I am not going into much detail on the said event as there is a particular incident that stuck to me and had me rethink things even when the tournament was over. While taking a late dinner, the scenario kept playing in my head and I doubted whether I did the right thing. I consulted senior L2’s and our resident L3 about my decision and the scenario.
It happened at round 2 of the event with 7 minutes left in the round. Someone called a judge. I approached the table. Aris called me over and I noticed the board state, Ned was playing the Torrential Gearhulk and Dynavolt Tower deck while Aris was playing 4 color Saheeli.
Aris called me over as he was asking his opponent what were the cards in the graveyard. When both players checked, they saw a Harnessed Lightning in the graveyard that had no business being there. When they both checked their respective graveyards to determine what caused it to go to the graveyard, they found no explanation. Aris’ graveyard was empty and no creature was in it Ned had no idea whether he had cast the card and could not provide an explanation for how it got there. I asked what game it was and both answered that it is game 3. I offered to count Ned’s library to determine the correct number of cards that he is playing or using against his opponent. Ned refused and opted to count his sideboard, which was confirmed to be 15. He admitted that the card in question was indeed part of his main deck. I offered to check his deck once more, and he refused me again. I saw Ned’s hand and clearly he had the upper hand in terms of the board state and could win the game after a couple more turns. There were several spectators within the vicinity and some of their bags were on the table, I have come to a conclusion that perhaps the card may have been covered by the bags when they proceeded to play game 3.
I then made the decision that he presented an illegal deck to his opponent and gave Ned a game loss. In a sense I felt really bad about the said situation since this gave a free win to his opponent due to a technicality. (Additionally, the player is known to weasel and draw games via technicality). I know we aren’t supposed to consider player reputation when making our rulings. Have you ever been in such a situation though? How do you probe for anything fishy that might be going on?
Looking back and consulted with my co-judges about the situation. Some have suggested that I could have investigated further. Which comes to my mind that if Ned had done a pile count, which I failed to ask, he would have presented initially a legal deck. If he did present a legal deck at the start of the game, which is likely, the card may have fallen off into the graveyard. In which case I could have treated the Harnessed Lightning as a card that no longer existed. Meaning the Harnessed Lightning is exiled and the game proceeds with no penalty assessed to the players. Time extension would be given to them. This seems to be more of a logical choice rather than providing the penalty. Do you feel that this is fair? What would be a more prudent way to deal with the problem and minimizing the effect of the extra card in the graveyard? I also feel that pile counting may not be sufficient evidence for the presentation of a legal deck.
Another that played on my mind is that should I have allowed the game to proceed and gave the game loss on the next round. This also has some merits since this would allow Ned a fighting chance, especially since it was game 3 and it wouldn’t be a good experience for Ned.
A curious note on this matter is that Ned refused to have his deck counted. As it was pointed out to me, there is a slight possibility of cheating that perhaps he may have a 5th Harnessed Lightning (which is a possibility) or simply just doesn’t want to bother of counting it. My reasoning for counting the deck was that he may have presented a legal deck in the first place, or if his total count of main deck meets at least 60 cards I would have treated the Harnessed Lightning as exiled.
In the end, after carefully compiling the information and advice from my peers, I have come to the conclusion that I should have asked further questions and instead of issuing a game loss right there and then. Likewise, I could have treated the Harnessed Lightning as non-existent and allowed the game to proceed without further interruption. If ever I felt the need to check his deck I could always do so after matches. How do you feel I could have done things better? How would you have handled the investigation process? I look forward to hearing your inputs.
(Editors Note: Join in on the discussion regarding Vince’s Report here)