PTQ Berlin in Berlin I (FUNtainment)

Last Saturday (August 2nd) was the first of two locale PTQs for the Pro Tour in this very city. It was held at the FUNtainment Game Store. Going into the event I expected 70 X players. 70 is about the normal number for Block Constructed PTQs (which are never very strong), and X was going to be an unknown number to account for the fact that this was going to be for a local Pro Tour. It turned out that X was -12. A turnout of 58 players was very disappointing, but this was in line with the turnout at other PTQs. Dortmund also had 58 players and PTQs in the US and UK also reported a low turnout. We had the normal amount of players from outside Berlin (mainly from Hamburg, Magdeburg, and Poland), so this means that the Berlin players were underrepresented. We can only speculate about the reasons for the low turnout: Maybe it was because of the format or the fact that we have summer holidays in Germany. Maybe it’s also a combination of multiple facts.

The judge staff consisted of Kersten, who was going to be scorekeeping trainee, Christopher, Wolfram (my current trainee judge), and myself as head judge. The low turnout allowed me to coach both Kersten and Wolfram a bit, although things got a little bit hectic when we started a side event Grand Prix Trial (for Grand Prix Copenhagen) after the 4th round. This had exactly eight players, so it went straight to top 8.

During round 1 I’m checking deck lists, when I notice a Russian Reflecting Pool among the pile of lists. As I go hunting for the deck that this card belongs to, I come across a player (let’s call him Adrian) who uses the same sleeves. When I ask him whether it’s his card, he denies it and tells me that he counted 60 cards in his deck when he shuffled. I confirmed this by counting his cards again. He then asks his friend Bertram whether he was lent this card and Bertram claims that it was indeed one of the cards lent to Adrian. But since Adrian has a legal deck, I let them play on and went back to the judges station. When I count Adrian’s deck list, I notice that he marked down 61 cards on the list! Just as I am about to go back to the table, Adrian comes up to me and tells me that he remembers that he actually plays 61 cards. Well, I give the Game Loss for Deck/Decklist Mismatch. Since Adrian has just lost game 1, this means he lost the match. Had he remembered earlier, the Game Loss would have been applied to the game in progress …

During one of the later rounds we have scorekeeping problems. When Kersten went to fetch food there was some confusion that resulted in players being dropped from the tournament that wanted to play on and other drop being missed. I had the chance to show Kersten how to manually repair situations like this. Since it affected players in the upper third of the standings, I couldn’t just award byes to fix the situation. Also, players were already seated, so repairing the whole tournament would cause too much trouble. In the end I had to manually pair three tables and the tournament went on.

A player that was in contention for top 8 was deck checked. I noticed that his sleeves were in a really bad state. Most sleeves were just dirty, wrinkled, and generally unacceptable. But I noticed a total of four sleeves in a better condition. Two of those cards were Profane Commands, the others were lands. After taken a short look at the sleeves, I was able to identify both Profane Commands without more than glancing at the cards. I issued a penalty for Marked Cards – Pattern, although this was a borderline case that could also be ruled as Marked Cards – No Pattern. Of course the player had to resleeve. What I don’t get: The player had new sleeves with him. Why didn’t he use them in the first place? I know that the player had played a few PTQs before.

Be careful how you counter!

During swiss rounds Charles tries to counter Daniel’s Demigod of Revenge. Since he doesn’t announce that he waits for Demigod’s trigger to resolve before he counters, I rule that Demigod returns to play. This is the standard ruling for this situation. Daniel made it to top 8 and there a similar situation arises. He plays Demigod and his opponent, Evan, puts a Cryptic Command into play, without announcing modes or tapping mana, yet. Daniel claims/asks “[Demigod] trigger on the stack”. This time the ruling is not that clear, since Evan didn’t finish playing the Cryptic Command. Nevertheless I ruled the same way as before, since it was clear to me that Evan wanted to counter the Demigod and did not announce that he wanted to wait until the Demigod trigger resolves. Evan argued that both he and Daniel were experienced players, and knew how to correctly counter a Demigod. While I believe that that is true, I require some kind of visual or verbal clue that the player intends to wait for the trigger to resolve. Just knowing how to play it correctly is not enough. I made Evan announce the Cryptic Command correctly and have the Demigod return to play. I educated both players about clear communication, saying what you intend to do, and letting the opponent finish playing his spells before interrupting.

