Deck Viewer for Pro Tour coverage

The Pro Tour video coverage is nice, although there is one thing that has been nagging at me for a while: The cards are hard to recognize. While this was ok, when I still recognized the cards by image, it was rather difficult with the Pro Tour Prague coverage, since I didn’t know most Dissension cards and am still struggling with some Guildpact cards. Therefore I created a Deck Viewer that allows a visual representation of Magic decks as shown on www.wizards.com. Just enter an URL (I suggest http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgevent/ptpra06/t8decks) with deck lists and it will show a visual overview of the deck (currently without sideboard).

At the moment the page looks rather ugly and has several shortcomings. This is mostly because this is more of a proof of concept (one hour hack) and an idea I would like to pitch to Wizards. Nevertheless I would like to hear about bugs or improvement suggestions.

Player Prototypes

Mark Rosewater wrote an article in which he revisits his Timmy, Johnny and Spike prototypes of Magic players. He makes a good point saying that these prototypes, or psychographic profiles, are just isolations of personality traits of a certain groups of players. But I think it is an error to describe these prototypes too detailed, and even to sub-divide them into several groups. The prototypes were well understood and simple. And I think simplicity is key here. Of course a prototype doesn’t is quite black-and-white, but it’s supposed to! It’s supposed to point out certain traits in a very obvious, exaggerated way. Introducing subgroups muddles this up. Now when someone is talking about “Johnny” I have to wonder whether he is talking about “Combo Player Johnny”, “Offbeat Designer Johnny” or any of the other possible Johnnys.

For example, Mark tries to explain that “Timmy” is not just a little boy that likes to play with big creatures, although that concept has worked well so far. Instead he lumps several other types into that concept. Now Timmy is someone playing for the experience. That includes people who play to socialize with others. This doesn’t seem to fit the Timmy prototype at all. (At least it doesn’t to me.)

I would suggest taking another route: Don’t be afraid to introduce new prototypes if necessary. Matt Cavotta did it with the Vorthos, and Mark could do as well. If you need a “social player” introduce him (or her), but don’t make poor Timmy suffer. But don’t go overboard: a few basic prototypes for the most important character traits are enough!

In summary: I don’t think generalizing the prototypes was a good idea.

Grand Prix Dortmund

It was not clear whether I would be invited to Grand Prix Dortmund. I had heard through the grapevine that I was on the list of replacements should any other judge cancel his invitation. But in the end I was invited. At that point I didn’t know that GP Dortmund was going to be the most demanding but also the most satisfying Grand Prix for me so far.

The judges of Grand Prix Dortmund

Riccardo Tessitori, Italy’s level 4 judge was going to be Head Judge, and Justus Rönnau, Germany’s most prominent judge was going to assist him. Riccardo in his preparation mail asked what we would like to do at the tournament. Since I was looking for new experiences I replied that I would like to either judge the main event on day 2 (previously I had always judges side events), or lead a team (something I hadn’t done before at the GP level), or table judge in the top 8 (I had to refuse that on my last two GPs — at GP Nottingham I felt I was more needed at the side events, at GP Hasselt I didn’t feel very well).

I was pleased when I got mail from Riccardo telling me I was to be team leader of a Logistics team on day 1 of the tournament. Lubos Lauer (an experienced level 3 judge from the Czech Republic) was going to be my backup. When I arrived at the tournament, my first task was to set up table numbers together with Richard Drijvers, the team leader of the other Logistics team. This proved to be an unique challenge, since the tables were arranged in a very “creative” way, not in orderly rows. In the end we settled on a way to do it and used numerous signs to help the players. But we were promised to have regular rows again in the future.

Day 1 went well and I learned a lot in my function as team leader. I was judging on the green side of the tournament, Justus’s side. The logistics team had a hard job at Limited events: product must be prepared and distributed, land stations must be manned, and then the floor must be covered while the deck check team starts counting deck lists. After that it becomes a much more quiet job. Overall I think we did a good job and the tournament finished in a timely manner.

I also made my first ruling in front of a rather large feature match crowd. It puts quite some pressure on you to rule on a complicated rules situation when about 20 people are watching you.

At the end of day when assignments were given out for day 2, I was assigned team leader again, this time for the Deck Check team. Working on day 2 overall is easier than on day 1, since there are less players (128 in our case) and most players are rather experienced. Nevertheless the two drafts (which means we have to count deck lists twice in a total of six rounds) adds some additional burden.

