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Pro Tour Chicago - HJ Report

Mike Donais

Chicago was a great experience for me as it was my first opportunity to serve as head judge for a Pro TourTM event. I was scheduled to serve as head judge for the Masters Series event, but the Thursday night before Pro Tour-Chicago started the person scheduled to serve as head judge was called into work for an emergency and was not able to make it. That left Collin Jackson and me as the only two level 4 judges on site, and I accepted the task. Fortunately, I had my black-and-red-striped judge's shirt with me because I thought I might use it while head judging the Masters event. I sat in on the player registration just in case anyone had any rules questions, and a few did come up. They are as follows:

Q: What happens when a Phyrexian Negator is blocked by a 5-power creature?
A: The Negator dies-then the triggered effect makes you sacrifice five more permanents. The Negator cannot be one of those permanents.

Q: What happens when I cast Absorb on Urza's Rage?
A: Urza's Rage still resolves. Absorb also resolves, and the caster of Absorb gains 3 life.

Q: What happens when I cast Memory Lapse on Urza's Rage?
A: Urza's Rage still resolves. Memory Lapse also resolves, but the clause "put that card on top of its owner's library instead of into the graveyard" never happens because the card does not go to the graveyard during the resolution of Memory Lapse.

During Pro Tour play Darwin Kastle had Lobotomy Misdirected to himself. He asked me if he had to reveal his hand to his opponent. I told him that he didn't. He then asked me if he had to choose a card. I had to be careful with my answer so that I would not give him more information than he was asking for. I repeated his question to him so that it was clear what he was asking. I then told him that he did have to choose a card because the verb "choose" in the Magic game means that you must find something if possible. What makes Lobotomy tricky is that it says to search your hand, library, and graveyard for all copies of that card. The verb "search'" in Magic allows you ignore any copies even if copies exist. Darwin didn't ask about "search," though, so he ended up removing four cards from his hand and library. It is sometimes difficult to answer a player's question without giving away too much or too little information; however, I feel that I gave the right amount of information in that situation.

Judge Team Assignments

The night before the tournament I was given a list of all the judges from Judge Manager James Do Hung Lee. I used this list to design judge teams for Pro Tour-Chicago. Generally, at big events like Pro Tours and World Championships, the judges are split into teams of five or six. Each team has assigned duties such as posting pairings and standings, distributing match-result slips, and doing deck checks. I also needed a judge for the feature match area and for doing level 1 and 2 judge certification.

I first chose the team leaders for my judge teams. When choosing these people you must take many things into account. I chose James Do Hung Lee as one team leader because he was the judge manager, and I wanted him to get an opportunity to meet and work with more judges. I also felt that he had room for advancement in leading groups at a high-level event. James is also very good with people, a quality that makes him a good team leader. I tried to make sure his team consisted of judges with whom he was not familiar so that he could fill in the blanks. The second judge I chose was Collin Jackson. Collin was helping me test four candidates for level 3 certification this weekend, and I wanted him to lead a team with the prospective candidates so that he could see them in action. Collin had previous experience with one of the four judges already, so I put the remaining three on his team. I didn't know Gijsbert Hoogendijk very well but I had heard many good things about him and wanted to give him as much experience as possible at this North American event since he lives in Europe. I tried to give him a well-rounded team because I didn't know what his strengths and weaknesses were. The fourth team was led by Mike Feuell. Mike is an experienced level 3 judge with whom I have worked several times in the past. With all four teams I tried to ensure a nice balance of people with strong rules knowledge, and I also tried to make sure people got to work with judges with whom they didn't normally get a chance to work.

I chose Sheldon Menery for the feature match area because I hadn't used him as a team leader, and I figured he would do a good job without needing any support. I consider Sheldon a well-rounded judge. Mark Rosewater was also in the feature match area making sure the matches were exciting and that the players used the "red zone" properly. This zone is part of the new playmats designed to be used on television; they make the layout of the game easier to view for spectators. The "red zone" is the zone that attacking creatures are put into when they attack. John Shannon was assigned to oversee level 1 and 2 judge certification. He seemed to be doing a good job whenever I'd pop in to visit.

Judge Testing

As previously mentioned, I also tested four judges for level 3 certification during the weekend. This kept me very busy because I wanted to be in on all of the interviews in addition to head judging the main event. The candidates all had some level 3-quality strengths, but they also had some weaknesses. The judges involved in the interview process were Collin Jackson, Jeff Donais, James Lee, Gijsbert Hoogendijk, and me. Collin and I were involved in all of the interviews and the others were involved in one or two each. I feel that three to four judges are the optimal number for a level 3 judge interview, with three probably being better than four. We had worked out numerous scenarios ahead of time with which to test. Collin tested their rules knowledge to save me time. He also went over the written tests with them. At the end of the candidates' tests, we told them what we thought their strengths and weaknesses were and how they might become more skilled. We discussed some key attributes of successful Magic tournament judges:

  1. Diplomatic-judges must be able to deal with players, making them leave satisfied even if they are being penalized.
  2. Rules savvy
  3. Adept at interpreting penalties-judges must be good at interpreting penalties for different situations. These are not always covered in the penalty guidelines.
  4. Decisive-judges must be able to come to decisions in a reasonable amount of time.
  5. Open minded-judges should be able to change their minds when given new information.
  6. Strong willed-judges should not be intimidated into changing their minds just because a player is good at arguing. (A nice balance between items five and six is a plus.)
  7. Authoritative-a judge should speak with some degree of authority and be able to take control of a situation quickly and present a carefully thought-out decision with confidence.
  8. Logical-a judge should be able to back up decisions with sound reasoning.
  9. Organized-judges should be properly prepared for events.
  10. Knowledgeable of DCITM Reporter
  11. Adaptable-judges must know how to act if something unexpected happens, like the event site closing early.
  12. Hard working-judges must work hard to make events run as smoothly as possible.

Many of my favorite judges excel at some of these while not being so good at others. Use this list to help determine your own strengths and weaknesses.

Judge Meeting

I didn't have much time to plan for the judge meeting, but I did explain duties to the teams. I also tried to explain the importance of cracking down on stalling. Giving a penalty for slow play is difficult for many judges, but I told them that it is very important. Players can be penalized for slow play even if they have a lot of decisions to make. We gave several penalties for slow play during the weekend but probably not as many as we should have. This is an area in which we are slowly improving.

Deck Checks

During the players meeting we collected all of the decklists. As always, we counted all of the decks and sideboards during the first round. We also checked for other obvious errors like cards listed twice and cards that are not legal. We found an Ivory Tower on one list that turned out to be an Ivory Mask. We also found approximately four decks with fewer than 60 cards. We deck-checked those players and gave them the appropriate penalties. On Day 2, when we entered all of the decks into a deck-analysis software package, we discovered that one player had written Salt Flats instead of Salt Marsh. Each round we checked three tables (six decks each). Each year people get a little better at filling out decklists, but there are still problems. Marked sleeves continue to present problems. Almost every deck has something wrong with the sleeves, and I am not pleased that this continues to be an issue. I hope that sleeve manufacturers begin producing higher-quality sleeves to solve this problem.

This covers everything that I think might be interesting or helpful to other judges. Please let me know if I've omitted anything, and I'll cover it in my next report. Thanks for reading.

Mike Donais
Level 4 Judge

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