The tournament ran quite slowly. Especially during extra turns we should have watched the time more closely. Slow Play penalties are difficult to give. But one judge reminded players three times during a match to play more quickly, and didn’t hand out a penalty. This is clearly wrong. One reminder should be enough. But there were more delays: We waited for a few late players at the start of the tournament. Unfortunately a few trains arrive at a time that makes it impossible to arrive on time at the tournament site. So waiting for late players is common. I wonder whether we should just move the start time of tournaments where we expect players from outside Berlin and Brandenburg a quarter of an hour back. Then there were the scorekeeping issues. And finally seating the players alphabetically at the start of the tournament costs time. (But allows judges to be more efficient by collecting deck lists in a sorted manner. It also allows the head judge to make announcements without players being disturbed by shuffling or talking to their opponents.)

There were a few interesting rules questions:

  • I have taken control of a creature via Sower of Temptation and Sower becomes another creature, thanks to Mirrorweave. Do I keep the creature? You keep the creature. Sower’s ability just cares that you keep control of the object that used to be Sower. What happens if the former Sower dies? Your opponent gets his creature back. Same reasoning.
  • I control a Figure of Destiny that is currently a 4/4 Kithkin Spirit Warrior. Now my opponent play Mirrorweave, targeting an Eager Cadet. What happens to my Figure of Destiny? It’s now a 4/4 white Eager Cadet with creature types Kithkin Spirit Warrior and without abilities. Mirrorweave’s copy effect applies in layer 1 and changes the Figure of Destiny to an Eager Cadet. The enhance effect of Figure of Destiny applies in layer 4 (type changing effects) and 6b (other power/thoughness changing effects) and overrides the value set by the Mirrorweave.
  • I attack with an animated Mutavault. My opponent player Pollen Lullaby with Kicker and wins the clash. Does Mutavault untap during my next untap step? It does. Pollen Lullaby changes the rules of the game and doesn’t remember the objects that attacked.

This Sunday there is another PTQ at the Der Andere Spieleladen. I’m really looking forward to it, although I’m worried that the turnout will be low again.

PTQs for Valencia

It was a hard weekend. I was head-judging two Pro Tour Qualifiers for Valencia. The first on Saturday in the Der Andere Spieleladen here in Berlin, the second on Sunday in the Heldenwelt in Magdeburg.

Saturday we had 66 players. I had two floor judges (Robert Zemke and Christopher Eucken, both level 1) as well as two staff employees helping out. This turned out to be just the right number of staff for this event. The event went rather smooth, without any major headaches. The most problematic situation arised during top 8 when one player started with extensive trash talking and disregarding judge’s instructions to stop. Only after I made it very clear to him that I would issue the appropriate Unsporting Conduct penalty if he continued (a Match Loss at Competitive REL), did he stop.

Like at most PTQs here in Berlin we had a few Polish players. In general this is not a problem, since they speak English very well and I do all announcements in German and English. But it is always a problem if they with each other in Polish while another player is still playing. When players or spectators speak in English or German I am able to automatically filter out “harmless” chatter, e.g. a spectator telling a player that they will fetch food for themselves now or two spectators speaking about their last match. This is not possible when people speak a language I don’t understand. Therefore I ask them to stop communication more often than I ask players I can understand. This is not an ideal situation, but one that is hard to resolve, unfortunately.

In one semi-final match two of the Polish players were paired against each other. Both had card-identical decks, so the match was played in a rather light mood. The finals again were rather quiet. The event ended at about 23:30.

Unfortunately I did not get much sleep that night, so I was rather tired when I met my co-judge Kersten Rückert (L1) at Berlin Central Station at seven in the morning. Magdeburg’s judge situation is even worse than Berlin’s (it seems they don’t have any active judges), so they had to import judges from outside. This meant Kersten and me. One other judge unfortunately had cancelled his participation. At Magdeburg main station we were greeted by Peter from the Heldenwelt, who supported us as scorekeeper. With a total of 57 players (a good turnout, considering the location, and time during holidays) we were unstaffed by about one judge.

