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Haifa Pre-release & PTQ Amsterdam
Judge Report

Alan Jacobi

Greetings again readers. Once again, I bring you anecdotes, rulings, stories, thoughts and laughs from behind the scenes of a major Israeli MTG tournament.
For those of you who still know nothing about Israel's MTG scene, I heartily recommend reading my previous reports about the last Israeli nationals and the Scourge pre-release, and Doron Singer's various reports. There is a lot of continuity to be gained here.

Well, since I missed out reporting on the last pre-release (Doron reported the one in Tel Aviv, while I was judging the one in Haifa), I need to fill out a bit of background information. This will be my "mini report" on what happened in the Mirrodin pre-release.

Scourge's Haifa pre-release had brought an attendance of about 50 players. The maximum ever for a Haifa pre-release was almost 100 players, and that was when the Haifa and Tel Aviv pre-releases were not held on the same day, so we got many players from Tel Aviv also. You can see why our best guesstimates prepared us for 80 players tops in the Mirrodin pre-release.

Boy, were we wrong...

Just like in that Disney movie "Fantasia" where the animated brooms just kept coming and coming and bringing in more buckets with water, players just kept coming and coming. Despite the fact that we were holding it in a larger place, I spent most of the registration time screaming "MORE TABLES! MORE CHAIRS!" into my cell phone until I was blue in the face. This of course threw off our entire table numbering scheme (they had been glued to the tables tightly, and we had our hands full as it was without having to start renumbering all the tables. In retrospect, we should have given this a higher priority considering the mess it made).

Soon we also ran out of product, so we started dipping into the prize boosters, and I watched in horror, as the line of people waiting to register did not show any signs of dwindling. It was as if every Magic player in Israel had answered some sort of mystical siren's call and had come to the Tournament.
We ended up having 116 players. 36 more players than the maximum we had prepared for. We didn't have enough product for everybody, the last minute arrangements we had to make to accommodate all these players had severely delayed the tournament, and caused a chain reaction that forced us to choose between bad and worse a couple of times. We later heard that Tel Aviv also set a personal record that day with 177 players, so it was obvious we had become victims of our own success.

Magic is growing rapidly here in Israel. The many steps (blackmail, extortion, etc.) we are taking to encourage players to join the game and the tournament scene are proving effective, and I am personally delighted to see this community flourishing, considering all the work I put in.

So much for the introduction and the background.

Having the PTQ in Haifa, and this being a Mirrodin sealed event, the same as the pre-release, the T.O could not help but feel that this was our chance to "set things right" with the players, and provide them with a better experience than the buggy pre-release. Sort of a "Let's show you guys how this SHOULD have looked".

Things were looking much better. We got a larger place in a mall called "Haifa Mall" (How original), and I got the go-ahead to recruit one more judge of my choice. Could this be true? Am I... Am I... Am I getting a... Staff?! Does this mean I won't have to eat my one meal for that day while giving rulings? Does this mean that I can invest the time thoroughly checking out deck problems without it meaning 10 other players will be kept waiting? This was too good to be true. Apparently, the T.O really wanted to get this one right.

My choice was easy. As Doron recently joined my university, the Technion in Haifa, and was now living there in the dorms, this one was a no-brainer. Therefore, I recruited Doron. I haven't had the pleasure of working alongside Doron much, since we usually had to split up, each judging his own region, so I was happy to have a capable and experienced judge like Doron on my staff.

One more new service we provided was pre-registering decks for those players who pre-registered and paid in advance. We set out to meet on Friday, the day before the tournament, to check out the place, arrange the tables and everything, and then go pre-register decks.

We arrived at the mall early noon. We got the food court in the mall, and it looked good. We had plenty of those 2 tables/4 chairs integral units, enough for at least 150 players. I much prefer those to normal tables, since they cannot be separated, and the players can't mess up the place. If I could just glue the players to the tables as well, I'd be ecstatic.

Above us, I saw a large canvas, which was used as a screen for the nice projector that was hanging from the ceiling. Seeing this, I immediately began drooling. I started imagining pairings being posted on the screen, round clocks on the screen, heck we could even do marriage proposals like in those super-ball games. Outside the windows we had a beautiful view of the sea, what more could we ask for?

