I always play at PRs. I wish I could play more but, well, it’s tough to find enough time as most of my Friday evenings are booked.
Last week-end’s PR proved to be very interesting, both from the player’s and the judge’s point of view. While I really felt that the set required some skills at correctly building and attacking/blocking, no less than four interesting situations arose.
Did you attack last turn?
My opponent attacks with a 2/1. I state “Go to 16” (down from 18) and writes it on my life pad. He hesitates a bit and says “Err, you were already at 16, I attacked with it last turn”. I’m confused with it. I check his life pad and it turns out he hadn’t registered the life loss either.
We hesitate a bit and the following discussion happens:
- Opp: I attacked with both creatures last turn, we likely forgot to note it down.
- Me: You hesitated while declaring attackers, it took some time and I’m sure you didn’t attack with it either. Also, if you had attacked, this is likely the creature I’d have blocked because once it’s a flier, I quite can’t deal with it. And anyway I want to block because I just want to stay alive until I draw a 4th land.
- Opp: Well, you’re mana screwed so I really want you to block to not have access to a fourth or fifth mana if you can attack with the Berserker so I sent both in.
We both have valid strategic reasons: I believe he wants to save his Lightwalker because once he bolster on it, I’m unlikely to be able to deal with the flier ever. He believes he attacked with it to force me into blocking to temporize a little.
I also believe that, had he attacked with the Lightwalker, this is the one I’d have blocked because, despite it has only 2 power, the potential flier it is much more dangerous.
We both agreed that my opp told me to wait while he was thinking about his attackers and did the following: First, he tapped both. Then, he tapped the 3/1 only. What’s unclear is whether there was a final set of attackers declared.
When trying to assess what happened, taking players away from the table can help because they can privately tell you about their strategic reasoning so you can make up your mind as to what’s the most probable. I say “probable” because most of the time, you have no way to know what happened.
In this case, that wouldn’t have worked because we both had valid reasoning but that’s generally an asset.
Also, my opponent and I factually disagreed on what happened. I am positive none of us was lying. I won’t say that I was the one who was right either. I may genuinely misremember what happened based on the reasoning I was coming up with when evaluating all the options on whether I should block or not.
In the end, my opponent said that since we didn’t write anything, we just should proceed, which is likely the ruling I’d have taken as a judge, not being able to determine with precision what happened. Indeed, the lack of life change on both life pads is the only factual element on which you can rely in the absence of non-factual but relevant elements (like strategic assessment)
Why didn’t we call the judge? Well, there wasn’t any. I‘d have been fine with any ruling honestly. Barring the lack of tracking, that’s a pure 50/50 I think (but may be biased).
Team Sealed at Pre-releases
During another flight, I see the shop owner going to the table of four friends who have a mess in front of them. The following discussion happens:
- Did you guys trade cards with each other?
- So why is there a gigantic pile of cards in the middle of the table?
- These are the cards we won’t use at all.
- So I can just take them away and get them back to you at the end of the day?
- Well, there’s no way we can identify what belongs to who so, as a matter of fairness with all other players, it’s better you don’t use them.
That was a pretty good move. There was a reasonable way their story could be true. They’re clearly inexperienced and don’t seem to understand why that’s a problem. Then the discussion goes on:
- One last time, because that’s important, you’re positive you only have in your decks what you opened yourselves right?
- Yeah Yeah.
At the end of deck construction, the shop owner returns and asks the guys if he can check their decks. He takes a look at the global quality of the decks and they all look very good. In one of them, he find three white Fate Reforged uncommon:
- I’m confused here. You told me you didn’t exchange cards. It’s impossible to have three white uncommons in only one Fate Reforged Pack.
- Oh err yeah, we might have exchanged a few cards
Coming back to them and checking the content was really good. I’m not sure I’d have thought about it. He disqualified them, not so much for exchanging cards (there was a chance they didn’t know) but mostly for lying to him, despite he made sure to give them a chance.
At first, the store owner was hesitant to DQ them, as he felt this could be a net loss for his business. Then he consulted me and I said: “Everybody is now roughly aware that something happened with these guys. Do you think the other 40 players will feel great losing to them? Honestly, even if they didn’t lie to you, I’d feel very uncomfortable playing against them just because there’s a non-negligible chance they did it. But on top of things, they lied, so now you may even question the intentionality of what they did.”
I know that disqualifying a player is never a great experience. For a shop owner, that potentially means losing a customer. But it’s also creating a cleaner and safer environment for all the other customers, who will likely become more loyal to your events.
A few things regarding Investigations for Adding cards to a limited Pool at PRs:
- Even if players want to have fun, it’s better to create a random Seat All players. That reduces, although not clears, the potential for two players to exchange cards between them.
[Edit after feedback: Obviously, it can slightly affect the experience because it’s always a lot more fun to sit next to friends and chat with them. I guess it’s a trade-off that you need to decide based on what’s happening locally.]
- Checking the total number of commons/uncommons/rares+mythics (and remembering a foil, no matter his rarity, replaces a common) is the best way to detect anomalies in the pool.
- Because these are PRs, make sure you know exactly what should be in the Pre-release special pack. There might be more than 14 cards, there might be different rarity division, etc.
Compare the numbers of the investigated pool vs other pools from people you trust.
- Choosing to assess adding cards just because “the pool is too good” is very dangerous. This is something that can be a hint, but not something that is decisive per se.
Bribery at PRs
During yet another flight, at the last active table in Round 3, the store employee is waiting for the result while casually discussing with friends. Meanwhile, the following discussion happens:
- AP: Draw is like a loss for both of us. You should concede to me.
- NAP: Why?
That’s a good hint that something might be wrong. Actually, that’s the perfect setup for a judge to step in along the lines I describe in this article.
Because I wasn’t a judge at this event, I could not step in directly so I tried to draw the attention of the store employee who couldn’t have a clue what was happening. It led nowhere but there are a few teachings from this situation:
- When you create a Prize structure, make it result-dependent, not ranking-dependent: This avoids feel-bad moment from players who “lost” some boosters based on tiebreakers.
Good practice: 12 points = 8 boosters ; 9 points = 4 boosters
Bad practice: 1st = 36 booster ; 2nd = 18 booster
- Make sure that draws create equal value to players so as to not tempt them to collude (check this article as well about what may incentivize players to collude)
Good practice: 12 points = 8 boosters ; 10 points = 6 boosters ; 9 points = 4 boosters
Bad practice: 12 points = 8 boosters ; 9-10 points = 4 boosters
Note that this example takes 4 rounds for a tournament, but the system works with any number of given rounds.
It’s incredibly frustrating for players when a draw is like a double loss, so it incentivizes them to commit Bribery (very often under the form of a bad prize split)
Did I play a land this turn?
At some point during a game, I have 8 lands in play and need 9 manas to do all of what I want to do. But I have a doubt as to whether I already played a land or not.
As a reflex, I quickly counted all my cards following the guidelines of this article and, right after, I realized I could have been much faster by realizing I cast two 4-CMC spells on the turn before.
It made me realize the most efficient procedure is likely:
- Check what happened the turn before.
- If it doesn’t work, proceed to thorough card counting.
That was quite an interesting week-end 🙂