Location: Northbrook, IL
TO: Nerd Rage Gaming
Event: SCG 5k
Somehow when I applied for this event, I hadn’t considered how early it would require me to leave my house. With an 8:30 call time and a 3 hour drive I found myself waking up at 5:00am, something I hadn’t done in a very long time. The drive was very enjoyable, however. I met a fellow judge along the way so that we could take a single car. This also allowed us to have great judge conversation during the drive. I had planned to force him to help me study for my upcoming L2 test, but we got off topic and discussed the defined shortcut, “Combat?” for far too long. This has become one of my pet peeves, as it is used incorrectly by players more often than not and I have started taking every opportunity that I can to educate players.
We arrived at the venue early and delivered the coffee that my car mate had generously purchased for everyone. The judge meeting was quick and informative. We planned who was doing what, when everyone was on breaks and found out something that each of us was continuing to work on improving about ourselves. Since I had never done it before, I was assigned to leading the End of Round Procedure. This was a great opportunity for me to take on a bit more responsibility and learn new skills.
All the pre-tournament setup was done quickly, which left us with some time without much to do. I wandered amongst the players looking to answer any questions they might have. One player asked me a simple question about sleeving his deck. Then he asked another. And another. He further went on to tell me this was his first competitive tournament and he was a bit nervous. I congratulated him on being there and patiently answered all his questions. It was clear that this bit of extra attention went a long way towards making him comfortable and improving his overall experience. It also allowed me to correct a mistake that he almost made by having his Jace flip-cards sleeved the same as the rest of the deck while using checklist cards in the main deck. I saw the player later in the day and he thanked me again; it was clear he was having a great time. He did also end up in the cash, so it turned out to be a great first tournament for him.
As we were seating people for the player meeting, we ran into the first wrinkle. Apparently, two players were displaying in RTools as Unknown, Unknown. The HJ wisely gave everyone a minute to look over their decklists while the scorekeeper fixed the problem. The players ended up sitting at the player meeting a couple minutes longer than they would have needed to, but I feel certain they did not notice. The other option would have been to release them from the player meeting and let them mill about while the corrections were made. I feel that the HJ made the correct decision, as there is a lot less chance that players would wander off or crowd the pairings site if they remain seated.
Once things were underway, the tournament ran incredibly smoothly. My responsibility at End of Round was not only easy, but fun. While the scorekeeper was unable to print a list of outstanding matches, he would read off the numbers for me to write down. From there I directed the other judges which matches still needed someone to watch and collected information on where they were in turns or time extensions. The other judges were eager to get out there and that made this job easy.
We (the paper team) had been posting the pairings for each round by taping sheets of paper to the wall in two locations in the hall. This caused a slight bit of crowding around these postings. A few rounds in, we received a suggestion during the day that we separate each page of the pairings by a few feet to allow more people to look at any given time. It was a great suggestion and with the team leads approval we made the change immediately for the next round.
Throughout the entire day the atmosphere created by the HJ and the other floor judges made me feel extremely comfortable and really helped build my confidence. It was clear that the other judges were going out of their way to expose me to anything that could increase my knowledge. They would describe calls they made as judges normally do, but would also expand on the call with follow up questions and hypotheticals and asking me what rule or policy supported my ruling.They would also take the opportunity of any lulls in the action to ask me additional questions and examples to test and expand my knowledge. It was also very helpful that the attitude of all the judges was very positive and supportive. When I would ask any questions or want to explain my thought process, everyone was willing to listen and point out things that I had done well or could have done differently.
I was very glad that the HJ even selected me to watch the quarter and semi final matches along with another judge. I had done this at some of the smaller events that I had led, but never at an event of this size. My fellow judge and I discussed techniques for monitoring life totals, turns taken, and lands played. By monitoring this, we can avoid discrepancies and questions about whether certain actions had been taken. I came out of the event with a system I really like. As I normally would while playing, I record each players life total in a column. At the top I record who was on the play and any mulligans. On the inside of the columns I record a box for each turn and put an L in it for each land drop made. I start the downward side of the box when the turn starts and complete the horizontal line when the turn ends. This way I can determine how many turns were taken and how many lands were played. We should also be able to determine by looking at graveyards and effects how many cards the player should have in hand, although I may try to work this into my recording scheme at some point.
