Two days, 111 players, and never enough judges

Ireland Champions of Kamigawa Prerelease Weekend- Part One

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Day one – Cork, Ireland

For the Champions of Kamigawa prerelease weekend, there were four cities in the Republic of Ireland running prerelease tournaments. Saturday saw Galway, Carlow, and my city, Cork, while Sunday was Dublin's day.

I was responsible for organizing the Cork event, and I made a call on the main Irish Magic mailing list for judges. We have very few certified judges in Ireland and even fewer of us are active. Of the active judges, just one is level 3, three are level 2, and the remaining six or so are level 1. First to apply and the eventual selection was Brendan Quigley, an experienced level 1 judge working on his level 2. I agreed to give him any feedback I could, as he hopes to test for level 2 next month.

Day One

Brendan Quigley (left) and Thomas Ralph, judges of the Cork Prerelease

I got to the venue that morning at 9:50, ready for the day ahead. Brendan was already there and had started setting up the venue. I had chosen the Victoria Hotel in Cork. The single function room is quite small (maximum capacity 49 players) but was sufficient for our requirements.

Without a computer available (my laptop charger isn't working and is in for repairs), the tournament would be run on paper, which is a change, but not optimal, especially when most of the players are accustomed to DCI Reporter results slips and simply don't know how to complete the match record cards. Despite putting it on several notices and all the player handouts, there were still many questions during the day.

I should mention my player handouts, of which I have three different types. They all contain relevant information and details. I print them on different colours of paper – one for new players, one for players who have played a tournament but not a sealed deck tournament, and one for experienced players. You can see the handouts I used by downloading them from With registration due to close at 11:00, we had 31 players (4 new), but one pre-registered and pre-paid player had not arrived yet. He called us and said he'd be there in ten minutes, but didn't arrive until a while after deck construction had started, so he had less time. He brought another player, which pushed us over the line to 33 players and hence six rounds.

At 11:20, we had all the players seated for deck construction. I chose to use deck registration sheets but not a deck swap. This has the effect of reducing the chances that players will cheat without making things too complicated for new players or having to tell players that they can't use that bomb that they opened.

I made my announcements, including advising people that they could not exchange cards with other players (we had a double-DQ at the Fifth Dawn prerelease arising from such an incident and the ensuing cover-up) and reminding them that the prerelease card could not be played in their decks. I also explained how to complete the deck registration sheet.

Most of my announcements were ineffective. Unfortunately most players don't bother to listen to them. Why bother listening to announcements, reading the notices, or reading your handouts when there are two perfectly good judges to ask? Almost every question I was asked during deck construction time had to do with something that I'd already announced or placed on the player handout. Here are the ones that weren't.

11:25 Deck Construction

Q: What does this do? (pointing to Desperate Ritual)
A: You play it for 1 ManaRed Mana and it adds Red ManaRed ManaRed Mana to your mana pool.

Q: What's this splice thing about?
A: If you play another Arcane spell, then you can reveal Desperate Ritual from your hand, pay 1 ManaRed Mana, and then if the other Arcane spell resolves, you'll add Red ManaRed ManaRed Mana to your mana pool.

Q: How many of the creatures in the set are Spirits?
A: I have no idea.

Q: What card is that? (pointing to the poster on the wall)
A: How would I know? I haven't seen the cards either. (Someone later told him that it was Jugan, the Rising Star.)

At 11:55, the first decklists started to come in. Even at prerelease level, I will ask my three decklist questions (only the last two are strictly necessary) when I am handed a list, before I will take it.

  • Are you satisfied with your decklist?
  • Have you registered at least 40 cards?
  • Are you aware that you may not change your decklist once you have turned it in?

Brendan and I tried to check the lists as quickly as possible so that problems (and game losses) could be avoided. As soon as each decklist was verified (40 cards in the main deck; we left counting the sideboards until later), we stamped it and moved on. Decklists that had any problem or ambiguity were stamped with a different stamp and put in a separate pile.

Fully half of the players were still at their tables when I called time at 12:15. Most of them finished up very shortly afterwards; there were no major delays caused and we could start round 1

Decklist stamps help to quickly identify which lists have been checked and which are invalid.

12:30 Round 1

I explained again how the player match record cards worked and the importance of calling a judge in my pre-round announcements. When I asked “Any questions?” at the end, one player asked me to explain all the new abilities. Rather than delay everybody else, I started the round and handed him a copy of the new ability descriptions in the FAQ.

Most of the questions this round were elementary.

Q: Can I play Unnatural Speed on my opponent's creature? (I think he controlled Horobi, Death's Wail, which three players opened and generated more questions than any other card) A: Yes, there is nothing saying you can't.

