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Welsh Championships

Russell K Bulmer

Date : Sunday April 25th 1999 (report written April 28th 1999)
Location : Moat House Hotel - Cardiff, Wales, UK
Format : Standard Constructed
Judges:
Head Judge - Russell K Bulmer - DCI Level 3 Judge
Assistant Judge, TO & WotC Representative - Gideon Moss - DCI Level I Judge - WotC Customer Services

Previously: The Preluding

Last Tuesday, Gideon from Wizards of the Coast customer services wrote me a very odd email. It only had a subject line, and it read 'Call me urgently!'. My initial thought was he'd finally gotten me a Judges Card sorted out, after I'd been waiting since GP Birmingham last year to get one.

Well, it was nothing to do with that. He wanted to know if I was available on the weekend to Head Judge the Welsh Championships. I was planning to spend Saturday night playing Magic and drinking Tequila, but as they needed someone to judge the event or it wouldn't run, I said I'd do it. Obviously, I was doing this out of the goodness of my heart, and my wish to help the game progress. It was nothing to do with the 2 boxes of Urza's Destiny I'm looking forward to receiving for judging the event :-)

This was to be my first time Head Judging an event like this. Previous to this the biggest thing I'd been the Head Judge for was a PTQ. I'd judged at a Grand Prix, which is obviously a much higher level event, but I wasn't head judge then, and it makes a big difference when the buck stops with you.

Saturday: The Journeying

So... Saturday arrived, and I got up and packed my bags. My one and only Judges' T-shirt was in the wash, as I'd used it the previous Tuesday when I ran my regular Tuesday night event. So, I had to find another appropriate t-shirt. I eventually found a suitable one, it was my Voodoo Witch Doctor T-shirt. Very appropriate for an event run by Wizards. So, with that and a change of underwear and a toothbrush, my non-magic bag was packed.

The Magic bag took more doing. Obviously I needed all my decks with me, just in case. On top of that my trade folder was needed, I had a number of Larry's Disks to get rid of. I also stuffed a copy of the Classic rules in there. I planned to read that during the journey, as I was planning to run a Classic Sealed event on the following Tuesday (the day the set came out in this country) under Classic rules, so I figured I should at least know the rules I was going to be using!

So, that was all I needed as Gideon was bringing the laptop, printer, product etc etc etc. So, I sat around drinking coffee until he came and picked me up in the WotC Pool Car. And a lovely car it is too. An old Ford Mondeo with a knackered gear box.

So, we set off for Wales about 1pm on Saturday, with the breadth of the country to cross. Luckily the UK is quite a thin country, and so the journey was only a 3 hour one. Most of the journey was spent discussing what the hell PokeMon is (it isn't out in the UK until September at the earliest), and reading the Classic Rules. The journey was pretty uneventful and passed quickly, despite me not being able to smoke for the entire journey. Damn this stupid addiction (the smoking, not the Magic :-)

We got to the hotel in good time, and after a smoke we checked into our rooms and went to sort out the room. The room was a good size, enough space for 128 players easily. The hotel staff were still setting up the tables when we got there, so we decided to eat lunch (despite it being past 4 o'clock) before setting the rest of the room up. As we were on WotC expenses, it was defiantly a steak for lunch. Unfortunately there was a special offer on and it only cost 5 pounds for a steak and chocolate cake for desert. We'd have to try harder to get an expensive meal at dinner time.

After lunch, we spent a couple of hours unpacking the car, setting up the equipment (computer, printers etc), labeling the table numbers, putting up posters and no smoking signs and all the usual stuff you get at a big event. We made sure that DCIR had a tournament setup, and the database of players we had was working. This was important as being the Welsh Championships, only Welsh players would be allowed to enter, so we needed the database to check this.

After we'd got things set up, we asked one of the hotel staff to come and lock the room for us. So we sat around and played Magic until someone came to lock the room. As it happens no one came for ages, and we played at least 20 games of Magic before the room got locked. In this time we learn't the following:-

  • Running Viashino Heretics and Soltari Visionary in my WW didn't warrant not having disenchants... so those will have to go back in.
  • Mono-U decks really don't like Albino Trolls
  • Decks with 6 Wraths and 6 'Geddons are fun (Gideon had 4 Wrath, 4 'Geddon and 2 Catastrophy!)

