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Judge Report - Worlds 2003

Thomas Ralph

Although I didn't get sponsored to attend Worlds, with it so nearby to me (I live in Ireland) I felt that the chance to go was too much to pass up. I emailed Alex Weitz in May to ask to judge the event, and my request was accepted.

Fast-forward to Berlin on Monday August 4th, in stifling heat, and I was happy to reach my air-conditioned hotel room which had all the properties of a refrigerator.

Staying on-site at the Estrel Hotel was a very good move. It maximised sleeping hours and eliminated the possibility of transport problems on my way to the tournament in the morning. On top of that, it meant that on the early-finishing days of Constructed play I would be able to go back to my room and change my shirt to play side events, and I didn't need to carry a bag around with me.


Thomas Ralph, Level 2 DCI Judge
A visit to Berlin Zoo on Tuesday completed, I headed for the hotel, arriving at about 4:30pm to see many of the Worlds judges hanging around near player registration. One of the groups included most of the judges who frequent the #mtgjudge IRC channel on EFnet (highly recommended) and gave me the chance to renew acquaintances.

The player meeting started shortly after 6pm, with most of the judges in attendance. Head judge Rune Horvik outlined the structure of the event and dealt with some player queries. He warned players to be aware of Stifle (which I must confess is my favourite card, of which I own 26 copies) and to allow opponents to always respond to their spells and abilities, especially fetchlands. The other card mentioned by name was Mind's Desire. Players were strongly encouraged to keep note of how many spells had been played each turn. Also, in order to avoid large amounts of time being wasted for shuffling when resolving a chain of Mind's Desires, players were instructed to shuffle their library once, and remove the relevant number of cards from the top without shuffling again (allowing for responses between each removal, of course, and reshuffling if the library order was affected).

The player meeting completed, we went to the nearby Beer Garden for an overcrowded barbecue dinner. This was quite dissatisfactory, with drink glasses being only half-filled, and the setup and structure of the food buffets a mess. I sat with the Irish table and we left after an hour to do some play testing. After another hour or two, I went back to my room to have a shower, and read up on some rules and articles before going to bed.

Wednesday August 6th, 2003 - Standard

6:50am came too early in the morning, and after a good breakfast and a shower, it was time for the judge meeting, which started at 8:15. We received the judge schedule at this time. My teams for the week were as follows:

Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Slips Logistics Deck Check 1 Pairings
Gis Hoogendijk Alex Charsky Thomas Ralph Thierry Gourdon
Thomas Ralph Andrey Rybalchenko David Sevilla Andrzej Grygo
Andrey Rybalchenko Gis Hoogendijk Jakub Wysoczanski Thomas Ralph
Ingo Muhs Yoshiya Shindo Jeroen Vercruysse Gis Hoogendijk
Shing Nien Fong Thomas Ralph Riccardo Tessitori Ingo Muhs
Yoshiya Shindo John Shannon Andrey Rybalchenko

Almost every language that was represented at Worlds had at least one judge who could speak that language, the only exception that I found was Korean. This meant that there was nearly always someone to call on to translate when necessary.

My plan of action for the week was to be as proactive as possible. This meant approaching players if I believed they were thinking about making a judge call or if they looked unsure about something. I often find that players will call a judge only if there's one right next to them, and otherwise won't go to the trouble. This can allow their opponent to get away with bad or illegal plays, and the problem is exacerbated when players have no common language and are communicating by hand-signal.

We had a brief team meeting to go over our expectations as members of the Slips team for the day - the mission was to get the results slips and have them cut and distributed as soon as possible each round. Gis asked us to return to a certain area near the judge station near the end of each round (assuming of course that we weren't busy and that the remaining matches were covered by judges) for a team meeting and to go over some of the issues that had been raised during the round. This proved to be a very good concept and hugely useful throughout the week.


Rune Horvik and his judging staff
With the team meeting complete, we broke up to number all the tables and players arrived at about 9:00 for decklist collection and a brief reiteration of the last night's player meeting. This was followed by the opening ceremony and flag processional. It seemed to get a much better reception by both judges and players when held at the very start, rather than being held after a couple of rounds and holding up the event.

09:37 - Round 1

The first of 22 rounds began, and my attempts to keep synchronized on my watch with the tournament clocks proved quite difficult as repeated attempts by Rune to start them met with limited success, with the remote controller malfunctioning. I think it's very important to keep the time left on the round on my watch - even when there's big clocks like at Worlds, it's better to be able to check it carefully, and it establishes a habit that is useful when I am judging an event with no clocks.

My first judge call of the day was a quick reminder of the different languages prolific at Worlds. Player A, who was European, had cycled a Decree of Justice and seemed to be in disagreement with his Japanese opponent, player B, about what stage of the trigger resolution they were at (probably also confused by the fact that the X cost of Decree of Justice is paid on resolution of the trigger). Player A was happy to resolve the trigger, and a backup call for Akio to translate for player B established that they agreed in fact, although not in language.

The next problem arose from player C, who controlled a Wirewood Symbiote and a Birchlore Rangers, as well as some other Elves. He returned the tapped Birchlore Rangers to his hand with Wirewood Symbiote, and then proceeded to tap two Elves to play it again, at which stage his opponent, player D, called me. The players agreed on what happened, so I just reversed the illegal action by untapping the two Elves and allowed play to continue.

