Magic the Gathering

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!

Magic the Gathering

PTQ Honolulu in Berlin and 2-Headed Giant Event

PTQ winners Michael Diezel (left) from Leipzig and Fabian Barth (right) from Berlin

Saturday we had a Pro Tour Qualifier for Pro Tour Honolulu in Berlin. The Extended event took place at the FUNtainment Game Center as usual. Our staff consisted of scorekeeper Huy (L2), Falko (paluschke) from Greifswald (L2), Crille (L2), and myself (also L2 – can you spot a pattern there?). Peter, the store manager, was acting TO.

The event was largely successful, though exhausting. We had a total of 121 players. Crille had to judge a 30 person Yu-Gi-Oh tournament as well, so we were a bit light on judges. Currently we have a (slight) judge problem in Berlin. We have a few active level 2 judges, but basically no “junior” or learning judges. This leads to a judge shortage at important events like this PTQ. It also doesn’t give us judges the opportunity to play at these events, since we have to work at every one of them. This situation is partly due to the fact that we have no active level 3 judges, so there is no one that actively looks for new judges and interests them in judging. This is a problem that I am looking to address in the future. If we have no active level 3 judges, I guess we level 2s must see to do this job. Well, I would appreciate hints on how to build a local judge community and how to go looking for appropriate candidates.

But back to the tournament. In one situation I messed up. A player had played Ghastly Demise on a “big” creature with only two cards in the library. In response the opponent has sacrificed Scrabbling Claws to remove a card in that players graveyard and drawn a card as well. I misread Ghastly Demise and therefore ruled that all actions up to the announcement of the Demise had to be reversed. This was not a problem since the drawn card was the only card in that player’s hand, so it could be shuffled back into the library. Only when I was about to leave the table, I noticed that the play was indeed legal, so I ordered the players to redo the actions they had done: Put Demise and Claws in the graveyard, let the Claws player draw a card again. The Claws player was visibly (and audibly) upset, since the newly drawn was obviously worse than the old one. Could I have handled this better (except not making the initial mistake, of course)?

We also had two DQ situations: In one case Falko called me over. One player had started to draw three cards off of Cephalid Coliseum without Threshold. (Seems to be en-vogue, eh? Hey, when Pros can do that, why not us?) That player had taken the first card in his right hand, but had not combined the card with his other hand cards yet, when his opponent stopped him. Well, a standard case of Looking at Extra Cards and a Warning, it seems. Only problem is: Falko asked him: “Did you see the card you was about to draw?” The player replied: “No”, while the opponent claimed he had seen the card. A bit later the opponent conceded that he might have seen that it was a blue card. The question was: Did he lie to a judge?

In the end I decided that this was not DQ-worthy. The player claimed that he understood the question “Did you see the card?” to mean whether he knew what card he had just picked up. I don’t think that just knowing the color of the card fulfills that. Also, a DQ in this case would have been very heavy handed, especially since it did not matter at all, whether he had seen the card or not. The Looking at Extra Cards penalty would have been issued whether he had or not. In the end Falko gave him a Warning for Looking at Extra Cards and another one, because of his unclear communication with the judge.

The other DQ situation was in the top 8. We had given out all booster prices before the cut to top 8 was made (according to standing after swiss rounds) and had asked all top 8 players whether they wanted to drop before top 8. Of course, everybody wanted to play for the flights and invitations to Honolulu. This was a 2-slot qualifier, meaning that the finals would not be played out and the winners of the semifinals would get the flight and invitation.

Three quarterfinals were already over, while the fourth one was taking its time. A crowd was gathered around that match. Standing in that crowd were the two opponents of an upcoming semifinals match. Asks player A: “So, do you really want to go to Honolulu?” ― “Yes.” ― “You know, I still have this half of the amateur display I won.” This conversation took place inmidst the crowd with a judge standing right beside them. Of course I started a DQ investigation.

After talking with all people involved, I did not find conclusive evidence that the player had not meant it as a joke as he claimed. It was a very, very close call. I asked several people involved. The opponent claimed this had been a serious offer, while other people claimed they thought this was a joke. What swayed me in the end that there really was no chance that this could be abused in any way. Had this conversation gone any further, it would have been a clear DQ. Had the players left the premises, it would have been a clear DQ. Anything.

Nevertheless I made it abundantly clear to everybody that this was a very close call and that this was a really stupid joke. I will not tolerate such a “joke” a second time. In the end I gave the player a Game Loss for Procedural Error ― Severe, because his (mis-)behaviour caused a DQ investigation that had a severe impact on the timely ending of the tournament.

