After walking nearly 20km over a few days in Berlin, my shoes were unavailable to bring you the details of the 1999 European Championships, despite their overwhelming popularity after their report from Grand Prix Amsterdam. Thanks to the dozens of players and spectators that inquired as to their well-being. I'm sure they'll be back to do another report very soon. The last I saw of them, they were headed for the Love Parade after-party.
A year after the first European Championships, we had more nations (23) and more players (250) for the second one. In addition to the main event, there were scores of Side Events, the now-becoming traditional overnight Team Event (123 brave souls stayed up until well after the sun rose for this one), and a Pro Tour Qualifier (that I had the honor of Head Judging; a report on it is below).
As one of the senior Level IIIs present, I was given the task of organizing the rest of the Judges for all of the events. I have to thank Bernd Keller of Amigo (Germany's primary distributor) for providing a lion's share of the lower-level Judges, and I have to thank all the Judges at the event for their great attitudes. Side Events are less than glamorous, but not a single Judge (not even the other Level IIIs) complained about taking their turn. I was also given the honor of being one of the Table Judges for the Quarter Finals and the Semi-Finals.
The event covered 3 days. The first was 6 rounds of Constructed; the second was 6 rounds of Rochester Draft; the third was Single Elimination Final 8 with the same Constructed decks from Day 1. Enough will have been written about the results of the event, so I'll stick to the Judging part.
JUDGES: Head Judge was Mischa Donders (Level IV, WotC Belgium) and there were 3 other Level IVs: Carl Crook (WotC UK), Cyril Grillion (WotC France) and Thomas Bisballe (Denmark). There were 6 other Level IIIs: Gijsbert Hoogendijk, Holland; Mike Lowery, England; Justus Roennau, Germany; Martin Jordo, Sweden; Jakub Wysoczanski, Poland; Federico F. from WotC Italy, and another 10 Judges, mostly Level II. Eleven countries were represented by Judges.
In the Judge's pre-meeting, we discussed what were likely to be the big rulings of the weekend and then passed them on in the Player's Meeting: Waylay, Gilded Drake, and Replenish bringing Opalescence, Pandemonium, and Angelic Chorus into play simultaneously. Waylay had been highly publicized by that point, so we simply reminded the players of the way the End of Turn step works. Gilded Drake had been recently errata'd to the choice of which creature to exchange it for not being targeted. On Replenish, we used the rule 410.10a for our guidance:
"Each time an event puts one or more permanents into play, all permanents in play (including the newcomers) are check for any comes-into-play triggers that match the event."
The "including the newcomers" phrase was the key. In short, if Replenish brings Opalescence and Pandemonium into play, Pandemonium will deal 4 damage to a target creature or player because it comes into play as a creature. Additionally, if multiple enchantments come into play, the active player decides the timestamp order. This makes multiple Humilities and Opalescence rather easy to figure out.
The Level of Rules Enforcement was 4; personally, I feel Continental Championships should be Level 5.
Other Rulings (in no particular order of importance, to include a few I got wrong)
I cautioned several players about clearly announcing Buyback. It might be fine in casual play, but tapping 6 mana and pointing toward a permanent with Capsize doesn't work in tournament play. Generally, the intention is clear, but unscrupulous players could use the lack of announcement to their advantage, such as for paying the 3 for a Mana Leak.
Frantic Search. Do the things on the card in the order they're written, then put the spell in the graveyard. In this particular case, the player drew and discarded, put Frantic Search in the graveyard, and then wanted to untap lands. "No" was the answer.
Talking to Spectators. Especially where there are players from 20-odd nations speaking who knows how many languages, conversations with people not in the game are simply not allowed.
We had one case where the players simply didn't hear the "Time" call due to excessive noise in the room. The Head Judge simply began their 6 extra turns there.
A player automatically appealed a ruling to the Head Judge before the Floor Judge opened his mouth. He did not receive a warning for Unsportsmanlike Conduct, although I think he should have. This is the minimum penalty that I will apply in tournaments where I am the Head Judge.
A player had used Oath of Druids to bring out a Verdant Force and asked if it generated a token that turn. The answer was "no", since the beginning of upkeep (and the time for such triggers to go on the Stack) had passed.
A Judge incorrectly ruled that Devout Harpist could destroy Confiscate if it were enchanting a creature. This is not the case, because the Harpist destroys an "Enchant Creature" and Confiscate is an "Enchant Permanent".
A number of players had questions about previous edition cards worded with "successfully cast". This has been changed under Classic rules to be "when you play...". That means the trigger happens even if the spell is countered.
I had been called over to sit on a particularly tense match. At one point, the active player had a pending Echo creature in play. He untapped, then reached for his library, to the point of touching it. He then realized he had Echo to pay and did so. My no-call on this was not well-received by some of the spectators (friends of this player's opponent). I explained to them that touching the library does NOT imply moving to the Draw Step. The Head Judge upheld my decision.
I arrived on the scene of a dispute whether the damage was on the stack or had resolved. A player had written down the change to his life total and then regenerated two Fog of Gnats. I ruled that since he had clearly taken the damage, that it was too late for putting up the Regeneration shield. Damage had already resolved.