Overall I think I made a worse job at team leading, mostly because I wasn’t as prepared to the task as on day 1. This was the first time I judged on day 2 of a GP, and although I knew about what was going to happen, I did never observe this closely before. I think I should have taken the time the evening before to get some input, but I was too tired. Nevertheless things went fairly smooth again.

I was also asked to call the second draft. While I had called drafts before, this was the first time I did it in front of a large crowd and with a microphone. So I was a bit excited, of course. Well, after I made my initial announcements and said: “Count whether you got fifteen cards in your booster. Pick one card, you’ve got 40 seconds.” I noticed that a stop watch, or any watch at all would be a good thing to have. Finally I used the stop watch in my cell phone. This worked well … for about two and a half minutes, after which my cell phone froze. It turns out that only the stop watch display froze, while the stop watch itself ran on. So I was able to go back to the main screen and through the menus to the watch again and just continue. This happened a few times more during the first booster. While players were checking their drafted cards after booster 1, I got the stop watch of George M, which worked much better. Exciting times!

At the end of the day I table judged the semifinals match between David Brucker (who was eventually to go on and win the GP) and Mathias Wigge. Hanno Terbuyken was our reporter, so we had an all-German match that was rather interesting and exciting. We had some preprinted pages for noting down life totals, land drops, and extra draws (which a table judge usually does). It turned out to be a bad idea to use them, since I used more time to understand this system and look for the correct column than I liked. Next time I will use my own system again.

After that I took over as spotter for the finals. Fairly uneventful from a judging perspective, but with an exciting comeback by Brucker in game 3 from a one-land hand.

I noticed at this events that one of my big weaknesses is the evaluation of other judges. I often don’t see what they are especially good at or could improve, especially if they are doing a fine job. This is something I should concentrate on in the future and I also got some helpful tips from more experienced judges.

This was probably my best Grand Prix so far. I got to meet many people again that I met before, and had some interesting talks. I learned much from the talks as well as the work in many different areas at this tournament. I also was able to recognize some of my weaknessed that I will be able to work on in the future.

Grand Prix Hasselt – The Tournament

Before writing about GP Dortmund, I have to wrap up my report from GP Hasselt. So here it is briefly: The event too place in the Ethias Arena in Hasselt. This was a large stadium, the is probably usually used for sports events. The chairs were folded back, so we had a lot of space.

Day 1 I was member of the paper team under Marco Risso. I was on the blue side of the tournament (it was split into two smaller tournaments), where Gis Hoogendijk was Head Judge. Paper is the easiest job. Basically you have to distribute the pairings, standing, and the result slips at the start of each round. We had the additional task of providing the Scorekeeper Shield/Outstanding Tables Manager. While these are two separate tasks, they are usually done the same person, since both require close coordination with the Scorekeeper at the end of each round. The Scorekeeper Shield prevents players and judges alike from bothering the Scorekeeper unnecessarily at the end of the round, when a lot of results have to be entered and the Scorekeeper is usually in a hurry. The Shield also handles drop, by crossing players that want to drop off a list.

The Outstanding Tables Manager receives the list of outstanding tables at the end of each round. He then sends other judges off to check on these tables, and either watch them if they are still playing and no judge is present, or to report back. This way, problems can be quickly spotted (for example, if a match result was lost or not handed in) and it is ensured, that each match playing in overtime has a judge watching them.

I volunteered as SS/OTM and got to work closely with Henk Claasen, the Scorekeeper. Unfortunately there were several scorekeeping-related problems during the day, so that the blue tournament was delayed by more than half an hour at the end of the day. In particular, some results had been entered wrong after round 2, but this could only be fixed after more than 10 minutes had elapsed. By that time some players had already received a win, since their opponents supposedly hadn’t shown up and had left the premises.

I felt very well cared for by my team leader and my other team member and was always supplied with bottled drinks and an occasional chat while shielding the scorekeeper. Nevertheless I think I overextended on day 1 and it came back to haunt me (no pun intended) on day 2. I was assigned to side events, but I already felt weak during breakfast, but it became worse during the day. Fortunately I had secured a spot at the side events table, preparing and managing product the whole day. This meant I could sit and drink a lot, which was very important. It was also good that someone did the product preparation, since side events were huge. GP Hasselt took place one week after the Guildpact prerelease, and we had more Prerelease flights of 32 people each. We managed to have nearly ten flights as well as lots of booster drafts, so it was a very busy day.