Eventually, after a few more requests, someone does get around to locking the room for us, and we're finished until the following morning when the event would start. We play some more Magic, and head off for dinner. Once again, steak looks like the obvious option for an expensive meal on expenses. But once again the hotel foiled us and had a special buffet thing going on for a set price. It includes steak, but it costs the same as anything else... Maybe we'd get an expensive meal on expenses the next day...

After dinner we played some more Magic (in which Gideon's DrawGo deck trashed everything it played... bloody disks...) before getting a reasonable early night. We had alarm calls set for 7.30am... on a Sunday ... Why do I play this game???

Sunday: The Eventing

7.30am came far too quickly for my liking, but I made it downstairs for breakfast, mainly because I knew there'd be coffee there. And there was, and it was nice and strong. So, with coffee in my system, and a nice full English Breakfast to keep it company in there, I was nearly ready for the day. I quick cigarette later and I was.

Well, I thought I was, but Gideon took exception to my Voodoo Witch Doctor T-Shirt... so he gave me a Judges' T-Shirt for me to wear instead.

We did some final checks, got the computer up and running, made sure there were signs indicating where in the hotel the event was, and sat down to play some more Magic. Gideon's DrawGo wasn't performing so well this morning, and lost to everything it played. Good. Bloody blue spells.

Registration was due to open at 10am, and at about that time people starting arriving. So we handed out deck lists to people to fill and gradually got people registered. We checked the deck lists when they came for any obvious problems like not having written the land down, or simply having illegal cards, and we didn't find any problems. Thankfully there were no disputes about people's nationality, and by 11.30 we had 34 players registered, and we closed registration.

This event has 2 purposes. Firstly, to find a Welsh National Champion for 1999, and secondly to find the top 7 Welsh players who would qualify for the UK Nationals. Not the easiest numbers to work with! So, we worked out that what we'd do was the following:-

5 Rounds Swiss (60 minute rounds)

Top 8 play for 7 places in the nationals, and the all important Welsh Champion 1999 title.

This was obviously going to be an awkward top 8 to run. We decided that we'd do double elimination, with the joint 7th place players playing off for the spot at the Nationals.

Round Procedure

The basic procedure for each round was the same, this was how we did it.

First, the pairings for the round are drawn, and then printed off. These are then posted around the room in 2 places. An announcement is made that the pairings are going up, and that players should sit at their tables, but not start yet.

Once all the players are seated, any announcements for the round are made. This includes checking is any players wish to ID in the later rounds. Once this is done, and any questions from the players have been answered, the round is started. At this point which table(s) are being deck checked is also announced, and instead of starting their game, they have their decks checked by the judges. The amount of time taken to do this is noted so that extra time may be allocated to these matches as needed.

The time is noted, and a notice put up at the front of the room for everyone to see stating the Start and End times of the round. This is for the players' benefit, and also to stop the endless asking of 'how long is left in the round' by the players. Anyone who has ever tried putting up the start and end times knows that this doesn't work, and players still ask you all the time...

Next the results entry slips are printed off for each table. Once done, these are given out to each table. When the players finish their match they must both sign the slip, and then both hand it in to a judge. Once we get the slip, we sign them, enter the result into the computer, and then put the slip in the results box. All the slips, even those for Ids etc, get kept in this box, and will be stored away at the end of the round. This means we can reconstruct the tournament from any round, even if the computer is blown up into 427 or more pieces.

10 Minutes from the end of the round, a 10 minute warning is given to let the players know the end of the round is nigh.

After the round has finished, and all the results have been collected in, the tournament files are backed-up. All the results entry slips are put in a labeled envelope and put in a safe place. This may all seam a little over the top, but it doesn't take much effort to do a backup and write 'Round 4' on an envelope and put the slips in. And for this little effort, you know that even if the computer goes mad or something, you can continue to run the event with little disruption.

The current standings are then printed, and the players are given a few minutes to look at these, to decide on dropping out, or work out if they can ID the next round.

And then the process starts again...

The Rounds

Round 1

We didn't do any deck checks in the first round, we just wanted to get a feel for how things were going to run. As it happens things went very smoothly, and the only questions asked were simple rules clarifications.

