Magic the Gathering

Looking Forward to Grand Prix Hasselt

Grand Prix Hasselt is coming. I know because I have to catch a train tomorrow at 7 in the morning. I am really looking forward to the 8 hour train drive, which includes changing trains twice. (As a tribute to a fellow judge and blogger I give you anecdote #1: The second train changing will take place in Liege, Belgium, where I have to change from a German ICE train into … a German InterRegio train. Kind of reminds me of the situation in Berlin during the Cold War, where western subways ran through the eastern part of the city and you could even change trains in enemy territory.) I am also looking forward to the commute from the hotel to the site. It’s a 4.5 km walk. I could also take the (free!) city bus, except that it doesn’t drive Saturday morning or evening or at Sunday …

But there is a second reason why I know that Hasselt is coming. For a few weeks now there is a large stack of postcards at the FUNtainment Game Center (about 50 for the maybe 3 players from Berlin that will go). Obviously Wizards of the Coast has raised the entry price for Grand Prix events from € 25,- to € 30,- (although the web site for GP Hasselt still lists € 25,-, whereas thr web page for GP Dortmund just three weeks later and next door lists € 30,-). But when you bring one of the postcards, you will get a discount of five Euro. Hrm. Now, today, I found another copy of said postcard in my mailbox, sent by Hasbro Belgium. Seriously, WTF? (Also, don’t you think only two days before the event is a bit tight, Hasbro?)

Magic the Gathering

Guildpact Prerelease

For a summary see the last paragraph of this post.

Yesterday was the big prerelease for Guildpact. As always I judged it at the FUNtainment Game Center here in Berlin. It was a fairly successful event. With 97 players we had one the largest prereleases (the largest even?) in Germany. And that is considering that there were about five other stores in Berlin also holding prereleases. With a judge staff of five we were well equipped to handle it. Helping me were Huy Ding (L2) as scorekeeper, Cristian Hoof (L2), Robert Zemke (L1), our judgeling and store intern Bernard Deglon, and of course our acting TO Peter Feller.

This proved to be the ideal number of judges for this event. Starting from round 2, I could remove myself from the floor, leaving it to the three floor judges. This way I was available for appeals, could observe and advise our judgeling, could supervise some organizational stuff, and talk about various issues, like the upcoming move of the Game Center to a new location, my plans for better judge communication in Berlin, or about upcoming tournaments. Again I noticed that it is an important asset to have a reliable staff you can trust.

I thought the event ran quite well, although there were some hiccups, especially at the beginning. When we distributed product for deck registration, a few players accidently got English tournament packs. We solved that by redistributing these TPs among players who preferred English product. But we had to print out English deck registration sheets and consider these players during the subsequent deck swap.

The announcements at the beginning were kept to a minimum, since players are of course eager to open new product. Since we had to do a few announcements (store’s relocation, upcoming tournaments, general procedures for new or causal player — although we only had to give out three new DCI numbers) I didn’t introduce the new mechanics; This had worked well for the last few sets. In retrospect this proved to be an error. Especially the Haunt ability was hard to understand for some players.

Deck building took much too long. While I tend to give players more time at prereleases, we got the last deck lists about a quarter of an hour after the alloted time was over. Well, actually when we announced that pairing were up for round 1, a player called: “Wait, I haven’t handed my deck list in!” Since I had announced multiple times that time was up and people were to hand in their deck lists and since I had asked multiple times who hadn’t handed their deck lists in yet, I awarded a Game Loss. That player had more than 20 minutes more than other players to build his deck — certainly a significant advantage.

Deck list counting did not proceed as smoothly as it should have. Robert and I were floating, while the other judges counted. They were barely finished when round 2 was about to start and there was a mess. Unfortunately we had two deck list sheets for each player (one for Ravnica and one for Guildpact). Some deck lists were missing their second sheet (not the players’ fault, since we checked that information was complete when collecting), some deck lists seemed to be missing. One judge accidently checked deck lists another judge had already checked. I made the error of not appointing a deck check leader who would be responsible for the job. This is the danger of a strong team of judges — normally everything works smoothly, so you forget to make sure it does.

There was a notable problem with the German version of Sinstriker’s Will. The English version says: “Enchanted creature has “Tap: This creature deals damage equal to its power to target attacking or blocking creature.” while the German version says about: “Enchanted creature has “Tap: This creature deals damage to target attacking or blocking creature equal to its power.” In German the latter wording is ambiguous. The possesive pronoun “ihrer” (“its”) can refer to both creatures, the enchanted one or the targeted one, while favoring the latter. Previously we rules that we only judge according to German card wording at the Prerelease, since the English wordings are not available to us. An exception are of course cards in the FAQ. So my ruling was that according to the wording of the German card, the power of the targeted creature was relevant. A few players protested.

