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PTQ Houston (Ireland) - Judge Report

Thomas Ralph

Tournament Details:

Date: August 3rd, 2002. Scheduled start time: 11:15 am.
Tournament Organizer: Oli Bird. Head Judge, floor judge, scorekeeper, and most other things: Thomas Ralph (Level 2)
Site: iCon, Dooley's Hotel, Waterford, Ireland
Format: Odyssey Block Constructed
Number of Players: 31
Rules Enforcement Level: 3
First Prize: 500 English, box of boosters, and invite to PT Houston.

Note that all amounts of money are in Euro - 1 euro is approximately equal to 1 US Dollar. All times are 24-hour clock (Military Time), British Summer Time (EDT + 5 hours).


It all started on IRC early in July, when I was hanging out in #mtgireland and talking with Dave Kearney, one of the main judges and players in Ireland, about the upcoming PTQs for the next couple of seasons. He mentioned that there was one planned for iCon, a convention in Waterford (130km from my home in Cork). I had been promoted to level 2 at the European Championships the previous month, and Dave offered me the chance to head-judge this PTQ. I took up the offer eagerly, and that led me to today.

On the way, I was lucky enough to win a remote-controlled Land-Rover car in a radio phone-in competition after answering the question "If I wind up my alarm clock, set it for 12 noon, and go to bed at 10:30, how many hours sleep do I get?" The answer is of course 1.5 hours, because the wind-up alarm clock will go off at midnight! One less present to worry about next time a birthday comes around.

The Tournament

9:55 On arriving, I get the computer set up (assisted by former level 3 judge Ralph Martin) and open DCI Tools. I also open an envelope of deck registration sheets to give out, but the pens are kept in a box - anyone who didn't bring their own pen will have to spend 50 cent - this quickly teaches them to bring one next time. The tournament entry fee is 3 euro, which on top of the venue entry fee of 7 euro is quite steep, but I remind players that fees of $20 are known in the USA, so they stop complaining.

10:15 I start to print the table numbers, something I should have done last night, but at least now I can print only what is needed.

10:31 Tournament registration opens, and deck registration sheets are made available.

10:35 A player who just sleeved his deck with new sleeves asks me to check his deck for marked cards, because he has heard that sleeves can be marked out of the box. He had shuffled the deck before sleeving it, and there was no problem with the deck.

11:10 I learn that 5 players are due to arrive late, and although I want to keep the event running to time, I am persuaded to delay for them if necessary.

11:17 Deck lists have been coming in for the last few minutes, so I start checking for illegal cards and adding up the totals on each list. When a list checks out, I stamp it and arrange it in alphabetical order with the other lists.

11:50 Because so much time has been allowed for registrations, I have got most of the decklists verified by now. This will leave me free to walk the floor in round 1.

12:00 I announce the impending end of registration time, and at 12:10, I close registrations. Due to players coming late, I'm 50 minutes behind schedule. Fortunately, the venue doesn't close until 22:00. I print player lists immediately.

The Rounds

12:15 I perform pairings for round 1, post them, and print the results slips.

12:21 A player comes and tells me he wasn't on the pairings. He had given me his deck registration sheet but he hadn't paid so I hadn't entered him in DCI Tools. I cancel and take down the pairings.

12:21 I make new pairings, print and post them.

12:22 The results slips print and I choose a random table to deck-check.

12:25 I introduce myself and make some tournament announcements, and then it's Welcome to round 1 of 5. You have 50 minutes, you may begin!

12:28 I collect the decks for deck-checks. One player is having quite a bad day - he gets a Caution for Marked Cards - Minor (some cards were upside-down with respect to the others in his deck), a Warning for Procedural Error - Major ("2 Lightning Strike" written on the decklist rather than "2 Lightning Surge"; I later downgrade this to a Caution) and a Game Loss for Illegal Main Deck (Legal List) (an Island and a Web of Inertia were missing from the deck which he presented to his opponent.

12:35 Two players argue on whether they had left the attack phase. I rule that since the non-active player had nodded to the active player playing a land that they had agreed to leave the attack phase. I didn't issue any warnings.

12:38 A player asks me what are the valid choices for Living Wish. I explain that he may choose any creature or land from his sideboard, or any creature or land removed from the game (for example due to Faceless Butcher).

12:40 I check that players have a visible method to keep track of life-total. Two players don't. I tell both of them to make sure they have one for the next round, and I warn one of them, who is an experienced tournament player and is always forgetting his life-keeping method, that he will get a warning in the next tournament that he forgets it in.

12:46 A player calls me and asks how is it decided which of AEther Burst's targets is still affected if his opponent responds by removing the AEther Burst from his graveyard with Krosan Reclamation. I ask him to read the card. He doesn't get it. I ask him to read the card again, specifically the last five words ("...as you play AEther Burst.") I explain that the amount of targets is locked-in on announcement and won't be modified by adding or removing cards from the graveyard in response.

