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Connecticut States - Judge Report

Jeremy Smith

The glamour of a Pro Tour. The anticipation of a Prerelease. The hyper-competitiveness of a Pro Tour Qualifier. The fun of the Magic Invitational.

State championships are none of the above tournaments, yet they encompass the best of all of the above with few of the downsides. So I felt honored to be asked to head judge such an event recently, taking the helm at the 2001 Connecticut State Championships on November 10. Dan McNeill, the tournament organizer and a friend of mine, asked me to judge it a few weeks earlier. Even though I'd only head judged smaller events previously, I've floor judged numerous large events-including Pro Tour-New Orleans the week before-and felt confident that I could take on the task.

I headed down to Connecticut from my home just outside New York City on November 9, the night before the tournament, to stay with a friend of Dan's, Paul Serignese. He even had a rules question about Sacred Ground for me-might as well start answering them the night before the tournament, right?

Setting up

We got up bright and early on Saturday morning and headed over to the site. After helping set up, we opened the doors at 9 a.m. Dan had told me he expected about 90 people, since that was about what he got last year. And we got 90 people.

Well, except we got another 41 after that. Normally, this is a good thing-and of course, that was the end result. However, we had only set up tables for about 100 people. So we had to sacrifice a few tables, including the dealer's tables and one of the judge/concession tables. It took us about 45 more minutes to get everything set up and make sure we had enough chairs, and fortunately no one had to sit on the floor.

If we had been able to start on time, we could've started with exactly 128 people. But of course, three stragglers came up in the meantime and asked to play. So we had to add another round of Swiss, but it was for the best anyway since it would reduce the relevance of tiebreakers and let match scores mean more for the standings.

Instructions to the Players

We finally got underway at about 10:30 a.m., ready for eight rounds of Swiss and the subsequent Top 8. Dan gave a few announcements at the beginning, then I gave mine. I made sure to mention the new floor rules, especially the parts about note-taking and game draws. If you haven't seen these yet, players are now allowed to take any notes they want during a match as long as they're (a) visible (but not necessarily decipherable) to their opponents, (b) not from a previous match or from other outside help, and (c) not taken in a manner that uses up too much time. Also, matches are now required to be played out until one player has two game wins, time permitting. So if the players split the first two games and then draw the third for a reason not due to time limits, they continue playing.

Also, as one of the few Rules Enforcement Level 2 events, I emphasized that I didn't want to see a whole lot of rules lawyering. However, I would of course enforce appropriate penalties if I saw infractions that warranted them. I also told the players that even though there was no penalty for disregarding it, there is a new rule in place requiring players to shuffle their opponents' decks.

We had a few other issues come up during the day. At one point our printer ran out of ink and, lo and behold, we had no backups. Fortunately, Staples and K-Mart were both nearby, so we sent a person out to each of them. We had to wait about half an hour to get restarted, but we weathered it OK.

After the third round pairings went up, a player came up to me and said that he wanted to drop, but was still listed in the pairings. We checked through the match result slips from the previous round and it turned out that he indeed marked the drop line, but it was somehow missed while being entered into DCI Reporter. I started the round while we sorted it out so as not to delay everyone else. I went back and edited the player's info and dropped him from the tournament. Fortunately, there was another player with a bye that round and he had the same record as the dropped player's opponent, so I just paired those two players up and gave them a few extra minutes.

A player sat at the wrong table for one round and played against the wrong opponent. His real opponent had been sitting at the correct table for about 15 or 20 minutes and told me that his opponent didn't show up. I tracked down the player at the wrong table and told him that he would be getting a match loss since he was over 10 minutes late for his round. He was obviously rather unhappy about this and told me that the pairing sheets said he was at the right table. It turned out that he had looked at the previous round's pairings before I took that particular sheet down (it was tough to get them all up and down simultaneously while the rest of the staffers were busy). After talking with both players together, neither one had a problem with starting the round late and playing as normal without added time. Combining these with the fact that this was a comparatively low-REL event and the fact that their match would have minimal impact on the tournament-they were both toward the bottom of the standings-I let them play as normal. Better to have two happy (and returning) players, right?

A player started his game, then realized that two cards from his main deck were lying on table and hadn't been shuffled back into his deck. Since the game had already started, I gave him a warning and game loss for having an illegal main deck-the recommended penalty at all rules enforcement levels. I let them sideboard for Game 2 since they had already started play and seen at least part of each other's decks. The offending player also got to choose whether to play or draw since the reason for the Game 1 loss is irrelevant according to the floor rules-he still lost the game. Had they noticed the error before actually starting the game, it could have easily been fixed, but once play began I really had to choice but to give out the game loss.