Ultra-Pro continues to manufacture reflective sleeves (there are now at least five varieties that I do not allow in my events) and a Malaysian player, player E, was using the worst kind - silver. I checked with Gis what he would like to do, and we asked him to replace the sleeves after the round, and I noted his name in order to check next round that he'd followed the instructions - we weren't 100% sure if he had understood us.
I noticed a match where one player was keeping score for the table. I asked the player without a scorepad, player F, where he was keeping track of life totals, and he pointed at his opponent's paper. I informed him of the requirement for both players to keep score, and after clarifying that I was insisting on him getting a scorepad, I added him to the list of players to check on next round.

During the whole event, I occasionally tracked the time that players were taking to complete shuffling and sideboarding in-between games, and asked them to finish up if they reached the 3-minute limit. On one occasion, a player ignored my requests to finish up and got a warning for Slow Play - Exceeding Pre-Game Time Limit. The match also received a 1-minute time extension as required.

Requests filtered down during the round for players to leave the play area when their match was finished, and for spectators to keep out of the play area - they were encouraged to watch the feature matches instead. Judges were required to get rid of people wherever possible. Even after moving the spectators and players who had finished their matches, there were still quite a few non-zebras roaming around in the form of the Press badge holders. I don't know what the criteria are for distributing Press badges, but they need to be substantially tightened, as I'm sure that at most half of the Press badge holders wrote any articles, and probably no more than 20% wrote more than one. The Press badge holders for the most part were just chatting with the players from their country and sometimes giving advice. They really did not help at all with the running of the event.

The end of the round came, and we discussed some issues in our team meeting. The first was of Player G, who played Circular Logic to counter Player H's Goblin spell, while he had one card in his graveyard and controlled an Aquamoeba; Player H was tapped out but sacrificed a Goblin to Skirk Prospector to pay the one. At this stage, Player G claimed he hadn't passed priority and had wanted to discard more cards to Aquamoeba, but the circumstances clearly indicated that he had passed priority, and made a play error.

I raised a point about Decree of Justice. When you play Decree of Justice (i.e. for Angels), you put it on the stack before waiting for responses and resolving it by putting tokens into play, then put it in the graveyard. When you cycle Decree of Justice, it goes straight to the graveyard and doesn't go on the stack. After responses, you pay and get your Soldier tokens, and then draw a card. Most players using Decree of Justice tended to put it in the in-play zone (or on the stack) no matter which function they were using. I suggested that this was both technically incorrect and liable to cause confusion (e.g. if a player taps out in his main phase and puts a Decree of Justice on the table, what is he doing? This is ambiguous at best, although if he pays an odd amount of mana then he's more likely to be cycling it). The other judges felt that it was better to put it on the table either way, in order to avoid failing to draw the card from cycling the Decree. Although I didn't agree with that, I applied the ruling that way for the rest of the event. It seems that the jury is still out on this one, and DCIJUDGE-L has had proponents of each philosophy.

Rune called us together for a quick conference to remind us to return any results slips that we were holding when time was called (in order to avoid recording spurious outstanding tables) and to ensure that unfinished games were noted as draws on the results entry slip.

11:13 - Round 2

Gis excused me from results slips duty to track down players E and F, who had both rectified their problems.

I intervened in a player argument early in the round. One player thought that discards for Last Rites were done as a cost, and the other thought that they were on resolution. As the card does not mention that they are an additional cost, my ruling was that the discarding is all done on resolution.

I noticed Adrian Teh and Gordon Culp had set up a clever scorekeeping system for accepting results entry slips - results 2-0, 2-1, 1-2, 0-2, and "others" each had a separate pile, enabling the results to be entered much more quickly when in a hurry.

My next call seemed to be a case of players not understanding each other and this leading to disagreement over very trivial issues. Player I asked for a Portuguese translator, and Bruno Barracosa was duly called for. Player I had played Mirari's Wake, and player J initiated a counter war which Player I won. The players moved all the counters to the graveyard, and then player J used a Ray of Revelation to destroy Mirari's Wake. Player I argued at length and it emerged that he claimed not to have passed priority to allow Mirari's Wake to resolve. He apparently wanted the Ray of Revelation to be retargeted to the only legal target in play, player J's Compulsion. I was not going to allow that, as I felt that it was a rules-cheese. I cautioned player J for playing too quickly, and allowed Mirari's Wake to resolve. Player I passed and player J then used Ray of Revelation to destroy Mirari's Wake.

At the end of the round, we discussed whether it's possible to Amplify a Cloned creature, for example a Kilnmouth Dragon. Ingo believed that it was possible, but Gis and I thought not, because they are both "As ~this~ comes into play" abilities. We referred the question to Rune, who said that it was indeed possible, because Clone is still in the "As ~this~ comes into play" stage when it gains the Amplify ability. This ruling makes me uncomfortable because I'm reminded of series under 5th Edition rules, and they're never fun to think about.

12:45 - Round 3

A judge call this round saw Phantom Nishoba blocked by a Phantom Centaur. The question this time was whether the Phantom Nishoba's controller gained life. I ruled that since the damage was prevented, it was not dealt, and no life would be gained.

Player K called me when his opponent, player L, had his graveyard, containing only a Goblin Warchief, between his library and his in-play zone, causing player K to believe that the Goblin Warchief was in play. I moved the graveyard to a clearer position, and gave player L a caution for Procedural Error - Minor (failure to lay out game zones clearly). Player K claimed to have made game decisions based on the Goblin Warchief being in play, but I was reluctant to apply a more serious penalty as I felt that player K could have been attempting to gain an advantage by delaying the judge call.

