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Ohio Valley Regionals 2002 - Head Judge Report

Shawn Jeffries

Event: 2002 Ohio Valley Regionals
Site: Franklin County Veterans Memorial ("The Vet"), Columbus, Ohio
Date: April 13, 2002
Players: 688 (nope, not a typo)

Event Staff:

Out there in the fire, we had: Shawn Jeffries (3) [head judge], Brian Rogers (2), Lynson Robbins III (2), Fred Donovan (2), Tim DeBoard (2), Denise Guptil (2), John Alderfer (1), Jodi Fortney (1), Marty Urick (1), Tim Bentley (1), Josh Phillips, Greg Swan, Mike Pooler, Larry Kozlowski, Nathan, and Jason Boncella.

Head Judge Shawn Jeffries

Mike Guptil (4) was the TO for the event, and behind the desk, the multi-talented Kristin Allison kept score.

Setting Up:

We all got to the Vet at around 7am. The room we were using is very large and was already set up with tables, chairs, and tablecloths. There was a section of about 100 seats in the back for side events and about 500 seats dedicated for the main event. We even had a few round tables the right size for running booster drafts.

Mike arranged to have a lot of staff at the event, guessing that attendance would be on the order of 400-500 players, so everything else got set up very quickly for the planned 8am start of registration. Some judges were assigned to greet players and to give out registration forms and decklists. Judge Fred is a fast typist, so he was entering names into DCI Reporter and we had two judges sorting the decklists as players turned in their paperwork.

Professional Event Services had been doing it for the last few events, but this is where Mike decided to really make it known that the "Metalized" Ultra-Pro deck sleeves (Gold and Silver) were going to be banned from this event. These ones have a mirror-like reflective back that could be used by players to gain an advantage. We posted signs so that players would know during registration that they couldn't use them.

I had brought my laptop and set up shop right in front of the entrance to look up forgotten DCI numbers and to answer any early rules questions. Business was brisk, and it was great to be able to keep things accurate by not having to give out too many new memberships. From the experience, it really shows just how many people routinely lose their numbers and re-enroll. We even had some DCI membership cards with blank spaces for the name and number to be written in and I filled one out for every player who'd forgotten theirs. It was my first practical use of the DCI Tools from the Tournament Organizer CD (Matt Villamaino wrote a good overview article about it on the judge's website). I'd suggest to TO's to do a similar set-up for as many events as you can. It was also nice have one place where players can go to ask me rules questions before the tournament started. This saved the other staff from being distracted during setup and gave me a strong sense of what questions might come up during play.

Rocky Start:

Getting close to the 10am planned start, we had some indications that there were a lot of people here to play. Just doing a quick count of players already entered plus the stack of player registration forms still being worked on proved that we were over the planned main event seating, and there were still many players filling out forms and coming in the door. Mike quickly got in touch with the site and the staff got together another section of seating in record time. We wouldn't be able to save any tables for just side events, but those wouldn't start for a couple of rounds.

To try and speed things up, I took a stack of about 50 player entry forms and began entering them into the DCI Tools. From there you can make a file of preregistered players that can be imported right into Reporter. That's what I did, and we posted player lists around the room. This allows players to make sure they were registered and that DCI numbers were entered properly. We started getting a LOT of people coming up with problems, and as the scorekeeper went through the first few, she figured out that most had their first and last names swapped. We also narrowed down to those players I entered using DCI Tools. We sent everyone back to look under his or her first name and instructions on how to fix it on their match slip during the first round.

I've done some experimenting with the Tools and Reporter after the tournament. When you go to export the list of preregistered players, you are given two options: 1: Last,First,DCI,amateur,Byes and 2: Last,First,DCI,Byes . Option #1 works fine, but #2 does not work right - it flips the name order. This was under v2.8 of the tools, so maybe it will be fixed soon. Be careful if you're using them for your events.

