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PT Barcelona - HJ Report

Thomas Bisballe

(Note to readers: This report has been edited for grammar and language and some explanation has been added in a few areas). Please excuse any grammar errors, as the writer is not a native English speaker.

Pro Tour-Barcelona took place May 4-6, 2001. The format was Booster Draft for the Pro Tour and Invasion Block Constructed for the Masters Series tournament.

On Thursday, I went to help out as a judge at the Masters Series Gateway tournament where I was assigned to the team that sorted and checked the decks for the first few rounds. We tried a system that is widely used in countries in which many players have the same name. For example, in a country like Portugal, it's very confusing to sort decklists by the players' names at extremely large tournaments because many players have the same name.

The system works like this: Print a master player list that includes player numbers. Write the participants' player numbers in large numerals on their decklists. After writing the player numbers on all the decklists, sort the decklists by player number. When a decklist is needed, look up the participant's player number on the master player list and then shuffle through the lists for the decklist with the corresponding player number.

The judge meeting at 8:00am Friday morning.

Writing player numbers on the decklists was an additional task, and the sorting afterward took about the same time as sorting by letter. Also, people looking for decklists who were unfamiliar with the system took a little longer to find what they were looking for. Personally I found it took a bit of extra time in general. Keep in mind that the DCI players' organization often tests new things at Pro Tours because the players and judges at these events give high-quality feedback.

[Reviewer comment: Sorting decklists by name is the easiest method to use and is very user-friendly. It is generally the superior method to use. For very large tournaments in which many players have the same first and last names, using the player-number system to organize decklists may help avoid problems; however, using a player's DCI number after the name would do just as well and would not require judges, tournament officials, or reporters to learn a new method of finding decklists. -Jeff Donais]

There were a very low number of rulings, and only very basic rules questions were presented to me during the Masters tournament. This may have been because the decks were already tested against each other and local judges had answered questions that turned up during testing.

Two incidents did come up, though. During the untimed, single-elimination Masters competition, two players were stuck: They both had an Elfhame Sanctuary in play. Each player would have run out of cards if he drew a card, but each could use Elfhame Sanctuary to skip his draw steps. As player interaction was required to keep the game going, the game wouldn't automatically end in a draw-it would just go on forever. Anyway, the score at this time was one game each and a draw, and because the tournament was single elimination, the match couldn't end in a draw. So a fourth game will begin which is determined by the first life total difference (only if the match is timed, of course). If a judge hasn't been called over to issue the technical draw. Assuming the life totals were different, the life total difference when the round ended would have decided the winner of the game if there was a time limit The solution the situation was to call over a judge to rule the game is a draw if both players are tied for life total and neither player is performing any actions that will alter the game's finish. This solution is only required if player's are tied in games and life total or there is no time limit on the round (which may occur in the finals of a Pro Tour or during rounds of the Masters Series). This is just a possible solution to this problem and isn't official DCI policy.

In the second incident, two players disagreed on whether or not one had played a land earlier in a long turn. The one who called me over to the table wasn't quite sure, and the other claimed that he was certain he hadn't played a land. The land drop was likely to affect the outcome of the game. Unfortunately, there was a lot of card drawing in the elapsed game and there was no outside evidence. My card count indicated that the player did, in fact, play a land earlier that turn, and I ruled in his opponent's favor. The player seemed seriously distressed, and my ruling cost him the game. At the end of the day, we found out a spectator had filmed some of the match on his digital recorder, and we learned that the player did indeed play a land earlier in that turn.

Friday morning, I made sure to be at the event earlier than the rest of the staff. I had organized the teams of judges in advance, but I had to make some minor adjustments for judges that were arrived late or showed up without prior notification. The teams were formed in such a way as to maximize the number of languages spoken on each team. I also put an up-and-coming judge on each team and an experienced judge on each team.

During the event, I made sure to talk to all the judges. Checking in with the judges allowed me to answer their questions and to hear their thoughts on the event and how their teams were doing, as well as to see if they had any suggestions for improvement. This is a list of judges from PT Barcelona.

When the teams arrived, team leaders got round-by-round descriptions of their schedules. I took some time to explain the details to them to ensure everyone understood the schedules. To send a clear signal that peeking at other players' cards is a form of cheating and would not be tolerated, I stressed the importance of watching out for peeking during the draft. I informed the players that anyone looking at his or her neighbors' cards or flashing his or her own cards would receive a warning. The penalty for a second offence would be disqualification from the event without prizes.

During the players meeting, we had informed the players how we ruled on peeking. We informed them of our zero tolerance for slow play. We also explained that priority and phase miscommunication connected to tapping creatures before declare attackers step would be ruled with us assuming players knew the timing, and that if nothing was said otherwise, the default was that players tapped creatures at the beginning of attack step instead of during the main phase.

Thomas Bisballe, Mike Donais, Gordon Culp and Ilja Rotelli preparing for the draft.

Jeff Donais called the draft, and Mike Donais and I were ready to solve any problems during the draft and to minimize the delays if any stops occurred. In one instance, a player drafted a card from a booster and put it on top of his drafted cards. He then picked that card up and chose the same card again. The player received a warning because a card is considered chosen once the player puts it on top of the pile of drafted cards and lets go of it. We also had to replace two booster packs that didn't have exactly fifteen cards. Thanks to Mike Donais and his lightning-quick reactions, we were able to make a proxy without even stopping the draft.

