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QT-Mountain View, CA (PT-NY)

Don Barkauskas

This tournament was a NYQT with Extended decks and 106 people (the largest QT we've had in a long time), so we ran 7 round of Swiss. It was held at Neutral Ground in Mountain View, CA. The judging staff consisted of me (Level 3), the TO (Level 2), a Level 1 testing for Level 2, another Level 1, and two non-certified judges testing for Level 1.

This tournament was interesting in that there were significantly more younger players there than typical; this partially accounts for the unexpectedly large turnout. Despite the younger crowd, the tournament was fairly incident-free.

Since I did have a large staff available, I tried doing a few random sideboard checks throughout the entire tournament. In the past, for 7 round tournaments I waited until the 5th round to do sideboard checks and the 6th and 7th rounds to do full deck checks, but I decided that if I continued that, I would be giving people an opportunity to pre-sideboard and have less chance of being caught. The extra deck checks never turned up anything, but hopefully this will act as a deterrent against cheating in the future.

The decklists themselves were fairly easy to check --- we had 2 players DQ 'd for registering less than 60 cards, 1 DQ'd for using Nemesis cards (which weren't yet legal), and 1 getting a match loss and his sideboard removed for registering a 2(!) card sideboard. The sideboard error and one of the DQ's were from the younger players; it's heart-breaking to have to do that to a kid who might be playing in his first big tournament, but for consistency it's necessary, and as my TO said: "They have to learn sometime."

The actual rules questions were for the most part fairly routine. There was the question "Can I Misdirect the Counterspell to itself?" Of course the answer is no, but you can get the same effect by redirecting the Counterspell to the Misdirection; I couldn't tell the player this as that would be offering advice, and he ended up taking his payment back and not casting the Misdirection. Misdirection vs. Duress also came up (since Duress says "target opponent", it can't be Misdirected). Another question dealt with Null Rod vs. Smokestack (no interaction --- the Smokestack isn' t activated).

There weren't many non-card rulings, but they were interesting ones. The first was when a player called me over wanting to know if he killed his opponent on his upkeep before failing to pay for Illusions of Grandeur, would he win? This is a tricky question to answer; it's very easy to give play advice by accident. I ended up answering "You have to put the Illusions' upkeep on the stack, then you can play instants in response." He was very unhappy with this answer, but I didn't feel comfortable giving him any more advice. He ended up burning his opponent out and winning (because player death is checked before the Illusions' upkeep resolves). One of his friends asked me why I hadn't just told him that he could do that, and I replied that hypothetical questions are about the trickiest things a judge has to deal with, and I prefer to answer only the very simplest ones --- and sometimes not even those. This was definitely not one of those.

Another incident occurred when a player played Natural Order with creature in play with two Pattern of Rebirths on it. The other player Countered the Natural Order, and both players mistakenly let the creature stay in play (it should have been sacrificed as a cost of playing Natural Order). The player countering the spell thought that this was wrong, but said nothing because a judge was sitting right there and didn't say anything. As it turned out, the judge was watching a different match at that moment and didn't even see the incident, and it was not reported to me until after the match. I ended up giving a stern lecture to the countering player, saying that it's both players' responsibility to ensure play is correct, and the sporting thing to do would have been to point out his opponent's mistake, even though it would be to his advantage not to.

The final incident was significant because it changed to way that the Top 8 went. In doing a deck check during the 7th round, we discovered a deck with a large number of marked cards with no observable pattern, but two cards which were significantly more marked than the rest: both of the deck 's Misdirections. I initially ruled that this constituted "Marked Cards --- Pattern" and gave him a match loss, which would have knocked him out of the Top 8. However, after questioning the player further and consulting with my staff and especially the TO, I decided there were several mitigating circumstances. The first was that unlike normal deck checks, he had ID'd this round and was not playing at the time we did the deck check. In fact, he had had 20 minutes or so of warning that we would be deck-checking him. If he had truly been cheating, then he easily could have switched around the sleeves or replaced them and we would never have known. The second was that his sideboard was not sleeved; he had been rotating his cards in and out of sleeves all day, so there was a good chance that these were there by chance (although the odds of the two Misdirections being in the only two bad sleeves out of 60 are 1 in 1770, for those of you keeping track at home ;-) Finally, there was some discussion over whether or not 2 cards could be a pattern. The Penalty Guidelines give an example where 4 cards are, but it's hard to say. In the end, I decided my original ruling had been too harsh, and I ended up giving him a game loss in the Top 8 and made him resleeve. He ended up making the Top 8 as the 8th seed and losing in the semifinals. As far as judging points, I subtract a large number of points for not sticking by my guns and going with the original ruling, but that is more than balanced out in my mind by the fact that I truly believe I ended up doing the right thing.

The Top 8 was completely different from the 2 previous NYQT's I'd done. The first was dominated by Burn, the second by mono-blue control. The theme of this week's Top 8 was "It's not easy beating Green." ;-) Five of the decks were mostly green or monogreen, and a sixth was blue-green control, with the other two decks being mono-blue. In the quarterfinals, Opposition/Squirrels beat green weenie; green weenie beat monoblue; monogreen beat monogreen; and Recur/Survival beat monoblue. In the semifinals, Recur/Survival beat Opposition/Squirrels; and monogreen beat monogreen. Each of these rounds went 80+ of the 90 minutes allotted, and both of the matches involved were 2-0! I'm just glad they didn't go to a third game; I actually would have had to use tiebreakers.

In the end, the finalists agreed to a split of the prizes. Congratulations to Mark Schick, and good luck at PTNY!

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