A bit embarrassing was the fact that we lost the deck list of one of the players in the top 8. So instead of handing both player the deck lists of the opponent, I asked them just to hand over their decks so they could look it over. We found the missing deck list the next day. It was at the last register (XYZ) in our deck list folder. The player’s name was Barth though. I have no idea why it ended up where it did.

My own “Mr. DQ” card

Sunday was a Two Headed Giant in-store event that I judged alone, although later Huy came by and helped me a bit. We had 18 teams, which also was quite a good turnout. It seems 2HG is fun and I certainly look forward to future events.

Of course the most embarrassing moment of that tournament was when the prizes were given out. Peter, our TO and store manager, had the great idea to “produce” a special series of cards that will be given out to the winners of current events. They feature employees of the store or judges that regularily work there. On Saturday the card of the former store owner, Theo Buskase, was given out. Today it was my card’s turn. Well, I guess, they meant well …

To give a bit of background: For some reason my events are always the most … let’s call it exciting. When other people, especially Huy, are head judging, things are going really smooth, people are nice, and everything is fine. When I head judge, the cheaters, the stallers, and the unsporting people seem to come out of their holes. Well, I only disqualified two people in my judging career (and took part in the disqualification of a third), but for some reason I am now “Mr. DQ”. A questionable honor, indeed …

At next week’s marathon event we will hand out Crille’s card though and eventually it will be Peter’s and Huy’s turn. But I had a hand in the creation of their cards, so they will get the honor back 😉

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

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

PTQ Los Angeles in Hamburg – Judge Report

Yesterday was a PTQ for PT Los Angeles in Hamburg. I planned to go there with a few friends anyway and since the TO Philip Schulz had asked for judges on the German judge list, I applied. We targeted our arrival at about 10, but between weekend traffic on the Autobahn, a broken route by Map24 and several closed streets on that route, we managed to arrive exactly at 11.

We were four judges total: Besides me there were Tim Richter (HJ, he passed his L2 test yesterday as well, yay!), Stefan Kurhofer und Johannes Schnoor. Philip was scorekeeping. We had 86 players, although it was a bit sad to see two thirds of Phoenix Foundation playing in a PTQ (Marco Blume and Dirk Baberowski). All in all the event ran smoothly, although there were of course a few interesting situations:

One situation involved Ghostly Prison and Godo, Bandit Warlord. The question was if a player had to pay for the Prison twice for the same creature if there were two attack phases (due to Godo). After consulting with other judges I ruled that you had to pay twice , although I wasn’t sure. The ruling was on the grounds that the way Ghostly Prison is worded, it will apply to every time attackers are declared. This ruling was later confirmed by judges on #mtgjudge.

I was called over to another situation that involved a player looking at another player’s hand cards without any effect allowing him to. The situation was not easy to resolve, especially since there were two issues mixed up. Player A had played Enduring Ideal before and was just in his upkeep resolving the Ideal as well as a Honden of Night’s Reach and a Honden of Infinite Rage. The players were not quite clear, whether the Honden A had just searched with the Ideal would also trigger (it won’t) and how cards B had to discard and how much damage the red Honden would do. Since A could explain to me the correct stacking order of the Honden and Ideal triggers (stack Honden’s first then Ideal), I rules that B would discard three cards and the red Honden would deal 3 damage.

Nevertheless the complicated issue was that A had placed his one remaining hand card face-down in the middle of the table while searching through his library. B had picked it up and looked at it. A claimed that B had asked “What’s this?” and A had answered “My hand card.” before B picked it up. B couldn’t remember whether there had been such a conversation. Also, B maintained that it didn’t matter, since A couldn’t play any spells anyways, due to the Ideal. I went to Tim and Philip and discussed that situation. I thought that a Game Loss was appropriate here. I think that B was confused when he looked at the card and did not think much about it before he did. Otherwise we would probably talking about a disqualification in this situation. Nevertheless I think that this is a very abusable situation. Looking at an opponent’s hand card can give you crucial information if not caught (Ideal or no Ideal). Tim went over himself and ended up giving B a warning. Also while we were still discussing the situation, B went over to us and told us that he would concede anyway, which he did.