An Ugly Situation

Unfortunately, there was an ugly situation at the end of the day. Two players in the final Swiss round had played their match to a draw due to time limits. They had not yet signed their match report slip when one player offered money in exchange for his opponent's concession, since the first player was in contention for Top 8 if he won but his opponent wasn't (he had gotten paired down). Another player came over and told me what happened. After interviewing both players, I determined that a bribe was in fact offered and disqualified the offending player. Even though he had told me he wasn't aware that such actions were illegal, I had to uphold the integrity of the tournament and DQ him so as not to show that such actions would go without consequence. Also, even though the match slip hadn't been signed, I let the match stand as played-as a draw-since I didn't want to potentially knock another player out of contention because of a non-game-related occurrence. The DQ had no direct effect on the results of tournament since prizes only went down to eighth place anyway, but I felt it was important that it at least be noted on that player's record for reference at future tournaments.

After the tournament, another player came up to me and claimed that he had received a similar bribe offer from his opponent during the last round. However, since it was well after the fact and his opponent had already left to go home and couldn't refute the charge, I really couldn't do anything about it except tell the player that in the future he should call a judge over immediately instead of waiting so long.

Rules Questions

Since a majority of the players were not incredibly experienced and Odyssey is still a fairly new set, I got a good number of rules questions and a few infraction/penalty situations throughout the tournament. Here are the notable ones. See how you would have ruled.

1. One player attacks with a Blurred Mongoose while his opponent controls a Powerstone Minefield. What happens?

My answer: The Mongoose will take 2 damage from the Minefield and be destroyed since the Minefield's ability doesn't target. This will happen well before damage is assigned or dealt since the Minefield triggers upon declaration of attackers and/or blockers.

2. A player plays Lobotomy targeting his opponent, but the opponent plays Divert to retarget the Lobotomy back at him. Whose hand is chosen? Who does the choosing? Does he have to take a card from that hand? Does he have to search a library and graveyard? Whose library and graveyard? Does he have to remove any cards from them?

Lobotomy: 2UB; Sorcery; Target player reveals his or her hand, then you choose a card other than a basic land card from it. Search that player's graveyard, hand, and library for all cards with the same name as the chosen card and remove them from the game. Then that player shuffles his or her library.

Divert: U; Instant; Change the target of target spell with a single target unless that spell's controller pays 2.

The answer: If you're required to search a zone not revealed to all players for cards matching some criteria, you aren't required to find those cards even if they're present. Even if you don't find any cards, you are still considered to have searched the zone. If you're simply searching for "any card," however, you must find a card (if possible). If you're required to search for a specific number of cards, you must choose that many cards (or as many as possible.) For example, if an effect causes you to search a player's library for all duplicates of a particular card and remove them from the game, you may choose to leave some of them alone, but if an effect causes you to search your library for three cards and it contains at least three, you can't choose less than three.

The Charm is a modal spell

3. A player plays Dromar's Charm to counter a spell, but his opponent targets the Charm with Divert. Can he make the Charm give a creature -2/-2? If so, how can he do it? Can he use the Divert to effectively counter the Charm? If so, how?

My answer: No, he can't give a creature -2/-2 with the Charm since the mode is locked in on announcement of the Charm and can't be changed by the Divert. However, he can still effectively counter the Charm by simply retargeting the Charm to target the Divert. Since the Divert will resolve first and leave the stack, the Charm will have no legal target upon resolution and be countered by the game rules.

4. A player plays Earthquake while his opponent has Galina's Knight in play. Does the Knight's protection save it from being destroyed?

Earthquake: XR; Sorcery; Earthquake deals X damage to each creature without flying and each player.

Galina's Knight: WU; Creature-Merfolk Knight; 2/2; Protection from red.

My answer: Yes, the Knight will live since one of the traits of protection is that it prevents all damage from a source with the protected quality.

5. A player controls Braids, Cabal Minion while his opponent has Sacred Ground in play. Does the Sacred Ground return a sacrificed land to play? If so, how many times does it return it? (This was the question Paul asked me the night before. I figured it was interesting enough to include.)

My answer: Yes, the Ground will return it to play since, even though the Ground's controller does the actual sacrificing, the ability that causes it is still controlled by his opponent. It will only trigger once-no unbounded mana tricks like with Price of Glory-since Braids's ability only triggers once at the beginning of each upkeep.

6. A player plays Firebolt from his graveyard using flashback, but his opponent counters it with Memory Lapse. Where does the countered Firebolt go?

