Magic the Gathering

Looking Forward to Grand Prix Hasselt

Grand Prix Hasselt is coming. I know because I have to catch a train tomorrow at 7 in the morning. I am really looking forward to the 8 hour train drive, which includes changing trains twice. (As a tribute to a fellow judge and blogger I give you anecdote #1: The second train changing will take place in Liege, Belgium, where I have to change from a German ICE train into … a German InterRegio train. Kind of reminds me of the situation in Berlin during the Cold War, where western subways ran through the eastern part of the city and you could even change trains in enemy territory.) I am also looking forward to the commute from the hotel to the site. It’s a 4.5 km walk. I could also take the (free!) city bus, except that it doesn’t drive Saturday morning or evening or at Sunday …

But there is a second reason why I know that Hasselt is coming. For a few weeks now there is a large stack of postcards at the FUNtainment Game Center (about 50 for the maybe 3 players from Berlin that will go). Obviously Wizards of the Coast has raised the entry price for Grand Prix events from € 25,- to € 30,- (although the web site for GP Hasselt still lists € 25,-, whereas thr web page for GP Dortmund just three weeks later and next door lists € 30,-). But when you bring one of the postcards, you will get a discount of five Euro. Hrm. Now, today, I found another copy of said postcard in my mailbox, sent by Hasbro Belgium. Seriously, WTF? (Also, don’t you think only two days before the event is a bit tight, Hasbro?)

Magic the Gathering

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.

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

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

LCQ German Nationals in Berlin

Sunday was the Last Chance Qualifier for German Nationals here in Berlin, out of a total of five LCQs in all of Germany. The top four players would qualify for Nationals (and the four eventual winners told me that they planned to go). There was a certain confusion about the way the tournament should be run. One LCQ location made a cut to top 8 after the swiss rounds, then played one round of draft, two locations just played one more round of swiss and qualified the top four people after swiss standing, and we and another location made a cut but let people play with their sealed decks. I still don’t know which modus operandi was correct (though it seems that a draft was wrong). In the future better communication is necessary.

We had 54 player, a rather disappointing turnout for an event of such importance. We were five judges, Huy Dinh, Sascha Wagner scorekeeper), Cristian Hoof, Christopher Eucken, and myself. Christopher is a level one judge, all others are level two judges. This was our usual Berlin judge crew and the judge organizational went as smooth as expected. Cristian and Sascha had to suffer from many jokes by us other jokes, since they have disappeared from the list of certified judges. This unfortunately happens from time to time.

I lost the coin flip against Huy so I had to be the Head Judge for this tournament. This was a bad omen. Whenever I am Head Judge, I have to deal with severe cases of Unsporting Conduct, absolutely understaffed events, and other chaotic occurrences. Huy on the other hand has always very quiet, nice tournaments. I wonder what this says about me …

Cards with Edgy Edges

During deck construction we had a few notable events. One Champions of Kamigawa tournament pack contained seven commons twice. None of them were foil. Normally this should not happen. We replaced that tournament pack, since this could be an unfair advantage to the player receiving that pool. Another tournament pack contained two uncommons with two square edges each (see picture). We replaced the uncommons as well.

While building decks, Christopher approached me and told me that he had told a spectator twice not to speak with players while they were deckbuilding. I looked over and saw that spectator chatting with a player and pointing to cards. When interviewing the player and the spectator the player told me that he tried to send the spectator away, but that he wouldn’t go. I believed him, but after consultation with other judges and the acting tournament organizer I nevertheless issued a Match Loss penalty. While the coaching might have been unsolicited, the player did not fulfill his responsibility of calling a judge in this case. Even if they are friends, such behaviour is not tolerable, especially at a REL 3 tournament. The spectator was removed from the tournament site (but was later readmitted after he apologized sincerely and promised that this wouldn’t happen again.) Unfortunately this kind of coaching (which is more a kind of discussion among friends about the choices the deck builder made) is quite common here in Berlin. But we have to reinforce that it is not okay at all, and is normally considered Cheating.