Another situation that caused a bit of discussion was when Stefan went over to Tim and myself. A player had played a Cranial Extraction and accidently looked at his own library and shuffled it. Since he had reordered his top cards due to Sensei’s Divining Top before, Tim and I felt that a Game Loss was the only appropriate penalty here, since the game state was damaged beyond repair. I have to admit that I failed to ask Stefan some necessary question in this situation. (“Why didn’t the player’s opponent stop him when he looked at his own library?”, “Why did the player shuffle it when he noticed that it was the wrong library?”, “What targets did the player announce for the Extraction?”) Anyways, when we later discussed the ruling with Philip, he told us that he had just given a Warning for announcing the wrong target (his opponent instead of himself). While this is a sneaky way to prevent a player from getting a Game Loss, I don’t agree with that. I feel uneasy, since this seems to be easily abusable. Maybe the player noticed too late that he grabbed the wrong library and then used this opportunity to get a free shuffle? As I noted before, I am missing some information about this situation.

Finally there was the obligatory “DQ situation”. During one of the last Swiss rounds, Stefan asked me to help him. (I was not sure what the exact question was, though.) At a table two players were playing for a possible top 8 spot. The extra turns were practically over, but both players were tied, which would mean elimination for both of them. So they were discussing if one of them would scoop to the other. Always a slippery slope. Player C asked us judges whether they could role a die to determine the result. We denied this of course. They discussed a bit more and D asked C whether he would like to concede. C replied with: “Was würde mir das bringen?” (“What use would that be to me.”) Now this term can mean two things: “What are giving me for it?”, which would be a request to be bribed, but also a rhetorical “No, why should I?” In this situation it sounded to me to be the latter. Nevertheless I stepped in and told them that I would not tolerate the discussion going into this direction. In the end the players called it a draw.

Later Tim approached me. It seems that he interviewed C about this and he wanted to know my opinion. Actually I was a bit confused at first and was not sure what situation he was referring to, since I hadn’t viewed it as “serious”. I told him about my interpretation and in the end Tim decided just to give a Stern Lecture.

At the end of the day, I table judged the quarter finals between the two Berlin top 8 players, Gabriel Huber and Rosario Maij, which Rosario won 2–1. Since the people I drove with were eager to leave, I didn’t have the chance to judge or watch the half finals, but I later learned that Rosario went on to win his and so won one of the two flights to LA. Congrats to him as well as the other finalist, Fabio Reinhardt!

Magic the Gathering

Berlin Regionals

Last Saturday we held the Magic Regionals 2005 here in Berlin. I’ve already blogged about the problems I see in the way this year’s Regionals are run in Germany. So originally it was proposed to run inofficial top 8 as a separate event, but in the end we decided against it for various reasons.

The event ran smooth overall, although there were complaints about the lack of judges on the floor during the first round. At this point most judges were involved in various administrative tasks.

As always the event was held at the Magic Center. Since the store is now under new management, we two TOs: Theo Buskase is the old owner and still official TO, and Peter Who’slastnameIdon’tknow is the new manager for the store. Head judge was Cristian Hoof (L2), Sascha Wagner (L2) was our scorekeeper, Lutz Hofmann (L3) and I (L2) were floor judges.


Huy covering Gabriel Huber vs. Andreas Hennig

For this event we had a special treat: Huy Dinh covered the event online. He was later joined by Christoph Meise, so that we had up to two matches covered and featured per round. Of course the lack of top 8 play was hurting coverage as well.

We had a few interesting situations: While counting the deck lists we noticed a player who had noted four Beacon of Creation in his mono-red deck. While a legal deck list, we didn’t believe that this was right. When checked the player did indeed play four Beacon of Destruction. We argued about the solution to this problem. I was of the opinion that we should stick to the Penalty Guidelines and let the player replace his BoDs with BoCs. The head judge wanted to correct the deck list to match the deck played, since he saw no abuse potential. In the end he decided to let the player play with basic land of his choice instead of the BoCs, since getting the BoCs in time would be quite hard and be a de-facto disqualification. I liked this decision.

We had another situation where we checked player A who had noted only 56 cards on his deck list. And he had Beacon of Destructions in his deck, but he had noted … Beacons of Creation on his deck list. It turned out that the scorekeeper hadn’t accepted the player’s original deck list because of unreadable handwriting. So the player had to rewrite it. When we reviewed the original decklist we noticed that it was fine and matched the deck as played. Therefore the head judge decided to accept the original deck list as valid deck list. We issued a game loss, but let the deck unmodified.

