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GP Trial-New York, NY (GP-St. Louis)

Format: Team Trios, Limited

Steven Zwanger

Neutral Ground had a surprisingly good turnout for our first team tournament of the season, 16 teams (48 players). Wizards of the Coast had sent us updated instructions, including the number of rounds to run; a tournament with 9 to 16 teams was to run 6 rounds of Swiss, followed by a Top 2 Rochester. Running a Top 2 instead of a Top 4 considerably reduced the length of the finals, since team Rochester is so time-consuming. I was head judge and, alas, sole judge.

I began by giving each team, as they signed up, 2 Mercadian Masques starters and 4 Nemesis boosters. Just as in an indvidiual sealed deck tournament, they registered their cards and returned them; then I redistributed the decks, with one team getting back their own cards. Teams had 40 minutes for deck construction and registration, which I feared would not be nearly enough, but happily only one team went over the time limit. Another change in deck construction from last season, besides the starter / booster ratio, was that teams could get as much additional basic land as they wanted. Nevertheless, many teams elected not to take any additional lands.

As is typical for a sealed deck tournament, many rules questions came up. A few were about the structure of the tournament; one player asked me whether teammates could give advice on each other's matches (answer: no). Most were rules questions about the cards themselves.

One player asked whether Rupture killed both players at once, or killed the active player first. I explained that player death was checked for all players simultaneously, as a state-based effect.

Another player, with a Revered Elder and a Belbe's Armor in play, was facing a Flowstone Overseer. His opponent used the Overseer in an attempt to kill the Elder. The first player asked whether, if he used Belbe's Armor to save it, the Overseer effect and the Armor effect would wear off simultaneously. Answer: yes, all "until end of turn" effects wear off at once.

Crooked Scales was the subject of another rules question (as it frequently is); its controller wanted to know if he could use High Market's ability to sacrifice his own creature for 1 life in response to the Scales' destroy effect going onto the stack. Many players don't understand exactly how Crooked Scales works; this player believed, erroneously, that there was time between the coin flip and the destroy effect during which players received priority to play spells and abilities.

Of all the cards in Nemesis, the one that generates the most questions is probably Topple. A player whose opponent had cast it on his tapped Deepwood Drummer responded by sacrificing his Seal of Strength to make his opponent's Silkenfist Fighter into a 4/6. That was all well and good, but the player believed that that would cause Topple to remove the Fighter from the game instead of the Drummer; I explained that no, but the result would be that the Topple was countered because its target no longer had the highest power.

A stickier situation involved a player with Cloud Sprites, Port Inspector and Trickster Mage in play. His opponent had a Blockade Runner and a Spidersilk Armor. Player 1 attacked with the Sprites; Player 2 announced the Blockade Runner as a blocker. Player 1 then claimed that he had not had a chance to Hoodwink the Armor before his opponent declared blockers. After hearing from both players, I concluded that Player 1 most likely hadn't realized the Runner could block, and only realized the necessity to Hoodwink after the Runner had blocked. I thus ruled that the Runner had been declared as a blocker.

Another dispute arose when a player attacked with his Flowstone Overseer and his opponent cast Angelic Favor to block. As is common practice in Limited Format events, the defending player used the Angelic Favor card to represent the token. The attacker cast Flaming Sword on the Overseer. The defender put the Angelic Favor into the graveyard, then said, "Wait, I want to use my Defender en-Vec" to prevent damage to the blocking Angel token, claiming that putting the Angelic Favor into the graveyard had only meant that the spell had resolved. Taking into account that in the previous game he had also used the Favor to represent the token (which he did not dispute), I ruled that it was too late, and the Angel was already dead. I also reminded him to use something else to represent the token, or to play more carefully, or (preferably) both.

A player whose opponent was attacking with his Volrath the Fallen wanted to use his Jolting Merfolk to tap the Legend in response to the declaration of attackers but before the attacking creatures were tapped. I went over the steps of the attack phase, even explaining that he could tap Volrath before the attack phase or during the Beginning of Combat step in order to prevent Volrath from attacking, but that tapping it subsequently would not prevent that. Not only did he insist that he was doing it in response to his opponent declaring attackers, but both he and his teammate sitting next to him said that that was effective and that a judge had ruled it so at a Pro Tour (this is an argument that judges just *love* to hear). Fortunately, Rule 308 (specifically 308.2 and 308.6) made it clear that by the time the Jolting Merfolk ability was used, Volrath was already a tapped, attacking creature.

Other issues that came up concerned the DCI Reporter software, version 1.43. Although there have been significant improvements, there are still some flaws which I will mention; since the team sealed deck season will be starting soon, I hope other judges may find my comments helpful.

After the first round is over, the software will not print Pairings by Table; it instead produces a "Subscript Out of Range" error. The workaround I use is to View Pairings by Table and use Copy to Clipboard to copy and paste that into an Excel spreadsheet, which I can then print. I also print Team Pairings by Match, so the players know which teams are playing which. Also, when entering results, the software has buttons for 3-0, 2-1 and 1-0 wins, but not for 2-0 wins. However, these can be entered manually. Finally, the software does not support either a Sealed Deck Swap or a Playoff cut to a top two teams. Since these will both be used in most, if not all, sanctioned team tournaments, judges should inform the DCI of the Swap and the playoff result.

After five rounds, the one team that was 5-0 had to drop, as the players had other plans for the evening. The third-place team had only two players present. Thus the Rochester slots went to the teams in second and fourth place. I explained the team Rochester rules as the teams sat down; two of the six had played at the team Pro Tour in DC last fall, but the rest were inexperienced at the team variant of this format. Anyone talking during the draft, except to me, would receive a "random" pick (the card in the top left corner) for his first offense. Fortunately I never had an opportunity to enforce this! Anyone taking more than 4 seconds to make his pick would also receive the "random" card. This did come up once; one inexperienced player was not used to the frequent direction shifts, and for the first pack of the second round he did not realize it was his turn to pick. He was the lucky recipient of a second-pick Snake Pit.

The Rochester draft was actually not as bad as I'd anticipated. The 4-second time limit made the packs go quickly, though I was so busy keeping track of time I barely had a chance to notice what cards the players were choosing.

Two matches ended quickly and decisively. Interestingly, both were "battles of the broken rares," and a different team won each. Predator, Flagship beat Ascendant Evincar 2-0. Lin-Sivvi lost to Rhox 0-2. The third match featured two similar black / blue decks, each with a Stinging Barrier, a Submerge, and the usual black / blue stuff - some flyers, some removal, not much beef. The match went to a very close and exciting third game that could have gone either way. In the end, Team Hashim Bello (for which, oddly, Hashim was not actually playing - he was on a different team) beat Team SAO Society and won a two-round bye to Grand Prix St. Louis.

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