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IBC Challenge at REL2 - Judge Report

Christian Sieber

August 18th I had the opportunity to head judge a local tournament with a relatively large cash prize. We hold these tournaments about once per month and the cash attracts most of the intense players in the area. We use decklists, do deck checks, and are generally much more strict than at Friday Night Magic (which is our most regular tournament). In addition, this was Mike Radloff's first tournament as the organizer for the store. Normally I am the tournament organizer, but since I leave for college in a week, we had to make a change.

The tournament began on a sour note, as Mike did not show up on time. He instructed me to be there at 9 AM (an hour before the store opened.) I arrived on time, but Mike was nowhere to be found. I do not have a key to the store, so I was out of luck. I waited there for 20 minutes, but Mike did not arrive, so I decided to go eat. I arrived back at the store at 9:55, just as Kurt (the store manager) opened for business. A quick phone call to Mike confirmed that he had indeed overslept and was just now leaving.

I set up the scorekeeping station in the back of the store and made sure we had the appropriate number of tables and chairs. After a minimum of preparation, I was ready to enroll players. Once Mike arrived, I explained that we would be using a more efficient system of enrollment than we had previously done. I would be at the scorekeeping station in the back room, and Mike would stand at the door and collect entry fees as players filed by. He would tell me each player's DCI number as he collected their money, and upon my confirmation of their name, proceed to the next person. This worked extremely well and avoided the headache I normally have of collecting money, decklists, and handling registration all at the same time.

Before we began round one we seated all the players alphabetically and collected decklists at that point. This solved a multitude of problems. It prevents players handing in an erroneous decklist and wanting to retrieve and change it (which is a violation of section 52 of the Universal Tournament Rules). It allowed Mike to not worry about decklists during registration. It let us collect decklists pre-sorted by name. It also allowed us to make pre-tournament announcements without the distractions of players preparing for their match. I feel like this system (which added about 10 minutes to the tournament) has enough benefits to outweigh the lost time.

52. Constructed Deck Registration, Universal Tournament Rules

The head judge or tournament organizer may require players to register their decks and sideboard (if applicable) upon arrival at a tournament. Registration records the original composition of each deck. Once a tournament official receives a player's decklist, the deck may not be altered. Failure to properly register a deck will result in the head judge applying the appropriate provisions of the DCI Penalty Guidelines. The DCI recommends (and in the case of enhanced K-values, the DCI requires) that organizers check a reasonable number of decks against their decklists each round.


Allowing a player to retrieve and change a decklist is a violation of Section 52

Round 1 passed smoothly. I verified each decklist's legality and then walked the floor for the rest of the round. Mike is also a Level 1 judge, so I was able to leave the floor to deal with things throughout the day. I find that for any tournament it is helpful to have one assistant so that a temporary absence will not make the tournament collapse. I gave a warning to Jeff Johnson just before the round started. Upon discovering that he had a bye Jeff yelled several inappropriate profanities. I felt that a warning was appropriate, as no one was the target of Jeff's unhappiness and no little children were playing in the tournament.

Round 2 was uneventful. I had several rules questions common to Invasion Block Constructed, including the ever-present "If my Foozle comes into play this way, can I pay Kicker?" Remember kids, you can only pay kicker if you play a card from your hand, or use Yawgmoth to play a card from your graveyard. After round 2 we had a lunch break. A local Papa John's restaurant sells us large pizzas for $7 each. We then sell the pizza at $1 per slice, and after taxes and our own lunch we break even on the food. This helps make sure no one is late for the next round and shortens the lunch break.

Round 3 we deck-checked Chris Benzinger and Nathan Henrigillis. Nathan checked out fine, but Chris had one error. He had a 59-card deck, and was one mountain short of what his decklist indicated. Mike returned the decks, explained the philosophy behind deck error penalties, and applied the normal game loss. I find that the game loss penalty effectively deters these sorts of mistakes at all levels of play. I don't think Chris will make that mistake again.

By the beginning of Round 4, I had a headache (from what I do not know) and so I laid down to rest after starting the round. I have found that in judging (and work in general) taking good breaks of appropriate length makes you much more effective. Again, Mike's presence was vital here. I arose before the round ended to enter results and start Round 5.

At the beginning of Round 5 we deck checked Nathan Seidl and Davion Dare. There were several problems. Nathan had badly marked sleeves, but there was no pattern. Normally the penalty at REL 2 is a caution, but I gave an official warning because the marks were so severe. Davion had two problems. He had registered 3 Bloodfire Dwarves in his sideboard, but had 3 Breath of Darigaaz instead. Also, his sleeves were marked with an identifiable pattern. The penalty for both these offenses was a game loss.

44. Marked Cards, Universal Tournament Rules

A card is considered marked if it bears something that makes it possible to identify the card without seeing its face, including scratches, discoloration, unnatural bends, and so on. If a player's cards are sleeved, the sleeves are considered part of the cards, so:

  • For cards placed in clear sleeves, both the sleeve and the card must be examined to determine whether a card is marked.

  • For cards placed in opaque-backed sleeves, just the sleeve must be examined to determine whether a card is marked or not.


If cards are sleeved, then the judge should check the sleeves for markings

There was more to the second penalty, however. Davion had replaced his sleeves before the tournament to avoid marked cards, however apparently the new sleeves were crimped out of the box. I told him that he should shuffle his deck before sleeving it to avoid any chance of a pattern. He did not take my advice, and wound up with a penalty as a result.

Davion argued the penalty with me. His chief argument was that he had taken every precaution to avoid this problem. I explained that he had not followed all my advice (shuffling the deck before sleeving) and had not rechecked the new sleeves to avoid markings. I also had to explain that the penalty was not for cheating, which he found hard to accept. I explained that even though I was sure he was not cheating, the penalty was in place as a deterrent to the potential advantage of the marked cards. Unfortunately, this penalty had knocked him out of contention for the Top 8, and it was not a teaching moment.

During the quarterfinals we deck-checked Wayne Robbins and Jeremy Barbeau. Both had no problems except for a small amount of dirt on Wayne's white sleeves. Because there was no pattern and the dirt was easily removed, I gave no penalty. The quarterfinals went smoothly.

Before the semifinals, the Top 4 began to discuss whether or not they all wanted to split the remaining prizes. Even though I knew them all, I made sure I was "in on" the whole conversation just to ensure that there was no funny business. It is important to make sure that you are consistent with your methods, even if you know some or all of the players involved in a situation. The rest of the Top 4 played out rather quickly, and Nathan Seidl eventually triumphed over Jeff Johnson in the finals. Congratulations Nathan!

Throughout the tournament I tested an interesting item. We had music playing every Swiss round but round 3, and found that this only (unintentional) draw occurred during round 3. This is a much lower draw rate than normal for our tournaments, and although the data is far from conclusive, I am led to believe that the background music helped speed up play significantly.

This tournament reinforced the value of consistency for me. Remembering that one of the "Five Things Judges Should Never Do" is give the appearance of favoritism, and given my PR-minded stance toward Magic in general, it is important to ensure that you are doing your job thoroughly and with an even hand. I could have ignored the Top 4's discussion of whether or not to prize split and still been confident no one had colluded, but I had to be there just to be consistent with the guidelines in the rules. Although I know Davion would not cheat or try to gain any advantage from marked cards, the penalty (a game loss) is in place as a consistent deterrent to those who might.

Sorry for such a long report for such a small tournament, but I feel that there is a lot to learn from the details of judging that we sometimes don't pay attention to. The better we can educate ourselves, the better judges we will be.

Good luck!



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