Preparation and Setup
Grand Prix Oslo was my second GP as a judge (the first being GP Gothenburg last spring). I have been judging all kinds of tournaments, including PTQs, Prereleases and Nationals, in Helsinki since 1999. Except for the Nationals our events are usually quite small. Two judges (Pasi Virtanen and myself) are usually enough to run them. Going to a GP gives me a chance to work with other judges and learn how bigger tournaments work. Rune Horvik was head judge at our Nationals this year, and when he asked whether we would like to come Oslo we accepted immediately.
I prepared for GP Oslo by reading the rulebook, the floor rules and the penalty guidelines a couple of times. After judging three New Orleans PTQs, I felt that I knew the format. Also, I bought a new pair of black pants. I was ready!
We arrived in Oslo Friday morning. After a few hours of sightseeing, we headed to the hotel. There was some kind of mix-up with our reservations - the rooms were supposed to be paid for, but the person at the reception asked us whether we would be paying in cash or by credit card. Luckily, that misunderstanding was sorted out.
After getting some rest in our very nice hotel room we went to the site and said hi to Rune, Cyril Grillon and Peter Coenen. I took the judge test for Level 2 (I passed, although Rune didn't give me the results until Sunday evening) while Pasi did some shopping. After I was finished with the test we went back to the hotel, and around 8 p.m. we went back to the site for a judges' meeting. The judges were divided into three teams. Each round one team would post pairings and standings, one team would do deck checks, and one team would distribute result slips. These duties were rotated so that each team would do each task two or three times during the day. I was assigned to the Green Team, led by Jesper Stehr Nielsen, with whom I worked in GP Gothenburg. Rune told us to be at the site around 7.45 am.
Head Judge Rune Horvik organized the floor judges into Teams
There had been a misunderstanding concerning the opening hours of the breakfast room, but we managed to get some food before we went to work. At the site I first helped out with the registration, juggling money, and I believe I was not the ideal person for the job because I wasn't exactly familiar with Norwegian money . . . but I managed somehow.
After some minor delays, the tournament got underway. The players were seated alphabetically and the Green Team (consisting of Jesper, David Vogin, Thomas Gundersen and myself) collected the decklists.
Green Team did deck checks. I noticed that my deck had small marks on some of the cards, and when I sorted it into lands and non-lands I discovered that all the lands had marks on them while none of the non-lands were marked. This was a clear case of Marked Cards - Observable Pattern and the player was given a match loss. After the deck checks we proceeded to count all the lists. Several players received penalties for decklist errors.
After we had finished counting the decklists, we joined the other teams in the playing area. I was asked if one could play a spell after playing Yawgmoth's Agenda. The answer is no.
Player A plays Fact or Fiction. Player B responds with Harrow. Harrow resolves and Player A starts turning over cards for the FoF. Player B then says that he might want to counter the FoF. On one hand, Player A had not asked Player B whether FoF could resolve and Player B did have a counter in his hand. On the other hand, Player B had not spoken until there were five cards on the table. I wasn't sure how to handle this situation, so I asked Jesper. He made Player A show how fast he had been with the FoF, and asked Player B whether this was the way it had happened. Eventually Jesper and I agreed that Player B did not have a convincing case and he could have stopped Player A before there were five cards revealed. Therefore, FoF was allowed to resolve, but Player A was given a warning for misrepresentation.
Jesper told me to watch the rest of the match.
I watched a player for a few rounds. I noticed that when he drew cards, some of them were upside down - he put a card in his hand and then turned it around.
I saw it happen twice, so I picked up his deck. Some of the cards were indeed upside down, but there was no pattern. He had probably riffle shuffled carelessly. The problem was fixed and the player was given a caution.
