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Pro Tour Los Angeles - HJ Report

Collin Jackson

Pro Tour - Los Angeles 2000-2001 took place on February 2-4, 2001 on the Queen Mary boat in Long Beach, California. I was head judge for this event.

The format for all three days was Invasion Rochester draft. Because Planeshift was not yet available in stores, it was not used; had the Pro Tour had been held on the following weekend, the format would have been Invasion-Invasion-Planeshift Rochester draft.

The first day consisted of a draft, three rounds of Swiss, another draft, and then four rounds of Swiss. By contrast, the second day consisted of a draft, four rounds of Swiss, another draft, and then three rounds of Swiss. (The finals were top-8 single-elimination Rochester draft, with each match best 3 of 5.)

Pod Pairing

The reason for the switching of 3-round draft and 4-round draft between the first and second day was as follows:

The pod assignments for the very first draft are completely random, causing pro players and inexperienced drafters to be mixed together haphazardly. This results in a confusing situation that many players feel does not accurately tests their skill. We minimized this effect by allowing only three rounds to be played with the initial draft decks, and then moving on to a second draft.

This decision was not without its costs, however. Putting the 4-round draft at the end of the day created considerable pairing difficulties. The necessity of pairing players within their pod, never letting players play each other twice with a pod, pairing players with similar points together, and allowing players to drop creates many difficult dilemmas that the computer cannot solve automatically. There was an agonizingly long wait between the last few rounds of the first day as scorekeepers Gordon Culp and Thomas Bisballe handled the near-impossible task of manually resolving the pairings. Gordon and the programmer of DCI Reporter corresponded frequently throughout the event, and a new version has been compiled for PT Barcelona with an improved pod pairing algorithm.

For day 2, in order to avoid pairings problems during the last and crucial rounds of the tournament, we put the 4-round draft before the 3-round draft. There were fewer drops on day 2, so the day went very smoothly.

This Pro Tour was also the first to utilize the new cutoff system for day 2. Any player who had the same number of match points as the 96th player was allowed to play on the second day. With 327 players and only a few draws, a record of 4-3 was sufficient to make day 2. Consequently, the second day had many more players than the usual 96 as well as a number of 7-player pods. It was also slightly harder to make top 8. In general, however, we received much positive feedback about the new cutoff system and it is likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future.

Rochester Draft

Running a Rochester Draft is a rare opportunity for most judges, and thus it is a difficult skill to acquire.

For Pro Tour and Grand Prix events, each player has three boosters which are marked with three characters: a number, a letter, and then a number. The first number (1 through 5) indicates the draft for which the booster is to be used. The letter (A, B, or C) indicates whether the booster is the first, second, or third belonging to that player. The final number (1 through 8) indicates to which player the booster belongs.

When players arrive at their pod tables, they find a pod slip that gives a player number assigned to each player. These numbers are completely random but effective way of getting the players seated and identifying them throughout the draft.

Now that all players have a number and have three boosters in front of them, the draft is ready to begin. At the instruction "Player 1 - lay out the first booster," the first player lays out the booster in three rows for four followed by a row of three. On the Pro Tour we insist that the players lay out the booster in this manner because it adds to the uniformity of the draft and makes the active player identifiable at a glance.

Once the booster is laid out and the 20-second review period is complete, each player receives 4 seconds for his or her pick. The draft is called over the microphone: "Player 1... draft.... Player 2... draft," etc. For each pack, eighth player drafts twice and then the pick order moves in the other direction.

A player should not take their card when their player number is called but rather should wait for the "draft" instruction. Once the "draft" instruction is called, the player has a grace period during which they must pick their card. If "draft" is called for the next player and the original player has still not picked a card, then the judge must step in and assign a card arbitrarily to the original player. This is always the oldest card laid out on the table, based on the assumption that the pack was laid out on three rows of four followed by a row of three, from left to right.

I find it helpful to have a written record of the draft order just in case I get lost when calling the draft. This isn't really necessary under normal circumstances, but it is nice to have a number to point to if the draft gets paused midway through a pack.

My table looks like this:

First and Third Booster Second Booster
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 8
3 4 5 6 7 8 1 6 5 4 3 2 1 8
3 4 5 6 7 8 1 2 6 5 4 3 2 1 8 7
4 5 6 7 8 1 2 5 4 3 2 1 8 7
4 5 6 7 8 1 2 3 5 4 3 2 1 8 7 6
5 6 7 8 1 2 3 4 3 2 1 8 7 6
5 6 7 8 1 2 3 4 4 3 2 1 8 7 6 5
6 7 8 1 2 3 4 3 2 1 8 7 6 5
6 7 8 1 2 3 4 5 3 2 1 8 7 6 5 4
7 8 1 2 3 4 5 2 1 8 7 6 5 4
7 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 2 1 8 7 6 5 4 3
8 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 8 7 6 5 4 3
8 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 7 6 5 4 3 2

For each booster, begin at the upper left and move right until you get to the end of the row. Then the draft order reverses. Drop down one level and continue backwards from right to left.

The majority of draft stoppages are the result of faulty packs that contain 16 or 14 cards. On the Pro Tour we replace 16-card packs rather than randomly removing a card. Packs with multiples of a card or erroneous rarity are generally not replaced.

The rules for seven player pods are a little different. According to the Universal Tournament Rules, each player gets to draft no more than two cards from the booster, which means that the draft follows the usual horseshoe pattern and each player ends up picking two cards from the pack. The final card of each booster is collected by the judge and is not used.

