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TURNABOUT IS FAIR PLAY 4 - Final Report (GenCon 1999)

Dominick Riesland

I. Apologies for the Delay

Let me begin by offering my sincere apologies for getting this out a month after the event. (Scary, this sounds like how I started last year's report!) Anyway, I *thought* this had gone out about three weeks ago, but it ended up lost in the Aether Storm. Oh well, here we go again. I've put in a couple redundancy switches to make sure it goes out, or at the very least make sure I know if it didn't.

II. Brief history of TURNABOUT

The format idea was the result of an idea that was bouncing in my head early in 1996. I originally wanted to do something that approximated the team events of duplicate bridge. There, one pair of players play several hands taking the "North and South" cards while their teammates play the same hands taking the "East and West" cards. Since Magic is played with individuals as opposed to partners, the idea was to have two players, one playing with his or her own deck and against his or her partner's deck. When the realization hit that the same effect could be done simply by trading decks after the first game, TURNABOUT was born.

The first TURNABOUT at GenCon '96 ran with two qualifying sessions and a final on the third day. The Thursday session had 17 players and the Friday session had 7. Twelve eager finalists got to see Brett de Jesus and his "broken deck" take the finals. (Under those rules, you played your own deck first. The winning deck could only deal damage by casting Psychic Venom on the opponent's lands and then tapping them with Power Sink and Twiddle. When the deck was handed over, he simply never played a land with the opponent's deck and let his deck (in his opponent's hands) die by decking itself.

GenCon '97 saw three major changes in the event. First, the order of deck play was reversed so that you played the opponent's deck first. This was done to fix the "broken deck" syndrome. Second, in response to expectations of those who were at GenCon '96, sideboards were allowed. Finally, the event was moved from the morning slot to the 8pm slot. The first change was necessary and fun, the second change was non-committal, and the third change was beyond my control and killed the attendance, to the point where only six people showed up for the finals, as most of the people were locked into other events by then. In fact, neither of the daily leaders attended the finals.

There were three changes made in 1998's format. The first was a change back to the morning slot, which works out better as a general rule. The second was a cosmetic deck construction limitation of 100 cards total. Some people had threatened to bring their entire collections as their "sideboard" and this rule was put in to eliminate that. The final change was an elimination of the final round, running three single sessions instead. This was not planned, but a scheduling misfire kept me from running a final. This will not happen again.

III. New for 1999

In the continuing effort to keep the environment simple, yet challenging and fun, the banned list added Unglued cards (it would take forever to come up with real rulings for cards that weren't supposed to have any) and Ring of Ma'Ruf (which is broken in this format). Also, this year marked the first time that two qualifying sessions were run in the same day. I had run a qualifier and a final in the same day, but never two qualifiers.

IV. TURNABOUT -- Day by Day

IVA. Thursday: "The Magic Number is..."

This was the first time in the history of TURNABOUT that any session ended in a tie for the top. Ties for lower positions are far more common, as there are more combinations which produce the Victory Point numbers associated with those positions, and there is usually a "pack" in the middle of the field. Joseph Schreiner's Donate/Forbidden Crypt deck, Brian Oliver's Yawgmoth's Bargain variant souped-up by TURNABOUT rules (i.e. no four-card limit) were responsible for this moment in TURNABOUT history, each ending on a total of 94 Victory Points. Along with the 3rd and 4th place finishers, these competitors took home the first ever "Turnabouts signed by the TURNABOUT Guy."

Results (4 Rounds Played)

 Rank    Name               Score   Rating Pts.
 1.5     Joseph Schreiner    94        20
 1.5     Brian Oliver        94        16*
 3       Mark Drapac         88        12*
 4       Jason Bargender     65        12*
 5       Paula Hiller        58         6*
 6       Edward Blair        57         4
 7       Rob Bradley         54         6
 8       Andrew Kraus        49         4*
 9       Christopher Sherman 47         2
 10      "Ryoga" (Paul)      28         2
 11      Alex Dickerson      drop       2

 *Total Rating Points affected by finals participation

IVB. Friday Morning: "Like Sands through the Mana Vault..."

