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Pro Tour-Los Angeles

Deck checks and what was lost in the shuffle

Thomas Bisballe

I was invited to come on the house. An opportunity that i want to thank Jeff Donais, Tara McDermott and all the other good people at OP WotC USA.

I arrived late Wednesday after a 18 hours trip. 2 hours to Paris, 4 hours wait and then 12 hours to LA. Btw if you book the ticket yourselves never fly Air France I've flown with then 4 times now and all 4 have been trouble.

I checked into my room and went to find some players to draft with, on the way i meet Alex S and agreed to go to the draft room and find some others to play with. When we arrived a lot were interested he said that him and two others were in as they were his friends. The rest of us 6 rolled dice and i lost. So nobody accuse me of favoritism towards Alex as he is now officially not my friend ;)

PT LA was a booster draft with 4 rounds in the first random pods. Before the draft began Chris Zantides made me and 3 others senior judges and we were each assigned 3-4 judges to help out. Secondly we each got 1 or 2 tables to look after under the draft.

The players had attended the player meeting at the place where they later should register their deck. A good way to insure minimum chaos after the draft. At this meeting it was announced that leniency would be used concerning what columns they used on the decklists for extra lands as the decklists were sealed deck decklists. They could just use the total column if they felt like it. That they would have to shuffle the booster atleast two times before laying it out to the next player. And that the cards had to be kept within 25 cm or 1 foot from you chest in order to hide what was in the booster and what you drafted from your neighbors.

In the first set of boosters we had 3 errors. 1 booster had 16 cards-we removed a random card. Two others had 14-we added a random card. We had instructions to remedy the errors by adding or removing cards and ignoring commonality. So even packaging errors should be ignored. So if we had a 15 rare card booster that would be legal. I think that was an excellent take on it for a draft. After that only minor problems. The players we're a little confused about having to count out that each booster had exactly 15 cards without looking at the cards before each draft round. The players got escorted back to the tables where they began constructing their decks.

I manned one of the land stations. I must say that the former announcement concerning what columns they used did more damage than good. Some players though the announcement counted all their deck so they we're playing 0 cards. And all the players that suddently want extra land after you've counted out the land on the deck list. Especially as land stations is one of the bottlenecks in time consumption.

A Last Initial field was added on the top left of the decklist to facilitate easier sorting of the lists: a fantastic idea. Other players couldn't understand if it was just in general they could fill out lands that way on decklists or only for this event. I decided to tell all players at my station how to fill it out correctly just so they knew.

Between rounds three and four, a player asked when was the latest possible time to play Cho-Manno's Blessing and Trap Runner's ability so they still had an effect. I though that it was alright to answer giving advise since we're also teaching the rules. So went through the steps of the combat phase from the declare blockers step and forward. Saying that he could play the CMB after the assigned combat damage goes on the stack and he gets priority. And that TR's ability should be played after blocks have been declared and you get priority.

After round 4 a player asked what happened if a first strike and non first strike creature were attacking and that after first strike damage was added to the stack. You gave the non first strike creature first strike. I told him that adding first strike after the first combat damage step wouldn't prevent the creature from dealing damage in the normal damage step. Maybe i should have used my old visualization for players to think of creatures beeing seperated in two separate piles before you enter the combat damage step and that's when they deal damage.

One of my judges had a question from a player that though that his opponent was not allowed to sideboard more as he had sideboarded once then shuffled. And then after shuffling extensively sideboarded one card and then shuffle again. We told the player that they we're allowed to do whatever they liked to the deck as long as they had not presented the deck to their oppoent and as long as the deck was resonably randomised before that. I felt a little bad about just telling the judge about the rule not investigating this further. A cheasy move i've encountered before is that one player sideboards and then shuffles extensively until his opponent presents his deck. (Hoping that the opponent will fell obliged also to shuffle extensively). Then he appears to be sideboarding and is really reordering his deck then shuffles crudely and presents his deck hoping that the oppoent has grown tired of the wait and doesn't shuffle and/or cut the deck much. If so this would have been a clear cheating incident.

The next booster draft ran really well. It was clearly annouced that players had to count out cards face down. However there were minor direction change problems as these wern't announced. Again at the land stations the confusion on the initial annoucement was apparent. Strangely enough there were still problems with the last initial.

The rest of day 1 were pretty much uneventfull. Not many questions only a few delays.

The cut was announced. And everybody went back to their rooms.

Day 2

My group was assigned to do deck checks. We started round 8 by counting up all decklists sideboards and decks. We found a few errors and the proper ejections/warnings was handed out. I think some of these problems arrouse from varying emphasis on the importance of filling it out correctly and that all would be better served if this was upheld at all times. Sloppyness should not be encouraged/rewarded. We had one player that only marked up the played column go figure!

