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Grand Prix Madrid Judge Report

Paul Barclay


GP Madrid was a 330 player Extended format Grand Prix, held in central Madrid, Spain on the 29th and 30th of January 2000. I wasn't intending to go to this event until two weeks beforehand, when I booked time off to go to Pro Tour Los Angeles, which was happening the next weekend. I'm glad I did, it was one of the most interesting and difficult tournaments I've ever judged. The judging staff, although much lower level than the staff of most Grand Prix, were very good all weekend. There were the inevitable mistakes, but most of them were cleared up quickly.

Rules questions were varied and plentiful. Make sure that you know the answers to them for the current Extended season - they will be asked a lot. As for judging situations, we had our fair share of them too. In general, the situations were well handled by both the lower level and higher level judging staff.


The tournament was seven rounds of Swiss on Saturday, with six more on Sunday, plus a top eight. The main problem on the first day of a Grand Prix is always registering the players. In Madrid, this didn't go as smoothly as would have been liked, due to two problems:

  1. Almost a hundred players thought that because they had been preregistered, they didn't have to register on site. This caused a delay of approximately 1/2 an hour, while we registered all those players, and recorded their byes.
  2. The registration wasn't done in the most effective way. We had four registration tables, taking people as they came in, and marking down the preregistered players on copies of the preregistered list, and writing down the non-preregistered players. This made it difficult to enter the players into the computer, and impossible to check for errors and multiple players with the same name. I believe that we lost one registration sheet, so I would recommend that anyone using this method in future should number their registration sheets to check that none are lost.

Following on from these problems with registration, we had some problems with DCI reporter, due mainly to running it on a really flaky computer. Every time we edited a player's details, it deleted all the details (name, DCI number and number of byes), and turned the player into a JOE0XXX number, where XXX was equal to the player's player number. I recommend doing a backup before editing player details, unless you're pretty sure of your computer system.

Of course, the flaky computer didn't stop giving us problems there. The only thing it didn't do all day was crash. We synchronised our watches with computer time at 8am. By 4:15pm, my watch said 4:15, and the computer said 4:05. Not good, but we stick with Computer time, as it's only 30 seconds longer for a 50 minute round. For Sunday, we switched to a new computer, which gave us no problems at all.

The Judges

The judging staff were nearly all Spanish. Thankfully, almost all the judges spoke English reasonably well - several spoke perfect English. Also, we had judges that could speak all the major European languages, except for Italian. This was really useful for me, as I speak no Spanish (I'm terrible at languages). Having a judge translate for you is really good for assessing their strengths and weaknesses, as you can ask them "what would your answer be?" very easily.

Head Judge: Thomas Bisballe Jensen (L4) - Denmark
Team 1 Leader: Paul Barclay (L3) - UK
Mario Pineda (L1) - Spain
Antonio Lopez (L1) - Spain
Team 2 Leader: Cesar Sanchez (L2) - Spain
David Vizcaino (L1) - Spain
Antonio Berenguer (L1) - Spain
Team 3 Leader: Rogerio Alecrim (L2) - Portugal
Jose Manuel Suarez (L1) - Spain
David Sevilla (L1) - Spain
Team 4 Leader: Juan Francisco Taura (L2) - Spain
Luis Castillejo (L1) - Spain
Tobias Gonzalez (L1) - Spain
Augustin De Miguel (L2) - Spain

In general, the judges coped very well with the Grand Prix, especially considering the language barrier that faces judges in countries where English is not the first language. It is important for people running premier events in such countries to spend extra time working with these judges to help them learn as much as they can from the event. Although there were some mistakes made, the judges generally put in a very good level of work, and I am sure that the Grand Prix was very useful for all involved. The judge team leaders did very well dealing with the problems that their teammates brought to them, and passing questions that they could not answer to myself or Thomas.

Also in attendance were Christophe, Felix and Vicky from the WotC Europe office, and two very nice people from the Dojo. Their coverage of the event can be found on the Sideboard.

Rules Issues

Ten common Extended rules questions:

  1. Cumulative upkeep - does it reset if you Donate a Cumulative Upkeep card to your opponent?
  2. No. Cumulative upkeep never resets - it will always go up. So, if you pay Cumulative upkeep once for your Illusions of Grandeur, your opponent must pay {4} the next time. The phrase Cumulative upkeep [cost] means "At the beginning of your upkeep, put a cumulative upkeep counter on this permanent, then sacrifice this permanent unless you pay [cost] for each cumulative upkeep counter on the permanent."

