|Judgment Prerelease Israel - Judge report
This year, the Prerelease was divided into two, which drew a lot of complaints from angry players who wanted the prize pool to be larger. However, seeing how the Torment Prerelease almost cost me my sanity (153 players with one judge), Allan Teller decided to split this year's tournament. The turnout in the Haifa tournament, which was expected to be smaller, was 50 people or so. I was the Head Judge of the tournament that took place in Tel Aviv, which managed to draw 114 players, despite the lowered price for the Haifa tournament. I arrived at the tournament scene a little before 9 am, which was the scheduled starting time. I saw the usual staff helpers taking registrations and making packs, but one thing was missing. "Hey, who's stapling the deck listing sheets?" I innocently asked. "There are no deck registration sheets yet" someone replied, in what became the first mark of a very long day.
The person in charge of bringing deck sheets and other office supplies obviously didn't give in to old-fashioned ideas such as "planning ahead" and "being ready in advance", and just sort of assumed things would work out during the morning. At 9:30, when I saw the player turnout, I've realized it's time for the Israeli dilemma again. 114 players is 7 rounds, which in Israel means at least 7 hours. Add to that an hour (45 minutes plus all the fuss around it) of deck building, and 30 minutes of deck registration, and 30 minutes for unforeseen events, and you get 9 hours' worth of tournament just to get to the top 8. I've decided to set a deadline, and declared that unless I get the deck registration sheets by 10 am, we will hold the tournament in the old (read: bad and flawed) way, meaning no deck registration whatsoever. Until that time, I took groups of 24 players each to a different room, and there explained to them to intricate works of the complicated mechanism of registering a deck.
Somehow, this seemingly simple task manages to confuse the most shrewd of players, generating such common errors as mixing the "total" and "played" columns, "neglecting" to write a name (which often means the list itself had the "Cephalid syndrome": the player who registered it often missed the appropriate row and marked either above or below it. After all, Cephalid Looter, Cephalid Shrine, it's all the same, right? We're all brothers here!) and of course, my personal favorite, "what do you mean registering isn't the same as building?", which is a true nightmare.
So, as a preemptive strike against the forces of evil and confusion, I've briefed the players shortly, in small groups, about all those complicated principals such as "in the TOTAL column you register how many of each card you have, TOTAL" and "write your name where it says "hi I'm the guy who registered the deck" and not where it says "hi I'm the guy who plays the deck"". I must say that the number of errors this time around was greatly reduced in comparison to previous times - a thing that can be attributed to the growing experience of the players, or to the briefing. That is not to say I didn't catch two players merrily building decks during deck registration time. Luckily, I had another surprise in my pocket.
"A warning. You have been briefed about the correct procedures in registering a deck, and yet you know ignore what you've been taught, and done something I've explicitly said you shouldn't be doing. The time has run out, and you're not finished, and thus you are stalling the tournament. Hence, I'm sending your name to the DCI. A second warning will win you a game loss".
Oh yes. This time around we've decided it's time we move on, after the nationals in which I employed such unheard-of phrases as "a game loss" and "a time limit", it was time to introduce the players to another layer of the penalty systems - cautions and warnings.
After deck registration was over in a very non-timely manner (the lists themselves only got there on 10:15), we threw everybody out, printed out a player list, and started giving out decks and ticking those people off the list. After everybody received a deck, we did a general briefing, addressing the common issues - "hi I'm the head judge", 50 minute rounds, best out of three, sideboarding, match reporting, the works. Then I gave a short explanation on how the wishes work, and an even shorter one about cards like Valor. All through the briefing, we took names of interrupting players, and they each won a caution. I found the new (at least, new to me) version of DCIR had the lovely "edit-> warnings" feature, and happily started listing all the offenses against mankind the players have managed to do so far. I think it's a great step forward, because it's a lot more impressive to be fed into a computer, than being written on a crumpled piece of paper. This is the 21st century, after all.
All in all, we were able to finish everything needed to start the Swiss rounds at around 12:30, which meant theoretically we could finish the Swiss by 7:30 PM. THEORETICALLY.
The night before, we divided the playing area into three, preventing confusion AND providing air conditioning, all in one quick sweep. This, too, was a great improvement over the Torment that was the Torment Prerelease (haha! Wordplay!), which featured 153 people, most with flawed hygiene, stuffed in a room with no windows or a working air conditioner. The tables were marked with numbers (well, more or less. Of course we didn't have REAL numbers, we divided the tables into groups of 5 and hung "1-5", "6-10" over them. However, it still enabled people to find their opponents without resorting to shouting). We printed two copies of the pairings, and were set to go.
The first round had a total of ZERO rules questions in it. That was quite surprising, but from what I can tell, nothing was wrong. Somehow nobody needed me, so I just sulked in the corner and tinkered with the new DCIR. However, as the end of the round drew near, I saw I had 22 outstanding results, with 5 minutes to go. That was quite alarming, and indeed the round took 10 minutes longer than I had anticipated, even though the 5-turns rule was apparently enforced. One table failed to report even 10 minutes after the time was up, and since nobody could find them, I issued the table a Double Loss. The player who had won that match but didn't report was roughly 10 years old, and seemed to take the entire matter quite stoically. As far as I know, he never failed to report, for the remainder of the tournament.
Since I made no notes, I'm not sure in which rounds the serious problems took place, so I'll just list them one by one, with no particular order.