Throughout the day there were a few calls that were interesting or memorable:
My first call of the day came from a L3 that was playing in the tournament. He called a judge because during his previous turn he had played a Catacomb Sifter and put two scions into play (Catacomb Sifter puts one scion into play). He had then blocked with those scions, which traded with his opponent’s Siege Rhino. During the following turn, he realized the mistake. I asked both players what had happened, repeated what I had heard to confirm I understood correctly and ruled GPE:GRV and FtMGS. At this point, however, too many decisions had been made for a backup. I explained the ruling, what the rules allowed and why I would not be performing a backup. I had a chance to talk with the L3 between rounds to see if he had any feedback for how I handled this call. He said that everything was done correctly and appropriately, but I could have probably done a bit less explaining thereby shortening the time extension to less than the 4 min I had given.
Another table called me over because they were both confused as to where they were in the game state and what could be done. Player A had cast an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and declared his exile trigger targeting two lands belonging to Player N. Player N responded by tapping those lands for mana, exiling them to Ulamog’s trigger and casting Scatter to the Winds targeting Ulamog. At this point, Player A wanted to sacrifice his Sanctum of Ugin to search. Both players were unclear if this trigger had been missed. After asking a few questions, I ruled that the trigger had not been missed since all the actions were taken at instant speed before the trigger would have resolved. Player A is not required to acknowledge the trigger until it would have an effect on the game and therefore it was still quietly sitting on the stack waiting for its turn to resolve. Both players were very happy with the ruling and glad to know how triggers and the stack worked.
The next call could have been more difficult than it ended up being. I was called over by Player N because he believed that his opponent had missed is Anafenza, the Foremost’s +1/+1 counter trigger. He stated that his player had declared attacks, Player N had asked, “move to blocks?” and player A had said, “OK.” After this he stated that he had declared his blocks, player A had leveled his Warden of the First Tree and then declared the counter to be put onto his Warden. Player A claimed that he had not agreed to move to blocks and that he was still in declare attackers. I proceeded to ask more questions about exactly what was said and done in an effort to determine where were in the game. After questioning both players, I was pretty certain that Player N was correct and was about to rule that the trigger had been missed, when the player in the neighboring match spoke up. He confirmed that they had both agreed to move to blocks. This made my ruling very easy. I did speak with the HJ after the ruling to ask if I should have been more thorough in investigating whether Player A was possibly intentionally lying. She explained how players often get confused about the exact timing and sequence of events and unless I had a feeling that something inappropriate was happening, it was not necessary, but that we would keep an eye on things With this player throughout the day.
Later in the day I had a call from a younger player who realized after drawing his opening had that he had failed to de-sideboard. When I got there he looked extremely nervous and embarrassed. I thanked him for calling a judge and asked what had happened. It was immediately clear that he was nervous and embarrassed (I expect he hadn’t had many previous interactions with a judge), but that there was no malicious intent. He had simply been rushed in his previous match and forgotten. This, of course, was a Deck/Decklist Problem, which fit the downgrade path (no game actions had been taken). I told him not to worry but asked the players to sit tight for a moment while I consulted with the HJ. I explained the situation to the HJ and asked if she would approve the downgrade. She agreed and let me handle the remainder of the call. When I got back to the table the young player had laid out his entire sideboard, showing the cards that should have been taken out and put back into his deck. I quickly had him pick up his cards and explained that he did not need to show this information to his opponent. I then asked him to sit across the aisle with me so that I could give him a chance to calm down while we talked. I calmly explained the situation, the penalty, the downgrade and the fix and reiterated that this was an easy mistake to make. I continued that he should be more careful in the future, but I had no reason to believe he had intentionally done anything wrong and that he should try not to let this ruin his day.