Q: Is Bushido targeted?
A: No – there is no instance of the word “target” in the ability description.

Q: Is Bushido cumulative?
A: Yes, each instance of Bushido will trigger separately.

Q: If I block a 1/1 creature with Bushi Tenderfoot will Bushi Tenderfoot flip and live?
A: No, both creatures die at the same time when state-based effects are checked after combat damage resolves. Bushi Tenderfoot's ability will trigger, but it won't do anything.

Q: If I give Kondo, Lord of Eiganjo -5/-5 until end of turn, will he die?
A: Yes, even though it is indestructible, a creature with toughness 0 or less is put into the graveyard as a state-based effect.

Q: My Kitsune Riftwalker can't be destroyed by his Horobi, Death's Wail when he uses his Matsu-Tribe Decoy, because it has protection from Spirits, right?
A: Wrong. If the Riftwalker becomes targeted by a spell or an ability from a non-Spirit, non-Arcane source then it will be destroyed. Horobi's ability isn't targeted.

Q: Can I pay 1 ManaWhite Mana to return my opponent's Cage of Hands (enchanting my creature) to his hand? A: No, only the controller of a permanent can play its activated abilities.

Q: If I don't have a hand, does that mean Stabwhisker the Odious's ability doesn't do anything? It can't see how many cards I have if I don't have a hand, right?
A: Well... no. If you have no hand, you have 0 cards. 0 is 3 fewer than three, so you lose 3 life.

Q: If I block a 1/1 creature with Bushi Tenderfoot will Bushi Tenderfoot flip and live?
A: No. You asked me that already.

None of the decklists had less than 40 cards, which was excellent. However, eight were short sideboard cards. One of these proved to be a miscount, but the other seven were short one or more cards. Investigation of each showed that the cards missing off the list were random commons, so I downgraded the penalty in each case to a Warning, figuring there was little or no advantage to be gained.

Time was called with only three matches going to extra turns. At least the format doesn't seem as slow as previous Limited formats have been.

13:36 Round 2

This round we deck-checked a match including one player with a decklist that just looked suspicious. His deck checked out, but his opponent's deck had only 39 cards due to a Mountain being dropped on the floor, which earned him a Game Loss for Illegal Main Deck (Legal List).

Q: My opponent forgot to use Honden of Infinite Rage before he went to draw a card, does he get to use it now?
A: Yes, the effect is mandatory. (I gave the Honden player a caution for sloppy play.)

Q: Can I use the triggered ability of Kami of Fire's Roar when I play the spell itself? A: No, triggered abilities of permanents only work if the permanent is in play when the trigger event occurs. Kami of Fire's Roar is not in play when you play it.

Q: Do lands animated by Soilshaper stop being creatures at end of turn?
A: Yes, it says so right there on the card.

Q: If I flip a card with training counters on it, does it keep the training counters?
A: Yes, and it keeps the ability that they represent too.

Q: Can I put more land into my deck?
A: Yes, for games 2 and 3 of a match, but you must return to your original deck for the first game with each player.

Q: Can I use Nezumi Graverobber when my opponent has no cards in his graveyard so I can flip it?
A: No, you can't play an ability for which there is no legal target.

One player managed to forget Shisato, Whispering Hunter's triggered ability and draw a card so many times that he earned himself a Game Loss for Card Drawing — Drawing Extra Cards. Oops.

14:39 Round 3

In a discussion with Brendan as to where we'd get lunch, we each had different preferences. We agreed that whoever actually went to get the food would choose, and it ended up being me. Therefore I was away for most of the round.

Q: My Hisoka's Guard says I can choose not to untap it during my untap step. Why wouldn't I want to untap it?
A: If you used his other ability then you might want a creature you control to remain untargetable. I noticed that the player had no other creatures in play, and shortly afterwards I heard her say “you can't target that because it's untargetable”. I returned to find that she had made the Hisoka's Guard untargetable with itself, and reversed the action. It shortly became the target of a Glacial Ray.

15:38 Round 4

Champions of Kamigawa pre-release

Q: Judge! My opponent won't agree to use this die roll and I don't want to flip a coin.
There is one player who absolutely refuses to use a die roll to decide who goes first, because he thinks that other players can manipulate die rolls. His opponent found this suspicious and thought that he was using a weighted coin. I gave both players a Warning for Unsporting Conduct — Minor and flipped a coin myself for them. (Flipping a coin is in fact the default method of deciding who goes first and must be used if the players cannot agree on another method.)