After I had given that ruling a few times, we were finally able to reach Gatherer that surprisingly already had the English wording, which proved the ruling to be wrong. We deliberated whether we should change the ruling in upcoming rounds. Speaking in favor of this was the fact that the ruling was indeed wrong. Speaking against it was consistency during this event (a not so strong argument in my opinion), but — more importantly — consitency with the way we handled translation issues at Prereleases in the past and how we will handle them in future. After polling various judges I decided to change my previous ruling and announced the change at the start of the next round.

It seems Gatherer updates at the day of the Prerelease are a recent change. I hope that in the future it will stay like this. Having to rule on German card wording is suboptimal, especially since translation errors are common and errata for German cards uncommon. The ruling change was made on the assumption that in the future Gatherer updates will also be timely and we can rule on actual Oracle texts at Prereleases. Otherwise I wouldn’t have changed my ruling, since it sets a bad precedent — either we rule all-Oracle (preferable) or all-German (necessary in the past).

At the end of the day we had a brief judge meeting. We hadn’t had one for quite some time, since when the usual suspects judge, we do all the talking during the tournament. Nevertheless it was good to have one, so we could talk about stuff that worked well and stuff that could be improved in an “organized” manner, with all judges participating.

Today we had another Prerelease tournament (19 players) and a team tournament (8 team, meaning another 24 players). Cristian Hoof helped me as scorekeeper and Christopher Eucken (L1) helped me as floor judge.

I started the team tournament first, so that got off a little earlier than the singles competition. I planned to keep round times for both tournaments synchronized to ease the work on us judges. This worked quite well. I could actually start the synchronization during deck building; the team tournament started deck building about 20 minutes earlier than the singles tournament, which is exactly the time difference both types of tournament should get for that.

Both tournaments went smooth. But I had learned from the day before and started off my announcements with explanations about Haunt and also noted the wording difference on the Will. Christopher added some notes about Bloodthirst.

I had also learned from the time issued on deck building the day before. So when there were still 10 minutes left, I announced: “10 minutes left for deck building. And since there were obviously some misunderstandings yesterday: 10 minutes means 10 minutes, not 15 and not half an hour!” I made another announcement when there were still 5 minutes to go. Did it help? When time was called exactly zero deck lists of the team tournament had been handed in. Oh well. In two weeks I will judge a PTQ. I think we will be much less tolerant then. I am not really looking forward to all the Game Losses we might have to hand out …

The rounds were fairly quiet. Christopher did most of the leg work, so I had time to concentrate on other things again. The only thing I find slightly disturbing is that towards the end of the day there four laptops and one desktop computer had accumulated on the judges table/store counter. Junkies.

Summary: Tournaments ran fairly smooth, although some stuff happened. Had fun. News at 11.

Magic the Gathering

Guildpact Card Wordings

Yesterday the FAQ for the upcoming Magic expansion Guildpact was released. I had a bit of time today and I came across two card wording that I don’t like:

    1. The FAQ entry for Goblin Flectomancer says:

      Goblin Flectomancer


      Creature — Goblin Wizard


      Sacrifice Goblin Flectomancer: You may change the targets of target instant or sorcery spell.

      • The ability can target any instant or sorcery spell, even if it has no targets.
      • If the spell has multiple targets, you may either change all the targets or none of them. Each target is treated individually, and must be changed to a different legal target. For example, Seeds of Strength targeting Atog (target #1), the same Atog (target #2), and Scryb Sprites (target #3) can be changed so it targets the same Scryb Sprites (target #1), Eager Cadet (target #2), and Alpha Myr (target #3). If changing one of the targets would be impossible, then you can’t change any of the others.
      • If a spell has a variable number of targets (such as Electrolyze), the number of targets chosen can’t be changed.

      While I think that the FAQ is in fact correct and consistent with other rulings, I wonder how I should explain to players that they have to change all targets if they choose to change one. It seems very unintuitive to me. Why couldn’t it just have been worded “You may change any of the targets …” or something like that?

    2. The FAQ says this about Predatory Focus:

      Predatory Focus



      You may have creatures you control deal their combat damage to defending player this turn as though they weren’t blocked.

      • When Predatory Focus resolves, you choose whether to use its effect or not. If you choose to use it, all your creatures will deal their combat damage to the defending player this turn whether or not they become blocked. You can’t have any of them deal combat damage to creatures that block them. If you choose not to use its effect, nothing happens.

