Laura’s First Modern PPTQ

Laura Ellis, Level 2, Canberra, Australia

Laura Ellis, Level 2, Canberra, Australia

Pre-Event Wiffle Waffle

I’m solo-judging my first PPTQ. I asked the TO earlier about bringing a judge candidate on board as another judge but as it would be my first stint as the Head Judge of a PPTQ and I’m a new L2, he vetoed that request. Not wanting me to be burdened, he queued up an L1 as my backup. The backup didn’t get activated as there were 27 players and I didn’t think I’d need to stop the L1 from playing to assist me. I really just wanted to provide the candidate with experience as a shadow, and to be able to delegate slips and assistance with deckchecks. Next time the TO should accept my competency to mentor without being burdened.

There was a PPTQ the previous day, also Modern Constructed, and the judge of that event (henceforth Thor) was playing in my PPTQ . There was the aforementioned L1 playing too and an L3 (henceforth Odin) that likes to attend events but not play in the room. The TO was next door playing board games and while he wasn’t actually there, he told me to let him know if the staff and I had any troubles.

Starting off was good, the staff had table numbers set up, printer good to roll, and blank decklists available for players to use. I arrived on time ready to go, with my uniform ironed, water bottle full, and writing equipment ready in my pocket. The set up would be using RTools for all pairings and standings displayed on 2 TVs, with a paper cutter for results slips, and the decklists alphabetised and ready for deckchecks. I was relatively calm and rather excited to see the steady increase of players in the thirty minutes prior to the start of the event.

Five minute’s before the event would start and I make a reasonable announcement to alert the players of the impending registration closure. A few players approach the counter to register. Start time arrives and I make a final announcement and a player came rushing to the counter to pay. Could’ve given this player a tardiness penalty as I did notice him chatting with other players while filling out his decklist. However, as there wasn’t any impact on the tournament, I didn’t give it any sincere thought. Players were seated and I made my opening announcements, for the first time without having it written down. I made a minor stumble with my words but am proud of my announcement nevertheless.

Players are away! Off to the races! But really just time to set into motion the rhythm of handing out slips and monitoring tables. Halfway through the round and I made the decision to copy down every remarkable (and not so remarkable) interaction that I have with the players. This was a habit that I was in when I started judging but became lax on in recent events, this event was different. I also wanted to write a report for the event and envisioned that making all these notes would be useful, they were. In the future I’d like to utilise the 4-colour pens that I have more fully with the notes. I’ve seen some judges’ notebooks and they are absolutely breath-taking. Multiple colours all relating to different aspects of a tournament. Makes things much easier to reference when differently coloured.
I want to be absolutely honest in this report, I have some flaws and strengths. While I’m hesitant about sharing them, I feel like they could be useful (through hopeful resulting discussion) to others. One of those flaws is procrastination. I’ve started quite a few reports before but have only finished one (which I haven’t published), this one will be finished shortly and published as it was just this Sunday that the event happened. Fresh in my mind so fresh for the fingers to type. Plus more accurate and I’m not going to let my perfectionist streak get in my way.

The Nitty Gritty 

Round 1

First player to call me for the day found a sideboard card in their opening hand. He forgot to de-sideboard after the PPTQ on the Saturday – oops! This one is fairly straightforward, player corrects their deck and mulligans. He is issued a DDLP and the penalty is downgraded to a warning as the players haven’t taken any game actions. Another player informs me that he found 2 cards in black sleeves (with the rest in blue) and that he had removed them and wanted to check this was ok. Which is quite considerate of him and makes me wonder if he told me about it because of the first infraction.

What Outside Assistance?

A player who was playing against Thor was looking at sideboard notes during game 1. Thor called me over and I explained that it was outside assistance and he’d receive a match loss. What followed was a long debate about this infraction. The player, who has played in a lot of comp rel events, didn’t understand why it was OA. Thor is super competent and the player seemed content to discuss with him so I excused myself to answer another two judge calls. Soon after, I return to Thor and the OA player who seems to be accepting the match loss and Thor’s explanation. They then start playing for fun. This seems to be a sticking point for the rest of the event, this aspect of OA is discussed a bit amongst the players and also amongst Thor, Odin, an ex-judge and myself a bit later in the day. The player’s point was that there is no difference to the information after game one and during the game.
Both were rules questions. One being “I played a Mox Opal and sacrificed this other tapped Mox Opal and then my opponent pointed out their Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, can I take back playing the Mox Opal, my opponent agrees?” The other was “what happens to mana between the end step and clean up step?”