12:54 A player attacks his opponent, who has 2 life, with Shambling Swarm, Laquatus's Champion, and Faceless Butcher. The opponent blocks Laquatus's Champion with a 3/2 Nantuko Shade, and wants to know if the life he regains from Laquatus's Champion dying will save him. I rule that it will not, because he will be at -3 when combat damage resolves, and will die before the "gain 6 life" triggered ability goes on the stack.

The "When Laquatus's Champion leaves play, that player gains 6 life" is a triggered ability that goes on the stack after the Champion leaves play. If the Champion leaves play as a result of combat damage resolving, then the player will take any combat damage before life would be gained.

12:58 There are quite a few young players and their parents both playing and watching the tournament, so I ask a number the older players to restrain their profanity.

13:04 The tournament is barely an hour old and already it's like a sauna. I ask for the air conditioning to be turned up to full, and mercifully, it cools down.

13:15 Time is up! Active player, finish your turn, and then there will be five extra turns.

13:19 All the results slips are in.

13:21 I make pairings and print the results slips for the second round.

13:26 A player tells me that he is missing his deck, which he set down on a table. He finds it a couple of minutes later, and I give his match a time extension.

13:28 Welcome to round 2 of 5! You have 50 minutes, you may begin!

13:39 Someone attempted to play Mind Sludge, targeting a player with Solitary Confinement in play. I reversed the play, but since he had tapped lands before playing Mind Sludge, he had to keep the mana. I did not issue any warning.

13:49 A player plays Aquamoeba's ability, discarding Roar of the Wurm. His opponent wants to respond by shuffling Roar of the Wurm into his library with Krosan Reclamation, but the active player thinks he can play Roar of the Wurm using Flashback first. I explain that since Roar of the Wurm is discarded on announcement, and is a sorcery, that he can't play it. After some thought, he shuffles Roar of the Wurm into his library and plays on with his 3/1 Aquamoeba.

13:58 There are a lot of people calling me just to check how much time is left. I must remember to buy a big clock to hang up and point to.

14:00 I talk to a player who just lost his last game and match due to attacking to win with all his creatures, while he had Wonder in his graveyard, only for his opponent to block them all, making him realise too late that he did not control an island! The player asks me if he may put a reminder of some sort on the card, and I tell him that he may write on the card if he wishes, so long as it is not obscene or obscuring the card name. He draws a big circle around the word "island" so that he won't forget again.

14:08 A player asks me to watch his opponent, who just mulliganed twice, for slow play.

14:18 That's time on the round! Active player, finish your turn, and then there are five extra turns!

14:20 Quite a lot of tables have gone to extra turns. This seems to be a rather slow format.

14:27 All the results are in. I perform and print pairings for round 3.

14:32 Welcome to round 3! You have 50 minutes, and you may begin!

14:34 I begin the deck checks for this round.

14:36 I am called away from the deck checks and asked a rather confusing question about first strike damage, and whether it makes a difference if a creature gains first strike after first strike damage is dealt. I explain that it does not, but also that there is no separate first strike combat damage step unless a creature with first strike is attacking or blocking, which there wasn't.

14:44 I finish the deck checks, no problems with the decks.

14:47 A player turned over two cards by accident when drawing for Compulsion. I issue a warning for Looking at Extra Cards, and reveal the extra card to his opponent.

14:58 I caution a player for using profanity near a young player. He drops from the tournament, and engages me in a rather pointless argument on my motivations for giving penalties for use of profanity.

15:08 A player shouts out loud "Judge! My opponent can tell the future!" This raises some laughs, but there's not a lot I can do about it.

15:13 I am called to a table where a player played Flash of Insight with X = 3, and then looked at four cards by accident. Again, I issue a warning for Looking at Extra Cards, and reveal the extra card to his opponent.

15:16 Some of the players are rather cramped in the tournament space - the chairs were rather tightly packed. Quite a few players have dropped, so I space out the numbers a bit more.

15:21 I issue a warning to a player for leaving garbage (a piece of paper) in the tournament area. This is later downgraded to a caution after consulting with the Penalty Guidelines. A player who is involved in the setup of the tournament had questioned the reasoning behind my issuing the warning, and asked to see the rule broken before I issued it. I showed him it, but gave him a stern lecture about attempting to interfere with warnings that I issue.

15:22 That's the end of the round! Active player, finish your turn, and then there are five extra turns!

15:28 With all the results in, I print standings.

15:34 I print the pairings and distribute results slips for round 4.

15:39 Welcome to round 4! You have 50 minutes, and you may begin!

15:40 The top two tables Intentionally Draw, and quickly afterwards I deck-check the next table down.

15:48 I complete the deck checks with no problems.

15:48 A player holds a Centaur Garden over the table for a while then returns it to his hand and plays a Forest instead. His opponent wants me to enforce the playing of the Garden, but I rule that the Centaur Garden had never left his hand. I also ask the players to play more carefully.

15:55 A player shuffled his sideboard into his deck while shuffling before the first game. He finds this out when he draws a sideboard card during the game. I give a game loss for illegal deck (legal list) and he wants to know whether he can sideboard before the second game. A quick consultation with rule 122 in the Magic Floor rules reveals that he is allowed to sideboard.