Cooperation. That's the answer. Once the mall supervisor arrived, all of those lovely dreams were brutally shattered. It seemed like we were getting just a couple of those integral tables/chairs. The rest would be seated on plastic chairs, and those tables made of a wooden plate on 2 non-attached legs. Oh well, beats the floor.

Then we found out the projector was off limits.

That was to be expected really. What we did not expect was the reason for this.
The mall apparently planned a public viewing of that weekend's soccer game in the other part of the food court (the part we THOUGHT we also had). Additionally, the supervisor let us know that it's perfectly ok for us to prepare anything and everything we wanted then and there, but since kids had access on Friday night to the mall, and there was no guard in that area, since none of the food joints were open, we were likely to find the place...how do I put it lightly? Demolished. You see, swarms of kids have the same interesting property of piranhas, or army ants, but where the latter strip animals of flesh, kids strip a tournament scene dry of posters and decorations.

So, to recap the situation, we now had a smaller place than we originally thought (though still large enough), with less and worse tables than we first anticipated, and we would have a soccer game for a neighbor.

A bit dismayed, we left the place, and proceeded to the on-site coordinator's house to pre-register decks. Since the coordinator was likely to be playing in the tournament, he was barred from helping out in this process, which left three people (Me, Doron, and a kid named Stas who would also be helping out in the tournament), to pre-register decks. A bit earlier I was saying to the Coordinator (Danny), "How long could this possibly take? 10 minutes per deck?"
Apparently I was severely underestimating the complexity of the task. We had about 30 decks to pre-register, which figured out to 10 per person. That ended up taking us 4 hours, and left me with a distinct feeling that I don't want to fill out a deck list again anytime soon.

An interesting note: during preregistration, we opened an interesting anomalous tournament pack with 7 rares, 3 of which were foil. I decided not to modify that deck, since the rares did not make it overly powerful, and I felt like somebody deserved getting that lucky break from such a rare anomaly. I also noted and tried to remember particularly interesting coincidences that may affect the games, such as a deck with 3 terrors and 2 shatters. If I had run across that in a deck list, I might have raised an eyebrow.

Anyway, after this long prelude, we finally get to the tournament itself.
At the tournament day I heard from Danny (the Coordinator) that the TO would be physically present at the tournament. This meant we had a record amount of staff. Me and Doron as judges, a scorekeeper, 2 girls (Danny's GF and her sister) working as receptionists and at other odd jobs, Stas also helping out, and now the TO as well.
And sure enough, the tournament was ticking like clockwork. We had the place beautifully set up before most players showed up, lines weren't long, I had time to walk around making sure every player wrote his name on the deck registration sheet, and was filling it out properly, and for once we got a good speaker system that allowed me to make effective announcements (for the Mirrodin pre-release we had a megaphone which worked poorly and was highly directional. It created a focused cone of sound, forcing me to repeat all announcements while twirling around like a ballerina). Things were looking great for a change. The TO, however, started running figures calculating how much all that staff would cost him. As Doron came to him saying: "It's really great having enough staff, things are going great!" he mumbled "Don't get used to it..."

So, deck registration went without a hitch, and since we had pre-registered a bit too many decks, we even managed to allow three latecomers to play without delaying the tournament.

With registration over, we printed out random seatings, herded the players back into place, and I went on to do my formal announcements. "Welcome to PTQ Amsterdam!"

Having explained everything regarding REL 3 tournaments (if you mess up your deck list I'm going after your family!), I formally started deck construction time.
This time we let the players keep the basic land that came with their tournament pack, and only set up a land swapping station. We could do that since we finally had enough basic land in advance to set up such a station. It's the little things that make a tournament tick, really. Not having to stand in line to get basic lands really helps the players out and just might prevent a judge from getting a nervous breakdown.

During deck construction I had the usual plethora of deck list problems, but for once I could allow the time to fully and patiently resolve them, since I knew that doing so would not deprive the tournament of its only judge. I proxied some missing cards, and resolved other various problems, while Doron went around explaining to young players what certain cards do. Yes, that also happens in PTQs in Israel. It would happen even if this were Nationals.

