Greetings to you all, fellow judges, interested readers!
This is my first tournament report, one that I hope will offer some of you a bit of learning material. I’ve read several tournament reports in my spare time and the way I see it, their main purpose is to spread useful information to other judges, so they may learn of situations they haven’t encountered yet. Sort of an extra library of knowledge that goes beyond the limits of official documents and blog articles.
I will try to include in this report mostly important information I think would be useful for you.
Event: Prague Eternal 4 (Prague Eternal 2016 1st)
Location: Centrum pohybové medicíny, Pyšelská 4, Prague-Prague 11, Czech Republic
Date: March 11-13, 2016
Day 1 (Friday)
Tournaments: Legacy Trial, Vintage Main
Total Number of Players: 61
Head Judge(s): Jakub Roh (L2) (Legacy Trial), Jiri Kubos (L1) (Vintage Main)
Floor Judge(s): Dominika Knapová (L1), Max Tiedemann (L1), David Záleský (L2), Jiri Kubos (L1)
You may notice that I was not officially part of the staff on this day. Actually I wasn’t even standby. Since I traveled to the city on Thursday, I decided to be on site and mainly spectate, write notes, maybe help with scorekeeping if needed.
First important point of this day was: never underestimate the power of preparation!
When I entered the venue, the tables were already set up with table numbers, judge station and vendor tables were also prepared neatly. Sound system was also tested and ready to go. There was just one hiccup: printer setup. Setting up the printer delayed the opening of the registrations by 30 minutes. It wasn’t really a big problem, but could’ve been avoided I guess.
Additionally, a logistical reorganization required us to manually match and re-enter results from the 1st round.
In most tournaments these kind of problems usually happen, as far as I’ve heard. Nonetheless, I believe they can be avoided with more careful planning. Though I suppose that would be “extra planning”, because these were issues we were able to handle with relative swiftness without significant disruption to the tournament.
Throughout the day there were just a few interesting situations I observed or heard of:
In the beginning of the 1st round, there was an HCE problem where the player decided to mulligan after scrying. We had to review Toby’s blog post to correctly handle this problem, which took a few minutes. Basically the procedure outlined in the article was the fix used in this scenario as well. The player had 6 cards in hand and he decided to mulligan to 5. The opponent could’ve chosen those 5 for him, but the shortcut to mulligan to 4 was chosen instead.
Still in the 1st round, a dispute over an ability activation arose at a table. Player “A” was activating Wirewood Symbiote and was deciding which elf to return to his hand. He had the cards from his hand in front of him, face down. He turned one of the elves on the field face down but didn’t put it to the cards in his hand. He turned it back up and wanted to choose another elf. The opponent argued that he shouldn’t be allowed to change his decision. The way he saw it, player “A” chose an elf to return to his hand. They called a judge.
I wasn’t there when this happened, I just went over there to observe how the judge taking the call handled the problem. Both players agreed that it took a few seconds for player “A” to change his decision. There was no priority passing, player “A” was still in the process of paying the cost. The judge taking the call ruled not to allow the player “A” to change his decision. This ruling was appealed. Head Judge listened to the players and then to our opinions away from the table. Considering that very little time passed while the player “A” was considering his choice and the card didn’t actually go to his hand, the ruling was overturned and the player “A” was allowed to change his decision.
I stayed at the table for a while to watch the player play.
Later it was pointed out to me by David, that it is also an important detail to consider, whether the player “A” was fishing for a reaction from his opponent. I didn’t think of this at the time, but seeing the situation and the game being played after the call, it looked clear to me that player “A” wasn’t fishing, he was actually making mistakes and tried to carefully consider his options.
In the afternoon, the projector was properly hooked up with one of the laptops, so we were able to project timers on the wall for all players to see.
The rest of the day went fine. I was helping with scorekeeping, because it seemed good to practice handling WER. I heard a few rules questions, but they were routine. There was a game loss for D/DLP where a player listed 4 Verdant Catacombs, while he was playing 4 Misty Rainforest.
Even though I was not on staff, there were learning opportunities for me, and that’s exactly why I joined this day.
Day 2 (Saturday)
Tournaments: Legacy Main, Modern Trial, Old School
Total Number of Players: 126
Head Judge(s): Jaroslav Karban (L3) (Legacy Main), David Záleský (L2) (Modern Trial, Old School)
Floor Judge(s): David Záleský (L2), Dominika Knapová (L1), Georges Rehak (L2), Myself
This day I was supposed to be standby, along with Max Tiedemann. I didn’t have a deck to play with and Max was okay with playing the tournament, so Jara chose to activate me. The activation was needed because one of the judges on staff couldn’t come this day.
