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USA Mountain Regionals Judge Report

Matt Tabak

The 2002 edition of the Mountain Regionals was held in the luxurious, if a bit warm, Salt Lake Community College cafeteria. This building is approximately six and one-half hours from my house in Las Vegas. I wanted to judge this tournament from my living room but it was a tad far, so I was left with no choice but to drive there. Actually, my exceptionally poor eyesight and the survival instinct of my girlfriend meant I had no choice but to ride to Salt Lake City. This worked out, as I decided to read the entire 64-page (in my printing) Magic Comprehensive Rulebook on the way there. Every once in a while on our journey, I would share some interesting tidbit with my girlfriend, who was acutely more aware than I that "interesting" is a very subjective term. I've read it through in its entirety before, as have most judges, but you really should try it again every once in a while. Sharpen your rules knowledge - from that springs confidence, your best friend on the tournament floor.

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

The head judge for the event was local powerhouse, and proud BYU student, Christian Sieber. Chris Scanlon served as the Tournament Organizer and head scorekeeper. The floor judges included Scott Marshall, B Tucker, Ken Somerville, Michael Parsons (congrats on level 2!), Michael King, and myself. In attendance as a special guest judge, consultant, storyteller, and also handling judge certification was James Lee, the DCI Organized Play Program Manager in charge of Training and Certification - or "Lord" for short. James also aptly represented the DCI in matters of player relations, hugging players and judges as needed (or requested). The DCI loves you. Seriously.


James Lee: The DCI Judge Certification Manager

BEGIN THE BEGUINE

We sat everyone down alphabetically for the players' meeting and to collect deck registration sheets. It is important to preface any tournament with "the speech." Although it changes for every tournament, "the speech" should always include basic info concerning the tournament - number of rounds, time of lunch break, if any, staff/judge introductions, etc. - and relevant info about the site - restroom availability, refuse disposal opportunities (always be positive), and any actions locals may wrongly interpret as the initiation of a mating ritual. It is also a great time to address popular rules questions that players have assaulted you with since you put the car in park. Christian gave a rousing speech that dealt with Madness, the use of popular play shortcuts - like pumping a Nantuko Shade all in one shot - and a warning to all to watch their stuff - lest it become other peoples' stuff. After posting the pairings, round one started with 166 hopeful competitors testing their Standard mettle and one guy wandering around mumbling about having "to wake up at 7am just to get a round one bye!"

My first call to service involved a player wanting to cast Entomb during his upkeep to put an Ichorid in his graveyard and then bring it back during that same upkeep. After flipping a coin, I decided on no. No, wait, I didn't have to do that because around Provo I read that all "at the beginning of upkeep" triggered abilities will go onto the stack before the active player receives priority. So, when Entomb resolves and the Ichorid finds a nice new graveyard-like home, all "at the beginning of upkeep" triggered abilities that would be played that turn already have been.

2+2+2=5... NEW MATH, THE PENALTY GUIDELINES, AND YOU

Towards the end of the first round, I was instructed to help out with decklist checking because the end of the round was approaching. Judges, please stress to all your players the importance of correctly filling out their sheets. That being said, I would be lying if I said I didn't laugh a bit on the inside at the Rushwood Dryad in one deck (Mercadian Masques for those of you scoring at home), and the fellow that had a 14 card sideboard... and wrote "14" next to "Cards in Sideboard" on his sheet. Out of those 167 frenetic balls of spunk that began, ten received match losses and four earned game losses for these or similar errors. If you have the time, it's also not a horrible idea to follow up on those decks that the judges have had to alter during the course of the tournament. Telling someone they can no longer play with the four Counterspells that didn't make it on their decklist might not mean much if no one checks it out later.

AND NOW, BACK TO OUR SHOW

For those that survived the judges' collective registration sheet checking fury, the second round carried on. The next question concerned Braids, Cabal Minion. The player who did not control her did happen to have a Sacred Ground in play, and wisely chose to sacrifice a land to Braids' triggered ability. Braids' controller, irked by this, wondered if it was legal. "Absolutely," replied a judge with considerable boyish charm, "even though your opponent did have to make a choice connected with Braids, you are her controller, and thus the controller of her triggered ability. Since that ability caused a land of your opponent's to be put into his graveyard from play, Sacred Ground triggers, and when it resolves, that land will be put back into play." At least, that's what I read as I was finishing my Quarter Pounder from a McDonald's in St. George. Those Comprehensive Rules are useful!

