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Road to the English Nationals

Grand Prix Prague and GenCon Europe

Ray Fong


This report, which in itself is a complete article, is the final part of my series of judging in preparation towards the 2003 English Nationals at GenCon Europe.

Prologue: Grand Prix Prague

The weekend before the Nationals, I was fortunately enough to be awarded a full sponsorship to judge at Grand Prix Prague. This would be my final preparation for the English Nationals as it would allow me to deal with situations under REL 4 conditions.

Format: Day 1 Sealed Deck; Day 2 Booster Draft
Site: Prague Congress Centre
Date: Saturday 12 April
Attendance: 947

Prague Congress Centre was the site for the Grand Prix
This was to be my first Grand Prix abroad: I had previously judged at two GP London Events, but the difference between judging on home turf and away was an eye-opener indeed. The most noticeable was the judging staff: I had met only a few at GP London (David Vogin, Gabriel Gaulet and Philipp Daferner), whereas a few I recognized only from Magic Internet sites (Gis Hoogendjik and Rune Horvik).
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.....
We also got to the point where we had a shortage of mountains and forests, even after stripping all Onslaught tournament packs of them. In the end we had to proxy them for about 50 or so players.

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).
It just goes to show what a little probing can do in order to discover the whole truth.

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.

Gencon Europe

Format: Day 1 Standard; Day 2 Rochester Draft
Site: Olympia 2, London
Date: Saturday 15 April
Attendance: 120

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.
At 4pm, I headed back to the side events area to run one of the tenth anniversary tournaments: At 4pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday a 32 player sealed deck tournament would be held where the top 8 would receive an invitation to play in Monday's finale. Yesterday's sealed deck only had 18 players, but as today's sealed deck featured a Tempest starter pack, all 32 places were filled to the point that Gencon had oversold tickets, inevitably resulting in some disappointment.

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.


The second day of the English Nationals
By the time Sunday came, I felt that the Nationals, the daily PTQ and side events could not be run as three separate entities as far as judging staff was concerned. We already had side event judges that had worked 14 hour shifts both days while at the same time had PTQ/National judges who had finished at 7pm both days. As the Head Judge in charge of the former group, I discussed with both Darryl and Graham Hopkin (Sunday PTQ HJ) the arrangements:

All judges were to report to the Side Event head judge after Nationals/PTQ to be assigned tasks with no exceptions.
Judges that had worked to 10pm on both Friday and Saturday nights (myself included) were to finish at 6pm today instead.
Today's Side Event HJ was Claire Williams with me working day two of the Nationals. This neat set of arrangements meant that all the judges will have worked approximately equal hours and that Claire would not be short staffed in the evening (and my report stays true to its title!).

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.
Darryl only needed a table judge for each quarter finals and the Type 1 was cancelled due to a lack of player numbers, so most of the remaining judges were on Side Event stand-by. Usually you'd expect the last minute rush with players trying to get rid of their tickets and double product booster drafts, but it somehow never came, much to our relief.
We closed side events at 1pm to coincide with Gencon shutting at 4pm. With so few staff needed, many of the judges were able to take well-earned breaks and pay a first/last visit to the trade halls.

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

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