The tournament took place in a basement that consisted of two long halls with fairly high, vaulted ceilings. This gave the event a nice, medieval touch. One hall contained the playing tables, while the other had the scorekeeper and judge’s tables and the feature match area. The halls were connected at the end by two small doorways. Actually the layout was rather good, because the separate scorekeeper and judge tables meant quiet, relatively disturbance-free working. And you could use this hall to get quickly from one end of the playing area to the other one.

Teardrop was doing coverage of the event (in German). I like coverage for these smaller events. I think many people who can’t make it to the tournament can still follow it and see how their friends are doing. It helps the community in a local context the same way coverage of Pro Tours and Grand Prixs help the community at large.

Unfortunately the coverage was ill-fated. During round 5 one player of the match that was originally going to be covered was disqualified. (The other player of that match followed a bit later.) The next (and last) round of the tournament, the feature match was between two players who would make top 8 if they won the match. A spectator noticed marked sleeves though. When I checked the sleeves, I pulled out two cards that had especially bad, but different, marks, without looking at them. It turned out I had singled out two of the three Psionic Blasts in the deck. After a short glance at the sleeve of the third Blast I was able to consistently identify all three Blasts. After a short investigation I came to the conclusion that the player did not know about the marks and they occured because of wear during play. Nevertheless I had to issue a Game Loss for Marked Cards — Pattern. This is always a hard penalty to give in a situation like this (it effectively decided who got to top 8), but there was no way around it.

In the top 8 (which were played back in the store) Kersten had to give another Game Loss for Drawing Extra Cards, but apart from that the matches rent quiet and well. I was especially grateful that the final match between Jim Herold and Frieder Michel Drenger went rather quickly, since I and Kersten had to fetch the last train back to Berlin. We ended the day like we had started it: Sitting in the train, eating tasty and healthy food from McDonalds. Congratulations to Jim, who had already made top 8 the day before in Berlin and now has Pro Player level 3 status if he attends Pro Tour Valencia.

Planar Chaos Prerelease

Today I head-judged the prerelease of Planar Chaos, the latest Magic: The Gathering expansion. The prerelease at the FUNtainment Game Center here in Berlin was attended by 71 players, a fairly disappointing number after the strong Time Spiral prerelease. Some people blame The Burning Crusade, the latest World of Warcraft expansion, out this week. Personally I also think the traditionally weak month of January plays a fairly important role.

Speaking of World of Warcraft: One of the most funny cards of the new expansion is Ovinize, the color-shifted version of Humble. It allows you to “sheep” a creature, essentially remove all its abilities temporarily. One the one hand this resembles the old card Ovinomancer, which created Sheep tokens, on the other hand it plays with a similar concept in MMORPGs like World of Warcraft.

The color-shifted cards are an interesting concept: Reprinting old cards in another color, where they could have been printed if a few decisions had been different.

I had a few interesting calls:

  1. The interaction between Vesuvan Shapeshifter and Shaper Parasite. The Shapeshifter is turned face up and copies the Parasite. Question: Does the “Turned-face-up” ability of the Parasite trigger on the copy. I ruled in analogy to comes-into-play abilities and copy effects: The creature has all the copied characteristics before it is turned face up, so all triggered abilities that trigger on it being turned face up will trigger. Later the Time Spiral FAQ confirmed my ruling.
  2. I botched the interaction of Ovinize and Vanishing. The rules text for Vanishing reads in part (according to the Rules Primer):

    502.60. Vanishing

    502.60a Vanishing is a keyword that represents three abilities. “Vanishing N” means “This permanent comes into play with N time counters on it,” “At the beginning of your upkeep, if this permanent has a time counter on it, remove a time counter from it,” and “When the last time counter is removed from this permanent, sacrifice it.”

    For some reason I assumed that the third ability was included in the second one like this: “At the beginning of your upkeep, if this permanent has a time counter on it, remove a time counter from it. When the last time counter is removed from this permanent, sacrifice it.” Now the question was some like: “If I play Ovinize on a card with Vanishing and one time counter in response to Vanishing’s first triggered ability, what happens?” My ruling was that the last time counter is removed and the card with Vanishing is sacrificed, but any “leaves-play” abilities on the card don’t trigger. The correct ruling is that the last time counter is removed, but the permanent remains in play. At the time the counter is removed, the permanent has no abilities, in particular it doesn’t have Vanishing and so no “Last counter removed, then sac” ability.