Please Be Seated:

We posted the pairings for round #1 in seven locations around the room. That still meant about 100 players per set, so seating took a few minutes. It was incredible to see so many players in one place outside of a Grand Prix. Mike welcomed the players and described how things were going to go - they'd be playing 10 rounds of swiss, with no cut for single-elimination; the top 8 based on standings got the Nationals invitations. He introduced me and I went over the standards for proper note-taking (don't waste game time) and to remind everyone that their sideboards need to be on the table, separated from all other cards. It was hard not to chuckle when I saw dozens of people reaching in their pockets or under the table. The first round officially started a little after 11am.

688 Players competed in the Ohio Valley Regional

The first round was busy with more of the rules questions that I'd been asked earlier. "Standstill" seemed to be the culprit of the morning, with many players not knowing that it is sacrificed on resolution of the trigger. It must have been the early morning because we also had a few "looking at extra cards" penalties - one player turned over six cards for Fact or Fiction. I also spent the round visiting the level 2 judges to let them know that they could apply game losses if they saw the need, but I wanted to be involved for any match losses or "shady" situations. I wanted the level 0-1 judges to check with the level 2's if they thought something might warrant a game loss.

One goal we made for ourselves was to check all the decklists for the event. Mike took a team and began going through them all. We knew that with so many people, it might take a couple of rounds to get that done. To keep as many judges out on the floor, he borrowed a couple of the desk staff to count the number of cards in the main decks and sideboards. The decklists were then passed to judge staff to check for illegal cards. Mike came out toward the end of the round and told me that the decklist checks would not be completely done for round #2, they were about halfway done. I'm still amazed that they were working as fast as they were - it must have been Mike motivating presence. I decided that we should definitely confront the players as quickly as we could about the errors we'd found.

Round #2 was very busy, with some staff still burning through the decklists. Brian (2) and I tried to handle the decklist problems right from the start so we could apply any penalties as quickly as possible. This proved too much for me to do as we had an unusual number of ruling appeals. I had to give my stack of decklists to Brian to finish up. One player got his second "Misrepresentation" penalty of the day, so it was upgraded to a game loss. Players really should know how the cards in their own deck work.

Smooth Sailing?:

At the start of Round #3, Mike and a couple other judges visited all the remaining players with decklist problems. All together on the day, we had 11 illegal main decks, 13 illegal sideboards, and quite a few decklists with horrible handwriting. Most were just missing cards from their decklist, but a couple of players were penalized for using short names of cards ("Rings" was my favorite).

With all the decklists finally checked, I got back the extra judge staff that I needed to make things run more smoothly. I was able to collect a list of judges and to begin forming teams to split duties for the rest of the day. These teams were lead by Fred, Brian, and Lynson (all level 2). I made sure to place each of the judge trainees in a different team, and also mixed the judges in each team so they could work with someone they probably didn't know as well. I reminded the lower level judges to get their team leader if they had possible game loss offenses, but to get me directly if there was an appeal. I also reassured them that players must hear the judges ruling before they can appeal. Ideally, I wish I'd gotten this team structure together right at the beginning, because it worked very well the rest of the day. Each round, one team would work on deck checks while the other two posted pairings and then monitored a specific section of the room for judge calls.

I tried to spend as much time as possible talking to each of the judges individually as much as possible. This staff is very familiar with Mike, but I don't get to work with them that often. I also wanted to gauge the abilities of the trainees. For some, this was their first event outside of running local store tournaments. I wanted to make sure that they were doing OK.

