GP San Jose Appeals Judge Report

Friday: Scheduled Events Manager


A quick introduction to the position


Managing positions are usually sought after. They’re way trickier as most judges feel they are.
It’d be easy to think that the job is simply about making sure all tournaments start on time, but that is only the pre-requisite.
As a TO, I can tell that players dislike a lot delayed tournaments. Indeed, when casually chatting with players, delayed events are usually the main issue they point out. Therefore it is essential that judges are ready to start the event on time, only waiting for the SK to enter the late players and print the Seat All Players.

With that in mind, let’s explore the possibilities the position offer go beyond, at least if you want to do a great job at it.


Enhancing mentoring


There’s no school of judging. Managers therefore need to enhance opportunities for mentoring others, even if they can’t always do it themselves.
Therefore, checking what are judges’ personal goals and putting them in positions where they can succeed is important. For instance, that day, I made sure to pair the L1 from our team with a L2 who was willing to mentor him to help him achieve L2. I put him as the HJ of a small tournament, so as to make feedback easier to give: Proactivity in getting ready (see below), quality of the opening speech, quality of the customer service, quality of the rulings given, etc.


Not burning judges out


We’re only Friday. The Main Event starts the day after. It’s therefore important they reach the end of the day well rested before what will be a long day, and may be even longer.



An overall white Friday

Judge call was at 10:00, with the first tournament to start at 13:00. Very early you think? Not that much. There are quite a few things to organize:


Define an area


Indeed, Scheduled Events weren’t the only kind of events that day: Free Minimasters, Grinders, On-Demand Events were also organized. We needed to clearly define an area for each category of events so as to make it easier for the staff and players.


Prepare product


Each round-hour event (from 13:00) was limited. Considering we also had constructed events starting at each half-hour (from 13:30), I chose to anticipate on product preparation so that we would not be in a hurry by needing to prepare the product right before the event.
To make it more convenient, I asked for an extra table near the stage so we can store the product in a central place until the event started. I also instructed to label each box of product with the name of the tournament name it was. I forgot to ask to write the number of players it was prepared for. It didn’t matter in the end, but that was inexpensive time-wise and would have allowed easier anticipation when we got updates on registration.


Get Lunch


This may sound silly, but when your tournaments fire each 30 minutes from 1, you’d better make sure everybody has properly eaten before the craziness starts. I therefore asked judges during the initial briefing what their food status regarding breakfast was. As expected, only one of them actually had solid breakfast (it’s the most important meal of the day, even more when judging!), others varied between nothing and just a coffee. It was therefore important they had eaten prior to 13:00.

This is what happened in order:
1-    Team meeting so that we can know each other better and wait for late judges
2-    I sent two judges to fetch product while another was in charge of identifying which SKs would work with us while I was discussing which area we’d take.
3-    Prepare product for all the events.
4-    Send judges to get lunch between 11:30 and 12:30.

Since I had had solid breakfast, I did not go to lunch at that time, staying around to be reactive in case something would go wrong. I planned to leave at 15:00 for lunch when my replacement would arrive.


Some Chaos


Ten minutes before 15:00, the Friday overall lead comes to me and asks if everything is ready for the Chaos Draft. Err… wait, which Chaos Draft? I realized I had had product prepared for the 16:00 event but totally forgot about the Chaos Draft. Reason is the older product was locked elsewhere for additional security. I knew it but since in my mind, we were all ready, I simply forgot about it.

In such a situation, it’s important to make sure that players do not notice the issue. I knew we were close to 80 players, we had space secured and event organized in Draft Pods. Only the product was missing. The Chaos draft product repartition was as such: One booster from Standard, One booster from Return to Ravnica block, one booster from an earlier set.

I first asked the TO to fetch the older product for me. While this was happening, I grabbed the Standard packs from the main Product room and got access to the RtR block product easily. I gave instructions on how to prepare it while waiting for the older product. We didn’t have an ETA on when this would arrive. It was already 15:05 so I asked judges to post the Seat All Players and explain to players how the draft would work.
To make it more chaotic (which was the goal of the event right?), we shuffled all packs in empty display cardboard boxes and I asked judges to make it super clear they were taking random boosters from the boxes
While they were distributing the first two packs, the older product arrived. In the end, Players didn’t even notice the issue.

To sum this up, especially when an issue arises, it’s even more important to divide tasks between all available judges. This way the amount of time needed is divided by the number of people who help. At that moment, the leader should not be doing anything himself, he needs to coordinate others to make sure the process is smoothly ongoing.

A natural reflex is to start doing everything by oneself, because there is no need to explain anything to others. However, this instinctive reaction is intrinsically worse than gathering all judges and clearly distributing tasks.


