|Mid-Atlantic Regionals Report
"Wear comfortable shoes."
Sound advice from the Tournament Organizer when I called her the week prior to Regionals to confirm that she did actually require my lowly Level One judging services. Indeed she did, and would I be so kind as to arrive by 8:30 so we could get everyone registered?
The morning of April 13th arrived, and after locating the all-black garb requested by the T.O. I was on my way the short distance to the tournament location in central Baltimore. The hotel was located adjacent to a truck stop near the Fort McHenry tunnel, and though it was somewhat dingy and dilapidated, it possessed two qualities of supreme importance: it was large and also within close proximity to several different kinds of fast food.
I went in to meet the rest of the tournament staff and find out what my assignment was. John Carter, our imported Level 3 from the City of Brotherly Love would be the Head Judge for this event. The rest of the judging staff consisted of:
- Rob Kaminmsky (Level 2)
- Adam Dale (Level 2)
- Patrick Lakota (Level 1)
- Martha Lufkin (Level 1)
- Jason Brown (Level 1)
IN THE BEGINNING
Registration went very smoothly. Our procedure is to hand players a registration form that they fill out with their name and DCI number at the time they hand us their money. The players then (ideally) get out of the way while they fill out their registration and decklist. When they're done, they go in the box next to Adam, who is our resident DCI Reporter expert and he inputs the players as rapidly as possible. I only mention these particular trivialities because this setup was not in use at Regionals last year, making registration an extraordinarily time-consuming process. By distributing the work among the players, we managed to speed up the process to the point that we were able to register 530 players by 10 AM. We were going to start on time...
LET THERE BE LIGHT?
...Only we didn't. Our primary system was spewing forth gibberish from the injet printer. This made no sense, as the setup had been tested before. Fear not, John "I can run a Grand Prix from the trunk of my vehicle" Carter had both another laptop and another printer! Except that his did not work, either.
You're in a room with 530 people with mental states ranging from "Sleep Deprivation Experiment" to "Caffeine-induced Mania". It's getting warmer. People are starting to fidget. They've run out of people to trade with. What do you do?
Then, a ray of hope. The Tertiary Backup Printer of Last Resort wheezed out the player list. It was posted in the main hall and the players instructed to check their name and DCI number for accuracy. Time, precious time. Deleting and re-adding the printer under the Windows Printer dialog for what seemed like the five-thousandth time finally did something. In some unknown memory address, a bit flipped from 0 to 1, and we were able to print out pairings. Except that pairings for 530 people works out to roughly 15 pages, taking a darn long time to print. We needed something more.
It was then that I was struck by inspiration. Perhaps the hotel had a laser printer that they wouldn't mind too much if we borrowed? Turns out they did not, but they did have a photocopier. Close enough! Our one printed copy magically reproduced itself three additional times, shaving a good 15 minutes off the time it took to post the pairings.
If anyone has any better ideas of ways to handle the transmittal of pairings from the scorekeeper's computer to the minds of 530 players, please let me know. I've considered using an overhead projector, which has the added benefit of allowing for amusing displays of shadow-puppetry, but I can't figure out how to shrink 265 pairs to fit onto the projector surface.
AND ON THE EIGHTH DAY, HE RESTED
A large part of being a level one judge involves picking up trash. This is fine-it teaches one to be both humble and mindful of your purpose. I like to think that one of the most important things a judge can do is make things clear, be they spaces or concepts. Regionals, being a constructed format, does not have the seemingly endless piles of trash that you would find at a Limited event.
Another facet of being a judge (as far as I can tell) involves walking great distances without actually going anywhere. As I walked the play area during the 10 rounds of Swiss, I had the opportunity to answer several basic rules questions. Large amateur events like Regionals draw pretty heavily from the semi-casual crowd, the Timmy's and the Johnny's that inhabit R&D's playtesting labs. These players aren't necessarily aware that Braids will trigger Sacred Ground, or that if a Static Orb is tapped, all permanents will untap simultaneously. When a Regionals player pumps his Wild Mongrel, he might not be aware that his opponent's Shock cast in response will kill his mongrel unless he pumps it again. And, most especially, players who are used to playing the same opponents again and again may develop shortcuts in their communication that get them into trouble when playing someone new. I would estimate that out of all the times someone raised their hand and shouted "JUDGE", roughly half of those times the problem was due to the players not clearly communicating their intentions. Is damage on the stack? What mana are you using to pay for that spell?
Two rulings, in particular, gave me a bit of difficulty. The first one involved an Aether Burst with one already in the graveyard, which was being targetted by a Coffin Purge. When the Coffin Purge resolves, how many creatures get bounced? Initially, I ruled that the Aether Burst would "recheck" to see how many were in the graveyard at resolution, much like checking to see if it's targets were legal. I further considered it, however, and decided that didn't make sense at all, as all targets are chosen on announcement of the spell, and the targets are not becoming illegal. If I had bothered to check the Oracle wording of the card, there would have been no confusion whatsoever:
Return up to X target creatures to their owners' hands, where X is one plus the number of cards named AEther Burst in all graveyards as you play AEther Burst.
Seems fairly clear, in retrospect. It's not just players who get fatigued, though.
The second situation involved someone attempting to "rules lawyer" another player. The situation had become fairly tense, as the player who was now being "lawyered" was annoyed because he had let his opponent take something back earlier in the match. He was upset that his opponent decided to be a "stickler" now. I did my best to calm both parties down and inform them that "sticklerness" is not really a quality that applies to tournament-level Magic. Either you are playing by the rules, or you are not. Again, this situation could have been prevented had both players communicated more clearly with each other about who has priority and what phase it is. Communication, and patience, become even more important when participants do not speak the same language.
Somewhere along the line, I became the de facto representative to the Deaf Magic playing community. I'm not entirely sure how it happened, but I don't mind. We had a small group of Deaf players who attended the tournament. I don't think most organizers are prepared for this, I know we weren't. Fortunately, the Deaf have plenty of experience when it comes to dealing with the Hearing, and it's nothing that a lot of patience and some clear handwriting on a notepad won't solve. I had envisioned that they might experience some difficulty playing with a Hearing opponent. When you stop and think about it, you realize just how silly this is. Magic is its own language, and this commonality allows for communication between players no matter what language they use.
AND IT WAS GOOD
I took my Level One exam on a lark, really. I thought to myself "Hey, this might be fun." I showed up, took the test, and much to my surprise passed it. I won't even pretend to have put the effort into it that Ms. Ingrid Lind-Jahn did, but then I didn't score nearly as high as she did, either. Then I worked my first real tournament, the Torment pre-release.
I was hooked.
Regionals was even more fun. John said he would be happy to test me for my level two, but I'd like to get another event under my belt first. One day, I just might end up wearing the Red and black shirt.
I'll be wearing my comfortable shoes.