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Israel Scourge Prerelease - Head Judge Report

Alan Jacobi

This report is about the Scourge prerelease held on Saturday, May 17 in Haifa, Israel. I was the head (and only) judge. Similar to my last report, this report won't focus on rulings and such (though one can't make a judge report without mentioning rulings altogether), since I'm taking a wild guess that you'd probably rather hear anecdotes from a tournament in Israel than about rulings you could (and probably did) make yourself.

My day started earlier than usual. To be exact, it started on Friday morning. I had a work to submit to my university by Saturday night and I knew it had to be ready before the pre-release. I finally got the work to compile and was on my way back home at 6:45 am, not having slept the whole night. I dropped by my house for a quick change of clothes and to pick up my judge gear (remember the whistle and the camera?) and so, I was driving in merry zigzags to the tournament after a sleepless night, hoping I wouldn't fall asleep while making a ruling.

This time the tournament was located in a slightly different place. As an aside I should tell you a little fact about Israel on Saturdays. It's mostly closed down. There's no public transportation, and most businesses are closed (by law). Of course, Saturday is also the only day people have the free time to attend a prerelease, which creates a little conflict. Up until this tournament, we conducted our tournaments "informally" in a local mall. What do I mean by formally? I mean we just show up, and use the tables and seats of a local Café which is closed down due to it being Saturday.
There's was only one little thing that used to spoil our fun - At around 6 pm the Café used to open up, and we were officially given the boot and the finger (And stay out!).

Prerelease tournaments NEVER ended by 6 pm, and I always felt it is a little... how should I say it... unprofessional to have our players sit on the floor (One prerelease I even put table numbers on the floor. Table 40 was officially a couple of tiles of floor near the trash bin).

So, naturally I was happy we finally got a place in that mall to sponsor us. The place was sort of a playground for kids, the idea being that moms could leave their little kids in that place where babysitters would entertain them while mommy deposits daddy's salary in the various clothing and shoe stores.

We walked in there the day before to check the place out and prepare it for the prerelease and to be honest I was a little taken back at first. The place was for little kids (ages around 3-6) and had all sorts of toys scattered around, with girls in clown costumes dancing around with the kids in circles while all sorts of kids songs were playing loudly over the speaker system. The place also had a mini petting zoo with cages of rabbits and turtles in the corner (desperately trying to avoid the kids). Soon, closing time came, and we (Me, the T.O. and his girlfriend) along with the place's staff (after having washed the ridiculous clown makeup from their faces) starting arranging it for the pre-release. We moved all the toys and such into the back rooms, and covered as much childish content as we could with Scourge posters (those big ones really come in hand when you're trying to conceal crayon drawings). Finally we got the place looking halfway respectable.

We briefly debated what to do with the animals. I jokingly suggested we leave them at the corner as "stress relief" between rounds. We finally decided the animals wouldn't survive, our compassion took over, and we put them in the back rooms as well.

Anyway, back to the tournament. Prereleases yield the largest turnouts, but this time due to a technical glitch in advertising, the turnout totaled at 40 for Haifa, the lowest in quite some time. Normal figures for the area would be around 70. At 8:30 we got people to start registering their decks, and miraculously we even manage to end this phase in time (10 am).

I went up on the speakers, explained the basic concepts of landcycling and storm, and then the problems started.

Once we redistributed decks, the land station was handled by our T.O.'s girlfriend and her sister. Both girls' knowledge of the game could be summarized on a legal size postage stamp and still have room. In fact, the T.O.'s girlfriend refers to the game as "that thing he always does". That meant that they had to refer to the lands by their colors. People would come up to them and say:

Player: "Give me 8 swamps and 10 mountains"
Girl: "Huh?"
Player: "8 black and 10 red"
Girl: "You mean these?"
Player: "Why don't I just take them myself..."

I, meanwhile, was free to attend to all the wonderful problems of deck registration.

A player came up to me with a filled out deck registration sheet that he said was just lying on a table somewhere without a player attached to it. I go over the speaker system and shout

"I have here in my hand a filled out deck registration sheet. This means that one of you doesn't. Who here didn't get one of these with his cards?"
Nobody answers.
Again: "It's very simple people, look at what you got, if there isn't a piece of paper like this in there, raise your hand"
Everyone continues deck building. (I get mental images from western movies where someone takes a shot in the air and everyone suddenly quiets down and turns over to him).
I sigh, and starting walking around the players looking at each one to make sure he has the sheet, until I find a little kid staring at his cards.
I say "Did you get a paper like this with the cards?"
Little kid: "Umm... no."
Me: "Do you suffer from any sort of hearing disorder?"
Little kid: "No... why?"
Me: "Cause I just asked everyone over the speakers to raise their hand if they didn't have a deck list, and the volume was so high I had Kangaroos turning their heads over in Australia."
Little kid: "Really?"
Anyway, I take a quick look at his rares, see they match the deck list, and deposit it with him.

Player A: "Judge!"
(I walk over)
Player A: "The guy who registered my deck forgot to mark Kamahl."
I call over player B who registered the deck.
Me: "Was there a Kamahl in the deck you registered?"
Player B: "No".
Meanwhile player A notices more rares missing from the list, and player B says they weren't there. I figure he has an incorrect deck list. Then I check the deck list of the player sitting next to him, and find the Kamahl and other rares. Seems the two players set aside their lists, and when they picked them up, they each took the other's list.
Ok, problem solved, and then:

Player C: "Juuuuuuuuuudge!"
(I walk over)
Player C: "Look at my deck list and tell me if I'm seeing correctly"
I look over the deck list, and one thing immediately pops to my eyes.
Me: "What the... Where are all the red and green cards?!"
Apparently, none were marked.
I call over player D who registered the deck, and hand him over the deck list.
Me: "Did you by any chance open a whole Onslaught Tournament pack without a single red or green card?"
Player D: "Gulp..."
Me: "Didn't think so..."
Player D: "So... am I disqualified?"
Me: "Not so fast... I'm giving you a warning for major procedural error"
This being a prerelease I wasn't going to hand out game-losses for anything less than punching your opponent in the nose, or finding lands up a player's sleeves.

