Magic the Gathering

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.

Magic the Gathering

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.

Magic the Gathering

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.

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

GP Leipzig Judge Photo

The judges of GP Leipzig:

This picture is from flame-‘s blog. I added the names with the help of flame- and other members of #mtgjudge. Thanks all! Missing on this picture are at least MJH, Thomas Kugler, and Martin Damen.

Magic the Gathering

Grand Prix Leipzig

I came back from Grand Prix Leipzig yesterday evening. A friend had asked me not to judge at this event, so I did her the favor and did play instead. Day 1 competition was split into two separate events, head-judged by Jesper Nielsen and Gis Hoogendjik respectively. The layout of the tournament site was suited very well for this event, since it consisted of two big halls, joined by a smaller hall so that each event was held in a separate hall.

I went 5-4, which surprisingly wasn’t enough to make day 2. So instead I chatted with a lot of people, mostly with other judges. I met Johanna Knuutinen (flame-) from Finland for the first time. I also chatted a bit with Jasper Overman (Mercator) from the Netherlands and Thomas Ralph (Island) from Ireland, who I had only briefly met at Grand Prix Vienna before. Finally there were many German judges present, most of whom I know from other German events, like the Rodgau PTQs at the end of 2004. Johanna and Thomas also brought me Euro coins from their home countries, which I will hand on to my colleague Nicole, who collects them.

I am glad that one of the local Berlin players, Rosario Maij, made the finals of the Grand Prix. He is a nice guy and someone who has really earned success at this level. Also, Gabriel Huber, who joined us on our ride to Leipzig passed his L1 judge test. Congrats to both of them!

I really enjoyed the weekend. I was travelling with nice people, met and chatted with nice people, and did play some Magic (although i would have preferred to judge some Magic) at a very well run event. Props to the whole staff!