Magic the Gathering

German Nationals 2006

Last weekend I was judging at the German Magic: The Gathering Nationals 2006 in Aschaffenburg. I took the train on Thursday morning, leaving from the new main station in Berlin. The ride was fairly uneventful, but when I exchanged trains in Hanau, I met Martin Golm, a L2 judge from Dresden. I had travelled with Martin to Grand Prix Nottingham and also met him on the train ride to GP Hasselt. Travelling with and meeting Martin by chance has tradition by now. Arriving in Aschaffenburg we went to the hotel where we picked up coverage guy Hanno Terbuyken, before leaving to the site. (I can only recommend you check out the coverage. Hanno is easily my favorite coverage writer.)

Schloss Johannisburg in Aschaffenburg, Sven Teschke, CC-BY-SA-3.0

The site was near the Main river and Schloss Johannisburg. When we arrived the meat grinders were starting slowly. (Meat grinders are 64 person single elimination events, where the winner qualifies for German Nationals.) I helped with the meat grinders, but all in all it was a slow day. We had only six grinders in total, probably mainly because this time the meat grinders were outside of holidays. So I had enough time to meet people I hadn’t met for a long time and to watch the matches that were going on. Special congrats go to GerMagic’s webmaster EvilBernd, who won the last grinder of the day. He was complaining that the slowly increasing crowd of judges that were watching his matches were irritating him. All I can say is: Tough luck, win early grinders, where you still have less judges than players.

Lutz Hofmann’s (L3 from Berlin) meat grinder had a DQ situation. During a deck check I noticed something suspicious: The sleeves were cut badly. (This seems to be an increasingly common problem.) But there were two clearly distinguishable types of cuts. All lands plus four Chars were in one type of sleeves, while the other cards were in the other type. According to the player the sleeves had been bought on-site and were unplayed. It was a 100 sleeve pack of black Dragon Shields. While these are sold in quantities of 100 sleeves per pack, each pack consists of two separately produced part of 50 sleeves each. This explained the two sleeve types. In the end we were not convinced that the player had known about the production differences. Therefore Lutz did not disqualify the player, but issued a Marked Cards – Major penalty, resulting in a Match Loss. We advised the player to always shuffle the sleeves before sleeving the deck and wished him good luck in the next meat grinder (since meat grinders are single elimination events).

There was an interesting discussion among judges about issuing Match Losses in single elimination events. In the only draft grinder a player played a Devouring Light in a deck without sleeves, which was supposedly clearly marked due to wear. Some judges were reluctant to issue a Marked Cards – Major penalty, since this would mean a Match Loss at Rules Enforcement Level 3. In single elimination events this equals a disqualification from the event (sans consequences like DQ investigations and possible bannings). I firmly believe that a single elimination event is no reason to downgrade penalties, and using this as a reason to change penalties is wrong.

We only finished the meat grinders around 10:30 in the evening. I went on a food hunt. Not easy in a small town in Bavaria during the week. But eventually we found a döner booth that was still open.

The next day I was assigned to side events. Since I had not too much to do, I peeked a bit into judge certification and helped with deck list counting in the main event. The most exciting event of the day was the project Save the Judge Test. Level 3 judge Ingo Kemper was doing judge certification. Unfortunately at the start of this day our internet connection was down. When this problem was fixed, the Judge Center refused to generate new judge exams. Finally I went onto #mtgjudge on IRC, where Lee Sharpe could help us out and send a test he had still saved to Ingo. Unfortunately only one of the candidates on this day passed.

In the evening most of the event staff went into a local Irish Pub where we drafted Coldsnap.

Saturday was the second day of the main event. I worked in Tobias Licht’s deck check team. The day started with a Coldsnap draft. Unfortunately during the draft one of my local players was disqualified for peeking.

Later in the day during the constructed rounds, I had an interesting situation: While I walked the floor I picked up a card from the floor. It turned out to be a Rumbling Slum. After looking around at the matches still playing I saw a player playing a Zoo deck using the same sleeves. A quick check confirmed that the card was missing from his deck. But since the player and opponent didn’t count the deck, we couldn’t be sure whether the player presented an illegal deck or whether the card was dropped from the library during game play. The player claimed that he didn’t draw that card during the current game. After a consultation with head-judge Philip Schulz (L3) and backup Justus Rönnau (L3) we decided to issue a Warning for Procedural Error – Major and shuffle the card back into the library.

