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QT - London Tournament Report

July 24, 1999 - Las Vegas, NV

Doug McCarthy

I am picking this tournament to do my first report on for a number of reasons. First, it was such a small tournament for a QT that almost everybody that reads this report will not have known that it was even held, much less what happened at it. Second, I learned a lot about the work that goes on behind the scenes to put on a major off-site tournament that judges usually don't come in contact with, and I think it's important information for judges to have.

But first, the usual parts of the report.

Vital statistics:
Format - Sealed
Playoff Format - Booster Draft
Invitations available - 2
Players - 39 (that's right, less than 20 players per invitation)
Rounds - 5
Judges - 2: David Doust (head judge) and Doug McCarthy (me)
TO - Brian Chew, Neutral Ground San Francisco

Top 8 went like this:

Quarters - Dan DuBois(1)    def. Dave Kuykendall(8)  2-0
           Tim Rivera(5)    def. Robert Swarowski(4) 2-0
           John Humphrey(6) def. Juan Beltran(3)     2-0
           Erik Landriz(7)  def. Brian Gates(2)      2-0

Semis - Rivera  def. DuBois   2-0
        Landriz def. Humphrey 2-0

Finals: Landriz def. Rivera 2-0

The tournament got off to a relatively easy start, but then I'm used to 80+ players for 1-invitation QT's, so this isn't too surprising. David did all the head-judgely duties for the Swiss section - telling players how to register decks, how to mark down their constructed decks, how to get their three extra land, etc. A few players had never been to a sanctioned tournament before, so they didn't quite fill out their deck lists the right way, and got the usual warnings for it.

The Swiss rounds went fairly smoothly. Once again, I gave a few early-tournament warnings for not knowing the Floor Rules as well as a QT demanded.

The one big brouhaha was unfortunately only pointed to me after the fact. At the end of the fourth round, there were two matches still going on. One of them was still in the first game. When time was called, neither player was anywhere near killing the other player through damage, but the active player (who was past his draw step) only had two cards in his library. (His opponent had three.) Spectators reported afterwards that the active player was stalling so that he wouldn't lose in the six extra turns due to being forced to draw from an empty library. I had been watching this match about five minutes before time was called, but missed the last five minutes and the six extra turns. The active player in question had the game under control, but there was no way he could have killed his opponent before running out of time. There were a lot of cards in play, and while I was watching, I believe that he was just playing methodically. He wasn't stalling (in my opinion) while I was watching, but popular spectator opinion was that he deliberately slowed down play afterwards so that he wouldn't run out of cards. I just wish I had been called over.

An interesting side effect of having tournament-inexperienced players that I had never experienced before happened at this tournament. I was doing the usual judge walkaround when I paused to watch two teenaged players. I came to a stop behind the non-active player just as the active player tapped three of his creatures and said "attack." He looked up at me, quickly untapped his creatures, and said, "I mean, I Declare My Intent To Enter My Attack Phase." You could almost hear the capital letters in his voice. I took this opportunity to clear up an obvious misimpression he had about judges. I told them both, "Look, I'm not a policeman. You don't have to slow down and do everything exactly by the book just because I happen to be taking in interest in your game. If tapping your creatures and saying 'attack' is your usual way of Declaring Your Intent To Enter Your Attack Phase, so be it. Just remember that if your opponent wants to back up and do something before your attack phase, or during the Beginning Of Combat step, you have to let him."

The playoffs went pretty smoothly. I ran the draft and kept my eye on the top 8 while they constructed their decks. The top two players played out the final match, even though they were both guaranteed to get invitations, because the non-invitation parts of the prizes were a bit different ($250 for first place, a box of cards for second place). The one unusual thing that happened during the draft was that one Destiny pack had both a foil and a regular Iridescent Drake. One of the players pointed it out to me, but I didn't feel that that invalidated that pack, so the draft continued. The controversial part of the top 8 was that the possibly-stalling player in the fourth round ended up winning the tournament. Long-time trackers of the DCI Banned Players list will recognize Erik Landriz's name - he was banned a few years ago (for something besides stalling).

