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Jaap Brouwer

Judge report on Protour New York, 14-16 April 2000

This report both gives information concerning rulings and situations, and a view of the event from my personal perspective. If you're not interested in my personal perspective, but only in rulings and situations, you can skip the introduction and go directly to 'Day 1'.


In January 2000 I was invited to come to PT New York and judge the main event to gain more experience on top-level tournaments. Happily I accepted this invitation. My preparation for this tournament was equal to other preparations for 'big' tournaments; I refreshed my rules knowledge and made sure I brought a copy of the comprehensive rules, the penalty guidelines and of course the stack of cards that had to be signed by artists.

On Wednesday April 12th, changing guilders for dollars on Schiphol Airport (Amsterdam) was the last thing I needed to do before I left the Netherlands. The flight took approximately 7 hours and the time difference between Amsterdam and New York was 6 hours. Because I flew from east to west, the journey took 'only' 1 hour. I had a pleasant flight. A young woman from Amsterdam (Deirdre) was sitting next to me and during the flight we talked about work, career, colleagues, relationships, partners, people, the USA and money. The usual stuff.

I arrived at JFK Airport around 21.00 hours and the luggage and the customs took 45 minutes. Deirdre and I took the bus from JFK to Grand Central. We agreed on sharing a taxi, but, fresh and green tourists as we were, got ripped off by an illegal taxi. It only cost us a few extra dollars. So no harm done, except for a hurt ego.

When I arrived at the hotel, I checked in, dumped my luggage in my room and then found out that my biological clock was at 6.00 in the morning, while my watch told me it was 12.00 in the night. Almost over my sleep I decided to go for a beer somewhere and then try to go to sleep. In the lobby I bumped into several folks from Wizards of the Coast. Among them Gordon Culp and Jeff Donais. We exchanged a few words and I was off to the bar next to the hotel. After two beers and a nice conversation with people in the bar, I decided it was late enough and went back to the hotel and amazingly enough, I fell asleep immediately.

Next morning (Thursday) I planned to have breakfast in the hotel. After realizing what they charged for a 'normal' breakfast, I decided to get myself some breakfast on the street. I ended up at McDonald's and found myself ordering something large, not realizing that the drink would be large and not the food. Trust me, half a liter of coffee is quite much when one's not used to such amounts. With the free tourist-map from the hotel I wandered through Manhattan by foot. There are a lot of things at that small island called Manhattan. Halfway the day I went to look at the site. I shook a lot of hands and tried to help a bit.

At the beginning of the evening we had a judge briefing. We introduced ourselves, and Cyril Grillon, the head judge, gave some general comments on the structure of the tournament. When we were told that we would work in team, Mike Donais raised his hand and asked Cyril Grillon if he could be the leader of team Gold. I couldn't hold myself and had to ask if I could be Mr. Pink (for more information, see the movie 'Reservoir Dogs' by Tarantino). Beside that some questions were asked and answered and that was it. Then the best part of the judges briefing was about to start, the informal part. Most of the judges brought something from their own country / region. With a few drinks and the arranged snacks we enjoyed ourselves talking. I brought Old Dutch Cheese. If you want to know how it tasted, ask Collin Jackson via e-mail. He seemed quite charmed.

Day 1
I was assigned as leader of team Pink. The team consisted of two level 3's (including myself) and two level 2's. This team was a very fine team and a pleasure to work with. Our administrative task for the day was make sure the 'next round starts at' sign was updated at the beginning of every round. Michael Feuell took care of that and he was incredibly fast!

I bumped into the following situations.

Round 1: when we started, I was called over to a table, and to my big surprise I saw that a player was de- and re-sleeving his deck. His opponent was somewhat worried about time and asked for extra time. I didn't give extra time but I stayed nearby to keep an eye on the match in general. After the match had finished (in time) I walked up to that player and told him that next time he was invited for a Pro Tour he should show up with a nicely fresh-sleeved deck. He gave close to a hundred reasons why he didn't have time to sleeve the deck on forehand, but when I told him that it were reasons but none of them was a valid excuse, and that this behavior wasn't professional, the discussion was closed.

Round 1: Player A casts Bribery and searches his opponent's deck for a creature. This resolves. Then player B calls me over and asks me if he uses a Parallax Wave on the creature, who gets the creature back if the Wave disappears. Of course the answer was on the card, but I didn't look it up (Wave of player B was in French). Wave explicitly says '...he or she owns...'.

Round 2: Usual failure to agree on reality-problem. Player B calls me over, claiming that his opponent (player A) already played a land that turn and that he played another land later that same turn. The game advanced already to the late-game stage so in no way it could be determined if the player played an extra land or not. I asked the view of both players, and I received a clear statement from player B, and an "I don't remember" statement several times from player A. When I asked him the question again looking him in the eyes and he looked away, he knew that chances that he was lying were pretty high. So player B received the benefit of the doubt._I gave both players a warning for "failure to agree on reality", and gave player A a warning and game loss for "procedural error - severe - playing an extra land".

