GP Prague Judge Report

April 18, 2013

This was my last large event of the summer batch, concluding a crazy row of 4 in 5 weeks that included GP Rimini, GP Warsaw and the World Magic Cup. But there was no way that I missed an event that took place in my favorite city, and this time, I had two duties : leading the public events judge team on Saturday, and member of one of the deck check teams on Sunday.

Saturday morning, 10h00, leading the judge team on public events : this was mostly logistical work, meaning that I wasn’t really on the floor answering rules questions and solving players problems, but instead managed all the judges and all the smaller events that took place aside of the main event. While most judges (and players) are busy on the main, big event, the organizer still provides plenty of events on the side, and they still need to be take care of them. On Saturday, I had on my plate about 50 8-mans, that each needed their tables and chairs to play with (so organisation was needed to know where we put which event and ensure the proper rotation on the small space left by the main event: you don’t want to start 3 booster drafts at the same tables, nor look for 10 minutes for 8 free seats), as well as their judges, pairings, results, and prizes distribution.
On top of that, we had the « rebound event », a 4 rounds sealed deck event that is super cheap (about 15 €) if you played the Grand Prix but dropped early due to bad results. The last one before GP Prague had about 50 players, so this one should have been quite easy to deal with… Huh, 250 actually wanted to play this event, so I had to change my plans on the fly, while the 8-mans were still firing like crazy, which mean I had to delegate a lot of the responsibilities to an awesome local L2, Jara, who dealt with it in an impressive way. The team I had to manage changed a lot during the day, based on the actual work needed and number of events running at the same time : we started with 3 of us, gradually grew up to 14, and then slowly went back to 3. All the events under my supervision were finished at 23h20, so let’s say it was a long day and a short night.
Sunday morning, 8h15, floor judge on deck team #2 : This team was led by a really experienced level 2 judge, who in his team got a L2, a L3 (myself) and one of the four only worldwide L5 as a support. As you can see, the higher level judge isn’t always the leader, as one of the rules of the judge program is that a judge should always be willing to do all lower levels jobs in addition to his one, and so that we can train lower level judges to take our places in the future if needed.
Our team was, as the name indicate, mainly responsible for deck checks. If you’re not familiar with competitive events, this thing may need a little more explanation.
See, Wizards of the Coast’s R&D consider that one of the skills that tournaments should test is metagame prediction. That means that players need to register their deck, in constructed (like Standard) or in limited (like Sealed Deck) without the full knowledge of what other players will bring to the table. That means that in competitive, the deck you’ll play is locked in at the start of the event.
The only way to actually enforce that is to ask players to submit a list of their deck and sideboard before the event starts. In limited, we also want to be sure that players aren’t adding their own cards to their pool : the whole goal of limited events is to make the best of what you randomly got. The lists submitted are then counted and their legality are checked by judges, which, on an event of the size of the GP, takes quite some time and efforts.
To be sure that players actually follow their own lists, we have team of judges performing what we call “deck checks”, in which we compare the content of the list with the content of the deck. We also use these opportunities to look for other cheating methods, like how the decks are randomized, if any card is marked, or if a player is hiding extra cards somewhere that he could use without his opponent noticing (that’s why it’s a bad idea to leave cards you just traded in your deckbox as it looks very suspicious and will get you penalties).
The deck checks’ targets are usually random (the computer give us a list of table to check every round) unless we suspect something fishy going on. We check half of decks at the start of the round and the other half during the matches, so that there is no time during which cheaters would be safe to manipulate their deck.
When something wrong is discovered, the judges investigate to detect if there was any malicious intend (punished by a disqualification) or it was a simple mistake (that we fix, but usually punish with a Game Loss).
We also spend about a third of our time on the floor, reinforcing the other teams when needed to be sure that players get their questions answered and problems solved. That means that Sunday was the occasion to answer some calls :
Q: Aeolus controls a Witchstalker. He plays a Canyon Minotaur, that Nanaia targets with her Cancel. Aeolus puts his Canyon Minotaur in his graveyard, then passes the turn by saying « Go ». After Nanaia drew, Aeolus realizes that he forgot to put a counter on Witchstalker and calls for a judge.

A: Witchstalker‘s ability is triggered. The rules for triggered abilities is that if you make game actions after the time when the ability should had a visual impact on the game without showing awareness of the trigger, they are missed. Let’s see what this mean in practice.
Here, putting the creature into the graveyard from the stack is taking a game action and nothing was done to show any awareness of the Witchslaker‘s ability prior to that. Putting a counter on the creature has a visual impact on the game, so it should have been done immediately. So the ability is missed.
Because a judge have been called and not more than a turn passed, we still ask to Nanaia if she wants us to resolve the ability immediately (so that forgetting triggered ability cannot be profitable, we let the opponent choose if she prefers the game with or without the ability resolving). Nanaia, being really fair play, asked us to put a counter on the creature. There is no penalty given to Aeolus because the Witchstalker‘s ability is not detrimental, and there is no penalty given to Nanaia because players are never responsible for their opponent’s triggered abilities.

Q: Albert controls a Canyon Minotaur enchanted by an Illusionary Armor. Nike controls a Master of Diversion. Albert attacks with the Minotaur and Nike doesn’t block and takes 7 damages. Albert passes the turn. Nike attacks with his Master. May she choose the Minotaur as a target for the tapping ability, although he’s already tapped ?

A: Yes, and that’s actually a good play, as it will triggers the third ability of the Illusionary Armor and make it be sacrificed !
Although it’s not intuitive, you’re allowed to tap a tapped creature as the resolution of a spell or ability, it just usually doesn’t do anything on resolution. To pay costs, you however still have to tap an untapped creature.

Q: Alfonso controls a Young Pyromancer and plays an Altar’s Reap. May he sacrifices the token created by the Pyromancer to pay the reaping cost ?

A: No. Casting a spell means completing all the steps required. For Altar’s Reap, that means announcing the spell, putting it on the stack from your hand, calculating the costs (Two mana including one black and sacrificing a creature), then activating mana abilities, and then paying the costs in the order of your choice. Only then Young Pyromancer‘s ability will trigger, and at its resolution, give you a token. As you may have seen, costs have been already paid so it’s too late to do so.
Worst : if Alfonso sacrifices his Pyromancer to pay for the reaping, he won’t get a token, because the Pyromancer won’t be here anymore when Altar’s Reap has been fully cast ! That makes Young Pyromancer and Altar’s Reap a really awkward “combo”.

And that’s it for GP Prague ! I’ll take a break over the next couple of European Grand Prix for personal reasons, but I still plan to actively judge awesome events in the future months, so don’t miss the next articles. Especially with Theros in the horizon, full of juicy cards and mechanics…

– Emilien

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