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California Torment Prerelease Judge Report

Robert Wilson

Site: Masonic Lodge, El Cajon CA
Date: January 26, 2002

A Prerelease is a great time to observe Magic: the Gathering as a game of fun. Many times throughout the tournament scene, this atmosphere is lost; and sometimes even at a prerelease it can be lost.

As a level 1 judge that lives in Phoenix, AZ I have the privilege of working with some of the best judges in the world. I asked Ray Powers the TO for AZ and the San Diego area if I could judge for the Torment Prerelease, and was given that opportunity under Mike Bahr (level 3) who head judged the San Diego event. We had one other judge for the event, and that was Leslie Sinks (level 2). As sometimes happens, some less responsible judges on the schedule simply didn't show.

As Mike and I arrived at the tournament site, we started to setup. Mike's computer immediately decided it would give us a heart attack, when the video card wouldn't work. This was fixed with some tinkering, and then we had only to deal with the limited judging staff. After a short conference, Mike decided to have one judge initially walk the floor, while the other two dealt with registration for future events, and bookkeeping needs. Amazingly this worked throughout the day, as at later times we had two judges on the floor and only one judge manning the computer/registration. It also helps to have competent judges, and a little local help. We had somewhere in the neighborhood of 170 people show up for the event, and all were in a great mood. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of responsibility the players took upon themselves. I only had to issue mad beats on one occasion for players leaving garbage behind.

The Challenges a Level 1 judge faces:

I am a level 1 judge, and to many players and some judges that translates to "judgeling". Don't get me wrong, in many cases this is said in a good natured way. The last place I was expecting to hear it in a disrespectful manner was a prerelease, because of the nature and environment. A prerelease is not like a GP or PT. Unfortunately for some players, whatever the level 1 judge says can't be right, and everything must be appealed.

For example, in one situation a player wanted to get an extra turn in before the time ran out. He was willing to get a warning for Failure to Agree upon Reality, if that allowed him to get that turn. In fact as I walked over to the table, those were the first words out of his mouth. I made my ruling, which fell on deaf ears. Of course it was appealed, and Mike gave the same ruling, "You can't make your opponent start his turn, he must recognize you are passing priority and then any action he/she takes starts their turn. Both players must allow the stack to clear." The ruling itself is not what concerns me, even if I had been wrong. The problem, came when the ruling I made wasn't even listened to. After the appeal I was asked why I hadn't just made that ruling, and his opponent then told him that I had.

With a Madness of 0, here is a card we will see a lot of.

In another instance, I was running one of the drafts. One of the players decided that his Basking Rootwalla was even more amazing then anything else. He called me over, and I stood there as he explained to his opponent and I, how he thought he could pay 1G, to give it a +2/+2 and if it was blocked it would get MAD so he could use the Madness ability of 0, to make it a 5/5. That in and of itself was an interesting way to view Madness. Knowing that the man was simply not understanding how Madness worked, and not trying to cheat his opponent; I simply explained to him how the Madness ability worked, and let it go at that. His opponent however; decided that he needed a game loss for misrepresentation. I then asked the opponent why he felt a penalty that severe was needed. He stated that he was being cheated because I allowed an ability to be misplayed. The ability was not misplayed. The player who wanted the 5/5 Rootwalla, didn't get it. I talked with the opponent briefly about the fact that I was called over before the ability was paid for, and that I had corrected the misconception before anything in the game state was affected.

A judge needs knowledge and experience

My whole point is that, in each case the player somehow felt that the floor judge's ruling should be appealed without even listening to it. As a person, I think it comes down to respect. A judge won't demand it, but it's definitely something every judge would like to be displayed. Is it possible for a judgeling to earn that respect? If so, how do they go about doing so? The answer can be found in what a magic player wants in a judge.

Some of the characteristics a judge should possess are knowledge, experience, and no fear. A judge should not shy from a decision because it will make a player upset. A judge should not be afraid to tell a player when they are wrong, and apply the appropriate penalties. As a Level 1 judge, I will make mistakes, but I will also work hard to acquire those attributes that a judge should possess. Respect is not automatically granted, it must be earned. As experience grows so too does the respect that a judge can command.

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