From the way the card is worded it sounds as though you can choose which creatures deal what damage. Why “may”? I think “Creatures you control deal their combat damage to defending player this turn as though they weren’t blocked.” is much clearer and works nearly the same way the current wording does. Why whould you choose to play this if you then choose not deal damage to the player?


Public Transport in Winter

It’s winter in Berlin. It’s cold and wet. There’s muddy snow. Using public transport during winter is not fun. It’s crowded and you have to wait on cold, windy stations. But today it was especially bad.

Returning from university I was waiting at the S-Bahn station Adlershof. First, a passengerless train was passing the station without stop. Some wagons had no light, and at least one door was disabled. Then it was announced that the train to Henningsdorf that was supposed to preceed my train was delayed and would actually suceed my train. In my naivety I didn’t perceive this as a bad sign.

My train arrived and I entered. Funnily the radio transmission from the station personnel to the train driver was relayed to the loudspeakers so I could hear: “Türen schließen” (Close doors) and “Abfahrt” (Depart). Two stations later (Schöneweide) the train waited a while. Another train was waiting on the opposite track, going roughly into the same direction as I, but then it drove off. Just when it had left the station we were told to get off the train, because the train couldn’t go on. A signal somewhere had stopped working. Great, couldn’t they have told us a minute earlier?

Well, I had to wait for the next train leaving from the opposite track. You know the train that was supposed to preceed mine? Well, it was the same train I had seen passing in the opposite direction earlier. Of course this was only a short train and is usually crowded at this time of day. Now it also had to carry the passengers of full-length train. It was crowded.

In the end I had to take a detour over Treptower Park, where I had to wait another 10 minutes for a train to go in my direction. Fun.


Ubuntu (Non-)Collaboration

Today I discovered on Debian’s Package Tracking System that Ubuntu has patched my Netatalk package. The patch seems to be rather useful (start cnid_metad in init if the user requests it). I just wonder why it was never submitted directly to me. Isn’t it easier just to take the upstream message than to (re-)sync every time I release a new version?

Below are relevant comments from my old blog system:

Ubuntu mass-submits patches

by Sami Dalouche


I’m not 100% sure, but I think that Ubuntu massively sends patches when a new version is released…

Any confirmation ?

Not as far as I know

by Chris Cunningham

Canonical specifically request that work is sent upstream because it reduces the workload for their employees. Launchpad is meant to make this a straightforward process. I’m sure it wasn’t malicious, although you could always find out by asking directly.

– Chris

“Ubuntu” as an entity.

by Jeff Bailey


Remember that “Ubuntu” isn’t an entity, it’s a project of people – some of whom work for Canonical.

Canonical employees (of which I am one) are expected to submit fixes that we do to packages back to Debian. Others who work on Ubuntu (community volunteers, people paid by companies other than Canonical) are requested to do so, but are not forced.

“netatalk” is in universe, which is a section of the distribution worked on pretty much entirely by community members.

I hope that helps! Feel free to email me if you have specific questions.


Jeff Bailey

by Zak B. Elep

Hi jroger! 🙂

I was the last one to merge in the previous Ubuntu changes to your package. It (the patch) was already in Breezy courtesy of Ante Karamatic (ivoks), and I remerged it again to your last two versions of netatalk.

I was intending to inform you the soonest about this change, but my school (and non-Ubuntu) work has been my concern in the past few weeks, and, as I see that the PTS already has a link to Scott’s patch repository, I felt that I should leave it to you whether to merge in the changes or not, since it is your prerogative to do so, being netatalk’s maintainer.

Perhaps a better improvement for the PTS interacting with the Ubuntu archive would be automatic notification when Ubuntu changes are committed. I myself would like this, since I maintain/adopt some Debian packages myself, and it would be a great convenience for me if someone else looks at my package(s) in Ubuntu and makes changes without having to contact me first.

I hope that helps 🙂 If you have some questions, just look for me on freenode 🙂



by Sebastian Rittau

Thanks to everybody who has responded. I am aware that Ubuntu consists of many maintainers, and not all are working for Canonical. I would really like some automatic system that forwards (new) Ubuntu patches to Debian maintainers. The integration of Scott’s repository into the PTS is a great first step. I just probably just check the PTS more often. 🙂 


Blonde Joke

Normally, I don’t like blonde jokes, but this one is really good! Oh and: Happy New Year!

But the really funny thing about this is that I stumbled across it on Planet Debian, a computer-related RSS aggregator. And while following the links, I came across The Ferret’s blog. Ferret is a well-known employee of the Magic web site and store StarCityGames. Small world indeed.