First round starts with a whistle (remember the whistle?), and the tournament is underway. I get a call from a player saying he cast Grab the Reins on his opponent's creature. The opponent responded by casting his own Grab the Reins on the creature.
I ruled that since the opponent said he's responding, that it was done before the first Grab the Reins resolved, so the opponent's Grab the Reins resolved first, did nothing, and than that player's Grab the Reins resolved giving him control of the creature.
Really, that's a mistake that would not have been made if players properly understood timing and the stack.

About halfway through round one I started thinking "Hey, as long as we're that organized, why don't we start the players on match result slips". We don't use them that often, for various reasons, but I was feeling adventurous today.

So, we printed them out, and let the girls cut and hand them out. One small hitch though. Due to a misunderstanding, the girls thought that all the slips were identical and just started handing them to players without correlation to what it said on the slip.
Luckily Doron and I caught that quite early and were able to correct the mistake.
As round 2 is about to start, a sobbing little kid comes to me. "(sniff sniff) I can't find my deck, (wipes tears) it was just here a second ago".
Now, this happens to me almost every tournament. If there's one thing little kids do well, it's lose their decks. Soon after, another one shows up. Apparently we had a "lose a deck, bring a friend" deal going there.
The TO agrees to lend them one of the extra pre-registered decks we prepared, and I on my part agree to let them take a match loss during the second round, while they make new decks. These kids aren't going to win anything anyway, and I didn't have the heart to DQ them over this. It was clear to me that they did not "lose" their decks on purpose, as their distress was quite obvious, and they were not a threat to anybody.

During the second round I had a player ask me if his opponent would take mana burn from mana gained by a Blinkmoth Urn while his turn was controlled via a Mindslaver. The answer - Of course not. Players do not get mana burn for any reason while controlled by a Mindslaver.

A player asked if you cast Turn to Dust on an artifact, which upon resolution becomes an illegal target, do you still get the mana? Easy question - Answer is No. All targets are illegal, so the spell is countered upon resolution. ALL of it.

Some more time passes and Doron informs me that he had been called by a player to observe for slow play. Doron tells me he does believe the player in question is playing slowly. He's sitting and thinking quite a long time when he does not really have many options. On the other hand, he was gaining no advantage by stalling, since his opponent was up 1 to 0 in the games. As education for the future I decided to give the slow player a warning, and a 3-minute time extension to the match.

Not long after, Doron once again calls me over to rule in a hairy situation (being head judge has it perks, doesn't it?).
Player A cast a Fiery Gambit, and while fishing for a coin said "I call tails".
Player B: "Heads?"
Player A: Yeah
Player A flips the coin and it lands on tails. Now they are arguing.
I rule that the players intention to call Tails stands, since he was distracted when he mistakenly answered his opponent's question. Having won his first flip, the player flips again: Tails!
The player decides to flip a third time: Heads. Down the drain the spell goes, and everybody is happy (well, almost everybody).

A bit later on, while talking to a player who already finished the match, he asks me "Say... can you equip your opponent's creatures?"
I immediately say "No. You can only equip your own creatures". Heck, it even says so on the reminder text. Apparently that was done during his previous match. Well, now it's a little too late to do anything about that, but just to be sure, I go on the speakers and remind everyone that you can only equip your OWN creatures. Everybody's looking at me like "Ok ok, quit worrying", and I get back to business.

A player approaches me with a worried look. "I just drew a card from my deck, and remembered that I forgot to register it while making a deck list". This meant that he had a 39 card deck registered in the deck-list. The text-book penalty for an illegal main deck list is a match loss in REL 3; however, since the player approached me with the problem and was honest, I decide to downgrade his penalty to a game loss only.

Later on, once again, Doron calls me over to handle another hairy situation. I'm lucky today.

It seems that Player C has cast a Duplicant removing from the game... Player D's Tel-Jilad Archers (Who are protected from Artifacts). Problem is - that happened 4 rounds ago, and the Duplicant has been happily attacking his defenseless opponent those 4 rounds. Both players are experienced players in contention for top 8. I consider the situation. The game has been irreparably damaged. Both players agreed that the Duplicant attacking those 4 rounds had a critical impact on the game state. I could see no way to repair the game, and so I started ruling for a game loss to the player with the Duplicant. Doron pulls me aside and says he thinks a game loss might be too harsh in that situation. Doron has an interesting point. He says that we should not neglect the fact that Player D did not notice the mistake, and that we should not create a situation where a player might let an illegal play by his opponent slide for a few rounds, because he knows that once the game was irreparably damaged, his opponent would automatically lose.

