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QT-Mountain View, CA (PT-NY)

Don Barkauskas

Midway through the third round of the recent Team Qualifier Tournament in Mountain View, CA, I went up to one of my judges and asked if anything interesting had happened yet. He said nothing had, and I remarked that the tournament was going to make for a boring judge report. Boy, did I ever regret that statement!

The tournament was extremely small; only 12 teams showed up, but since we were cutting to the top two teams, we had to run six rounds. I arrived after deck registration had just finished; on the previous day, I had found out that none of my usual sources of rides were going to the tournament, so I was relegated to taking public transportation. I did my part, getting up at 6 AM (two hours earlier than usual for a QT) and catching my first train; then walking one and a half miles to transfer to a different train system and arriving with 2 minutes to spare to catch the next train. But that train suffered a delay of an hour and a half on a one hour trip. Thus, all my careful planning was wasted and I arrived late. Thank you, Caltrain! Not the best way to start off a tournament. Fortunately, the other judges (a Level 2, a Level 1, and a trainee) had gotten things started smoothly without me.

The registration went fairly well, although one team failed to correctly record the cards they opened. They were keeping their cards, so I just gave them each warnings and corrected the decklists. Deck building also went fairly smoothly, and the tournament started pretty close to on time.

The only exciting thing that happened in the first few rounds was counting decklists. Three people had failed to record at least 40 cards in their main deck. The baseline penalty for that at REL 3 is a DQ, but that would have serious ramifications in a team tournament. Also, I feel that in a Limited tournament, the penalty should be less severe. I collected those three decks during the first game of the second round and checked them. I decided on a match loss and correcting the decklist to match the actual deck that each was playing. I'm not sure if this is an appropriate penalty or not; after all, a match loss for one player in a team tournament is the moral equivalent of a game loss in a regular tournament. It might have been more appropriate to give a round loss to the team, although that seems a bit harsh. I'd like to see some guidelines on penalties in Team tournaments in future versions of the Penalty Guidelines.

I thought I'd broken my jinx of always having strange and bizarre things happen when I'm Head Judging, but after my ill-considered remark in round 3, things started to get steadily worse. Immediately after making that remark, I noticed a player indicating tapped lands by using one of the new golden $1 coins to cover the mana symbol. As he explained it, if you can't see the mana symbol, the mana's used up. I had to give him credit for a clever idea, but informed him that was not an acceptable way to tap lands. He gave me a hard time about it in a friendly manner (he's a Level 2 judge who's worked extensively with me in the past), but finally he gave in.

Then, the computer started acting up. A team decided to drop after going 0-2 and I entered it into the computer, but when the pairings for the next round went up, they hadn't been dropped! We tried to fix it, but the computer wouldn't let us do it. It said a new round had been paired and that dropping someone was "not allowed." We tried to DQ them (just to get them out of the system), but the computer told us to just drop them and enter the DQ in the Penalties window. (If we could drop them, we wouldn't need to DQ them!) We ended up just giving their opponents a bye and dropping the team after the round. Then a second team dropped after the third round, and that was unsuccessful as well! For the second round in a row, the last-place team didn't have an opponent! This was really beginning to get annoying. Finally, the TO hit upon a solution. He closed the tournament and reopened it, and things were fixed. I had been, as is my practice, entering results into the computer as they came in, and switching back and forth among entering results, entering penalties, and correcting typos in players' names. For some reason, in the team format, this was causing the software not to realize when it was getting results and when the round was over. It was a very strange bug in the software.

When we started doing deck checks, we had several cases where a card in the sideboard was left off of the person's individual decklist. The penalty I enforced in these cases was confiscation of the involved card and a warning; I felt that this was an appropriate response to this situation.

An extremely interesting rules question came up, which I botched on first glance, but luckily the player involved was an expert at the rules and caught me. A creature with Parallax Dementia with no fading counters on it was in play, and the player wanted to know what happened if he enchanted it with Unnatural Hunger. I made the mistake of reading the card too quickly and giving a snap answer (which is my worst habit as a judge). I told him I couldn't answer the question because it would be giving strategic advice. I thought that the order of the effects on the stack would make a difference and didn't want to give a hypothetical answer to something that could happen in different ways depending on player actions. The player pointed out what I was missing, and I finally got it straight and answered his question. First of all, there's no choice of how the effects go on the stack; the active player's (the Fading ability) must go first, then the nonactive player's (the Unnatural Hunger). The Unnatural Hunger resolves and the player takes damage or sacrifices another creature, and then the fading resolves and destroys the enchanted creature. Secondly, even if the effects occurred in the other order, the fading would resolve destroying the creature, then the Unnatural Hunger would resolve and use last known characteristics to do damage if the player didn't sacrifice a creature. So, in either order, this was a nasty play.

The most controversial decision I made occurred when a player sacrificed his Giant Caterpillar to get a Butterfly token, then forgot to put it into play at the end of the turn. The other player took his turn, then the first player started his turn and said, "Oh, by the way, I have a token in play." The other player said that he'd forgotten to put it in play and therefor shouldn't get it. I was called over and ruled that since more than a turn had elapsed since the mistake was discovered, the Butterfly was not in play. The first player was irate; he had the game easily won with the token in play, but ended up losing the game, match, and round when his team would have tied the round if he had won. Knowing how to correct a mistake that occurred some time ago is difficult at best; I have a firm policy to not correct anything that happened more than a turn ago. Otherwise, who can say what different decisions might have been made. Now, if I thought someone was deliberately trying to take advantage of this, that's different, but in this case I stuck by my guns. (As it turned out, the player whom I ruled against ended up winning the QT and getting the invitation with his team, so I don't think he's going to hold too big of a grudge.)

Finally, we got to the sixth and last round, and the computer had another fit. It said it couldn't use pair the round according to the Swiss method. After a little investigation, I discovered that the reason it couldn't was because the first-place team had played all five of the other teams that were still in the tournament! This was something completely new to me, and something that could almost never happen, but it did. This was not a good situation, because not only could the computer not pair the round, it was theoretically impossible to do the pairings. We discussed several options for resolving the situation; no one was particularly comfortable with giving a team a bye into the top two, so we tried figuring out the most equitable way of pairing it. We discussed and rejected several solutions; finally, the TO hit on the idea of getting one of the store owners to call Andrew Finch (a personal friend of the owner), who probably had some idea of what to do. He said that in these cases, the round should be paired as if no one had played anyone else; i.e., the top teams play each other, the next teams, and so on. This seemed to me to be a reasonable solution, so I decided to use it. Thus, the first- and second-place teams squared off, and the third- and fifth-place teams squared off (the sixth-place team dropped while we were sorting this mess out and both the fourth- and fifth-place teams had 9 points, so I flipped a coin for the bye).

In the end, the second-place team beat the first-place team and made it into the Finals. The first- and third-place teams ended up tied, but the first-place team won on tiebreakers (which, by the way, I had to compute by hand because the computer didn't have the correct data). There, the teams agreed to a split of the prizes with the second-place team getting the invitation. I then hurried off to catch Caltrain back. The train was forty minutes late getting to my stop and almost an hour and a half late arriving in San Francisco, but fortunately the other rail system was still running and I made it back safely --- exhausted, but having survived another adventure in Head Judging.

Don Barkauskas
DCI Level 3 Judge

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