A few more rules questions were asked but no more infractions. A question away from the table was “What’s the cost of Newlamog?” This confused me for a second until I remembered that was a nickname of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Another was for the colour of the tokens made by Urza’s Factory which the oracle text states to be colourless. Final question for the round was from a player who missed his suspend triggers on two Ancestral Vision. This probably deserved more investigation but after a few questions I ruled that they were indeed missed.

Round 2

Who Goes First?
First call off the bat is that the players can’t decide on the method for determining who will go first. One wants to high roll with two dice and the other wants to use his 3 unglued rock/paper/scissors cards. While I’d love to support the high roll, as I personally dislike the other player’s method, I stay impartial and offer calling odds/evens as a method and they go along with that option.

Uh… Revealed Card Error?
Next call is something a little unusual. While drawing their opening hand, the player draws 3 cards then notices that the fifth card down, partially under the fourth, is face-up. Now follows a bit of investigation. How did it happen? When did you notice? How did you shuffle? How did the opponent cut? Show me the things? I checked for any other face-up cards. Decided that it was an honest mistake and didn’t warrant a penalty, nor could I decide what infraction it would belong to if I were to penalise. So I got the player to keep the 3 cards they had drawn, reoriented the card, instructed the player to shuffle, present for cutting, draw the remaining 4 cards, and be more careful in future.

Just to Splice Things Up
Next was a rules question involving a mechanic that I’m not too familiar with: splice. They wanted to know if they could cast the two identical cards with splice onto one card. The way they phrased the question though had me checking if they could pay the cost to splice multiple times. When looking through the rules I thought yes, as casting cards with splice follows rules for additional costs (CR702.46a) but before saying anything I read the next paragraph which goes onto explain that you can only splice a card once, not pay extra mana to splice multiple times. In explaining this to the players I get the desired question more clearly. Players can be pretty unclear when asking questions so it’s always good to ask relevant questions to clarify what they really want to know (without giving out OA of course).

To Back-Up or Not to Back-Up

The next judge call was for a player who didn’t draw a card when he activated Relic of Progenitus. This time I’ve truly got my investigation hat on. I established what had happened, how the players noticed that the draw was forgotten, and other relevant information. So I rule it as a GRV/FtMGS and decide to rewind the game to when the player should have drawn the card. What I failed to notice was that a spell had been cast. This should’ve been relatively easy to pick up if I looked closer at the graveyards. When AP activated Relic of Progenitus, Rest in Peace was on the battlefield so any spells cast afterwards were in the graveyard (and RiP was on top of the exile zone). So it wasn’t a simple rewind of combat but also rewinding a spell. I explained that this is what would happen and both players didn’t like the sound of this, and something in the back of my head lit up. I decided to leave the game state as it was and let the player draw the card then. Upon reading the IPG, drawing a card can be done immediately for a GRV. It doesn’t need a rewind.

Two more rules questions and an interesting interaction. First was if protection would stop the -1/-1 of Golgari Charm from killing their creature, checking the card would’ve given me the answer of no but as off the top of my head I didn’t know what the card did, and I didn’t check, I said that protection would stop the card from targeting the creature, the player confirmed it didn’t target and so got the accurate question (RTFC!). The next rules question was what would happen when a Rest in Peace was sacrificed to a Liliana of The Veil ultimate – I know, do you know?

Upside Down Cards

I was entering in some results when a discussion ensued between two players, a spectator and Odin. Odin calls me over as the players were talking about potential advantage and such. I really should’ve investigated this interaction further and at least given a marked cards warning. AP has played Crumble to Dust and while looking through NAP’s library discovers a Blessed Alliance upside down. It’s the only one in the library and no other cards are orientated this way. What I did was ask a few really basic questions and cautioned the player to be more careful with the orientation of the cards. What I should’ve done was took the player aside to ask some indirect questions if they did it on purpose, then given a warning for marked cards so this apparent simple mistake could be tracked if needed.

Round 3

I did a start of round check on rounds 3 & 4 and a mid-round in round 5. Would’ve done a few more but there were distractions like judge calls or printing result slips that got me to miss the randomly selected players (whose decklists the staff had already pulled out from the others). Each time one of the staff members would help out with the check. I did a full check and the staff member would count the decks and check the sideboards and flip through the decks to see if there was a pattern. All of the deckchecks were ok.

This one was an interaction that I didn’t think I would witness again after Theros block rotated out of Standard. The good ol’ revealing to a dead Courser of Kruphix. Luckily this one had just died so no shenanigans of multiple cards revealed. During the previous turn, NAP cast Damnation and AP’s Courser of Kruphix died, amongst other creatures. This turn, after drawing, the player revealed the top card, earning themselves a warning for looking at extra cards.
A few more general questions for the round. The first being can I cast a card before the trigger for Thought-Knot Seer resolves? The other was in reference to the AU/NZ judge feedback form that I had announced earlier, the player asked if it was for negative feedback only or positive too? The option for positive is hidden between the other options.

