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Israeli Nationals

Doron Singer

28-29 of June, 2000

First of all, I want to warn you all. This report doesn't follow the usual telegram style that most judges find appropriate. If you want to read the professional report from the guy who acted as head judge, go read Cyril's report. This report is more about the experiences I had as I judged seriously the first DCI sanctioned tournament in my life, and might prove helpful to some. '

Still with me? Good. Allow me to introduce myself: My name is Doron Singer, I've been playing magic for about a year now. This tournament was the first DCI sanctioned tournament I judged in, but having run dozens of online tournaments, and given my position in E-League (Judiciary Manager, equal to the DCI's Judge Coordinator) I felt confident in my ability to tackle any ruling thrown at me. As for other matters, well, that's why the DCI flew over Cyril, no? :) Our story begins two weeks before the nationals, when I was told that the DCI is flying over a level 3 judge to HJ our nationals. For those of you not well versed with Israel's magic playing atmosphere, "lenient" would be an understatement. There are no ruleslawyers, nobody ever tries to cheat and it's common to let your opponent take a move back. That's the good side. The bad side is that coaching is rampant and deckchecks/deck registration are alien concepts. There is exactly one certified judge in Israel, Allan Teller, who's also the only TO in Israel. That's why a lot of us feared a foreign judge walking in, DQing half of us for marked sleeves and the other half for coaching. I decided I should attempt and contact that judge, but my emails were forwarded from one @wizards.com address to another, never getting answered. Then 3 days before the tournament Allan calls me. I agree to assist judging the nationals (woo, real judging, with a real judge!), and he invites me to have lunch with him and Cyril Grillon, the judge. I couldn't make it, and to make things even better the army decided making me work night shifts in the week prior to the tournament would be pretty funny. So I never get to talking to Cyril before the 28th of june, 8 AM, when I got to the tourney location after 14 hours of no sleep, changed to civilian clothing and met with Cyril.

Preparations I made:

1. Caffeine. Never leave home after 14 hours without sleeping without it.
2. Rector rulings. I knew there are going to be a lot of rectors around, as well as a lot of countermeasures. I made sure I know everything about rector/planar void/rapid decay/untargettability/treachery/etc.
3. Replenish rulings. The day before the tourney you could wake me up at midnight and throw as many opalescences, waves, tides and seal of cleansings at me and I would be able to resolve any trick you might wanna pull with them.
4. A pen.

Day 1:

5 minutes of chatting with Cyril made me realize I made a lot of mistakes. First of all, weighing at least 200 LBS is apparently not a requirement for becoming a DCI J4. Secondly, he's a "judge" in the sense that John Finkel is a "magic player". Apparently the DCI decided Israel is REALLY worth attention. I explained to him the situation in general, and he nodded and said he'll manage. Then I asked him about testing for J1, and he said we'll get around to it sometime during the day. With the help of some players and Cyril's guidance we set up the tables, and he set up the computer and painfully slow and buggy printer, and we were set to go. Naturally, Allan was late and we started registration later than intended, but hey, it's Israel. Being only one hour late was already impressive enough.

Registration started, and Cyril informed us that the top 25 ranked players in Israel will get 3 byes (i.e as if they went 3-0 in the first draft). That caused a lot of revolt from the players' behalf (there were only 50 players around), which I could relate to. Hey, even I'm among the top 25. I relayed the player's arguments to Cyril and Cyril's arguments to the players, he wouldn't compromise on that rule. It was eventually resolved by DCIR refusing to acknowledge that rule as well, so he had to make everyone play the first draft, ranked top 25 or not. Gotta love quality software.

Then the next wave of assault came, the little kids who have 129 DCI numbers. For those of you who aren't familiar with that special kind of creature, the KWH129DN is a little kid, around the age of 10, who gets a new number each tournament he plays in because he lost the old one. That appeared to frustrate Cyril, as he was obviously usual to people who know what "DCI rating" is. He resolved it by giving some the 130th number for their collection, and querying his Databse for the numbers of the some of the others. Once that was all done, we were all set to go.