Later in the tournament I had to disqualify a player for Cheating. This was the first DQ I had to issue myself, and the second DQ investigation I had been part of. I will not go into details as long as the DCI investigation isn’t finished, but I will certainly blog about it, once it’s over. I just want to thank Huy and my other judges for being very supportive in this case.

The tournament ended rather early at around 20:30. At around eight all top 8 matches except one had finished, which took another half an hour for game 3. I am happy to see the winners next weekend at Nationals!

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

More PTQ Bits

Here are some more bits from the PTQ that I forgot to mention in my last entry:

During the last Swiss round I was watching a match whose winner would make top 8. Player A had Heartbeat of Spring in play so that each land produced double that mana. A was at 1 life and did some splice action involving Soulless RevivalHana Kami, and Ethereal Haze every turn. This left him with 1 mana left in his mana pool, which he sunk into a Sensei’s Divining Top. After he had done this several times he didn’t announce the sinking part in one turn. So I said: “So, you burn for one.” The player explained that he of course sunk his remaining mana into Top as he had done before. I accepted his explanation since he had demonstrated his actions before and from the way he reacted I had no reason to assume that he had really forgotten about this mana. It seemed to me as if he had just taken a shortcut for actions he had previously explicitly announced.

There was actually a tense situation after the Swiss rounds were over and prices were given out to people not in the top 8. A player from my hometown Berlin (let’s be creative and call him M) had played against another player (O) during the last round. The winner of this match had a shot at top 8. (But it later turned out that whoever had won this match would only end up at 9th place.) The events played out as follows according to an investigation conducted by Tim and Philip: M had won the match but got distracted and forgot to fill out the result slip. O then filled out the result slip incorrectly, noting that he had won. He signed his own name, but didn’t hand in the result slip. (The signature of M was missing at this point.) When the result slip finally arrived at the scorekeeper’s result entry box it had two signatures. It couldn’t be determined who had signed for M or how the result slip ended up in the result entry box.

So Philip and Tim discussed what to do. O confirmed that he had lost the match, so the result of the match was uncontested. Also it was obvious that M’s signature was not M’s signature. It couldn’t be determined who had forged his signature though. Since we were waiting for the top 8 to start, I went over to them and heard of this story. After pondering it for a while, I told them: “I’m sure you will find a solution.” and went away again. This is the moment when you are glad you are not the head judge’s shoes. After a while I went over again, having pondered the issue myself. Just when I was about to suggest to change the result slip according to the actual result of the match, Philip and Tim both came the to the conclusion that the result would stand. Since a decision was finally made, I didn’t comment on this any further as not to further delay the tournament. I feel that both decisions (letting the result slip as handed in stand or changing to the actual result) have their merits and this was really a decision that could go either way.

From the PlanetMTG forums I later learned that there had been a similar case in the tournament before and that it had been ruled the same way.

Finally at the start of one of the Swiss rounds I overheard a player saying somethink like: “Then call a judge.” When I went there, both players assured me that a judge wasn’t required, but then one of the players (X is a nice letter I haven’t used today) added: “I just doesn’t like to be called [some names I don’t remember].” His opponent claimed that he didn’t said any of these words and also the players at the neighboring table who were watching obviously amused claimed not to have heard anything. From the way they were telling me I had the feeling that they were lying. So I took them both away from the table and called over head judge Tim. Well, it couldn’t be determined that X’s opponent had used any insults. In the end Tim gave a stern lecture to all players involved.

Both players were clearly pissed off during the rest of the round. When X was in a situation that didn’t look good for him (but was still not hopeless), he conceded. He was clearly very pissed off and said something something like: “I have enough. I don’t want to play against assholes like this. I’ll just concede.” He grabbed the result slip, marked a win for his opponent and a drop for himself on it. At this point I decided to let the insult against his opponent slip, since moods were not good at this point and I didn’t want this situation to spin out of control. Also X had already dropped from the tournament. I did inform Tim afterwards though. In retrospect letting this slip was most likely an error, though.

Well, that’s it for now. If I remember anymore interesting situations, I will surely blog about them.

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?