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JSS-Terre Haute, IN

Judah Alt

Relevant Statistics
Date = 4/8/2k
Location = at RavenCrest in Terre Haute, Indiana, USA
Players = 22
Rounds = 5 swiss, followed by top 8 single elimination
Judges Present = 2: myself and our head Level II judge, Victor Alderidge REL 1, 16K
Quote of the Day = "You cannot do that, as Blastoderm cannot be the target of spells or abilities, including your own."

According to the guidelines set up, this is supposed to be from a judge's perspective. You'll get that, but you'll also get tips on how to actually play better too. I am far more used to writing from a player's perspective, having been one for six years.

I forced myself out of bed in time to be on location at 11am, when the store opened. We were expecting a fairly large turnout, since RavenCrest had been hyping the JSS for the past several weeks. This included teaching the Pokemon kids how to play Magic, and a lot of general advertising. Some people did make the drive down from Indianapolis.

My first job was the deck clinic, whereby I would help anyone who was interested with their deck before the actually event, offering advice and making sure the cards were legal. Only two decks contained Tempest/Portal cards.

In two hours I reviewed seven decks, and gave away around 100 commons and uncommons to help improve general deck quality... keep in mind the Pokemon kids had just started playing recently. Fully 1/3 of the players in attendance were participating in their first magic tournament.

My recommendations included:

--more Plains, one maindeck Disenchant, and 2 SB Sanctimonies for the Bargain player
--far more rebels for the white weenie player
--four Smoldering Craters and Arc Mages for the mono-red player
--the green players got all my extra Land Grants, Vine Trellises, and Blastoderms
--more flyers for the one person with the 'unblockability' deck theme

This concluded around 1pm, when we about to make general announcements and such. Right before, Tyler couldn't find two Splinters, so I lent him my foil ones.

My very first ruling came before the tournament had officially even started. One of the new kids to magic "took a redeal" in his own words, and drew back up to seven. I explained that this was Magic, and not Pokemon, and that they should wait until we officially said "Start' to begin. He had to put one of the cards back on top of his library.

So round one was off... with a murmur as people began to play. Mono-green decks were the most common denominator, and almost all of them contained Blastoderms.

Generally when the littler kids attempted to enchant, or otherwise target their Blastoderms, I would explain exactly why they couldn't do that. However, my second ruling involved someone who should really have known better.

Player A was an under 15 teenager playing a W/U/G Deranged Hermit-Opposition-Masticore deck with Snaps, Counterspells, Worldly Tutors, Morphlings, and Devout Witnesses. I corrected him in game one about the Blastoderm, and moved on to prevent the little kids from playing a land before they drew a card, trying to Counterspell activated abilities, etc. I was not giving warnings or penalties because most of these kids had been playing magic for about two weeks, so I just tried to reinforce the basic rules.

Anyway, I came back to our Player A's match in game three. He attempted to use a Seal of Removal on a Blastoderm, and I told him he could not do that. I continued to watch, and the next turn he attempted to Snap that very same Blastoderm. Figuring he should probably know better, I told him to select another legal target with the Snap. He selected his opponent's Heart Warden. This was REL 1, so I figured I'd use some of that "judge's discretion.'

Of course, also watching the match, is a friend of the Player A's. He inquired why I ruled in such a manner, and did not rule in Player A's favor the previous turn. (His opponent had used two Seals of Strength on his Heart Warden, determined he only needed one, and asked to take one back. Player A let his opponent take it back.) I responded that his example was a matter between players, while the Blastoderm case involved a genuine violation of the rules. While it was nice of him to defend his friend, I Cautioned him about influencing a match and questioning a judge.

I discussed this situation with head judge Vic later, and he said I should have given a Warning for Misrepresenting a Card, since I had earlier passed out a Notice and Caution to Player A for similar events. Since the Snap had an illegal target, it was never actually cast, rather than needing the retargeting... however Player A had foolishly tapped the mana before announcing Snap. So essentially he would have had to retarget it anyway or take the burn. Live and learn.

Also of note was the very end of Round 1. At this point I tried taking aside the kids new to Magic tournaments and explaining how they could have played their decks better. Vic noticed this, and told me it could be construed as coaching, so I should not actively give advice unless it was sought. I explained this to the children, but the attention span of eight-ten year olds involving mental notes like these leaves something to be desired. They never asked me in the later rounds, so I was forced to endure uncountable bad plays. Very frustrating to the player inside of me.

Probably the worst was watching the child I helped with the unblockability deck play multiple Coastal Piracies, yet never draw cards off them!! Yes, he did a lot of combat damage with flyers and Phantom Warriors. This same child also asked me, after having played out his hand with a Coastal Piracy and two Cloudskates on the table "What happens when you have no cards in your hand, do you lose?' To which I had to grimace and respond, "No, nothing happens, you have a hand of zero cards.'