Round 3: The following incident is an ugly example of rules-cheesing or better known as unsporting conduct. There were 8 minutes left in the round and player A had asked his opponent (player B) to play at a higher speed several times. The atmosphere was quite tense. At one moment player A passed turn, activated his Rishadan Port and said "during your upkeep I tap your plains". At that moment player B hadn't even started untapping his own permanents and claimed that the activation of the Port was done during his opponents End-step. A judge was called over. After some discussion the present judge called me over (as the senior judge). I made a ruling (which involved a warning for unsporting conduct for player B) and of course player B wanted to appeal to the head-judge. After explaining the situation to the head-judge and the head-judge summarizing the situation to the players (which they agreed on), the head-judge backed me up._Player B was penalized with a warning for "unsporting conduct - minor". Obviously he wanted to gain advantage from a perfectly clear situation that was technically not correct. This is also known as rules cheesing. Player A was penalized with a warning for "procedural error - minor - sloppy play" because he didn't communicate clearly to his opponent that he wanted to use a shortcut. For the remainder of the match, a judge stayed at the table to watch the game.

Round 6: When time was called player B was busy activating abilities during players A End-step. So technically it was still the turn of player A and the first extra turn would be player B's next turn. I ruled that player B's turn would have started if he was busy untapping. Player B didn't agree and even appealed to the head-judge. The head-judge backed me up._No penalties were given.

Round 7: To the previous situation related: when player A passed his turn, player B asked for some time to think, because he might want to do something during his opponent's End-step. After a few seconds he put a hand on the three permanents he had tapped, made a clear untap gesture, then tapped them again and said "during your End-step I play ...". I was watching the game and halted the player. I stated that he clearly had indicated that he wanted to start his turn by making an untap gesture and that it was not possible for him to reverse this._No penalties were given.

Round 7: The described situation is a serious failure to agree on reality situation. These are always hard to handle. Player A announced a spell, waited a few seconds with the card dangling in his hand (according to player B above one particular card), then player B wanted to respond but player A claimed not to be finished announcing his spell and then choose a target for the spell. A big discussion arose over what target was chosen and I was called over. Player A stuck to his story and in my opinion he believed in his own story. Player B on the other hand got quite emotional (which makes all the involved parties, including the judge, feel rather uncomfortable) and tried several times to interrupt player A. Based on my 'guts' feeling and the knowledge I had from a course "Interviewing" about how people react when they are wrong / right, I ruled in favor of player A.

Both players received a penalty for (procedural error - major - failure to agree on reality).

Player B stayed quite emotional after the ruling and I decided to stay at the table to watch the remainder of the game. I reminded them that I was their table-judge and as such, I would reverse all technical mistakes. The players resumed play and time was called. I informed them that there were five additional turns and that I would keep track of them and whose turn would be the first of the five extra turns. In the second turn player B tapped 7 lands for mana and cast a 5CC spell. His opponent didn't react so the spell resolved and player B ended his turn. At that moment his opponent (player A) and I, both at the same time, made a remark about the two unused mana in his manapool. Player B (still emotional) tried to use my previously made remark about "correcting technical errors" to undo his error. I stated that tapping 7 lands is not illegal and passing turn neither. The consequences for him at that moment were that he had to take manaburn. A discussion was about to arose again, which I stopped immediately. Player B accepted my ruling but made quite clear that he disagreed.

No penalties were given at that moment, although looking back at this moment, I think I should have given player B a warning for unsporting conduct - minor - arguing with the judge while knowing better. Player B is a known judge that (with the level he has) has to know the difference between technical errors and irreversible playing mistakes. The warning also should cover the fact that he got too emotional. Emotions are not forbidden, but as soon as you use them to play your opponent and the judge, it's wrong.

Day1 - evening: the whole day was in my opinion a success. I had a great time talking with Matthieu Poujade from France. The day was concluded with a judges dinner. I had the opportunity to talk with James Lee. Let me tell you that he is an amazing man full with a lot of stories covering history and culture.

Day 2
I was assigned as leader of team Red. The judges in my team were Eric Bess (level 2), Mauro Bongiovanni (level 2) and Rachel Queen (level 2). This day had less incidents, but most incidents were bigger. Which is quite understandable on the second day.

Round 9: During this round, while making several small rulings and answering random questions, it struck me that a lot of players were asking (completely undeserved) for extra time. I only give extra time for long rulings (longer then 90 seconds). My philosophy with that is that asking and receiving answers to questions is part of the game, so only long rulings deserve extra time. In this round there was a discussion (I was not present but received this information from second hand) over a player who offered his opponent his hand (to concede) and just before his opponent shook his hand he found another way of possible win. A big discussion followed but the head judge made really clear that offering your hand is equal to scooping up your cards is equal to saying "I concede".

Round 12: I had the impression that several Rising Water players who played a second Rising Waters didn't inform their opponent properly of the fact that two Rising Waters results in two "untap target land at the beginning of your upkeep" effects. At one table I had to make a ruling concerning this. A player accused his opponent basically of cheating for not having him informed of the fact that he could untap two lands and thus loosing the game. I had my doubts about the behavior of the opponent, but the doubt was not big enough to take action. I stayed to watch the remainder of the match. After the match I informed the head judge of the potential abuse possible with the Rising Waters and advised him to inform the rest of the senior judges to pay attention to Rising Waters players.

