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The Beginning of Black Rose - Clearfield, UT

Christopher Scanlon

Greetings from Salt Lake City. I figure since this is my first judging report, that I would start with a bit of background history, and in doing so once, I can go straight to the heart of the matter in the future. My name is Christopher Scanlon, I am currently a Level II judge, and on Feburary 12th I ran the first in a number of tournaments which will be collectively known as the "Black Rose Tournament Series".

History (Mine and that of the Black Rose Tournament Series) :

I swore I wouldn't learn how to play. I knew that it was going to be expensive and time consuming. And I was right. But nearly five years ago during my birthday party, all of my friends were talking about Magic: The Gathering. They were preparing to play a round robin sealed deck tournament for ante amongst themselves, and talking about decklists and strategy. I had only played once and understood little of what they were saying, (something I try to keep in mind when dealing with parents of kids playing in tournaments), but understanding would come slowly in the form of the last present I opened. In the box was a starter and two boosters of Revised.

"You're playing too."

I opened the cards in front of them, and the first booster had a card which looked like a Lightning Bolt but wasn't. (I, like many people being introduced to the game, was handed the usual Stupid Red Burn deck filled with Lightning Bolts, Chain Lightnings, Rukh Eggs, and Blazing Effigies. The bolt was a card I could recognize.) People began to clamor and try to make trades for it.

That Fork still sits in my binder. I might have to upgrade it to my page of "untouchables" in my trade binder. Included on that page is a Rancor signed by Kev Walker, and a Pox proof signed by Scott Fischer. Both of these were acquired at the first Pro Tour that I attended, and played at. This is important because it was how I became a DCI judge.

There were three qualifiers in Salt Lake City for Pro Tour New York last year. I was fortunate enough to rebound from a top 8 in the first one to win the second. This left me with nothing to do for the third, and I asked Rob Neel (Tournament Organizers Limited's (TOL) Utah area TO) if he'd like help judging the tournament since I had nothing else to do during it other than sit around and wait for drafts. I took a judging test with Karl Batdorff and got 68% during this tournament, wanting to repeatedly slap myself for 6th edition rules changes that I knew but didn't *know*. I was probably one of the first people to take the 6E test. I was probably one of the last people to pay for the privledge.

If not for the extra 2% on that test, my judging career might have ended there. After missing the top 32 and falling off of the Pro Tour as quickly as I made my way on to it, I could have continued serious playtesting to get back on Tour. However, the Pro Tour left me exhausted, and I didn't want to touch another Magic card after the long months of testing both to qualify then to play in New York. I decided to continue judging for a while, since I wanted to stay active in the Magic community until I felt like playing again.

Six months later I took a bus trip out to Denver to play in a three slot qualifier for LA. I didn't play, but instead tried to advance to Level II by interviewing with James Lee. Honestly, the only judges that I would put with James would be Karl Batdorff and Dan Gray, and everyone else I've worked with falls far short in comparison. His way of administering my interview was ingenious. He had me sit with prospective Level I and when we both missed questions, he would explain the answers to us. When the Level I missed and I got it right, I would explain it to him. By doing this he was able to see how well I could explain some of the more obscure DCI rules and regulations to someone who didn't know those aspects of the game. In late December, I was contacted to say that I was promoted to Level II.

Meanwhile, the local Magic scene was dying. It wasn't that the players weren't competitive, they were. It wasn't that we weren't seeing new players, we were. They just weren't coming back, and there was really nothing to engage players on a consistant basis. Bill Graham (President of TOL) changed jobs and left the Salt Lake area for Denver, and when he left, most of the TOL tournaments did as well. As I write this, the next major TOL tournament that will be held in Salt Lake City is the Mountain Regionals, just under 3 months away. When major events were held in Salt Lake on a regular basis, players gathered together to test and practice. Now those events were gone, and the playtesting groups along with them. Some players left while others were absorbed by the stronger groups. The fact of the matter is that there was nothing to play for, and I decided to try and do something to change that.

Introducing the Black Rose Tournament Series. A series of tournaments with a local "store" rating, making it, in short, Arena Plus. Yes, you have store ratings, but these tournaments are DCI sanctioned as well, giving you more bang for your buck. I've done everything I can to make sure that the series does *NOT* conflict with TOL, as I want to help feed their tournaments, not compete with them. I've even scheduled Wednesday night tournaments to avoid conflicts with TOL tournaments in neighboring states (Colorado and Idaho). Now that the idea was struck, I needed to find someone to give me space to enact it.

