Over the course of five rounds, we issued 18 penalties. This number was significantly higher than what I have issued in the past for a tournament of this scale. I suspect that about half of the players at this event had never played or had very limited experience playing at competitive REL. I spent significantly more time explaining the nature of penalties and taking basic public relations actions than at any other of my previous events.
Elliot and I began by splitting up the decklists to scan for potential deck and decklist errors. Two lists stood out: one with only 56 cards, one with a few missing maindeck cards and a five-card sideboard. Elliot and I performed a mid-round deckcheck on the list with the five-card sideboard, and it was messy. In addition to the previous two problems, the decklist also had a number of clerical errors. I had to have the player come up and finish fixing his decklist, as it was too difficult for me to figure out what he intended. After fixing the decklist, issuing a penalty, and adding a few basic lands to his deck, the rest of the round was (relatively) uneventful.
As the round was about to start, a player, whom I will refer to as “Adam,” asked to see his decklist, as he thought he may have made an error and wanted to check. As I knew Adam was about to have a targeted deck check, I told him to go ahead and head to his seat for the round, and we would take care of any potential issues in just a moment.
I sent Elliot down to table 12, where Adam would be seated, to get the decks for a deck check. Once I called the start of the round, I headed to table 11, which had an empty seat. Elliot had camped the seat, and I asked him if he had talked to the player at table 11. He said that he would take care of it, and confirmed with me that tardy was at 0 and 10 for the event. This will be important in just a second.
Adam received a game loss for not registering 4 Battlefield Forge in his decklist; however, he was extremely upset. He didn’t understand the nature of deck and decklist errors and the process of deck checks, so he believed he was being “punished” for “trying to be honest” and correct his own mistake at the beginning of the round. He felt that if he hadn’t said anything, he may have “gotten away” with his decklist error. In reality, that would not have been the case, but I had to spend more time than I would have liked explaining that situation.
Elliot and I then get a call back at table 11 for a LEC problem. I go to issue the penalty, and then Elliot asks me what game the table was in. I responded with “one” without thinking. He responded with “What about the tardy?” Uh oh! I was distracted by doing the deck check and totally missed that.
So when Elliot had said earlier that he would speak to the player about the tardy, he meant at the 10-minute mark or when his opponent showed up. What I intended to ask was if he told the player to call a judge if his opponent showed up or at the ten-minute mark, knowing that the player in question was not familiar with competitive REL. So, I received this call in the middle of a game one that shouldn’t have ever happened. After consulting with Elliot, we decided the best fix was to issue both the penalties for LEC and Tardy, and then to proceed to game two without sideboarding, ending the current game with no real result. This was a little strange, as now the players could make mulligan decisions with knowledge of their opponent’s deck, but we both agreed it was the best fix.
The round begins with a whopping four tardies, as a large group of the inexperienced players decided to go out for a smoke break after the end of the previous round without letting anyone know. Our good friend Adam was one of these players, and was starting to be visibly upset about receiving game losses; he was under the impression that he had up to three minutes to be in his seat and present his deck for the round, despite 0 and 10 being announced at the start of the event.
Towards the end of the round, I saw Adam looking extremely frustrated, and I decided to go and talk to him. He said he likely would never return to this store, and he felt like he had wasted his entry fee, as he had hardly played any real Magic. I spent about ten minutes talking him down and explaining competitive REL to him in more detail. It seemed to help a bit, and he went into the next round feeling a bit better.
Adam’s opponent was a no-show, making him even more frustrated. I again talk to him for a few minutes and try to answer a few more questions, but that pairing was quite unfortunate.
Adam comes up after his match was over and started asking very pointed questions about judging documents, and I spent about 15 minutes walking him through some basic judging documents. Adam decided that he wanted to become a judge (or at least an RA) after his experience today; he realized that his inexperience and poor understanding of the rules had cost him dearly, and he wanted to be well informed for future events. After a solid handshake, he went on his way. I had probably spent close to an hour talking to Adam individually over the course of the day but I believe that it was all worth it. If the event had been larger, I could not have comfortably done so, but given that Elliot had managed the floor well, I had the opportunity to make a player’s day much better.
I returned to the floor to watch the final match with just a few minutes left on the clock. It was two players who had almost no experience playing at competitive REL. I issued two cautions and three warnings within about 5 minutes. One player had accused his opponent of cheating three times. He kept stopping the match to accuse his opponents of various things from marked cards to improper shuffling. I told him to keep playing after debunking his accusations, and he kept stopping the game for irrelevant reasons. After I had given the players a 7th (!) time extension, I finally decided to pull the accusing player aside and let him know that I was monitoring the match for illegal actions and that if he falsely accused his opponent of another action in an attempt to get his opponent a penalty (which was his intention, as he even stopped playing until I answered his questions about how many penalties his opponent would need before he got a game loss), I would be issuing him a warning for unsporting conduct. In retrospect, I likely should have issued a USC-minor at some point, but I was unsure of the exact text of that section and I didn’t want to leave the table to reference the IPG given how the round had progressed.
Elliot had tried to get my attention during the whole endeavor, but I told him that I couldn’t do anything else other than watch this match, as it was holding up the tournament and was a mess in terms of the players’ understanding of the rules. Unfortunately for him, Elliot had the pleasure of trying to fix a regular REL two-headed giant draft side event in which the players had an extreme discrepancy in the number of cards drafted. I had confidence that Elliot could work through whatever situation had arisen, but I didn’t imagine it would have been quite that bad.
At this point, Elliot and I were both relatively exhausted. Luckily for us, the top 8 went extremely smoothly in comparison to the Swiss rounds. Working this event was a great event in terms of my growth as a judge, and I believe I handled things relatively well. There were a few points (the tardy in round two and the potential USC-minor in round 5) that could have been handled better, but it was a largely successful event. If you made it this far, thanks for reading, as this event was quite the roller-coaster of judge calls and interesting scenarios!