Round 4

A call this time from Thor, who was on dredge. He forgot to discard to Faithless Looting and had since cast Life from the Loam. I gave a warning for GRV and when I started to explain the fix, he basically went on auto-pilot to put the cards in their correct places.

Whenever I judge an event I have a mental or written list of answers for the usual questions that get asked. What are the prizes? How many rounds? Where are the bathrooms? This time I didn’t get any of these questions! I did get one request to look at a decklist and that was pretty quick interaction.

Next call was by a player that had accidentally flipped a portion of their opponent’s deck while cutting. The owner was admirably trying to hide the cards but the player had already seen them. Thus the player got a warning for looking at extra cards.

Not so fast! 
Next thing I know a player runs straight past me. Slow play warning for him! The player could’ve easily asked me or informed me that they needed to go to the bathroom but as there was no such interaction I told his opponent to let me know when the player returned – in case I missed them. When they returned, I informed them about the importance of calling for a judge if they wanted to leave the table and gave them a warning for slow play.

Players did not like that a player on 9 points had been matched down. I attributed this to the player possibly having played against a player with equal points before and thus WER had him paired down.

Another GRV went to a player after a spectator (who happened to be Thor) stopped the match after a spell was cast. It being Scavenging Ooze off a Twilight Mire and a Plains which doesn’t produce the required mana.

Cutting to Top 8

So those players that were disgruntled about a player being paired down were correct. WER wasn’t stuffing around, it had the player on 3 less points. Somehow when I entered the round 1 result – the match loss – it gave both players 0/2 results, which I only noticed after I read out the original standings. So I went back in and corrected the round 1 result and read out the correct standings, the only change being the 8th player was now in 1st – so noone feel bads about a player losing a spot. The pairings in the system were also messed up. For both the next two rounds I had to manually pair them as they were not accurate.

In the quarterfinals,  a player realised they had left their hand from the first game out of their deck. So they got a game loss for presenting an illegal deck.
Another match finished rather quickly as one player wasn’t going to the RPTQ and conceded. They hadn’t noticed that prizes were based on Swiss and that the only prize for the top 8 was the RPTQ invitation. I announced this earlier in the tournament and had to signs posted with this information. I was going to emphasise this before the top 8 cut but with the kerfuffle over the wrong points I missed this. Next time I’ll make sure I announce the player’s opportunity to drop before making the top cut.

In the semis,one of the players went off on Borborygmos Enraged to kill their opponent in game one. Come game two, their opening hand had a Swamp upside down. With the Blessed Alliance case fresh in my mind from Round 2 I made sure to investigate thoroughly. I had a look at the rest of the deck, and pulled them aside to ask some basic questions. Ruled it as a simple mistake and told them to play on, but to take care when returning cards to their deck.

In the finals, nothing really happened  except for maybe some basic customer service. Both players were on either side of me and neither wanted to move. One had called “shotgun” and the other claimed that being on the higher seed allowed him to dictate where to sit. Just some tomfoolery really but I decided to intervene so the match could occur sooner, it being after the time the shop should’ve closed. I suggested that they rolled a die and called odd/evens – to which they did and one player moved, to the satisfaction of both players.


  • Always be careful with your operating system, it can be flawed. Hard copies of pairings/standings are useful for players to double check – or even putting the WER standings up on the screen (if that’s what you’re using). When players complain about something it’s a good idea to put more effort than a cursory look into finding/fixing the error.
  • Writing organised notes are beyond useful. Especially when it comes to writing reports.
  • When you’re not sure about something, check, it doesn’t take that long to look up a card’s oracle text.
  • I’m going to write up a list of all the things I come across that are unusual or lessons I learn from events. I’ll use this list as a refresher for future events.
  • Investigate! Ask all of the questions and look at the boardstate.

(Editor’s Note: Comments are aplenty! Join in on the Forum to give feedback for Laura’s Report!)

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One thought on “Laura’s First Modern PPTQ

  1. One note I would add for those using RTools (which I personally love and find makes round turnover much faster) is that it sometimes calculates and displays tiebreakers incorrectly, which can obviously matter quite a lot in the late rounds of an event. I have defaulted to always printing paper standings even when using RTools. The software handles the pairings perfectly, but for whatever reason has a hard time with tiebreakers on the standings page.

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