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US Nationals and JSS Championship

Nick Hable

Before I get into the actual tournament report, let me tell everyone a little about my judging background and myself. I am from Bloomer, a small town in Wisconsin. I became a level one judge at GenCon in 1998, testing under Mike Guptil. I first decided to become a judge because the current judge in my area decided to quit running tournaments and I felt I was qualified to take over. I continued to run tournaments for that store for about six months until the tournaments attendance died off. It was about this time I met up with Steve Port and started helping him run tournaments.

For the next nine months or so, I judged at various Pro-Tour Qualifiers, Grand Prix Trials and Prereleases. At GenCon of 1999, after the major Sixth Edition rules change over, I tested for my level two certification. At that time I did not pass the insanely hard test. The following two months I continued to study hard so that I could test again at PT Chicago, this time I passed the test. Making level two meant that I could now head judge Prereleases, States, and Grand Prix Trials. During this time, the Midwest's level three pool had started to dry up and the most qualified level two decided to quit judging all together. I made the decision at the Nemesis Prerelease to start my pursuit to become a level three judge. Which leads me to this tournament report.

I was invited by WOTC and DCI to help judge U.S. Nationals and the JSS Championship. This was a great opportunity for me because as a college student and no full time job to travel to a large tournament. Which leads me to this tournament report.

I flew in on Wednesday afternoon and spent the night adjusting to the hot and humid air. I got up Thursday morning, ate breakfast, and got ready to go out to the site. The shuttles WOTC provided did not run on Thursday, so I got a cab and headed out. When I got to the arena I checked in with James Lee and Scott Larabee, who assigned me to U.S. Nationals Open #3, the official name for the meat grinders. This was a standard event and such we started immediately after the opening announcements. Initially, the only judges were Elaine Ferrao, as head judge, Gordon Culp, as scorekeeper, and myself. As some of the other grinders wound down, other judges came and helped. After two rounds, I was moved to Grinder #4. This pattern continued until most grinders had wound down. I was able to leave fairly early and went out to eat with James Lee.

The next day started really early. I went with James Lee, Gordon Culp, and various other judges in early to help set up U.S. Nationals. We arrived on site and did the normal set up, number tables, place decklists on tables, and put out the stamped boosters for the draft. Soon after we had our judges meeting, where I found out that Collin Jackson was the Nationals head judge. I was once again assigned to Elaine and she went over the finer points of judging a booster draft at this REL. I few pointers she gave to the group were: don't watch the players so much as watch what their eyes are doing, take absolutely no flack from the players, and correct problems without everyone else stopping, but don't be afraid to if necessary. With these pointers I believe that both drafts on the day went as smooth as possible.

After the draft I was positioned at a land station, a most rewarding job. Not only do you get to sit down, you also can glance at the decklists to see what people drafted. After all decklists were collected I helped scan, count and make sure there were no problems with them. As an experienced judge I knew that there would be and was not totally surprised when we found that many people did not register all of the cards in the booster or had not registered a forty card deck. The penalty given for not registering all cards but still having a forty-card deck was a warning and they fixed the decklist. The penalty for not registering a forty-card deck was a match loss and the addition on a basic land of the player's choice. This penalty is different then the one listed in the penalty guideline. The philosophy, as I understood it, behind this less stiff penalty was that in a limited format a deck that does not meet the minimum requirement is not nearly as severe and does not warrant a DQ.

Also during the first round of the tournament, one of my team was called over to investigate a player who thought his opponent had stacked his deck. After further investigation it was found to be almost perfectly mana weaved. The process of ejecting the player took nearly a half hour, but was necessary. These were the major things that were covered other than a few minor rulings, not worth discussing.

Nearing the end of day one's competition, I left to help register JSS players for the next day's event, as I was Head Scorekeeper. Since the computer that was going to be used the next day, was being used when I needed it I used my computer to register players as much as I could before my battery ran out. After that we recorded their names and DCI numbers by hand to be entered later. May I suggest when entering a large number of people, use the DCI pin database. It sped up registration by a large amount. Soon after I went out to eat with a group of judges and turned in for the night.

The following day I was assigned to the JSS Championship, as Head Scorekeeper. I went in on the 7:30 shuttle and made my way to the arena to enter the players that came after my computer's battery died and the players that registered in the morning. After everyone was entered, we started deck registration. I then printed off a seat all players, for the players meeting. This was done instead of a first round pairing because incase we had forgotten to register someone we would find out now instead of when we did a pairing. As it turns out I missed a few people, but everything was taken care of in short time. James Lee as head judge. The floor judges were Tony Sutphin, Chris Shannon, John Loniak, Aaron Matney, Chris D'Andrea, and myself as Head Scorekeeper.

The players meeting was slated to start at 9:30, but got started a little later than expected. Things covered in the players meeting were mainly on the higher REL and Tangle Wire. It doesn't matter how many times how Tangle Wire was explained, more rulings were made on this one card then any other all day. Both of Tangle Wire's abilities trigger at the beginning of the upkeep. How the player stacks them is very important. For example, if the player has a Tangle Wire with four counters on it and puts the tapping of the permanents first then the fading ability, they will only tap three permanents. Also, Tangle Wire's ability isn't targeted so the player can't tap the permanent in response to the Tangle Wire.

The other major problem that persisted throughout the day was players drawing too may cards off of Attunement. Unfortunately when a player does this, in most cases, it is a game loss. All in all it was a very rewarding day that went pretty well. Top eight got started on Saturday night and the quarterfinals finished up around 12:30, with the rest of the finals played on Sunday.

On Sunday, I was assigned to the first JSS Challenge, again as Head Scorekeeper. This time Chris D'Andrea was head judge. I got to work with a majority of the same judges I worked with the day before. The day passed for the most part uneventfully as far as I was concerned. After a weekend of hard work, U.S. Nationals was over for 2000.

Things I learned over the weekend dealt with mostly interaction of younger players. Not much came up in the way of rulings. Of the things I learned the most important was to take time to make sure players understand the rulings that are given. The most important reason for this is to explain what they did wrong so that they do not repeat the same infraction. Also it is important to explain the ruling, so as to create the least amount of confusion as possible.

That does it for this tournament report. I hope that this wasn't too long and that everyone can take something away from it. Questions or comments can be sent to me nicholas.a.hable@uwrf.edu. Until the next report, play well, play fair, and most important play for fun!

Nick Hable, Level 2 Judge

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