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Canadian Nationals - Head Judge Report

Marc Hernandez

Judging far from home

When Scott Larabee first asked me if I wanted to head judge the Canadian nationals, I thought that it was a good occasion to visit a new country. Having run many nationals with similar format, I wasn't worried about the tournament itself, especially as it was spread on three days: this should transform an exhausting two days event into a smooth and relaxed tournament. I was right about the tournament itself. It was smooth and relaxed, but I didn't expect to experiment such a new judging adventure.

Even though Montreal is a French speaking city, I knew that most of the players wouldn't talk any French. As for the judges, I wasn't afraid of the language barrier as I had already worked in many international events. Even though my English is not perfect, Magic is an international language!
On the other hand, I wasn't really prepared to work with a completely unfamiliar team of judges, with different habits and different experiences. Even though I'm used to judges from different country, I usually don't have to face a whole crowd of unknowns sharing the same working style. In GPs and PTs, you always meet new faces but you can rest on a solid basis of well-known judges.

Preparing for the event, I thought about writing a detailed guide of what a judge should do, know and apply. It would be a kind of a quick reference handbook for judges. But then, I realized that it could be misinterpreted. I would be the lone European judge coming to new territories, knowing better. I surely wanted to avoid this image as I believe in team work and respect above all. Humility is a good starting point. I know that I already have a tendency for overconfidence so I didn't want to add pain to injury.

In this particular case, I might have been wrong. Not that Canadian judges don't know their jobs, but this would have given us a common base to build upon. I assumed that judging in Canada was the same as judging in France. This is mainly the case but small details can become important when stakes are high.

The main reason for those small differences is obvious. French players are not Canadian players. French players have a reputation of rule cheesing and unsportsmanlike behaviour but this has long since passed. Nowadays, most French players are fair and friendly.

Judging Team for the Canadian Nationals
Canadian players remind me of French players from three years ago. Not all of them, obviously, but the most exuberant ones; trying to bend the rules, mind tricking their opponents, over arguing with judges. Fortunately, France gave me numerous opportunity to think about how to handle such problems.

Rule cheesing is usually the way for well trained players to outplay casual players. They've worked hard to obtain such a rule knowledge and want to take advantage of it. Honestly, I can't blame them for that and won't surely try to punish them for that.

Today, the common policy states that spirit of the game should overpass mechanics. Rules are (and always have been) difficult to comprehend and in order to keep the game fun, we shouldn't encourage such a behaviour.

Usually, such players have an important impact on the community as they are playing a lot and can usually influence the judges (their arguments are convincing !). It then takes a lot of time to educate the judges in order to educate their community.

Here is a good example:

On day one, player A discarded Circular Logic to his Compulsion in order to counter a spell. Player B responded with a trivial effect that both players let resolve and then convinced the judge that player A clearly missed his opportunity to use the Logic. He got away with it.

On day two, player A faced another Psychatog player (let's name him player C) and the same situation arose, except that player A was now the reacting player. In response to the madness trigger, he activated his Polluted Delta and player C let him search for a swamp. I was then called over.

As both players' intentions were clear (one wanting to use his Logic and the other one trying to rule cheese as he was rule cheesed the day before) the outcome was simple; apologizing for what happened previously and letting C use his logic.

But then, I had to spend some time explaining the ruling to the player but also to the judge. During the final judge meeting on Saturday (Sunday was only for finals so I knew that I wouldn't have the whole crew listening), I spent some time emphasizing how judges can teach their community and how the spirit of the game was important to the tournament scene.

Obviously they agreed. I doubt that it will immediately affect their way of judging but I hope that it can speed up the process to take advantage of what already happened in other countries.

Back to the tournament. Around 100 players were expected which meant that judge teams were not required. But as I didn't know any of them, I decided that it would still be easier to get correct feedback and would simplify the whole organization. Plus, it would give everyone a taste of what big tournaments look like. Ten judges equal two teams (as teams should count at least four judges for deck check). Scott Larabee helped me pick the team leaders and a schedule was printed with everybody's name on it. That really helped knowing everybody. I was quite happy with this decision.

I spend some time chatting with the team leaders and had a general meeting before the event. Judges were not used to the team structure (and team leaders were a little disorientated first) but, in the end, it worked out just fine.

The tournament was three round of standard and three round of Rochester draft on day one and the opposite on day two. This was new to the playing community but we didn't get to much complaints and it helped the balance of the tournament. The only problem was that two players had to play each other twice in Standard. We could have changed the pairing but they informed us two minutes into the round and most of the other tables had already started. I will look for that next time if reporter doesn't include an option to prevent it.

Head Judge Marc Hernadez watches semifinals
The tournament itself ran pretty smoothly. You can check the sideboard coverage (and the "Wise" coverage) on the sideboard online. Nothing really noticeable happened except for the player not conceding in the last round.

This was a feature match and I was called over to explain what deal they could arrange. I told them that the deal could not affect the outcome of the match so the paired up player decided to play. I stayed there for the whole game and it went on smoothly. Near the end of the match, the paired down player (who was losing) asked a last time for concession. Otherwise, he put no pressure on his opponent. If he was mad, he didn't show it at the table and I had no further feedback on this particular event.

That's all for now.
If you have the chance, stop in Montreal, it's an interesting city.
I'd like to thank the whole judge, organization and sideboard staff for a well run event and specially thank Scott for his professionalism.

Comments on this report are welcome. You can e-mail me at marc.hernandez@noos.fr

PS : As I thought that the judging handbook I was talking about at the beginning of this report might still be helpful, I started to write one. I can surely be improved by every one's experience. (see A Quick Reference Handbook for Judges)

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