Pro Tour Atlanta – Judge Report

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Travelling to Atlanta

My first trip stateside became a reality in early January when I was lucky enough to be selected to travel to PT Atlanta, March 11th-13th, 2005. A marathon journey began at 7am on the 10th, when I left home for the bus station to get to Shannon airport, about three hours’ journey.

The news filtered through on the way that there was an unofficial, unannounced train strike affecting Cork stations that day, so I counted myself extremely lucky not to have been given a route that required a Dublin departure by Eric Cagle. I won’t bore you with the details of my travel, but passport control delays leaving Shannon (where US Immigration has a border post) and further delays arising from a terminal change for my Delta flight in New York added almost 3 hours to my journey. The taxi fare from Atlanta airport to the hotel was $55, more than 50% more than the estimate provided, and had I anticipated that high fare I would have made alternative arrangements to get to my hotel. But having parted with my cash, I checked into the hotel and found my room, where roommate Doron Singer from Israel was already asleep. I quickly followed suit, as it was almost 11:00pm. Factor in the time difference and I had been awake for over 21 hours.

Day One: Friday March 11th, 2005

The morning came too early and we made the mistake of assuming the mall, or the Barnes & Noble café, or something, would be open on the way to the venue (they weren’t), leading us to arrive at the venue with empty stomachs. I managed to find my way to the Renaissance Waverly hotel and buy a highly overpriced breakfast, but resolved to eat breakfast at the hotel for the remainder of the weekend.

It was there that I met most of the judges. They’d had some fun fixing product as well as judge drafting the previous day, but I had arrived a bit too late for that. I also received my personalized letter from Sheldon, which I thought was a nice touch. So we had our judge meeting at 7:45am, and discussed the usual issues such as key rulings and languages. Sheldon had determined that the only legal thing for players to say to their team-mates during the match was asking the game score. We reserved judgment on whether or not we’d issue penalties for talking in a foreign language. Previous team PTs have tended towards issuing an automatic game loss for pointing at cards and/or talking in foreign languages, but the DCI philosophy on this and penalties in general seems to be that we are as lenient as possible while still maintaining fairness. (This is one of the reasons why the penalty for Illegal Main Decklist was cut back to a game loss at all RELs.)

The list of scheduled judges for the PT can be found here. The foreign languages that were covered at the PT were:

Japanese Takeshi Miyasaka, Collin Jackson*
French Kevin Desprez, Riccardo Tessitori, Thomas Ralph
German Thomas Ralph, Adam Cetnerowski
Czech/Slovak/Polish Adam Cetnerowski
Spanish/Portuguese Juan del Compare, Alfonso Bueno
Italian Riccardo Tessitori, Cristiana Dionisio
Hebrew Doron Singer

*Collin was rarely on the floor and spent much of his time doing high-level certification. Unfortunately Miyasaka was our only Japanese judge, as Yu Kanazawa was refused entry by US Immigration.

Despite the large number of languages available, the only translation language requested all weekend was Japanese, giving Miyasaka a lot of work to do.

After the main judge meeting I met Duncan McGregor as well as Frank Wareman, Daniel Wong, Takeshi Miyasaka, John Alderfer, and Ingrid Lind-Jahn. Together we formed the Slips team for the day. After a brief discussion of some very minor issues that hadn’t come up in the judge meeting, we went to lend a hand to the Logistics team putting out table numbers, deck registration sheets, pens, scorepads, and the like. Many hands made light work, and players started to arrive. This was where the new Pro Lounge really shone, because it kept players (mostly) out of the playing area when we didn’t want them to be there.

The format was announced: three deck builds, each followed by two rounds of play on day 1, with teams on 12 points or more proceeding to day 2 and five gruelling rounds of team Rochester draft.

