|Grand Prix London - Floor Judge Report
Event: Grand Prix London 2003
Head Judge: Colin Smith (Level 3)
Event Date: 23-24 August 2003
Traveling to Grand Prix London was too tempting to resist, especially after having been there again 1.5 month ago for the European championship. Therefore, I knew what to expect and I had minimal chances of being lost, although I almost managed to do so at King's Cross station.
My flight landed at 08:30 so I went to the event site straight away after grabbing something to eat because it was too early to check in at the hotel. There, I met with the organizers and some fellow judges. After a 30 minute chat, we went to check in at the hotel, earlier than I anticipated. After settling in and having a shower, I came back to the site to see what's going on and help as needed.
It turned out that asking for something to do was not exactly the best idea I had this weekend. I realized that when I received my task. I had to write and place 375 table numbers. After 2 hours, I was pretty convinced that I will never go looking for trouble again, something I forgot at the end of the next day. I never seem to learn my lesson!
The venur, London Olympia
Time passed peacefully (almost), so it was now time for the judge meeting. The head judge and the scorekeeper introduced themselves and gave us the schedule for day 1. The schedule at this point included coverage of 345 tables as we did not know how many players would register tomorrow morning. I was assigned to the team responsible for handing out result slips and then covering an area of tables, according to which round it was. There were three other teams, one four judge team responsible for posting standings (we were also a four judge team), one five judge team responsible for deck checking and another five judge team which did the floor but also assigned one of its members every round to the feature matches.
At this meeting, we were also introduced to DCI Reporter penalty add-on. This is a standalone program which simulates the penalties window of the DCI reporter. There was going to be a computer running this program available to judges for the purpose of penalty recording. When we had to give out a penalty, we should first ask the player if he had received a penalty for the same offense before in the tournament, then we should write the penalty on the result slip for tracking purposes and then we should go the penalties computer to see if the player had not indeed received a similar penalty before and then enter the penalty. The penalties reported to the DCI were the ones this computer had. We wrote the penalties to the result slips so we could double check if needed.
We also were informed that there were going to be five result slip piles we should use when submitting result slips to the scorekeeper. The five piles were: 2-0, 2-1, 1-2, 0-2 and "other" which covered everything else. According to the result of each slip, we should place it to the correct pile. This would be a great help to the scorekeeper as slips with the incorrect barcode result circled can be easily spotted because they would stand out from the rest of the slips in the pile. These slips would cause otherwise incorrect results being entered and problems for the players.
Finally, we were asked to point out frequent problems we had at our tournaments for OnBC format so we know what to watch out for. Then it was time for something very important: getting some sleep.
We arrived at 8:30 the next morning and had a short meeting where we were given the final schedule for day 1 which included coverage for only 293 tables as players did not exceed 586. We were also given a judge badge with our names on it and the countries' flags of the languages we could speak. I'm still not sure this was a good idea because players would be able to see what languages we could speak and therefore could easily attempt to bribe in another language. Other judges argued that they could do that anyway, but I think they probably would not risk it, especially if you give the impression of listening. After that, we had a team meeting where we were assigned breaks and introduced to each other.
Getting ready for the main event
At approximately 15 minutes to 10:00am, it was time for the players meeting. Two teams were assigned to collect decklists after players were seated. My team was not one of them. At the judge meeting at the end of day 1, it turned out that some judges volunteered to collect decklists, and did so, but without informing the team leaders of the two responsible teams. This was a bad idea and caused confusion because they did not check the same things the responsible teams did and we were told to always talk to the team leaders in the future should we want to help. Apart from collecting decklists, the head judge and UK organized play manager made some announcements about the tournament.
After 15 minutes, the first round began. We handed out the result slips, and then did the floor for tables 206-293. During this first round, I was called to a table where a player, while shuffling the opponent's deck, noticed that one sleeve was differently coloured. The difference was obvious. The rest of the sleeves were blue and this was green. Also, in the sleeve was a mountain. After examining the rest of the deck for markings and seeing the deck, it was clear that it was unintentional. Therefore, I gave the player a warning for marked cards - minor and asked him to replace the sleeve. He however did not have any spare sleeves so he exchanged the sleeve with a sideboard sleeve and was reminded not to put that sleeve in his main deck again.
We also had three players not show up for the first round. Because it was the first round, their opponents received a bye for the round (after 10 minutes elapsed) and the players were not registered for the first round. If they showed up before round 2, they would be entered as a late enrollment starting from round 2 with zero points. This was done so their opponents would not gain rating points without playing a match. The rest of the round was quiet, although I was quite busy signing result slips.
