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Pro Tour Yokohama - Judge Report

Miki Urban

Hi, my name is Miki Urban, I'm a level 2 judge from San Diego, Ca. Before you continue, I would like to warn you that this is a very, very, very long report. I was lucky enough to get sponsored to judge at PT Yokohama and felt it was my duty to share my experiences with my fellow judges. If it seems like I am sharing everythingwith you, well, I wanted to make sure you enjoyed something in here, so I tried not to leave too much out.

Pro Tour Yokohama
This is the second Pro Tour I have judged (PT Houston was the other), on top of a bunch of Grand Prix, PTQs, etc., all the way down to weekly drafts at a local store. I decided to be a judge after a lot of practice and studying - to be a player. I missed day 2 of GP Denver because of rules and timing, so I figured the best way to learn them was to become a judge - nobody else knows rules better, right? So I took the Level 1 and to my surprise, passed. By the way, if you are not yet a judge, the test actually takes several hours, so don't wait until the last minute to take it. I didn't use my new skills for a couple months, until I volunteered for some PTQs that I didn't want to play in. I volunteered a little more, then more, even more, and suddenly a year was up and I could try the Level 2 test! I passed that, started judging a lot more, and ta-da, here I am! I actually like playing a lot, but I don't have a lot of free time to dedicate towards play testing, so right now most of my playing is online.

My flight to Japan was long, but uneventful. I highly recommend you bring several things to entertain yourself with on planes, both electronic and non-electronic. For me, it is a book or two while the plane is taxiing and a GameBoy and cd-player for mid-flight. A word of advice to anyone flying half-way around the world: the day your plane lands may not be the same as when it left. I had a morning departure and arrived at night in Japan, which is great, except I arrived the next day, which wasn't so great.

When I arrived, I quickly got my express train ticket to Yokohama, followed the directions exactly and hopped on the wrong train (multiple trains share the same tracks? What an idea!), then the right one, and fell asleep. Before my eyes completely shut, I noticed the passing landscape: small groups of tiny townhouses, scattered patches of very dense trees, surrounded by stair-stepped fields of rice paddies. The sky was dark with rain clouds, and I can only imagine how pretty it would look on a bright, sunny day.

Another note for sponsored judges, Wizards is very generous and covers the plane ticket and hotel, plus gives you food money for the tournament, but transportation from the airport to the hotel and site is up to you: you might need to budget a couple extra dollars for a train, taxi, rental car or hiking boots.

Also, bring a map, *in your language*, of the area you will be traveling. For example, Japan has 3 different alphabets: one for writing native Japanese words, one for writing foreign words, and another from China using picture-like symbols for complicated words and/or names, I think. They all are pronounced the same, just being different ways of writing the same sounds. Anyway, on more than one occasion I found myself using pen and paper to play "match the word" between different maps and charts.

I finally arrived at the hotel, and tried to find the tournament location. Remember my suggestion about maps? One would have helped here. Whether or not you have a map, I recommend you visit the tournament site ASAP so you know for sure how to get there. It was only a ten minute walk from my hotel, but that's plenty of time to get lost, and I would rather get lost when I am not expected than when I am. I got two sets of wrong directions from people at the hotel to the site, but managed to figure out the correct one by combining pieces of both. Sometimes two wrongs do make a right! I got there, checked it out, and then went back to the hotel to sleep. I'm hungry, too, but luckily I found several traditional Japanese restaurants during my walk: a McDonalds and Sizzler on the way there, a KFC ice-cream cart sized booth at the site, and a TGI Fridays back at the hotel.

