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PT Chicago Judge Report

January 30 - February 2, 2000: Chicago, Illinois USA

Shawn Doherty

I have been judging events for 1.5 years, mostly local PTQs and other events around Chicago. As I am currently a graduate student at Northwestern University, I have neither the time nor the money to get to many professional magic events. Pro Tour Chicago was going to be my first high-level judging experience, but I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to judge the main event or just side events. On the Wednesday before the Pro Tour started, I received an email from James Lee telling me that I could help out at the Masters Gateway and he would tell me what I would do for the rest of the weekend there.

Masters Gateway

Early Thursday morning, I took one-hour train ride into the city to judge the Masters Gateway. When I arrived, I met James Lee, Jeff Donais, and a couple of other Wizards of the Coast people at the location. We set up the tables and took registration until the event began. The first 3 rounds of the event was sealed deck followed by two 8-person drafts. All of the cards had been opened and stamped; however, all of the land had been separated out and sorted. Since the event was single elimination, 18 people had byes, so there would be 64 people remaining after the first round. The tournament ran very smoothly with no major rules questions. There was some questions about how the matches were decided if the games were tied at the end of the round. The first change in life total was used to determine who advanced, which led to interesting sideboarding by the players.

After three rounds, the remaining 16 people were separated into two 8-person draft tables with the winner of each table advancing to the Masters tournament. The drafts ran smoothly and the players built their decks and began playing.


Shawn Doherty supervises Darwin and Andrew drafting during the Chicago Masters.

Ruling #1: Blind Seer. Sometime during the Gateway, a player asked about interaction between Essence Leak and Blind Seer. He wanted to know if there was a chance for the Blind Seer to make a permanent red or green in order to make the Essence Leak trigger. The Seer will not be able to target the permanent until after the "beginning of upkeep" effects are checked, so the Essence Leak would not trigger.

Masters Tournament

The Masters tournament was a single elimination booster draft tournament and I watched one of the four tables during the first draft. The draft went without any problems and the first round began after deck construction was complete. These rounds were untimed and due to the small number of matches and size of the judging staff, I was able to watch one match for the entire round (Jon Finkel vs. John Ormerod). There was one ruling I made during the match.

Ruling #2: Phyrexian Infiltrator tricks. During the match, Jon had a Phyrexian Infiltrator in play and enough mana to activate it twice. After damage had been put on the stack, Jon activated the Infiltrator targeting his own creature that was going to receive lethal damage. Then he targeted one of his opponents creatures with the Infiltrator. When the two abilities resolved, Jon took control of his opponent's creature and gave him the Infiltrator, then Jon got back the Infiltrator and his opponent received the creature with lethal damage assigned to it. The switching trick was not debated, but his opponent wanted to know if the creature would still receive damage. Since damage had already been assigned to it, the damage would resolve and the creature would be destroyed.

After judging the first round of the Masters event, I left for the day, since I had another hour-long train ride to get home and had to be back on the train again early in the morning. Before I left, I talked to James Lee and he said I could judge both days of the Pro Tour, if I wanted. Sweet! I had expected to maybe get to judge one day, but getting both days was a treat. I get home by 11:30 pm and get a nice 6 hours of sleep.

Pro Tour Chicago - Day 1


Judges were instructed to crack down on slow play for the tournament.

Day one of the Pro Tour started out with a judges' meeting where Jeff Donais explained important issues for the event. The biggest emphasis was on slow play. Jeff wants to make sure that slow play is stopped and that players are aware that they will get warnings or greater penalties if a judge feel that they are playing slow. I was a bit concerned that I may have trouble enforcing slow play, but I felt that I could call another member of the judging staff if it was a problem. Also at the judges meeting, we were divided into four teams of five judges. My team was led by Mike Feuell with Darrell Wyatt, Adam Cetnerowski, and Namir Elias as the other team members. All the judges were provided with a judges' handbook that contained the penalty reference guide and the Extended Oracle. This book was an excellent reference during the tournament, even though a few random pages were accidentally left out of the Oracle. (Some cards missing: Recall, Reverent Mantra, Mana Short, and Overburden). Because Recall was not in the judges handbook, Colin Jackson, who made the rulebook, explained that the card does not target and the cards are chosen during the resolution of the spell. Only "X" is chosen during the announcement of Recall. I had to explain this to a couple of players during the tournament, but it was not a big problem. After the judges meeting, the players meeting began where the deck lists were collected from all 327 players and some rules were explained to them, including the emphasis on avoiding slow play.

Day one consisted of seven rounds of Swiss format and each judging team would have a specific responsibility for each round. Every team would either do deck checks, pass out pairings, or just be out on the floor. Each team was responsible for each task twice during the day with one round as a break.

Ruling #3: Misdirection. During the first round I was watching the match, when I saw the following stack develop: creature spell, Absorb (targeting spell), Foil (targeting absorb), Misdirection (targeting Foil), Misdirection (targeting first Misdirection). The first point of confusion was that the player who misdirected the Foil named the new target of the Foil before the Misdirection resolved. The second point of confusion was whether the second Misdirection could target the first Misdirection. When a second judge came over, it was established that Misdirection only has a single target so it could be misdirected. However, the other judge stated that the new target of the misdirected spell was chosen on announcement of Misdirection. This statement confused the players further. I corrected the other judge and explained to both players that the new target was declared on resolution of Misdirection. When the newer Misdirection resolved, it retargeted the earlier Misdirection to the newer one. Then the earlier Misdirection was countered because its target was gone. Then another counterspell was cast on the Foil, which resolved, which allowed the Absorb to resolve, countering the original spell.