People talk about the three rules of real estate, Location, Location, and Location. This works for deciding your tournament setting 99% of the time as well, this being the exception. The three rules of the BRTS location were more encompassing than finding the cheapest central location to run the tournaments. The three questions I asked were :

1) Who is going to give me the location?
2) Can I trust the person who I am in business with COMPLETELY?
3) Will people travel to the location?

The answers for those keeping track at home.

1) Aaron Muranaka, one of the most respected players in the local magic scene has a store in Clearfield, Utah.
2) Completely is an understatment. In the three years that I've been playing in DCI tournaments, I have *never* heard a negative comment about Aaron. When I broached the subject with him he was extremely interested in having sanctioned tournaments in his store. The business side of things were done with both of us trying to make sure the other would be happy with compensation and arrangements. He understands the work being put forth not only in running the tournaments but also in administering the website. I understand the stresses of running a business and the necessity to be profitable in order to stay in business. We both entered into a cooperative effort to make the other happy. The goal is to look back at the end of the series and find that we were both successful in this.
3) People have been heading out to Half-Time since it opened, and for a free Standard tournament run there for a box, he had reached capacity even with the long drive away from Salt Lake City. Clearfield is about 20 miles north of Utah's capital, where I live.

It might have been easier to go for location and hold the tournaments in Salt Lake. But I'll take the 20 mile trek, as others have shown they're willing to do, to make sure that the arrangements and people are respectable, which I hope they are.

In scheduling the series, I decided to have four Extended, Standard, and Limited main events with sanctioned booster drafts. All of the tournaments would count towards both the DCI ratings, and the Black Rose ratings (which I would oversee being Judge/Webmaster). I might have to increase the amount of booster drafts which I've put in applications for, as Utah players are notoriously draft happy. Drafts are also easy money for the store, and with the amount of side events I've run for TOL, I've had enough practice running drafts to the point where I could do them in my sleep.

For advertising I was using the website, which has a schedule of upcoming tournaments, the TOL mailing list, and fliers at Half-Time. I also had fliers hanging up at the Nemesis Pre-Release and should have had enough printed out that I could give them to people. That was a *huge* mistake, there should have been handouts and it was my own fault for not making them earlier. I sent email out over the TOL list three days before the tournament as a reminder and hoped for the best.

There was a huge problem with the scheduling of this tournament which I should have seen coming. I was running a sealed deck tournament, at $20, one week after people probably spent a LOT of money at the Nemesis Pre-Release, and the tournament was the day before the Arena "Sneak Preview" of Nemesis at the same price. Given the choice would you rather play with Mercadian or the *new* product? I'd take the Nemesis too, even in Utah on Sunday.

For those who have continued reading, I thank you for your indulgence. For those who don't, well, it's not like they're still reading anyway.

The Tournament :

Date : 02-12-00
Format : Limited [Mercadian StBoBo sealed]
Location : Half-Time Cards and Comics in Clearfield, Utah
Turnout : 12 [21 including side events]

Four rounds of swiss with a break to top 4.

Jeff Donais has told me where to find decklists, and I should have asked earlier. My thanks for the information as it'll be helpful in the future, but this tournament would be run without. I figured it would make up time lost due to my inexperience running larger tournaments and things move a bit faster. This would also allow me to wait for more people to show up. We had nine at noon, and gathered three more in the half hour so it ended up working out better to wait for people running on "Magic Standard Time". Honestly, I wanted to be there at 11am, and since I was an hour late, I felt I couldn't penalize someone else for doing as I had. The weather in northern Utah had taken a rainy turn and I'd rather people drive slowly and arrive safely, than drive recklessly to be at a tournament on time and possibly not arrive at all.

I asked people to tell me if they had anything extraodinary or unusual during deck construction so that if it was questioned later, I could make a definate answer that no cheating was involved. Then I put down index cards with people's name and DCI number on them in random locations and let them begin the process of building their decks. I set up the Index cards to have a line containing the round number, opponent's name, a space for their running match total, and another for their running duel record. A sample line would look like this :

3. Christopher Scanlon 2-1 5-2

Which meant that they played me in round three, and after round three was over, their record was 2-1 and they were 5-2 in games. This allowed me to find quickly how many match points and game points they had earned.