Towards the evening I felt much better, and helped cleaning up the site. Late I heard that the WotC guys were still at the site until 4 Monday morning, since they hadn’t finished deconstructing yet. In the hotel the bar was just closing when we arrived, but a after about half an hour discussion and basically refusing to leave the bar, we still got some drinks. It was very disappointing of the hotel that they didn’t have the flexibility to reopen the bar, when a group of about 20 people want to sit together and have a drink.

The drive back home was fairly eventful. I was now sitting in the last car of the ICE 3 and could look back at the track.

Grand Prix Hasselt – Getting There

Last weekend I was at Grand Prix Hasselt. I had to get up early on Friday morning to catch my train. Unfortunately I was about half an hour too early. This gave me ample time to watch the InterCity train on the neighbouring track failing to move on; since Zoo station has only a total of four tracks (two in each direction, not quite enough for such an important station), this caused further delays. My train arrived about 20 minutes late …

After the train had left Wolfburg station, we were in for a special treat: The train preceeding ours had stopped a few hundreds meters before reaching Hannover main station and wouldn’t drive on. So our train got the role of “rescue train”: We pulled up alongside the other train on open tracks. Then small bridges were built between the doors of the two trains and the passengers were evacuated from the other train. This cost us another 30 minutes. Even though our train now contained the passengers from about 3 trains (ours, the evacuated one, and since we were 50 minutes late now passengers from the next train as well), it wasn’t very full.

In Cologne I had to change trains. Actually the delay suited me, since instead of waiting one hour on the station, I only had to wait for 10 minutes. In the train I had a seat in the very front where I could watch the tracks over the shoulders of the driver (ICE 3 rules). I also met fellow judge Martin Golm, who had a seat in the same compartment.

We had to change trains again in Liege and arrived in Hasselt during the afternoon. The hotel was a ten minute walk from the train station, but unfortunately the site was another 30 minutes walk away from the hotel. We helped with setting up the site and had a first judge meeting at 8 in the evening. Head judge Jaap Brouwer (L5) told us the plan for the next day. We were to split up into two tournaments on day 1, since we expected more than 800 players. Gis Hoogendijk (L5) was to head judge the blue half – my half – of the tournament. I was to be part of Marco Risso’s (L2) Paper team. The paper team is responsible for posting pairings and standings and distributing result slips, a fairly easy job that means a lot of floor time and therefore lots of walking around.

After the meeting we helped a bit more with setting up the site – those large banners are quite a hassle to construct and erect. I concluded the evening by having dinner with a few fellow judges, some I knew from previous events, some I hadn’t met before.

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?)

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.

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

      {U}{R}{R}

      Creature — Goblin Wizard

      2/2

      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

      {3}{G}{G}

      Sorcery

      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?

Judge Situation in Berlin

Christoph Meise, a level 1 judge from Berlin, complained about the way I portrayed the judge situation in Berlin at the moment. According to him there are more judges that would be willing to judge if they were just asked by the TO.

Well, even if counting graciously, I count about 6 active judges, available for larger events, in Berlin. That’s not enough, especially since there is no guarantee that all these judges stay active. Also, there is no “judge community” in Berlin. My personal community, i.e. the other judges from Berlin that I talk to about judging consists of roughly 3 or 4 people. Ideally it would consist of all the people that judge regularily or are interested in working those larger events. Personally, I did not know about the desire of other judges to judge at events like PTQs.

So, what can we do about the current situation? flame- confirmed my suggestion that if there is no active level 3 judge in your area to build an active community, the lower levels must take matters in their own hands and Andy Heckt called the theme of the judge program for 2006 “Building a Community”. Well it seams the goal is clear, even if the road there is still shrouded in mist (at least to me). I think I will begin by founding a local judge mailing list and possibly a web page and see where the road leads to. But first, I will enjoy Christmas. It’s not 2006 yet, after all.

I would really appreciate thoughts from other people about this!

Good Bye, Amigo

A few days ago, Amigo Spiel + Freizeit announced in their newsletter that they will pass Magic Operated Play (OP) on to Wizards of the Coast, starting 2006. They will continue to distribute Magic in Germany and Austria though.

I am a bit sad to see them go. I think they did their job fairly well and I hope that WotC will be able to keep up or even improve on that standard. I also liked to work with the Amigo people at several events, like Grand Prixs, German Nationals, or PTQs. They are really nice people and I certainly had a good time. They did also show interest in the concerns of TOs and judges and the things that were going on in Germany’s Magic scene.

I also fear that the German Bundesliga, an institution where Magic teams play each other in a league system may be discontinued. But I think we need to wait and see what will happen.