If I had known this was going to happen, I would have explained how the card functioned before the tournament... but he already had one in his deck so I thought he knew! I merely supplied the rest to tighten up the core strategy.

Ironically, this same child did like to draw cards at different times. We had to give him a warning because in the same game (Round 2) he initially drew eight cards, then in the fourth turn drew two cards during his draw phase. He didn't do it again though, so no game loss.

Nothing else really spectacular or of note in the other pre-elimination rounds. I explained fading, and made sure fading counters were in place. I explained it was legal to play as many enchantments on the same creature as you wanted to. Also a bunch more basic rules stuff for the new kids, like tapping creatures when you attack, etc. The official time was kept with the timer function of my watch, but due to the saturation of mono-green decks in the field, all the rounds ended up being shorter than 50 minutes.

In both the 4th and 5th rounds we did deck checks, and everyone I checked passed. One person Vic checked had an extra Island in his SB, but we know the Islands in the SB didn't really mean anything and were there as place holders. (He was trying to flush out his SB before the tourney.) Based on this, we give the game loss, but don't take away the SB for the rest of the tournament, as advised.

We announced the final 8, and some players complained about the amount of drawing done at the top tables. We explained ID's between players were legal; players can ID at any time. We also attempted to discourage players from talking to their neighbors when figuring out whether or not to ID. We almost gave a game loss, or was it a DQ? The behavior was very blatant, but very gray. Anyway, finally the two we were watching stopped pestering everyone around them and decided to play.

So we cut to the top eight after awarding sportsmanship and highest player under 12, with a 20 minute break for food.

Our top eight was composed of
--3 mono green: two Stompy type, and one with more control and Children of Gaea
--1 Replenish with 4 Parallax Tides and 4 Parallax Waves
--1 non-rebel White Weenie with Mother of Runes, Longbow Archers, 'geddons, Crusades, and maindeck Ankh of Mishra and Cursed Totems
--1 Sabre Bargain (the Renounce version)
--1 Wildfire with Hearts of Ramos and Flowstone Slides
--1 mono-blue; an Accelerated Blue variant

Vic watched one table, whilst I watched the other. No spectacular rulings here... everyone is older and knows how to play.

Wildfire beats Bargain because of several play mistakes on the part of Bargain. Yes, another painful to watch match.

Replenish beats the Child of Gaea mono-green deck because mono-green did not cast two Desert Twisters on the same turn to kill two lands, even though mono-green had the available resources. I could say nothing.

At the other table, mono-green stompy decks beat the Accelerated blue and White Weenie decks. Accelerated blue was mana hosed, and I didn't see any of the White Weenie match, so I can't comment.

T4 is Replenish vs. Stompy & Wildfire vs. Stompy

I run next door and get my food, then we proceed to deck check the Top 4.

The Stompy deck playing against Wildfire is missing one Might of Oaks, which is easily located. He meant to have 2 copies and 60 cards, rather than 3 copies and 61 cards. Even at REL 1 the penalty is a game, so penalized by the guideline recommendations.

It is my task to watch the Replenish match, as I have greater familiarity

with the archetype. First game Stompy get a third turn kill thanks to a Rancored Vine Dryad and Might of Oaks. Ouch. I am also quietly eating dinner, and letting someone look through my trade binder while watching this match. Perhaps not the most professional thing to do in the world, but there is no one to spell me while I take a break.

Second game, the Stompy player concedes after two Parallax Waves, an Opalescence, and three Parallax Tides are successfully Replenished. This eliminates all rules questions quite handily.

Third game, Stompy goes first and wins on the sixth turn. The Replenish player could not find an Opalescence after two Frantic Searches and two returned Attunements.

T2 is Wildfire vs Stompy

One word sums up the finals: anti-climactic. Wildfire gets mana hosed and loses. Wildfire decides to cast Wildfire rather than a Crater Hellion, mana hoses itself, and looses.

We pass out invites to Chad (Wildfire) and Tyler (Stompy). The call their parents and attempt to convince them to travel to Orlando. I get my foil Splinters back from Tyler. Vic finishes up the paperwork. We joke about not sending the extra foil Thran Quarries back to Wizards. (Yes, they are all still there.)

In summation it was a successful event, with a larger expected turnout next year. It has shown me I need more tournament experience before trying for Level II... I'd say about 5-15 events more should do the trick easily. In making rulings, situational interpretation is key, and I need to be exposed to more situations in order to judge them better.

Address questions or comments to jyalt@hotmail.com

If you need a judge within 90 minutes drive of Terre Haute, let me know.

--Judah Alt, signing off

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