PPTQ – Phoenix Comics & Games – Seattle, WA

Jason Stewart, Level 1, Seattle, Washington, United States

Jason Stewart, Level 1, Seattle, Washington, United States

Event: PPTQ for Pro Tour Vancouver
Date: February 7th, 2015
Venue: Phoenix Comics & Games in Seattle, WA
Players: 48
Rounds: 6 + Top 8
Head Judge: Joe Klopchic
Floor Judge: Jason Stewart (this one’s me)

A Last Minute Rush to (Pre)Register

As with many recent reports, this event was the first PPTQ for Phoenix Comics & Games on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. I was keeping in touch with the store owner prior to the event, monitoring the preregistration numbers to determine how many judges would be needed. This led to a very useful lesson: Magic players love waiting to the last possible minute! Two days before the event, the number of preregistered players was at 12 or so. By the time preregistration closed on the day before those numbers had grown to 45! Certainly a good bit of information to keep in mind when a store owner asks what to expect with preregistration.

The Event!

But of course you are here for the meat of such an event! The exciting narrative of dashing judges judging difficult tournaments! Unfortunately for such tales of daring do (but fortunately for the judges and the store) our event went quite smoothly, with few judge calls, fewer penalties, and overall a group of players that generally were the kind of players I hope to see at every Magic event.

The PPTQ started on time, with only a couple players checking in at the very last minute (after the event’s posted ‘start time’) Of those players there were two penalties for tardiness due to not having decklists filled out when we came around to collect them, as they did not come with decklists pre-filled. Otherwise the event started without issue. Joe handled decklist counting and deck checks during the event, while I began the rounds by preparing and passing out match slips and then remained available to answer judge calls and keep an eye on the games.

One interesting feature of this particular store is the location of the printer. Due to space restrictions the only printer is in the back office. And due to an unusual path to get from the store to the bathroom (it is a share bathroom with the other stores in the building) many players have wandered from the store into the back office in search of relief. This has led to theft in the past, so the office door, and thus the printer room, is kept locked. A key was made available to the judges so we could get in and out to get the printouts, but it was something I hadn’t seen at other stores in the past.

As mentioned before, this group of players was generally quite competent and enjoyable to judge for, and the only penalties I issued were from dexterity errors resulting in a couple of Looking at Extra Cards and a couple of GPE/FTMGS pairs that were completely harmless. There is a tiny part of me that wishes I had a great story of a complicated judge call that will have everybody debating things for days, but the rest of me (the more sensible part of me that knows better than to ask for problems) is very pleased that there were no difficult issues of any sort.

Top 8

Most of the players in contention for Top 8 by the end of round 4 understood how to figure out if drawing was beneficial or when they needed to play. The judges stayed close at hand in case of issue but thankfully most of those players in contention are the sort of regular players that have a good respect for the rules. There were no issues of bribery, and some players very kindly helped other players work out what record they would need to have a good shot at Top 8, where they could have improved their own chances by not explaining such things. I am really pleased with the quality of the majority of this store’s regular competitive players. Top 8 blitzed past, with generally fast rounds and all players willing to begin the next round early.

The event finished on time, possibly even early. I was very pleased that Joe complimented me on helping the event stay on time by understanding what needed to happen for the event to move forward (look up Critical Path theory for more information on this). I don’t wish to be immodest, but I want to make mention of this because in turn I want to thank the judge that trained me for L1, Chris Davis at Channel Fireball, as I feel I owe some of my understanding of how and why to keep events moving to him and the other judges leading CFB’s prereleases.

Notable Issues

While there were no difficult issues, a few interesting ones did come to light. I’ve separated them out for (hopefully) easier reading.

(1) One small point of note is that we had a player who, as an Orthodox Jew, could not sign her match slip under the tenets of her religion, Saturday being their Sabbath. This caused no problems at all, and we just had her call a judge to mark the match slip and verify the match result when finished with each round.

(2) One issue I addressed was a player that didn’t understand the rules. I seem to have taken it for granted that at a PPTQ people would have a certain rules knowledge level, and so I was a bit surprised that at a PPTQ I found myself having to explain why a creature with a toughness reduced to zero still died even though it had a regeneration shield. I think it took me a moment to find a way to explain it properly. The difficult part of this was trying to be careful to explain things clearly without taking too long and holding up the game or giving away any information. While I really value being able to educate players and help them to improve, I know that the middle of a Competitive REL event is not the time for a rules lesson. I did make a mistake of saying “state-based action” more than once in this discussion, which while accurate in hindsight I realized it made the explanation more complicated for a player that already doesn’t understand the game details than it needed to be. After this I discussed with HJ Joe some better ways for me to phrase things to help a player understand.

(3) Another issue that came up is a perfect example of how observant judges can help save players from innocent mistakes that could result in game losses. In this situation I was watching a match, and the player in question had his sideboard in his box, a normal play area, and then a few other cards on the table to the side. While I was watching the player began using sleeved basic lands with sticky notes on them as tokens. The lands were mountains and he was playing Green-Black, but this is still not allowed. I picked up some extra tokens from the store owner (who keeps plenty around) and asked the player to swap out the lands for those tokens. He went to put the lands back in his deckbox, and here is where I could help prevent potential future penalties. I stopped him and briefly explained the rule about keeping cards not part of deck/sideboard in the deckbox, which he didn’t know, and he put the basic lands into his bag instead. The process took at most a minute and a half, and yet he will now probably avoid penalties at any Comp REL events he goes to in the future if he gets deck-checked. I now better understand what Lems has said about helping players (Throw Lifelines – Not Dice) and while this is less major than DQs, it still is a positive for everybody involved. It feels a whole lot better knowing you may have helped a player avoid some penalties than it feels to be issuing those penalties or to ‘get’ a player.

(4) This didn’t come up as an issue during the event, but rather a conversation held after it. The store owner, another store employee, HJ Joe, and I had a discussion about whether or not a player had play materials (playmat, deckbox, sleeves, etc) that were inappropriate enough to merit penalty under the Unsportsmanlike Conduct rules. I really understand how hard this can be now. I don’t want to describe the items, as the specifics are not the point here, but rather how we determine if things are going too far. For this particular situation we decided that unless a player had a problem it wasn’t enough for us to step in on our own. Some things we considered was the nature of the venue (in this case a comic shop that sells items for both younger and mature readers), the age of players present (as far as I know we had no one under 18 in the tournament), the behavior of the player in question, and how other players seemed to react around them. I feel that if players appear uncomfortable that is enough to look further into it, even if nobody comes to bring the issue to our attention. Thankfully we didn’t have that issue this time, but it was borderline.

The End

Thank you to Joe for his help, advice, and enjoyable attitude at the event. Thank you to Phoenix Comics and Games and store owner Nick for providing a store that wants to encourage a positive Magic experience for everybody at all his events. And of course, thank you to Magic players everywhere for playing the game I love to judge.

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