|Mirrodin Prerelease (Tel Aviv) - Head Judge Report
I am back.
After 6 months in the US, during which I got to live the geek dream and gaze upon Mecca (Neutral Ground), judge tournaments with more players than an average gardening convention, and even get certified for level 2, after only 3 years of sweating blood for it, I went back to Israel filled with new hopes, dreams and ideas. I got off the plane on September 10, more than enough time before the Mirrodin prerelease, on September 20.
Nothing much has changed, which meant my tournament location was still "a bunch of chairs and tables in the middle of a shopping mall", my judging staff was still nonexistent and my laptop still rivals Bob Saget in the sheer ability to annoy. However, this time I really truly insisted (and was apparently barging into an open door), so we had a large box of pens, two large boxes filled with 8th Edition land cards and enough A4 to print standings every round in triplicate. In addition, players were again offered the ability to pre-register to the tournament, which meant we cut down on lines a bit and saved some deck registration time. Overall, I thought we were well prepared, especially since I had another Israeli level 2 judge with me, Or Shefer. However, for those of you who have been following my reports (and ever since the northeastern US regionals I know there are at least two of those), you know nothing ever works out in the end. I cannot think of a single tournament I ran in which fate hasn't conspired in some elaborate way to make my life miserable, and this event was no different. This time my karma took the shape of a printer from hell.
Around 9:00am, we noticed that even though the number next to "enrolled" in DCIR is quite large, the line didn't seem to have decreased. A quick check revealed that we are indeed dealing with an unusual turnout for a prerelease, especially considering the fact there was another prerelease at the same date, in Haifa. We were expected about 140 people in Tel Aviv, but when we hit 140, there were still many people in the line. That's, of course, great, because a large magic community is cool stuff, only players have this annoying tendency of "wanting to have chairs to sit on and tables to play on". Oryan, the TO, informed me we only have 150 chairs and 70 tables, meaning a solution had to be found. We settled for squatting two coffee shops, and sending the experienced players (who have less need of judges) there. That solved, and 181 players in, we were ready to start. Again volunteers were assigned to people who might have a problem with deck registration (too young to know English, too intent on reading the cards and a bit less enthusiastic about writing down what they are, one kid told me he's dyslexic and can't register his own deck) to cut down on deck registration time. Decks were also counted, and we found out that sure enough, we have eight more decks than people registered. That meant we had to figure out who didn't register in the computer, but did pay. This could've been avoided had we employed the use of registration forms, something that also would've shortened the line considerably, and I intend to give the forms a try next tournament. Not surprisingly at all, nobody raised his hand when I asked, "who paid us but didn't register in the computer station?" because Magic players, much like zebras, fear being singled out. Instead, during deck distribution (we did a deck swap in this tournament) we also crossed the player's name out on the master list, and sent the ones who didn't appear on the list to register. With that out of the way, we could finally begin. The hour was around noon, and I was as hubris filled as an average peacock. Things seemed to be running well.
We did the announcements, explained the new mechanics, and sent the players to deck build and register. Again volunteers were sent to assist, round one pairings were performed and printed. However, as it turns out, printers apparently need ink in order to print. One of the organizers was asked to check the printer the night before, and they had said that it was in perfect working order, which was true, if you happen to be a soviet spy in need of sending secret transmissions to your superiors. However, those of us who are a bit less covert tend to prefer actually printing in a color which is possible to see, and that requires ink. Round one pairings were still readable, so we started the round and tried to figure out what to do. Buying an ink cartridge was out of the question, because all shops are closed on Saturday. Instead, Oryan went to his house to bring his own printer, and I began "the chant", the act of answering the exact same question repeatedly in different tables. This expansion, the chant was "artifact is not a color". I really think I had to say it 14 times during the first round, and have had very few other questions otherwise, mostly because I'm the technical guy so I sat down and did result entry, seeing as how Oryan was off in the quest for the working printer. The round ended with Oryan nowhere in sight, so we went ahead and did one of the most harmful, hated actions a judge might be forced to resort to during his career: we read pairings out loud. As you can imagine, reading out 90 pairings did not go too well - players began playing before the round started, it hurt our throats even with the megaphone and worst of all, about 30 players didn't hear who they're playing against, so we had to repeat it to them, only adding to the general confusion and tournament stalling. However, I really could see no other way.
Round two started in a tardy and inefficient manner, and minutes afterwards, Oryan showed up with his printer. Since this isn't a computer site, I'll just summarize and say that printers need drivers, and rar files need winrar, and winrar needs RAM to run, and driver files need hard drive space once extracted... you get my drift. This wasted the entire round time for me, forcing me to make people wait to hand in match results (because you can't print match results slips. Get the irony?), and at the end of the round, the printer was properly installed, connected and completely and utterly not showing any semblance of working. Then, as a grand finale, it made windows crash in the middle of a DCIR backup. Luckily, no real damage was done, but rebooting the computer (Bob Saget, remember?) took about 10 minutes, even more unnecessary delay. After this experience, we decided we'll just read pairings out loud every round, because I can't waste the entire tournament fiddling with the printer, and that seemed like the lesser of two evils. So every round we had to deal with people starting to play before the round began and people who didn't hear whom they're playing against.