Braids, Cabal Warning Machine raised her ugly head during this round too. Player M's opponent controlled Braids, and player M forgot to sacrifice a permanent to Braids at the beginning of his upkeep, and went on to draw a card. I applied a warning for Card Drawing - Looking at Extra Cards, which I believed was the usual philosophy, revealed the extra card, and allowed player M to sacrifice a permanent. Later in the round Jesper Stehr Nielsen corrected me to say that the penalty should have been a Procedural Error - Major, and the card should not have been revealed - a philosophy change that only he and Rune appeared to be aware of, if the reaction at the judge meeting at the end of the round was anything to go by.

We allowed the players a lunch break so that round 4 was advertised as starting at 14:15. I was going to have lunch at this stage, but the concession stand was jammed so I asked Gis for a break during round 4, which he okayed.

14:21 - Round 4

My first call of the round was to a complex situation where player N cycled lots of cards and used an Undead Gladiator during his upkeep, and drew his cards all at once then attacked. His opponent called me, accusing player N of failing to draw enough cards. I established who had gone first, and a careful count of cards in play and of cycled and returned cards proved that player N had indeed drawn the correct amount of cards, including the one in his draw step.

Later, player O cycled a card, drew for the cycling then paid the (generic mana) cost of the cycling. His opponent, although he had no responses, called me to complain about player O performing the actions in the wrong order. I cautioned player O for Procedural Error - Minor (sloppy play) and asked him to play properly in order to avoid more dangerous cases later in the tournament.

At this stage I went on my break. I've been to my share of major events, but this was the first time that I encountered a concession stand that had food which was both cheap and edible. (I had encountered every other combination of cheap/expensive and edible/inedible.) In addition we had received 20 per day for food and drinks, and it was quite easy not to use that up and to profit from the snack money.

On my return, I encountered a problem caused by insufficient rules knowledge. Player P cycled Decree of Justice and passed priority. Player Q said "OK". Player P paid 9 for the Decree of Justice trigger, and player Q at this stage wanted to Stifle the triggered ability. I ruled that player Q had missed his opportunity - the payment for Decree of Justice is made when the trigger resolves and the Soldiers are put into play right away; player Q should have played Stifle in response to the trigger going on the stack. (This would of course have left player P's 9 lands untapped.) I felt that at this level of event, the players should have expert rules knowledge, and player Q should have known the rules applying to such a commonly used card.

15:44 - Round 5

I had noticed during the day that the fixed-job system (where teams perform the same job for an entire day, leading to team Deck check, team Slips, etc.) was preferable to changing jobs from round to round, and without sacrificing variety because judges could have a different job each day. It led to not having to repeatedly dig in my pocket for the judge schedule each round, and simplified the handling of routine tasks.

No issues of note arose during this round, although in our team discussion at the end of the round, we considered the consequences of players who forgot to notify the judge watching the table of their time extensions. If the judge keeps careful track of round start times (although few do), then the extra time can be assessed, but play decisions are made on the basis of there only being five more turns and this leads to messy situations. The resolution we came to was to always check the results slip for extra time when we went to watch a match.

I had experienced three occasions earlier in the year when various level 3 head judges of National Championships had imposed a cap of 10 minutes on the five extra turns at the end of each round, with the aim of discouraging slow play in the extra turns. I am a strong opponent of this policy, as I feel that the extra turns should necessarily be untimed in order not to rush Judgment calls by players, and in order to not defeat the purpose of the 50 or 60 minute time limit on rounds. The consensus amongst the other members of my judge team was that this policy should be avoided wherever possible.

17:15 - Round 6

I watched a match where player R rushed through combat, discarding Basking Rootwalla to Wild Mongrel, marking down damage on his scorepad, and going on to his second main phase and playing a land without giving his opponent, player S, any chance to respond. I stopped the match, backed up to where player R had discarded the Basking Rootwalla and removed it from the game, allowed player S to make responses (which he did), then resolved the abilities and combat normally. I cautioned player R to allow his opponent to respond to his abilities, especially with Stifle in the environment.

Stifle showed up in my next two calls; in the first one a player used it to "counter" a Circular Logic by countering the Madness trigger that allowed it to be played. His opponent wanted to be sure that this was possible, and I confirmed that it was and that Circular Logic remained removed from the game.

The next call was quite strange. Player T asked me to check the decklist of his opponent (player U) for a main-deck Stifle. I asked player U if he had any objections to that, and he said he hadn't, so I went to check player U's list, found that there was indeed a Stifle in his main deck, and reported that back to player T. It transpired that player U had used Stifle at a crucial juncture in game 1, and player T was suspicious of a pre-sideboarding by player U.


The judging staff for Worlds
At another match that I watched for a while, player V tapped 1U, discarded Circular Logic to Compulsion, and played it via Madness then drew a card, without allowing his opponent to respond. The players argued with each other for a few seconds then looked up at me. I asked the players to hold on and got Gis, my team leader, who talked to me and to the players before calling Rune over. After some discussion we opted to give a warning to player V for Procedural Error - Major (playing too quickly) and backed up to when Circular Logic was on the stack. We chose not to give a game loss because we thought that the game had not been irreparably damaged.