  3. Player A had played Hunting Wilds. Some time later his opponent, player B, noticed that A’s graveyard was empty. A looked through his hand, and library and found a copy in the latter. Since he wasn’t sure whether he played one or two copies he wanted to see his decklist. After a short lecture that a player should under no circumstances look through his library without asking a judge first, I fetched the deck list and determined that the player only had one Hunting Wilds in total, so this one had to be the one played earlier. After a brief interview I was convinced that this was an honest mistake and the card had been shuffled into the library when the Forests had been searched for as part of resolving Hunting Wilds. The card was placed in the graveyard, the library was shuffled, and I issued a Warning for Procedural Error – Major.A case could be made for leaving the card in the library (leaving the game state as is is the default remedy if a decision point has been passed). But since the players had placed the card in the graveyard themselves in mutual agreement before a judge was called, I considered this to be the solution both would be more comfortable with, and let the card remain there. I think it was Scott Marshall who proposed to use a remedy both players of a match agree on instead of the normal remedy if this seems suitable. While I was initially opposed to it, this was a good example where this makes sense. I am still undecided on the issue, though.

PTQ Geneva in Berlin

Yesterday the Pro Tour Qualifier Geneva in Berlin was held at FUNtainment. We had 110 players, a rather high turnout, among them many players from Poland. It’s always nice to have these guys around. One thing I noted, though, was that I stepped in multiple times when a player and a spectator were speaking in Polish. When players and spectators do that in German I often don’t step in, since I hear what they say and most of the time it’s not about the game. So I subconsciously filter that talk out. I can’t do that for a language that I don’t understand, though.

Helping me were acting TO Peter, Christoph (L1), and Kersten, my promising judgeling. While we were understaffed by one person for this event (but aren’t we always?) the event went rather smooth. The main problem was that we couldn’t do as much deck checks as I would have liked to and that sometimes we couldn’t cover all the matches in overtime. One more judge would have been quite beneficial in these cases, but as I have explained before, we don’t have that many active judges anymore and a few possible candidates chose to play instead of judging.

Also of note was the high number of appeals I got. During the first two rounds I had three appeals, while I usually get about one per tournament. But this became less during later rounds.

About a quarter of an hour before the tournament began we had a call in the store. A rather young boy asked whether it was possible to participate in the event where “you can qualify for the Pro Tour”. I told him to hurry up, since we wanted to start soon. He showed up a bit too late with his mother, but I still let him participate. This was obviously his first sealed deck tournament, and I absolutely forgot to mention that the cards were in English. I would have liked to have more time to talk to him before the event to explain everything, but unfortunately didn’t have the time in the stress at tournament start. Well, he build an 80 card deck, playing all the basic lands from the tournament pack, although I had explained to him that he can get more lands if he wanted to. Not very surprisingly he went 0-4 drop. I am kind of sorry for him, and wish I could have found more time for him.

In the last round I handed back the decks from a deck check seven minutes into the round. The players from a neighbouring table asked me: “Can we get extra time? We didn’t start playing yet, since we couldn’t decide whether to take an intentional draw.” I explained to them the errors of their ways.

Team PTQ Charleston in Berlin

Yesterday we had a team PTQ for Pro Tour Charleston in Berlin. The turnout was pretty with 23 teams for a total of 69 players, although we had a few players from Hamburg and eventual winners, Team Hans (Hans-Joachim Höh, Pro Tour Honolulu quarterfinalist Maximilian Bracht, and Stefan Urban), came from further away even.

At first I was a bit worried, since my staff was rather inexperienced. Besides level 1 judge Christopher Eucken I had help from two judgelings (Lars-Peer and Kersten). Lars-Peer had helped us before and left a good impression as scorekeeper. Therefore I used him as scorekeeper again at this event, since I wanted to get much floor time. On the one hand I have done a lot of scorekeeping lately and wanted to hone my floor judging skills again. On the other hand I wanted to be able to give feedback to Christopher and our new judgeling, Kersten.

