‘A Tale of the Quest for Knowledge’ – A GPT London Tournament Report

Theodoros Millidonis, Level 1, Nicosia, Cyprus

Theodoros Millidonis, Level 1, Nicosia, Cyprus

Event: GPT London/Standard
Date: May 30th 2015
Location: Isengard Fantasy Store
Players/Rounds: 12 Players/5 Rounds Swiss/Cut to top 4
HJ: Theodoros Millidonis
FJ: Rami Abdo


I woke up on the morning of Grand Prix Trial London and said to myself: ‘Finally! The time has come for me to Head Judge my first ever Competitive REL event!’

Before heading out from home, I gave my close friend and co-judge for the day Rami Abdo a quick call in order for us to lay down the game plan and then I was on my way to pick him up. We walked into the store about fifteen minutes before registrations were due to begin and helped the store manager set the tables up for the event.

And so it began… I had only just been bestowed with the title Level One Paladin of the Sacred Judges Order after passing the trials, and yet I would already be setting out on an exciting journey, wandering into wild lands and encountering savage monsters…The quest: discovering the mythical Knowledge Pool, gifting all who behold it wisdom and clarity beyond any bounds or measures previously known! All but a tiny initial step on the perilous path to excellence prescribed by the Sacred Judges Order. A step that all Level One Paladins were destined to take in their early months of servitude. Thankfully I would not venture on this journey alone.

Waving the barkeep goodbye, I closed the tavern door behind me and pulled the hood of my cloak over my head to shield my eyes from the morning sun and dusty steppe wind.

Start of the Event

Players gradually began coming in and we had twelve registrations which was quite a satisfactory number for a GPT on the Cyprus competitive scene. We were also happy to see a new face at the store playing in his very first competitive event!

I myself was feeling pretty excited to be head judging a competitive event. Even though I had considerable experience judging at Regular REL for the past three years or so, and also assisting as a floor judge in some competitive events prior to this one, there was just a different feeling to being the head judge. I suddenly realized that I felt a tremendously heavier sense of responsibility weighing down on my shoulders.

My companion and I had been lumbering along the dusty trail connecting the little village we had left behind us to our destination: the Maze of Ith, where the Knowledge Pool surely lay hidden deep in the midst of the fabled labyrinth. Taking a moment to survey the horizon, realization that my quest had now taken me into wild lands away from the safety and comfort of the village tavern swiftly flooded in. I wrapped my cloak tightly around me against the wind and clutched the hilt of my sword as I looked upon my companion. He had been on this journey before, and I could see it in the confidence beaming out from his eyes.

I could feel a presence tightening its grip around us. As we were venturing further out into the wilds, the enemies we would undoubtedly face started sluggishly preying upon us from the shadows, rearing their ugly heads at us…

Prior to the event, the store had advertised a five round event for the swiss portion followed by a cut to top four based on the current attendance figures. I began the event without manually adjusting the amount of swiss rounds from four (which was the default) to five, and then when I made the announcement to the players that we would be playing a four round event followed by a cut to top four, they were quick enough to correct me. I promptly apologized, continued with the announcements all the while saying to myself that we could just change the number of rounds manually on the software and then everything would be all right. When I peeked over my shoulder I noticed my co-judge Rami Abdo bearing down on the computer with a not-so-reassuring expression on his face. And then I really knew there was a problem.

Slowly crawling out of the shrub by the trail was the first of many beasts we encountered; a massive slithering creature which goes by the name Greater Basilisk! It was not long before it was making its assault! With an unnatural spring in its step and a deafening hiss, it pounced forward and charged my companion…

Round 1

I instructed the players to start the round in order to be on time – keeping to procedure, while in the meantime I intended to solve the issue with the WER. If we wouldn’t be able to figure out how to manually change the rounds duration by the end of round one, I would make the announcement in between rounds. I was trying to manually delete the current number of rounds, but the software would not let me do that because apparently it needs to have a value entered in the field containing the number of rounds at all times. We actually contemplated on just allying with the WER and going along with the four rounds instead of five, even though I was not too happy about that. I generally consider it very bad practice to advertise something and then offer players something else since it completely undermines the important quality of credibility.

‘Watch out!!’ I shouted towards my fellow Level One Paladin and then turned to face the fast approaching monster, its ugly head still rearing and its gaze now firmly fixed on my seemingly diminishing self – confidence. More basilisks now started surfacing from the shrub and overwhelming us. We were vastly outnumbered. Facing a standstill, bruised and wounded, and deciding these were forces greater than we could reckon with, we started retreating cautiously.

