Two-day events have historically been disastrous for me, and mostly because of myself: Not staying hydrated, not eating enough, not taking enough breaks, and not getting enough sleep, though that last one is often out of my control. So as Eternal Weekend approached and things started to go wrong such as my ride disappearing and some things going wrong with procuring a hotel room, I got increasingly nervous. Then, extremely last minute, some fortunate things happened: There was a Yu-Gi-Oh event in the same venue and I was able to get a ride with some of the players, and I met a friend at the Eternal Weekend who had a room by himself and was willing to split it. He also didn’t have to wake up early, so I was able to get ready in the morning without interference. I also made it a goal to drink a bottle of water per round. This didn’t pan out exactly, but I was pretty close.
The first day, I was on the WMCQ. This was great for me; I like structure at events rather than the chaos of side events. I was on the paper/end-of-round team. While I was hesitant about cutting match slips at first, it turned out that the paper cutter was actually sharp. I’m used to dealing with paper cutters that are basically as good as taking a butter knife to the paper, but we could actually have half the stack in the cutter at one time.
As expected from a Standard event, there weren’t many interesting calls. A player cast Encrust, then called me over to ask if it was a legal card for the format. (It was the M13 version and he didn’t know if it was in M15). A judge conferred with me about a circumstance where a player activated an ability and drew a card, then realized that’s not how the card worked. Unfortunately I second-guessed myself and said it was a GRV instead of Drawing Extra Cards. I should have gone with my first instinct.
I actually really enjoy the end of round procedures. What judge doesn’t want to get a round over with as quickly as possible? Chasing down outstanding tables is fun, and I get to sit down and watch some matches.
Speaking of watching matches, I wanted to talk about what I call “zombie mode”. I don’t know how many other judges experience this, but there’s a point in nearly every tournament where I enter “zombie mode”. I’m sitting there looking at people play Magic, but I’m not WATCHING them play Magic. I usually snap out of it when a spectator points out that the players have committed an infraction. It makes me feel useless when I’ve just sat there and “watched” a player do something totally wrong and have to assess a penalty because a spectator basically did my job for me. A break usually fixes this, but I’ve not been able to stop it from happening at large events when I’m tired – even at this event, where I made it a point to take better care of myself. I might need to plan my breaks out a little better next time and maybe take a ten minute break here and there to refocus.
The second day, I was on the Vintage Champs. Obviously more complex than Standard, there were a few interesting calls/challenges:
– Players wanted to come with us whenever we did our deck checks. For some reason, they weren’t comfortable handing $20,000 to a complete stranger to take behind a curtain out of their sight. The head judge decided to allow this, and the players were happy.
– Floor coverage was pretty light all day; I tried to fill in spots where I saw a lack of coverage, but of course there were times where I went to a poorly covered location and then looked up two minutes later to see a sea of black shirts on my position. Could assigned “sectors” or some kind of organization help this? It sounds like a good idea on paper, but in reality, judges will need to be all over the floor because of multiple calls, other judges running off to grab some water or to the bathroom, etc.
– We were told to keep the aisles clear of spectators because of the high value of the cards involved. I don’t feel like we did as good a job at this task as we should have, myself included; but I also didn’t think it mattered too much. At the higher tables, there was a huge section where spectators were allowed, and they grouped up there to watch the important matches. They were also allowed on the edges of the tournament, and they crowded there as well. Any of those people could snatch a card, accidentally spill a drink, or anything else that the rule was put in place to prevent. I think that the only rule that would do what we want would to be have a totally roped off area where players must stand behind after they finished their match.
– The rules for Serum Powder seem to be hazy. A player was told this by the head judge: Each player, starting with the first player, chooses whether they want to mulligan. Then each player simultaneously mulligans. So far, so good. The head judge told him that he needed to decide to use Serum Powder when it’s his turn to say whether or not he’s mulliganing, and this part was opposite from what the player was told at another event. It’s an obscure card and the only card that messes with the mulligan structure.
– The only player disagreement I had all weekend was in the X-4 bracket in the Vintage Champs. Player A had a Wasteland and Crucible of Worlds. Player B had a Tormod’s Crypt. Player A used his Wasteland to blow up Player B’s land. Then there was a disagreement over when Player B was using his Tormod’s Crypt. Player A said that Player B put his land in the yard, then said “Actually, in response…”. Player B said he was doing it before his land went to his yard. Player B never tried to argue Player A’s point that he’d put his land into his graveyard, and indeed, Player B’s land was below Tormod’s Crypt in his yard – so I ruled that Player B’s Tormod Crypt was still in play, and Player A had priority (with which he was going to play his Wasteland from his graveyard). There was no appeal.
This was a huge achievement for me. I hate confrontation, and I especially hate “he said, she said” situations when judging. In the past, I’ve let players argue amongst themselves for too long because I’m afraid to step in. It never solves the issue, of course, and often I’ve had to get my team lead or head judge involved. This time, I was able to control the situation and give a ruling that both players accepted without worrying about who would be angry at me and appeal.
– ALL of the decks I personally checked had the same sleeves. When I remarked to players about this, they said that KMC Hyper Matte Black sleeves were renowned as the best sleeves, which is why most of the players were using them. I was worried that this would lead to players accidentally shuffling stolen (in-game, not like “get the police involved” stealing) cards into their decks. We never caught it, but I overheard a player realizing he’d shuffle a Mox Ruby stolen with Dack Fayden into his deck and thankfully give it back to his opponent before they presented.
– My advice to Vintage judges: The format revolves almost entirely on “you can’t do that!” effects. Sphere of Resistance, Trinisphere, Pithing Needle, Grafdigger’s Cage, Containment Priest, etc. When you’re watching a match, look at everything in play, and look at all the cards in players’ hands that you can see. Keep track of what can be played and how much mana it will cost when it’s cast right now. If a player is casting a spell in Vintage and they’re paying the card’s actual mana cost, chances are someone’s doing something wrong. That last part is a little tongue-in-cheek, but it’s not entirely false.
– Some things that happened that I wasn’t used to, but weren’t a big deal at all: We didn’t count decklists at all, which let us do a first round deck check. This was the first event that I personally didn’t walk around collecting decklists. We also did a last round deck check, where in most tournaments my goal has been to watch for collusion instead of checking decks.
– In the last round’s deck check, a player’s deck was different from his submitted list by at least fifteen cards. He was at one of the top tables, though not in the running for top 8. This player was a friend of mine, and his brother had mentioned to me earlier in the day that they were both playing Terra Nova (a form of Workshops/Stax). The name of the deck archetype on this player’s list was Martello, which is a different form of Shops. Since I knew how the brothers playtest together, I also knew that they intended to play the same deck, so I didn’t suspect any foul play. Talking to the player, it turned out that he accidentally submitted the Martello list that he was used to playing but had days ago decided was a bad metagame call.
There are too many judges and Card Titan staff members for me to thank in this tournament report. I had a great time and felt very welcome among the judges, even though I rarely judge big events. Everyone was extremely nice, and this was the first two day event in a long while where I didn’t want it to end.