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GP Pittsburgh Trial, Maryland - Head Judge Report

Blown Calls, Weeping Players, and Rules Lawyers Galore!

Gianpaolo Baglione

I am fortunate enough to live in an area where there is not only a sizeable player base, but also a decent base of judges, as well. The premier event organizer for the area, Dream Wizards of Rockville, Maryland, already has an abundance of judging talent, and yet after receiving my Level 2 certification just a short time ago I was invited to Head Judge a team limited event- a Grand Prix trial for Pittsburgh. I even had a staff! I would like to thank both Adam Dale, Level 2 and Paul Morris, Level 1 - I really could not have done it without their help.

Set up
As registration completed, we took the final tally at 36 teams. We initially announced 8 rounds with a top-2 cut off, then later we found the TO's event description and made a second announcement that it was 7 rounds, top 4 playoff, top 2 Rochester. Whew. We managed to do deck registration and deck construction, including deck swap, remarkably rapidly, although I had to be a little fascist about starting.

HINT: When collecting the individual deck lists, make the Teams turn them in all at the same time, it means less work for you later. Yes, this is true.

With the help of two volunteers, Adam and Paul were able to check and sort 108 deck lists for validity in time to hand out penalties at the beginning of the second round, much to the dismay of those who received them.


The question was what would happen to the damage if the Beacon was not in play when the damage resolved?

I made two rules mistakes during this event, one of which I was able to correct immediately and the other I unfortunately did not. First, I should have known more about Beacon of Destiny.

I incorrectly ruled that the damage would "fizzle" due to lack of target.

419.6c Some effects replace damage dealt to one creature or player with the same damage dealt to another creature or player; such effects are called "redirection" effects. If either creature is no longer in play or is no longer a creature when the damage would be redirected, the effect does nothing. Likewise, if either player is no longer in the game, the effect does nothing.

Rule 419.6 indicates differently, however- if either the original recipient of the damage or the new one is no longer in play, the damage redirection effect does nothing. I regret that I was not able to correct this sooner, but I can guarantee that this is one I won't soon forget, either.

The second one concerns Aurification.
Whenever a creature deals damage to you, put a gold counter on it.
Each creature with a gold counter on it is a Wall in addition to its other creature types. (Walls can't attack.)
When Aurification leaves play, remove all gold counters from all creatures.

In my opinion, the problem is with the gold counter. The card text would seem to imply that as long as the creature had a gold counter on it, it was a Wall as well as whatever else it was, regardless of any changes. In other words, the "is a wall" effect is continuously recalculated and put on top of whatever other creature type may exist.

Fortunately, I consulted with Paul and Adam, and Adam whipped out the Onslaught FAQ

From the Onslaught FAQ:

If a spell or ability changes the creature type of a creature with a gold counter on it, the new creature type overrides all previous creature types (including Wall). For example, you can use Imagecrafter's ability to make your creature able to attack for a turn.

I was able to go back and reverse myself, which is one of the few perks of being a head judge. However, I'm still annoyed with myself for blowing that as it was an absurdly easy call, but I had just read the rulings on the Riptide Mangler and how its power was calculated with counters and I'm fairly certain that's what threw me off the beaten path.
By and large, the number of rules-related questions was very few. We suspected that most players were asking their teammates instead of us, which is bothersome to some extent but understandable. There were, however, some other interesting calls.

"My opponent looked at the top two cards of his deck, then picked it up and shuffled it--"
"--It was an accident! I accidentally looked at the top two cards of my deck while I was drawing!"
"...and then you accidentally shuffled your deck?"
"No, but I was trying to fix it."
"You see, if you had just looked at the cards, I could have revealed them to you opponent and given you a warning. By shuffling your deck, however, there's no way I can recreate the game state to what it was before you committed the infraction. Therefore I have no choice but to issue you a game loss."

Or how about this:

"My opponent presented a 37 card deck."
"Where are the other 3 cards?"
"They're his graveyard from last game and they're under that guy's book."
"It was good that you found them, then. You should be more careful, consider yourself Officially Warned."
"Um, shouldn't he get a game loss or something?"
"Well, since we were able to catch it, no, a warning is sufficient."
Not a minutes passes when I hear:


Same player.

"My opponent drew 7 after taking a mulligan."
"Warning, incorrect start of game. Force mulligan to 5!"
"What a lucky break for this guy!"

So if I wasn't sure that the player calling for me was fishing for an easy win, this clinched it. Later, I checked back in on their final match to make sure they were at least being civil; the Rules Fisherman asks me, "So if I had called you later after the match had started, would he have gotten a game loss?"

"Most likely, yes. Of course, it was better that you caught it early. You see, if a judge is inclined to think that a player is deliberately allowing a severe rules infraction to occur in order for his opponent to receive a severe penalty, we are often inclined to severely penalize that player for unsporting conduct. So as you can see, it was definitely to your advantage to call for a judge earlier, rather than later."

None of this was nearly as exciting, however, as what happened in round 6, the next-to-the-last round.

"What's the penalty if your opponent offers you a bribe?"
"They just asked us what we would give them for a concession."

Wonderful. My first event as a Head Judge and I'm going to have to fill out three disqualification reports. I quickly questioned a spectator and an adjacent player, neither of whom could say with any certainty what happened. I separately questioned each team to get their recounting of events. Their stories diverged at the point where the player at the center of this controversy gets back from checking the standings. Team A (the team that called for the judge) could certainly have benefited from 3 points, whereas their opponents Team B would not, as they were paired up. To further complicate matters, Team A contained two players with less than stellar reputations, including one with a previous DQ for excessive rules lawyering and general unsporting conduct, whereas Team B's players were well known by Paul, who vouched for their character. In the end, I did not have enough evidence from parties that were not involved and so I issued a warning and a very stern reprimand to Team B. As fate would have it, Team A did win the match but missed out on the top 4 by a single point.

In later conversations with the players from Team A, I made it known to them that their previous behavior did play a role in what happened to them today, and that they were well advised to improve their attitudes a bit. These were younger kids, and I felt somewhat like an older brother to them. If you find yourself lecturing players, it helps you if you really try to keep their best interests at heart. If I have a weakness as a judge, it's that I tend to look for the good in people and really want to give people the benefit of the doubt. I get burned occasionally with this policy, but I just can't see myself changing.


Well, I can't name names because I only heard a rumor that a player cried after I ruled against him, but I didn't personally witness it.


In no particular order:

  1. A good team of judges is greater than the sum of its parts. We have a great judge base in the area and I look forward to working with all of them for Regionals.
  2. If at all possible, try to have a judge hanging out at the top tables the last round before cuts. We had a team get into the Finals on the basis of a concession, and while I'm sure it was all completely legit, it's better to be sure.
  3. Just because someone has lied in the past doesn't necessarily mean they're lying now; it just makes it more likely.

Overall I had a great time working as a head judge and I hope to do it again soon


Also, lest I forget, a special thanks to Laurel Chiat, owner and TO of Dream Wizards for giving me the opportunity to work with her and to John Carter for being a good mentor.

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