The Head Judge asked me to go sit on a match that was getting rather tense. The Judge at the table had just cautioned one of the players about potential slow play. He was winning the match 1-0. After several turns, during which I observed the player trying to speed things up a bit, he asked me how much time was left. Instead of doing the smart thing and looking at my watch, I guessed. "Four minutes" was my answer. The player scooped up his cards (he was in a losing position) in an effort to get the 3rd game in. Seconds later, the Head Judge called time. The player was not pleased. I asked Cyril Grillion for a ruling, and the said "give them the 4 minutes you said they had". Right there, he proved himself worthy of that Level IV.
During the semi-finals between Dirk Baberowski and Pierre Malherbaud, Carl Crook and I were the Table Judges. With both players playing Drake/Abduction decks, the question of "which goes first, the Altar or the Gamekeeper effect?" came up. Carl and I discussed it; I convinced him that the Gamekeeper should go on the stack first, since the sacrifice is during announcement. I was wrong (as Stefan Valkyser adroitly pointed out while doing the match commentary). Rule 408.1e clearly states "When a spell or ability is played, it goes on top of the Stack". This means that when sacrificing a Gamekeeper to the Altar of Dementia, the Altar ability goes on the Stack first, then the Gamekeeper trigger goes on. When the stack resolves, first the Gamekeeper happens, then the Altar. Fortunately, our ruling had no impact on the outcome of the match.
The most interesting ruling of Day 2 involved Sigurd Eskeland and Felipe Saavedra and a table that looked like a Rosewater puzzle. The match was in extra turns when I arrived. It was in the first extra turn, and had been for some time. Sigurd was studying a horribly complex situation. To make matters worse, he had 1 life and 1 card in his library. It seemed as though he had more than one way to lose in the extra turns. The strategic possibilities are too numerous to mention. Since there were other matches still going on, I allowed him some leeway in taking his turn. Even in extra turns, players are expected to play in a timely fashion. Once all the other matches were finished, however, I put Sigurd on a limit of 5 minutes to complete his turn so that we wouldn't hold up the rest of the tournament. He complied with my request. To make a long story short, he won the duel with an empty library, but that's not the issue here. What I was most impressed with was the sportsmanship from both players. Felipe was extremely generous with this support for allowing Sigurd as much time as he needed. It seemed like he was willing to give the big Norwegian more time than I was. Sigurd was truly apologetic about taking so much time. I truly wish the cameras had been on this match, or at least it had been on a Feature table. Huge thanks to both these gentlemen for showing how the game can and should be played.
I had the pleasure of Head Judging a 169-player Pro Tour London Qualifier on Sunday. Actually, Mike Lowery and my lovely and talented wife Lisa started things off while I was over doing the Quarter- and Semi-finals. I got on the scene at the end of Round 1. The majority of the Judges from the main event were working here, so we had good, experienced coverage. There were only two relevant Judging issues:
The first was during a Failure to Agree situation. The specifics of the situation escape me, but during it, one player accused the other of "fishing for warnings". At this point, I warned both of them about their behavior. There was a large crowd around the table, so I took the opportunity to explain my stance on this to them as well (and then repeated this to the entire tournament before the next round). When I come on a situation, I want facts, nothing else. I want each player to try to explain what has happened without editorializing or influencing the Judge. Each time a player requests a penalty on behalf of an opponent, I give a warning for Unsportsmanlike Conduct. I will continue to do so in the future.
I came on the scene with a Judge already having been sitting on the match. According to Player A (the active player; he spoke very poor English, and someone from his country later came over to translate for him), Player B didn't let him attack. Player B and the Judge (plus a spectator who wasn't in any way affiliated with either player) understood that Player A had said "Done". Player B then did an End of Turn thing (clearly announcing it was an EoT effect) and waited for Player A to respond-which he didn't. After it resolved, he put another EoT thing on the stack. When Player B started untapping is when Player A objected. The fact that the Judge was on the match and Player B's story agreed with his led me to let the Judge's ruling stand. Player A had said "Done", indicating his End of Turn and that Player B was clear in indicating that his actions were at the EoT. There were several mitigating factors in this ruling:
Player A's story changed slightly each time he repeated it; the Judge was there; Player A, during previous turns observed by the Judge, clearly announced his attack by saying "Declare Attack", but he did no such thing here.
The hall closed at midnight, so we were forced to move the Final 8 to a nearby hotel. We finished just before 4am. Thanks to Gijsbert for staying that late with me (and Lutz and Nils for doing the quarter-finals).
I was interviewed by a reporter for a Swedish gaming magazine during the PTQ. He asked me about how good this year's Euros had been, and the more I talked about it, the more I found it to be an excellent event. The players were generally pleasant to each other, the Judges and Volunteers worked extremely hard and the entire atmosphere was upbeat and fun. Although I worked 50 hours over the 4 days (we were there Thursday for setup), I came home feeling pretty good.
Next Stop: GenCon Benelux 31 July-1 August. I'll be doing RPGs, so come down and visit between matches (or come play some of the great games we have lined up for you). See you all soon.