A player calls me over because his opponent had put a Yawgmoth's Agenda in his graveyard instead of removing it from the game. I asked the opponent why he had done this. He explained that a judge had told him to do so during the previous round. He pointed out to me the judge in question. I told him that the other judge had been wrong and let the match continue once the Agenda was where it was supposed to be. Then I went to talk to the other judge. It was an interesting conversation. The judge said that he had not spoken to the player in question for a long time, and most certainly had not given him, or anyone else, a ruling on Agenda during this tournament. We talked to the player again, and he swore that it was this guy who had given the ruling. The judge was equally sure that it wasn't him. Eventually we decided to let it go, because it was a relatively small issue. No penalties were given.
A player called a judge because after the first game (which he lost), before sideboarding, he had counted his opponents sideboard and found that it contained 16 cards. I took the deck and checked it out with Jesper. After a thorough deckcheck we determined that he had failed to de-sideboard, had an extra Mystic Snake that was not listed in his deck or the sideboard, and his sleeves were excessively worn and dirty. I have never seen a deck with so many problems. Because of this, he was given a match loss. The player dropped out of the tournament.
After round 5 had ended, it was discovered that 7 result slips were missing although no matches were in progress. All the judges checked their pockets, but the slips were not found. This caused a slight delay because the players in question had to be called to the judge station. Nobody knows what happened to those slips. Different judges had collected them. One theory is that someone stole them from the box that was near the edge of the stage. The box was moved to the scorekeeper's table.
A player wanted to know whether Void for 2 would make his opponent discard a card with a casting cost of XWB from his hand. Since X is zero when the card is any place other than the stack, I said that it would.
Grand Prix Oslo was a well run and organized event
At the end of Day 1 we set up the tables for Day 2. Although I had been originally assigned to work on the Odyssey pre-release on Day 2, Rune let me choose between the main event and the side events. I chose the main event. I would join the Red Team, led by David Vogin.
We were given some Odyssey starters and boosters, so after having the most expensive burgers ever for dinner, Pasi and I had a private pre-release at the hotel. I lost 2-0.
Six judges and 64 players remained in the main event. The other judges worked in the big Odyssey Prerelease. Nothing really interesting happened during Day 2. We did many deck checks, including some after the players had sideboarded. There were a few warnings for marked sleeves, but otherwise nothing remarkable. Once I was called over by a player whose opponent had tapped some land, then immediately untapped them again. I saw no reason to give a penalty, because he had not removed his hand from the cards. I did stay and observe the rest of the match at the request of the player who had called me.
While I was watching a game, one of the players played a Yawgmoth's Agenda. He then said something to his opponent in Swedish and started sorting his graveyard.
I stopped him and told him that he could not do that. He said that his opponent had given him permission to do it and that he was only doing it to make it easier for his opponent to see what was in his graveyard (how unselfish of him! ). I explained that his opponent could not give him permission to break the rules. Graveyard order has no effect on the game, but it can sometimes contain useful information about the game. This was a minor thing, so no penalties were given.
Day two of Grand Prix Oslo
The Swiss rounds ended ahead of schedule. I was table judge for one of the quarterfinal matches. I had to "correct" the shuffling technique of one of the players, but otherwise the match went smoothly. Contrary to the predictions of the Sideboard reporters, it proved to be the longest of the quarterfinal matches.
After I had done my part for the finals, I wandered around and talked to the Finnish players (Jussi Salovaara was 10th and another Finn, Aarne Väisänen, got some Amateur money). After the tournament was finished I helped to pack away all the GP gear.
GP Oslo was great fun. The players were very well behaved and nice. I saw no unsportsmanlike conduct. As a judge, I learned a lot and gained some confidence about my abilities. The tournament site was good; there was plenty of space between the tables. My only complaint concerns the food: the sandwiches were invisible to the naked eye and the only hot food available was sausages wrapped in something thin and bread-like. But then, I am spoiled because at Finnish Nationals our staff included a chef who cooked delicious food for the judges all day.
Finally, because I want to end this report with praise rather than complaint, I want to congratulate Rune Horvik for running an excellent tournament and being a great judge and an all-around cool person and getting trophies for it. Also, I want to thank all the other judges, especially Jesper Stehr Nielsen and David Vogin. I enjoyed this tournament a great deal and I hope I get a chance to attend another GP in the near future.