Preparation is important, anticipation even more


As Khanh Le Thien accurately put into words during GP Shizuoka, “Everything that can be done the day before should be done the day before.”
In San Jose, all the product and goodies were prepared before Saturday, which was great.
On Saturday morning, we were ready way before 9:00 to distribute the product: Everything had been put on carts and judges were ready to distribute the product.

However, we didn’t entirely anticipate enough: Carts were in the central aisle, at the same place as all the Pairing Boards. As soon as I realized, I made them move on the side right before posting the Seat All Players: Had we not done it, this would have been pretty bad for traffic and also pretty dangerous for players who could have hurt themselves.



Rulings of note


Beginning of combat triggers


AP controls a 4/4 and has Flamewake phoenix in the graveyard. He says “Combat?” NAP nods. Can AP still bring his Phoenix back from the graveyard?
The answer is Yes. Indeed, the MTR shortcuts states that a statement like “Combat” (or anything similar) shortcut the game state until NAP has priority in the Beginning of combat step. Therefore, it means the trigger is still be on the stack. There is no indication it has been missed.

Now, let’s say AP controls Siege of the citadel and says “Combat?” NAP nods. Can AP still put counters on a creature?
The answer is no. Indeed, AP should have declared a target. I’ve been asked quite a few times how AP could benefit from his trigger: He needs to be proactive at mentioning it. If he passes priority waiting for an answer, he missed it as he didn’t demonstrate any awareness.


A Life totals disagreement


AP casts Dragon’s claw with X=5. NAP states he’s going down to 1. AP believes NAP goes down to 0.

The very first thing to do in such a case is to check players’ respective life pads and see where the discrepancy occurred.
AP’s life pad looks like this
8 | 9
7 | 6
2 | 5

NAP’s looks like this
8 | 9
7 | 6
2 |
1 |

That’s a start. I took a look at the board and noticed it was nearly empty, with NAP’s tapped 1/1 vs AP’s 1/1 flying Spirit. I therefore suspected that AP misregistered one of the attacks, removing a life point from his opp’s total instead of him. Coincidentally, there was a tapped goblin, hence I wondered whether the mistake could come from the point of damage that goblin dealt on the turn before (had it been blocked, it would have died so it had to be unblocked).

At that point, AP said this wasn’t the case and he probably forgot to track it down. Would AP be correct, my theory of a wrong column error was therefore collapsing. This required more investigation as AP may misremember though

Despite this was turn 9, the sequence of play was pretty straightforward and both players agreed on the first 5 turns:

AP: Land
NAP: Land, go to 21 (that’s the only land of the kind that was played and life was recorded by both players)

AP: Land
NAP: Land 2/1

AP: Land 2/1 + 1/1 Spirit token
NAP: Land 2/1

AP: Arc Lightning to kill both 2/1s and one damage to NAP, attack for 3.
NAP: Butcher of the Horde

AP: Pyrotechnics on the Butcher, attack for 3.
It is pretty certain that the Butcher died on this turn because it would have otherwise attacked (you usually don’t keep a 5/4 as a blocker when you’re at 15), which no life pad showed evidence of.

Both players and the life pads agreed on all of this.
Turns 6 to 8 were slightly more unclear. However, the most interesting part is the Spirit token that entered the battlefield on turn 3. Outside of the Arc lightning, it is the only way for AP to deal one point of damage to NAP so it’s the crux here.
A review of NAP’s graveyard shows there was only one creature who could have ever attempted to block the flying token: A Butcher of the Horde cast on turn 4. However, it died to Pyrotechnics on turn 5. Therefore, since we’re on turn 9 before attackers, the Spirit tokens had 5 opportunities to hit and AP consistently attacked with it, while there were only four recorded occurrences of damage dealt by the token on NAP’s life pad.

My conclusion, based on all the elements both players agreed on, was that NAP forgot to track down one of the attacks of the Spirit token, most likely on turn 8 where the combat phase was massive (4 creatures each side) and he should be at 5. It was his turn to say he was certain to be right, which was fair. I gave him a chance to give me more information that would make me change my conclusions. After a minute, he agreed he probably misregistered life total and he lost the game.


1-    Establish the discrepancy
2-    Identify the causes for the discrepancy
3-    Reconstruct the game state vs life totals

Note: I was given the feedback I could have saved some time in the ruling by saying it was my final decision rather than letting NAP think about it for a minute or two.
If that is a possibility that I encourage when making a judgment call decision, I strongly recommend against when it comes to a ruling based on evidence/maths, where it’s much better to let the player agree with the evidence/reasoning rather than having him feel you imposed a subjective decision. There are so few situations in which you have all the elements that it’d be a pity to not take advantage of it.