Collecting decklists - an unexciting, but necessary job
Round 2 was underway 15 minutes after collecting the last result slip. Again, we distributed the result slips although the four piles we made (one pile for each one of us) had some gaps in them so the slips were a bit more of a pain than it should. Other than that, I was asked by a player if protection from red applied to cycling a Gempalm Incinerator. The answer of course was yes because the Incinerator still had the quality "red" even though it was not in play.
A bit later, I was called by a player who noticed various markings (in all sleeves) while shuffling his opponent's deck. After examining the deck and the markings, it was clear that those markings were from overuse. An advantage could not easily be gained and there was no intent. Therefore, I returned the deck with no penalty but I did ask the player to change the sleeves if possible. He said he is going to buy some sleeves before the next round.
Later into the round, I was asked by a judge in my team if Stifle could counter unmorphing (not the triggered abilities, but unmorphing itself) for double-checking purposes. The answer was 'no' of course because unmorphing is not an activated or triggered ability, but also because the opponent does not get a chance to respond. The latter somehow did not occur to me when being asked the same thing at a local tournament 2 months ago.
A minute later, I was called to confirm that when both players choose zero for menacing ogre, it does get the two +1/+1 counters. Finally, I was asked by a player who had finished his match to examine his sleeves for marking. The sleeves did have a few non patterned small markings from overuse, but I did not think he could gain any advantage from them. The sleeves were sticky though so I asked him to be careful when drawing cards.
Round 3 was my break round, after handing out the slips. I was supposed to take the full round off, but I was bored after 25 minutes of sitting so I returned 20 minutes before the end of the round. In these 20 minutes, I was asked by my team leader to keep a special eye on a specific player due to his shuffling technique. After observing him for 10 minutes, it was clear that he did not shuffle adequately, but I was not sure if he did so deliberately and used it to his advantage. What he did is take the almost top half of his deck and put it on the bottom, usually three times. That, combined with the fact that he placed a card shuffled back into his library almost in the middle, and that he was known for rules cheesing, made us suspicious. I told my findings to the head judge, and kept an eye for him for the rest of the rounds, although I usually was too busy to do so.
The judging team
Round 4 was the round with the largest number of players because all the players participated, regardless of the number of earned byes. This meant that distributing and signing slips was a bigger problem, but it was not something we could not handle. During this round I answered two calls. At the first of them, I was asked if an attacking Sharpshooter was removed from combat if it got untapped by an effect. My answer was that it is still attacking but the player appealed because, as he said, a judge had previously made a mistake with one of his questions. I fetched the head judge and he upheld my ruling. The second call was a situation with a sharpshooter facing two carrion feeders, a Rotlung Reanimator and another cleric. That was a confusing call since keeping track of the stack in this case (the opponent responded to the 1 damage of the sharpshooter with sacrificing) was a bit hard. But in any case it was not a difficult call, only confusing.
Round 5 pairings were posted and players found their seats. While they were doing so, we distributed the result slips. During this, I was called at a table where three players each thought they should be sitting at. Luckily I had that table's slip with me so I was able to tell who was wrong. He found his way into the correct seat 30 seconds after the round has started and received no game loss because he was not late, only sitting at a wrong table. Later I went to have a drink for three minutes, and when I returned I got another Sharpshooter call like the one at round 4, only more confusing this time.
Waiting for the slips to be printed
The last call of this round was the most difficult one. I was called to a table where a player had cast Oblation, shuffled the permanent back into his library, but did not draw the two cards according to him. His opponent was not sure whether he drew or not so they called a judge. The game was at his opponent's upkeep at the point where I was called. This call was a bit tough since none of them remembered which round it was or if they missed a land drop or not. Also, they were both playing cycling decks. I did not want to make a mistake in this case so I had to call a more experienced judge (in this case, Rune Horvik) to the rescue. The method he used was independent of how many turns were played. He first counted how many cards were out of each player's library (removed from game, in play, in hand, in graveyard, in stack etc), then who drew first in the game (it was the Oblation player's opponent) and whether there were any mulligans (there were none). Because we were in the opponent's upkeep (he had not drawn yet) and because he (the opponent) drew first, the total drawn cards due to the draw step should be equal. They had also cycled the same number of cards and the Oblation player was found to be one card short because of shuffling the permanent back to the library. It was therefore obvious that he had not drawn the two cards because if he had, he should have been one card ahead. I found this to be a great learning experience and I was happy to have received that call.