Removing an artifact card from the game does not allow you to prevent damage from artifacts
Since the technical issues were over, I actually had time to do some floor judging. People seemed to have almost no problems with the equip and entwine mechanics (though I've had to remind people several time you get no priority between the "two effects", and that the effects happen in the order in which they're written, so yes, you can sacrifice the opponent's creature with Grab the Reins). Mourner's Shield, however, was a different issue. I think 30% of the players had it (not bad for an uncommon) and they all reached the same brilliant conclusion - let's use it to remove an artifact, then we can get protection from artifacts! This, of course, invoked the chant - "artifact is not a color".
Another problem card was Mirror Golem, about which I was repeatedly asked, "so if I remove an artifact creature, he gets protection from artifacts and protection from creatures?" Guess it seemed too good to be true, even though I think the card wording is very clear. Another interesting question was "can I tap an equipped equipment for Lodestone Myr?" This one I wasn't ready for, but I couldn't see any reason why not, so I answered it with a yes. I've also had to explain repeatedly that you can't annul the artifact lands.
Later rounds brought more interesting situations.
In one case, I was called about the following dispute: Player A just pulled off a very elaborate move, involving numerous pieces of equipment, including Fireshrieker. Player B chump-blocked, but due to double strike was still in for some damage. Player A claims player B should be on -1 after the attack, and player B says he should be on 1. A check about the game situation revealed that player A says he has Bonesplitter attached to his attacking creature, whereas Player B says it wasn't attached to anything. The physical card itself was in play, not under or over anything, but it WAS right next to the creature in question. I started recreating the last turn with both of them, to see where their versions would differ. They didn't. I asked Player A when he attached Bonesplitter to his creature. He said "at the end of Player B's last turn". Player B started protesting, but I stopped him cold, thanking whatever gods for the easy way out. I told Player A you can only equip cards when you could play a sorcery, so the Bonesplitter is not attached to anything. He said it doesn't matter, because he's attaching it now. However, it was clear they were in the attack phase (seeing as they were arguing about the amount of damage on the stack), so I didn't allow that either, having never actually gone back in time, but rather recreating what happened on those turns without affecting game status.
Feeling smug and lucky, I was of course in for another twist of fate, and I was called to another table with a difficult situation. This time, it was that all-time favorite, failure to agree on reality. Player A is attacking player B. Player A is saying player B is on six life, and thus should die this turn. Player B is saying he is on nine life, and thus goes down to three and survives. The current match result was 1-1, and to make it even more annoying, it was the last turn of the extra turns. Now, in the tournaments I judged in the US I learned how to handle such cases - you do the "I'm only a level 1 judge" dance and run off to fetch your team leader/head judge. I was contemplating that when I remembered I am not only a level 2 now, I am also the head judge. Therefore, unable to delegate this hairy situation, I started recreating the game with them. However, they did not agree about anything, and it was turning into a shouting match. I turned to look for anyone who witnessed the game, but the two witnesses I found disagreed with each other. They were using two D20s to represent life totals, and I could realistically see the die being knocked from six to nine or 9 to 6 (they're right next to each other) without either of them noticing, because of the stupid dot. Without any facts to work with I was unable to reach to any meaningful conclusion, so I drew the match and issued them both warnings for failure to agree on reality and having no means of keeping life totals (they had two dice between them, and as this case showed, it wasn't reliable, nor was it enough). This case frustrated me greatly, but I really cannot see what else could have have been done.
After these two annoying cases, things were relatively easy. There was one interesting situation with a creature equipped with Scythe of the Wretched being blocked by Tel-Jilad Chosen. First, I have had to explain to the defending player why his creature still takes damage, even though there is an equipment on the attacking creature. He was not the only one confused, which is odd, seeing how closely equip simulates enchant creature. In any case, the Scythe of the Wretched becomes attached to the Tel-Jilad Chosen, and then becomes unattached as a state-based effect.
After eight long rounds, the tournament ended, at around 10 PM. 10 hours for eight rounds is far from brilliant, but I think it was not too bad considering the large turnout and the problems mentioned above. This tournament proved once again how useful registration forms would be, and I am sure to try them out in the next big tournament. We are now facing a new problem; we have more players than we have room for players. I believe the solution would be to split the tournament in two, now that we have more than one judge here, but from what I gathered players are very unenthusiastic about it, due to the smaller prizes. Apparently, much like the lottery, many players are drawn by the fact the non-them winner will get a lot of boosters, which apparently makes them happier than actually having a decent shot at winning a smaller amount, themselves. Greed is not just a black rare, apparently.
Doron Singer, Level 2, Israel.