For seven player pods that are being called by microphone, a judge is normally present as the "eighth player." When player eight is instructed to pick a card, no one picks. When player eight is instructed to lay out a booster, no booster is laid out and the table sits through that booster without drafting. At the end of each draft-calling sequence, the judge ensures that the active player drafts a card (since he or she was not instructed to do so over the microphone) and then collects the final card.

Deck Registration

Players had 30 minutes to build their decks, after which they returned to the draft area to get their land.

We experimented with a new method of land distribution at this event. At other draft Pro Tours we have had a few "land stations" with judges to distribute the land and check over the decklists.

Since we had plenty of land available for this event, we decided to allow the players to grab the land themselves while the judge looked over their decklist. We also had one judge in charge of "crowd control," that is, making sure that each land station was being equally used. This ended up eliminating the long lines that generally characterize land stations and the new method was well-received by both players and judges.

Alphabetizing and checking all 327 decklists is potentially a daunting task, but with a well-organized team of judges, the process was quick and efficient. For each draft, by the beginning of the second round we had identified all the "problem" decklists and the appropriate penalties were assessed at that time.

We gave out a stunning ten game losses and two match losses for decklist infractions for the first draft, but the other three drafts were relatively uneventful. I think that as the tournament progressed the players learned how important it is to check your decklist carefully before handing it in.

Slow Play

Although Constructed Pro Tours normally have 60 minute rounds, Limited Pro Tours have historically been restricted to 50 minute rounds because of the additional time burden imposed by drafting. Starting with this Pro Tour, however, the time limit for Limited Pro Tours has also been increased to 60 minutes. It is the decision of the DCI that the benefits resulting from fewer draws and less stalling far outweigh the logistical advantages of 50-minute rounds.

And indeed, at this Pro Tour the long rounds combined with a fast play environment to produce a record low in terms of 1-0 and 1-1 matches.

2-0 2-1 1-1 1-0 ID Played Matches 1-0 or 1-1 % timed out
PTLA1999 (Saga) 740 593 45 9 20 1387 54 3.89%
PTLA2000 (Masques) 719 538 87 22 17 1366 109 7.98%
PTLA2001 (Invasion) 871 719 17 2 1 1609 19 1.18%
PTNY2000 (Masques-Nemesis) 625 480 81 32 19 1218 113 9.28%
PT Chicago 2000 (Standard) 687 586 45 3 20 1321 48 3.63%

(Data comes from results archived on the Sideboard website. Byes are not counted)

As you can see, the new top 96 cutoff makes intentional draws very rare. There was only one intentional draw between Michael Gurney and Benedikt Klauser in the final round.

We did have one interesting slow play incident, however. Two players were running out of time in their third game, and were playing very rapidly. Each player would simply draw and say "go." Then, suddenly, a player looked up at the clock (there were 30 seconds remaining), and stopped to think for 30 seconds. Time ran out, and it appeared that the player was one extra turn short of getting decked.

At first we were very concerned that the player might have stalled for 30 seconds to get a draw instead of a loss. But I looked at the cards remaining in the player's deck and to my surprise, there were two copies of Sunscape Apprentice! Sunscape Apprentice is a white creature with the ability "U, T: Put target creature you control on top of its owner's library." With this creature in play, it is impossible to get decked.

We pulled the player aside and he told us that he was planning an attack and he knew about the Apprentices. He had no islands in his deck or in play, but he had a Nomadic Elf, which has the ability "1G: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool." The opponent was very bewildered when we ruled that the match should continue without penalty, but he understood when we explained the situation after the match.

This is a good example of why judges need to be aware of strategic game play considerations before stepping in with stalling penalties.

Rules Questions

Despite the presence of the new Magic rules manager Paul Barclay, players did not rise to the occasion and the rules questions were generally very tame.

Q: How does Barrin's Spite work? A: When the spell is played, its controller chooses the two targets. Then the opponent chooses what's going to happen to each target-which one is to be sacrificed, and which one is to be returned to its owner's hand. Then the controller pays the mana cost of Barrin's Spite. At this point either player may respond. When Barrin's Spite resolves, for each remaining legal target, it performs the predetermined action.

Q: If Skizzik is brought into play by Twilight's Call, can you pay the kicker? A: No. Skizzik will be sacrificed at end of turn.

Q: A player plays a kicker creature and taps the extra mana for the kicker, but doesn't announce that the kicker's being paid. What happens? A: At this event we gave the player a warning and allowed him or her to pay the kicker.

Q: One player declares an attack and the other player uses Benalish Trapper to tap down a creature. Can the attacking player now play sorceries before attacking? A: It is ambiguous as to when the Trapper is being used. At this event we gave the Trapper player a warning and asked them whether they were playing the ability in combat or during the main phase. It is almost always a strategically better play to use the Trapper during combat; however, you need to announce what you're doing in either case.

Q: A player looks at his hand before announcing his play/draw decision. What happens? A: At this event we gave the player a warning and allowed the opponent to make the play/draw decision. The opponent was furthermore allowed to look at his or her own hand before making this decision.

Q: Suppose a judge is assigned to deck-check a table, but upon approaching the table he notices that both players have already drawn their opening hands. What should the judge do? A: Unless there is a compelling reason to deck-check that particular table, it is better to pick a different table nearby for the deck-check. The best time to take decks away for a deck-check is right when they are presented for a cut.

That's all I have for now. I'd like to extend a special thank-you to all the judges and staff who helped run the event. Despite the computer problems on Friday evening, the tournament was overall a success due to your hard work and enthusiasm!

Collin Jackson
Level 4 Judge

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