Ah, finally the morning of the tournament. I have no problem with the 7am wake up but don't realize until a couple days later that it's because 7am in Japan is 3pm back home. The judges are divided into the teams Jeff Donais describes in his article. I'm assigned as the team leader for Pairings: posting the pairings and standings before rounds. It's a very difficult task, as you can imagine, but we were brave judges with strength and courage to work together and post. Go Pairings! We even had the pairings up fast enough to the start the clocks at the beginning of each round! Amazing! To be honest, we had fewer judges here than most Pro Tours, but the teams all worked so efficiently that it actually seemed like we were doing less work than usual. The Pairings and Slips teams were speedy enough to begin floor judging at the beginning of the round while (Deck) Checks did their thing and Logistics covered any missed bases.

During the tournament, I was called for very few rules questions. Most Pro Tour players have the rules down pretty good, and Magic Online has helped point out a lot of the complicated timing issues. Most of the problems were communication and language problems: players passing priority, declaring turn phases, etc. I'll try not to repeat questions that have been answered in any of the Pre-release FAQs, but a couple of other interesting rules questions did come up.

  • Before the tournament actually started, I was asked if Artificial Evolution, cast on a creature spell before it entered play, would affect the amplify ability of that creature. I thought it did, but wasn't 100% sure, so I asked a higher level judge (a practice I highly recommend when unsure of an answer), and he agreed. For example, a player casts Daru Stinger and before it resolves you cast Artificial Evolution targeting it and naming "Camel" as the new creature type, revealing soldiers no longer gives it +1/+1 counters, but all those camels he is holding become broken.
  • I was also asked about Mistform Mask, which reads "Enchanted creature's type becomes the creature type of your choice until end of turn." A player wondered if the Mask were used to change a beast into a wall, but disenchanted before the end of the turn, what would the creature type be? Because the Mask reads "...until end of turn", the beast would remain a wall until the end of turn, even if the Mask was no longer on it.
  • One of those foreign language miscommunications I mentioned before came up in Round 3. One player attacked with his morph, and his opponent blocked with his. The active player moved his creature toward the graveyard, when the defending player tapped some mana and unmorphed his, so his Wall of Deceit would not take lethal damage. The active player argued that he had waited for the defender to take any actions, but enough time had elapsed that the defender must have passed priority. Had I seen the entire combat phase, and witnessed all gestures that made it obvious that both players were passing priority to let combat damage resolve, I would have agreed with him, but since he never said "pass priority," etc., and had his opponent agree to them, I ruled that any action he makes is equivalent to passing priority up to the step immediately preceding his action: moving his attacker to the graveyard is the same as passing priority up to damage resolution, and moving to draw a card is passing priority in the upkeep, or declaring attackers is passing priority in the beginning of combat step. The rule of thumb is you cannot force your opponent past any time he has priority. If he performs an action that indicates he is passing priority or agrees to a question you ask (saying "ok" after casting shock on his creature, nodding his head, or moving the target creature to the graveyard), then has he let something resolve.
  • Ok, this question was probably mentioned in the FAQ, but it's not as obvious: even though turning a creature face up doesn't use the stack and can't be responded to before it is becomes face up (i.e. "unmorphing doesn't use the stack"), it is not the same as passing priority. For example, if one player attacks with an Ascending Aven, passes priority before blockers are declared, and the defending player turns a Sootfeather Flock face up, the players do not immediately enter the Declare Blockers step. Two players at the tournament were unsure if the active player receives priority again in the "before blockers are declared" step, which would allow him to Shock the Flock, or if they immediately proceeded to the "Declare Blockers" step. The correct answer is the active player does regain priority and has an opportunity to kill the bird before blockers are declared.

Beginning with the last round of Day 1 and until the end of Day 2, new problems surfaced: slow play, collusion and bribery. At the end of day 1 some players got desperate to make Day 2, and again towards the end of Day 2, to make Top 8 or money. I was on the floor for all of Day 2 (and performing my duties as a new member of team Slips) and answered very few rules questions, but I watched a lot of matches for slow play. It's unbelievable how difficult slow play is to catch. The amount of time a player needs to determine his ideal play is sometimes short and sometimes long, but varies according to the player's skill level, deck, and board position. If you are trying to watch slow play, do your best to watch as much of the match as possible: if you hear shouts for judge, see if another judge can handle it so you can continue. Also, watch for slow play on both players, not just the opponent of the first player to call you. Most of the times a player has asked me to watch for slow play, the two players end up using nearly equal amounts of time, the accuser is the slower payer almost as often as his opponent.