I find that Round Ones are always crazy and messy! The store is always most packed during round one of an event, players are most nervous at the beginning of an event, most judge calls will have to be made at this time, and the atmosphere is mostly just hectic.

Judge Calls: Two judge calls were made in a match between two newer players to competitive Magic:

1. A casts Athreos, God of Passage and N tries to counter it with Negate. I ruled that while on the stack, Athreos counts as all types listed on the card and therefore Negate cannot be used to counter it.

2. A casts Genesis Hydra for X=4 and N tries to counter it with Disdainful Stroke. The floor judge rules that while on the stack, Genesis Hydra’s converted mana cost is six, so Disdainful Stroke will indeed counter it.

Penalty: A warning was issued to a player for revealing the top card of his library to Courser of Kruphix’s ability, even though the courser had died the previous turn.

While watching a match between two quite inexperienced players, the following situation came up: Player A who controlled Elspeth, Sun’s Champion activated her -3 ability: Destroy all creatures with power 4 or greater. N who indeed controlled a creature with power 4, cast Gods Willing targeting it, obviously with the intention to prevent his creature from dying. I asked the players if the stack had resolved, and then proceeded to instruct them that N’s creature has to be put into his graveyard as state based actions are checked, followed by an explanation of how protection works.

We also did an initial check on decklists, counting up the numbers of the cards. There were two decklists that caught my attention: one where the number of copies of one and 2-ofs could not be easily distinguished due to bad handwriting, and the other where the player had left some sideboard cards without a number of copies attached to them. I initially assumed that those were just 1-ofs but definitely wanted to perform a deck check to make sure.

Round 2

Before the round began I assumed my most serious demeanor in preparation for the announcement I was about to make to players regarding me messing up the number of rounds of the event and not being able to fix it. No sooner than half a minute after I had finished making the announcement and apologizing to the players, the store organizer and my co-judge informed me that with the help of one of the players who also happens to be a judge and has strong knowledge of the WER, they were able to change the number of rounds. How??: by highlighting the number 4 in the cell and just typing 5 over it, instead of trying to delete it in order to enter the new rounds duration subsequently.

For crying out loud! That left me feeling pretty silly.

OK, time to assume my serious demeanor once again and revoke my previous announcement. The players laughed it off and proceeded with their games, but admittedly the situation with the software and mix-up of the rounds had me a little frustrated and I found myself trying to retain my composure.

With the lizards now swarming us it seemed like only a miracle would save us. And behold, galloping through from the direction of the village appeared three horsemen, the rising sun behind them, their glorious charge quickly dispersing the sordid scaly bodies that had us surrounded.

In a dreadful moment, one of the horsemen hit the dirt with a deep thud. The last remaining greater basilisk had managed to claw him down from his mount in its death throes, fatally wounding him. With the beasts dispatched, four of us were left standing on the dusty trail, one lay in the dirt taken for dead. His companions rushed to his body anxiously and tried desperately to revive him. After a few endless moments was heard the triumphant cry of joy:

‘We have contrived a healing spell!’

The fifth one had risen once again, and the monsters that had felled him now lay dead in the ditch. Bloodied and battered, I clenched my fists and turned to the setting sun glinting off the outer towers of the Maze of Ith in the distance.

Mid Round Deck Check: Feeling a slight sense of accomplishment after our Pyrrhic victory over the WER, I now turned towards the tables only to realize that all the matches had already started, and we would have to perform the deck check mid round. Rami suggested that we first focus on the decklist with the missing number of copies of cards as that one was the most problematic. Upon examining the pairings for the round, I determined that the owner of the decklist was paired with an opponent whose match had gone into additional turns during the first round of the event due to his high end-heavy mono green deck. I thereby advised on turning our attention to the other dubious decklist we had encountered. It would be wiser to leave this one for later since the slower nature of his opponent’s deck would probably force the match into additional turns again with the additional time needed for the deck check.

Our target in sight, we waited till game one was over, my judging partner collected the decks and we were ready to begin our deck check. We were applying the methodology I had invented in a previous event and had shared it with Rami during that event. He has made a forum post about it, which you can find here:

Mid-Round Deck-Check system

The deck check itself went OK with the only exception being that some of the cards in one of the decks were facing opposite directions. Upon further examination I didn’t find any suspicious pattern amongst the cards that were turned upside – down and the player was instructed that it is a better practice for all cards to be facing the same way from now on.