With Round 6 completed, we had a judge debriefing, where the consensus was that the day had gone well. With plenty of time available to me, I changed shirt and went to play an Extended side event, where my lack of Stifle in my Oath deck cost me dearly against a Draco-Explosion player as he was able to Scroll Rack for his key cards all the time. After that I decided that sleep was more valuable and went back to my room. (Having a site that's also a hotel is a big bonus - I didn't leave the building between Tuesday after coming back from the barbecue and the following Monday when I was going home.)

Thursday, August 7th, 2003

(Note: player letters have been reset at the beginning of each day, so player A today is not the same as player A yesterday.)

I was the second judge to arrive at the judge station ahead of day 2's Rochester Draft format. I was on Alex Charsky's Logistics team for the day, and it was the day that the Logistics team would have a lot to do, with responsibility for setting up the draft tables before each draft, and managing the land stations. We tried a new system of leaving lands on all the tables for players to take, with extra lands at the land stations. Most players got their land, therefore, although there were some needing extra land when they handed in their decklists, and a small few had ignored the land on their tables and asked for all their land at the land station.

I was assigned to tables 36 and 37 for the first draft; most of the other team members were away setting up the lands on the deck construction tables, and when Alex returned he took up table 36. I checked that all the players were in the right place, and reminded them not to talk and to keep their last-drafted card clearly visible during the draft. (I had to give a warning during the draft to a player who kept picking up his draft pile in his hand and hiding the last-drafted card, after telling him three times to put it down.)

With the draft completed (almost) uneventfully, I was assigned to one of the land stations where I would be collecting decklists and players could receive any land cards that they hadn't been able to get on their tables. We had separate land stations for the name ranges A-K, L-O, and P-Z, which, for some reason, the players didn't seem too interested in observing, so we were constantly sending decklists and/or players from one station to another, which was quite annoying.

10:45 - Round 7

I spent 15 minutes at the start of this round sorting land and making sure that it was all in the right piles and ready to be used for the next draft. For once there was sufficient land to use for the main event and we didn't have to start proxying land. We didn't even have to ask players to return land after the first draft (although in hindsight this would probably have been a good idea; the side events were chronically short of land at the weekend).

I was called to a situation that appeared to be two players arguing over what stage of the turn they were in. Player A had attacked with Krosan Tusker, which was enchanted by Pemmin's Aura. His opponent, player B, accepted this action. When I was called, player B claimed that player A had not given him priority and he wanted to destroy Pemmin's Aura with Daru Sanctifier. I ruled that the attack was valid. Player B used Daru Sanctifier anyway. It seemed to be a trivial failure to communicate because player A would be able to respond to the Daru Sanctifier trigger in any case, and the net result would be the same.

Player C flipped over an Aven Liberator to give itself protection from black, and his opponent played Cruel Revival in response. Player C claimed that morphing a creature does not go on the stack - this is correct, but triggered abilities do, and the Cruel Revival was a legal play, destroying the Aven Liberator.

The next issue I resolved illustrates the importance of proactivity and of watching matches and trying to follow events carefully. Player D attacked with a Crested Craghorn. Player E blocked with Silklash Spider. Player D played Carbonize targeting the Silklash Spider. Player E targeted it with a Vitality Charm to give it +1/+1 and trample until end of turn. These resolved. Player D then turned a Patron of the Wild face up and chose to target the Crested Craghorn. Player E's Bonethorn Valesk was sitting unnoticed on the board. As it has a mandatory triggered ability, I was obliged to point it out to the players. Player E chose (unsurprisingly) to target the still 4/1 Crested Craghorn. Player D put it into his graveyard, but claimed that he had already put damage on the stack and wanted to deal Silklash Spider another 1 damage somehow and kill it. I overruled this, as I felt he was fishing for an undeserved way to kill the Silklash Spider.

12:05 - Round 8

Some of the Deck Check team members were off duty on break at this stage, so I was co-opted to one of the Deck Check teams to collect decks from a table.


Deck checking at Worlds
Player F called me and asked to speak with me away from the table. He controlled a Skirk Outrider and a face-down Beast, and he suspected that his opponent was using Backslide. He intended to attack and turn the Beast face up after blockers were declared, as a surprise to kill his opponent's creature. He wanted to know if there was another opportunity to turn the Beast face up if it was Backslid. I replied that you can turn a creature face up whenever you have priority, and you gain priority when your opponent passes to you having done anything. He said "So I can?" I nodded.

Player G used his Willbender to retarget Zealous Inquisitor's ability, and player H (who controlled Zealous Inquisitor) wanted to know how the damage would now be dealt. (He had activated it multiple other times.) I ruled that for each 1 damage that player H would choose which replacement effect applied, and when all the replacement effects were used up the damage would be dealt to Zealous Inquisitor.

My next call was from a player who had drafted a Beast deck and wanted to know whether he could use a card drawn from Wirewood Savage to amplify a Glowering Rogon. Since Amplify happens as Glowering Rogon comes into play, and Wirewood Savage's ability goes on the stack when a Beast comes into play, the card is not in his hand as Glowering Rogon comes into play and can't be used.

13:27 - Round 9

In this round I was called by player I, a well-known professional player. (I must note here that I know very few well-known professional players by sight. I'm not sure whether this is an advantage or a disadvantage; opinions to magicjudge@thomasralph.com). His opponent was player J and it was the second turn. Player J had played a forest, and taps his two forests to play Elvish Warrior, then attempts to take the Elvish Warrior and the forest back. Player I complained very angrily to me that I should not be allowing this, this is Worlds, REL 5, etc. I asked player I to calm down and be more nice. I ruled that the forest and Elvish Warrior had been played so they would have to stay, and asked player J to be more careful.