Allan brought along a megaphone which allowed for pretty handy crowd control. I then explained to Cyril the special drafting procedure that exists in Israel. It's a combination of rochester and booster. Everyone open their packs. After all the cards were drafted, the good players make their decks. Then the not-as-good players come to the good ones and ask for "help in deck construction". The good players look at their deck, explain to them why keeping to 40 cards is a good idea, throw their deck out of the window and make the NAG player a totally new deck of cards he deemed unworthy for his draft deck, like Kyren Negotiations and Waterfront Bouncer and the such. Once all that is done, they all play each other. Cyril just went "no way" and told me to announce over the megaphone that there will be no talking during the draft OR deck construction time. I told him it won't work. He insisted, so I shouted it. Then I also explained the until-now foreign concept of a TIMED draft to people. "see, when I say 10 seconds left, it means you need to start making up your mind. When I say "everyone pick", everyone pick". Naturally, everyone ignore my feeble attempts to time the draft, and draft whenever they feel like it. But at least they didn't talk. Much.

Then came the worst part of the day, the seating. Cyril wanted me to sit everyone next to people with whom they didn't draft. Since that is obviously a very hard concept to grasp, I tried to simplify it. "Everyone who is in Seat #1, stand up and walk to THAT table over there". Two people get up and ask me "where are we supposed to go?" the rest start making their decks, while commenting out loud about each other's decks. I shout "NOBODY START MAKING HIS DECK" so a couple of people get up and go to sit with their friends. I keep attempting to control them, but it's a lost cause. I start holding people and sitting them where they are supposed to sit, but they just get up when I turn my back and go and sit with their friends. Cyril is obviously dissatisfied with that, but I'm ignoring him as I'm busy thinking what a big shame it is I left my AK-47 in my base. My mind slowly drifts to fantasy land, where the judges switch to automatic and "thin out the numbers" when confronted with annoying players. Cyril eventually gives up and all I can offer is a sarcastic "Welcome to Israel". However, unlike me he manages to keep his cool.

Then comes the time to explain how to feel a decklist. That is obviously a grueling task, rocket science to say the least, since maybe 5 people got it right after I explained it THREE TIMES IN A ROW. Any innocent bystander would have thought it's pretty simple to register your deck, the columns are pretty obvious and that nice guy with the megaphone just explained to everyone for the third time what the "in" and "out" columns mean in the "Lands" row, and that, yes, you have to write your name on every sheet. But magic players are smarter than that. They will not be fooled by the seemingly obvious sheet, nor would they bother to listen to the judge. They will just ask him later in person, that is so much more efficient than listening when he's explaining it to everyone else. So I end up explaining 66 times how the decklist is supposed to be filled. Then people sit down to register their decks. 30 minutes pass, and I announce that deckbuilding time is up, and go to see who still didn't finish. Some guy comes to me with an empty decklist. I ask him if those are spares, and he replies "no, I couldn't find a pen". Just to make the situation painfully clear, we're looking at a 14 year old guy who didn't bring a pen along and wasn't resourceful enough to get one in THIRTY MINUTES. I control myself and go to Cyril, fully expecting Cyril to go "let's beat him up together". Cyril has an alternate route, he just sits with that guy and helps him register the decklist as quickly as possible.

After those beginning incidents, things went rather smoothly. Before round 1 started, Eviatar, one of the better players, gave me his deck so I'll see if his sleeves are marked. I look at them and they all seem the same to me. I give them to Cyril, who calls the player and starts going over the deck, face down, occasionally moving one of the cards to a different pile. Then he flips that pile over. 8 mountains. My jaw drops, as well as Eviatar's. If I could do that stunt, I would start a road show rather than be an MTG judge. Things go smoothly and the first draft is finished.

The second draft goes rather well, with everyone drafting when I tell them, not sooner or later, and keeping relatively quiet during the draft. That seating part didn't work again, but hey, you can't win them all. Deck registration also ended only 5 minutes late this time, and I begin believing that maybe we can actually have a serious event here. Second draft was also uneventful, with all the rules questions being variations on trample and protection and such other minor issues. Most exciting thing that happened all day long was two guys entering the room trying to cheat/steal cards from the younger players. The players came to complain, and I offered the thieves the choice of leaving the premise peacefully or being thrown out. They argued they didn't do anything, so I just told them it's private property and that this isn't a court of law. They replied with comments regarding my sexual orientation and left. Later they came back, bumped into some guy, which caused him to drop his draft deck, and took the deck while helping him get up. They were easily caught and the deck was retrieved as another player saw them trying to sell bunch of commons to other players and got suspicious. I told them to scram and that was the end of it. A rather positive experience, as it let me vent some anger without hurting anyone I care about. Near the end of the day all the caffeine I pumped into myself starts to wear off, and I'm more than happy to go home and crash to bed. What I learned at day 1:

