Tournament : PPTQ Nashville
Game store: Cartapapa, Montpellier, South of France
Head judge: Marion Dupouy, L2
Floor judge: Tomas Ornowski, L1
This tournament was the first one I had judged with Marion and the first one I had judged in a while. As for Marion, it was her first tournament at Cartapapa and her first PPTQ as L2.
Launching the tournament
The tournament was supposed to start at 10.30 a.m. Marion and I met at 10 to finish preparing for it (distributing the tasks, making the place tournament-ready, etc.)
10.30: 3 players are present. Out of the 3 preregistered, only 1 is here, we have no news from the other 2. We start wondering whether the tournament will be able to take place.
10.45: The 2 missing preregistered thought the tournament started at 1.30 p.m. Luckily they live nearby and can come immediately.
11.00: 6 players are present. We’re actively looking for the last 2 so that the tournament can take place.
11.15: We are still missing an 8th player. Someone who came to learn more about judging with the goal to become a L1 judge is asked to participate with a deck built with the LGS’s cards. She accepts. Victory.
11.30: First round is launched!
This extreme tardiness is due to 3 problems:
- the players’ lack of strictness. Two of the latecomers didn’t write down their decklist and started the first round late. They both received a game loss for TE – Tardiness. The first player understood the penalty, but the second one didn’t and complained about the game loss being too harsh.
- the players’ lack of interest in the format. The last PPTQ at this LGS was Modern and had about 20 participants. Standard, however, didn’t look like a very interesting format, notably because of the decks’ prices compared to how long they would be used and because some cards create an uninteresting playing environment for the players (these are the players’ words, not the judges’ own opinion)
- another PPTQ running on the same day at a LGS roughly 1 hours’ drive away. This shows a lack of communication between the region’s stores, something we haven’t been able to fix yet. The only thing we can do for the moment is encouraging the LGS to communicate their plans in advance. However, it was the last weekend for the Nashville PPTQ’s, and both stores had to cancel a previous PPTQ due to judge unavailability, which could explain why both of them did it on the same date.
Forgetting about vigilance
During the first round, I was watching a game in which player A tapped his creature to attack with it, forgetting it had vigilance. I intervene immediately to remind him that his creature has vigilance. Backing up by untapping the creature was easy here since no other choice had been made yet. On his next turn, player A makes the same mistake. I intervene again, this time asking him to be more careful about his creatures’ abilities and that further reminders could be punished. I didn’t give him a warning. From that moment on, player A doesn’t make that mistake again. This shows the threat of a penalty can also be used as a means for players to be more attentive.
Later on, I wondered if my intervention was justified and if I should have given the player a warning the first time he forgot about vigilance. I asked Marion about this, who said that strictly speaking tapping a creature with vigilance to attack with is a violation of the rules, punishable with a warning for GPE – GRV. That being said, multiple reasons made her believe she wouldn’t have given the player a warning either: the situation had been fixed immediately, tapping the creature had had no impact whatsoever on the game, and it was a beneficial ability for player A.
This last argument made me wonder about when to intervene and when not to: when a non-detrimental trigger is forgotten the judge shouldn’t intervene, but when a static ability is forgotten they have to. If both situations are beneficial for the ability’s or creature’s owner, then why can the first be forgotten but not the latter? Doesn’t a player have to watch everything happening and take responsibility for his errors in every circumstance? Why can a backup be justified in some situations but never when a trigger is forgotten?
Lost Legacy and illegal choices
The hardest situation to solve in this tournament was the following one: we are in game 2. A won Game 1. A casts Lost Legacy, naming “Blue Gearhulk”. N reveals his hand and library to A, which A starts looking into face up (i.e. N being also able to see his library). While going through N’s library, a spectator realizes A made an illegal choice with Lost Legacy (“name a non-artifact card”). A calls for a judge.
Marion answered the call and quickly ruled out cheating (A was used to casting Infinite Obliteration, Torrential Gearhulk was the only creature A saw in the first game, A himself called for a judge, the investigation seemed to show A’s innocence). Penalties are therefore GPE – GRV for A and GPE – FtMGS for N. The only problem remaining was how to solve this situation: A had, due to his mistake, learned a lot of information about his opponent’s hand and library’s content) that letting him make a legal choice seemed incorrect (especially as he knew what creatures N played).