This is a tough call. One the one hand, I don't know if player D's punishment for his lack of attention should be that steep (8 damage, which are very significant), and on the other hand, I can't be really sure that the player did not let it slide on purpose to squeeze a game loss for his opponent. I finally decide to go with Doron on that one, and award Player C a Warning for PE major, immediately unimprint the Duplicant, and let the players continue on from there. Do you think I was wrong? I would love to hear feedback about this decision. Contact details, as always, are at the bottom on this report.

More questions: if a Woebearer dies in combat from combat damage, can he return himself? This is actually quite a nice question. I liked it. Made me think for a second there.
My ruling was that he could. Though the Woebearer is not in the graveyard when he deals the combat damage and his ability triggers, what matters is when the ability goes on the stack, and that is after state based effects have already been checked, and he is already in the graveyard from lethal damage. Thus, he is a legal target both when the ability goes on the stack, and when it resolves.

Back to mundane duties. While deck checking a player, I notice 3 Leaden Myrs in his deck while his deck list states only 2 (both in Total and in Played). This is unlikely to be a registering mistake, since the player confirmed the amount when he wrote 2 next to the played. I ask the player over, show him the extra Myr and the deck list and ask for an explanation. Apparently, between rounds when he was desideboarding, he could not find the 2nd Myr, and thought he lost it. Rather than approach me with the problem, he decided to simply take a Leaden Myr from his personal collection, and stick it in there as replacement.
He promptly received a game loss for illegal main deck, along with a lecture on how handling such problems yourself was a Bad Thing. I told him that if he had really lost the card and approached me, I would have given him permission to put that card in there as a proxy

Another kid's deck list was really something. Apparently, he did not understand how you register a deck, and simply filled out the played column with the exact numbers in the total column for every color he was playing, plus artifacts. This effectively meant he had no deck list. After I explained to him how to correctly fill out a deck list, he had time to correct the deck list to match his deck, due to the game loss he received.

One round we had an unusual number of players claiming their opponents didn't show up. A quick check showed that whoever posted the pairings for that round neglected to remove last round's pairings for the board, and also did not completely cover them with the new pairings. So the situation was that only the table number was visible from under the new pairings, and players had mistakenly looked at their names in the new list and the number from the old list.
I quickly printed out a pairings by table list, and went by the tables one by one to make sure all the players were playing their correct opponents and that I would not have another nasty surprise once players started reporting results.
This is another example of how a little oversight can lead to major problems later on.
Fortunately no damage was done, and no players ended up playing the wrong opponents.

Going into the top 8 now, another situation presented itself, and Doron once again called me in to make a ruling (somehow Doron managed to stumble upon them all). Player E had AEther Spellbomb, which he sacrificed for its bounce effect.
Player F had 2 creatures, which were pretty close together. Player E said he targeted one creature, and player F said the other was targeted. Apparently (as told by a witness), player E picked up the Spellbomb, waved it over in the direction of both creatures, and said something to the effect of "bounce this", and it was impossible to be sure which creature he actually meant.
I ruled that since no actions had been taken since the dispute, the game state could easily be reversed to the point where the players last agreed on the game state, which was before the Spellbomb was sacrificed. I let player E sac the Spellbomb again, this time being clear on what he wanted to target. This made player F very unhappy, but Doron seemed to agree with me that it was the right call.

Later on, I was called to a match when a player that attacked with a creature equipped with a Mask of Memory drew two cards but forgot to discard, and proceeded to play a land. I ruled that the game state was not damaged, forced the player to discard immediately, and gave him a warning for PE Major because of the potential for abuse.

All in all this tournament went by very smoothly and beautifully demonstrated what we can do with sufficient staff. The players felt that as well, and we received a lot of compliments on the organization. This is a double edged sword, since now the TO will probably try and see how much staff he can reduce and still get away with it...
Oh well.

As always, I would love to hear any feedback you have on this report (if you made it this far). If you liked it, hated it, want to comment on some of my rulings, or simply wish to deposit large sums of money in my bank account, I would love to hear from you at psibeast@hotmail.com. Every feedback I've gotten so far has always been answered.

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