My next ruling was my longest of the day, mainly due to needing a translator. Player K had mana in his pool and declared an attack. His opponent Player L activated Whipgrass Entangler, without being specific as to when he was using it. Player K argued that it was in his first main phase (since he hadn't taken mana burn). I felt that from the players' actions that player L was playing the ability in the Beginning of Combat step and made player K take the mana burn. This took nearly five minutes.

After marking a time extension and leaving the table I was called back almost immediately by Player K. Player L was considering his blocking choices and had not paid the activation cost of the Whipgrass Entangler after all the confusion generated by the ruling. As this was an illegal action I backed up to the beginning of combat step and made player L pay the right amount of mana. Player K complained vociferously that I hadn't let him back up to the first main phase, that I was discriminating, and so on. I explained that player L had made an illegal play which must be backed up; player K himself had made a strategic error which cannot be backed up.

We had time for a brief judge meeting and discussion at the end of the round. We were considering whether on-camera matches with a table judge should have penalties downgraded. This question is still open to discussion. I feel that while the table judge has a responsibility to prevent player mistakes, that players should still be penalized appropriately for any offences committed, whether they're at table 1 or table 150.

We began to set up the second draft. I was amazed at the number of players who crossed under or climbed over the Tensabarriers at the edge of the draft area for various reasons. We tried to explain to them that the barriers were there because players were not meant to be inside the area, but the comments fell on deaf ears.

The second draft commenced at 15:05 and passed off without any serious hiccups. The land station duty went almost exactly as it did in the first draft so I won't go into details again.

16:37 - Round 10

An Australian player was amused this round that all day whenever I had signed his results slip, he had won, and whenever I had not, he had lost. He was 3-1 and wanted me to stay around his matches for the rest of the day. I said that I'd see what I could do.

My only real ruling this round was another case of being proactive. It arose when I was watching a match. Player M had blocked a Cloudreach Cavalry with his Aven Soulgazer. Player N pumped his Cloudreach Cavalry with a Grassland Crusader, and signalled that Aven Soulgazer was dead. I looked three times at the board and I saw no Bird, so I intervened and point out that the Cloudreach Cavalry was dead after taking lethal damage. At this stage player N said "no I haven't resolved damage yet, I was going to change this Mistform creature to a Bird". I didn't allow this, because player N had been quite happy to allow damage to resolve and kill Aven Soulgazer. (Is this an example of the Magic Online effect, where players expect a happy box to pop up with all their optional triggered abilities and be able to see the automatically recalculated power and toughness of their creatures at a glance? Comments to magicjudge@thomasralph.com.)

In our judge discussion that round we talked about how our rulings sometimes differ when a "name" player is involved. I mentioned the case of player I from the previous round. Most of the judges had rarely found themselves to be making a different ruling based on a "name" player, but we must be constantly alert and avoid falling into the trap of listening to "name" players more than their opponents (or alternatively to your local players at a Pro Tour).

17:57 - Round 11

Player O called me and asked to talk with me away from the table. His opponent was using Chain of Vapor to return a creature enchanted by Pacifism to its owner's hand. The question was could Chain of Vapor be chained to the Pacifism, returning it as well? I told him that while targeting Pacifism with the copy is allowed, Pacifism will go to the graveyard as a state-based effect before the copied Chain of Vapor resolves, and the copy will be countered on resolution.


Its always important to check the text of the card
19:14 - Round 12

Player P wanted to use Scattershot to kill a Nantuko Husk which his opponent (player Q) controlled in response to his Player Q playing a Crested Craghorn. Player Q argued that the Crested Craghorn hadn't come into play, therefore it hadn't been played and the only options for player P were to deal Nantuko Husk 1 damage or to deal it 2 damage with Crested Craghorn in play, giving player Q the opportunity to save Nantuko Husk. I corrected player Q, saying that a spell is played when it goes on the stack. Storm would produce one copy of Scattershot, which combined with the original would be enough to destroy Nantuko Husk before Crested Craghorn came into play.

Player R had finished his match and his day with a very bad record, after being mana-screwed several times during the day. He felt he had to take it out on his lands and ripped them up, leaving the pieces on the table. As he was about to walk away I asked him to clean up after himself, and he did.

We do the "short version" of the judge meeting and team meeting, and I get back to my room and crash.

Friday, August 8th, 2003

This was my first ever day as a team leader, and for it to come at Worlds was definitely a start at the deep end. I almost slept in, after failing to set my alarm clock properly. I woke up by chance at 7:20, later than I had planned, but with enough time to be ready and to get to the event on time.

I got some good advice at breakfast from a fellow judge - even though it was my first time team leading, it was just another day judging, with a few added things to do, and it wasn't worth worrying excessively about or building it up too much.

I was at the venue on time and got my team together for a quick meeting. I reminded them of the importance of taking breaks, and to keep me informed about where they were. I also kept up the policy of returning to a certain point at the end of each round in order to discuss important rulings from that round. This also has the side-effect of making sure that judges are nearby for the tasks that must be performed at the start of each round, in our case deck checks. I clarified with Rune that we were not expected to perform deck checks during round 13, instead we were to verify and count all the decklists and make sure that they were all legal.

We collected the decklists just after 09:00 and sat down to start the task of verifying them and checking off the players so that we could ascertain if there was anyone who had not submitted a list.