A long time after the end of one of the rounds, I had a table who didn't report. I called the players to me (they were no longer playing), and asked them why they didn't report the match result. "We were trading" was their reply. "I see," I said, "and I guess 112 people are nothing next to your card collecting ambitions, right?". Since subtle irony never seems to cut it in Israel, I added "you kept the entire tournament waiting for 15 minutes because you couldn't be bothered to come over and tell me your match result". "We WERE bothered, we were just trading. What do you want?". That was the time to raise my voice: "What I WANT, is that this tournament end in a timely manner. And people who for some reason believe trading is more important than just going over here and TELLING ME HOW IT ENDED go against that goal". "Hey, okay, I'm sorry". "Oh, well that's just great. Now that you've said you're sorry, time turned back 15 minutes and all is well again". The player kept protesting, and I quickly issued him a warning for failure to report a result in a timely manner. Note I did not resort to the double loss, because I was trying to educate more than punish. A singular warning doesn't carry that much weight, and a Prerelease IS supposed to be a fun tournament.
Following next, I was called to a table where a player A attacked with everything he had on the table. Player B blocked one of the creatures, and then player A called me. "I thought this creature had flying", he said. "Okay, so what's the problem?" I asked. "I didn't notice he doesn't have flying, so now HE blocked it. I want to take it back". I quickly explained to him some minor problems with taking back moves that were declared without the opponent's consent; mainly that it's illegal and impossible. I left the table, content that another issue was tackled with. I came back 7 minutes later to see the table in the exact same position. "What's going on?" I asked. The two players were arguing about the takeback. Time to throw weight around again, I guess. "Look, an official ruling about this situation was already made. You two may discuss the moral implications of not letting an opponent taking back a move after he was misled by a card's picture all you can once you FINISH THE GAME and REPORT TO ME. Right now you're wasting time, carry on". I stayed to verify that they got out of that combat phase, then left.
Another job well do- "Hey". It was player B. "My opponent is stalling. He's refusing to play!". I rushed to the table, to have player A jump at me. "He can't regenerate my creatures!" he called. After a quick check of the situation, I saw that player B cast Refresh, targeting one of Player A's creatures. "Okay, what's wrong with it?" I asked. "It's my creature, he can only regenerate his creatures!" player A said. "I see" I said, "And who issued this ruling, exactly?". Player A suddenly seemed more silent. "His move is perfectly legal. Now, resolve this, and I'm giving you a 10 minute extension" I said, and sat at the table for the whole 10 minutes, making sure no more such infractions occur.
It's legal to target an opponent's creature with Refresh
After the round was over, I told Orr Bildner, one of the assistant judges, about the situation. He looked shocked, then said "but I issued a ruling about that Refresh a long time ago! He called me and I told him it's legal to target an opponent's creature with it". That got me furious again. But, why get mad when you press Control+W? I issued the player a warning for Arguing with a judge, though if it were anything other than a Prerelease, I'd give him a more serious penalty, for stalling. I kept watch of that player since, which was good, because he had an unhealthy tendency to issue his own rulings, which are so revolutionary they didn't make it to the judge list yet.
Other occurrences were less serious, and included two tables not hearing time called, in different rounds. In one table I allowed the match to continue for another turn, because the board situation showed one of the players was a clear favorite to win (and he indeed played correctly and won). The other I ruled as a draw, because the board was obviously locked, and it was several minutes into the round already.
Another interesting incident involved a player accidentally reading the wrong column on his opponent's life sheet (the column that belonged to earlier in the game), and thus making an erroneous all-out attack, resulting in his defeat. I ruled it remains as it is, because no misleading took place - he never asked the opponent for his life total, and it was clearly marked in the next column. Moreover, he was supposed to make sure he has his own life-tracking means, and not rely on his opponent's.
Another, very unique, situation I had to handle, involved a player accidentally dropping a card from his hand onto the playing field and not noticing it until it was his turn, causing his opponent to think there's another creature in play and not attack. I took time backwards to the opponent's attack phase on that case, because it was easy to reconstruct. Not such was the case when one player enchanted his creature, with protection from green, with Elephant Guide. They noticed this about 15 turns later, when the opponent cast a "destroy target creature" of some sort on the enchanted creature, and then suddenly realized no token creation should take place. I ruled that it's impossible to take time back so much, so the enchantment "falls off" the second they both noticed it, and the rest of the stack resolves normally, resulting in no elephant token created.
This tournament was also affected by my "training local judges" plan in an unexpected manner - many players tried various "tricks" that just don't work. Notable among those were responding to a cost payment by trying to prevent payment of some of the cost, trying to remove cards from a graveyard in response to the "return a card to the opponent's graveyard, do this and that" effects in order to fizzle it, and claiming that making a creature untargettable wouldn't cause a spell that was targeted it before the change, to be countered on resolution (because the legality check already took place, or so said the player).
The Swiss rounds were over as late as 9:15 PM, so the Top 8 chose to split the prize among themselves. We awarded prizes to the top 24 players, ending in a fairly nice prize structure, with a minimum of 4 boosters and a maximum of 19.
I was quite pleased to find out the sky did not fall on my head when I started awarding warnings and cautions, which means the level of play is again, rising. If anyone would've tried to do anything similar two years ago, he would have encountered many difficulties. So, I guess I'm still succeeding in my mission, improving the play level in Israel.