That's the tournament. Now for the backstory and the lessons learned.

This part starts about two and a half weeks before the actual QT. Brian sent out a call for judges on the DCIJUDGE-L mailing list. Now I do almost all my judging for Brian, so we have a really good working relationship, but this tournament was going to involve a lot of travel, and I wasn't sure if Brian would be willing to pay for it.

Lesson 1: It never hurts to ask.

Brian and I came to an equitable agreement on travel compensation, so on Friday the 23rd at 7:30 I was on my way to Vegas. I got there, checked into the hotel, and started to wander around. While looking for somewhere to eat, I bumped into Brian, David, and David's wife Stacy. We were all pretty hungry and ended up eating in Caesar's Palace. It turned out to be a rather expensive meal, but it was money well spent, if for nothing but the conversation. It was fascinating to listen to Brian and David talk about TO concerns. They talked about the logistics of planning this tournament, how many people would have to show up just to break even, how much product they needed to sell, how Pokemon was just the shot in the arm Wizards needed to show the world that they weren't just a one-product company, and general gaming industry rumors and gossip that is best not repeated here. It was looking at Magic tournaments as a business, which is something I had never done before. Magic is mainly about having fun and spending money and weekends to me, but it has always been just a glorified hobby. It was interesting to be involved in a conversation with people whose jobs depended on it. If you ever get this chance, take it.

Saturday morning rolled around, and I got ready for judging. My roommate was going to play in the tournament. All told, there were four players there that frequent NG - SF, so already I knew 10% of the players. At one point, Brian decided that he wanted to play instead of judge or be TO, so David became both TO and HJ. This burdened David with just a little too much work, as he was also constantly bombarded with cell phone calls from NG-Atlanta. Apparently, there was a QT being run there at the same time. Stacy fielded most of the calls but David had to handle a lot of business decisions.

Lesson 2: Don't overburden the HJ.

Lesson 3: Level III judges are not created equal. Work with as many as you can.

When I judge at NG - SF, the L3 head judge is either Peter Costantinidis or Don Barkauskas. It was an eye-opener to work under someone new. Although I have tremendous respect for both, I have to say that Peter and David couldn't be more different in judging styles. For instance, I have never heard Peter swear. David swears like a Brooklyn native. They have totally different views of the mentalities of the players. Peter looks for the worst-case scenario first - he assumes that all players are evil geniuses that know exactly what a particular type of cheating will look like to a judge. David is willing to chalk up more things to inexperience, with a few "off with his head" pet peeve rulings to make it interesting.

Anyway, things got really hectic on David's ol' cell phone right at the time the Top 8 draft needed to start, so I volunteered to run the draft. I ended up doing the whole thing. Running the draft, watching the players register their cards, handing out land, and watching as much of the quarters and semis as I could. Here's another Peter/David dichotomy. Peter rounds up four judges, by hook or by crook, so he can assign one to watch each of the four quarter-final matches. He has even designed his own scorepad that keeps track of life points, sources of damage, and land played. It even keeps track of mulligans. It's what the four judges use to record the playoff matches. David, on the other hand, was content to let me handle the whole thing. I like to think it was due to his confidence in how I handled things earlier in the day.

So the playoffs were played, the prizes were awarded, and we all packed up the room. I looked at my watch. 7:45 PM. Holy cow! An entire QT, playoffs and all, completed before the sun had set. I really like the 50-minute six-turn rule.

So there you have it - a report of my first non-PT out-of-town tournament. The most illuminating things that happened had nothing to do with timing rules or warning penalties... but you've probably already come to that conclusion on your own.

(There is a much longer version of this report that goes into excruciating detail about such important topics as what happened at the various restaurants we went to. If anyone is interested in it, let me know.)

--
Doug McCarthy And this is artificial moonlight...
douglas.j.mccarthy@intel.com and artificial sky.
Level II



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