09:14 - Round 13

Between the two deck-check teams, a total of twelve people, we had the decklists completed and counted by midway through the round. Penalties were to be given out at the start of round 14 by my team, with the other deck check team doing random deck checks for the round. We had one list that might have been 59 cards (one of the numbers might have been a 1 or a 2), so I asked Jakub to follow that up (it proved to be a 2, so the player got a warning for writing unclearly on their list). We also had a list with an illegal sideboard (14 cards), so I kept the list in order to deal with it during the next round. Many players had ignored the indication "Please use only English-language card names" on the decklist, and had written their cardnames in a foreign language. They all received warnings. Finally there were players who were just plain lazy and had written the likes of "4 City" or "3 Wrath" on their list. They got warnings for failing to write down the complete card name.

10:37 - Round 14

I followed up the illegal sideboard and issued a game loss. The player actually had only 14 cards in the physical sideboard, so I asked him to add a basic land. I also issued a warning to another player who had written an incomplete card name. Then I checked the checklist of players to find that we were still missing one decklist. A check with Gordon at the scorekeeping station proved that this was due to a drop.

I was back on the floor and got a call from player A, who tapped Birds of Paradise to float B and sacrificed it to play Cabal Therapy from his graveyard. He named Circular Logic. Player B, his opponent, revealed a Circular Logic, discarded it and removed it from the game. The players resolved the Madness trigger. Player A wanted to know how he could play a creature from his hand for B without it being countered and without taking mana burn. I said that I could not give advice, but that Circular Logic would go to player B's graveyard if player B passed, and that the phase would end if both players passed consecutively. Player A wisely chose not to play the creature and instead tapped G and activated his Treetop Village.
Player C was the next call, one of the many Mind's Desire players in the day's field. He wanted to play a Snap that he had removed with Mind's Desire for free and wanted to know if he could untap two lands. Knowing that numerous free cards had been errata-d to apply only if they had been played from your hand, I checked the Extended Oracle and found that Snap had not been changed and the lands would untap.

My next discovery was that the collective noun for judges is "a ruling of judges", according to head judge Rune Horvik. "Herd" may only be used when judges are referred to as "zebras".
Returning to less trivial matters on the floor, I was called to a match between players D and E. Player D played a Nantuko Husk, and player E played a Gilded Drake on his next turn. Player D wanted to know "what would happen if I sacrificed Nantuko Husk with that on the stack?" I asked him to reword his question to be more specific. It became clear that he wanted to control the Gilded Drake without giving up a creature to his opponent. He asked "what if I sacrifice a creature to Nantuko Husk while Gilded Drake is on the stack?" The answer I gave was "It would not be a legal target for Gilded Drake's ability, and your opponent would have to choose a new target." His next question was "what if I sacrificed a creature to Nantuko Husk while Gilded Drake's ability was on the stack and targeting it?" My reply was "the exchange would not happen on resolution of Gilded Drake's ability since you cannot exchange something for nothing. Gilded Drake would be sacrificed".

A question that came up a couple of times was the issue of whether you could play another spell on a turn when you Naturalized an Arcane Laboratory. People told me that Arcane Laboratory's effect "saw" that you'd played a spell that turn and stopped you from playing any more spells. My opinion is that you can, because Arcane Laboratory's static ability, like that of any other permanent, doesn't apply once it leaves play. I likened it to the way that +1/+1 to creatures from Glorious Anthem doesn't apply any more once you Naturalize it.

At the end of the round I was watching a complicated match with Enchantress in the process of going off. I kept track of details like how many Words of Wind replacement effects had been set up, and how much mana was in the players' mana pools, and so on. The Enchantress player should have been more careful - he decked himself after his Words of Wind was destroyed and he played an enchantment without enough replacement effects active or cards in his library.

12:04 - Round 15

After running deck checks I was called to a table where players F and G were arguing about what stage of the turn they were at. After asking both of the players (in turn) for the details of what had happened, I ended up ruling that player F was deliberately playing too fast in order to confuse player G and cause a strategic error. I gave player F a warning on that ground, and backed the play up to before the argument had arisen.
Rune asked all the team leaders to make sure that everyone is on the floor during rounds 17 and 18 in order to catch and negate collusion issues, and I passed this instruction down to the rest of the team.
My only other call during the round happened when player H was attacking player I with Goblin Piledriver and other Goblins, and player I destroyed one of the other Goblins in response to the triggered ability of Goblin Piledriver using Seal of Fire. Player H argued that Goblin Piledriver should get +2/+0 for the dead Goblin, but I ruled in favour of player I, who correctly said that the count is made on resolution.

14:03 - Round 16

My first call was "Can you Stifle Aluren?" I explained why this wasn't possible - Stifle cannot target static abilities (or, for that matter, permanents or spells).

A player played Brainstorm and started drawing cards, but didn't know whether he had drawn enough cards so asked me for guidance. I established that before playing Brainstorm he should have had access to 13 cards (due in part to previous Brainstorms and Accumulated Knowledge), and I counted 16 cards between his hand, library, and play. Therefore it was clear that he had drawn 3 cards from Brainstorm.

I observed yet another Enchantress player play an enchantment, which was countered. He then failed to draw a card for his Argothian Enchantress, so I pointed it out and he told me that the spell had been countered. I said that the spell was played and that is all Argothian Enchantress cares about, so he drew the card.

