Here’s the scene: The players meeting is about to start. HJ Jason Flatford looks like a stalwart warrior on the stage waiting for the clock to tick down to start time, and I’m standing at the end of a table, itching to collect decklists, when I notice something I’ve never seen before. A player with a handheld HD video camera, recording the player across from him. It caught me off guard, so I passed by to listen in. From what I could tell, it sounds kind of like an impromptu interview. Just then, Patrick Vorbroker began his welcome announcement and the camera man promptly put his camera away. I made a note of it and, after the players meeting, went and told Patrick about what I saw. He told me to alert him if I saw him recording again.
So imagine my surprise and simultaneous dismay when I caught the camera guy walking up and down the tables panning past matches with his camera out and recording. What happened next? Keep reading to find out. 🙂
This was a day of firsts for me, as the title says. To say that I learned a lot would be a gross understatement. I felt like I grew as a Judge more so than any other time previously, even surpassing events like GP: ATL and DragonCon. It truly was one of the best Judging experiences I’ve ever had. So let’s get into my report!
My First Appeal:
Midway through Round 2, players call for a Judge literally right in front of me, which made for a few chuckles from the players. AP is attacking with two Monastery Swiftspears and a Goblin Guide. The trigger from Goblin Guide was resolved properly, both players agree. Before damage, the NAP cast Lightning Bolt targeting the Goblin Guide. In Response, AP casts Deflecting Palm and chooses the Lightning Bolt.
See the issue? Well, Deflecting Palm says, in part, “The next time a source of your choice would deal damage to you this turn…” and the reason I was called is that the AP believed that, since it specifically says damage to him, that Deflecting Palm can only choose damage being dealt to him, and he should get the card back. My ruling was that, Lighting Bolt was a legal choice for Deflecting Palm. However, since Lightning Bolt is dealing the damage to Goblin Guide, Deflecting Palm will not prevent it and subsequently damage the opponent. the Swiftspears will still get their prowess trigger.
The opponent looked at the board, looked at me, then back at the board, and said nothing. I could see the combination of confusion and disappointment on his face, so I proactively offered the option to appeal. He thought for a brief second more and said he would like to. I had them pause while I tracked down the HJ, who was busy on a separate appeal, so Casey Brefka (L3) was given temporary authority to take my call. I explained the call to him and he agreed with my ruling, and went to the match and upheld my call with a brief explanation as to why the Deflecting Palm was not illegal.
TAKE AWAY: Personally, I feel as if I could have done a better job giving my initial ruling, explaining on why the Deflecting Palm wasn’t illegal. But, I also want the players to have the best play experience, even if that means taking a little extra time to make sure the ruling is correct and to give the players an assurance that we are here to serve them.
My First Match Loss:
Two rounds later, I am walking down the table rows talking with another Judge, when I observe the following: A player is shuffling his card in-between games, leans back, pulls his phone out of his pocket, types something into the bar and then access the MTG Reddit site. Reads for a second, and puts the phone back in his pocket.
I instantly went to find the HJ and report this. I found HJ Jason Flatford and Casey Brefka talking together when I explained what I saw. Flatford directed Brefka to conduct the investigation, and we walked back to the table and talked to the player away from the match (they were still shuffling for the next game). The player looked at his phone because he had a question about Deflecting Palm (go figure) and wanted to look it up on his phone to prevent his opponent from learning the question he wanted to ask. Casey and I shared a look. You can imagine what the look said. We asked to look at the post he accessed, and it was indeed a Reddit discussing Deflecting Palm. We sent him back to the table while Casey ran this past Jason Flatford, as this was constituting an Outside Assistance infraction. When Casey returned, he informed the player, away from the table, that he was receiving a penalty for Outside Assistance, and was receiving a match loss.
TAKE AWAY: The main thing here was if it was possible for the player to have access to strategic information. The Reddit was in fact a ruling-esque post. However, my reasoning was that ANYONE could have written that, it it wasn’t in an official capacity. It was also evident that there could very well be information on how to play the card on Reddit, which is what led to the penalty.