I had the honour of cutting the result slips for round 6 and surprisingly I did okay (but not at the last round). During this round, I received the strangest call. A player asked me to fetch the sideboard photographer for him because he had something worth taking picture of as he said. I told him that I can tell the photographer, but I won't guarantee anything. Unfortunately (for him), the photographer was busy covering a feature match. This round was our team leader's scheduled break so the head judge gave me the modified schedule for the rest of the day (due to dropped players) which I passed on to the other team members and to the team leader when he returned.
Later into the round, I was asked what happens if a player stifles astral slide's delayed triggered ability. I answered that the removed creature does not return to play because the delayed triggered ability can be targeted by stifle and that it does not trigger again at the next end of turn step.
Ten minutes later I was called to a table where a player had tapped three black mana and put Noxious Ghoul into play but he wanted to cast Patriarch's Bidding instead. I really do not like these rulings as I believe games should not be decided on mistakes like this, but this is a REL 4 tournament. According to the information I gathered, he had placed the card on the table and left it there for 1.5 second (they firstly said two then one) before realizing his mistake. I was not happy to rule that he could not take the action back. The player appealed and so I fetched the head judge. After explaining the situation to him, he talked to the players with the help of French speaking judge. He upheld my ruling and told me as he was leaving the table that the key to this decision was that the first thing the Noxious Ghoul player told him was "I played this card, blah blah".
Before round 7 started, I managed to eat a sandwich which kept me going for the two remaining rounds. After handing out the slips I was called to translate a French Wall of Deceit. Palmtops are awesome for this purpose, but I am unfortunate not to own one. A short while after this, I was called at a table where a player illegally cycled a card (there was a Stabilizer in play) and reached for a card from his library. According to what players told me, he had not moved it more that one card length away from his library, but he had seen it. I gave him a warning for looking at extra cards, and revealed the card to his opponent, according to the penalty guidelines.
I have to defend myself before I tell you what I did next. When collecting a result slip, I am used to asking who is who often without looking at the faces and sometimes without processing their names into my head. This partly explains why I asked Kai Budde if his name is Kai Budde when collecting his slip, something I consider the stupidest thing I did at this GP! The question I received for this round is what happens with Future Sight in play and Discombobulate. The answer was that the player can look at the top card of the library before Discombobulate resolves (as he would normally would do) and the chosen new top card of the library as the spell finishes resolving. This is because Discombobulate does not remove the cards from the library, but only allows you to look at them and rearrange them.
While the five extra turn rule was applied, I was watching a match where a foreign player was playing an English player. The outcome was 1-1 and their third game was apparently going to finish in a draw. The foreign player asked his opponent to concede because he had made a long journey to come to the GP and because the draw would leave both of them out of day 2. I was listening to their conversation and made sure that that's all he said, no offer was made. Also, his body language made him seem sincere. The English player eventually conceded. I did not think anything illegal occurred, but I asked the head judge who agreed with me.
Before round 8 started, I was given a card a player lost by a fellow judge. It was probably a main deck card so he would present an illegal deck if he did not find it. I asked my team leader if they can do without me and he said they could so. I waited for the player at his table. He showed up and was very happy to receive the card. As I was returning to see what was the result slips status, I got a call from a table. One of the players asked me whether it is legal to offer a price split to his opponent. I answered that it is legal but the match should be played independently of the offer. If the offer is accepted and one player concedes to the other at some point, he has been bribed. I also witnessed one player conceding to the other. When I asked him the reason, they answered that they are good friends and that no exchange or offer has been made. I told the head judge about this but he said that as long as we cannot learn any further information, there is really nothing we can do about it.
However, round 8 never started! The players had been told right from the beginning that there was a scorekeeping problem and that we might had to repair, something which happened. As I found out afterwards from the scorekeeper, a player had been incorrectly dropped and a player who should had been dropped, was not. Also, a result had been entered incorrectly. That, combined with the fact that both of these problems mattered for the top 64, would compromise the tournament integrity if a repair was not made. The tournament's integrity is more important than 10 lost minutes.
The new round 8 found me cutting the slips and messing up. I accidentally cut the slips in a strange way and while the barcodes were still readable, we decided that it would be unprofessional to give out these slips so we asked for new slips, which I cut well. The rest of the round was uneventful for me, so I just watched matches and the different emotions among players. Day 1 was now over for the players, and the best 64 would keep playing tomorrow.
Our team meeting was short since there was nothing really to talk about. We then had the judge meeting where we received tomorrow's schedule. I was placed on the main event, in the team responsible for deck checking. There were no other issues worth mentioning. The general impression was that we did a good job.