During one of the following rounds I got a call: Player B had a Genju of the Spires enchanted on a Mountain. Player A wanted to know what happened if he played Mind Bend on the Genju, changing “Mountain” to “Plains”. Especially if it would also change the type line (“Enchant Mountain” to “Enchant Plains”) and if the changed return to hand ability (“When enchanted Plains is put into a graveyard, you may return Genju of the Spires from your graveyard to your hand.”) would cause the Genju to stay in the graveyard when the land dies. I ruled that it would indeed change the type line, but that the Genju would return nevertheless, since the trigger is basically a placeholder for “When enchanted permanent is put into a graveyard”.

Head Judge Cristian Hoof patrolling the feature match area

A appealed to the head judge about the last part of the ruling. (“Would you be very angry if I ask the head judge to make sure?” I considered this an appeal.) But when I came back to the table with Cristian A had already realized that this question was irrelevant. The Genju is put in the graveyard, not the land, so the ability of the Genju will never trigger.

We had problems throughout the day with player A. He accumulated a total of five penalties over the day. One game loss for deck problems was listed above. This was joined by warnings for Unsporting Conduct, Exceeding the Pregame Time Limit and others. In one case he called over a judge and when Cristian and I went there, he complained about a supposedly marked foil Chrome Mox of his opponent. We couldn’t determine any markings and alloted extra time. After Cristian went away, A complained that the game couldn’t continue, since we had modified his opponent’s library. Even when I explained to the player the we hadn’t reordered the library, he wanted a confirmation from the other judge. In retrospect I should have given him an Unsporting Conduct warning at this point. Instead I called over Cristian again and gave another two minutes extra time.

At the start of the next round A called over a judge again. Since Lutz and I were doing deck checks and Cristian was handling another call, our scorekeeper Sascha went. I told him to issue an Unsporting Conduct warning should it be something trivial again. Sascha gave that warning; A had sorted his opponent’s deck into what he believed marked and unmarked cards.

In one situation that player missed what I dubbed an “on-table game loss”. I was watching his match against player C for time play. C announced a Reap and Sow with entwine, targeting A’s Blinkmoth Nexus. C immediatly grabbed his library to search for a land card. (He was obviously in a hurry.) At this point a reasonable play for A would have been to activate the Nexus in response and shoot it with his own Arc-Slogger to prevent C from searching and shuffling. (C knew the top three cards of his library due to activations of Sensei’s Divining Top.) In this case I would have no choice but to issue C a game loss, since the game state couldn’t be repaired. Fortunately A just sacced a Sakura-Tribe Elder in response, so that I only needed to give a caution to C.

The new Berlin champion, Lovis Anderson

I was called to the match between two other players (let’s call them D and E). D called me to watch the game for time play. He was clearly agitated and suspected his opponent of stalling. E was up one game and timeout was approaching. While watching the game I chatted with another spectator, so I missed what exactly happend. D was resolving a land search and currently shuffling his library. E claimed that D has said “Dann du” (common German Magic lingo, meaning: “your turn”) while shuffling. D stated that he still wanted to attack with his creatures, but couldn’t remember what he had said, or if he had anything at all. In the end I went with E’s version, since he was sure of what D had said, and D’s bad memory border shadyness in my opinion. So I didn’t allow D to attack.

At this event I also talked a lot to the other judges, the old TO, the new TO. The current judging situation in Berlin is not comfortable at all, since everything is unclear at this point. We hope to find a permanent solution soon, when the store’s new owner is in Berlin. Currently the main problem as I see it are unclear responsibilities. At this event we didn’t have a head judge until a few minutes before round 1. Also, people were invited to judge future events without the new TO knowing etc. pp. All this is of course completely unacceptable and I think all persons involved agreed.

Nevertheless it was a fun if tiring event, but aren’t they all?

Magic the Gathering

Article about Judging Published

Finally my article about judges and judging got published over at Star City Games. Yay!

Update: URL corrected …

Magic the Gathering

PTQ London

Yesterday we had a PTQ for London in Berlin. Two days before the event Huy, the scheduled head judge called me and asked whether I could do the HJ, since he had to leave early. Of course I happily accepted.

We had 68 players, which was a low turnout. Kamigawa seems to bore people. Personally I liked Mirrodin block much better and I hope that Ravnica with its multi-color theme will be more interesting.

Anyway, the tournament was not a success in my eyes. We had many problems with unsporting conduct, especially in the early rounds. During deck construction my scorekeeper told me that a player had given him the finger. On the request of the SK I didn’t do anything, but I asked him to call me if something like that should happen again.