In the judge briefing, a specific plan for deck checks was not established, which caused a bit of a problem later. The briefing and the beginning of the tournament were fairly routine otherwise.
During registrations, many players approached us with altered cards, to have them examined and approved or disapproved by us. Jara looked at all of them and in each case he asked for our assistance (by checking whether we can recognise those cards with no mistake, by their art). Those that failed these tests had to find replacements for their cards. The point is to have those cards obviously and unambiguously recognisable. If one isn’t, that could potentially be abused or at least be unclear to an observer.
One player also approached us with several pages of printed notes. They were strategic guides for various match-ups. Jara told the player that he couldn’t check those notes during his matches, instead a brief set of notes (one page tops) may be referred to between games during sideboarding. I also went on to tell the player that between matches, he may review his extensive notes, but not while he is sitting down and in a match, not between games, not during games.
David also prepared a solution to project pairings on the wall, but despite this, we also posted them.
There were 104 players in the main legacy event, so we had them seated alphabetically (including the ones with byes – a trick later explained to me by David) and collected their decklists during the Head Judge Announcement. There were logistical issues to be worked out afterward (missing table numbers from some of the decklists), one of them was my mistake: Two of us were picking up decklists, one of us starting from table 1 and the other from table 52. I was going from the end, and when a few players asked for their decklists back to write their table numbers up, my routine was interrupted and I continued to pick the decklists in the wrong order. I fixed this ordering mistake later in round 1 though.
In the announcement, I think it is important to remind players to raise their hand and keep them up when they are calling a judge. This wasn’t included in this announcement, but I will highly recommend saying it in future announcements to all of you. In a big tournament, a lot of noises sound like “judge”. You could be running around on the floor looking for a judge call, even where was none. Or go to the wrong table first if there was one.
On both days of the tournament, there was live coverage in progress. Each round a table was moved to the feature match area to be covered. This came as a surprise to me, as this was the first time I was on a tournament with an active coverage area and wasn’t sure how to deal with it. I was reassured by Jara just to handle the area normally like any other tables.
A few lessons learned in relation to the coverage:
– Players may refuse to be covered (I didn’t remember this detail, because so far I didn’t really need to know). I also checked this detail in MTR which I found interesting.
– When there is a delay in a covered match because of technical difficulties with the coverage equipment. In the future, the coverage team should inform a judge of this to issue a proper time extension to the featured match.
We did a 1st round deck check. Nothing unusual, a Mutavault of one player was heavily bent in several ways which clearly and quite visibly stood out in a shuffled library. The player was issued a warning for TE Marked Cards and was asked to replace this card if possible. The player had a replacement, so no harm done.
From this point on, I spent most of my time on the floor, though I did one more deck check this day, with no particular problems.
There was an interesting rules question: Could the triggered ability of The Abyss target the opponent’s True-Name Nemesis? This was a hypothetical question, because The Abyss was not in play at this time, but it had bearing on the player’s following play. I looked up the oracle text for The Abyss and it’s quite interesting, I went to confirm with fellow judges and even Jara to make sure to get this right. The controller of the trigger is the controller of The Abyss each time, so even when it triggers on the opponent’s turn, that player won’t be able to choose his/her True-Name Nemesis, because it wouldn’t be a legal target.
A player accidentally flipped over the fourth card from the top when picking up the top three for Sensei’s Divining Top. It’s important to note the key difference here between LEC and HCE. The player didn’t pick up the top four and both players confirmed this. The fourth was just knocked over. This is LEC, the player got a warning and the card was shuffled to the random portion of the library.
In one of the later rounds (5 or 6, I don’t recall exactly, but it wasn’t the final swiss round), a decklist with 59 cards listed in main board was causing us a bit of a pause. The decklist was counted and discovered “illegal” earlier, but it was “forgotten”. This was our mistake, but in the interest of consistency, the player was still issued a game loss for D/DLP. The player wasn’t doing very good in the tournament, so it didn’t have a wholly negative impact and Jara explained our mistake and the importance of consistency to the player with excellent diplomacy. It was later explained to me that this could easily happen in a GP or an event of similar size, due to the sheer number of decklists. This delay in acting could’ve been avoided with due planning in this case, but this is how it went down.