One unfortunate incident happened during the early rounds. A trainee judge had been called to a table where one player had been Millstoning his opponent for the last couple of turns. The player had tapped two mana, but before he announced what he was doing, his opponent turned over two cards, assuming he was using Millstone again. The player tried to stop him, but it was too late. The trainee judge who responded wasn't really sure how to handle the situation, but another trainee had joined him and said he thought it might be a game loss. The original trainee came to look for me, but by the time we got back, the players were already onto the next game. Apparently, neither judge had told them to stop and wait for them to get back, so the opponent assumed that the game loss was the final ruling. I told the players to continue from where they were (since we couldn't do anything about the other game), but I did not enter any penalty. I got both trainees together and explained that this would have been an easily fixed problem, had the players been directly told not to continue. Normally for this situation, it's easy enough to correct by putting the two cards back on top where they belong. After the round, the player who'd "lost" that game asked me why the penalty was so harsh. I frankly told him that the judges were new, and should have told them to stop while they got confirmation. It was too late when I got there, so the "loss" stood. I told him I was sorry, that no official penalty was entered, and that I'd spent a long time talking to both trainees. He seemed very appreciative of the honest answer (turns out he won that match even after that game).


Midway through Round #4, a player stood up at his table and yelled "MORTAL COMBAT!!!" at the top of his lungs. As you might guess, this got a rousing chorus of laughs, cheers, and applause. I thought it was funny, but was not impressed that he'd disrupted the whole room with it. I happened to be right near him when he did it, so I walked over and asked why he felt it was necessary to be so disruptive. It didn't strike me that he really felt that what he did was so wrong. Taking into the fact that many dozens of matches were effectively put on hold while it happened, and wanting to send a strong signal, I gave him a game loss on his next match for "Procedural Error - Severe". While I agree the game is meant to be fun (and winning with a card like Mortal Combat is VERY fun), there was no call for such a big disruption. Consider if all those people still playing lost even 30 seconds out of their game - those 30 seconds may have represented the one extra turn someone needed to win.

The rest of the tournament is a bit of a blur because there really weren't any major issues. The most common one was forgetting to sacrifice for Braids, Cabal Minion. This is sometimes a tough call; the player might deserve a game loss (drawing extra cards) or a warning (misrepresentation). The standard I applied was this: if a player forgot his own Braids and drew - game loss; if a player forgot his opponent's Braids and he drew a card into his hand - game loss; if the player forgot his opponent's Braids and he hadn't put the card in his hand (we could clearly identify the card) - warning, show the card to both players, put it back, and go back to resolve the Braids effect.

During the day, the deckcheck team was able to get through about 3 matches per round. I was quite impressed that we really didn't find too many problems until near the end. One player had some sleeves that appeared to be far more worn than the others. We could consistently pull out the same set of cards - a vast majority of his lands plus a couple random cards. We asked the player to come in and help us explain why this might be happening. He said that he couldn't buy new sleeves and was using a set he had from the last tournament. He said that a Pro player he knew had told him that it happens sometimes because your lands are on the table being tapped, meaning more wear. Well of course we knew this, but really couldn't understand why, if he knew that it happened and what to look for, he didn't find some way to get replacements. In this case, the likelihood of using that knowledge to gain an advantage seemed very strong and it clearly fell into the definition of "Marked Cards - Major", so I applied a match loss. I told the player (who has had other penalties for markings) that he needed to find some way to avoid this in the future so it doesn't hurt his career again. Even simple steps, like randomly resleeving every few rounds using the same sleeves, would have possibly avoided the strong penalty he got.

Almost Over

During the final round, I decided to blanket the field with sideboard checks after play began instead of traditional full deck checks. Each judge was given 3 or 4 matches to check. They took the decklists to the tables, and checked each player's sideboard during the first game. I don't recommend doing this every time (players should never get used to the way you choose deck checks) but it worked quite well. I felt that with so many "must-win" matches being played that round, a broader scope of checks would work best. I was pleased that no problems were found. A side benefit is that in the last round, collusive activity might be very common - putting a strong judge presence around the field might discourage it.

This was by far the most interesting and challenging tournament I've ever been a part of. Considering it was apparently the biggest tournament ever held in North America, we got a lot of very positive feedback and the players were very patient - I never heard one complaint for starting a little late. I know this report described some of the things that didn't run quite so smooth, but I hope it might help if something similar happens at your event.

If you want to see some pictures from the event, visit http://www.professional-events.com/.

Shawn Jeffries
DCI Level 3 Judge

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