1. KEEP YOUR TEMPER. I can't stress it enough. Cyril's calm attitude earned him a lot of respect, while my cynical comments about grownups who can't grasp the concept of not talking during the draft were frowned upon by some players. I'm gonna learn some yoga and be calm for the next event, promise.
2. Bring equipment for other players as well. Counters, life tracking, pens. It prevents so much small nuisances.
3. Sleeping is important. If you can't sleep at least 10 hours before a tournament, bring a lot of caffeine and use it freely. A tired judge tends to make misrulings and is much more irritable.
4. Be there on time. Preferably even before that.
5. Know what rulings to expect, and go through them until you know them by heart if woken up in the middle of the night.
6. Thieves expect zero resistance. Make a scary face and they will go search for a less problematic victim.

Day 2:

I wake up early in the morning, all ready for the next day of nationals, which is going to be a lot easier on my throat but a lot harder on my brain. I get there about 15 minutes before the set start time, and start setting up tables. Cyril then arrives and tells me he'll test me for J1ship today. Allan comes along and brings me a donut. Everything is looking bright. People start arriving, and we find out that the attendance dropped from 66 people to 50something (I'm really not sure). I guess two days is just stressing it for some people.

We start about 30 minutes late, and collect the decklists during round 1. I quickly scan over them. Two guys registered an illegal sideboard, one with 11 cards and one with 3 cards. I show it to Cyril, who in the spirit of leniency exchanges the "game loss no SB" penalty to "add basic lands until the SB is 15 cards". I go over to them and explain that the sideboard MUST be EXACTLY 15 cards. They argue they only need what they wrote. I tell them "that's great, so just fill it with basic land and we're set to go. Otherwise your deck is illegal". They shrug and do it. Another decklist didn't have a name on it, so I went and looked around for that player. After he finished the game I looked at his deck and it matched the decklist, so I flashed the decklist to him and he confirmed it's his. I told him to be more careful the next time. Then I got to one player's who is an excellent player and a good friend of mine. His decklist looked something like this: 4 keg 4 grim 3 morph 4 miscal etc. At least he bothered to write "island" and not "isle" or something. I showed it to Cyril who told me in a serious event you can get a warning or worse for it. I go and tell it to the player and warn him to not be so lazy at euros or worlds. The rest of the decklists had nothing special about them.

I went to some of the tables where two new players faced each other and made sure they knew about paris mulligan and how to determine a match winner. It turned out to be good, because 3 tables were gonna play one game and one table was gonna play to 3 wins. After all that preparation I just started watching matches at random, with an occasional "judge!" call to which I responded. Again some trample questions were asked, apparently it's a confusing ability to newer players. This time the questions regarded creatures disappearing before dying from trample damage, a trampler being blocked by multiple blockers and the ever-present trample and protection question. A couple of players facing replenish (or playing it) were interested in knowing Parallax Wave's errata (A: "if this is in play, remove..." and "return all creatures removed from the game with parallax wave other than ~this~..."). So far, so good. Round 1 ended in a timely manner.

Round 2 presented me with the famous Planar Void / Rector issue. I ask who controls each, and whose turn it is, and since it was controller of the rector's turn, I rule that the rector is removed without having a chance to fetch an enchantment. I walk away only to be called again to that table, apparently it was the other player's turn, the guy who controlled the planar void. I double-check whose turn it is with the other player, and rule that on this case, you get to fetch the enchantment (since the active player puts his triggered effect on the stack first, so it'll resolve last). I go take my A1 test and round 3 starts.