And it did. Later I was told the following story by the SK: A player had approached the judge’s table and put a result slip onto a stack of already processed result slips instead of the box designated for result slips. This was certainly out of bad intent by the player, but it could have caused problems if it hadn’t been caught. Fortunately the SK noticed it and asked the player to put it into the box next time. The player asked whether he could get the result slip again and when the SK handed it to him, he deliberately put it onto the wrong stack of slips again. Then he turned away, mumbling something unfriendly, according to the SK.

After I heard of this situation, I called the player over to the judge’s table and asked him about what just happened. But instead of telling his side of the story, he immediatly began attacking the SK directly. “I can’t believe you make a scene out of this. I am at least five years older than you, … If you have ego problems, …” etc. pp. I was so baffled that I told the player right there: “Well, originally I was considering a Match Loss for Unsporting Conduct – Major, but currently I am really asking myself if I shouldn’t disqualify you.” Not very diplomatic, I agree, but I was reallybaffled.

After he had left, I discussed the appropriate penalty with the SK and another judge, but in the end I decided to give a Match Loss for Unsporting Conduct – Major. We tried to pair that player against the eternal loser BYE, so that no other player would get a benefit from this, but we failed. (It seems that it is not possible to give somebody who’s got a bye a Match Loss.) So at the beginning of the next round I went over to the table where that player was supposed to play and told him about the penalty. He argued for quite a while with me. While he kept a friendly tone, he was saying some “suboptimal” things. For example, when his opponent showed up and I told his opponent that he had already won his round and could leave, the ML’ed player interfered and said that he should stay, since things were still being discussed. (This wasn’t the case. The player had been given his chance to argue his case, but instead had used it to attack the scorekeeper.)

Later during the discussions he requested that I send a report to the DCI since he would do that as well. I refused (and I am sure that this is a good for him). He asked me how long I’ve been a L2 judge (four months now) and then told me that he is a L2 judge for eight years, so he must be right. (I checked, he’s not a judge anymore.) He asked me how I would look if this incident was publically discussed in Web forums, etc. etc. After I made it clear that ruling stood and that I didn’t see a point in discussing it further, he dropped from the tournament.

During the next round I observed a match where a large crowd of spectators had gathered around. One of the spectators was the player I had ML’ed last round. I observed the following situation: Player A has a creature equipped with a Shuriken. He announces that he would like to equip it to another of his creatures and then looks up expectantly at his opponent (lets call him B). When B said something or made an affirmative gesture (I don’t remember exactly), A said: “In response shoot your guy.” B was already putting his creature into the graveyard when I interfered. I ruled that since he had looked up at his opponent, he had passed priority and that it was too late to shoot his opponent’s guy.

A was clearly not happy. But when I asked him why he looked up, he agreed that it was because he was waiting for an reaction of his opponent. He later modified this story and claimed that he just wanted to confirm that his opponent had understood what he was doing. Things became heated and A’s behaviour was bordering on unsporting. Well, it was actually not bordering on unsporting, but was clearly unsporting, but since I didn’t want to heat up the situation more, I refrained from giving penalties. Some other players (friends of him probably) tried to calm him down and told him not to worsen the situation. Fortunately they were partially successful. Unfortunately the ML’ed player also interfered and complained loudly about the bad ruling etc. I should have given him a string reprimand at this point, but I didn’t. I left the table and asked another judge to watch the match.

I came back a minute later to tell the spectators retroactively not to interfere in rulings in the future. To which the ML’ed player replied: “You are right, but it’s hard to keep quiet when you know stuff better than the HJ.” I should have kicked him from the premises right then. (Remember that there was a crowd of players standing around.)

Towards the end of the round, the match wasn’t finished yet, so I went over there again to watch the match. It was going well into the extra turns. (No wonder, this was the cursed table 20 – every round the match at this table seemed to be the last one to finish.) Especially player A was playing extremely slow. In retrospect I think that he was deliberately playing slow for a reason I can’t fathom. He got a Slow Play warning in the end.

Rounds going well into the extra time were a problem during the tournament. One match was still not finished five minutes into the extra turns. When I went there to the judge observing the match, I misunderstood him and thought that they were in the third extra turn. I told the judge that he should award Slow Play warning if the play continued to be slowly and left, thinking that this situation was taken care of. When I went there again seven or eight minutes later, I learned that they were only in the second extra turn right now. At that point Slow Play warnings should really have been issued. No matter how complicated a board situation is, it is not possible to hold up a tournament for more than 15 minutes for just five turns.