  3. Spellshock - how does it work?
  4. Spellshock has a triggered ability, which triggers whenever a spell is played. This means that it goes onto the Stack after the spell. If you and your opponent are each at 2 life, and you play a Shock, then you will die, because the triggered ability resolves first.

  5. Mana Vault - does it deal damage to you when Necropotence is in play?
  6. No. Mana Vault says "At the beginning of your draw step, if Mana Vault is tapped, it deals 1 damage to you". With Necropotence in play, you do not have a Draw step, so the ability cannot trigger.

  7. Planar Void - will it remove a Shield Sphere from the game if Enduring Renewal is in play?
  8. No. Enduring Renewal has a replacement ability - it will replace the Shield Sphere going to the graveyard with "return Shield Sphere to your hand". The Sphere never touches the graveyard, so Planar Void will never trigger.

  9. Misdirection - when do you name the target for the spell it targets?
  10. Misdirection has only one target - the spell that is being Misdirected. You make all the other choices on resolution. This means that your opponent doesn't know what you will make the spell target until Misdirection resolves. It also means that your opponent can force you into naming a target that you did not originally want to name.

  11. Demonic Consultation - when do you name the card, and what do you have to name?
  12. The only thing that you do when you play Demonic Consultation is pay {B} and announce Demonic Consultation. You name the card when the Consultation resolves. Note that when naming the card, you must name a card that actually exists. Naming "Necro" is not legal, as you could be Consulting for Necropotence, Necromancy or Necrosavant. Saying "That Black discard thingy" won't get you anywhere either.

  13. Cursed Scroll - what happens if its target is removed before its ability resolves?
  14. The answer here is simple - nothing. You do not name a card, and you do not reveal a card at random to your opponent. Like Misdirection, the only thing you do when you play Cursed Scroll's ability is pay the {3} and choose the target. Everything else is done on resolution.

  15. Sylvan Library - how does it work?
  16. Sylvan Library has a triggered ability, which triggers at the start of your draw step. You can put it on the Stack either before or after your normal card draw (before is recommended). First, draw your normal card. Then, draw two more cards and put two of those three cards back. If you have two Sylvan Libraries, then you: Draw your normal card. Then, draw two more cards and put two of those three cards back. Then, draw two more cards, and put two of those three back.

  17. Abundance - how does it work with Sylvan Library?
  18. With Abundance in play, each time you would draw a card, you can get the top land or spell in your library instead. This is not considered to be drawing a card. Sylvan Library only forces you to put back cards drawn this turn. So, if you don't draw any cards (due to Abundance, you can't put any back, and you don't have to pay the 8 life). So, you name land or non-land for your normal card draw, then again for the first Sylvan Library card, and again for the second Sylvan Library card.

  19. Donate - what happens if you Misdirect a Donate?
  20. You can't Misdirect a Donate, as it has two targets - the player and the permanent that will be Donated.

Tournament Issues

Note that all names have been changed to hide the identities of the players involved. "Thomas" is Thomas Bisballe, the Head Judge of the event. Everyone else has been assigned random South Park characters.

"Pika Pika Pikachu" In the first round of the tournament, several players were playing Pokemon card sleeves, which, according to the Floor Rules are illegal (the rules say that markings may only be on the front of card sleeves, not the back). So, we had to rule these sleeves illegal for the tournament. The DCI have now rules that these sleeves are legal, so they are now OK to be used in tournaments. However, pay extra special attention to these sleeves when looking at whether they are marked, as they are easier to mark than normal sleeves.

"You did it again?" In the same match, one player manages to misplay the Sylvan Library-Abundance combination three times, in three different ways. The first time, he receives a Warning, the second a game loss, and the third a Match Loss. Even though the third situation was not as serious as the other two, it still warranted a severe penalty due to the number of mistakes in quick succession.