Round 2

Once again the round ran very smoothly. One guy playing Could of Fairies / Equilibrium type combos confused the hell out of his opponent, and I had to sit down and explain to his opponent what was going on. It was pretty evident that he'd never seen any form of combo deck before and didn't understand what was going on. However, it didn't take long to explain to him what was going on, and he understood how his opponent had made 10000 mana, and why he died when that 10000 mana was used in conjunction with a Stoke of Genius. :-)

Round 3

The deck checks for this round were strange. Not in and of themselves, but together. Both decks were found to be one card short from what was listed on the deck list. Once was missing a Soltari Lancer, and the other a Wild Dogs. Each player got a single warning and duel loss, and had to change their decks to match the deck list. So we had the odd situation of both players having a duel loss, so the match started at 1 duel each! Strangely after round 3 very few people dropped out. Although 3-2 stood a chance of making top 8, people with 0 points weren't dropping out, and we didn't get to start a side event until after the 4th round. This wasn't good news for Gideon. His boss (Carl Crook, OP manager for the UK) was running the Northern Irish Championships, and he'd already run 2 side events by this time. He also had 15 new Legends members compared to our 1.

Round 4

Once again, this round passed smoothly. We finally managed to persuade enough people to drop out and play in a side event. I think many of the players with 0 points weren't really aware of what side events were, and how tournaments generally worked. We explained to them, and some of them joined in, especially the legends members who realized that they get a reduced rate draft!

Round 5

Round 5 produced the line of the tournament. At table 5, the winner would make top 8, the looser wouldn't. So after they'd discussed the situation, one wished the other good luck with the line 'Good luck. In the side events.' It wasn't meant as an insult, it was meant more as 'good luck if you have to play side events'. However, it's not how it came out and the guy saying it soon realized what he'd said and got embarrassed. Thankfully everyone say the funny side, and the game was played out in good spirits. So, the next time you sit down opposite a really good player, try using the opening line of 'Good luck. .... .... In the side events....' :-)

After the round had finished we posted the standing, with a nice line drawn underneath 8th place. However, soon it became apparent that all was not well. One player came to the judges tables and pointed out that his friend who may well have made top 8 wasn't anywhere on the standing print out. The first thing we did was to announce that the standings were incorrect, apologized for any confusion, and took down all the printouts of the standings. We then tried to work out what had happened. We found that the player in question had indeed been dropped out. The result for his last match had been entered, and then at some point after that he'd been dropped out. We used the results entry slips kept from the previous rounds to verify that things made sense, and then re-entered the player into the event.

Unfortunately, this meant that someone who looked like they'd made top 8 wasn't now going to. We called over the player who was previously in 8th place before the mistake was corrected (and thus now in 9th place). Thankfully for us it turned out to be the guy who'd pointed out the mistake in the first place. He first realized something was up when he saw he'd qualified, as they'd worked out that if his friend made it, he wouldn't make it. So, that was a potentially delicate situation that diffused itself.

Top 8

So, we went into the top 8, having to find 7 people who would qualify for the nationals. As I mentioned before, we ran this as double elimination, with an extra game to decide between 7th and 8th place.

All the top 8 games went very smoothly, with no calls for a judge at all. The players just got on with it, which is always nice.

The most notable event in the top 8 was that the judges ate again... and this time we managed to get food costing a proper amount. While the first round of the top 8 was going on, Gideon popped out to get us some sandwiches. However, he came back with with a couple of fillet steaks... mmmmm.... Steak.... And what's more it cost a firtune... so I finally got an expensive meal of out Wizards :-) All's well that ends well, as they say!

Prizes

Prizes were given out to the top 16 finishers.

The Welsh Champion and the runner up got free travel and accommodation for the UK Nationals. Top 4 got free Legends membership for a year, and all the top 8 got given t-shirts on top of the cards they won. The guy who ended up coming 8th,and just missing out on the UK Nationals lace also got a load of extra booster to make up for it.

...and finally

After all that, all that was left to do was pack up all the gear, sort out the room, and drive back home again. It all passed uneventfully enough, and I got home just after midnight, so I got a reasonable amount of sleep before having to be at work the next morning.

Thanks for listening, and I hope something inside this report is of some interest to someone, and maybe even of some use to someone.

Cheers

Russell

/--------------------------------------------------------\
|         Russell K Bulmer - DCI Level III Judge         |
|             mailto:russell_bulmer@3com.com             |
\--------------------------------------------------------/
| DCI Sanctioned Magic Tournaments - Every Tuesday - 8pm |
|  Hemel Games Club - http://www.selune.demon.co.uk/hgc  |
\--------------------------------------------------------/


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