German Nationals

Sidenote: If you don’t want to hear about who I spent time with, what we might have eaten or drank, and/or where we went, then you might want to skip this entry. (With a nod to Sheldon Menery.)

Last weekend I judged at German Nationals in Bonn. I got up at 4 in the morning to catch the first train. In Bonn I took the tram. Finding it was not easy, since the underground tram station was marked with the subway logo. I hate it when smaller cities designate their tram as “subway” just because it drives underground for two or three stations. Also, the vending machine in the tram didn’t work, so I couldn’t buy a ticket. How sad.

I arrived at the site at about 11 and was shocked to learn that I was the last judge to arrive. There were two batches of judges, one batch had already arrived on Thursday, but would leave Sunday, while the other batch (my batch) only arrived Friday and would leave Monday. Nevertheless all the other judges had already managed to arrive. Fascinating.

I was assigned to the pairings and result slips team under team leader Tobias Licht. The day was quite stressful for me. At some point I noticed that the trash cans were full, so I asked around about who was responsible for emptying it. Apparantly nobody was. Also, the air conditioning did not work properly. The site staff blamed the open doors in the hall, so we closed them and kept them closed for the rest of the event. It didn’t help much. While I don’t mind emptying the trash myself (although I skillfully delegated that job to the Logistics team on day 2), I think it’s a quite weak sign for the site that they don’t have staff for things like that.

We tried the new policy for Looking at Extra Cards at this event: Shuffle the card back into the “random” part of the library. I had this problem come up once. It was easily solved: A player had looked at four cards when using Sensei’s Divining Top and the extra card was easy to distinguish. Also, both players agreed that the library had not manipulated in any other way than by the top.

In the evening we drove to the hotel. Unfortunately at the same time of Nationals there was a large Catholic youth convention in the Bonn/Cologne area, which meant that not many hotel rooms were left and our hotel was a 15 minute ride from the site, in a small town outside of Bonn. Near the hotel were a Chinese restaurant, a Mexican restaurant, and a McDonalds. We wanted to go to the Mexican restaurant, but it was full and we would have had to wait for quite a while. So we went to the Chinese restaurant, which was decent. We later learned from the Amigos Ingo Muhs and Matthias Kubiak (Amigo is the German distributor of Magic and tournament organizer for German Nats) that the Mexican was really good though. After the meal I went to bed “early” (around midnight), while some other judges still drafted.

Saturday I was assigned team leader for the deck checks team. Also members of my team were Michael Huellecremer, Martin Golm, and Andreas Wahl. While Andreas was only judging his second event, the other members of my team are very experienced judges. Saturday would see three rounds of limited play (booster draft) and four rounds of Standard. The deck lists for the Standard portion had already been counted on Friday, and there had been no(!) problems. The deck lists from the draft had the usual number of problems though. We finished counting during round 1 of draft play, and fixed all problems at the beginning of round 2 with the help of the logistics team.

During a deck check in draft round 3 one of the deck checkers (I believe it was Michael, but I’m not sure) noticed that in the deck he checked all non-lands were a bit worn, while all lands looked fresh. Head judge Justus Rönnau was consulted, and he was able to divide the cards into two piles with just a brief glance at each card. The player, who was one of the last players in the standings was inteviewed, and we did not believe he was intentionally cheating, although we could not determine how the marks got on the cards in the first place. I think Michael’s explanation is likely though: The player admitted that he often flicks the cards in his hand and plays his lands as soon as possible. Thatswhy the lands are less marked than the non-lands. In the end the player got a Match Loss for Marked Cards – Major.

During a later round there was a long delay when we had another case of Marked Cards – Major, this time from the top of the standings. Judge Norman Hübner approached me during the constructed part of the tournament. A spectator had noticed that some of the cards of the player were different. So we planned to deck check the player during the next round. But when Norman watched a bit more closely, he also saw the marks, and intervened immediatly after game 2 and took the deck.