As a floor judge at a large event, it is helpful to roam about the floor a bit and watch a variety of matches. Although collaborating with others on the judging staff can be informative and rewarding, also make sure that large areas of the tournament floor are not devoid of a judge presence. Tables at the back of the room are notorious for this, and a player not in contention does not mean he's less deserving of your watchful eye. This not only sends the message that you are paying attention, but also exposes you to more of the represented decks at the tournament. While I was strolling the oppressively thin (as I certainly am not) rows on the floor, I noticed a player with about 8 swamps in play lay down a Crystal Quarry. This intrigued me, so I stayed for a bit. The next turn, he attempted to finish his opponent off with a Last Stand! I thought it was a wonderful idea until I noticed there weren't any creatures in play. Jumping in before his opponent scooped, I pointed out that Last Stand had two targeting requirements - a creature and a player. We backed him up, after a warning for Misrepresentation, and the game continued. Of course, now that the opponent knew that, he didn't cast any more creatures, so eventually lost anyway.

GOTTA BE THE HAIR

Braids, Cabal Warning Machine reared her ugly head again during the third round. A distraught player called for a judge, and being one, I responded. He was wondering if he sacrificed a Yawgmoth's Agenda to Braids would it remove itself from the game. Now, if you're like me, you won't immediately notice that the Agenda is an enchantment and doesn't fulfill Braids' needs, but we'll get there in a bit. Outside of Beaver, Utah, there is some lovely farmland this time of year and I saw a flock of baby sheep (don't ask me what a baby sheep is called - I'm urban, man) eating! It was so cute that I almost forgot what I was reading about zone-change triggers. According to rule 410.10d, these do in fact "look back in time" to see the state of permanents just before the event putting the Agenda in the graveyard happened. This will make the Agenda's own replacement effect applicable. After dispensing this knowledge, I realized why the Agenda would be heading to the graveyard, and backed things up, penalized appropriately, and continued my day. Although I won't rehash them individually, suffice to say there were a LOT of problems concerning Braids during this tournament. Forgetting her upkeep ability, thinking her presence in play was required once her ability triggered, attempting to sacrifice the wrong type of permanent, you name it.

If Compost is destroyed by Vindicate, the card draw is not triggered
During round 4, a player asked if his Compost was destroyed by an opponent's Vindicate, could he draw a card. I replied that he could, but it better be an amazing one because soon afterwards he'd receive a game loss for drawing extra cards. His blank stare taught me an important lesson: don't make rules-related jokes at players, it confuses them and makes things worse than when you showed up. As a judge, don't EVER leave things worse than how you find them! Of course, as I was sharing with some nice folks in Cedar City while fueling up, I recently read that the last part of a spell's resolution is to place the spell into its owner's graveyard. So, by the time the Vindicate is put into its owner's graveyard, the Compost will already be in its owner's graveyard from being destroyed, so it will not be around to trigger. No card for you!

BASIC INSTINCTS

One recurring theme of Mountain Regionals was Marked Cards: Minor, Major, and "Did you drop these in a sewer before you got here?" I was on the Deck Check team for the majority of the rounds. I am a zealously aggressive hunter for marked cards. Whether intentional or not, players can help themselves to an enormous amount of information about their decks if the cards are marked. Precognitive topdecking = bad! So, at some point, I deck check someone playing a Psychatog variant. I notice that a large portion of his deck is marked; so face down, I separate the suspected cards from the rest of the deck. It amounted to about 20 nonland cards and 2 basic lands. Hmm. That's not good. I'm able to pick out three Fact or Fictions and 3 Nightscape Familiars from his deck, face down, four times in a row. Also not good. But, how much of this are markings on the deck, and how much is me memorizing what to look for on a few cards and then duplicating it? I'm sold on at least a match loss for Marked Cards: Major - but is he cheating as well? I consulted with other floor judges doing deck checks, Head Judge Christian, as well as James Lee. We conclude that the match loss was the correct penalty. Unfortunately, this meeting of the minds lasted about 25 minutes. As any disgruntled, suddenly behind schedule TO will tell you, sometimes overanalyzing a situation is bad. Trust your instincts. Don't make snap rulings, but make rulings efficiently. Deck checks, even the heinous ones, shouldn't go over ten minutes. Lunch breaks, on the other hand, should.
There was, interestingly enough, a disqualification from the tournament for a marked deck that I was not involved in, but it goes to show that this is a very important issue for players and judges alike.

END CREDITS

I was incredibly pleased with the turnout of the event. It was amazing working with a very talented staff, many of whom I'd met before. Everyone was capable and performed brilliantly. Christian Sieber proved a solid leader, ably directing the judges and overseeing things. Chris Scanlon, as always, ran a successful tournament and should be especially congratulated on his dedication to his events by making great efforts to supply a quality judging staff, whom he provides for very well. He's right, though, he needs to get a full-time scorekeeper - being a TO is hard enough! If I could afford it, even if he wasn't connected with Wizards of the Coast, I would want to follow James Lee around every day of my life. And not only for the hugs. His vision of the Judge Program, and life in general, is amazing, and talking with him genuinely inspires you to loyally follow that vision. If we all did that, think of what we could accomplish. Okay... U.S. Army commercial aside... I walked into the parking lot of the luxurious Salt Lake Community College cafeteria assured that I was part of a great tournament. Now, all that was left was the return drive to Las Vegas the next day. If only I had something to read...



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