Firebolt: R; Sorcery; Firebolt deals 2 damage to target creature or player. Flashback 4R.

Memory Lapse: 1U; Instant; Counter target spell. Put it on top of its owner's library instead of into that player's graveyard.

My answer: The Firebolt will be remove from the game since it replaces "put this card anywhere upon resolution" with "remove this card from the game." It doesn't matter whether the card would go to the library, graveyard, or anywhere else-it's still removed from the game.

7. A player plays a Meddling Mage, knowing his opponent has Fire/Ice in his deck. Can he name the whole card or just one of the halves? Does his opponent then have any opportunity to target the Mage with either half?

Meddling Mage: WU; Creature-Wizard; 2/2; As Meddling Mage comes into play, name a nonland card. The named card can't be played.

Fire/Ice: Split Card Fire: 1R; Instant; Fire deals 2 damage divided as you choose among any number of target creatures and/or players. Ice: 1U; Instant; Tap target permanent. Draw a card.

My answer: A player must name the entire card, and his opponent will not be able to play either half after the card is named and while the Mage remains in play. Since the naming is done "as" the Mage comes into play-and not "when" it comes into play, which would denote a triggered ability and could be responded to-the Mage can't be targeted with either half of the Fire/Ice once the card is named.

8. A player attempts to Repulse one of his opponent's creatures while the opponent has a Spellbane Centaur in play. As a judge, how would you correct the situation?

Repulse: 2U; Instant; Return target creature to its owner's hand. Draw a card.

Spellbane Centaur: 2G; Creature-Centaur; 3/2; Creatures you control can't be the targets of blue spells or abilities from blue sources.

My answer: The player of the Repulse asked whether the bounce part of the Repulse would fizzle but he would still draw a card. Nope-not the case here. Since the entire action was illegal and couldn't even be announced, I simply reversed it, untapping his mana and returning the Repulse to his hand. I cautioned him and explained to both players how the interaction worked, since neither one seemed to have a complete grasp on it before.

9. A player targets his opponent's Yawgmoth's Agenda with his Dismantling Blow. What happens to the Agenda when it is destroyed? What happens to the Dismantling Blow when it finishes resolving?

Dismantling Blow: 2W; Kicker 2U; Instant; Destroy target artifact or enchantment. If you paid the kicker cost, draw two cards.

Yawgmoth's Agenda: 3BB; Enchantment; Play no more than one spell each turn. You may play cards in your graveyard as though they were in your hand. If a card would be put into your graveyard from anywhere, remove it from the game instead.

My answer: The Agenda will "look back in time" to its last state before leaving play, and it will remove itself from the game. However, since the Blow will finish resolving after the Agenda leaves play, it will not be affected by the Agenda anymore and will simply go to its owner's graveyard.

11. A player taps his opponent's creature with Opposition. The opponent responds by targeting the Opposition with Aura Mutation. Does the creature still get tapped?

Opposition: 2UU; Enchantment; Tap and untapped creature you control: Tap target artifact, creature or land.

Aura Mutation: GW; Instant; Destroy target enchantment. Put X 1/1 green Saproling creature tokens into play, where X is its converted mana cost.

My answer: Yes, the creature still gets tapped. Once the Opposition's ability is placed on the stack, it can only be countered by a spell or ability-such as Teferi's Response or Bind-that targets the ability itself. Removing the source from play will not counter the ability.

12. A player has Keldon Necropolis in play. His opponent plays another Necropolis. Can the opponent tap his Necropolis for mana before the legend rule puts it in the graveyard? Can he use its damage ability?

Keldon Necropolis: Legendary Land; T: Add one colorless mana to your mana pool. 4R, T, Sacrifice a creature: Keldon Necropolis deals 2 damage to target creature or player.

My answer: No, he can't play either ability, since state-based effects like the legend rule will be checked before either player can play abilities of any kind-even mana abilities.

13. This situation was a more complicated. A player targets his opponent's creature with Repulse. His opponent targets the Repulse with Counterspell. The first player targets the Counterspell with Gainsay. The opponent targets the Gainsay with Divert and attempts to retarget the Gainsay onto itself. As a judge, what would you do?

My answer: Since a spell can't target itself, I told the player of the Divert that he must choose a new target for the Gainsay. Since I couldn't coach him and tell him the specific spells he could choose as a new target (Repulse and Divert), he had to figure out the proper play to make. He ended up retargeting the Gainsay to the Repulse, countering it. His opponent had thought I was giving him too much information, but I assured both of them that I had to be able to explain that the current situation was illegal and that I had to make sure that a legal play was made without my coaching either player.

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