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Pro Tour Nice - Head Judge Report

Cyril Grillon

Pro Tours are the kind of events where things are going smoother and smoother. Both judges and players have gotten used to the PT environment, so do not expect blood and tears in this report. There was no disqualification; not even a chair was thrown into the air.

I'll not describe the entire Pro Tour as there are many good reports talking about what is done and how it works. I'll not include rules question as the DCI mailing list is much better than me at answering questions. And because this event was not held a long time ago in a galaxy far away, there won't be any Jedi mind tricks. Well, maybe ...

The format for this Pro Tour was booster draft.

Team repartition:

Usually, I divide judges amongst three teams, two on the floor and one for deck check, and they rotate positions each round. Some small administrative tasks (such as posting pairings or distributing result entry slips) are assigned to a team for the entire day.

One of the small changes implemented during this event was to assign a team to the deck check for a complete draft instead of changing it at every round. The benefit is coherence as it is the same group of judges who will cover all the administrative tasks related to decks check from sorting the deck lists to assigning penalties. The downside is that when you're a member of this team, you know you're going to live the excitement of deck checking for at least three rounds, maybe four.

Team Leader:

Historically, team leaders are selected amongst the most experienced judges available. On a Pro Tour, we're talking about level 4 judges or very experienced level 3. They are used to the Pro Tour environment and they can share their knowledge with less experienced judges. It's pure logic.

This time, on day two, I chose level 2 judges who are on a good track for their level 3 as senior judges. The benefit is that you can observe them in a situation they will soon confront when they reach their level 3. By doing this, we were able to observe some skills such as Leadership, Teamwork, and Management.

Obviously, there is a risk that the event won't go as smoothly as it should. But, on a Pro Tour, with so many experienced people around, it is a calculated risk that will never jeopardize the event.

As a side note, there was a level 4 judge assigned to side events. In most judges' perceptions, the side event area is not as exciting a place as the main event. And, players often consider that the side event area is a wild place where good rulings can be hard to find. This must change, because it is just a perception, and mainly not true. Assigning a level 4 to side events is a guarantee that players will feel good and that judges will have the feeling to learn from this experience. I like side events, and I'd like to see more judges happy to be there.

Assigning penalties for misrecorded deck list:

If you want a detailed procedure of how deck checks are run, you should read Mike Donais's report on World Championship 2001.

The team who was assigned to deck check during the first draft of the week end assigned penalties for misrecorded deck lists during round one. Usually, I prefer to assign those penalties at the very beginning of a match instead of interrupting a game in progress. Players will always use the game state to interfere with the penalty ("but, judge, I'm in control of the game, you can't give me a game loss right now, can't you postponed it until the next game?"), therefore we don't want to give them this opportunity.

Now, it was my responsibility as Head Judge to make sure that judges would act as I want them to do, and I failed to communicate properly with this team during the judge briefing. As soon as I realised that I was not clear enough, I talked with all the team leaders to make sure that the method would be changed for the rest of the event.

Was I drunk?

The fourth draft was interrupted in the middle of the second pack because three or four cards in one of the packs were marked. I was calling the draft and quite happy that it was going smoothly with nearly no interruption.

Soon the table judge comes to me, and described the situation. My answer was something like "well, proxy the cards and resume the draft for your table, we'll wait for you before opening the last pack...uh no, just take the card back and replace the booster." We're in booster draft, meaning that I just instructed a judge to take 8 partially drafted packs back, get the already drafted cards back, and throw 8 replacement packs while proxying 3 cards would have been enough. Sometimes, your tongue goes faster than your brain, and that's a bad move.

Fortunately, some wise minds helped me to realize that I was definitively in the wrong direction before damages were dealt. But even if my mistake didn't affect the event, I was still really frustrated by the incident.

Peeking is no good for you!

Peeking (when a player tries to see what his neighbour's picks are) is highly disruptive. Players who succeed gain a huge advantage in the game as they can adapt their draft strategy based on this information that should not be available to them. That is simply cheating.

However, experience proves that it is really hard to get the conviction that it was really performed by a player. And history proves that it was never really enforced, until Nice.

One match loss, two game losses and a fair number of warnings were assigned for peeking during the draft. Even if some very strong penalties were issued during this Pro Tour, I do not recommend everybody to follow this example. Instead, I would like to see all the judges around the globe enforcing this trend with warnings.

Let's fill Mister Zantides's database with billions of warnings in order to create a solid ground of history. The real power of the warning is not the impact it has at the time it is given. No, its real strength is in accumulation. It allows the DCI to spot recursive behaviour with a high resolution. It is the best way to deal with situations that are hard to deal with such as stalling or peeking.

It is my understanding that warnings are not used by the judge community at its real power. There are so many situations where a warning should be given, just because it becomes a written record. It is true that the player will walk away with "just" a warning, sometimes in a situation where you suspect a potential cheating attitude. But, sometimes, you don't have enough evidence to "crack down" on the player. Then use the warning, young Jedi.

As a conclusion, I'd like to share some random thoughts.

First of all, I'm happy that David Sevilla from Spain achieved his level 3. We have worked together on different events, and I saw him walking from the "one day, I'd like to be [a Level 3 judge]" until the smile on his face. He took his time, walked slowly, but surely, on a path that is not always easy to follow.

This note leads me to another great success in the judge community with Rune Horvik who became level 4 in February. I had the chance to work with Rune on a large number of events and, once again, he is the living proof that if you take your time, you'll reach your goal. Yoda said "there is no try" and I guess that Rune is much stronger than Luke.

During this Pro Tour, like during any major event I've been on, I spent some of my time disintegrating judge cluster. There is a natural tendency amongst judges to form groups of zebras on the floor and I guess there's no way to prevent it. It gives me the opportunity to develop the "disperse" mind trick, very useful in this situation. All you need to do is to move your hand as if you were opening a book and say "disperse" with a smooth voice. It works.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, disperse!

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