At the end of the round I found myself watching a match with a 10 minute extension. The players were still in contention, but after the 10 minutes and 5 extra turns the match was heading for a draw. The players started discussing a split of prizes gained if one of them was to concede. I interrupted and asked them to stop that line of discussion as their plan of action wasn't legal.

15:32 - Round 17

I had only a single call in this round, which was a player asking me for the mana cost and the activation cost of Null Brooch. I showed him an extract from the Oracle.

The end-of-round discussion with my judge team was more interesting. We were discussing rulings that can't be successfully appealed, in particular, the case of naming cards. When a player needs to name a card, the prevailing philosophy is that if they can describe the card distinctively then they don't have to give the actual name. This can be complicated by foreign players who don't know a card's name in English and/or in their native language. The concern is that if the opponent wants to appeal the ruling and the head-judge says that we should not have named the card, then we have already given the information and this can't be reversed. Therefore the consensus was that it's better to involve the head-judge from the start in calls like this.

17:01 - Round 18

I hadn't collected the decks from any of the deck checks all day, and so it was definitely time for me to do it. I have a bad experience of deck checking feature matches after a blunder at the European Championships in 2002, so of course by the law of luck after I'd found out which table that I was going to check, Mark Rosewater announced that it would be a feature match. I went up to the feature match area and soon afterwards I learned that the players in the match I was supposed to check had intentionally drawn. I chose a random nearby feature match to deck check instead, and managed to pull it off without any mishaps.

With the stakes high, this round was more intense than ever. I was called by a paranoid player who asked me to shuffle his deck instead of his opponent doing so, after a Krosan Reclamation. I obliged.

My next and indeed last judge call of the day was concerning Crater Hellion. A player was about to Exhume one and wanted to confirm that it would kill the creature his opponent brought in. I explained that the trigger would go on the stack and resolve after Exhume had resolved, so the creature that his opponent had returned to play with Exhume would be affected and would take 4 damage.

Near one of the top tables midway through the round, I observed a match where the players were not playing, had not signed or completed their results slip, and were discussing something in a language that I didn't understand. Before I could say anything, one of the players asked me to go away and they will call a judge when they are ready to hand in their slip. This made me even more suspicious and I required the slip to be completed there and then. (Once a match is finished, the result must be reported accordingly.)

The day is finished, the top 8 announced, and the players gone by 18:30. After setting up for the team draft day, I shared in some food that other judges had brought along, and reflected on my first day as team leader. It had gone quite well, and I was satisfied with my performance. I felt that I could have been more assertive as leader of the team meetings, but I thought that I had done well enough. With no motivation to stay downstairs in the convention centre, I went to bed.

Saturday, August 9th, 2003

Team Draft day dawned, and this was bound to be a very long day, with four team drafts, four sessions of deck construction, and four rounds of play ahead of the cut to top 2 teams. My team leader for the day would be France's Thierry Gourdon.

The top teams were drafting right next to the barriers. Some spectators had taken advantage of this to take copious notes on some of the drafts. Rune confiscated the notes, although they were later handed back with a strong warning not to aid any players during the tournament.


Crowds on Saturday at Worlds
I noticed that the venue was much hotter than during the week, although I wasn't sure whether it was caused by more people, a breakdown in air-conditioning, or simply a higher ambient temperature. It was somewhat uncomfortable, but bearable. Also, some smoke-generating machines at the back of the hall, near the stage, were on overkill and were disrupting the draft and play area. It took two hours of requests to get them switched off.

09:30 - Draft 1

With the size of the judge staff and the number of teams competing, it was possible to have one judge at every draft. This was helpful, and there were still a few judges able to float to make sure that everything stayed in order.

I had only one problem during my draft, when one player repeatedly held his drafted cards in such a way that his last few picks could be seen easily. I asked him to keep the cards in one straight pile and to only display the most recently drafted card.

During deck construction, the team (which was Pairings team) had little to do. Some of us discussed the reason for not allowing talking during a team draft, even though we allowed communications by gesture. The solution lies in the fact that there would have to be certain communications prohibited, and this couldn't be enforced with language problems. Also with a large number of team drafts in close quarters (like at Worlds), the noise level could prove very intense.

The teams were to be photographed with their national flags during the day. Craig Cudnohufsky, the Sideboard photographer, was quite insistent that this should be done completely before the first round, and it held us up significantly. The planned start time of round 1 was 11:00, but it slipped by almost half an hour. That said, the photographs would probably have held us up later if not now, and it was good to have them done.

11:23 - Team Round 1

The question arose of whether a Carbonized Death's-Head Buzzard would trigger on dying. I ruled that it won't trigger because Carbonize's replacement effect removes Death's-Head Buzzard from the game - it doesn't go to the graveyard at all.

I watched a ruling that another judge made where a player tapped 3 lands and took a face-down card from his hand and moved it towards the centre of the table. He then attempted to take it back and untap the lands. The judge ruled that he couldn't untap the lands as he had tapped them before playing the spell.

Another player wanted to ascertain if Mercurial Kite would trigger if it was returned to his hand before damage resolved. I ruled that it has to be in play in order to trigger and hence it will not trigger if it's removed.

12:51 - Draft 2

In this draft the captain of one of the teams threw the paper wrapper of his Onslaught booster on the floor after opening it. I picked it up. Later, he threw the Legions wrapper on the floor. I picked it up and asked him to stop throwing garbage on the floor. When Scourge came around he seemed to have learned his lesson, but I saw the wrapper well under his chair, picked it up, and gave him a warning for Procedural Error - Major - Littering the Tournament Site.

