Luckily, most of the staff seemed to know Pete Norris, a veteran English Player whom I had the most fortunate opportunity to travel with. Pete was more than happy to introduce me to the regular staff and players on the international scene and for that I'm grateful. By the time the GP was over, I was more than keen to go to another European GP just to work with some of the judges again.
Adam Cetnerowski was to be our Head Judge at the event and was expecting around 650 players with tables set up for 800. By the time we had finished registering 150 more sealed decks at 11am on Saturday, the final tally was 948 players, setting a new European attendance record. It also meant no less than 9 rounds of Swiss with an estimated finish time of half past midnight.....
Obviously, the most interesting judging situations were the disqualifications that occurred, but for this report, I will concentrate on a couple of situations which I had to handle (albeit incorrectly).
Player A wants to attack with six of his creatures and Player B taps four with Choking Tethers and claims that Player B is still attacking with his remaining creatures. I explain that once attackers have been declared, tapping them does not affect them. Hence he has to tap them before attackers are declared, at which point Player B is free to choose whether to attack with any of his remaining creatures. Player B is more than happy to let Player A tap his creatures and not attack with the others. I incorrectly do so: the right situation was to let Choking Tethers resolve on the already tapped attackers as that was the state of the game at that point. (Thanks to David Vogin for pointing that out)
Player C taps seven mana and then announces to cast Towering Baloth. Unfortunately, he only has a single green mana whereas the Baloth needs two. I rule that he now has seven mana in that pool and let the game continue. Jaap Brouwer who was watching behind me afterward says that I should have let the player untap the mana, as it is still an entirely reversible action. My train of thought was that it was REL 4 and that only the illegal actions were rewinded. I agree with Jaap's argument, but by the time I reached the table to reverse my decision, Player C was already casting spells to empty his pool and it was too late.
Player D puts a creature with combat damage into the graveyard and then taps 3 mana and his Doom Cannon to deal three damage. Player E argues in bad English that the creature has been put into the graveyard from the combat damage rather than been sacrificed to the Cannon. I was going to rule in favor of Player D, but had to fetch my team leader Lubos Lauder to explain to Player E in Czech. By the time the situation had been resolved, Lubos ruled that the creature had been destroyed by combat damage: He asked Player D if it really was his intention to sacrifice the creature to the Cannon and the Player admitted no and that he tried to use the cannon afterwards as an afterthought. Again my train of thought was that costs can be paid in any order (sac then tap or tap then sac).
Obviously, from these examples, I wasn't "wrong" in my rulings: they just seemed a tad inappropriate in my opinion when I think about them afterwards, even at REL 4. A good judge will always admit when he makes mistakes and will learn from them and in the end, it all gets chalked up to experience.
Day 2 was less exhausting (despite oversleeping thanks to not put my mobile phone/alarm forwards by 1 hour!). I am assigned to help run the Team sealed side event. This was run with REL 2 and was great in preparing for the next PTQ season. There were no real rulings made, other than keeping an eye on a player that had been DQed from the Grand Prix the previous day. Luckily this time he was well-behaved.
I had gotten to know a lot of my fellow judges that weekend and very much look forward to working with them again, hopefully at either GP Amsterdam or at the European Championships.
Format: Day 1 Standard; Day 2 Rochester Draft
Now here's an interesting twist in the series: when I received my schedule for judging at Gencon, I was put down as the Head Judge for all side events. Now given the huge number of side events being run at Gencon, this is a nice honor. Unfortunately for this report, this also does mean that I am unable to judge in the English Nationals itself!! What a strange turn of events... This does also mean that the rest of this report will focus more on organization and admin than with specific judging situations. I feel at this point, the change of pace will be more than welcome for this report.
We turn up for the judges' meeting at 8am and Carl Crook gives us the rundown on all the Magic events that would be happening over the next four days. Today there would be two PTQs and sixteen last chance qualifiers being run today. Once the PTQ head judges had picked their staff, I was left to deal with the qualifiers and side events. The first two qualifiers ran smoothly, but the momentum quickly starts to build up as we struggle to find any spare judges to keep up with the qualifiers. A rota would have been very helpful at this point....
I receive a call from a judge spotting that a player's cards are marked: He is using transparent sleeves, but only his land cards have the holographic spot on the back of his magic cards. I ask Level 3 judge (and general troubleshooter) Garth Murray on how to deal with this potential DQ. I was to interview him and take down any statements that the player made. If the player refused to co-operate or came across as a shifty character, that was sufficient grounds for a DQ. I asked him how often he played, where he played etc. When it came to sleeving the deck, he told me that he gave a friend the lands to sleeve and it was him that put the sleeves on backwards. After confirming this story with the friend in question, I issued a match loss. At the time, I thought that a match loss and a DQ would have meant the same thing in a single elimination event, but in hindsight, I probably should have issued the Disqualification penalty anyway (Cheating: Unintentional), rather than Match Loss (Marked Sleeves: Major).
I finally allow my judging staff to end their shift at their allotted 10pm finish time and hand over the last four qualifiers over to the night staff. Despite being fairly exhausted from a 14 hour shift, I met up with some friends to play some Legends of the Five Rings before foolishly signing up for (and winning) a 1am booster draft (darn those 24 hour side events!!)
The morning turns out to be unusually quiet, so much so that I am able to allow most of my hard-working staff to browse the trade halls upstairs for an hour. By the time day one of the Nationals had started at noon (head judged by popular Scotsman Darryl Tweedale), there were about three booster drafts up and running. I decided to make the most of my afternoon by helping today's PTQ HJ Claire Williams with a bit of administration and results data entry.
We then felt the build-up of side-events again, but with no last chance qualifiers this time around, we were able to cope with the demand...just.
All judges were to report to the Side Event head judge after Nationals/PTQ to be assigned tasks with no exceptions.
The second day started nicely with the pods having to be re-organized: The first sets of pods were created at the end of day one, but the number of players absent today meant that we ended up with a 6-person pod. This was deemed unacceptable and Darryl ordered the pods to be re-created.
By the time the seating arrangements for round 7 had been posted, one of the pods had their matches accidentally seated next to each other. This was solved by moving one of them to a nearby table instead, so that players do not receive an advantage through scouting.
Round 7 saw an observation of slow play. Co-incidentally, this involved the same player from my Nottingham Qualifier report. After watching the match for about ten minutes, I issued a Slow Play warning to that player after checking his penalty record from day one (If he had already received a Slow Play warning, the penalty would have been immediately upgraded to a game loss). I informed Darryl of the situation and he was able to take over as an unbiased judge.
Today there were only three major events running as far as Magic was concerned: The National top 8 playoffs, the tenth anniversary finale and the Type 1 Nationals.
Gencon was an enjoyable experience: I had personally given up my opportunity to play for England, but I still do not have any regrets. While most judges have an excellent in-depth Magic knowledge, there are fewer still that can also run an effective behind-the-scenes administration. This can include knowing DCI reporter inside out; ensure sufficient staff for simultaneous Premier and side events or successfully dealing with a player's complaint about how they were unable to get into an oversold event.
And here concludes the series. I hope that you have had as much enjoyment reading these articles as I have had putting them together.
Again, thanks for reading