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Pro Tour-Chicago

Senior Judge's Report

Sheldon Menery

Pro Tour Chicago (my first Stateside) continued the trend of major events being as smooth as silk. I can't help but think that the raw numbers of high-level Judges present were responsible. The four days (I arrived on Thursday to help with setup) flashed by with few problems and evidence that the professionals-both those that run the events and those that play in them-really know what they're doing.

Thursday

I ran into Jeff Donais as I arrived at the hotel; he reminded me that Chicago is a union town. We really couldn't do as much of the setup work as we normally do. I spent the afternoon helping with some small things, then the evening having a dinner/rules discussion with some of my Judging cronies.

Friday

Head Judge Nat Fairbanks assigned me as one of the Senior Judges, along with the irrepressible Mike Guptil (Level IV, Detroit) and Randy "Top Gun" Rierson (Level III, Alabama). Among the other luminaries on hand were rules guru Dan Gray (Level IV), fellow rules-guru (not to mention Everquest maven) BethMo, Chris Zantides (Level IV, Australia), Thomas Bisballe Jensen (Level IV, Denmark), Carl Crook (WotC UK) and rules author the prodigal Collin Jackson (Level III, Seattle). This august team was led by DCI Tournament Manager Jeff Donais.

My team consisted of Rune Horvik (Level III, Norway), Mike Feuell (Level III), Vic Aldridge (Level II), Steve Port (Level II) and Duncan McGregor (Level II, Ontario). About halfway into the day I gained Kai Koon Ng (Level III, Singapore) from Mike Guptil's team. I was impressed by each and every member of the team. From rules knowledge to interaction with the players, each of them showed their colors.

It's easy to see that the level of Judging was extremely high, and it reflected in the quality of the event. There were very few difficulties in getting rules questions answered correctly. Only two rulings were notable.

I answered numerous questions on Academy Rector. Removing the Rector from the game to tutor for an enchantment is a decision made on resolution. This means that if the Rector is no longer in the graveyard when the triggered ability resolves (such as with this weekend's omnipresent Ebony Charm), it doesn't do anything.

The other was regarding the interaction of Undiscovered Paradise and Winter Orb. Undiscovered Paradise has been reworded under Oracle: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool. During your next untap step, return Undiscovered Paradise to its owner's hand instead of untapping it. This means two things. First, the return of Undiscovered Paradise to its ower's hand is a replacement effect. Most importantly, it also means that this replacement only happens if you're untapping it on your NEXT untap step. With Winter Orb in play, you can choose the Paradise as the one land to untap; it then is returned to your hand. If you don't untap it on the turn after it's used for mana, then it won't return to your hand until the next time you use it.

Although I didn't make the ruling, I got involved discussing rules and Penalty Guidelines after one more controversial moments in the tournament. Player A announced his End Phase. Player B put a counter on his Wall of Roots, put a Spirit of the Night into the graveyard, then picked up and started searching his library. Unfortunately, he didn't have Survival of the Fittest in play (it was in his hand). When Head Judge Nat Fairbanks upheld the Floor Judge's decision that the appropriate penalty was a Warning for "Looking at Extra Cards", Player A was not pleased (Player B also received a Warning for Misrepresentation). After the match, I explained the difference between drawing extra cards and simply looking at them. Drawing a card is actually putting it in the hand or moving a card away from the deck then performing another action; looking at them includes dropping cards on the floor, turning a card over while shuffling their opponent's deck, or revealing cards from the deck in the act of misplaying a card. This situation was clearly the latter. Player B did not gain a significant enough advantage to warrant a game loss. No cards were put into his hand, and the situation was easily remedied.

Player A asked me if he had waited for Player B to finish searching, putting a card in his hand and shuffling if the situation would have then warranted a game loss. I said "most likely". He remarked that it would have been to his advantage, then, to wait for his opponent to make the more severe procedural error. This is unfortunately so, though players have a responsibility to ensure that both their and their opponent's play is procedurally correct. When a player makes a procedural error of any kind, it's their opponent's responsibility to point it out immediately, regardless of the severity and/or impending penalty. Waiting for the opponent to commit a greater mistake borders on Unsporting Conduct. In the end, it's in the best interest of tournament integrity to make sure that games are cleanly-played.