I noticed that the deck was indeed sleeved with two different types of sleeves. But we didn’t notice any pattern. What was worse was that there were distinct nail marks on a few distinct cards of this Tooth and Nail deck: On the two Tooths, on three Iwamori of the Open Fist (this was after sideboarding) as well as the T&N fetch targets. In the end HJ Justus determined after a player interview that the marks were probably the result of sideboarding. This also resulted in a Match Loss for Marked Cards – Major.

On Saturday the Junior Super Series (JSS) Finals for Germany were also held at the same location. All competitors of this event were invited to one free introductory draft back at the hotel. So I was approached by Matthias from Amigo and was asked to help out with it. We drove back to the hotel with a shuttle bus, and I drafted a bit with the kids. In the bus I noticed that most of the kids were actually from Berlin, and had probably more draft experience than I had. In the bus the kids asked me for free boosters, but all I could manage was a free Island from the land box. Luckily for the winner of the Island, Martina Pilcerova, the artist, was sitting right next to me in the bus, so he at least got a signed card.

After I had finished the draft with the kids (everybody including me rare drafted since there were no prices) the judges met at the Chinese restaurant again, this time for the judge dinner. We had an buffer that included baked banana. I thought it was actually baked pork. Banana with spicy sauce tastes really interesting … Jens Strohäker on the other hand ate all the other bananas on his own; he had a huge “banana hill” on his plate.

After the meal, we played a multiplayer Highlander game. Oliver Dürr had brought his Highlander deck. With over 500 cards it was large enough for all of us, so we played from one library with one shared graveyard. Well, we actually had to build two libraries, because otherwise the pile would be too high. So you could choose to draw from either one. Scry cards were quite interesting, and resolving tutors involved five people searching through the library at once to find the right card … When the game finally ended at 3 in the morning (most people had already left), Martina won after resolving a Sway of the Stars.

Fortunately I could sleep an hour longer on Sunday, since I was scheduled to judge a quarterfinals match. Most other judges had to leave earlier, since on Sunday the Vintage Championships took place and needed a full judge crew.

The top 8 matches of German Nationals took place in a back room. One match at a time was on camera and broadcast onto a large screen in the main event hall. (The hall was divided into an area for the Vintage tournament and a spectator’s area.) My match between André ‘TrashT’ Müller and Maurice Schepp was the last quarterfinals match still running. So for the fifth game we moved onto camera, and I had to manage the equipment as well as table judge. (Well, managing equipment meant moving around paper slips with life totals and specially hand crafted tokens so that the people back in the audience could keep track of what happened.)

It was clear from the beginning that Maurice would conceed if he was about to win, since he couldn’t attend Worlds due to school commitments. So he didn’t want to “steal” a seat on the National team. During game 5 Maurice was about to win, when a grave mistake happened: Maurice played a Plow Under and when he resolved it, he put it on top of his library instead of the graveyard. I missed this as well as Justus (who also watched the match), both players, the reporter, and another judge watching. The only person in the room noticing it was Peer Kröger, who also did top 8 coverage. Of course everybody back in the main event room noticed. Embarrassing …

After the quarterfinals were over, I helped with a deck check in the Vintage tournament, but it had more than enough judge stuff. But then I was tasked with a special mission by Matthias: Martina, the artist, wanted to play Magic. So, for the rest of the day (until about 10:30 in the evening, when the top 8 of the Vintage Championships were finally over) I was slinging spells with her. She is a very nice person and I had lots of fun. After the event was over the remaining judges, the Amigos, and Martina went back to the hotel. Our plan was to try out the Mexican. Of course we arrived at 10 past 11, ten minutes after the kitchen had closed … So, we had to use plan B: McDonalds. Great.

After we finished our delicious meal, we played a few Sealed Deck matches with random booster leftovers from Amigo’s booster box. My deck with cards from Alliances, Torment, Scourge, Onslaught, and some other set was quite good, but I nevertheless lost two matches and drawed with Martina. But at least I opened a Force of Will.

All in all, I had lots of fun. It is a bit sad that the event was smaller than in previous years, but I hope that this will be remedied in the future. I am looking forward to the next big event where I can judge.

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