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Mercadian Masques Prerelease-San Diego, CA

Corey Cole

Head Judge: Andrea Kunstt (Level 3)
Judges: John and Leslie (Level 2), and Shane (Level 1, working on level 2), Corey (Level 1) (my apologies if I spelled any of those wrong).
Other staff: Becky and Christa.
Attendance: 104.

I helped to judge the pre-release tournament in San Diego for the Mercadian Masques set. Andrea mentioned that 11 judges were expected, but we only had five. Attendance was also below the 150 originally anticipated. The room was originally set up with enough chairs for around 100 players, but Anthony at the hotel (Windham Emerald Plaza) was very helpful in getting us additional chairs for the expected attendance. The extra tables and chairs eventually came in handy for the booster draft side events. One thing that surprised me was the average age of the players. There were relatively few kids and quite a new players over 30. For once I didn't feel like an old man at the Magic tournament. Maybe the younger kids were off playing Pokemon somewhere.

The players had six rounds of Swiss play with no single elimination. There were prizes for the top 32 players. I was very impressed by that level of prize support, almost 1/3 of players receiving additional packs. We also ran booster drafts continuously after the first round of the main event any time we had eight people who wanted to play. The tournament ran very smoothly. Andrea announced that the premium pre-release card was the receipt for the main event; only players who had their cards in front of them would receive packs. Everyone abided by this, so pack distribution was smooth and easy. Almost all of the players were on time for each round and everyone was very polite with no incidents of bad sportsmanship that I observed. Bridge tournaments have adopted a "zero tolerance" policy for bad behavior in recent years (anyone who disrupts a tournament is kicked out). We had no need for such a rule in San Diego, but other places where player behavior ruins the fun of other players might benefit from such a policy.

We had a smattering of rules questions each round, most easily answered. A few of the players were bemused by the different results that could occur depending on when spells and effects were announced, particularly in combat. The most confusing card seemed to be Bargaining Table. Several players thought the ability allowed them to draw X cards rather than one card or wanted to know whether the effect would fizzle if the opponent responded with an instant to change the number of cards in his or her hand.Magistrate's Scepter proved awesome in the Sealed Deck format. Statecraft was one of the most frustrating cards-One game in which it came into play almost caused both players to run out of cards. The game finally ended when one of the players managed to use a trampler to get through a point or two of damage each turn. Hunting Wumpus looked quite good for the cost. Haunted Crossroads is awesome in Sealed, a Volrath's Stronghold that only costs 1 mana to activate. It might be worthy of play in constructed format. Squee, Goblin Nabob was the most popular choice to discard to a Spellshaper effect since he came right back to be discarded again on the player's next turn. In general, many of the tables reminded me of those at the "blast to the past" (Ice Age, Homelands, Fallen Empires) tournament at PTLA-Massive numbers of permanents and big ground stalls. I managed to get in one round of a draft before dropping to return to judging the main event and found that, as in those earlier sets, flyers were key to breaking through for a victory.

We had a couple of minor mixups with misreported scores at the end. Possibly the final standings should be posted 10 minutes before the formal announcement of winners and prizes so that players can check them and make corrections. One of the players was mistakenly awarded a prize (six packs) as a result of one of the errors. I was very impressed when Andrea handled this by letting him keep the packs after the corrections had been made; this way everybody went away happy.

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