The winner of this session played a Type I Tolarian Academy deck to another score of 94. But the most interesting deck was the second place deck, run by Kurt Kostrzewa. He had a deck that used Mana Vaults, Thawing Glaciers, and Sands of Time to get lots of land out, a large amount of life gain, and survive long enough to spit out a Sacred Mesa and start generating a horde of Pegasi. He had a situation where his deck would put the Sacred Mesa trigger on the stack at the beginning of upkeep, followed by the triggers from multiple Sands of Time, and respond to each trigger by tapping out to gain life off of Fountain of Youth, make some Pegasi (and Kjeldoran Outpost soldier tokens), fire Thawing Glaciers to put even more land out, and then, after all that, feed one of them to the Mesa to pay for its upkeep.

Results (4 Rounds Played)

 Rank    Name                    Score   Rating Pts.
 1       Royal Rosario            94     25*
 2       Kurt Kostrzewa           90     16
 3.5     Tim Werner               70     10.5
 3.5     Vince Naples             70      7.5
 5       Andrew Kraus             69      5*
 6       Scot Wilson              61      8
 7       Mike Wessel              47      5
 8       Nate Kast                38      4
 9       Erick Cobb               32      2
 10      Michelle LeVan           30      2

 *Total Rating Points affected by finals participation

IVC. Friday evening: "Card Advantage is King"

For the first time in the qualifiers, the winner did not get a score of 94. In fact, no one even broke the 90 Victory Point barrier. Tim Martoni led all competitors with a blue and black card advantage deck (I draw cards, you discard).

Stuart Kahler was in this session, with last year's dominant deck. However, as I had suspected beforehand, one of the most interesting aspects of the TURNABOUT metagame is that the deck which wins one year probably did so because of a surprise factor (no one knows what to do with it, for example). Once that surprise factor is gone, chances are the deck will finish near the middle of the pack.

This was the first evening session I ran since the '97 debacle. This year, however, I decided to start it a 5:00 as opposed to 8:00, and 11 people showed up, which is about the same as the earlier qualifiers.

Results (4 Rounds Played)

 Rank    Name            Score   Rating Pts.
 1       Tim Martoni      85     22*
 2       Brian Harrington 78     14*
 3       Ryan Kmieciak    77     12*
 4       John Williams    75     10.5*
 5       Rob Shoemaker    73      8
 6       Stuart Kahler    62      6
 7       Alan Bargender   61      6
 8       Steve Huebner    56      5
 9       Mike Tannhauser  45      2
 10      Richard Stern    44      2*
 11      Bob Avers        drop    1

 *Total Rating Points affected by finals participation

IVD. Sunday Morning: "Why are we here?"

Well, if you thought last year's disaster of getting a total of 6 people was bad enough, just try doing anything at the 8 a.m. Sunday slot at GenCon. We had a grand total of 4(!) people, and with each session qualifying four for the finals, that effectively translated into a bye for each of them. Of course everyone was allowed to play each other, just to get the feel for the system, and since 4 people doing a round robin is fewer rounds than any of the Swiss events I had been doing, the players were able to play and take time to run errands before jumping headlong into the finals.

Results (3 Rounds Played)

 Rank    Name            Score   Rating Pts.
 1       Ed Mitchell      62     16*
 2       Brian Schultz    54      9*
 3       Joseph G. Wright 35      4*
 4       Paula Hiller     19      2*

 *Total Rating Points affected by finals participation

IVE. Finals: "It's All Academic"

(Did the decks make the experts? Or did the experts make the decks? Or were they simply made for each other?)

For the most part, the combo decks which we have seen arise in the past year rose to the top in the finals. This, to some degree, is understandable. The only people who are willing to play combo decks are usually those who can take apart a deck at a glance and decipher what it is supposed to do. Since that is the skill rewarded the most by this format, it would make sense for those kinds of players to do well. As such, the top four decks were Power Monolith (Power Artifact on Grim Monolith = unbounded mana), Academy, Zvi Bargain and Draw-Go, in that order.

