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Urza's Destiny Prerelease

Louisville, KY - May 29, 1999

Mark Schafer

This was the first time I judged a Prerelease tournament; I usually play. I thought it would be a kick to answer questions about cards I've never seen before.

The head judge's name, to the best of my recollection, was Brian Goethals. I've never judged under him before, but I played under him at the Urza's Saga Prerelease. The only judge I knew, out of the volunteer staff of four, was Daryl Janisch with whom I have judged before. I thought there were 172 people at the start of this tournament because I remember thinking that it was one short of the biggest tournament I've ever judged.

There was one angry player at the end of the draft because he said he planned his deck assuming he would get three extra lands, which was not the case. He was informed that such was announced beforehand, so he had been warned. He almost decided to drop out then, but he stayed in.

With about 20 minutes to go in the first round, I told the head judge something about running tournaments he didn't know. He knew about the new 50-minute time limit, but he didn't know about the six-extra-turn rule, as it existed at that time. He confirmed what I told him with his boss, Mike Guptil, by phone. So when time was up, he had to explain that there were six extra turns to be taken before a match ended.

One match took an extraordinarily long time to finish, like 25 minutes. Brian then told me he didn't like the six-extra-turn rule for that reason. I told him he was prejudging it, and it isn't likely that many rounds would be like this. Sure enough, the other rounds were more tame, and he decided he liked it after all. That's when I told him I didn't like it because it encouraged slow play now that the six extra turns occur with slow play or without. I didn't want him to dislike it for the wrong reason.

Brian asked me whether I prefer to be a floor judge or a desk judge (one that helps out behind the desk), and he let me have my preference of being a floor judge, so I spent the first so many rounds walking the floor, answering questions, and occasionally correcting a wrong when I spotted one. I learned early on in judging that if you don't watch these people, they'll make errors without either player knowing.

There was one fiasco in the second or third round. A player comes to me saying the signature of his opponent after their match ended didn't look like the name that was on the sheet. I investigated and found out that he and the player next to him had inadvertently switched opponents. The other match had not yet been completed. I informed Brian of this, and he said that the two players sitting at the wrong table get match losses. This ticked off the player at the unfinished match. He apparently sat at the seat that was left when he got there. At least one of the players was confused by the table numbering. Nevertheless, the losses were charged thusly.

Daryl asked me if I would help judge booster drafts, which is what he likes to do. Being one who does what needs doing, I said I would when the need arose. Not long after that, I was given the first of, I believe, four booster drafts to judge. The unfortunate thing was that I forgot to bring my booster draft cards that I use for random seating and pairing, so I had the players roll dice for random seating.

Different judges judge booster drafts differently. Whereas I seated players at random, Darryl would let them sit wherever they sat, but he would ask if any players knew each other. If they confessed, he would seat them opposite one another. But Darryl would precisely time the draft portion, whereas I would just warn a player who I felt was taking too long. Another judge wasn't even present during the draft.

Rare drafting went on. The same two guys told me they were dropping right after the draft was over in two of my booster drafts. They would then promptly sign up for the next booster draft. I charged them with losses since I was told at Origins that in a draft tournament, the draft counts as part of the first round. Their opponents were disappointed that they didn't get to play the first round.

One thing I thought was strange was that I never saw one person play the Yavimaya Elder correctly. They kept drawing the card before they fetched the land. I explained each time I saw it how it is correctly done since getting it right is in their best interest, anyway. I was in Columbus for day two of the Prerelease, and everybody I saw there played it right.

And we also had the strange occurrence of having a Bottle of Suleiman come up in a booster three times, including once in a draft I was judging. In my case, the pack was replaced.

One other hitch was the packing for the tournament wasn't quite complete. Only one box of sleeves was packed, so they had to charge a hefty $10 a pack for them.

Overall, I'd say the tournament went smoothly and finished in a reasonable amount of time. And I now know that I like judging Prereleases, although I prefer being a floor judge to judging booster drafts, but I wouldn't insist on doing one to the exclusion of the other. I have since modified my booster draft style to be less stressful.

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