To be continued …

Magic the Gathering

German Nationals

Sidenote: If you don’t want to hear about who I spent time with, what we might have eaten or drank, and/or where we went, then you might want to skip this entry. (With a nod to Sheldon Menery.)

Last weekend I judged at German Nationals in Bonn. I got up at 4 in the morning to catch the first train. In Bonn I took the tram. Finding it was not easy, since the underground tram station was marked with the subway logo. I hate it when smaller cities designate their tram as “subway” just because it drives underground for two or three stations. Also, the vending machine in the tram didn’t work, so I couldn’t buy a ticket. How sad.

I arrived at the site at about 11 and was shocked to learn that I was the last judge to arrive. There were two batches of judges, one batch had already arrived on Thursday, but would leave Sunday, while the other batch (my batch) only arrived Friday and would leave Monday. Nevertheless all the other judges had already managed to arrive. Fascinating.

I was assigned to the pairings and result slips team under team leader Tobias Licht. The day was quite stressful for me. At some point I noticed that the trash cans were full, so I asked around about who was responsible for emptying it. Apparantly nobody was. Also, the air conditioning did not work properly. The site staff blamed the open doors in the hall, so we closed them and kept them closed for the rest of the event. It didn’t help much. While I don’t mind emptying the trash myself (although I skillfully delegated that job to the Logistics team on day 2), I think it’s a quite weak sign for the site that they don’t have staff for things like that.

We tried the new policy for Looking at Extra Cards at this event: Shuffle the card back into the “random” part of the library. I had this problem come up once. It was easily solved: A player had looked at four cards when using Sensei’s Divining Top and the extra card was easy to distinguish. Also, both players agreed that the library had not manipulated in any other way than by the top.

In the evening we drove to the hotel. Unfortunately at the same time of Nationals there was a large Catholic youth convention in the Bonn/Cologne area, which meant that not many hotel rooms were left and our hotel was a 15 minute ride from the site, in a small town outside of Bonn. Near the hotel were a Chinese restaurant, a Mexican restaurant, and a McDonalds. We wanted to go to the Mexican restaurant, but it was full and we would have had to wait for quite a while. So we went to the Chinese restaurant, which was decent. We later learned from the Amigos Ingo Muhs and Matthias Kubiak (Amigo is the German distributor of Magic and tournament organizer for German Nats) that the Mexican was really good though. After the meal I went to bed “early” (around midnight), while some other judges still drafted.

Saturday I was assigned team leader for the deck checks team. Also members of my team were Michael Huellecremer, Martin Golm, and Andreas Wahl. While Andreas was only judging his second event, the other members of my team are very experienced judges. Saturday would see three rounds of limited play (booster draft) and four rounds of Standard. The deck lists for the Standard portion had already been counted on Friday, and there had been no(!) problems. The deck lists from the draft had the usual number of problems though. We finished counting during round 1 of draft play, and fixed all problems at the beginning of round 2 with the help of the logistics team.

During a deck check in draft round 3 one of the deck checkers (I believe it was Michael, but I’m not sure) noticed that in the deck he checked all non-lands were a bit worn, while all lands looked fresh. Head judge Justus Rönnau was consulted, and he was able to divide the cards into two piles with just a brief glance at each card. The player, who was one of the last players in the standings was inteviewed, and we did not believe he was intentionally cheating, although we could not determine how the marks got on the cards in the first place. I think Michael’s explanation is likely though: The player admitted that he often flicks the cards in his hand and plays his lands as soon as possible. Thatswhy the lands are less marked than the non-lands. In the end the player got a Match Loss for Marked Cards – Major.

During a later round there was a long delay when we had another case of Marked Cards – Major, this time from the top of the standings. Judge Norman Hübner approached me during the constructed part of the tournament. A spectator had noticed that some of the cards of the player were different. So we planned to deck check the player during the next round. But when Norman watched a bit more closely, he also saw the marks, and intervened immediatly after game 2 and took the deck.

I noticed that the deck was indeed sleeved with two different types of sleeves. But we didn’t notice any pattern. What was worse was that there were distinct nail marks on a few distinct cards of this Tooth and Nail deck: On the two Tooths, on three Iwamori of the Open Fist (this was after sideboarding) as well as the T&N fetch targets. In the end HJ Justus determined after a player interview that the marks were probably the result of sideboarding. This also resulted in a Match Loss for Marked Cards – Major.

