This is my first stint as a PPTQ floor judge since obtaining my Level 1 certification in October of 2016. As an aspiring L2 Judge, I asked Wella , who frequently judges PPTQs for the shop, if I could assist her during the event. She happily accepted my request.
Prior to this event, I was instructed by one of my mentors who is also an L2 Judge to do an exercise while judging. He gave me a pile of tokens that are currently being used in the Standard format and told me that I had to give out as many of these tokens as I could over the course of the tournament to players who needed them during games. This was intended for me to be more attentive and focused on what is happening as I watched a match.
I arrived at the venue 40 minutes before the start of the tournament to find a mere 4 players registered for the event. So, for the time being, Wella and I prepared deck lists, arranged tables, and chatted with the players and the TO.
The tournament did not start on time because there were a couple of players who registered via text but were not yet at the venue. Luckily, some of their friends were already present and requested if we could delay round 1 a little longer. During smaller events such as GPTs and PPTQs, stores in the Philippines are lenient when it comes to time. Most Filipino players can be forgiving and can wait for a considerable amount of time for other players. In this case, the latecomers were regular customers of the store so we approved their request. Would you do the same? On one hand, it may be more fun to play with a bigger crowd. On the flip side, keeping players waiting is not fun at all. In your opinion, how much leniency should judges extend to players prior to issuing tardiness penalties?
Thankfully, the late players arrived soon thereafter and we started the event at 1:30 pm.
During round 1, I was on the other side of the floor watching a match when suddenly Wella called me to answer a judge call. Player A was resolving a Vessel of Nascency and the cards revealed were 2 lands, Chandra Torch of Defiance, and Aetherworks Marvel. After picking a card, he placed the rest of the cards at the bottom of his library instead of the graveyard. I asked both players if that was exactly what happened and they both agreed. I ruled it as a Game Rule Violation (GRV) and did a back-up by just returning the 3 cards from the bottom of the library and put them in the graveyard since it was caught right after the ability of Vessel of Nascency was resolved. My mistake here was that I forgot to issue a Warning. After realizing this, I returned to their table, politely stopped their match and issued the appropriate penalty. I issued a Warning to Player A since he is the one resolving the ability of Vessel of Nascency. Player A told me that I should also give a Warning to Player B for failure to maintain proper game state. In the end, I stuck to my original ruling because Player A should be resolving his spells and abilities correctly. Would you rule differently if certain cards are placed at the bottom of the library (an Emrakul, the Promised End perhaps)?
In the current Standard environment, graveyard and library manipulation is quite powerful due to cards like Aetherworks Marvel, Nahiri the Harbinger, Liliana, the Last Hope, Grapple with the Past, and Traverse the Ulvenwald. Incorrectly resolving a Vessel of Nascency in order to maintain a greater density of powerful, high casting cost cards in one’s library boosts the likelihood for success with format staples like Aetherworks Marvel and even marginal cards like Combustible Gearhulk. I was thinking if these cards existence can affect our ruling due to the possibility of abuse? Should the cards that were incorrectly placed at the bottom of the library affect our perspective on what appears to be just another GRV? What do you think?
Round 2 started and we conducted a deck check for a random table. Player A’s deck was alright but Player B’s deck wasn’t due to an error in his sideboard. I saw that there were 3 Natural State in his deck list, but I found only 2 copies of Natural State and 1 unwritten card (Saheeli’s Artistry) in the deck. Because of this, I called Player B to show him that his deck and deck list did not match. He admitted that it was a mistake. I didn’t think he is trying to gain advantage from this. Perhaps during a previous event, he was using 3 Natural State and swapped one out for a Saheeli’s Artistry at the last minute. His decklist appeared neat and straightforward which made me think that he just got used to the Natural State of his deck list and thus forgot to indicate the change. After that, I returned the decks to both players and I told them that I will issue a Deck/Deck list Problem (D/DLP) to Player B and he will receive a Game Loss and they will proceed to Game 2 without sideboarding. I also told Player B to fix his deck list to reflect the change.
While round 4 is ongoing, a judge call came up. Player A had Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger in play. He declared it as an attacker and triggered its ability. Player B exiled 20 cards from his library and declared no blockers. Player A wanted to check the exiled cards but he picked up Player B’s library instead. Player A told me that it was a mistake on his part that he unconsciously picked up a pile of cards without realizing it was already Player B’s library. On the other hand, Player B is trying to negotiate for a potential Disqualification since the tournament is a Competitive REL. I asked the players to wait so I could verify. I talked to Wella immediately since I was not sure how to handle this. She asked if I thought the act was intentional. From my perspective, I didn’t think it was intentional since Player B had no creatures in play and there were just few cards left in his library. Following this line of thought, Player A would not really gain much advantage from picking up his opponent’s library. It might have just been a dexterity error. Dexterity errors include drawing an extra card because of sticky sleeves, accidentally dropping a card while shuffling the opponent’s deck, etc. Going by that definition, after that we agreed that the infraction will be ruled as Looking Extra Cards since he is not supposed to look the opponent’s library and Hidden Card Error is issued only when a player is instructed to manipulate or look at cards from a hidden zone but does so incorrectly. After I got back to the table to give my ruling and issue the penalty, Player B appeared unhappy but he extended his hand nevertheless and conceded.
For Rounds 3, 5 and the Top 8, nothing much happened apart from some missed triggers by players who forgot to gain the Energy Counters from Dynavolt Tower‘s trigger and only realized 2 turns too late. There was also an instance where I corrected a player who tapped a Woodland Wanderer upon declaring it as an attacker.
As for the status of my exercise, I was able to distribute 1 Eldrazi Scion token and 4 Clue tokens due to lots of Investigate triggers. The activity made me more aware of what happens in a game of Magic and I think this will help other judges arrive at a better ruling when questions arise.
I learned a lot from this experience but there are two points that I still need to work on namely:
• Read more regarding the IPG – I already knew the IPG was not my strong suit when I decided to become a judge. It became more evident during this event since there were a number of calls which were IPG-related.
• Be direct to the point – sometimes I try to say/explain things more excessively. Wella noticed this during the event after the deck check. She observed that when I explained to the players that their decks were returned in the same order that they were taken. That led to more questions which ate up a lot of time.
PPTQs have a different feel compared to the GPTs that I am used to judging. Every player is very competitive. You, as a judge should always be sharp and decisive. You should remain composed in every ruling you deliver.
Overall, I felt happy and satisfied with the effort I put. Of course, with the help and guidance of Wella, everything went smoothly. I am sure this will propel me to be more effective as a judge.
(Editor’s Note: Join in on the discussion here!)