My team did good work and we managed to have a smooth event, so my worries weren’t justified. We had one situation where a player of team A had finished his match and leaned over to get a better look at the board of another match. Doing this he got a glimpse at the hand of the opponent team’s player of that match. He talked a bit more with his team, but after investigating I could determine that it was very unlikely he disclosed any information about the hand to his team mates.

The cut to the top 4 was rather exciting, since two last round matches in which all teams were still in contention for top 4 drew. In the end Team Hans slipped into top 4 on secondary tiebreaker over the Hamburg Hammelpriesters (Sebastian Homann, Merten Jensen, and Dennis Johannsen). Unfortunately during the top 4 there were two game wins by ruling (although in the end it probably didn’t matter in both cases). In the first situation Heartbeat player A combo’ed and finally tried to cast Maga, Traitor to Mortals. His opponent B claimed that A didn’t have the three black mana available that B needed for that. A had one Swamp and one Heartbeat of Spring out, but had used Early Harvest before to untap his lands. But B claimed that he knew exactly that among the three lands tapped to play the Heartbeat the player had used his Swamp. This would mean that A had no black mana left in the pool when he untapped with Early Harvest and therefore only two black mana still available. A couldn’t remember which lands he had tapped for the Heartbeat. B pointed out the three lands that were still neatly grouped together and also claimed that A didn’t move his lands around while playing stuff.

I had my attention divided between that match and their neighbour’s match, so I hadn’t taken notice what lands were tapped for playing Heartbeat. But B’s claims were largely consistent with my own observations. Additionally neither A nor B had made any notes about which mana was still available. A’s strongest argument was: “Using the black mana would have been stupid, since I knew what I wanted to play.” Since a lot of spells, including tutors had been played, there was no sane way to rewind the game state and I had to rule on it. Based on the fact that A failed to note down or announce what mana he retained when playing spells and based on B’s certainty about the tapped mana and the consistence with my own observations I ruled that A didn’t have a third black mana available and wouldn’t been able to play Maga.

The second ruling involved a very close third game between players C and D. C sacrified a creature during D’s turn to remove Ghost Council of Orzhova from the game. D asked: “When do you do that?” to which C replied: “End of turn.” Doing this End of Turn would leave C with no attacker during his own turn, since the Ghost Council would only return at his own End of Turn. Only when asked “Really?” did C correct himself: “No no, of course during the Second Main Phase.” Kersten was watching this match. When I discussed this with him, he thought about ruling by intent and let C activate the ability during the second main phase. I disagreed. This has been a sloppy play on C’s part, since he did not announce at first when he wanted to use the ability. D tried to clear up the game state by asking when he did that. To which C (probably lulled by the slow game) replied with the wrong answer. Since the “sloppiness”, i.e. the unclear game state, was cleared by D’s question, I do not think that Ruling by Intent applies here. In cases like this I follow another principle that I call Responsible Play: If a player uses explicit language (“End of turn” in this case) he will be held to it. Of course immediatly correcting oneself is perfectly ok for me: “End of turn. No wait, second main phase of course.” But in this case only the opponent asking “Really?” tipped him off that he probably made an error. If D hadn’t asked “When do you do this?” and had just let it go and then claimed that the Ghost Council’s ability was activated end of turn I would gladly rule by intent. (And in this case D would probably also face an Unsporting Conduct penalty.) Clearing up the game state on D’s part makes all the difference here.

On a side note: By asking this question D may have lead C into answering wrong, i.e. D might have known that Second Main Phase is the “right” answer and might have hoped that C answers wrongly. But in this case I see this as perfectly ok. He didn’t misrepresent the rules, the only thing he did was clearing up the game state and making use of the opponent’s lack of concentration.

The finals were tough and exciting. Team Hans played the Line-Inn Crew (Adrian Rosada, Dennis Jenkel, and Oliver Wieske). Stefan and Oliver had won their matches so the teams were drawn 1-1. The final match between Hajo and Dennis was also drawn, but finally Hajo managed to squeeze out a win. After the finals Team Hans drove on to play another PTQ in Bochum today. Good luck, guys!

Decklists (courtesy of the great EvilBernd)

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.