On Saturday, October 29, 2016, Thunder Bay hosted a Face to Face Open modern tournament. As this was the first modern event that Face to Face has hosted in Thunder Bay, and only their second event in this city (a follow up to the successful Mana Deprived series of a year ago), many people, players and judges alike, were greatly looking forward to it. The tournament did not disappoint. At 25 players however, it had much smaller turnout than was hoped for. However, there were additional players who arrived only for side events, including the ‘King of the North’ Commander competition.
I was head judge of the main event that day, and had one other judge, Nolan Guenther, assisting. I had been informed that he would be in charge of the side events, though with not quite enough players interested in a draft pod, there were only a couple of commander pods in addition to the more prestigious commander tournament. This ended up working out well, as I enlisted Nolan to assist me in the main event for the majority of the day, as the commander players largely took care of themselves.
Having a second judge ended up relieving a lot of potential stress and workload that I had not anticipated with this tournament. I am used to being the only judge at our local PPTQs that are approximately the same size, and these events usually run quite smoothly with only me and another employee at the store sometimes acting as scorekeeper, but just as frequently preventing me from scorekeeping by using the computer with WER for store tasks. In the Face to Face Open, I also filled the role of scorekeeper and took care of registration for the main event and all side events. This is not a role I have performed at a tournament before and ended up with a much greater understanding of this aspect of major events, including just how much of a workload that scorekeepers and registration officials must have at a Grand Prix.
Overall, having the second judge allowed one of us to be on the floor constantly, and Nolan ended up answering many of the judge calls while I was behind the computer inputting results or penalties or typing up decklists.
Deck Check Concerns
We did have some rather challenging issues to deal with throughout the day. Two of the more interesting developments discussed both involved problems with decks and/or decklists.
The first problem involved two separate issues. A relatively new player had constructed a deck with several very powerful cards that were illegal in the format (for example Sinkhole and Hymn to Tourach). With these cards having been recently re-released, he believed that they were fair game to include in his deck. When his opponent discovered the error (nearly immediately) the player was taken aside and the deck modified to include additional copies of Swamp. Both of us, as judges, felt slightly responsible. I make a practice of reading over all of the decklists in a tournament of this size to ensure that there are no illegal cards, but had not had a chance to do so with all of my additional responsibilities. Nolan had briefly looked over this player’s deck and gave it the OK earlier in the day, but had missed the couple of illegal cards (only one was in the main deck, the others in the sideboard).
Later on, we conducted a random deck check on this same player at the beginning of one of the final rounds. Unfortunately, being a new player, he did not realize that resetting the deck to the original configuration was required after each match. He had some amount of sideboard cards still in his main deck when he presented to the opponent, and received the appropriate penalty. More importantly, I called him over to another unoccupied table, and had an informal chat with this player about expectations and tournament rules (he had also taken out the swamp we put in his main deck as a replacement and was playing with only 59 cards). I’m very happy to say that this player took the problems he was having very well, not getting upset at all, and left as a more informed player than he began the day.
Unexpectedly… Present in your Deckbox?
The other interesting thing worthy of note was that during another random deck check it was realized that a player had additional cards in his deck box. These cards were sleeved in a similar manner to the deck he was playing with. At first this person tried to avoid handing over his deck box as part of the deck check, then revealed he had extra cards in it, claiming they were from his Legacy deck but didn’t have room in that deck box for them. I immediately found this suspicious and intended to perform a more thorough investigation once the rest of the deck check had been completed (I had the opponent’s deck and was learning of these issues during the check). The additional cards were very relevant to the format, and all could have been easily played in his deck. Unfortunately, the more thorough investigation did not have an opportunity to materialize, as Nolan handed back the deck without too much comment.
Nolan and I ended up with very different impressions from this particular problem. He believed the player, with few questions asked, and I was immediately suspicious. I will chalk this up to my longer tenure as a judge, and previous experience with players who were cheating. I should also note that it is unlikely the player had gained any advantage from the potential additional cards in his sideboard, as he did not win a match all day. Also, this player was not local to the city, yet he was familiar to the tournament organizer as one of his regulars. After this resolution, I thought it was a prime opportunity for a learning experience for Nolan, who is very close to completing his checklist to become a level 2. Instead of informing him directly how I wished the investigation to proceed, I called over the tournament organizer, Kelly Ackerman, who was also the most experienced judge in the room (though not acting as one). I asked him how he would have proceeded, and Kelly gave us both some great pointers on interrogating a player should a similar issue occur in the future. Huge shout-out and thank you to Kelly for these, and other useful pointers he gave to me about efficiently running a tournament throughout the weekend!
Aside from the missed investigation that still bothers me even a week after the conclusion of the event, Thunder Bay’s first Face to Face Open went well over all with a skill-filled top 8 and a thriller of a final, with the eventual champion starting a game down, having forgot to de-sideboard before the match. Big thank you to Face to Face for travelling so far to allow our local players an opportunity to play in a high-stakes tournament in our hometown!
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