|GP-DC Trial/UD Prerelease
When I first heard about the judge certification program, I was ecstatic. I never was a super-awesome player, mostly due to my total lack of killer instinct. So I read up on my rules and passed right into Level 2 at the '96 PT Chicago. After that, I judged a few big tournaments at PTQs and cons, but I had to take a bit of a hiatus to get some more practical concerns taken care of. I recently started to judge some small weekend tournaments at the local game store <plug>The Gamer's Inn</plug> in Troy, MI and was ready to get back into judging more regularly.
Mike Guptil (Level 4 judge, Buffy fan, and cool guyTM) knew that I had wanted to gain some more experience running bigger events, because I had worked with him at some of the regional tournaments and cons and talked to him about it. I was really surprised though when he asked me to Head Judge his Columbus prerelease. I really looked forward to it, but I wasn't sure that I was ready to do such an big event with so many players.
GP DC Trial - Columbus, OH- May 15, 1999
Two weekends before the prerelease, I helped judge for Mike at the Ohio Valley Regionals. The best part of this was that it was in the exact same fabulous ballroom at the Columbus convention center as the UD pre-release would be. These are also the same ballrooms that the open (card) gaming area at Origins is held, although we only had 1/3 of it. That's still a HUGE area. I actually only helped floor judge for a couple rounds, helping do deck checks and such. One player had an illegal decklist which listed only 56 cards. He understood and since he couldn't continue, went to play in the GP DC Trial which was being held while the main event ran.
Mike asked me to head judge the trial for GP DC . The format was Urza's sealed and ended up drawing 63(!) amazing players. Deck registration went fairly smooth. There were some Weatherseed Elf/Treefolk and Pendrell/Peregrine Drake mix-ups. The only major incident during the rounds occured when I was watching a game between two eventual Top 8 players. One player had a Radiant's Judgement and a Congregate in his hand. He was at low life and had only 4-5 lands out. His opponent attacked with a couple weenie flyers and one beefy creature, enough to kill him outright. He tapped three lands and announced "Radiant's Judgement!" quite confidently, and then started counting creatures. Everyone watching the game knew that he really meant (and needed) to cast Congregate in order to live. At that point, he realized he had announced and cast the wrong spell and asked to take it back. Unfortunately, since there was a creature which Radiant's could target, my call was that he had to use it. If there hadn't been, I most likely would have made him take back the spell and he could have proceeded to cast Congregate instead. He was disappointed, but gracious about it.
This was actually my first oppotunity head judging a PT-type event on my own, even if it was just a Grand Prix trial. I felt really nervous the whole event, mostly because I wanted to make a good impression on the players, and also Mike Guptil and Mike Donais, who were both attending to the Regionals. A couple of times, I went and asked them some very simple questions that, looking back, I should have known. Heck, I DID know the answers, but just didn't feel the confidence to go with it. Just the sort of mental state to have going into a Rochester draft finals. I somehow bumbled through the draft with some coaching from super-judge Sean Mangin. The players thankfully understood that I had not done a professional level Rochester draft before, and I did learn a lot.
(Word of wisdom to future judges -- play/watch/run every Rochester draft you can. These things have finesse which is learned only by seeing them run well.)
There was one problem during the finals. The same pair from before were playing, this time it was literally for the top prize - a 3rd round bye into GPDC. There was a problem with how one player had been playing Temporal Aperture. He assumed incorrectly that if you didn't play the card, that it was discarded at the end of the turn. He had been using the Aperture repeatedly for a couple turns, and even the table judge watching had missed what he was doing. When it was discovered, I spoke to everyone at the table, and he admitted that he had been doing this for at least a few turns. I felt that even under REL3, that this simple, but repeated, mistake had a huge effect on the game. I told him that I would have to give him a game loss, but Mike stopped and pulled me aside. The first thing that he mentioned was that I was still Head Judge of the DC Trial and he wouldn't overrule me, but that he thought it was too harsh of a penalty. I felt that it had too big of an impact on the current game and that there was a possibility that it may have been intentional. I let the game loss stand. That player eventually came back to win the entry to GPDC. Oddly enough, he was the same player that was DQ'd when I deck-checked him in the Regionals.