While I was watching a match with Rami, he happened to notice an error and pointed it out to the players. A player cast Genesis Hydra, revealing Nylea’s Disciple which he chose to put onto the battlefield with the hydra’s ability. When he was counting devotion, he also included the two green of Genesis Hydra, but Rami pointed out to him that since the hydra is not on the battlefield yet as the disciple enters, its mana cost did not add to the devotion count.

Round 3

We carried out a beginning of the round deck check in order to examine the second suspicious decklist we had encountered. It was confirmed that the cards with no number of copies written next to them were indeed one 1-ofs. The player was reminded to write down the number of copies of each card in his deck for future decklists. With the players settling down and initial tension dying out, there were no more substantial rulings questions and this offered the perfect opportunity for us to gobble up a couple of tasty sandwiches at the judges table!

Having in mind the large amount of rulings questions that came from matches between the newer players in the first two rounds of the event, I advised the floor judge to keep an eye on matches where both opponents were relatively new to competitive Magic in order to ensure rules issues would be dealt with quickly as they emerged.

After our skirmish with the basilisks, we gratefully parted with the three fateful horsemen and set up camp in a sheltered alcove on the cliff side. An alluring oasis under the setting sun amidst the barren saltcrusted steppe surrounding our journey’s end. Full belly, warm fire and a chance for two adventurers to rest their weathered bones for the night.

Round 4

A very interesting rules question came up from an attendee not taking part in the event.

‘What happens if I have Dragonlord Silumgar who has taken my opponent’s Athreos, God of Passage, and then my opponent kills Silumgar? Will Athreos’s ability trigger and will I be able to return Silumgar to my hand unless my opponent pays three life?’

This had us pondering for a while, and I leave it here for you to muse over it as well!

With the first rays of the morning sun chasing away the night’s chill, we set out towards the walls of the great maze. It was not long before we stood in front of its impressive cryptic gateway. I quietly uttered the keyword known only to those meant to gain passage inside the labyrinth, and with a deep rumble the way to knowledge unlocked itself to me.

Round 5

There were a couple of rather simple rulings I had to make and was amazed to see that I was second guessing myself. It was areas of the rules that I definitely had a firm grasp on, but I think the uncertainty I experienced was because of the fact that I was possibly a bit overwhelmed by head judging at competitive for the first time. I came to realize that this is an area where I needed tremendous improvement: a firm grasp of the rules and being able to make the right ruling in practice. Which is definitely something that comes with practice.

The swiss rounds concluded and we were now ready to move onto the knockout stage.

One must be prepared for the challenges that await in the midst of the maze. Every corridor a trap, every turn a challenge, every crossroad a dilemma. Finally I stood before the imposing luminous guardian I knew I would face. In order for a traveler to be granted access to the chamber containing the revered Knowledge Pool, one must confront the guardian, withstand its piercing presence and answer three questions. Being sure that I was giving the wrong answers, I spoke them anyway… To my amazement, the ethereal image of the guardian dissipated into thin air and the Knowledge Pool came into view!

Top 4

This part of the event went smoothly since the four players involved were quite experienced in competitive play. A couple of us were left at the store, watching the very interesting final match and with that the event concluded.

I was finally beholding the pool, my journey at its end. Bathing in its holy light to purify my soul, I knew that I was now ready to walk the planes, proudly exercising the laws of the Sacred Judges Order.

Lessons Learned:

1. Always check all details prior to making beginning-of-event announcements regarding number of players, rounds and prizes.

2. If you know the local player base well always make sure to spot the newer players, and if two of them happen to be playing against each other, it is a good idea to have a judge monitor the match.

3. The WER has many intricacies but also many areas where further fixes are needed. Keep informing Wizards regarding issues that come up, no matter how foolish or trivial they might seem, just like in our case. After all, it is all a matter of the software being user friendly, especially in the heat of an event.

4. The early rounds of smaller sized competitive events in small stores are the most hectic so the judge needs to be at their best, with later rounds becoming considerably quieter.

5. Prior to a standard event, a judge should read up on all the key card interactions that are common within the metagame, as there are bound to be rulings questions about those interactions.

6. Every event should be used as an opportunity to discover areas of weakness and actively commit to improving those. Judges are not machines, they are bound to make mistakes and it is not by shunning these mistakes but by embracing them and truly understanding them that one can actually improve.


If I had to use one word to sum up the experience following my first ever Head Judging of a Competitive REL Event, I would have to say ‘purifying’. I have been left with quite a few issues to consider regarding areas I could improve in. This just makes the wait for the next judging opportunity I will have all the more exciting.

Mortighaar is my name. Level One Paladin of the Sacred Judges Order.

Editor’s note: Please feel free to leave comments and feedback on the Judge Apps forums too!

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