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QT-Denver, CO (PT-NY)

Bob Goodfriend

02/Dec 2000
Held at "Enchanted Grounds"
Extended Construction

Number of Players #81, Number of rounds #7
HJ Josh Napper - Lv. 2
Me - Lv 1

I'd intended to write a tournament report about this, my first judging at a large-scale constructed event, before it went on. But once everything went down, I knew I'd have to, because it has proven to be one of the most interesting events I've been at as either a player or a judge!

This tournament looked doomed from the start for two reasons. First, it was being held across from GhengisCon, one of the largest national gaming conventions, where there were lesser Magic tournaments going on that we thought would pull away some of our players. Also, we were having trouble finding a head judge. Despite the huge tournament following in the Colorado area, we have no local Level 3 judge. At first, a Lv. 3 was supposed to be flown in, but he had to cancel, and we'd worked it out to get a sort of "special dispensation" from the DCI to run an event with only a Level 2. Fortunately, we have an overcompetent and exceedingly popular Level 2 in the veteran Chris Otwell, so this shouldn't be a problem...except that he also had to cancel at the last minute! Fortunately, Josh Napper was still available, so between the two of us, and an excellent turnout, things looked good.

The location for the tournament was Enchanted Grounds, a massive 2-story facility with food and drinks, tons of gaming of all sorts, and a very comfortable environment. We've comfortably run 300+ person, 2-heat preconstructed tournaments down here (see, I told you there was a huge tournament following) so there was plenty of space. I strongly recommend coming by EG if you're ever in Denver...there are sanctioned tournaments there 3 days a week at the very least.

Before the Tournament

We ran out of blank decklists for some players to fill out and instead had them use their own sheets of paper with all the necessary information on it. These we collected as the first round began, and I quick-checked them as I picked them up to make sure a sideboard and land was listed, that they had names, etc. One player did choose to play without a sideboard. The decklist thing worked well, and we only had one decklist issue all day (see round 1).

I tried to help Josh come up with things to announce at the start of the tournament, but this turned out to be unnecessary, as he had a written and incredibly comprehensive list of announcements...one good sign of his great professionalism. The vast majority of the players were veterans to PTQ's at this site, so player interaction all day was very smooth...I had one situation that could be seen as judge criticism in Round 6 (read on), but that was it.

Round 1

There was enough activity in this single round to write an entire report about...very exciting!

First, this was the round that rooted out the general questions you get at the start of a constructed tournament from players not intimately familiar with the environment, so there were the inevitable questions about Necro/Vault, cumulative upkeep/Donate, etc. I also had a player call me over (I'm serious) to ask me the following question:

Q: "What's the cost of a bribe in these parts?"
A: (slightly smugly) "Triple warning and disqualification without prize."

I joked about this later with Josh and he added "...and twenty bucks." ;)

First more interesting thing about this round: A kid played lightning bolt on his opponent first game. "Judge!" Hmm, seems it is the kid's very first tournament, so Josh gave him a warning and had him replace the Bolt with a basic land. Josh also took the time to help the kid out psychologically a number of times during the day and encourage him to keep returning. Very cool.

The second situation was a player (our 81st) showing up 5 minutes into the round wanting to register. Josh allowed it providing he agreed to take a loss for the round, which he did.

The final situation is far more complicated. Shortly before the round begins, Player A approaches me and tells me his opponent's cards are worn and sleeveless, and he's concerned about marking. I tell him (of course) to wait until Player B has presented, then call me over. I'm away when the round starts, so Josh hands out a warning for marked no-pattern and asks Player B to find opaque sleeves. Turns out EG is out, so Josh ends up de-sleeving a deck and giving the sleeves free to Player B. This match gets an extra 20 minutes before they finally get going...no problem, except that Player A is renowned for being slow, and is playing Turbo Land! They eat up their 45 minutes and another half hour in the final (and very strategically tight) final 5 turns, while the entourage of other players waits upstairs for the announcement of the next round...

There were also probably a dozen interesting rules situations in these last 5 turns, leading to the delay. Player A got a warning for failing to draw off Horn of Greed, and Player B got one for rather mysteriously attempting to cast Disintegrate during Player A's upkeep (Player B instead burned for 8).

The oddest bit of rules though, was when Player A played Glacial Chasm when Player B's Dingus Egg was on the table. Player A sacrificed a land to GC's CIP effect, took his 2 damage, and went on...I didn't notice until about 2 turns later that the damage should have been prevented by the GC. Josh and I agreed there was no point in bringing it up now, except that the exact same thing happened a couple of turns later. This time we made sure Player A didn't take the damage and that both players understood the situation.

Eventually, the game stalled out and Player A won at 1-0-0. He ended up going into extra time at least 5 of his 7 matches, and he got 2 draws. He wasn't always the slowest in the tournament, though.

Rounds 2 - 5

These rounds were less eventful. We did have to re-pair once after players were beginning to sit down, but I can't remember what it was for...something minor.

Shortly after Round 3 ended a player, rather upset, accused the same Turbo Land player from round 1 of stalling. There wasn't much I could do though, because she hadn't called me over during the match. Also, it was apparent that he had kept the pace of play and just locked up the board without making much of an attempt to win...I've seen judges rule differently on this situation...is Player A avoiding winning to stall, or is he stupid? Knowing the player personally, I happen to know it was the former, but as a judge I'm not going to guess the mind of a player. I advised the upset player to concede early, concede often.

