Maryland Fifth Dawn Prerelease - Head Judge Report

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Head Judge: Tom Fowler, Level 2
Scorekeeper: Cari Foreman, Level 1
Timekeeper: Sean Vandover, Level 1
Floor Judges: Ron Beyerlein (Level 1), Ron Bond (L1), Felipe Cavalcanti (Level 1), Patrick Loukota (L1), Martha Lufkin (L1), Paul Morris (Level 2), Scott Nerlino (L1), Brian Schenck (L1), Andy Thompson (L1)
TO: Laurel Chiat, Dream Wizards
Site: Baltimore, MD

The Small Hours

I arrived at the main ballroom of the Best Western Hotel and Conference Center a few minutes before 8:00. Judges were supposed to arrive by 8:00, and by a few minutes after 8:00, everyone was present and accounted for. Unfortunately, the hotel’s “crack staff” had not completely set things up in the ballroom, so we had some work to do besides numbering the tables. This is when I wanted to have the judges’ meeting, but since so many hands were pressed into so many tasks, it didn’t happen. I was able to talk to everyone before the first flight began, though, and cover what I would have said in the meeting. Still, it was not an auspicious way to begin the day.

Registration started several minutes early, for two reasons. One, we had a handicapped customer who needed special accommodations, so she was allowed to register before anyone else. This of course brought more players into the ballroom. We weren’t going to take any other registrations, but (reason #2) the number of players already there made early registration very practical. The Dream Wizards staff was, as always, quick and efficient in registering the mass of players we already had at this early hour.

The way we run prereleases is very easy. We don’t do one big tournament, but rather start sealed deck flights as soon as 32 people have registered. If demand is high enough, we will also run a 64-person flight with a higher prize structure. For Fifth Dawn, all the individual flights were made up of 32 players. We have six different colors of paper, so each flight has its own color, which is used for pairings, standings, and results slips. Eventually, we have to double up on the flights within each color, but the players are used to this system, and it’s easy to follow, so there was no confusion. I started the first flight of the day, taking a relatively new judge with me to show him how it is done.

This is the method I used: I took the 32 registration slips (which had not yet been entered into DCIR) and shuffled them up. This prevents people from sitting next to their friends, which could cut down on an avenue for cheating. I called out each player and put the registration slip down at the table where they would be sitting. Once everyone was seated, I instructed the players to make sure their prerelease promo cards were on the table before them. We then collected the registration slips and passed out the product.

Once product was passed out, I made a few more announcements to the players:

  • This is “bust and build,” with no deck registration or swap.
  • Sort your basic lands and put them in the middle of your table. Anyone can grab what lands they need.
  • The land station is in the front of the room if you need more land.
  • You may not play with your promo card, even if you open a Helm of Kaldra in your packs.
  • The usual announcements about sealed deck construction: no trading or adding cards, 40 card minimum including land, 30 minutes to build, etc.

The new judge stayed behind to watch the players during deck construction, to make sure no one was running the cheat. I’d told him what to look for, and he was diligent about remaining in the area of the flight and making sure everything was on the up-and-up. He even confiscated a spoiler list from one player. There were no notes at all on the list, so we simply warned the player that having anything that could be considered outside notes was a Bad Idea. Later in the day, I did find someone who had a list of card ratings for Mirrodin and Fifth Dawn. I took it away before the flight began. Many of the ratings were dreadfully inaccurate, so it might have been more of a penalty for the kid to let him keep the list.

With the number of players we had, 32-person flights were starting quickly. Cari, our scorekeeper, was able to keep all the flights running smoothly, delivering pairings, standings, and results slips with minimal wait. By 11:30, we had twelve 32-person flights running, and we were still taking registrations. This is when two problems emerged.

Hot Enough For Ya?

The first problem was the heat in the ballroom. This was an issue at Mid-Atlantic Regionals, also. The air conditioning in the ballroom clearly did not work, despite the hotel staff’s insistence that it did. Their excuse (the same one offered at Regionals) was that the number of players in the room was preventing the A/C from adequately cooling it. The obvious answer is that the ballroom was designed to hold more people than we had in there, so the A/C should have been cooling things just fine, if it were working. Also, we held the Scourge prerelease at the same location last year and had no problems with the temperature.

The second problem was that we had simply run out of room. With a dozen flights going, just about every available seat was filled. We were condensing flights by eliminating tables when players dropped, but that only helped so much. With the ballroom full, we had another 32-person flight and a team flight (with eight teams) ready to go. Clearly, more space was needed.

The TO and I talked to the hotel staff, and we arranged to have some more tables and chairs setup in an area outside the ballroom. One of the hotel staff then suggested a second ballroom, which they would give us for free because of the heat problem in the main ballroom. The second ballroom was a dinner theatre, with a stage at the front of the room, and tables and chairs on three different tiers for better viewing. But it had plenty of tables and chairs already setup, and while it wasn’t the perfect arrangement for Magic, it would certainly work.