Q: I have a Gutwrencher Oni, no cards in hand, and I don't control an Ogre. What happens at the beginning of my upkeep? Does Gutwrencher Oni die?
A: Nothing happens. The rules tell you to discard a card; you can't, so nothing happens. Gutwrencher Oni does not say that it must be sacrificed if no card is discarded.

Q: Can I tap this creature which I just played for Aura of Dominion?
A: Yes, since the Tap symbol is not involved you can.

Q: (referred to me by Brendan) Will the damage dealt from the ability of Kiku, Night's Flower be determined on announcement or on resolution?
A: On resolution.

Q: Judge, will you cut my deck? My opponent's hands are too greasy from fried chicken.
A: OK. (His opponent agreed.)

In this round I saw a player spitting on a few of his own cards. I gave him a Warning for Unsporting Conduct — Minor and asked him to stop.

Another match involved two players who were playing immaturely. They were requesting the judge to cut their deck instead of their opponent, calling a judge on trivial procedural errors, and laughing when a judge gave a ruling in their favour. I gave them both a stern warning to grow up or I would double-loss their match.

16:45 Round 5

The deck-check in that round was on a random top table. One of the players had absolutely appalling sleeves. There was no significant pattern to the markings, confirmed by Brendan, so I gave the player a Warning and banished the sleeves from the tournament. I also warned the player not to bring sleeves in that condition to any tournament ever again. That match ended up with a long time-extension and used all of it at the end of the round.

Q: My opponent Befouled my black creature two turns ago. What happens?
A: It's too late to bring the creature back; your opponent gets a Warning for Procedural Error — Major (choosing an illegal target).

Q: If I use Hearth Kami to destroy Orochi Hatchery, how much do I have to pay?
A: The converted mana cost of Orochi Hatchery is 0 when it's in play, so you pay 0.

Q: Can I use my Initiate of Blood and a Glacial Ray to kill my opponent's 2/2 creature and flip the Initiate?
A: (I felt this was bordering on strategic advice, but the player explained the options so I felt comfortable in telling him the following answer.) No. Initiate of Blood can only target a creature that's already been damaged this turn, and there is no time that it can target the 2/2 after Glacial Ray has damaged it, because it will have gone to the graveyard.

Q: Are Shisato, Whispering Hunter and Matsu-Tribe Decoy cumulative?
A: Yes. The skipped untap step doesn't count as fulfilling Matsu-Tribe Decoy's ability. Now I hope you sacrificed a Snake this time.

Q: If I play Horobi, Death's Wail, that means that all my opponent's creatures that are targeted by the enchantments on them will die, right?
A: No, an enchantment no longer targets anything once it's in play.

18:08 Round 6

Q: My opponent just targeted my Spirit with a Kitsune Diviner, and he controls Horobi, Death's Wail. I want to use Indomitable Will in response to target Horobi, Death's Wail so that it'll die and its ability won't work.
A: Your action is legal, but the triggered ability of Horobi, Death's Wail is already on the stack and your Spirit will die whether Horobi does or not. Don't you miss Stifle?

Q: My opponent is tapped out of White Mana. If I use Blessed Breath to give my creature protection from white, will the Cage of Hands on it fall off?
A: Yes, since protection from white prevents a creature from being enchanted by a white enchantment, the Cage of Hands will be put into its owner's graveyard as a state-based effect.

There were no other questions in round 6, but many problems ensued when we tried to pair the top 8 playoff. In hindsight I should have just run Swiss rounds, and will do so next time. The situation was that of the 8 players, two had gone home already, five wanted to play a draft, and the remaining one wanted to continue with the sealed decks. Because there was no extra product for a draft and it would come out of the prizes, I had to have every player's agreement if I was to run a draft. Since this was not forthcoming, sealed deck was selected as the top 8 format. With that, two more players dropped. I understood that players were not advanced to replace anybody who dropped from the top 8, so I paired accordingly. It resulted in one player going straight to the final, because the other three in his half of the draw dropped. He lost in the end.

Two more questions arose during the top 8.

Q: If I use Swallowing Plague with X=7 targeting my opponent's 1/1 creature, do I get 7 life?
A: Yes, unlike Drain Life, you can gain more life than the toughness of the creature you drain.

Q: Can I wait until my opponent has paid for all his attackers (due to my Ghostly Prison) before tapping one of them with Kitsune Diviner and preventing it from attacking?
A: No, attack costs are paid and creatures tapped to attack during the same action without an opportunity to respond. If you want to tap a creature with Kitsune Diviner, your opponent won't have to pay for it (in fact he cannot pay for it).

The event finished at about 22:00, with Wayne Kwan the winner. I started to clear people out, and got home and crashed shortly afterwards. My prerelease weekend was only half complete.

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