The only other problem was caused at the top tables and the tables at the sides of the draft area, where judges were letting spectators too near the players.

14:13 - Team Round 2

During this round I felt quite aggrieved at the lack of judges on the floor. I was the only judge in an area of 24 tables, and the zebra clusters at the side of the floor were making me wonder if I was in the right place.

The only question I had in this round was about Daru Stinger and Vile Deacon. A player wanted to kill Vile Deacon with Daru Stinger (which had 2 +1/+1 counters) before it got +2/+2 for attacking. Daru Stinger can target only attacking or blocking creatures, however there is a period (while Vile Deacon's trigger is on the stack) while Vile Deacon is 2/2 and is an attacking creature, so I ruled that the play was legal.

15:50 - Draft 3

This draft was totally uneventful for me, although my feet were definitely feeling the increased stress of standing for longer periods than usual.

17:07 - Team Round 3

In this round I got the kind of call that seems simple, but developed into a huge confusion. Player A was attacking with a 3/3 Vile Deacon (it was his only Cleric), and player B blocked with a Wingbeat Warrior, which was 3/2 due to a Daru Encampment. Player A flipped over a Fallen Cleric, saying that it would "save the Vile Deacon" (presumably under the false notion that the Vile Deacon would see it and get an extra +1/+1 from its long-resolved triggered ability). I ruled this incorrect and prepared to give a time extension and leave.

When I was confirming how the combat phase was going to play out, player B then said "and before damage is on the stack, I'll return Wingbeat Warrior to my hand and flip over Raven Guild Initiate". I said that since this was done before damage was on the stack, player A's Vile Deacon would stay alive. Player B interrupted me and said "no, I said after damage was on the stack... please get Rune and I will explain it to him". I considered giving player B a warning for appealing a ruling that I had not fully given, but I went to get Rune and the discussion continued. A translator was called for player A who didn't speak much English.

The discussion got bogged down in a factual argument. Rune eventually ruled that player B would not have logically returned Wingbeat Warrior to his hand before combat damage was on the stack, and that therefore the Vile Deacon would die. Player A argued this further, but Rune, tired of the argument, explained that the ruling was final. I added 17 minutes to the match and went off to the water station.

Of course the round wasn't over, and I had another call, and this was from one of the highest tables. Player C attacked with a Mistform Wall and two other random creatures, but had forgotten to change Mistform Wall's creature type. He called me over to ask what to do. I explained that he had declared an illegal attack, and that the attack declaration was backed up. He wanted to now activate Mistform Wall, but I ruled that he could not play abilities in the Declare Attackers step until he had declared a legal set of attackers. After a few moments he appealed the ruling, and I got Rune (who at this stage was probably sick of seeing me). He listened and upheld the ruling.

18:30 - Draft 4

Like the last one, this draft passed uneventfully for me.

19:50 - Team Round 4

At the beginning of this round, Thierry Gourdon, my team leader, passed down an offer to me from the side events staff. They were looking for judges to run side events until 4am, with compensation of two display boxes of boosters. I weighed the options but decided that it would be safer to my health (and to my chances of not missing my flight home early Monday morning) to not take it up.

My last call at Worlds was of a player who flipped over an Aven Liberator and gave one of his opponent's creatures protection from white (I think he was trying to get rid of a creature enchantment). I was impressed by the thinking outside the box, and then I read Aven Liberator and stopped the play. Aven Liberator says "target creature you control".

That was it for the team day of Worlds. We had a judge evaluation and meeting, and Rune talked about the plans for tomorrow. He named table judges for the top 8 and team finals. Not being among them, I had the option to do side events (not having been sponsored, it was not a requirement) and I was just about to head off to bed, when I spontaneously decided to play Question Mark which was forming as we spoke. I teamed with Raymond and Shing Nien Fong (with guest helpers David Vogin and Jason Howlett), and our team was named Team Stifle. Going 4-1-1 in the Swiss rounds was good enough to make top 8, where the standard was tougher. We got through a sudden death playoff in the quarter finals (due to including the five basic lands when the question was to name Unglued cards) but the semi-final round on artists sank our plans. Despite that, we each took away a significant amount of promo cards.

Sunday, August 10th, 2003

I decided to sign on as a side events judge for a while, and ran four drafts. I spent some time watching the top 8 matches from Worlds too. The only problems I had to deal with in the drafts was a player who gained life from an Essence Sliver and then wanted to use some damage prevention. I ruled that he had missed the chance because he had already let damage resolve. I also prevented a player from using cards from his library as tokens and asked him to find something more appropriate. Finally one of the draft boxes had been made up with only Onslaught boosters and I needed to rectify this.

The evening brought a judge buffet dinner. Despite some confusion with the hotel staff telling us to go to various other places, we sat down to an enjoyable meal with excellent conversation. As the evening moved on, more judges joined us, and several of us enjoyed Yoshiya Shindo's excellent Japanese "Saga" card game. I left just after 9pm, in order to be up early enough to get out to the airport the next day.

And so ended my five-day experience. I gained much valuable experience and advice, and got to know many of the US judges and staff while there. Hopefully my next step will be to a US Pro Tour stop during the next year, and I look forward to seeing you there.

Comments on any of the rulings I made or anything I've written about are always welcome. Email me at magicjudge@thomasralph.com.



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