Friday night, I took a trip to a famous Chicago steakhouse (Gino and Georgetti's) with all the other senior Judges-in a limo. We were prepared to hop into 3 taxis (there were 10 of us), but there happened to be a limousine sitting in front of the hotel. He offered to take us anywhere in the city for $35-an offer we couldn't beat. The meal was decent; the conversation-which often strayed away from Magic-was outstanding.

Saturday

The field cut to 96, the Judge staff cut to about 12, we had plenty of coverage on the floor. I was only involved in one interesting ruling (but the Academy Rector question came up several more times).

Late in the day, I sat down to watch the last on-going feature match. Player A said "discard" then discarded. Player B said "Capsize with buyback". Player A claimed that B's opportunity to play spells had passed since he was in the cleanup step. I ruled that Player A moved too quickly past his End Phase, not giving B the opportunity. A brief discussion ensued, but Player A eventually accepted my ruling graciously. After the match, I discussed with both players the importance clear communication, especially around/near the End Phase.

I spent some time during the day with Mike Guptil, doing evaluations on the various members of our teams. This is a strong part of the Judge Program. Written evaluation gives senior Judges and the Judge Program Coordinator a view into the strengths and weaknesses of individual Judges, helping them improve. Direct and immediate feedback is also important. The goal is to help each Judge recognize his strengths and improve upon his weaknesses.

Toward the end of the day, I helped Chris Zantides knock out some of the Level I and II Judge tests. It speaks well of the program that there were so many applicants, and it speaks well of the hard work that Chris, Dan Gray and Collin Jackson put in all weekend to help get the deserving certified.

Saturday evening, my now-usual crew headed for the famous Geno's East for pizza. This time, we attracted a few additional followers (no doubt due to the added presence of His Emminence, Jeff Donais). Our group was 16 large, headed for one of the most popular restaurants in Chicago, without a reservation. The line was long, but we did some mana acceleration and ended up getting seated rather quickly. The pizza, and once again the conversation, was outstanding.

Sunday

I had the honor of table-judging the Levy/Comer Quarter Finals and the Levy/Davis Semi-Finals. Both matches were quiet and smooth. In between matches, I was responsible for staying with young Mr. Levy, who I've always found a pleasant and polite young man-definitely the type of player who is good for the game.

While the dramatic Finals played out, I sat in on some Level III interviews with (at various times) Cyrille Grillion, Thomas Bisballe, Dan Gray and Chris Zantides. The experience was invaluable, going a long way toward preparing to do those interviews myself in the future.

After all the business was done, we took the chance to relax a little bit by playing a Judge's Booster Draft. Twenty-nine levels of Judges sat down (5 IVs and 3 IIIs) with packs of Mercadian Masques to duke it out. My swarm of Giant Caterpillars was too much for Rune, but then I lost a tight match to Nat's completely broken Crooked Scales, Stinging Barrier and Waterfront Bouncer. Thomas Bisballe won the whole thing with a deck that was fast and brutal enough to make me think he was playing with Tempest cards.

In the evening, the WotC staff invited me along to have Greek food. The crowd was a little larger, but the way the restaurant was situated allowed a little mingling among the tables. I sat for a while with Jerry Rubin (who has officially replaced James Brown as The Hardest Working Man in Showbusiness) and then while Skaff and Dan Gray were leading a discussion about George Washington being the greatest American (my vote was for Edison), I had an extended conversation about literature with the always-impressive Diana Johns.

Final Thoughts

I've long since realized that it's the social environment that keeps us coming back. Certainly we all love the game, but it's the people that surround it that make it special. The work at Premier Events can sometimes be difficult and stressful, but it's more than balanced by the opportunity to get together with people we like, admire and/or appreciate. Each event grants us the chance to meet a few new folks, ever adding to our circle of friends.

Congratulations to the entire staff of the event for a job well-done. I'll see you all on The Boat.

Sheldon



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