Format: MDF Block Constructed
Head Judge: Guido Brandt (L2)
Other Judges: Lutz Hofmann (L3), Dang Ngoc Huy Dinh (L2), Sascha Wagner (L1), Frank Hartstock (L1), Sebastian Rittau (L1), Robert Zemke (Judgeling, passed his L1 test), Christopher Eucken (Judgeling)
Player A - a disqualified player
Players B through E - several players
Falko Görres - a Level 1 judge, who was playing in this event
PTQ Columbus in Berlin, Germany was one of the largest PTQs ever held in Berlin. We had been prepared for a large turnout, since other PTQs in Germany in the weeks before had record turnouts as well.
At first it seemed as if our expectations were not justified. When we opened registration (a quarter of an hour early), only a few players registered, although a lot of players were already lingering at the site. But the nearer we got to the end of the scheduled registration period, the longer the queue of waiting players grew.
When we closed registration about half an hour after the scheduled time, we had a total of 132 registered players, so we did not break the record of 137 players set at Bremen a week before. Nevertheless our initial jokes about the "most overstaffed event ever" turned out to be unjustified. 132 players meant eight rounds of tournament play, followed by two rounds of top 8. (This was a two-slot qualifier, so the finals were not played out.)
A few minutes after we had paired players for round 1, two young boys came up to the judges table and asked whether they still could join the event. At first they were told that it was too late. But when the head judge gave in and wanted to pair them manually, it turned out that the players came to play YuGiOh! So, it still was 132 players. My offer to fetch six random people from the street and put some cards into their hands to beat attendance of the Bremen PTQ was for some reason declined.
Judges at work (Sebastian Rittau is on the far right)
We managed to check all decklists before the first round started, so we were theoretically able to handle all deck problems during the first round. Unfortunately we had overlooked two minor problems that had to be handled at the start of the second round.
During round 2 I was called to a table where both players were arguing about the life totals of player B. Player A claimed that he had "attacked for five", meaning four points of combat damage and one loss of life from the Disciple, because an artifact was sent to the graveyard in the process. His opponent claimed that player A had not announced the Disciple. This was disputed by A, although he admitted that he might not have been clear enough. After checking their life total sheets, which supported the players' respective claims, I ruled that B had in fact suffered a loss of life and issued both players a Warning. I also requested that both players should from now on communicate more clearly.
During a later round two players could not agree whether the Blinkmoth Nexus of player C was attacking or not. His opponent, player D, had called me and claimed that his opponent had tapped the Nexus and the land required to activate it and had announced that he would like to attack with it. Player C claimed that he had only thought about attacking and had been tapping the land and been mumbling during this process.
Since C had been keeping his hand over his lands while he demonstrated what he had done, I asked him whether he had taken his hand off the land after he had tapped it in thought. He said that he did not and his opponent confirmed this. I ruled that the Nexus was not yet a creature and no land had been tapped, but warned player C to announce his intentions more clearly.
While I was noting down the Warning on the result entry slip I heard both players arguing again, but when I had finished writing, the dispute seemed to be over. I got up and another player approached me with a few rules questions. During this brief chat I heard the players arguing again. I looked over to see if they required my help, but they seemed to able to handle it and so I finished my chat. This was an error.
After the round was over, player D approached me at the judge's station. He asked me whether he should have called a judge again, since his opponent had performed more Blinkmoth shenanigans. I told him that he should have called a judge, that he in fact should always call a judge when in doubt. He told me that he didn't call a judge, since I was still standing there and thought that I had noticed what was going on. In retrospect, I should have gone to the table again when they were arguing again after the judge call.
During round 4 I was called to a match in which player A from the earlier Disciple incident participated. The original judge call came from his opponent, player E. Player E was a casual player who was not used to tournament play and so he failed to keep his arm up and I could not locate the player who had called. Fortunately at this point Falko Görres, a level 1 judge, who was participating in this tournament as player, was walking by and repeated the judge call.
When I came to the table, this was the story told by player E and confirmed by A: E had played an Island during his turn. (It is important to note that this was his first blue mana source and he now had an active AEther Spellbomb on the table.) "In response" A wanted to Shrapnel Blast E's Myr Enforcer. E called for a judge.
I explained that you can't respond to land drops and both players accepted the ruling. A went on to Blast the Enforcer nevertheless and E bounced him to his hand with the Spellbomb. When I stepped away from the table I explained to Falko that I probably should have given A a Warning, since I felt uncomfortable about this situation, and a Warning would keep track of this. I also told him about the earlier Disciple incident.
At the beginning of next round Falko came over to me at the judge's station. He had been seated right next to player A in this round and had asked him whether he now knew that he couldn't respond to land drops. A had responded that he had always known and that he had to try everything to win. This story was later confirmed by A, although A claimed that he was embarrassed by his error and was only joking when he replied to Falko.