The most contentious call of the day was my own fault. I was called because Player A had ultimated his Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and chosen to put a Jaddi Offshoot and a land into play. Player A claimed that he gained life with the Jaddi Offshoot trigger, while Player N claimed that Jaddi Offshoot would not trigger as both permanents entered simultaneously. For whatever reason I had a momentary memory lapse and couldn’t remember how it worked. I asked them to hold on while I went to check. When I came back with the correct answer (life is gained), Player N was quite upset. He said that he had played at GP Indianapolis and when he had done the exact same thing it had been ruled differently. He continued to say that he had even appealed and the HJ at GP Indianapolis upheld the fact that Jaddi Offshoot does not trigger in this situation. He also cited the fact that battle lands come into play tapped in this situation when entering along with two or more basics, further showing that things entering simultaneously do not see each other. I informed him that I had just checked with the HJ and I was certain the ruling was correct; he was, however, certainly welcome to appeal if he would like. He chose not to appeal. Between games, I took a bit more time to explain to him the difference between triggered abilities and replacement effects and the fact that triggered abilities of objects entering simultaneously will see each other, but that replacement effects do not and the reasons why. He still seemed somewhat unhappy about the situation, but was glad to have the additional information.
I was not directly involved in the most difficult call of the day, but it became a topic of discussion among all the judges. Player A had activated the loot ability of his Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and immediately drawn a card, without waiting for his opponent to respond. Player N called a judge and explained the situation, upon which both players agreed. The floor judge ruled that it was GRV for improperly resolving Jace’s ability and they would backup. Player N appealed. The HJ overturned the rule, because GRV is only used when there is not a more detailed infraction to apply. In this case, DEC was a more appropriate infraction. Everyone was in agreement with this, but the fix became the topic of conversation. Everyone also seemed in agreement that the ‘Thoughtseize fix’ should be applied, but should the Jace flip? Some judges thought that this was an “illegally played instruction”, which justified a backup. Others pointed to “Once this remedy has been applied, the player does not repeat the instruction (if any) that caused extra cards to be drawn.” In this situation, however, the instruction had only been partially completed. Does that sentence prevent you from completing the instruction, or simply instruct that the instruction should not be performed again? Ultimately the HJ ruled that the ‘Thoughtseize fix’ would be applied and the remaining Jace instructions would not be performed. This left a situation where player N did not feel the need to respond, as the Jace would not be flipping. After much thought and discussion, the HJ determined that she had ruled incorrectly and that the correct call was that Player A had drawn a card, which he shouldn’t have. This is DEC. The entire Jace ability should have been considered to be on the stack when he drew the card. So, after the ‘Thoughtseize fix’ had been applied and the penalty issued, the Jace ability should have been resolved (after giving Player N an appropriate chance to respond).
During the debrief we discussed how the day went and I thanked the HJ for making it such a great day for me. I learned a ton and had a great time. The only feedback I could give is that I was a bit unsure of exactly what the side events entailed. I fired a standard win-a-box and it took me a bit to figure out the logistics (untimed, single elimination, etc.). It was clear that everyone else had done this many times so they knew exactly what was going on. So, it was understandable that it was my responsibility to ask what I didn’t know.
We also talked about the fact that the TO had apparently forgotten to bring basic lands, which was discovered as the first draft was firing. The store was very close, so someone ran over there to get land stations. This delayed the matches for this event slightly and as a remedy the TO offered each drafter a free pack, which went a long way towards ensuring continued goodwill amongst the players. It didn’t hurt that one of them opened an expedition.
We discussed the above-mentioned Jace call. The HJ was great about using this as a learning experience for me. She explained the thought process on the original call, why it was wrong, why she overturned it and ultimately what the correct call should have been. It was also a good chance to explain how a difficult call should be handled in the context of an ongoing tournament and how mistakes should be handled. She explained how she had spoken with the impacted player later, explained the situation and apologized for her mistake. The player was very understanding and glad to know how things would work in the future.
The HJ explained a situation that I hadn’t seen where a player was complaining that one of the players in the top 8 had been caught for cheating, but still allowed to compete. She asked the player if she could speak with him once the top 8 was underway. Apparently one player had been cited as having marked cards because some cards were double-sleeved while others were in single sleeves. It seemed that all of the ‘expensive’ cards were sleeved, although they played very different roles in the deck. It did not seem like the player had done this on purpose, nor that there was an advantage to be gained. She talked me through the process she used with the player to explain the situation to him; clearly a cheating player would not continue to play in the event.
We finished the debrief by talking about how we were looking forward to the Judge Conference the following day and we hit the road home, where my car mate and I were too excited about stopping at Taco Bell.
I would like to thank all the judges at this event for making it a great learning experience for me. I was able to stand on my own and build my confidence, while knowing I had backup if I needed it.