After prepping the room (some minor rearrangement was necessary, as were table numbers), we were ready to move the waiting flights in there. I gathered all the players waiting for the 32-person flight to the front of the main ballroom. Part of being a judge, especially the head judge, is PR work, where you’ll have to deal with people who are less than happy about things. The first thing I did was thank this group of players for their patience. I then told them they were being rewarded by getting to play in a room that was much cooler than the current one. Everyone was instantly happy, and their flight began in “the cold room” posthaste. The team flight was moved into there a few minutes later.

For the rest of the day, we ran flights in both ballrooms, using the cold room for drafts later in the day. I made sure to rotate judges into and out of the cold room, so no one got stuck in the main ballroom all day. We still had one scorekeeper and computer, but the cold room was close to the main ballroom, so shuttling paperwork back and forth was simple. Players were responsible for taking their results slips to the main ballroom, and we had no problem with this all day.

Toilet Cheating IS The Technology

This report wouldn’t be nearly so eventful if it weren’t for an account of what happened in the afternoon. The name of the guilty party will be omitted, since the DCI’s investigation is still pending. For the purposes of this report, I’ll refer to him as “Cheater Boy,” and his “superpower” will be finding the least creative way imaginable to cover his tracks.

Cheater Boy is playing in his second sealed flight of the day. Having walked by his table once, I noticed that his deck looked good, but it didn’t appear to be “too good.” After the match, his opponent commented about the deck’s quality and asked to see it. Cheater Boy let him. The opponent set the deck and sideboard out, and in doing so, happened to count 15 Mirrodin uncommons. He asked our timekeeper extraordinaire, Sean Vandover, how many uncommons came in a Mirrodin tournament pack. Sean, of course, told him ten. While this was happening, Cheater Boy gathered up his cards and beat a hasty retreat from the ballroom.

I was immediately told what had happened, so I grabbed Paul Morris, who was nearby, and told him who we were looking for (I knew Cheater Boy from playing FNM in the local store a few times). Paul and I left the ballroom and who do we run into but Cheater Boy, on his way back from the men’s room? So we did a 180 and caught up to him in the main ballroom. I asked to see his deck and he handed it to me. My first count was 11 Mirrodin uncommons – still a problem, but not to the degree that 15 would be. So I gave the deck to Sean Vandover to recount, and I headed to the restroom from which Cheater Boy had just returned.

At the top of the trash can right inside the door, I saw four Magic cards face down. They were all commons, though, with Wizard Replica being the best of the bunch. I started to leave, but thought he might have tried to do something exceedingly silly like try to flush them down the toilet. So I looked in the stalls and, sure enough, I found three Magic cards floating face down in one of the toilets. The water was crystal-clear, so I grabbed the cards – all three were Mirrodin uncommons. Specifically, they were Farsight Mask, Duskworker, and Flayed Nim.

Water damaged cards

I went back to the main ballroom and found Cheater Boy’s opponent. Without letting him see that I had any cards on me, I asked him some of the Mirrodin uncommons he saw. He named a few good ones, like Viridian Shaman and Detonate. I then asked about the three cards I’d found doing the dead man’s float, again not letting him see I had them on me. He confirmed they were all in the deck.

At this point, we had accounted for 14 Mirrodin uncommons. Perhaps the opponent miscounted the 15th, or maybe Cheater Boy got one of them to flush. Either way, 14 uncommons is a huge problem, and an obvious sign that cards had been added to the deck. I informed Cheater Boy he was being disqualified without prize for adding cards to his sealed deck, and told him he could not play in anymore events that day. I asked him for a statement, but he declined, citing the heat in the ballroom. While it was abnormally warm in there, I think his nervous demeanor belied his real reason for declining to give me his statement.

I gathered statements from his opponent, the player sitting beside the opponent (who had seen him count out 15 Mirrodin uncommons), and from Sean Vandover. Paul Morris had his digital camera with him, so he and I took pictures of the deck, including the 14 uncommons we’d found – three of which were clearly water-damaged – while Sean Vandover registered the deck. All of this information was sent to John Grant, along with Cheater Boy’s email address, for investigation.

This was my first DQ, and I have to think it’ll be one of the easier ones I get.

Let Me Explain – No, There is No Time – Let Me Sum Up

Other than cheating from the Tidy Bowl manual, and the heat situation with the main ballroom, the prerelease was fun and uneventful. We did get the question about Grafted Wargear being attached to an Ensouled Scimitar that stops being a creature at end of turn. Thankfully, Jeff Jordan was at the prerelease watching his son play, so we were able to get his opinion on the discussion. The correct ruling was given initially (and quickly), and then we did the pow-wow with Jeff about why that was correct.

No other rules issues cropped up. We had the expected questions about sunburst, but since I’d required all the judges to read the FAQ (and several copies were available onsite), all the questions were dealt with easily and efficiently. The most common penalty we gave out was for tardiness, as players seem to be inconsiderate of checking the “Drop?” box on their results slip before entering another sealed flight or a draft – a problem I see often at prereleases.

Overall, the event went very smoothly, especially considering the heat and space issues. My thanks to the entire tournament staff for making the Fifth Dawn prerelease the great event that it was.

Tom Fowler, Level 2 DCI Judge

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