Round 3 features a feature match, with Uri "Shavuri" "Topdeck" Pelleg, the #1 ranked player in Israel and maker of pattern-rector ages before it got on the dojo, faces Eviatar Ulpiner, another fine player playing almost the exact same deck. That match is not only a nightmare to play, but also allows for a lot of odd rules questions, so I was ready to watch it and correct things before it gets too far. It starts out simple with "does treacherying a ghoul removes it from combat" (yes) and "when can I respond to rector's ability" (before it resolves, which means BEFORE you see what enchantment he's gonna get). Proceeds with "can I respond to sacrificing a patterened creature by destroying the pattern" (no) and "can I sacrifice some creatures during my upkeep to prevent defense of the heart from resolving" (yes). That remains the last outstanding match in that round, and Cyril comes to watch it. Then Uri feeds a rector to his ghoul and fetches a confiscate on Eviatar's rector. Eviatar turns around and asks Cyril "if he sacs the stolen rector, who gets to search his library for an enchantment?". I answer "he does". Cyril answers "the owner, you, do". Uh oh. I'm positive I'm right on that ruling, I made it dozens of times before on e-league tournaments, I just know I'm right on that one. But Cyril is a J4 and head of DCI Europe. He can't be wrong. I start going through my logic. "Since at the time the ability should resolve it's not in play in order to know who should resolve it the ability looks for the last known info about the card, which is that Uri controlled it because the confiscate only dies as a state triggered effect after the rector is already in the graveyard". Seems fine to me. Cyril argues that since there is no controller to the rector, it defaults to the owner. I'm willing to step back but he decides to go check the rule book, and fails to see the part that supports his argument, so he goes against what he thinks is correct is goes by my ruling. I respect him for that, not a lot of people would ignore what they think is right when some scrubby J0 comes to them and claims they made the wrong ruling and they just can't find where the rulebook says they're right. (BTW, I _was_ right. Nobody's perfect).

I get some appreciating looks for that "rule battle", and the game continues with an extension. During round 4 I was called to a table in which two young players faced off. One of them had cast a foreign Bereavment and the other didn't believe him what the card's effect was. I answered them and walked away. 2 minutes later, the same table called me and asked me something that involved trample. I noticed the players seemed pretty angry at each other at that stage, so I told them to keep their temper and ruled on the case. 5 minutes later, I notice them almost beating each other up. I go there, and they are arguing about what happened during the turn. One of them claims the other cast duress and picked might of oaks and then did something else (it's a little blurry in my head) while the other claims the duress was cast on turn 1 and that he chose rancor and so he has mana to activate his spawning pool and regenerate it on this turn. Online I would get logs and resolve it in 2 minutes. Here I just stared at them and thanked god I have Cyril. I called him and he started interrogating both of them about how the match went. Each of them said, in order, every play that happened since the beginning of the game. They recreated totally different moves since turn 1. Then one of them started going "well, it doesn't really matter, I still have mana to do what I want", and Cyril replied with "yes, but now there's a new issue, one of you lied to me and that is intolerable". He keeps grilling them both and one of them starts to change details in his story. Cyril ruled the other guy to be right and allowed the match to continue as usual. That was possibly the most interesting experience from all nats, seeing how to resolve "failure to agree on reality" without the actual ability to "go back in time" and know what happened. Rounds 5 and 6 were uneventful again, I spent most of round 6 playing some T2 and relaxing for the T8.

Top Eight:

Top eight were best out of 5, with a time limit of two hours per match. The TO created a fence of chairs around 4 tables, and sat all the quarter finalists there. That allowed the crowd to watch without getting close enough to interfere with the match itself. As a judge I got to get inside and watch the matches closely. We informed the players the T8 are going to be strict, and they all happily agreed. It ended not mattering much, except for one event when one of the replenish players removed a counter from his parallax tide, was distracted while thinking what land to remove from the game, and when he focused again he took a counter off to remove a land from the game (essentially leaving another "remove target land from the game" effect on the stack). I waited until both passed priority then stepped in and told them there's another effect on the stack. He nodded and resolved it. Another incident was when one of the players asked me something that was borderline coaching (those "can I use X to do Y" questions). I began explaining to him I'll only answer specific questions regarding a certain game state, then his opponent just gave him the right answer. Warn opponent for coaching against himself? :) The finals were wrapped up nicely with the #1 ranked player, Uri Pelleg, beating last year's champion, Orr Bildner.

What I learned at Day 2:

1. You CAN have a competitive, yet friendly, tournament. A couple more tournaments like that and people will actually know how to fill decklists and result report slips.
2. It's a good idea to identify problem matches - players who tend to fight at events facing each other, two new players, thrashtalkers and easily annoyed people, things like that. Identify them and keep an eye on them, it spares trouble further down the road.
3. How to resolve "failure to agree on reality" cases.
4. Lunch breaks aren't essential. While I haven't mentioned it before, every tourney held so far had an hour break meant for people to go get lunch. Apparently people can manage without that break, and it saves an hour of precious tournament time.
5. Missing J2 by only a few points really sucks :

That is all, I hope it's been useful, or at the very least interesting,

Doron Singer Antrax
DCI Level One Judge
E-League Level 3 Judge and Judiciary Manager

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