Round 13: In this round there was a simple ruling concerning targeting. Can one use the second ability of Lin Sivvi without any Rebel-creature-cards in the graveyard. Answer: no, because the ability is targeted, a Rebel-creature-card has to be present. Example: can I play a Terror without any creatures in play? Same situation, same answer.

Round 13: a judge passed a game, stopped for 1 minute and then gave one of the players a warning for slow play. The judge moved on, but the player was so upset, and he wanted to play so much faster that he started to make all sorts of technical errors: he tried to activate the ability of a rebel (with lethal combat damage) after he already altered his own life-totals as a result of combat damage. The head judge came over and solved the situation. The most important conclusion I drew from this situation is that whenever you give a warning for slow play, make sure you have watched the game long enough (at least several minutes) and after you have given the warning, stick around for at least another few minutes to monitor the remainder of the game.

After solving the situation the opponent tried to gain another advantage by starting to rules-cheese over the fact that the player had to take manaburn because he couldn't spend the mana he tapped for activating the ability of the dead rebel. The head judge told the opponent that it was part of the other problem and untapped the land and left it like that. After that the opponent argued with the head judge once more over this, still claiming that he had to take mana burn. The head judge left it at that point, but I would have preferred to see the player quite heavily penalized for this clearly unsporting behavior.

Round 14: this was a weird round. One player got DQ'd for cheating - bribery and another player got DQ'd for cheating - stacking his deck. The stacking was done in such a way that of every three cards (when starting from the top) always contained at least one land.

Day2 - evening: I had a pleasant dinner with some WotC staff (both US and Belgium) and some judges, including Carl Crook, Cyrill Grillon and Mathieu Poujade. Carl thinks he can play Magic so he challenged me to play for a $1 sign, to be signed by the looser. We played after dinner. Let me put it this way, I was unlucky :-) and because of that I lost 2-3. Carl and I will have a rematch at the Europeans in Paris - France this summer. I will make sure the element of luck is eliminated from the deck I'll play then. (Be afraid Carl! Very afraid!).

Day 3
Finals teamdraft: After that I had to lead the Rochester-teamdraft for the finals of the teams-invitational. The draft went really smooth. Only thing that amazed me was that, even after repetitive asking to put the last drafted cards always on top of the stack of cards, this mistake was made by one of the players (he received a draftwarning for this offence). Like they don't even listen to the things I tell them.

Quarter-, semi- and finals: I was given the opportunity to table-judge quarter-, semi- and finals. Everything went quite smooth. Players know what is at stake and tend to play careful. During one of those games a player tapped a land for mana, released it, stared at his hand for a few seconds and then untapped the land again (to undo the action). I made the remark that he tapped the land and that the player couldn't undo the action. The player then asked me the question: "Is this the way you think a ...-final should be judged? Have you been instructed to judge this way?" In a way this question was quite offensive because he questioned my instructions. I left it for that and I replied him that there were no specific instructions for the third day but that he of course cannot undo an already made action, and that if he liked I would give him an explanation in detail after the match. He made clear that he accepted the ruling, but didn't agree with it. After two more turn he turned to me again and said that it wasn't personal and that he didn't want me to be his "enemy". Apparently the player was afraid of me getting biased (negatively) towards him. I told him that I didn't take it personal and that as far as I was concerned it was a professional conversation.

After the match I explained him that if I wouldn't make the remark about that, but his opponent would, I had to agree with his opponent because he is right. That could negatively influence the atmosphere between the players which is a bad thing. It is preferable that the players dislike me because I'm the one who's making al the nasty remarks. Beside that, both players are bound to the same rules, and -as a table judge- I'm the one the one to enforce them.

During this three day event, Masque-block constructed, with close to 300 players, and a very international judge-staff of approximately 20 judges (main-event) I had a very good time in which I learned a lot. I learned how to communicate better with my judge-team, how to communicate better with players and enforce respect between players and between players and the judge. I met some very interesting people working for Wizards of the Coast, I got to know some players better and I was amazed by the enthusiasm and energy of the judges I worked with.

I want to thank Jeff Donais for giving me the opportunity to be part of my first US Pro Tour. I want to thank Cyril Grillon for giving me the chance to table judge my first quarter-, semi and finals of a Pro Tour, and for listening to me when I wanted to give some feedback & comments on the event and the organization of the event, and for letting me be leader of Team Pink!. Thanks to Michael Kastberg and Rune Horvik for being nice roommates (and not snoring!) and to all the France judges (specially Mathieu Poujade) for being excellent company and bringing excellent French wine and food. And Carl Crook for learning me how to play (what's that chicken-noise?) and James Lee for introducing me to the real Chinese kitchen (stomach, anyone?) and having great philosophical discussions with me.

Jaap Brouwer, level 3
Enschede, the Netherlands
Member of judge team: the Dutch Vikings
For any comments, please contact me at jaap@usermail.com

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