"You conceded" "No, you conceded" I'm called over to a game by a judge, with a tricky situation. Both players are sat with their decks in front of them, looking up at me. My first impression was "Failure to Agree or marked cards". First thing, I find out which players can speak English. One speaks English, the other only Spanish. The judge who called me over speaks English and Spanish, so I use him as a translator. Since one player doesn't speak English, I get that player's story first. I have to ask the other player not to interrupt a few times, but eventually the two stories come out.

Kyle's story: He was playing an Oath deck, with an Oath of Druids in play and one Gaea's Blessing in the graveyard. He had no creatures left in his library (both were in his hand), and so played the Oath's ability in order to shuffle the graveyard into his library. He picked up his deck to shuffle, and his opponent picked up his own deck, and started to scoop up his cards. He assumed that Stan had conceded, and so started to shuffle for the next game. Kyle asked Stan "do you want to play or draw?" Stan replied "No, you lost, you choose".

Stan's story: He was playing a Sliver deck, and Kyle played his Oath's ability, revealed that there were no creatures left in his library, and scooped his cards, shuffling his hand, library, graveyard and the cards in play. So, Stan scooped his cards too.

It was a classic Failure to Agree on Reality. Weighing up both stories, Kyle's seemed much more likely, so I ruled that Stan had conceded the game, gave both players a Warning and explained to both players why it is important to be clear about what happens in a game.

You didn't say you were paying Buyback. I want you disqualified" I'm called over by a judge to a table near the end of a round. There's a huge crowd, as it's one of the few matches remaining. Kenny and Cartman are both playing blue decks. Kenny has tapped six mana and played Whispers of the Muse, waving the card at his six mana. Cartman called a judge over to say that Kenny hadn't said that he was paying Buyback, and the Whispers was going to the graveyard. I listened to both stories, then gave Kenny a warning for misplaying Buyback, and told him to put the Whispers into his hand. While he hadn't said that he was paying Buyback, he had indicated that he wanted to pay Buyback. Cartman complained, saying that there's no way that the Whispers should be in his hand, as this is a REL 4 event. I give him a Warning for unsportsmanlike conduct. He argues some more. I offer him the option of a game loss, and he shuts up immediately. I ask the judge who called me over originally to stay and watch the game.

"That's a Brainstorm, not an Impulse" Two minutes later, the same match calls me over again. Kenny has made another mistake - playing Brainstorm, he puts one card into his hand, and two on the bottom of his library. Cartman is looking for another Misrepresentation penalty for Kenny, but both players are clear on what happened, as is the judge. I tell them to correct the situation, as the mistake occurred while a judge was watching a match.

"But I said that." "No, I said that" For only the second time in my tournament career, I am called over to a agreement on reality situation. Both players in the match are arguing very loudly about exactly what happened. When I manage to calm both players down, and ask them what the situation is, it turns out that they are saying exactly the same thing. Again, I stress the importance of communication, and tell them to get on with the game.

"That's a Warning for stupidity above and beyond the call of duty" A game is nearly over, when one of the spectators reaches over and flips over the top card of one of the player's libraries. Both players are amazed, and call over a judge. The judge calls me straight over. I quickly find out what happened, and have to rule that the game continues as it is. It's not possible to give a game loss to one or other player, as neither was at fault. The player who flipped over the card receives a five minute lecture on why what he did was so bad, and the abovementioned warning.

"You've already played a land this turn" I'm called over to a failure to agree on reality situation by a judge. Philip is accusing Terrence of playing two lands in his turn. Terrence of course denies this. The judge produces a spectator who he claims has seen Terrence play two lands. I watch Terrence's reaction to this and then explain to the judge, both players and the spectator that I do not normally listen to spectators when making a judgement, and that I would follow this here, even though the spectator was a judge, and is impartial. I am willing to accept responsibility for a mistake or bias made by one of my judges, but not for a mistake or bias from a spectator. Of course, if a spectator does make an accusation, I will normally check it out to the best of my abilities.

After listening to both player's stories, I make my ruling. I base this on the relative likelihood of each player's story, and how much their stories match up with my view of the match, which I had watched a little two or three turns earlier. I rule that Terrence did not play two lands. I was perhaps 70% sure of this, but in these cases, that level of certainty is quite a lot.