During deck construction, the unusual was the Two-Headed Dragon that Sammy Batarseh pulled out of one of his packs. It wouldn't have been "unusual" if not for Tony Chamberlain, sitting kitty corner to him, showing me the one he just got as well. There was nothing too strange other than that, and while people were building decks, I was getting pairings for round one ready. I was able to do this quickly then moved over to give people their land swap. They would give me the index card and 5 basic lands for 5 basic lands of their choice, so it was a 6 for 5 swap in reality. I win! No problems occured during this. Without the decklists, there were obviously no decklist violations, nor accusations of people cheating throughout the tournament.

Round one began at about 1:00, and the questions came fast and hard right away. I guess I should expect a multitude of questions in a sealed deck tournament early, and figure that they would be answered at that time so that the calls of "Judge!" would dwindle as the day went on. Some of the more interesting situations :

1) Can an opponent cast Cho-Manno's Blessing to counteract the tap ability of a Cho-Manno Bruiser? I ruled that it could, as the "target" creatures had to be chosen when the "Psuedospell" was declared, and would check again when the ability resolved.

The ability would go on the stack when Priority was passed to a player, and then both would have a chance for responses. During this time, the inactive player could cast Cho-Manno's Blessing when he gained priority and if it came into play, he could then choose white as it's color and stop the Bruisers ability from tapping his creature.

1a) Can Crossbow Infantry ping an attacking creature if it's targetted by Cho-Manno Bruiser? Again, I ruled that it could for the same logic above. The tapping would go on the stack and when the inactive player gained priority, he could put the "ping" ability on the stack, since now there were attacking, and legal targets.

2) If a creature has Cho-Manno's Blessing on it with the color green, and someone then casts Cho-Manno's Blessing calling white, does the first Blessing fall off? I ruled that Cho-Manno's Blessing affects itself, and not all copies of Cho-Manno's Blessing. The first Blessing would fall off and the creature would gain Protection from White.

3) Someone got nailed with the Flesh Reaver/Pious Warrior ruling that I used successfully myself a PTQ in Vegas this Janurary. It runs in a way similar to this, and I'll use my own experience rather than the actual one since I understand and remember it better. My opponent is at 4, and I attack with three 2/2 creatures. My opponent blocks one with a Pious Warrior and takes 4. My opponent dies with 2 points of life gain on the stack. Because my opponent is at 0 life before the stack clears, he loses immediately at that time, and the things on the stack never happen.

There was a Level 2 judge playing in the tournament, and both he and his opponent understood the reasonings why this was so by the time I was done explaining it. Happily I went back to prowling the floor looking for questions to answer.

Karl Batdorff once told me that one of the things I needed to work on to become a better judge was to have a better "floor presence". Don't sit at a desk and wait for someone to ask for a judge, but be among the players, walking the tournament floor and let them know that a judge is close if they need one. Players are more apt to call for a judge when they're closer for "minor things" than they would be if a judge is sitting at a desk. I've found in my playing experience that it's the "minor things" which separate the best players from the good players, and the good players from the beginners. I think it's good advise and since receiving it, I've tried to make a concerted effort to be available to players for questions.

Things became very quiet and I could focus more time on running the tournament. Getting pairings up became easier with the help of the index cards. I made sure I wasn't pairing people with opponents they've already played by writing down their Opponents name each round on the card and doing a quick double check before putting the cards on the table.

Calculating tiebreakers became easier by writing running match and game results on the cards each round as people reported their matches. A later double check with DCI Reporter proved my standings for round 3 and 4 to be correctly done by hand, so no apologies to players have to go out. I'm thankful that these things were done correctly, because I don't want to explain to a player that by my own error, they were paired incorrectly or missed out on a chance at the single elimination rounds.

During round three I was asked another Pious Warrior question. I was seriously considering banning white from Mercadian sealed tournaments, since all of the questions were either coming from Cho-Manno [Insert name here] or Pious Warrior. Someone wanted to know if when their opponent used Trap Runner to block Pious Warrior, if they would gain life. I ruled that the Pious Warrior would look for the creature blocking it. Since there is no blocking creature for damage to be dealt to Pious Warrior wouldn't deal damage, and no life would be gained.

The rest of the tournament ran smoothly, with Jake Johnson defeating Zak Kuehnl in the finals and taking a commanding lead in the Black Rose ratings. When the top 4 was announced the first booster draft finally filled. It had been sitting at 7 for a while, and when 8 would finally sign up, someone had left without telling me. The third time was the charm and Tony Chamberlain used three Stinging Barriers, all passed to him, to easily dominate the draft.