Another interesting case Jara dealt with was a spectator (non-player) who made inappropriate “suggestions” to one of our judge staff which fit into the USC Major category. Since this person was an employee of the venue, the issue was dealt with through the TO, rather than directly enrolling this person and recording a penalty.
There was also an unfortunate case of a DQ in the final round before playoffs. It happened in the last table that went to time and in additional rounds. I am not going to go into details, but it affirms that we should be especially vigilant in this part of the tournament.
Day 3 (Sunday)
Tournaments: Modern MKM Trial, Vintage MKM Trial, Duel Commander
Total Number of Players: 64
Head Judge(s): Georges Rehak (L2) (Modern MKM Trial), David Záleský (L2) (Vintage MKM Trial, Duel Commander)
Floor Judge(s): David Záleský (L2), Georges Rehak (L2), Myself (L1)
This day, we discussed at the judge briefing that we would rotate tasks between each other so we can learn some new practices and observe each other. That meant we would be assigned another task each round (deck checks, scorekeeping, floor judging). This plan didn’t seem to work after we fired the second and third event and we just started to handle the tasks as it was needed. This resulted in a bit of a mess at the scorekeeper desk a few times, but it was easily managed just in the nick of time. A re-plotting of this plan would’ve been in order when things first went bad, but things happened fast, so we just went with the flow and actually it didn’t feel like it was necessary to add more coordination at that point.
In the end, no major problems arose from this. Even though it was manageable, it felt hectic for me, kind of stressful and rushed at times.
Regardless, this practice could work with more judges and clear coordination. In this case, I guess there were just too many tasks for the three of us, so we winged it instead of orderly rotating.
I didn’t do any deck checks today. Rather, I helped at the scorekeeper’s desk, distributing slips and end-of-round. I also covered the floor otherwise.
Player A casts Demonic Dread and starts to resolve cascade trigger. He reveals cards from the top, hits a Living End and continues cascading until hitting a second Living End. The players realise the mistake and call a judge. Now I don’t know how they missed the first one, in retrospect, maybe a bit of questioning should’ve been in order into that.
Regardless, both players agreed on the order of the revealed cards and the cascading player clearly laid them out on the table. This case gave me a bit of a pause, so I asked for a few moments until I thought the problem through. Shortly after I reached a decision after calmly thinking it through: All the cards revealed after the first Living End are extra cards that the player looked at. This fits into the LEC infraction. I shuffled those extra cards into the unknown portion of the library (after confirming any known cards in the library – which were none) and instructed the player to continue resolving the cascade.
A player tried to ask me if he can untap his own attacking creature using Maze of Ith after it dealt damage. Unfortunately for the player, he couldn’t ask this in a way that I could give him an answer without telling how to correctly do it. He kept stumbling in his formation of a question, so after a few unsuccessful tries, they just continued their game. They were in their last game and the player won the match. After they filled out the result slip, I explained to him what he really wanted to ask and explained how it worked.
In Duel Commander event, a player forgot to re-shuffle some cards that were exiled in his previous game of that match. Therefore he presented an illegal deck in his second game. I remember reading threads about similar issues in Judge Apps, but didn’t remember the prevailing protocol in this situation, so I consulted with David about this. David confirmed it should be a game loss for D/DLP, he also delivered the ruling to the player. This ruling ended that match.
Important lessons I took away from this event, aside from the general practical knowledge gained: When applying for standby, be ready to also play. I thought this wasn’t necessary when I went to this event. I was actually okay with hanging out and observing. What I failed to consider is how this may affect the HJ decisions on who to activate. Jara activated me rather than Max because I didn’t intend to play, while Max was fully ready to play. This was quite unfair and this should be a factor in my choices in the future.
Keep the scorekeeper’s desk neat and tidy. Each stack of slip from each event should have its place and if the task is rotated, communicate the maintained system to avoid administrative mistakes.
Adopt the routine of running a stopwatch when taking judge calls. After a while, it should become automatic and it will be the best to time those judge calls and avoid “guessing” the time they took afterward.
When a player is having a hard time asking a rules question and you don’t want to give him/her strategic advice, you can tell this to him/her. Rather than looking like you don’t understand the question, you reassure the players that you want to help, but without giving assistance on how to play.
I feel like my confidence improved in taking judge calls and delivering rulings so overall, I consider this event a success.
There were actually a lot more calls than the cases listed above, but most of those were simple rules questions and easy, straightforward rulings. I tried to limit the report to the more interesting stuff.
Thank you for reading!