"Wait until the end of the round" Near the end of round seven, Kenny calls a judge over for several extended rulings. The judge is then asked to check one of Chef's sleeves. He tells the players to play the match out and that he'd have a look at the sleeves at the end of the match. Neither player appeals to a Senior or Head judge. This is a serious issue. Either there is a problem, in which case the problem should be dealt with immediately, or there is not a problem and no further action should be taken. This was explained in great detail to that judge, and to a lot of the other judging staff, after the situation had been dealt with. I also explained to both players why it was important to appeal a ruling if it was going to cost you a match and you didn't agree with it.

At the end of the round, the players come up to the judge station, and I get the story of what happened from the judge, then from both players. Everyone agrees on what happened, which makes my job a little easier. Chef won the match 2 to 1 as it was played. I check Chef's sleeves, and find that the sideboard cards are marked compared to the rest of the deck. The sideboard cards were all marked in the same way, even the two cards of which there were copies in the main deck. I spent a long time talking to this player, and determined that he was not cheating. The offence was still a Match Loss offence, though. At this point, the problem was compounded by another situation across the room, which meant that Chef and Kenny were left standing around for ten minutes before a ruling could be given.

The problem Thomas and I had was determining whether it was the match just played or the next match. This decision determines which player would make day two, and which would not. Eventually, we decided that Chef would be given a match loss in the first match on Sunday, as the match just played had been played to completion.

After this ruling was given to the players by me and the players had left, another judge points out a section in the Floor Rules to Thomas and I. The section refers to printed match result slips. A match is not considered completed until both players have signed the slip and handed it in. The fact that we had not considered this was clearly a mistake, but even if we would have wanted to change our decision, we would not have been able to, as the players had left for the night. Had I taken that into account, I would have investigated the situation further, and I may have made a different decision, but even now I find it hard to decide which decision was the correct one.

"Land, Spell, Land, Land, Spell" I was called over to watch a match between Kyle's Stasis deck and Cartman's Countersliver deck. Cartman felt that Kyle was taking too much time over each of his turns. This was the third time I had been called over to watch Kyle for slow play. Kyle had received a warning for slow play the first time I was called over, but had played reasonably quickly while I was there the other time. While I was watching the match, I noticed that all of his lands were foil, and that none of his spells were. I talk to Thomas, and we decide to check the deck after this (the first) duel. This is a different situation to the one I talked about above - in this case, we were not sure whether there was a problem or not, but we decided that the least disruptive way to deal with the situation. The penalty would be a warning, or at least a Match Loss.

I check the deck, and separate all the land from the spells with only four mistakes - I missed one foil land, the two Arena non-foil land, and the one foil Rescue in the deck. There is clearly a problem here, especially with a deck where land is as important as it is for a Stasis deck (for many purposes, the Rescue can be considered another land, which is even better than a normal land). After some discussions between us, and between Thomas and Kyle, we decide that Kyle is cheating, and decide on a penalty of disqualification without prize.

Thomas explained a process that he often uses for dealing with rulings such as this. He asks himself "Am I comfortable with this ruling?" I said that I was comfortable, and he agreed with me.

After the ruling was given to the player, six of his friends come up to have their decks checked to see if they are marked. I tell three of them that if they have their decks checked, then they will receive at least a duel loss (mainly due to being unable to provide new sleeves when told to re-sleeve their decks). I tell them to go and buy or borrow new sleeves.

"Certification Sunday"

While judging the second day of the tournament, I have a large number of players coming up to me wanting to do judge tests. I am the only Level 3 judge on site other than the players (there are as many level 3+ judges in the tournament as in the judge staff). Seventeen judge tests and two level 3 tests and interviews later, my hands are feeling quite sore. At one point, I had to turn three people away from doing judge tests, as all seven tests that I had were being used at once.

The overall pass rate was low, at six out of nineteen, but this is to be expected at a Grand Prix in a country whose first language is not English. Several judge test questions were difficult or impossible for the Spanish, as their command of English grammar was not sufficient to understand the questions. In most cases, they answered the questions perfectly correctly when asked about them verbally (or in Spanish).

Two Grand Prix judges were among those who passed for the next level. David Vizcaino from Spain achieved his Level 2 certification, and Rogerio Alecrim from Portugal passed his Level 3 test and interview. I hope to see both of them, and many of the other judges, at tournaments in the future.

Paul Barclay (Level 3)

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