Deck Checks: During the next few rounds, our team worked the floor and did deck checks. For the deck checks, the most difficult part was looking for marked sleeves. Besides looking for slow play, I think that this is the most subjective part of a judge's duties. In one of the early rounds, a player had to resleeve his entire deck, while his opponent did not have to make any sleeve changes. However, the opponents sleeves were in far worse condition that the player who had to resleeve. This disparity was because two different judges checked the two decks and they had different standards for marked sleeves. For the rest of the tournament, when I did a deck check, I had the other judge helping me look at the sleeves before making any warnings, so that our rulings would be consistent. For the most part, the sleeves were in fine condition with a few sleeves that had to be replaced. I gave out cautions for these problems, since there was no intent and no game advantage could be gained. I refrained from giving a full warning, since it was a long tournament and the sleeves would become worn during the event. If a player had two deck checks, and a couple of bad sleeves were found each time, a game loss would be awarded (according to REL 5), which I felt was too harsh for the situation.

Two of the more unusual rulings that I was directly involved with occurred later in the day and showed me that strange things can happen high level events.

Ruling #4: Drawing extra cards. A player called me over and stated that they had only taken four turns each but his opponent had five lands in play. I asked the opponent for clarification and he stated that he had cast Fact or Fiction during the main phase of his fourth turn, but thought that he was doing it during the end of his opponents turn. So after the Fact of Fiction resolved, he untapped, drew a card, and played a land, thinking that it was the beginning of his turn. I counted the cards that each player had drawn and it fit the described situation. Therefore, I gave the opponent a game loss for drawing extra cards.

Ruling #5: Too many cards. A player told me that his opponent had too many cards in his deck. I was surprised by the comment, so I questioned both players. The player that called me over said that he counted his opponents deck after sideboarding and found it contained 61 cards. I asked his opponent how many cards were supposed to be in his deck. He told me that only 60 cards were supposed to be in the deck and that he must have sideboarded in more cards than he sideboarded out. Since the player admitted that he had too many cards in his deck, I did not check his deck list. I issued him a game loss for having an illegal main deck, since it did not match his deck list. This problem is a good reason not to sleeve the sideboard, just the main deck.

Pro Tour Chicago - Day 2


A second judge meeting was held on Day 2 to review the rulings from the previous day.

Review from Day One. The day two judges meeting was a chance to talk about unusual rulings that came up on day one. The most controversial was a ruling made about Tsabo's Decree and Longbow Archer. One player cast a Tsabo's Decree trying to destroy his opponents Longbow Archer. However, the player named "archer" as his creature type, since the Visions Longbow Archer in play said "Summon Archer". However, the creature type of Longbow Archer is now soldier. The judge ruled that since the Longbow Archer was a soldier, not an archer, that it would survive the Tsabo's Decree. There was no appeal to the head judge, but after some discussion, Mike Donais, the head judge, felt that players should not be penalized for not knowing the new creature types, so in future cases, the Longbow Archer would be destroyed. After this discussion, there was renewed emphasis placed on giving slow play warnings. A list of prior warnings was also made available at the scorekeeper's table so that judges would know whether they needed to upgrade any penalty given to a player.

The rounds on the second day were much easier to judge, since the number of player had been reduced from 327 to only 96 and the number of judges remained about the same. Although Day two had less people, the rulings were more important, since more money was on the line. Several rulings were between players who felt their opponent was trying to trick them or cheat them.

Ruling #6: Cheating?. A player called me over and told me that his opponent was trying to cheat. His opponent had tapped five lands and cast a Lin Sivvi and Steadfast Guard, but he could not produce four white mana without taking damage from a Brushland. The player that called me stated that his opponent stacked his land as he tapped them, hiding the fact that he had to take damage. He also said that his opponent did not take the damage until he picked up the lands and told him to take the damage. His opponent admitted that the lands were in a stack, but stated that he took damage immediately after casting the two creatures. After hearing the two explanations, I felt that the opponent was not trying to cheat. I did give him a misrepresentation warning, since he did not take the damage from the Brushland until after he played the creatures. I let the game continue, but checked to see if the player had any prior warnings. Since he had no similar warnings, I did not need to upgrade the penalty to a game loss.

After the top eight players were announced, the entire judging staff had a wrap-up meeting, which was when we thanked everyone for all the hard work they did for the event. We also received some cool foil cards, which was a nice touch. The judges then got together to do another draft.

In Summary. I got the chance to talk to many high level judges and players, which gave me a greater perspective of the state of the game and my place in it. It also inspired me to try to get to more Pro Tour events and to try to advance to a Level 3 judge. I encourage anyone who has not been to a Pro Tour event to try to get to one when you have the opportunity. It is a chance to mingle with the best of the judging community and see the game played at its highest level. Even if you are not able to judge the event, just show up to watch and talk to others.



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