However, before leaving the venue, I was assigned to do the table numbers again... This time I only had to write and place 32 table numbers so I have not yet reached mental illness status. I never learn.
Day 1 recap
We arrived at the venue at 07:45 the next morning. The players had to fill out a form with their names and bank information. This rose many questions, some of which we could not answer. Day 2 was expected to be quiet. The players are experienced and are playing carefully so we would watch matches most of the time.
Rounds 9 and 10 were too quiet. All deck checks were fine, and we then watched matches and experienced no problems. Although we were carefully watching for slow play, it did not seem to be a problem.
During round 11, I watched a match which was going to end in a draw. However, one of the players conceded. When I asked him why, he answered because his opponent seemed a nice guy and that a draw is as good as a loss at this point. He seemed sincere so I did not feel it should be further investigated.
This brings us to round 12. Halfway into this round, the head judge takes me aside and asks me how I would feel about table judging a quarter final. I answered that I think I could do it, but I was not sure whether I was experienced enough. He told me that an experienced judge (in this case, Jesper Nielsen) will help me so I accepted and thanked him for the opportunity. Before the round ended, I was called to a table where one of the players had tapped one of his creatures, moved it forward a bit but did not let go of it and said "wait". After asking a few more questions, I concluded that they had moved on to the declare attackers step, at the point where the active players chooses his attackers, but has not yet chosen them. The intent to declare attackers was clear to me. The player was not happy with the ruling but he did not take the appeal option even though I reminded him.
I met with Jesper during round 13, when we both had our breaks. He recommended the following sheet layout to me:
The sheet should be separated into two parts with each part pointing to a player. It's best to have the right part point to the player on your right and the left to the player on your left. On the top, you should note down any mulligans and who played first (usually with a big asterisk). Then you should have three columns. The first column (I used the one closest to the middle) should be used for life totals. It is not necessary to note down the sources which caused the changes but you should note the new life totals when there is a change, and cross out the old life totals. The second column should be used for lands. If a player plays a land for the turn, you should note down the land's initials and the number of the lands the player now has. For example, if the player just played his fifth mountain, note down "M5". If the player does not play a land, note down a line ("-") instead. Finally, the third column is optional and has to do with card drawing. You can leave it out if you do not feel comfortable with it. In this, you should note "x" if the player drew his turn's card and "o" for any other extra cards.
There are a few other points worth mentioning. When dealing with fetchlands, note down its initials and its number as described. Then, when the player sacrifices it, cross out the fetchland's initials and right next to it write an arrow pointing to the land he fetched and the same number as the fetchland. Also, when dealing with cards that shuffle cards card into the library, you should note that in the cards drawn with another symbol (such as "-o") so you can always know what is going on. When a player draws during the other player's turn, it doesn't really matter where you note that draw (in his next or previous turn) as long as you know how many cards he drew.
Moreover, the table judge should not participate in the players' conversation and should stop the person doing the coverage from doing so. This is because the chat is part of the player's psychological game, and we should not be part of it. Also, in the beginning ask the players to also keep track of the life totals, as a safeguard, and do not be ultra fast (although they are usually far from it) so you can keep track of what is happening. Finally, if both of the players are native speakers of a language you cannot speak, ask them to do all game decisions in a language you can understand, but it is fine if they chat in their own language.
Then came the final round, round 14. After doing the deck check, I was moved to one of the feature matches to experience what it feels like judging with a crowd. I watched the match for the whole round and answered two simple questions. Although simple, they helped me gain confidence.
After that, all the table judges were gathered together for a briefing by Jesper Nielsen where the same points were brought up. We then had an essential break and 30 minutes after I was sitting down and getting ready to table judge.
The experience was great and I am looking forward to do it again. As expected, there were no problems with the match.
After the tournament, we discussed a hard ruling a judge made during day 2. A player had tapped six white mana, placed eternal dragon onto the table and let go of it. He remained silent. The opponent shortly asked if he was playing or cycling it but he remained silent for a short while. They then called the judge as to what will happen. Did he play it, did he cycle it, is it an illegal play or should something else be done? What would you rule? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
I have one way of knowing whether I worked hard at a tournament, and two for whether I did well. I know I worked hard because I lost 1.2 kilo during these three days, and I also know that I did well because I have no worries or guilt in my mind, and because no players assaulted me, at least to my knowledge.
All in all, GP London was a success and I am looking forward to travelling to another GP. Also, thank you for marathon reading this report and I hope you enjoyed it. Please mail me any comments you have.