I added a 14th player halfway into the first round, after he agreed to take a loss in the first round. Before then, there were 13 people, and surprisingly enough the player with the bye ended up in last place for the session. For sticking it out, that player was rewarded with a Snow-Covered Swamp which I had asked all the participants in the finals to sign beforehand.

Results (4 Rounds Played)

 Rank    Name             Score   Rating Pts.
 1       Brian Harrington 101     56(o)
 2       Royal Rosario     81     51(o)
 3       John Williams     79     27.5(o)
 4       Jason Bargender   75     32.5(o)
 5       Brian Oliver      74     10.5(s)
 6       Tim Martoni       65      9(s)
 7       Mark Drapac       62      9(s)
 8       Joseph G. Wright  53      7.5(s)
 9       Paula Hiller      50     13.5(o)
 10      Ed Mitchell       47      6(s)
 11      Richard Stern     45      9(o)
 12      Brian Schultz     43      4(s)
 13      Ryan Kmieciak     34      4(s)
 14      Andrew Kraus      31      4(s)

 (o)Overall Rating (replaces Session ratings)
 (s)Session Rating (combines with previous sessions)

V. So what do these numbers mean, anyway?

VA. Scoring the match and the event

Each game of the two-game match was scored as follows: The winner of the game (if any) gets 30 points for the win. The loser gets a score between 0 and 19 for "net damage inflicted." This is found by taking 20 and subtracting from it the winner's final life total, adjusting the score to be within the range. The person who scores the most is the winner of the match, and the match result is then converted to Victory Points on the following scale:

 Match difference:       Winner's VP     Loser's VP
 0 (tie)                 15              15
 1-3                     16              14
 4-6                     17              13
 7-9                     18              12
 10-12                   19              11
 13-15                   20              10
 16-18                   21              9
 19-21                   22              8
 22-25                   23              7
 26-30                   24              6
 31-35                   25              5
 36-40                   26              4
 41-45                   27              3
 46-50                   28              2
 51-55                   29              1
 56-60                   30              0

Victory Points were the sole determinant for rankings. In the case where people had the same final VP total, the ranking places were averaged (see Thursday and Friday results for examples).

Because the players on Sunday played one less match, they were given an extra 33% of their score for purposes of comparing across the three days.

VB. The Rating Points

Within each event, Rating Points were awarded to any player who won or tied a match, and any player who played in all rounds, regardless of whether they won or tied a match. Rating Points are determined by the number of players in the event, the number of matches won, and that player's eventual ranking.

To determine the Rating Points, first determine the number of match wins. If the person played all scheduled rounds, add one match win to that player's total. This is then multiplied by a factor based on the number of players and the final place. Thursday's and Friday's sessions qualified for a base multiplier of 5; Saturday's base multiplier was 4. The day's winner got the full multiplier, second place got one less than the base, 3rd and 4th got two less, 5th - 8th got 3 less, and 9th - 16th got 4 less than the base.

For those who placed in the finals, two calculations were made. First, the day was calculated as if it were the only event that person played in, at a base multiplier of 6, and then added to the points won in qualifying sessions. Then the total number of wins (without a +1 adjustment) from one qualifying session were added to the wins from the final (with the +1 adjustment) and calculated from that at a base multiplier of 7. Whichever method yielded the best result was used for that player's final rating.

VI. Comments from the TURNABOUT Guy.

This, though not as well attended as last year (36 vs. 42), was more enjoyable from my end. I believe I have developed the format to a point where it needs only minor tweaks from now on.

The presence of Combo Winter made itself known, but in the end, everything balances itself out in TURNABOUT. I've seen every deck type win here, and expect to see that continue into the future, as this event is all about play skill. This event, GenCon's longest running Magic event, will not be going away any time soon.

Dominick Riesland,
Almost Official Milwaukee M:tG Rules Guru
Judge Advocate Team HKMC
Inventor of the Chicken Track

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