On Saturday the Junior Super Series (JSS) Finals for Germany were also held at the same location. All competitors of this event were invited to one free introductory draft back at the hotel. So I was approached by Matthias from Amigo and was asked to help out with it. We drove back to the hotel with a shuttle bus, and I drafted a bit with the kids. In the bus I noticed that most of the kids were actually from Berlin, and had probably more draft experience than I had. In the bus the kids asked me for free boosters, but all I could manage was a free Island from the land box. Luckily for the winner of the Island, Martina Pilcerova, the artist, was sitting right next to me in the bus, so he at least got a signed card.

After I had finished the draft with the kids (everybody including me rare drafted since there were no prices) the judges met at the Chinese restaurant again, this time for the judge dinner. We had an buffer that included baked banana. I thought it was actually baked pork. Banana with spicy sauce tastes really interesting … Jens Strohäker on the other hand ate all the other bananas on his own; he had a huge “banana hill” on his plate.

After the meal, we played a multiplayer Highlander game. Oliver Dürr had brought his Highlander deck. With over 500 cards it was large enough for all of us, so we played from one library with one shared graveyard. Well, we actually had to build two libraries, because otherwise the pile would be too high. So you could choose to draw from either one. Scry cards were quite interesting, and resolving tutors involved five people searching through the library at once to find the right card … When the game finally ended at 3 in the morning (most people had already left), Martina won after resolving a Sway of the Stars.

Fortunately I could sleep an hour longer on Sunday, since I was scheduled to judge a quarterfinals match. Most other judges had to leave earlier, since on Sunday the Vintage Championships took place and needed a full judge crew.

The top 8 matches of German Nationals took place in a back room. One match at a time was on camera and broadcast onto a large screen in the main event hall. (The hall was divided into an area for the Vintage tournament and a spectator’s area.) My match between André ‘TrashT’ Müller and Maurice Schepp was the last quarterfinals match still running. So for the fifth game we moved onto camera, and I had to manage the equipment as well as table judge. (Well, managing equipment meant moving around paper slips with life totals and specially hand crafted tokens so that the people back in the audience could keep track of what happened.)

It was clear from the beginning that Maurice would conceed if he was about to win, since he couldn’t attend Worlds due to school commitments. So he didn’t want to “steal” a seat on the National team. During game 5 Maurice was about to win, when a grave mistake happened: Maurice played a Plow Under and when he resolved it, he put it on top of his library instead of the graveyard. I missed this as well as Justus (who also watched the match), both players, the reporter, and another judge watching. The only person in the room noticing it was Peer Kröger, who also did top 8 coverage. Of course everybody back in the main event room noticed. Embarrassing …

After the quarterfinals were over, I helped with a deck check in the Vintage tournament, but it had more than enough judge stuff. But then I was tasked with a special mission by Matthias: Martina, the artist, wanted to play Magic. So, for the rest of the day (until about 10:30 in the evening, when the top 8 of the Vintage Championships were finally over) I was slinging spells with her. She is a very nice person and I had lots of fun. After the event was over the remaining judges, the Amigos, and Martina went back to the hotel. Our plan was to try out the Mexican. Of course we arrived at 10 past 11, ten minutes after the kitchen had closed … So, we had to use plan B: McDonalds. Great.

After we finished our delicious meal, we played a few Sealed Deck matches with random booster leftovers from Amigo’s booster box. My deck with cards from Alliances, Torment, Scourge, Onslaught, and some other set was quite good, but I nevertheless lost two matches and drawed with Martina. But at least I opened a Force of Will.

All in all, I had lots of fun. It is a bit sad that the event was smaller than in previous years, but I hope that this will be remedied in the future. I am looking forward to the next big event where I can judge.

Magic the Gathering

Nationals and Grinders

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

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

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

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

– Sebastian

Magic the Gathering

PT London, Terrorism, and Miscellaneous Other Stuff

As you will have heard, there was a series of bombing in London today. Of course, tomorrow Pro Tour London is supposed to start, so many Magic people are gathered in London at the moment. I haven’t heard about any harmed Magic players or judges so far, so let’s hope for the best.

Wizards plans to run the Pro Tour as planned. Personally I welcome this. We should try to continue living our lives as normal as possible and cancelling such an event sends the wrong signal. Also, many people have taken holidays or spent money travelling to London and they should not be disappointed. Life goes on.

On a more happy note, I’ve been invited to judge German Nationals this year. I’m really looking forward to judge a big event again and to meet nice people. Finally, I will travel to a PTQ in Hamburg the weekend after next. I will go with friends, and since Philip Schulz was still looking for judge, I applied. If I’m not accepted as judge, I will play in the event, which should be fun as well.