The we we're floating i think we we're about 12-16 judges on the floor to 64 players. You had to be lucky to be asked anything. But at these times you have plenty of time to be on the lookout for other things. I started to notice a disturbing trend. It seemed that inefficient and time consuming shuffle methods was becoming more and more preferred among pro players. Especially Pile shuffling, (Maybe the worst time/efficiency wise) method in existence. And the push through where you halve your deck and place the two piles on top of each other loosens the cards and you get and something close to the effect of a two pile, pile shuffle... I had to instruct players to shuffle suficiently several times. On the upside a new method seemed to have appeared where you keep your deck in your palm and with the other hands thumb and index finger pulls out a midsection of the deck to put on top. It is a little akward and i suspect that it easily could be abused as its dificult for the opponent to see exactly what is going on. Very few were using my preferred method: the riffle shuffle (fast/efficient). Where the only thing you have to watch out for is whether the shuffler actually presses the stacks together. And the good old slide shuffle which is always a good supplement.

Round 9

We did the deckchecks and analysis. In case you don't know for GP's and PT 's the cards are stamped. A different stamp for booster one, two and three. And the stamps are positioned based on what player's boosters they originally were from. So if you lay the cards out on the table in stamp order you can see if the player has swapped cards with someone else. (Unless they used A LOT of time finding players with matching stamps to trade with that were interested/willing to take the risk = very unlikely). We were doing real good time with an average about 5 min for doing both. However a new nuisance came. It seems that people with press badges comes from every where. Press is ok and I think volunteers writing about magic should be encouraged. But unfortunately I think the handing out of press badges most be bordering on maximum acceptance. These small local magazines, websites that let anybody write for them, or pretend they are writing for them is getting out of hand. These non-professionals have absolutely no idea about journalism. They sit wherever, with no care that their talking and laughing interupts matches. Plus they are extremely offended when you ask them to leave or keep quiet. By stark contrast are people like Monty Ashley who set an example from which all journalist amateurs could learn. He doesn't disturb the matches. Narrates quietly and let the tournament run its natural course.

The worst were three reporters. 1 from Dojo, 1 from a local state magazine and a third i think was a player that borrowed a badge. They sat with food and drink next to the play area laughing and talking loudly. I wish that some policeing was done. Maybe get the reporters DCI# and if they didn't sent a copy of an article permanently lost the right to wear press badge. Maybe even tempory suspension from sanctioned play.

Round 10

A player slammed his deck into the stair after loosing a match. I was contacted by another judge that asked me what to do. I couldn't quite find out who exatly it was, (language problems). But he gave directions and i went in search. I found the player and started to tell him that his behaviour set a poor example for others and that sportsmanship was very important especially at the Pro Tour. Next to us a player laid on the middle of the stairs. He suddently says. 'You judges are power hungry idiots. You should leave the poor guy alone. He did nothing wrong. I called him to go pick up his deck and if you didn't interfere nothing would have happened'. At this point the Head judge and another Senior judge had come to see what happened. I was called down to them and as I went down the player darted up the stairs and the one lying down suddently darted up. They asked me what was up and i told what had happened. They told me not to act on it as the situation had already passed... However i though the player lying downs comments needed adressing as that is a show of poor respect for the job involved in becoming a judge and the volunteering job judges do so that he can play. So i went in search. I found the player that slammed the deck down and though that his friend would probably be nearby.

I found one that might be him and asked if he was the player that were lying on the floor before.

He sneered 'What if i were?'. I asked him again. Same answer. I asked him again. He said 'What would happen to me if i were'. Then he mumbled 'Your just on the lookout for banging pro players'. I felt confirmed that this guy really had am attitude problem bordering between Unsporting major and severe. He was definetly disrespectfull and not obeying the instructions of a judge. Then suddently he looked scared and said 'I better go get the HJ'. And started running back towards the playing area in search of the HJ. He explained the initial situation to the HJ which he already was aware of due to my original info. HJ asked him if he was still in the tournament. He said yes. HJ gave him a warning for Unsporting and dismissed him. I though the hole situation had taken too long already so i left it there. Our outward appearance as judges is very important. Cases should be more like one judges makes a call. If appealed, the HJ makes a call. If in disagreement it can always be discussed later.

Nothing much happened until the final round.

A player was playing another. They had played two games in which one player had been anoyed by the other's stacking and lack of shufling. He also felt that land played came almost as if they were narrated. So he went for a judge to observe if he again didn't sufficiently randomize his deck. The judge observed and acted as the player only did one push through after shuffling and presented the deck. The deck was collected for investigation. One easy way to rudely estimate how well a deck is shuffled is to count neighbours. You go through the deck and count how many non land neighbours each land has. The closer the number is to two times the lands the less randomised it usually is. This guy had the maximux 2*land score. I have never ever seen this before. And not only that, it was ' power stacked' with lands next to cards of the same colour. The player claimed that he also gave it a few more push throughs. And that he did it to get nice even uniform draws.

However it was the last round and he could just have forgot to shuffle it. The distribution was too perfectly stacked to be anything but an accident so we gave him a matchloss. Very expensive concidering the point in the tournament. But i still think he should consider himself lucky.

Alltogether i think the tournament ran fairly well. But i think that something should be done about the new trends in shuffling. The history should not teach that you should randomize as little as possible using as long a time as possible. It need not take more than 1 min to thoroughly randomize a deck if you use time efficient shuffle methods. So you've got a job to do fellow judges: to instruct players on how to shuffle to stop this disturbing trend.

Thomas Bisballe Jensen, 4

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