The Toughest Call I’ve Ever Taken
We are now winding down on the day, and I take a Judge call nearing the end of round 8. I walk up to the game and the board is covered in cards. Here are the essentials. NAP controls an Essence Warden. AP cast Phantasmal Image choosing to enter as a copy of Master of Waves. Players agree that the first trigger has been missed. AP goes to put 6 Elemental tokens into play (from the Phantasmal Image/Master of Waves) and picks up his hand to figure out his next line of play. NAP then points to the tokens and says, “I gain 6.” AP said that he missed his triggers because he didn’t point out the triggers when the tokens came on the field. In my investigation, both players agreed that between the tokens entering and the “gain 6” comment was a few second apart, no game actions had taken place and no game advancement either. Then, the AP said that if the triggers were not missed, he wanted to respond…to the first trigger, the one originally missed.
I had the players take me step by step the actions so I could get the clearest picture as to what happened and gave my ruling: First trigger has been missed, both players agree so it is missed. NAP has demonstrated awareness in enough time for the second set of triggers to happen and therefore go on the stack. AP can respond to those triggers. Again, I offered the appeal because of the board state and the AP wanting to respond to a dead trigger. He took it.
Found HJ Jason Flatford and explained the situation to him. We discussed for a brief moment and he agreed with my ruling. He went and upheld my ruling to the players and explained that the AP has moved past a point where he could have responded to the missed trigger, so he couldn’t respond to that one.
TAKE AWAY: This call was a long one for me. Pushing 10-11 minutes long. I will not lie and be honest: This one intimidated me. I did not do a good job controlling the call, as Flatford discussed with me after the event was over for the day. To be able to direct the flow of conversation and to control the call overall is a skill, something I need to work on more. Experience helps, but I will focus on being more directive in the flow of conversation. I let the players get ahead of me on this one. Note taken!
What I Screwed Up
”Let me read the Lavamancer, make sure I understand it…*reads*…ok, it will not. Grim Lavamancer says it deals the damage, and when it tries to deal the damage it’s no longer on the battlefield to do so.“
Well, this was wrong. Flatford came up to me several minutes later, telling me a player had come to him about the call, and I instantly knew what I had screwed up. Allow me to quote from 608.2b: ”…If the source of an ability has left the zone it was in, its last known information is used during this process.“ Grim Lavamancer should have dealt the two damage, even though Path to Exile sent it packing. The players were done with their match, and I could not locate the player to apologize to him personally. It was a call I just went stupid in that moment for.
TAKE AWAY: 608.2b. Also, in order to provide the best experience to a player, take the extra time to double-check. Confidence is one thing, but asking for help is never wrong either.
All in all, the day was great! Lot’s of great people to work with, and I want to give a shout out to the entire Judge staff for such a great experience. Special thanks to Casey Brefka and Jason Flatford for taking my appeals and the wisdom you two provided throughout the day!
Oh, and that camera kid?
I stopped him and told him I needed to direct him to customer service. I found Patrick Vorbroker and we both went to talk with the player and asked why he was filming.
He traveled with a large group of friends from a college in Pennsylvania. They were all part of the college’s MTG club, and he wanted to do a film project about what Magic really is about. He said there was a stereotype of the ”fat nerd” and he wanted to try and show those people the competitive side of things, that it was in fact a game that brings all sorts of people together.
After his explanation, Patrick said a few points about filming permissions and how SCG has a system in place to give people media permissions…and then Patrick paused and called for Cedric Phillips. He explained to Cedric about the player and what he was doing, and asked if he could get a media badge for him. Cedric shrugged and said it was totally fine. So Patrick handed this player a fully sanctioned media pass to allow him to continue his project for school.
This is customer service at its finest, and I could not be more proud at that point to wear a SCG shirt. I talked with that player and his group of friends later in the event. It was their first big event, ever, and they were having a blast. I’m happy to have met them and for giving them an experience they’ll never forget.
(Sorry it’s so long!)