I am sure I made more than one mistake this tournament, but two were nice ones. The first was if the controller of Sparksmith will take damage even if all of sparky's damage is prevented. I should know that preventing all damage from Sparksmith was not the same as making its target illegal, but I think in my way-too-much playing in MTGO, it never came up or I didn't notice. It's not an impressive mistake, but it was embarrassing to make such a simple mistake in front a pretty big crowd in the middle of a Pro Tour.

My second mistake, however, was very impressive. I got to table judge one of the semifinal matches, Jose Barbero vs. Masashi Ooiso, with Brian Kibler doing Sideboard coverage. Games 1, 2 and 3 were fine, no problems at all. In game 4, Ooiso was up 2-1 and in control with an Ascending Aven, Sharpshooter and Sledder in play vs. a morph, and ahead in life 15ish-6 (Ooiso's life total isn't important here.) Jose has to play a Wretched Anurid as a blocker and says go. Ooiso drops sledder #2 and attacks with the Aven, bringing Jose's life total to 2, but Ooiso thinks Jose is at 0. Not only do our numbers differ, but Jose has himself at a different life total, and Kibler's numbers don't match anyone's, either.

Miki table judging Barbero vs. Ooiso
That makes 4 people keeping score and 4 different life totals. On top of that, every time someone's life changed, I spoke both players' life totals into a microphone I was wearing for the TV crew. I spoke in a low voice because I did not want to interrupt their playing, so they may not have heard me. Also, Jose is from Argentina and Ooiso does not speak English, so they might not have even understood me. During the game, I noticed Jose missed a least one end-of-turn Sharpshooter, so I knew his number was not 100% correct, and Kibler and I saw at least one combat phase differently which may help explain our differences. We all had identical life totals except for the last 4-5 turns, so the four of us, plus a judge to translate Japanese to English, reconstructed those turns and it looked like I might have missed 2 end of turn pings with the Sharpshooter. I have 1 ping on my score sheet, Kibler has 2 and Ooiso has 3. Kibler has a ping to kill a creature I have dead to combat damage, so that give him 3 pings but with unsure targets. Rune Horvik, the head judge, says only the table judge has the official life totals and what I say will be the correct totals. Even though it seems that there may have been 3 end of turn pings (those may have been fast turns, where Jose played a land and said go, and the pings occurred while I was writing down which land he played), I only actually saw 1, so I can only announce Jose's life as 2.

It really was a moot point, as Jose was unable to prevent Ooiso from winning next turn, but it does illustrate the importance in future top-8 matches (or at least any match with a table judge recording life totals) for the players to make sure all changes are recorded by the judge. As a side note, Alex Charsky table judged Ooiso's next match and noticed he was very careful about life changes. I will also practice table judging at some of my local tournaments to improve my speed and accuracy. For everyone else who wants practice before they are put under the gun in a Pro Tour Top 8, a good sheet for table judging is any sheet of paper, folded into halves. Each half has 5 columns: 1 for land played, 2 for recording each players' life changes, and finally 2 to hold each players' life totals at the end of the turn. A sheet called the "Magic Game Scoring Sheet" is very good for this and is included in the Coordinator's Handbook delivered on every Tournament Organizer's CD-ROM (and may be on the judge's CD, too, but I can't find my CD right now.) Email me (miurban@san.rr.com) if you can't get a copy and I can send you one.

Before I close, I would like to thank everyone involved for sponsoring my for PT Yokohama, the judges there who were a pleasure to work with, and everyone else I am sure I forgot to mention. US Nationals is in my home town, so if you're coming, I'll see you in my stripes!


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