An interesting situation came when a new player, no more than 12, came to me looking very sad after losing. He asked me what happened to his cards now that he lost, and I asked him to return the basic lands and keep the cards he drafted. He face immediately brightened and he hurriedly gave back the lands he used. It's store rule that usually after the draft all foils and rares go back into the pile and the winner pulls two picks, then second place gets two, then one pick down the line, etc; This discourages people who foil/rare draft. He thought that he just lost a (can we guess...?) Two-Headed Dragon.

From now on I should explain that there isn't rare/foil drafting after the tournament and that the packs are the prizes. By the way, that Two-Headed Dragon is now mine, since he decided he would rather have a Rhox. Since I had two handy in my Nemesis binder (made of product I earned at the Prerelease the week before.) I figured this gave me a good opportunity to talk to him a bit more and develop a good relationship with a new player, something that through years of playing I've developed with most of the "old school" players.

I don't want to give new players to Half-Time any reason to think that it's a "good ol' boys" network that they're not inside of. I have strong relationships with people I've known for a long time, as would be expected. I would hope that new players, like the one that I traded with, would become another player I have a strong relationship with in time. Even if you're not interested in anything, if a new player has a trade binder, ask to see it and use it as an excuse to start conversation. Use it as a way to begin a relationship. I believe those relationships will be a reason for people to come back.

After the finals the second booster draft fills up with a "Who's Who" of the local tournament scene. Aaron comes from behind the register to sign up. Michael and Julie Callahan drive up from Salt Lake City in time to play. With the top 4 finished, those who made the cut to single elimination all sign up as well, and a Half-Time regular, Wesley Dunbar, takes the final slot.

Sitting at a table are five people who have been on the Pro Tour (3 were at PTLA last weekend), and three others who can be considered favorites whenever they sign up for a PTQ. I hold to the 16K rating, but find that these matches are watched closely by those who are just hanging around and not playing anymore. There isn't a "feature match" during this draft, they're all "feature" matches.

An interesting situation comes up in the finals where Aaron Muranaka and Jack Stanton are facing off. Aaron drops Cowardice and turns his three Alabaster Walls into free Waterfront Bouncers. Jack uses Charm Peddler to return Aaron's Cho-Manno Bruiser. Aaron "protects" it using Cho-Manno's Blessing. I look at Jack, then look at Aaron, who looks at Jack, who nods and concedes. "Strong play." Aaron begins his Jedi Mind Trick celebration, and I realize why.

Fifteen seconds later we're all laughing as we all realize that the Bruiser would have bounced from the Blessing, countering the Charm Peddler on resolution but serving the same purpose the Peddler intended. Jack says he'll concede the game anyway, then goes on to beat Aaron like a red-headed stepchild to win the last booster draft.

And this is where the tournament report ends, sort of. I begin work in full on the webpage the next day, finding things which in the future will make it easier for me to do. I design the player's personal webpages and do my best to make it even more complete than what we have in the DCI ratings page. I think I've succeeded and have already heard a lot of feedback on the ratings pages, all positive. It took a bit of work to get finished the way that I wanted, but in doing so I found a lot of shortcuts which should considerably reduce the amount of time it takes to write them. It was also a good exercise in tables with HTML, and good to see the inner workings of the ratings system with a lot of help from The Dojo's Hunnes Rating Calculator.

If you're looking for an example. Try : http://www.aros.net/~daroki/BlackRose/PData/117722.html

I've received a few suggestions, all good, although there are some I'm unable to use. I've had someone ask for me to put the day of the week the tournaments are on, and not just the date on the tournament page. "It would be nice not to need a calander to figure out what day a tournament is on." That's easy enough. It would be a non-issue, except I do have weekday tournaments to avoid TOL conflicts.

I've had suggestions that I should do a "Feature Match" article for some of the tournaments more interesting matches. I declined this since I'm the only judge and I can't function as judge and reporter at the same time and do either effectively.

I also had someone ask if I would do a "Player of the Week" feature, which I declined since it might show favoritism. I would be open to letting them write something about themselves and attaching that to their player record, but I wouldn't do the writing myself.

I'll have to see how my web quota holds up after a few more tournaments. I might have to pay for more webpage space, but if it draws more people and reinvigorates the local tournament scene, it will be a very small price to pay.

Christopher Scanlon - daroki@aros.net - DCI Sanctioned Level II Judge
Black Rose Tournament Series - www.aros.net/~daroki



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