Magic the Gathering

Ravnica Prerelease

We had another Ravnica: City of Guilds prerelease at the FUNtainment Game Center (formely Magic Center). It was a whooping success with a total of 47 participants, much more than I had anticipated for this third prerelease.

This was the content of four Ravnica: Stadt der Gilden boosters

The store was full, since there was a large YuGiOh tournament going on at the same time (“Pharaoh Tour”) with about 150 participants. A Vs event had to be canceled due to a lack of participants. Scheduling such an event as competition to a large YuGiOh and Magic event seems like a poor choice on the part of UDE. But at least some of the Vs players decided to play in the Ravnica prerelease instead, so that we had a few late entrants.

Since the place we usually used for posting pairing was used by the YuGiOh tournament, I had to resort to creativity: A Yugi standup figure was used for the rest of the tournament as pairings holder, despite the protests of an unnamed UDE employee. (“As an official UDE representative, I have to tell you that Yugi is a really cool guy.”)

Due to time problems, caused by the high number of players, the late entrants, and the YuGiOh event going on in parallel, I decided to leave out the deck swap. One of the players, who opened a foil Birds of Paradise was overenjoyed, since he had feared that he’d have to give it away.

Prerelease judges, from left: Christopher Eucken (L1), Cristian Hoof (L2, Scorekeeper), Sebastian Rittau (L2, Head Judge)

One of the side drafts had an interesting problem: Four boosters contained a total of more than 40 rare cards. In most of the boosters the common slots contained rares. We replaced the boosters with boosters from the price pool, and let the players draft from the opened rares at the end of the draft.

Unfortunately I had to leave after three rounds, but I left Cristian Hoof (L2, scorekeeper) and Christopher Eucken (L1) behind, and I’m sure that the tournament was in good hands.

Finally, here is a photo that probably neither Wizards nor Upperdeck would endorse: some of the judges that frequently work at the FUNtainment Game Center in Berlin:

Upper row, from left: Christopher Eucken (L1), Sebastian Rittau (L2), a YuGiOh judge whose name eludes me, Cristian Hoof (L2), Peter Feller (Game Center manager), lower from, from left: Ali (another YuGiOh judge), Soul (a UDE judge)
Magic the Gathering

Record Deduction as Penalty?

There has been discussion recently at dcijudge-l and other places about the proper penalties in two-headed giant matches. In 2HG matches, only one game is played per match. This means that a Game Loss actually equals a Match Loss and this is considered too hard a penalty for many rules infractions that warrant the former.

This got me into thinking: What if we replace the current system of Game/Match Losses with a deduction of points from the player’s or team’s current tournament record? A Game Loss could equal a deduction of one point, while a Match Loss would mean a deduction of three points. Such a system has several advantages, but also disadvantages.


  • Solves the two-headed giant problem.
  • Lowers the incentive to rules cheese, since a player doesn’t get an immediate advantage if his or her opponent gets a Game or Match Loss.
  • Is more fair in situations, where a player gets a penalty for stuff that happens outside a match. (For example, a Game Loss for an illegal deck list, or Unsporting Conduct during a break.) With the current system, a player that is not involved get a “free” Game or Match win.
  • Is more flexible, since the number of point deductions is not limited to 1 or 3.


  • How to handle single-elimination tournaments?
  • What about games where the game state is irrevocably damaged?
  • Lower the incentive to call a judge when you notice that an opponent commits a seemingly accidental rules infraction, since you can’t “hope” for a Game/Match Loss.
  • Penalties in this system have no influence on your rating.

I think that some of the disadvantages could be solved by “falling back” to the old system in situations where this is necessary.

I am not sure whether such a system is feasible, but it’s at least an interesting thought experiment.

Magic the Gathering

Pro Player Picture Puzzle

Well, yesterday I posted a picture of the new Pro Player cards that will be included in each Ravnica tournament pack. It seems that Brian David-Marshall’s article Collect ’em All! was sneak-edited and now contains a link to another page that contains more pro player pictures:

Only that in the meantime in the latter picture the image of Fujita has been replaced by a less ridiculous looking picture of Kai Budde:

Interesting …

Magic the Gathering

Horrible Idea

Oh my god, what a horrible idea:

Why not give us something useful, like token cards? But I guess there needs to be some Pro Tour marketing …

Magic the Gathering

Multiplayer Rules

I’ve had the chance to try out the new multiplayer rules with my play group. Let me start by saying that I love the new two-headed format! While there are certainly still some kinks that need to be worked out, the fast pace and necessary coordination between team members are really enjoyable. That said here are a few problems that I forsee for other multiplayer formats, especially emperor:

  1. Emperor uses a format, where the emperor has a spell range of 2, while the spell range of the flanks is limited to 1. This is a great solution to what would otherwise be a rules nightmare: How do you prevent flanks to just play lots of burn, targeted at the enemy emperor? (And to a lesser degree: How do you prevent flanks to move creatures to the other flank?)But there is the danger that the format degenerates, similar to the way Magic Online 1-1-1 Emperor (a format, where every player has a spell range of 1) has degenerated. The emperor can setup and play stuff without any serious disruption. He can even attack opposing flanks or support his own flanks without fear of retaliation. Only when a flank has been killed, will he be able to be reached by the opponents.I have to admit though that I haven’t tested this version of emperor, yet, and my fears may be unfounded. Also, some of the really degenerate combos that are possible in MTGO 1-1-1 are not possible in this new version of emperor, since the effect range of the emperor is not limited to his own flanks. This means that effects from cards such as Howling Mine or Weird Harvest are not as broken. Let’s see how this format develops. (I really hope that it will be made available at MTGO.)
  2. I also see a problem in the new rules for moving creatures:

    603. Deploy Creatures Option

    603.1. The Emperor variant always uses the deploy creatures option, and it can be used in other variants that allow players to compete in teams. Multiplayer formats in which players compete as individuals usually don’t use this option.

    603.2. Each creature has the ability “{T}: Target teammate gains control of this creature. Play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery.”

    I am a strong proponent of a teammate gaining control of creatures as part of moving (or “deploying”) creatures. In fact, this was one of my proposals after a first draft of the multiplayer rules was posted. But this breaks Sneak Attack and possibly other cards. Sneak Attack reads:

    {R}: Put a creature card from your hand into play. That creature gains haste until end of turn. Sacrifice the creature at end of turn.

    Now, put a creature into play with Sneak Attack. Since it has haste, you can move it to your left flank (or to your emperor if you are the right flank). At end of turn, you can’t sacrifice it, since it’s not your creature anymore. But during the left flank’s turn, she can immediatly attack with it, and she will keep it.

    I see two solutions to this problem: Either just ban this card (and similar cards) from multiplayer formats, or errata it to “Its controller sacrifices the creature at end of turn.” Personally I think that the former solution is cleaner.

  3. The last point raised another important point: There is a big imbalance between the left and the right flank. Such an imbalance has always existed, but the new Deploy rules amplify this problem. Now, a creature that’s moved to the left of you can immediatly be untapped and used by its new controller. On the other hand, a creature moved to the right needs to wait nearly a whole round. This mean that for example the right flank in an emperor game could move a creature to the left flank where it can attack during the same “turn” of that team. A creature moved from the left to the right flank, on the other hand, needs two “turns”.This opens new strategies. For example, right flank and emperor could hold back haste creatures that attack the opposing right flank all at once for a lethal strike out of the blue. Another tactic is “mana hoarding”, where emperor and right flank play lots of cheap mana creatures like Birds of Paradise or Llanowar Elves. Supposing both right flank and emperor managed to play one each during turn 1, this would mean four mana available to the left flank during turn 2, without that flank needing to play any acceleration of their own.In general I don’t think that these strategies have great merit, since they imbalance the left and right flank. where the latter is pressed in to a defensive and supportive role against a very aggressive opposing flank. Personally I would like to see that moving creatures will always come at a cost. (And the established cost is a delay for using that creature.)

    I think a simple rules change could fix this problem. Make the ability granted to all creatures read: “{T}: Target teammate gains control of this creature. It doesn’t untap during the next untap step. Play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery.”

    Please note that it doesn’t say “during its controller’s next untap step”! This would mean that if you move a creature to the next person in turn order (for example the left flank of an emperor), that player wouldn’t untap that creature immediatly, so moving it to a player farther away (the right flank, for example) becomes more “fair”.

    This solution might have its own problems. For example, other abilities of that creature can be used immediatly, but I think activated abilities that require tapping and attacking are the most pressing issues. I will test this suggestion with my play group to see if it works (better).

Magic the Gathering

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.

Magic the Gathering

LCQ German Nationals in Berlin

Sunday was the Last Chance Qualifier for German Nationals here in Berlin, out of a total of five LCQs in all of Germany. The top four players would qualify for Nationals (and the four eventual winners told me that they planned to go). There was a certain confusion about the way the tournament should be run. One LCQ location made a cut to top 8 after the swiss rounds, then played one round of draft, two locations just played one more round of swiss and qualified the top four people after swiss standing, and we and another location made a cut but let people play with their sealed decks. I still don’t know which modus operandi was correct (though it seems that a draft was wrong). In the future better communication is necessary.

We had 54 player, a rather disappointing turnout for an event of such importance. We were five judges, Huy Dinh, Sascha Wagner scorekeeper), Cristian Hoof, Christopher Eucken, and myself. Christopher is a level one judge, all others are level two judges. This was our usual Berlin judge crew and the judge organizational went as smooth as expected. Cristian and Sascha had to suffer from many jokes by us other jokes, since they have disappeared from the list of certified judges. This unfortunately happens from time to time.

I lost the coin flip against Huy so I had to be the Head Judge for this tournament. This was a bad omen. Whenever I am Head Judge, I have to deal with severe cases of Unsporting Conduct, absolutely understaffed events, and other chaotic occurrences. Huy on the other hand has always very quiet, nice tournaments. I wonder what this says about me …

Cards with Edgy Edges

During deck construction we had a few notable events. One Champions of Kamigawa tournament pack contained seven commons twice. None of them were foil. Normally this should not happen. We replaced that tournament pack, since this could be an unfair advantage to the player receiving that pool. Another tournament pack contained two uncommons with two square edges each (see picture). We replaced the uncommons as well.

