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Finnish Nationals - Judge Report

Johanna Knuutinen

Date: 20th and 21st of April, 2002
Site: Lauttasaaren Yhteiskoulu, Helsinki, Finland
Format: Booster Draft (Day 1) and Standard (Day 2)
Judges: Rune Horvik (Level 4, Head Judge), Pasi Virtanen (Level 2), Johanna Knuutinen (Level 2), Mikko Puolanne (Level 2), Timo Kivelä (Level 1)
Other Staff: Toni Niittymäki, Seppo Toikka (coverage), Axel Toivonen

The National Championships is naturally the biggest Magic event of the year in Finland. Our weekly shop tournaments do not need much planning or organising. I just need to show up and launch DCI Reporter. Our PTQs and Prereleases that do not fit in the shop itself are still relatively small. Usually we just grab some pens, mana member forms, tape, blank paper and change from the shop the night before the tournament. It's routine. The Nationals, however, are not routine and require many hours of planning and preparation. Especially this year, because we were forced to abandon our traditional venue and date.


Safe Haven, a card shop in Helsinki, has organised the Finnish Nationals for many years now. I am the organiser of record for most Safe Haven tournaments, but of course Toni Niittymäki, the owner of Safe Haven was also involved in the organising, especially on the budgeting side of things. This is my fourth National Championship as a judge and the second as the organiser.

Johanna Knuutinen was active in both planning and judging the Nationals
The planning started with a meeting with the Finnish OP Manager, or actually three of them: the old OP Manager Mr. Höglund who moved on to other things, and two guys who took over his duties. We agreed on the number of Regionals and other Nationals Qualifiers.

The biggest problem was finding a venue. The site we had used before, Servin Mökki, a university cafeteria, was not available this year because the Nationals season has been moved earlier. In previous years the Nationals have been in late May, when the cafeteria is closed for weekends. After considering several slightly too expensive sites, I remembered attending a martial arts camp at a private school in Helsinki. We contacted the school and found that they were very happy to rent out their cafeteria to us at an affordable price.

Yes, our second problem was money. Plane tickets to Australia cost money. Two drafts for 96 people cost money. Flying in a Level 4 judge cost money. Fewer people than expected played in the Regionals, so we ended up having to charge some money for the draft boosters. Even then the prizes weren't worth mentioning. Servin Mökki was a great site because we could get it very cheaply through our friends in the Helsinki University of Technology gaming club, ORC. They also used to volunteer as staff in the Nationals, stamping the draft cards and generally helping out. Losing Servin Mökki also meant losing the ORC members.

One of my responsibilities was finding judges for this event. Half of the judge staff from last year had either quit Magic or were unavailable because they were doing military service. I managed to round up five judges for the main event (including myself and Rune) and four very eager (a bit too eager, as it turned out) Level 1s who would take turns running the side events.


The week before the Nationals was pretty busy for me. We had to stamp all the cards for the drafts. This took two evenings with five people: two stamping, one opening boosters, one putting the stamped cards back into boosters, and one opening/wrapping as needed. All the foils were replaced with their non-foil equivalent. After the cards were stamped they were divided into draft sets, which were packed into boxes of eight sets (one table) and labelled 'Draft 1' or 'Draft 2'.

I posted the final invite list on the Internet and wrote a FAQ for players ("When do I have to hand in my decklist? Is there going to be a lunch break? If my friend is invited but can't come, can I come instead?" etc, the answers being "At the beginning of the first round of Standard", "If we have time" and "No"). We also found out about the problem with Ultra Pro metallic sleeves and decided to ban the silver ones after testing their reflecting capability. I posted a notice at the local shop about the ban.

Safe Haven doesn't have any laptop computers and we didn't want to drag our desktop computers to the site, so I contacted Hardware Guy. Hardware Guy is a player who has access to all kinds of stuff at his workplace and we often borrow computers from him for our events. Hardware Guy, also known as Axel Toivonen, promised us two laptops, a printer and a video projector. The video projector would have been cool except that we couldn't really use it since there was no screen or a wall without windows available.

A couple of days before the tournament a big 'To do' list was made. Everything we needed to bring to the site or do before the event was included on this list, beginning with pens and paper and ending with "FOOD FOR JUDGES".

A day before the event Toni picked up Rune from the airport. While Rune was doing judge tests at Safe Haven, Toni and I did most of the stuff on the List. We visited Fantasiapelit (the local distributor) to get basic lands and other stuff, got food and drink (for selling to players and for the staff breakfast buffet) from a wholesale market, picked up the draft decklist forms from a copyshop, and hauled all this stuff to the venue. We couldn't set up anything yet (the site was used for something else that evening) so we stored our gear in the kitchen.

Back at Safe Haven Rune held a short judges' meeting to make sure everyone knew what to do. Everyone except Timo had worked with each other before, so we pretty much knew what to expect from Rune and what he expected from us. I also held a meeting with my side event judges and explained to them how to run the side events.
Then I pre-registered all the players using DCI tools to find their DCI numbers.

