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Danish Nationals Qualifier

The West Seeland Championships - April 18, 1999

Kristoffer Apollo

47 players participated in a 7 round Standard tournament, judged at Rules Enforcement Level 3

Judging Staff: Just myself. This is _not_ a nice situation - 47 players and one judge, but judges are still quite hard to come by Denmark, so an event with more than one judge is an oddity. Thankfully, this went very well - I had a mostly disciplined, positive-minded bunch of players, so the only major downside came around the deck checks. At one point, it took me more than 20 minutes to complete a check because I was interrupted by other players' call for a judge several times...

Disciplined players or not, a couple of difficult situations did arise:

- There was the deck check where I discovered that the cards (which had been presented to the opponent before I announced the check) were distributed in a spell-spell-land-spell-spell-land pattern. That is something I would usually be very strict about, but what do you do when the culprit is this 10- or 11-year old kid? I did not become a judge to bully little kids - and he readily admitted that he had stacked his deck ("because my big brother told me it was okay to do so") before shuffling. I decided to give him a single warning and a duel loss - and a few words about randomization and the need for riffle shuffling or the like. This was a difficult decision - emotionally, I felt that I was maybe being too harsh on this enthusiastic little fellow, but I also wanted to make it clear that this is something he should take very seriously if he wants to play in tournaments. I think I'd do the same another time.

- And then there was this 'failure to agree on reality' situation with more than the usual complications. Player A is one I've never judged before, and one who don't frequent any of the stores associated with the top Danish competitors. Earlier, I had given him a notice for unsportsmanlike conduct when he just grabbed an opponent's sideboard and counted it without telling the opponent what he was doing. Player B is one I've judged several times before, a Level I judge whom I know to be likeable and easy to work with - but also a player who knows the rules and takes advantage of it (in a correct manner).

The situation: Player B Fireballs Player A's 3/3 Spike Weaver. B claims that A responded by moving one 1/1 counter to his Coffin Queen, then asks "Do you have any responses?". B says no, and A reacts by moving another counter and repeating the question. B says no again, and A then declares that he wants to remove the last counter to use the Weaver's Fog effect. B then realizes that A in fact has yielded priority twice, and that the batch should have been resolved by now. This is what B tells me.

I ask A if this is what happened. He says something along the lines of "Well, yes". I explain that he has yielded priority by asking for responses, he objects, and I proceed with a short lecture on the lifecycle of spells, batches and priority to respond. And A then says "Then I didn't move one, but two counters before I asked if he had any responses".

Now, this was dumbfounding. It was obvious that A didn't truly understand what was happening, and therefore it might be that he didn't understand what he was telling me when he first answered my questions - and so didn't understand that he had to be very precise. On the other hand, it might also be that he simply changed his explanation to conform with the rules I explained to him. If that was what he was doing, then he had more nerve than any other player I've met. There is also the fact that B has superior rules knowledge which might make his explanations seem more reasonable because he's using the 'right' terms - which again might be confusing to his opponent.

I asked A if he knew that he was now telling me a different story than the one he had agreed to in the beginning. He said yes. I thought it through quickly and decided to give him the benefit of doubt: Two counters were moved, but his Fog effect wasn't played. Both players got a warning, and I told A that he should be more careful (and consistent) when telling a judge what was going on in his games.

In hindsight, I'm not sure I handled this correctly. Player A was somewhat fuzzy in his explanations, and this gave me a bad feeling - but still I let my doubts count on his behalf. Looking at the tournament as a whole, I think I should have been more severe with him, though. There was the unsportsmanlike situation mentioned above, and later on he got involved in two more 'failure to agree...' things. Both of these were solved pretty easily, but it still has a bad smell to it when one player is in so many strange situations.

In the future, I won't let a player change his explanation of reality so easily. And this Player A is certainly one I'll be very wary of.

Whew... That was a long one, but on to the lighter side and one of the most beautiful finishes I've seen in a while:

Humility/Prayer guy is facing Enchantress/Stroke guy. Humility/Prayer guy has got his combo down and a handful of counterspells and is merrily Grindstoning his opponent's deck away. Now, suddenly Enchantress/Stroke taps all his mana and says "I'll Stroke myself for 13". Humility/Prayer guy thinks a bit about this and decides that the other guy is probably looking for a Disenchant or two. But he's got lots of counterspells, and why would he want to interfere when his opponent is helping him deplete his library? So he says "Go ahead". But what he didn't think of was that the Enchantress/Stroke guy had a Mind Over Matter down. And he starts discarding his hand, going "Untap your City of Brass... Tap your City of Brass... Untap your City of Brass..." ... Using his 18-card hand to take the Humility/Prayer guy to exactly 0 life! That was one that had both players laughing :).

Overall, this tournament was a good experience, especially when considering the fact that it was a first for the organizing club. They were well prepared. By the way, take notice of this: As a judge, you should remember to give your organizers a pat on the shoulder and a "Good work" when they take their job seriously. They need praise, too, and an enthusiastic organizer is an organizer who makes life easier for judges.

Kristoffer Apollo
Level II Judge, Denmark

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