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US Regionals-Northern California

Don Barkauskas

The Northern California Regionals this year was the largest non-Prerelease tournament I've ever run --- 229 players, 8 rounds of Swiss. My judging staff consisted of my TO (a Level 2), another Level 2, two Level 1's, one non-certified judge, and two judge trainees. We were definitely understaffed for this event, especially because we ended up holding the tournament in two different rooms to accommodate all of the players. In addition, the printer we were using was having some definite hiccups; I never really appreciated how great results slips are until we had to go back to having players report their matches in person one round. All in all, it made for an extremely hectic and stressful day.

The best thing about the tournament by far were the decklists. Out of the 229 players, we had no DQ's for listing fewer than 60 cards and no removal of sideboards for listing a number other than 0 or 15! In two years of head judging QT's, Prereleases, and Regionals, that's the first time that has ever happened to me. We did have three people playing illegal cards; one was DQ'd for an illegal decklist, but the other two only had the illegal cards in their sideboards, so I applied the illegal sideboard list penalty and disallowed their sideboards from the rest of the tournament.

As usual when I am Head Judge, we had some extremely weird situations come up. The best rules question of the day was a person who had Crusade and Academy Rector in play, then played Massacre, Yawgmoth's Will, and replayed the Massacre. This killed the Rector and the player wanted to search for an enchantment. We had to point out that since Yawgmoth's Will removes the Rector from the game as a replacement, it never goes to the graveyard and never triggers, so he couldn't do it.

The most unexpected question was about Thieves' Auction (!) and Treachery. A player wanted to know what happened if the Treachery was chosen when no legal target was in play. The judge on hand ruled that the Treachery went to the graveyard. That was incorrect, but unfortunately I didn't learn about this until well after the play had occurred (this happened in the secondary room). I explained to the judge that the Treachery simply stayed out of play and could be chosen again by either of the players, so in essence, whoever first chose a creature was going to lose it to the Treachery.

The non-rules situations were an extremely eclectic bunch. We did a random sideboard check on a player and discovered that his sideboard did not match his list --- he had 4 Arcane Laboratory's instead of 4 Rootwater Thief's. As it turned out, he had meant to put in the Thief's but had forgotten to do so before the tournament. He received a game loss and had to alter his sideboard to match the list (which was what he had meant, anyway).

Another interesting situation was due to miscommunication among the judging staff --- twice, we ending up giving matches more extra time than they should have received. After doing a sideboard check, we returned to find that the players were still playing Game 1. The trainee who had done the check handed the sideboards back to the players and told them that they had 7 extra minutes. I jumped in and corrected him, noting that since they hadn't finished their first game, they weren't entitled to any extra time. About 5 minutes after the round was over, I went over to this match to see why it was taking so long for them to play their five extra turns and report the result and discovered that they had taken the extra 7 minutes --- apparently, they hadn't heard me when I said they didn't have any extra time. At this point I was faced with a fait accompli; they had gotten their extra 7 minutes, so I just called time right there and started their five extra turns.

In a later round, a similar thing happened. The other trainee wrote down on the result slip that he had taken the decks for a deck check at 25 minutes left and returned them at 20 minutes, which would entitle the players to 5 extra minutes. Unfortunately, the notation he used was somewhat ambiguous and when another judge sat down at the table he thought that they had 25 extra minutes. I discovered this about 13 minutes into the extra time, so I simply gave them 2 more minutes (not wanting to just say "it's over" as soon as I got there) and then called time. Both of these incidents could easily have been avoided, but the judging staff was stretched a little thin and these slipped through the cracks. Before the next event I judge, I'll be sure to make it absolutely clear to my judging staff how we're going to handle extra time and how to notate it on the slip.

The most bizarre situation that occurred was when a player went to cast Enlightened Tutor and after shuffling his deck asked, "What happened to my hand?" He had accidentally shuffled his hand of cards into his library! Under the circumstances, I had no choice but to give him a game loss for that.

The most interesting situation occurred on a failure to agree on reality situation. One player claimed his Verduran Enchantress was not summoning sick, his opponent disagreed. The situation was such that whomever we ruled in favor of would win the game, so it was critical to get the correct answer if we could. One advantage we had is that we had a lunch break scheduled for the end of the round, so any extra time they needed could be absorbed into that. A lot had happened this turn --- since the one player was playing a Verduran deck, we had cast some five or six spells, activated Trade Routes several times, played extra land because of Exploration, used Serra's Sanctum a couple of times, and just generally made it extremely difficult to figure out what had happened. We tried to make a count of the amount of mana that he had used, but when all was said and done we had a discrepancy of two mana between what he said he had and what he had used --- and this was just an estimate because neither player was sure exactly how much the Serra's Sanctum had been tapped for each time. I was set to rule in favor of the Verduran player based on this mana count because I thought it more likely that he was correct when the Level 1 judge who had taken the situation from the start came up with a brilliant question. He noticed that the Verduran player had cast a whole bunch of green spells and didn't have much green land in play, so he asked how many green mana the player had had access to. After counting that, he had only used five green mana, which exactly accounted for the five green spells he had played. Thus, we could rule with 99% certainty that the Verduran had been in play on his side at the beginning of the turn and therefore was not summoning sick. This goes to show you that in these situations, sometimes just asking the right question is the key to getting the right ruling.

All in all, it was a long day, but thanks to the players' patience and the judges' hard work, I think overall we had a successful tournament.

Don Barkauskas
DCI Level 3 Judge

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