During the later rounds things became more quiet and the top 8 were okay. But all in all this tournament was not a pleasant experience.

Magic the Gathering

Interview with Andy Heckt

Finally I finished my judge article. I will send it in early next week. As a bonus, here is the complete interview with Andy Heckt:

First of all: What is your official job title at Wizards?

Network Manager – this is because my duties coordinate player need, the judge program, and organizers of premiere events (invitations).

What do you do at Wizards, especially related to judges/judging?

I’m responsible for managing the DCI judge program including: production of materials, selection of sponsored judges, judge procedures and policy, data entry for certifications, networking organizers to judges, and customer service for judges. I have input on Regional judge advancement and am responsibility for International and Professional judge advancement.

Other duties I have are managing player information for our premiere events, including invite and GP-bye lists.

How long have you been the “judge coordinator”?

I have been the judge coordinator since February 1st of 2004. My prior job with Wizards for four years was player coordinator and I still have those responsibilites.

Many judges I have interviewed mentioned that since you are in that position, the judge program has greatly improved. What changes did you institute?

The judge program has had two prior phases; creation and philosophy. The creation was a framework in how we thought things could/should work. Philosophy was the period of asking ourselves why are we doing things this way and formalizing it in documents. My focus has been on redifining the Community and allowing judges to find a level of responsibility for themselves.

Community in the building of a the worldwide judges as a community of people with their own culture and sense of belonging. Primarily we are doing this in a top-down fashion, because the program is structured this way to pass along experience, mentoring, and certification. We restructed the higher levels of the program with the idea of including more judges at these levels. Its accomplished by encouraging communication on list-servers and especially at events through seminars, high-level meetings, one-on-ones, etc…

Responsibility in that we redefined the old levels to provide a description of their responsibilities and area of operation. We want judges to understand that advancement is not required. You can be the best, most accurate, knowledgable, fair judge as the Local judge for Friday Night Magic (L1s), than the similar judge who wants to build the judge community and organized play as the Regional judge (L3).

Most importantly I take input and solicit opinions, so this program is the judge’s program and not a DCI dictate. I think it especially helps that I’m NOT a certified judge with a level and rank. I’m the network between the judges and the DCI.

How would you describe the current situation of the judge program?

Varied, but steady and slow. It takes time to develop judges and the nature of TCGs is a rotating player base. Many areas of the world are still developing organized play and in these areas the judge program looks more like it did 5 years ago, while other areas have well developed organized play and their needs are different. I share responsibility of this program with co-workers in other offices who’s focus is often more narrow (their country or region) while I have dual responsibility of my Region (Americas and Japan) and the worldwide program. Managing the resources of the program to meet these varied needs is difficult.

What improvements are still needed?

Better opportunities for testing and mentoring. We need more opportunities for those who wish to judge to test for certification. We also need a better means to mentor all the judges and especially the new judges who are remote from others. We also simply need to move into the electronic age more with the program.

How would you describe the overall quality of judges? How does this differ on the various levels (from small in-store tournaments to the Pro Tour)?

The various levels actually reflect responsibilities, not quality. I have great faith in the testing being conducted more and more. The interviewing of even Level 1 candidates is improving (i.e. its not simply scoring well on the test that makes you a judge.) The Regional judge’s (L3s) responsibilities are empowering and time-consuming. We understand that many judges simply want to judge their local events and be recognized for their contribution to growing organized play at its base.

What, in your experience, causes people to become judges? And why do they stay judges? What incentives do people have to become judges?

Its volunteerism. I think people become judges because they want to improve their (game) community and do so in a role that uses their skills. They want to make a contribution to something they enjoy and find value in – similar to many reasons people volunteer for school programs, music programs, sports programs, etc… They find a means to belong to their gaming community that recognizes their better skills. Some judges are professional players (Bram Snepvangers, Sol Molka, Duncan McGregor, Werner Cloete, etc…), others are store employees/owners seeking to help their business, others are players who judge to improve their playing skills. Most tangible incentives for becoming a judge come directly from store owners and professional organizers. The real incentive, and the reason they stay with it for any time, is from the knowledge that they have helped to make something they care about, better.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Many players think that a judge is a rules expert and that all the answers are written down somewhere. It far more about keeping a tournament fair and running while encouraging the fun that exists. The philosophy and intent of the rule is more important than the technical details.