Day 1

The plan was that we would be at the site at 9.00, set up everything as quickly as possible and have everyone sitting in their draft tables by 9.30. Rune, Pasi and I arrived at the site at about 8.50 and found Toni and some other members of our staff already there. Timo and Mikko prepared the draft tables while Rune and I set up the computer and started registering people. Pasi was doing crowd control, making sure everyone stood patiently in line. 86 of the 96 invitees showed up; we waited until 9.30 for some people who were definitely on their way to the site according to their friends. However, our schedule didn't have much room for delays, and the starting time was announced well in advance, so we started at 9.30 with 86 players. Before seating players I made an announcement about the ban on Ultra Pro Metallic Sleeves.
At least one player had been planning to play with them, so he bought new ones. Whether he knew about their cheating capabilities, I have no idea.

I gave my usual speech, welcoming players to the event, reminding them that this was booster draft, announcing the number of rounds, introducing the judges and asking if there were any questions. Then Rune reminded everyone that he doesn't speak Finnish.

Rune called the draft. There were a few delays caused by 14 card boosters. Most of the missing card cases were solved by counting the cards again and finding that two cards had stuck together. A couple of boosters had to be replaced because they really had 14 cards. After the draft the players were seated. Decklists were passed out, the land station was set up and the tables were numbered for the Swiss. As players came to get lands, we looked at the decklists to make sure a) that they had in fact registered a deck b) that they had registered their basic lands c) that they had written their name on the list. The decklists were counted, and as usual, a few match losses were handed out due to Illegal decks.

Two tables were deck checked each round. Maybe I should work on my deck check sneak a bit because some players can tell when I'm going to step in and say "Deck check"... Pairings and standings were posted by whoever happened to be near the computer when Rune printed them out. Rune distributed the results slips while we were doing deck checks. Rune had brought his bar-code scanner, which I found very handy for entering results. If you want to know how to use a bar-code scanner with DCI reporter, read Cathy Nicoloff's article on the judge website.

During the first round the most interesting situation in the whole tournament happened. Rune called me over to help settle a dispute between two players. Player A had a Bloodcurdler in play. Player B claimed that Player A had first drawn his card, then paid the upkeep cost. Player A claimed that he had paid the upkeep cost first, then drawn his card, and then looked at his graveyard (which consisted of a single Swamp card). When one player says one thing and the other player says something else somebody is obviously lying, but it is always difficult to decide which one. Like Rune, I just wasn't sure. Rune ended up giving both players a warning and telling them that if we had any more problems with them they would get to go home.

Unfortunately, the players took this more seriously than it was intended. A spectator later told me that Player A had forgotten his upkeep in the same fashion later in the same match. Player B did not call a judge because he was afraid of being disqualified.
It was an unpleasant situation. I am still not completely sure who was lying.

The side events were due to start at 12.00, so I took the time to set up a computer and a printer for them during the first round. I told the first side events judge to set up the sign-up lists and asked if he had any questions. He assured me that he knew what to do. When I checked back later, one of the sign-up lists had two or three players but the judge had installed an extra copy of DCI reporter on the computer and created three tournaments on it. While this was not a huge problem, Toni and I agreed that it would perhaps be easier to run the side events on paper. Then I showed the judge how to seat players for a draft and do pairings.

During round 3, players were instructed to return their land to the judge station, which they did admirably. Also during round 3 I had to deal with a rather unusual problem. A player came to me showing his bloody finger. Someone had slammed the microwave door on it. The guy wasn't in any real danger but the finger was really bleeding. Of course we hadn't brought a first aid kit because Toni had figured that a school would have one available. Unfortunately, the guard (who knew where the first aid kit was kept) was not present at that moment. I called him on his mobile phone and he told me that he would be there in a short while. In the meantime, we made a makeshift bandage from paper towels and scotch tape so that the player could draft without bleeding all over the cards. When the guard showed up with the medical kit we replaced the paper towel with a Band-Aid. Always bring some basic first aid supplies or make sure you know where the first aid kit is. Microwave oven door accidents are not that common and Magic is not a dangerous sport, but you never know what might happen.

There weren't that many interesting rules questions during the draft. There were some madness questions, as expected. The most interesting question concerned paying the costs of a spell. A player had an Acceptable Losses and another card in his hand and an Egg in play. He wanted to play Acceptable Losses and pay for it using the Egg; he wanted to know whether he could first pay the random discard cost and then use the Egg to pay the mana cost. I had to get Rune to answer this one. The relevant rule is, of course, 409.1f "The player determines the total cost of the spell or ability.[...] Once the total cost is determined, it becomes "locked in," and the player then pays all costs in any order..." So the player could choose to first pay the random discard cost, getting rid of the unwanted card in his hand before drawing something potentially good from the Egg. I also answered some questions about Madness and regeneration.

The costs to play a spell can be paid in any order
During the second round I gave a player a caution for unsportsmanlike conduct. He had been making weird noises when he was in a winning position, which was potentially disruptive to the tournament. He wasn't being obnoxious or anything, just having fun, but I felt that it was important to stop his noise making before it got out of control. The caution had the desired effect and the player didn't disturb others for the remainder of the tournament.