Of course I immediately referred Falko to Guido, the head judge. I also told Guido about the original "land response" situation. Guido, our level 3 judge Lutz, and me as the judge responding to the original call started to investigate the incident. We talked to Falko, player A, and another player (who could not add much, though). Player A claimed that he did not know that you can't respond to land drops and only made a joke when Falko asked him about it. Falko though stated that he did not believe that player A had spoken in jest. After a long discussion we came to the conclusion that we should trust in Falko's judge instincts and that A knew that he could not respond to land drops. Guido issued the disqualification. This decision was supported by circumstantial evidence, for example the fact that A is an experienced player who had already won a GP Trial and made day 2 in the Grand Prix.
When Guido told the player about the DQ, he protested and claimed that he always had been an honest player and that many people could second that. He demanded that we also interview these people. So, we did interview them and also another local TO. They all admitted that they knew A as a gentle and fair player but they couldn't contribute to the specific situation at hand. So, we confirmed the penalty.
It is interesting to note that after we initially told him about the assigned penalty, player A modified his story slightly. Suddenly he claimed that, yes, he generally knows that you can't respond to land drops, but that he had a blackout in this particular instance. When confronted with the obvious discrepancy, he had no sufficient explanation, except that he doesn't see a difference between his two statements.
I am quite confident that we made the right ruling and that disqualifying the player was the correct action. I believe that he tried to use the perceived lack of rules knowledge of an inexperienced player to gain a significant advantage by misrepresenting the game rules. This is cheating. I also know that I have learned a lot from this investigation, and there is much I would now do differently if I were in the same situation again. I only hope that the player has learned his lesson, and will still have fun in many tournaments.
The investigation of the DQ was taking place during round 5 of the tournament. Unfortunately due to a miscommunication between judges this round was delayed by about an hour. The remaining floor judges (all level 1 and judgelings, since Huy, our second L2, had left earlier and the Lutz was also involved in the investigation) had performed a deck check and determined that the card sleeves of one of the players were marked and had to be replaced. Unfortunately that player appealed. Even though he was told that the head judge was unavailable and that he should just go on and exchange the sleeves, he refused to play until his appeal was handled.
It was generally felt among the judges that this player should have received a penalty for failing to play, but when Guido heard of the appeal at the end of round 5, he disagreed and gave both players the chance to play out their match.
This lead to a break of nearly an hour for most judges as well as players. Personally, I as well as most judges and also some players welcomed this break. The judges got pizza, and I could write my disqualification report. On the other hand, many players who were out of contention dropped, since they didn't want to wait for another hour.
During this extended 5th round, the opponent of the player that caused the delay was cautioned by a judgeling, because he had shuffled cards into his deck in the wrong direction multiple times. When his opponent noticed this again, the judgeling came over to the judges table and asked whether he should upgrade the penalty. Since Guido was occupied at this point, I told him to upgrade it to a Warning. When I asked Guido about this later, he told me that we even might have upgraded it to a Game Loss at this point.
During the next round the player in question was earmarked for a deck check. While the orientation of his cards was okay this time, we noticed a sleeve that was clearly marked by a nail print. This was also his only copy of Last Word. While we all agreed that this very likely unintentional (he had better counters in the deck in Condescend and Annul, after all), we had to hand out a Warning at least and this Warning was upgraded to a Game Loss because of the earlier penalties.
Since I noticed a certain reluctance in the judges who had given him Warnings earlier ("He will think that I'm after him"), I agreed to give him the bad news. He took the penalty calmly.
At the beginning of the 8th and last round, an excited player came to the judges station and asked us whether it was allowed that a player just concede to another player after he heard the result (intentional draw) of another match. We told him that a player could concede at any time.
Later we heard that the players of the match in question had exchanged money at a restaurant. We told one of the players what we had heard and he claimed that the other player just handed him the change. This is quite believable, since both players are from the same town and know each other quite well. I don't think that any shenanigans were going on in this case, although it's possible that there were. We were determined to watch the players in question, but it turned out that both missed top 8.
The top 8 went smooth and we were finished at 2300 hours. I table judged one of the quarter finals and one of the semi finals and noticed that I had to work on my note taking technique. (Note to self: Don't write down "Serum Visions", but just "D" for "Extra Draw".) Congratulations to Dennis Johannsen and Patrick A. Lutz for winning the Pro Tour invitation and the flights!
I would also like to congratulate Robert for passing his L1 judge test. Our other judgeling will do his test at the Kamigawa prerelease. As far as my experience allows me to say, they were doing a good job.
All in all, it was a fun event, though mentally and physically exhausting. The whole DQ issue was very unfortunate. While I still believe that our decision was right, there is still this nagging doubt: What if you were wrong, what if he was really joking? Did I just destroy his hobby? I hope not and I hope that he still has as much fun playing Magic as before and that I will see him at further events.
I for one have learned a lot and am already eagerly awaiting the next event I will be judging, the Kamigawa prerelease weekend.
If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, don't hesitate to mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can also be reached at EFnet's #mtgjudge channel (nick: jroger).