After the long day, I was wiped out mentally and my confidence level was really shot. I started second-guessing everything that happened and was really not feeling that I could do a larger event by myself.UD Pre-release - Columbus, OH - May 29 & 30, 1999
I can't say I wasn't nervous. Geez, here was my opportunity to either gain a lot of respect from the regions best players or I lose that respect before ever getting to prove myself. I know it was only a pre-release, but I had never run anything so large, and I would be doing it with no head judge to catch any errors.
I drove down the night before with Denise Guptil, who was going to be handling all of the TO duties and scorekeeping. Mike was in Florida for the JSS, and the rest of the Professional Events Services team were split among Louisville, Philly, and Detroit. Along for the ride was Marco Petraszczuk and Wade "Scent of Jasmine" Schwendemann (I). Some local judges met us down there, including Mike Tidrick (I) and Fred Donovan (II), who would be helping with the main event.
We started the day early so we would be set-up and ready to go on time. Registering our 209 players went very smoothly and we began by going over some important points with the players,as suggested by Mike. This would be swiss rounds and the top 8 would each get a box, with the winner getting a cool plague. I explained the 6 turn rule and that unpaid echo creatures and awake "sleepers" were to be tracked using counters. This was REL2 and that there was no deck swap or extra land given.
The players began contructing and almost immediately somthing strange started happening. In some players' UD boosters, in place of the rare, was inserted a plain old, 6th edition - Bottle of Sulieman. A total of 5 were found, which we decided to replace with random UD cards. We opened three boosters, and had them pick one card after shuffling. It was certainly a fair way to handle such an odd situation, but some players wanted to have random rares instead. I told them that this would have to do, but that they could always have the Bottle back after the tournament :-) No one did though.
Play began, and went very well. Many of the UD cards were of course templated under 6th edition, but we were playing under 5th rules. The most frequent questions were about the damage prevention (Field Surgeon/Master Healer) and Yavimaya Elder (get lands, THEN draw). After round 2, a player came up and said that he was missing a card from his deck, that he might have droped it somewhere. We went through his list and sure enough, he was. Mike had told me that it probably wouldn't be necessary to eject anyone, except for cheating, but this guy had already lost and decided to drop out. Had he really wanted to stay in, I would have proxied the card or found a replacement.
About the 4th round, we started deck-checking one table per round. Mike had said that we shouldn't spend too much time doing a lot of these, just that they should be very "public", to spook people. We didn't have much trouble with that because both players had problems. One had still been sideboarded from he previous match, the other was also, but had an extra card in his deck, Despondency (pretty good card). He couldn't explain it right away and our thought was that it had been intentional. After some conferring, he decided it had come from his first round opponent and since he was playing one as well, never noticed. This still was suspicious (he never drew both in one game???) and I wanted to send a strong message. Each player got a next game loss, and the one player got a current game loss. I never would like to give a match win to someone who himself didn't have a correct deck, but the whole situation was ugly from the start. These were both very good players and knew better. Hopefully someone out there will give me some feedback on whether this was a good call. The very next round, we DC'd another pair, and AGAIN both players had problems, but they were slight and unintentional. One had a color hoser from his sideboard, which wouldn't have been at all useful in the current match, and the other had some irregular looking sleeves, which were replaced. Apparently, it was a bad day to be deck-checked!
As the field of players shrank, Wade and Mike T. went and worked on side events with some other judge trainees. Fred and I had no large problems the rest of the day. I could hardly wait until the next day.
Day 2 of the pre-release had 74 players. Most everyone had been there the day before, and knew the ground rules. Our Bottle of Sulieman count got up to seven (plus one that ended up in a booster draft and was left in). Mike and Wade were in charge of churning out side events, and Fred helped me again. The day seemed to fly by because it went so well. We no deck check problems and most of the questions were just repeats of the previous day.
I was really happy that, for my first large event, everything went very well and my fears about it were unjustified. I got a lot of positive feedback from everyone who attended. Of course, a lot of the credit goes to Professional Event Services for always organizing great events. Thanks all.
DCI judge Level II