During the last round a player started complaining about the twenty-sided die his opponent used to roll for who gets to go first. It was one of those big dice that some players use for marking life totals ("Spindown" dice), one that has a flower symbol instead of the number 20. His opponent had rolled a twenty, i.e. a flower symbol and player X questioned the tournament legality of such dice and complaining about the unfairness of using such a confusing piece of plastic. I probably should have given him a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct, but instead I just told him to stop whining. I had more problems with the same player later.

During the last round we announced that the Standard decklists would be collected from the tables next morning, and that if anyone wished to drop they should inform us beforehand. I also asked everyone to bring their decklist on an A4 sized sheet of paper, since some people I know are in the habit of making their decklists on a Post-It note.

I went to collect the side event paperwork from the side events desk and discovered that the judges had not filled out the forms properly (they had forgotten to fill in the type of the tournament, for example, so I couldn't tell which ones were Booster Drafts and which ones were Standard). I gave them a bit of a lecture on the subject of paperwork and realised that I probably should have explained things more clearly. We finished the draft rounds nicely on schedule, packed up our stuff and headed to a restaurant for a nice pizza dinner.

Day 2

Again, we arrived at the site at 9.00. Before posting the seating for a players' meeting we waited about 15 minutes, which I spent sitting at the judge desk and telling everyone who approached with a decklist that the lists would be collected from the tables, thank you very much. Players were seated alphabetically, announcements were made and I collected the lists. No-shows were dropped from the tournament. After pairings were posted all the floor judges took a stack of decklists and started counting. I was approached by a player who told me that he had just realised that he had registered a 59-card list. I told him that it was too late; he would get a match loss. He was very upset and wanted to appeal to the head judge. He did get a match loss.

Most of the rules questions from Day 2 involved Compost, which doesn't give you a card when your opponent Vindicates it, but does give you a card when your opponent sacrifices Pernicious Deed.

I gave a warning to a player who accidentally put his graveyard on top of his removed from the game pile; since he was playing a Psychatog deck it could have had a significant effect on the outcome of the game. This happened while I was watching.
I also gave him a warning for drawing a card before resolving Braids' upkeep effect.

Crowds at the Finnish Nationals
During round 8 I was called to a table by a player who wanted me to watch his opponent (Player X), who is well known for spending much time shuffling and sideboarding. This was the same guy who complained about the twenty-sided die on Day 1. When I got there they had already spent one minute sideboarding and shuffling. I informed them that the rules allow 3 minutes for pregame procedures, which includes sideboarding. When the three minutes were over I told the players so. However, Player X wasn't finished shuffling. After shuffling for some time, he searched his deck for lumps of land. At this point his opponent demanded to see the head judge. Rune gave player X a warning for exceeding the pre-game time limit, and assigned some extra time to the match. Player X wasn't happy with this, and started complaining to Rune and to me. He complained about the time limit. He also complained about the clock that I used; evidently he thought that time passed at an unfair speed or that I didn't know how to properly read a clock. The match continued, but after it was finished he came to me and asked if he had been given a warning. I replied yes. He complained some more. I became a bit frustrated and asked why he was whining at me; I wasn't the one who gave him the warning (although in his eyes it was my warning, since I was the one who'd been there to watch the clock and Rune of course asked me what had happened). The resulting conversation was quite interesting. He tried to twist my words ("So I didn't get a warning?" "Yes you did" "But you said that you didn't give me a warning" etc) and talk himself out of the warning, unsuccessfully. Finally I told him to stop twisting my words. He gave up, probably realising that he was about to earn more warnings if he kept on arguing.

The Standard rounds were finished at around 16.15. The finalists were given copies of all eight decklists and told to be at Safe Haven at 18.00. For the finals we moved the whole show to Safe Haven because the finals would take a long time and the site was booked only until 19.00. We packed everything, cleaned the place and had dinner before going to Safe Haven.

If you have ever visited Safe Haven you know the place is tiny. There wasn't much room for spectators. After the quarterfinals we had to take a twenty-minute break to air the place a bit, to prevent our nervous young players from fainting. The same had to be done after semi-finals. It was really bad. I table judged one of the quarterfinals, one of the semi-finals and the final match.

Tomi Walamies won the title of Finnish National Champion for the second year in a row. David Farkas from Hungary took second place, but that's okay because Hungarians and Finns are of the same tribe, sort of. At least our languages are related.
Tuomas Kotiranta took third place, and I hope he learns how to relax a bit before Worlds, he was really nervous during his top 8 matches.

All things considered this tournament went well. There were perhaps an unusually high number of basic rules questions. In a high-level tournament such as Nationals people really should know the rules better. As for me, I should have made sure that my side event staff really knew what they were doing. I knew that most of them had very little experience. Every year that I've been part of the Nationals staff I've learned something new about running tournaments and judging.

I'm going to finish this report by thanking Rune, Pasi, Mikko and Timo and the rest of the Nationals staff for their good work. I hope we can work together again next year. Also, congratulations to everyone who made top 8 and to everyone who passed the judge test.

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