16:08 A player asks me will Mutilate kill a creature with protection from black. I respond by explaining the benefits of protection ("DEBT"), and after some pondering, he plays the Mutilate.

16:19 A player plays Quiet Speculation, and then puts 2 cards into his graveyard. He goes to shuffle his library and then decides against it and takes another card instead. His opponent claims that the player was trying to look for his reaction before deciding whether to get the next card. I tell the opponent to stop fishing for warnings, and the player who played Quiet Speculation to play more tightly.

16:29 Time is up! Active player, finish your turn, and then there are five extra turns!

16:38 9 minutes after the end of the round, one match is still not into the extra turns (they are on the active player's turn); I have asked them to speed up multiple times. After I threaten to issue warnings for slow play, they speed up and finish. They weren't delaying the tournament anyway because a match with a time extension was still in progress.

16:44 All the results slips are (eventually) in.

16:47 I post standings, and give the players a few minutes to ponder what they need to do in the next round.

16:52 I post pairings for round 5, and distribute results slips.

16:55 Welcome to round 5! You have 50 minutes, and you may begin!

16:55 Again, the top two tables Intentionally Draw.

16:56 I collect the decks for deck-checks.

16:58 One of the players who Intentionally Drew slaps the table in front of him and shouts out, startling nearby players. I issue a warning for Unsporting Conduct - Minor.

17:05 I finish the deck checks. Both had minor clerical errors - "1 Spellbane" (rather than Spellbane Centaur) and "2 Centaur Island" (rather than Centaur Garden). Since they were not ambiguous, I issue cautions for Procedural Error - Minor. One of the player's shuffling technique resulted in his cards being bent rather like foils. I ask him to review the technique. He also has long horizontal marks across two of his cards so I ask him to re-sleeve those.

17:15 A player wants to know is the target of Book Burning determined before or after the opponent chooses whether to take 6 damage. I rule that Book Burning is targeted on announcement, and opponents make the choice on resolution, therefore the target is determined first.

17:29 I issue an Unsporting Conduct - Minor warning to a player who repeatedly used profanity in the presence of young players.

17:32 I issue another Unsporting Conduct - Minor warning to a player using profanity in the presence of young players.

All during the tournament players ask me about what record will make top 8. My response is the same - "I can't tell you that as I am not allowed to give you advice, but if you come up to me after the tournament I will give you help on how to work it out for yourself next time.

17:45 That is time up! Active player, finish your turn, and then there will be five additional turns!

17:55 All the results are in, so I print the standings.

17:59 I call out the standings. Anyone who played the fifth round got a booster, and the 9th-16th placed players got another booster.

18:00 I announce a 15-minute break for people to get food.

18:13 In one of the side drafts, a player opens a Judgment booster with 4 uncommons. I tell him that this is just bad luck, and he will have to play with it. Only boosters with the wrong amount of cards, or marked cards, should be replaced.

18:17 Welcome to the Quarter-Finals! You will have one hour. If the time expires, there will be five additional turns as usual, after which the player with higher life total wins. If neither player has a higher life total, you will play until one does. If there are no further questions, you may begin!

18:26 A player who wants to play in a side draft has forgotten his DCI number which he got some years ago. I look it up on DCI tools, which quite impresses him.

18:41 A player wants to discard Obsessive Research during his cleanup step, play it via madness, and draw a card, then keep his eight cards. I explain that if any ability triggers or a state-based effect occurs in the cleanup step that there will be another cleanup step after it and he will have to discard back to 7.

18:54 All quarter-final results are in.

19:03 Welcome to the Semi-Finals. You have one hour, and you may begin!

19:53 The semi-finals end.

19:58 Dave Kearney, a player who was deputizing for the tournament organizer, brings me chicken nuggets and fries from the bar.

20:02 The final begins.

20:08 The first game of the final ends.

20:20 I ask one of the final players to cease sideboarding and shuffling and to present his deck. I can only give a caution for the offence, as he hasn't exceeded the pre-game time limit before in the tournament, and it is an untimed final.

20:24 The second game of the final begins.

20:38 The second game of the final ends.

20:41 The third game of the final begins. 20:50 The final finishes and I wrap up the side drafts. Well done to John Larkin who won the invite to PT Houston!


After the event was over I got the chance to call and judge a Team Rochester draft with the Irish National Team drafting against another local team. Other than having to replace six rare-less Judgment boosters, and give the earliest-laid-card to late drafters while trying to keep up the count, the draft passed without incident. Team Rochester draft is very product-intensive, requiring 18 boosters for each round, so it is not something that happens very often!

So, did I enjoy head-judging my first PTQ? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes. What was the best part? Not one of the 31 players registered an illegal deck and got a very avoidable match loss. The only thing I might have asked for in addition would have been another judge, either to help run deck checks, or so that someone would be on the floor while deck checks were taking place. Unfortunately, judges are at a premium in Ireland at the moment, and those who are judges prefer to play. If you're in the same position, watch out for my forthcoming article on Judging Alone.

See you all soon!

Thomas Ralph
DCI Level 2 judge
e-league Level 3 judge
e-league Judge Director

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