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Learning More About the Rules

Jeffrey Moeller

Well, I'm supposed to submit a number of judging reports equal to my level (1) to maintain certification periodically. Since I'm a level 1 judge, I think that my topic for this year ought to be "learning more about the rules." And that brings up a funny story that happened to me over the weekend.

A little about myself for the unfamiliar reader: I'm an attorney up in Anchorage, AK. I don't have as much time for hobbies (including Magic) as I'd like, but I try to turn out for the big tourneys and enjoy judging now and then. (By way of example, I'm qualified for Chicago and planning on spending $1,000 to go, and still have no clue what I'm going to play). Like a lot of Level 1 judges out there, I probably spend more of my limited hobby time playing Magic than I do judging. When I do judge, I'm usually the assistant, and they tend to be very small tourneys or very big ones requiring lots of manpower (prereleases).

We had our LA PTQ this past Sunday. I've played in PTQs other places (Seattle, Nationals, etc.), and to be honest, they weren't half as much fun as they are in Anchorage. Everyone up here is a good sport and has fun.

Sheldon Menery, the Level 3 (hopefully soon to be Level 4) judge in Belgium is soon to PCS to our neck of the woods here in Anchorage, AK. Darrell Breese (our local head judge) and I have been exchanging emails with Sheldon in preparation for the big move. Some of the emails that Sheldon has sent us have been some particularly evil multiple choice judging quizzes. Over the lunch break, Darrell and I sat down and worked through a couple of them.

I thought I did pretty good. I got most of them right, and they seemed designed to test depth of knowledge, and not breadth of knowledge. But I did miss one. It had to do with timeouts in PTQs. I don't remember the exact wording of the question, but the upshot of it was that it was the quarterfinals of a PTQ. It was what would have been the deciding game of the match, the time limit had expired, and the extra turns had expired, but there was no winner in terms of game results. What result?

The answer, as I was somewhat surprised to learn, was that the player ahead on life in the deciding game wins. My kneejerk reaction was that the game should be finished.

Of course, the 1999-2000 Floor rules presently provide:

117. Determining a Match Winner
In Swiss-style rounds, the winner of a match is the player with the most game wins in the match. If both players have equal game wins, then the match is a draw. In single-elimination rounds, matches may not end in a draw. If both players in a single-elimination tournament have equal game wins when the normal match Time is up, the player with the highest life total is the winner of the current game in progress, otherwise the game in progress is considered a draw. In the event the players have equal life totals (or are between games), the game/match should continue until the first life total change.

But this just doesn't come up that often for me. The smell of karma was in the air. At least I think it was karma, but after 8+ hours of being cooped up with a bunch of card players, it could have been something else.

Tracking my usual tournament performance, I had just managed to sneak my way in to the final 8 of the PTQ, surviving a mediocre sealed deck with only 1 match loss on the day. I sat down for the Rochester draft as the number 8 seed. My teammate and quarterfinal opponent, Rob Weimer, was the number one seed. Rob is a very deliberate player who often plays slow control decks which usually have a healthy dollop of life gain. I draft a quite nice little black/blue deck with several counters, Darting Merfolk, regenerating black creatures, blue flyers, and a Bribery. Rob ends up drafting mostly white, with every lifegaining spell available. No surprise there. So Rob and I sit down to play. We had met in the quarterfinals of States the prior day, and I had managed to win, so it was Rob's turn.

The first game went to me. The second game went to Rob. The third game was hard fought, and long. I finally managed to gain control of the board. I was at 4 life. Rob was at 30 something.

Darrell the head judge this way comes. He casts an imposing shadow over Rob's global Spirit Link. Rob's Bribed "Spirit Linked" Rebel (whatever it's called) stares back up me. Time, quoth Darrell. Rob casts a Renounce in response to the declaration of time and goes up to 50 something.

Dark clouds of irony loom on the horizon. Too much knowledge is a dangerous thing. Rob wants to know what happens now.

"Uh, we get to finish this game, right?" I ask Darrell, adrift somewhere between uncontrollable laughter and cosmic hopelessness. Darrell was forced to remind me that I had just learned the answer to this question over lunch.

There was nothing left to do but to stand on principle and demand that I be declared the loser, even as my growing army of ghouls and airships whittled Rob down to the low 50s over the next five turns. The best thing, of course, is that everyone laughed. That's how Magic should be.



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