While building decks, Christopher approached me and told me that he had told a spectator twice not to speak with players while they were deckbuilding. I looked over and saw that spectator chatting with a player and pointing to cards. When interviewing the player and the spectator the player told me that he tried to send the spectator away, but that he wouldn’t go. I believed him, but after consultation with other judges and the acting tournament organizer I nevertheless issued a Match Loss penalty. While the coaching might have been unsolicited, the player did not fulfill his responsibility of calling a judge in this case. Even if they are friends, such behaviour is not tolerable, especially at a REL 3 tournament. The spectator was removed from the tournament site (but was later readmitted after he apologized sincerely and promised that this wouldn’t happen again.) Unfortunately this kind of coaching (which is more a kind of discussion among friends about the choices the deck builder made) is quite common here in Berlin. But we have to reinforce that it is not okay at all, and is normally considered Cheating.

Later in the tournament I had to disqualify a player for Cheating. This was the first DQ I had to issue myself, and the second DQ investigation I had been part of. I will not go into details as long as the DCI investigation isn’t finished, but I will certainly blog about it, once it’s over. I just want to thank Huy and my other judges for being very supportive in this case.

The tournament ended rather early at around 20:30. At around eight all top 8 matches except one had finished, which took another half an hour for game 3. I am happy to see the winners next weekend at Nationals!

Magic the Gathering

German Translation of Auras

I played in the 9th Edition Release Event last weekend. I finished 5th in an event that paid special prices to the top 4. Of course if we had have 17 players instead of 16 it would have paid the to the top 9. But I’m not bitter, no …

Apart from that I noticed a possible problem with the German templating of the Aura cards. “Enchant foo” is translated with “Fooverzauberung”. Now this is consistent to how Enchant cards were translated. But while this translation worked well when you had rather simple fragements like “Enchant Permanent”, “Enchant Swamp”, or even “Enchant Artifact Creature” I fear that it will not work well with the flexibility of the Enchant keyword.

Here is why: The literal translation of “Verzauberung” is “Enchantment”, so the word is a noun. “Fooverzauberung” then becomes “Foo Enchantment”. So far so good. But imagine more complex Enchant keyword like “Enchant black or greeen creature”. This can’t be translated like this. The English equivalent of the German translation would be “Black or green creature enchantment”. Now the words “black or green” refer to the “enchantment” part instead of the “creature” part, which is just wrong. This is not a black or green enchantment after all.

I am not sure how to solve this problem, except by changing the translation template to match the English template; use the word “verzaubern” and everything is fine: “Verzaubere schwarze oder grüne Kreatur” works and means exactly the same as “Enchant black or green creature”.

Magic the Gathering

Final Judgment is not a Bounce

I just remembered another situation from last week’s PTQ in Hamburg. I was watching a match between two players I didn’t know during one of the early rounds of the tournament. Player A played a Final Judgment and player B picked up all of his creatures and put them into his hand. During his turn he started to play them out again. At first both players seemed content with this. While I was still considering what I overlooked though, A seemed to notice his error, grabbed the Final Judgment and read it again. He noticed his error and asked what they should do. B had now also realized his error and removed the cards he had bounced from the game. I rules that these cards are RFG now, since nothing important had happened in the meantime. (B had drawn his cards and played out one of the cards that should have been RFG. He could untap the mana he’d paid and play something else instead.)

After they did that, A pointed to another Judgment in his graveyard and stated that he had played the other Judgment just before that and that the the second Judgment he had just played was unnecessary. Therefore he picked up the latter Judgment and returned it to his hand. I ruled that both Judgments had been played and that I can’t reverse something that had happened a few turns before. So both Judgments stayed in the graveyard. I gave both players a Warning.

This situation was so ridiculous that I failed to intervene in time, since I was really thinking that I had to miss something. Two players misplaying Final Judgment as bounce … Anyways, I’m now off to the Magic Marathon, a monthly Standard REL 3 tournament at the Magic Center.

Magic the Gathering

Nationals and Grinders

This is a comment by me that I wrote as response to J. Sawyer Lucy’s article Bring Back My Limited Grinders! on Star City Games:

It seems that WotC Europe decided that this year that aren’t any grinders at all for European National Championships. German Nationals used to have meat grinders (Standard, Booster Draft, and Sealed Deck IIRC) and these in part made Nationals a great event. Many people would come from all over Germany, just to have a shot in the Grinders. If they didn’t make it, they would play other side events.

This year there are no grinders. This means that the “Nationals event” will last one day less. I fear that much of the appeal of Nationals will be gone. I personally know many non-qualified people that would have gone to Nationals if there had been grinders. Now? Why bother? Grinders are gone and with it the many people that would come just to play in them. This in turn will probably mean that the side events will also become smaller, because most people are playing in the main event.

This is a sad situation and I hope WotC Europe will reconsider for the next year.

– Sebastian