As early as round 4 I started getting questions about what record was needed to qualify. My belief is that as a judge you either make this information publicly available to all players (i.e., post it) or give it to no one, so I told them what I always do, "I can't tell you that, but ask me after the tournament and I'll show you how to work it out yourself."

Round 6

At the start of this round, one paired player didn't show up, and on checking the name it turned out it was someone who had meant to drop last round but somehow hadn't got into the computer correctly. We stopped the tournament for a moment to decide what to do, and Josh was considering re-pairing a couple of matches to let her out, but she graciously agreed to play another round.

During this round, a player told me he'd witnessed a cheating incident while watching a match. Apparently, he'd seen a guy I'll call Player C draw an extra card during his opponent's turn, while his opponent was distracted. Player C was playing Forbidian, so it couldn't be proven on card draws, so I resolved that the best I could do was watch him during the final round. I should also mention that Player C was a judge in his part of the country, and THREE TIMES throughout the day he'd interrupted me or Josh while we were giving a ruling, to give an alternate (and usually wrong) interpretation. We'd handled it graciously each time, but it was getting old. So between that and a trusted local player telling me he was a cheater, I'll admit I really wanted to catch this guy.

This was also the round I made my one known mistake of the day. After time ran out, Josh and I were watching the final game going, and it was taking an incredible amount of time. The situation wasn't particularly complicated, but neither player was very experienced. The player who would eventually win (on the last turn of extra time) was playing Cloud of Faeries/Equilibrium/etc. combo, and his opponent clearly didn't understand the combo.

Anyway, we were at about 45 minutes past time now (*yawn*) and on the last turn the combo player drew a Cloud of Faeries and started to "go off". By this time, all of the 10 or so players watching knew his opponent was dead...but his opponent didn't. Anyway, it gets to the crucial point, and this happens:

Player D: "Okay, I can now gain infinite mana or draw infinite cards, so I'm just going to draw my deck, okay?"
Player E: (long pause) "Um..."

At this point I loudly groaned. Ooops. I'd thought Player E was going to make Player D step through the combo, and had been impatient. After the round was (FINALLY) over, I ended up apologizing to Player E for my gaffe. As a judge, I shouldn't have an opinion.

Round 7

This round was the Event of the Event. Remember the player from the last round I'd heard was cheating? I set myself up in such a position that I could watch him out of the corner of my eye without him noticing me. I wasn't the only one either...I saw a couple of players doing the same thing. Guess this guy hasn't been making any friends... This time, he trounced his opponent though, so no one saw him try anything funny on that end.

But that wasn't the interesting part. Directly behind him were sitting two of his teammates, whom I'll call Players F and G. F and G begin the round not by sitting down to play, but by pulling the current standings off the wall and poring over them together, taking notes. Since neither of them is in the running, but one of their teammates will finish at 5-2 with potentially good enough tiebreakers to be in, it's pretty clear what's happening here. I alert Josh to the situation, and one or both of us watches them the entire round.

It was really interesting that this situation came up, because a local Denver mailing list had been hotly discussing the Collusion/Bribery penalty for a couple days before the tournament. The general consensus among both players and judges was that, because of the "concede at any time" rule, collusion was virtually impossible to enforce...it had to be an incredibly blatant effort, and the judge had to be incredibly sure. About the only time it could really come up, we agreed, was when two players rigged their match to try to help a third. Even then, as long as the players didn't, like, openly announce what they were doing, it would be unenforceable.

Anyway, about 10 minutes into the round, F and G sit and make a show of playing some games. "That's that", I think...no way to prove collusion if the match was played, even if its result was inevitable. But then the two players start loudly discussing, within the earshot of both Josh and I, whether it would be better if F won 2-0 or 2-1. Then, F turns around and starts (quietly, this time), discussing it with Player C...while his match is still going on!!

As soon as F and G turn in their results slip, Josh calls them over and the discussions begin...C would eventually join Josh in another discussion about it, but I was otherwise engaged. How would you rule? Josh and I agreed it was a very close call...I felt it was clear collusion, and believe Josh did as well, but it seemed reasonable that we could be wrong, that these players were just really stupid and rambunctious.

In the end, we gave them warnings, and agreed that Josh would make special note to write to Elaine Ferrao about the situation so she would take a special look at it. We agreed that if they hadn't played their match, or if we knew they had a history of this kind of behavior, or if we knew what was discussed between F and C, it would be a clear DQ. As it was, the situation was unclear enough that we had to "let them go."

The situation also "fixed itself" because C's tiebreakers weren't good enough to push him into the Top 8 anyway.


The TO, Eric Smith, announced the final standings, and gave prizes to the top 14, plus two random people who had stayed in until the end. The Top 8 was a good mix of quality players from throughout the state, plus one from Nebraska, so pretty much everybody was happy with the results.

The tournament had run incredibly late, and it was 8:30 by the time the last round wrapped up. I had someplace to be, so I helped Josh deck check everyone in the top 8, and then I was out of there. On my way out, Josh singled me out for my judging through the day, and I also got individual thanks from a lot of players. I felt like I'd done a great job all day, and really enjoyed a day of judging.

Congratulations go to Ryan Cole as the winner of the top 8 and a slot on the Pro Tour!

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