Friday Rulings

Alloy Golem/Shifting Sky
I was asked what color an Alloy Golem is when a Shifting Sky is in play. Shifting Sky decides the color of the Golem, regardless of which came into play first.

Spreading Plague and "Gating" Creatures
A player asked in what order the triggered abilities happen if he plays a "gating" creature while he has Spreading Plague in play. Both have trigger abilities that trigger on the creature coming into play. The player chooses the order the abilities are put on the stack. This allows the player to do some interesting tricks with Spreading Plague, a gating creature, and his two Tidal Visionaries.

Lashknife Barrier/Damage Prevention Shields
A player controls a creature that is going to be dealt 2 damage. The player has shields up preventing the next 2 points of damage dealt to that creature, and he also has Lashknife Barrier in play. He wants to know if he can save a 1-point shield. In other words, can he choose the order in which Lashknife Barrier's effect and the damage prevention shields are applied? Since Lashknife Barrier's text uses "instead," it's a replacement effect. Damage prevention is also a replacement. The controller of the affected permanent or the affected player chooses.

Tsabo's Assassin
A player asked if the Tsabo's Assassin's target has to be legal on the announcement of the Assassin's ability. Yes, an ability with the word target is targeted and the target has to be legal on announcement to play the ability.

The day went pretty smoothly, apart from the Xavier incident. I made a statement to the press after each disqualification to prevent incorrect rumors from spreading. For high-level events, the head judge is required to make an official statement if someone is disqualified. Basically, I believed the player was not acting completely honestly during this situation. My statement is located here.

At the end of the day, I filled out the evaluation forms about each of the senior judges. I gathered information for the evaluations by conferring with senior judges' team members and by reading my own notes. This is a good way to monitor whether judges keep their skills sharp for the players safety and to ensure high-quality judges.

On Saturday, I reorganized the teams to give other judges a chance to lead a team and to make sure most were seen in the roles of a leader and floor judge. When the judges arrived, I distributed copies of the team assignments and tasks to the team members so that they could help make sure all tasks were carried out.

To ensure that the event started immediately, we prepared the draft pods on the Saturday morning prior to the players meeting. The pods were made with random player seating in pods. When the players by pod are printed by DCI Reporter you can see the seat within the pod the players have. DCI Reporter randomly assigns a seat to each player. That way you avoid the player with the highest standing in a pod always having the same seat or always having choice of seats.

Jaap Brouwer and Jeff Donais doing deck checks.

One player got a peeking warning for having both elbows planted on the table and fanning out his cards so that they were visible to the two players on either side of him. He got a warning for peeking, but when this came to my attention, I carefully considered upgrading to a disqualification even though the draft was still going on. The warning system that tracks a player's warning history from previous events eventually catches up with those who have repeated violations of the rules.

Again, we tested the numerical sorting of the decklists and found it slightly less functional than sorting by the first letter of the last name.

Saturday Rulings

Agonizing Demise/Pro Black Creature
Agonizing Demise is a spell with a single target and is countered if the target is illegal on resolution. The defender doesn't get any damage from the kicker portion of the spell.

Tsabo Tavoc/Keldon Necropolis
Protection from Legends vs. Legendary damage
How does protection from legends vs. legendary work? "Legendary" is not the same as "Legend," because Legend is a creature type and Legendary is not. Hence Tsabo Tavoc is not immune to Keldon Necropolis.


Slow Play
I was called over to a situation with a lot of tension. A Spanish-speaking player was playing an English-speaking player. They disagreed on what had happened, and had problems communicating. A judge tried to resolve the situation without gaining much ground, so I stepped in to resolve the matter. The Spanish-speaking player narrated step by step exactly what happened, and it checked out with the cards in play, in the graveyard, and in hand.

The English-speaking player couldn't give a step-by-step narration, but disagreed about the order of events in the second to the last turn. I decided to use the Spanish-speaking player's version of events, but I let the match continue from the point where I had been called in. I think a little of the tension came from the fact that each player thought he was in the losing position and that the other player would win: The Spanish-speaking player held six lands, and the English-speaking player thought the other had a bag full of tricks.

Judges Juan Tavira, Thomas Bisballe and Mario Van Leeuwen mediating a disagreement.

After that, I decided to stay at that match, as it was already late in the round and there was some tension between the players. After a while, it became evident that the Spanish-speaking player probably couldn't win. But there were many permanents on the table and a lot of tricks and interaction, and the Spanish-speaking player kept analyzing each turn. It was the first game of the match, so it was probably futile to grasp for straws; however, players should always play at a pace that allows for three games to finish within the time limit, and he was clearly not doing that. I gave him a slow-play warning and asked him to speed up his turns. He didn't. At a point in the game where things looked even worse for him, he took a very long turn. I put my stopwatch on the table to subtly remind him that he was getting out of line. He still didn't act. After a few more minutes, still in the same turn, I gave him a second slow-play warning and a match loss.

I would like to thank

  • The judge staff that made this event run smoothly and who dealt with events professionally and swiftly;
  • Cyril Grillon, Jeff Donais, and Mike Donais for their sage advice;
  • Omeed Dariani for his cooperation in helping create a successful event; and
  • Diana Johns and Jerry Rubin for their professionalism in getting the foundation of the site in place.

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