got that and then went on my way to Rotterdam.
The day of the tournament
I always pack a regular shirt for when I am off duty and an extra Judge shirt. The car was gassed up on the day before so onwards to Rotterdam. I always leave early so that I can have a relaxed ride over. On a Sunday, parking is free and I was the first to arrive at the store. Jasper and Martijn joined me shortly and I set foot inside Magic United for the first time. Back in my days as a player I used to order there a lot, and I have worked for Martijn before, but it was my first time in the store. I made sure to take in all the important stuff regarding bathrooms, entrances and exits, table numbers, WER PC’s, printers,etc. before the tournament started.
I had a good briefing with Jasper after which we set up the space for the pre registered 44 players. There was a clear difference in our approach; I was way more analytical and trying to set up structures for everything, while having a relatively low amount of players perhaps did not really require that. I liked the fact that my opinion was heard, was pleased with the plans that were made both in advance and during the briefing. Time for execution!
The good preparation really showed throughout the day. Having a dedicated scorekeeper means one can truly focus on the players. Not having to handle WER or printing stuff meant I had a lot of time to watch matches. Deck checks were super smooth too, as these players know what sleeves to use, how to fill in a decklist and what goes inside their deckbox and what doesn’t. The structure was 6 rounds of swiss (32+ players), but unfortunately the 47 player threshold was not reached. This meant that only the finalists would qualify for the Pro Tour.
RPTQ vs PPTQ
I was very curious about the difference between these kinds of tournaments. The biggest difference as for the players, was their familiarity with tournament rules, regulations and good practices. These players know to show up on time, how to handle bathroom breaks and how to turn in result slips. Also, their technical play is a lot better. I only gave out a couple of game play errors during 6 complete rounds of swiss. At your friendly local game store, it is not uncommon to have people playing with little to no understanding of how competitive Magic works. It was refreshing to have all high quality decklists and players so accustomed to how we do things. I never saw Magic players listen to announcements so closely before.
I tried to apply all the lessons learned throughout the year on dedicated Floor Judging. When I check on a match, the first thing I check are the lifepads. Are both players keeping track? Do they have the same life totals? If there are discrepancies, it’s good practice to try and solve them. Also stuff like energy, poison etc. needs to be properly tracked.
Then I start counting cards to make sure nothing funny is going on. I also listen on how the communication is going. Most matches were a lot more tense, even from an early stage in the tournament. Quite logical, because so much is on the line. Fortunately there was also some goofing around, and a certain Mr. Alexandre Darras cracked me up from time to time.
I also wanted a good metagame overview, and with the format being Modern, the room had almost as many archetypes as it had matches. I was expecting a lot of Arclight Phoenixes, KCI and Amulet, and I was only wrong about the last one. When deck checking we tried to focus on the decks in contention for Top 8 as much as possible, but I also made sure to have a recheck in there once in a while. As you can see I had loads of stuff to do and also had great fun.
As a floor Judge, you are highly visible and I was approached by several players/playing Judges to talk about the Judge Program and changes to organized play. I could handle most questions and have no issues with giving my personal opinion or talking about program philosophy, but had a really hard time talking with a motivated L1 on how to become L2. I honestly have no clue how to do that right now, and I sincerely hope that this changes soon.
Cool stuff happening
There is a Cryptic Command on the stack, chosen modes being: return target permanent to its owner’s hand and drawing a card. The target was Shalai, Voice of Plenty. The player controlling the Shalai wanted to respond with a Chord of Calling, searching for a Spellskite. Then the plan is to activate the Spellskite, to change the target from Shalai to Spellskite.
These are all legal game actions. That was my ruling and the match continued on. The result of this play was the Cryptic Command being countered. When discussing it later on with Jasper my spider sense started tingling, and it turns out that these are indeed legal game actions but Spellskite will not be able to change the target. The game had already concluded and the Shalai player had such a big advantage that the Cryptic Command did not really change that, but I made sure to tell both players about the interaction, they were both unaware of this. I apologized to them, and they both were really cool about it.
I keep thinking back on that interaction, and wonder what I could have done to handle that question better. Even if I had realized that particular rules interaction in time, it would have been difficult to give a good ruling, as you don’t want to give strategic information.
I am watching a match between a Dredge and Tron player. The match is of interest to me as they are in extra turns. The Dredge player has dredged a Stinkweed imp 3 times, hitting important cards such as 3 Creeping Chill and 1 Narcomoeba. This drops his opponent from 15 to 6. He has 3 Prized Amalgam, 2 Bloodghast and the Narcomoeba that just entered the battlefield. He is contemplating whether to attack, the only relevant card on his opponent’s battlefield is a Wurmcoil Engine. Swinging with all his creatures means 14 power, when his opponent block a 3-power Prized Amalgam, 11 damage will come through. 5+6 from the lifelink also equals 11. It was very important for me to properly analyze and investigate, because on the surface it is “just” attacking with a summoning sick creature, but it could be something different entirely.
As he realized this mistake himself before actually going through with it, I did not interfere but made sure to talk about it with Jasper.
I am consulted by Jasper on a missed trigger from a match he was observing. The trigger belongs to Dark Confidant. If the trigger is missed intentionally, it is Cheating. If it is missed unintentionally, we just have a missed trigger. Quite a big difference! The match is tied at 1-1, the Jund player is at 7 life and staring down at a Shalai, Voice of Plenty. This is turning off a lot of cards in his hand, he has an advantage on the ground but has no answer to the flying Angel. I am very proud of the way Jasper and I handled this delicate investigation in a short amount of time. We had to get the story from both players, needed to know about the composition of the deck, cards in hand and how previous Dark Confidant triggers had been in the past games.
Jasper had been observing this match for quite a while, and stopped the players when he noticed the missing of the trigger. Because the situation was so tense, both players had not become aware of this. I believed that the missing of the trigger was intentional, Jasper did not, as he was standing right behind the player for quite some time, and the player was also aware of him being there.
Investigation 3 – I am called over by a player who has found a Karn Liberated on the floor. It is one of his cards and he does not know how it ended up there. A quick library check confirmed that the library is missing a card. A spectator noticed that the card fell, but has no idea were it came from.
After talking to all the players and the spectator, we could clearly identify this as an honest mistake, the problem was fixed and the match carried on.
I was pleased with good practice on my investigation skills, and made sure to use the techniques and lessons provided to me.
This tournament was a really cool experience. The high stakes and high levels of play are something that I have only witnessed a couple of times before. Apart from the rules question mentioned above I am very pleased with my performance.
As we are finishing the last season of PPTQs, there will be a last round of RPTQs. The date seems to work out so it is likely that I can apply to judge another RPTQ in a couple of months! I got a lot of great practice during this tournament and became aware once more how much I love judging at competitive REL. Now my focus shifts toward the first Benelux Regional, as I will be Head Judging that amazing tournament.
Thanks for reading,
Michiel van den Bussche