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Grand Prix Columbus - Judge Report

Nat Fairbanks

Grand Prix Columbus was held on July 28th and 29th, with a North American record of 163 teams at the Franklin County Veterans Memorial in downtown Columbus. Once the site was set up on Friday the amazing Scott Larabee began working on the team GP bye list. The list of teams with byes only had team names, and not the names of players on the teams, so Scott worked hard to merge the two lists. The next order of business was to prepare the judge handout and take registrations. TO Mike Guptil's team handled the registrations while I prepared the Judge handout.

The judge handout is a vital part of large events, and should be used to make certain all judges are operating on the same wavelength. At Premier events a judge crew from across the country and even world often comes together, and regional judging style differences need to be addressed. Key parts of the handout include a penalty quick reference, team assignments and duties if the team leader system is used, and a description of how the Head Judge expects certain duties to be performed such as deck list review, deck checks, and unique or non standard event duties such as table judging a draft.

Some Premier limited events have been testing unlimited land selection for sealed deck construction, and we continued this at GP Columbus. In addition in order to facilitate land distribution with a very small amount of extra land we had 5 judges move through the room collecting land during deck registration, each judge collecting a different basic type in order to avoid the need to sort later. This almost worked, as a few judges and players misunderstood and threw all their land into one box, and we still had to sort the land. In the future I plan on reinforcing this collection method as I think it can be a huge time saver.

Once teams registered and built their decks we collected them and began to count for legal decks and sort the lists alphabetically. A key lesson learned is to double and triple count potential deck list errors, as many lists potentially containing 39 cards actually had 40 once a recount was done and a lone card in a far away column noticed. It also pays to have a judge team experienced in performing deck list counts performing this duty so as to get it done in one round. It also helps to have the judges collecting deck lists at the land stations give a quick glance at the deck lists for player name and basic land count. Many deck list problems can be avoided by simply making the player provide this information before handing in the deck list.

Deck checks were the next item of business. Building from Sheldon Menery's article "Getting the most from Deck Checks", I added the message that deck checks should be finished in less than 10 minutes unless a severe problem has been found. This was doubly important because at GP Columbus we were forced to stop using the event site at midnight, and could not afford much delay in the schedule. As it was a miscommunication about the number of teams required to force an extra round wasn't noticed until round 5, when we had to announce the existence of the seventh round, scheduled to end very close to midnight.


Mike Guptil put in that extra effort to make the event run smoothly

While the event was very hectic on Saturday from my perspective I think the players didn't notice much, and the judge teams handled a very large turnout very well. When we left the site shortly after midnight day 1 we hadn't been able to set up for day 2, so an early morning start was required for the judges. Mike Guptil sacrificed some sleep and woke very early, so I arrived shortly after 7 to find the site already set up. We then broke out the stamped product and got ready to draft.

The team drafts went very well with Scott Larabee calling them. The only real problems arose when a table had concerns about the timing of picks and a judge was not watching the table. Draft round 1 was fine since we did have 10 judges, but later rounds required the more experienced judges to double up. When having judges double up on watching draft tables, be certain to keep single judges at the upper tables, as well as tables that have a history of draft disputes. That still left two lower tables to each make the same mistake, under drafting at the wheel. In each case I was able to review the stamped cards of the incorrect pack and correct the situation at the beginning of deck construction. Once that was done the rest of the drafts went smoothly.

Once the three rounds of draft finished and the top four teams announced we began the final two rounds. This time we had plenty of judges to watch both tables, and I called the drafts so Scott could work on finding the amateur prize winners. When calling drafts it's important to keep a consistent pace and not lose your place when interrupted. Some techniques are to either use a set of basic land with notes for each pick on it, or a spreadsheet style list either printed or actually on the computer. For this GP I used a copy of Scott's spreadsheet, while for GP Boston I used Collin Jackson's crib lands. For now I prefer Collin's crib land, although Scott's technique may work better with a computer.


Nat Fairbanks overseeing the team draft

The one area that concerns me as a judge is several players who brought a situation that possibly happened on day 1 to my attention on day 2. Apparently player A pile shuffled his own deck during the pregame time limit, and found it to have 40 cards. Player A and B then exchanged decks, each pile shuffling the others, when player B discovered that player A's deck only had 39 cards. At this point it's one player's word that their deck had 40 cards, with another's proof that it currently has 39. A not unusual situation until other players repeatedly tell you they witnessed the first pile shuffle count to 40. The assertion being that player B palmed some of player A's cards during the shuffle. While this was now a hypothetical situation it raised quite a bit of interest. Most judges I asked will now be checking the surrounding area for the missing card, but no one had a solution to the problem that they were confident in, myself included. My best answer as a player would be to count the deck one by one in front of my opponent before passing the deck to him.

After two long days of judging GP Columbus ended with Team Your Move Games winning the event, and a very late dinner at a Chinese restaurant far away from the event. My first team GP as Head Judge has led me to recognize that they are by far the most difficult (time and energy wise) premier events to judge, so my deepest thanks goes out to all the judges who helped make GP Columbus a success, particularly team leaders Chris Page, Darth May, Brian Rogers, Chris D'Andrea and Lynson Robbins III.



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