With deck building finally over, A whistle marked the beginning of the first round.

A couple of words on the whistle: It's very effective as a way to start and end rounds, though I get all sorts of jokes on my being a "soccer judge". I've had problems with players starting to play before the round started, and after I started using the whistle to signal beginning and end of rounds, this problem all but disappeared. Like a Pavlov's reflex, I had conditioned the players to start and stop playing at the sound of a whistle. I'm still trying to get them to form a pyramid.

I had all the usual things to take care of. Failure to draw, drawing extra cards, playing the wrong opponent (table 14 does mean the table with the sign that says 14), and the predictable questions about storm. No, cycling doesn't count, No, the copies don't count, and Yes, only the spells played this turn before the storm count. One player took control of his opponent's morph and asked if he could look at it (yes).

A slightly more interesting question was if a Symbiotic Elf and Death's Head Buzzard die together in combat, do the tokens live or do they die to the Buzzard's triggered ability? I ruled that since the attacker was the one with the Symbiotic Elf, his triggered abilities go on the stack before those of the defending player (which controlled the Buzzard). Thus, the Buzzard's ability resolves first, not affecting the tokens, which are alive and well.

There was one question I'm still not sure if was serious or not. A player asked if he could cast "Reward the Faithful" and choose all the players in the tournament, since it says any number of target players. Yeah, right, I could imagine myself going around the matches: "Excuse me, a player over on that table cast Reward the Faithful (player waves), could you please add 8 to each of your life totals? Thanks." I explained to that player the thing about not being able to pick targets outside the current game. First time I had to explain that one...

In between rounds I went up on the speaker system to award random prizes. The T.O. didn't have anything special to award, so he just dug up whatever he could find as random prizes. We awarded a mouse pad, A World's Championship Deck (Tom Van De Logt's Machine Head), a Planeshift booster and a Mercadian Masques booster (which were both met with mass laughter), and finally a Beast token. Prizes make players happy, even if they are small and ridiculous.

I was called a couple of times due to players who wanted to take back their actions, and their opponents didn't want to let them. For example, a player tapped lands, cast a creature, and then a moment later wanted to take that creature back. His opponent wouldn't let him. I ruled that the opponent doesn't have to let them take back their actions (and were it higher REL, I wouldn't even let the opponent let them take back their actions).

On round 4 I was called by a player who said his opponent was stalling. I asked where the opponent was, and the answer was that "He had to go to the toilets". He had a single card in his hand which he left on the table, and the player said the opponent thought for about a minute before he went to the bathroom. There were about 7 minutes left for the match, and the players were at 1-1. I took a look at the card in the player's hand - it was a swamp. Meanwhile, the player came back and apologized for going to the bathroom. He took up his swamp, and continued thinking. I looked at the board position, there wasn't much to consider. The game was pretty much lost for the stalling player. I didn't want to hand out a DQ at a prerelease (which could ruin the fun atmosphere, though this was pretty clearly a case of stalling), so I tried a different tactic. I said "I'm giving a 3 minute time extension for this match for slow play, and a warning to the stalling player." This caused the stalling player to immediately tap out and mana burn himself to death, saying to his opponent: "At least you didn't kill me". I think I handled it pretty well, though some of you might disagree and think I should have DQ him on the spot, I'd love to hear your opinions on that with detailed reasoning (contact details at the bottom).

Round 5 brought with it an interesting question. Player A attacked with a couple of creatures. After blockers were declared, player A cast Commando Raid on one of his unblocked morphs. The raid resolved, and damage went up on the stack. Then, player B sacked his Dive Bomber to kill the morph before damage resolved. The players wanted to know if the triggered ability given by Commando Raid still triggered on the damage being dealt (since they knew there was this rule about last known information if a permanent wasn't in play when an ability resolved). I ruled that since the permanent wasn't in play, the ability didn't trigger. The above rule only regards characteristics of a card (i.e. color, Power/Toughness and etc.) and not abilities.

Finally, on round 6 a player wanted to attack with a Haunted Cadaver enchanted with Guilty Conscience and use its ability. I ruled that this is not possible since the Guilty conscience is controlled by the non-active player it goes up on the stack after the Cadaver's ability and resolves first. It dies as a state based effect after the Guilty Conscience's ability resolves, and thus cannot perform the "Sacrifice this" condition, thus its ability does nothing.

Last but not least, I was asked if you could choose to find less than 7 cards with Parallel Thoughts. I answered that no, since you are searching for "cards" without a specific criteria. Only when searching for cards matching a specific criteria can you choose "not to find" them.

The tournament ended, and we had a little prize awarding ceremony over the speakers (And the first place goes to...). I'm not sure how this is done in other places, but I think a little prize awarding ceremony in the end adds quite a lot to the experience. Everyone applauded the winners - it was nice.

This tournament, for the first time we put up a suggestion box (an idea I got from one of the articles in this site). Unfortunately only 2 people used it. One suggestion was to hand out the rabbits as prizes (apparently the players did see the rabbits). The second wasn't a suggestion, but a positive feedback from a player saying he enjoyed the tournament a great deal and that everything was great. That was nice to read after a long day (about 36 hours without sleep for me).

Liked the article? Would you have done things differently? I'd love to hear about it at psibeast@hotmail.com. Thanks for reading, and I hope you had a great Prerelease too.

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