Marion asked for my point of view and called multiple L2 judges to ask for advice on how to solve this situation. The game didn’t continue at this point, and the players were talking with each other and surrounding spectators (some of the tournament’s players were amongst the spectators) about how to solve this situation in the best possible way. Multiple proposals were made by the spectators (giving A a game loss, restarting the game…). Not being sure of how to handle these discussions, I preferred not intervening and let them talk while waiting for Marion to come back.
After calling for about 10 minutes, Marion came back and said there are 3 possible solutions:
- strictly applying the IPG and letting A make a legal choice for Lost Legacy;
- letting Lost Legacy resolve and finding the cards despite the choice being illegal, the IPG authorizes to leave the game in its state if the GRV is too difficult to fix;
- deviating from the rule and considering the spell resolves but doesn’t find anything.
Marion decided to deviate from the rule after asking my opinion about it. I support her choice: the other solutions seem too punishing for N and would make him feel like he had been more punished for his opponent’s mistake than his opponent. Moreover, both players agreed with this solution and understood they were both responsible for this situation.
In hindsight, the first choice is definitely the one that is closest to a strict interpretation of the rules, but it is also the one that takes the least care of the circumstances in which the error was committed. Yes, we are judging at Competitive REL, but does that mean that we have to completely abandon the Regular REL’s player-friendly vision of the game to the benefit of a strict application of the rules?
Your opinion is welcome.
Players not used to the competitive way of playing
This is a point Marion pointed out to me during the tournament debriefing, which I didn’t notice on my own. The whole tournament, the players didn’t seem to be conscious that it was a Competitive REL tournament, even though we repeated it several times and invited them to call a judge as soon as a problem arose. This made the tournament somewhat muddled and less organized than it should have been.
Several examples illustrate this feeling:
- while conducting a deck check, a player approached the judge’s table on which the decks were spread out to ask about a rule question. We reminded him that coming to the judge’s table during a deck check made him able to peek at his opponents’ decks and made him able to obtain information in an illegal way (with or without bad intentions). We asked him to stay at his table and call for a judge rather than coming to the judge’s table, in order to keep an eye on the board so that his opponent can’t change it.
- very few players called a judge when a problematic situation arose, especially when there was a rules question or an illegal situation to solve. They preferred solving the situation by themselves, even when we were almost always right next to them (as a reminder, we were 2 judges for 8 players);
- in the same way, some players didn’t hesitate to ask rule questions in front of their opponents, sometimes even about a card in their hand, without caring if their opponent could take advantage of it or if it revealed some unknown information to their opponent;
- some players didn’t hesitate to “participate” in the ruling.
Having spent some time in Paris, Marion felt like this region’s players were less oriented to the competitive way of playing than in Paris. That could however be due to the low entry fee (5€) and the huge first place reward (1 booster box, no matter how many entrants), which attracts less competitive-minded players.
Adding this to my personal knowledge of the region’s player base, this feeling seems to be correct: most of the players are indeed oriented towards playing for fun, with only a handful being of a competitive nature.
To improve this, we could explain more the differences between Regular and Competitive REL. This tells us that a judge has to be able to adapt to different environments and a different set of players. Teaching the players remains vital on both levels, about the tricky rule questions on Regular REL and to make them understand their mistakes so that they will not reiterate them on Competitive REL.
We also could encourage the LGS to have a bigger difference between Regular and Competitive REL, in terms of entry fee and rewards for example, or to hold more Competitive REL tournaments, in order to train the players in competitive play.
In my opinion, this tournament, which started like an “everyday” tournament, in the end gave rise to interesting questions and made me think in depth about judging and the differences between Regular and Competitive REL.
This tournament also showed me the importance of a judge’s ruling, its consequences, and the difficulty to take both the Competitive REL rules and the players into consideration when ruling in order to rapidly arrive at a satisfying decision.
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