09:23 Deck Build 1
The deck build began only a little behind schedule and my main duty was manning the floor and directing people to whichever of the three land stations looked least busy. One was lower-profile and quite a distance from the event floor so we ended up sending more people there.
I also checked and signed a few people’s decklist errors. The main reason that we get players to call a judge to verify decklist errors is not so much to authenticate the list, but to make sure it’s written clearly. (If you’ve seen many limited decklists, you’ll know what I mean when a player adds a card to their deck, removes it, and adds it back again.) By requiring a judge signature, we also make sure of judge intervention and making the detail clear on the decklist.

10:28 Round 1
Q: Judge, will you get my jacket?
A: Sure, where is it?
(Not the best first judge call of a PT I guess, but anything reasonable we can do to make the player experience better should be done.)
The first ruling I almost made was to give two players game losses for being late to arrive. Given that they were only seconds late for the round I decided to apply judge discretion.
Only three minutes into the round I got a serious call, from Player A who thought Player B, his opponent, had presented a marked deck. It was marked, but there was no significant pattern. (I suspect it was due to bending the sleeves too much while sleeving his deck.) I issued the player a Warning for Marked Cards – Minor, and required him to resleeve his deck.
At this time I noticed a problem with issuing warnings. Usually I ask the player to point to his name on the results slip, but with only the team names present this wasn’t possible. As the players also had not received their player name stickers for their badges, it was necessary to ask them sometimes (leading to another confusion when players didn’t understand English too well). Later in the day when the players had their badges it was a much easier matter.
At the end of the round, we had a brief discussion on what penalty category to record when a Game Loss is an appropriate penalty for marked cards at a PTQ — Marked Cards – Minor being a Caution and Marked Cards – Major being a Match Loss. We didn’t come to a conclusion because the slips came out of the printer too early.

11:44 Round 2

Combat damage is only considered 'dealt' when it resolves
Q: My opponent activated Opal-Eye, Konda’s Yojimbo when damage was on the stack. He can’t redirect the damage on the stack though, because it was already dealt, right? That’s how Magic Online works.
A: No, combat damage is only considered “dealt” when it resolves. He can create a replacement effect and it will work correctly. Magic Online is wrong.
The player who called me asked for another judge, and I told him that I could only get the head-judge. I did, and Sheldon quickly upheld my ruling and confirmed the Magic Online bug.

Adam Cetnerowski then asked me to count a team’s decklists for totals of Champions of Kamigawa and Betrayers of Kamigawa cards. I did, and found 105 Champions of Kamigawa and 45 Betrayers of Kamigawa cards altogether. (There should be 90 and 60.) I guessed that a Champions of Kamigawa booster had been inserted into the sealed product instead of a Betrayers of Kamigawa booster, which was unfortunate. I don’t know what penalty was issued as a result, but I suspect it was no more than warnings because it was mainly our own fault.
At the end of the round we had a team meeting, where we discussed various brands of sleeves. I will refer to them as brands X, Y, and Z. Brand X, the only one on sale where I live in Cork, has had severe reductions in quality over the last few years, and also suffers from being sold mainly in packs of 50, which often causes a lack of homogeneity in sleeves. Brands Y and Z were on sale at the PT, and no brand X, but player preference at lower levels still seems to be for Brand X (which has lots of different colour varieties), so the problem of marked sleeves remains.

13:07 Deck Build 2
The teams returned to their seats for the deck build and Sheldon made the point that we should have higher-tech timers on display — having to manually reset them was suboptimal.
It was announced that players should check their product to ensure the 90/60 split between sets; meanwhile a judge team spent that round checking the product for the third build to ensure everything was in order there.
Q: If I have a creature that shares two types and a colour with my creature equipped with Konda’s Banner, does it get +3/+3?
A: No, Konda’s Banner counts creatures not types or colours. It gets +1/+1 if it shares any creature types, and +1/+1 if it shares any colours, but never more than +1/+1 from either.
At this time John Carter called me away from the floor to attend a judge seminar on Building a Local Judge Community. It was of interest to learn what other people were doing in their judge communities, although it didn’t really address what I could do to improve my own community. It also took me off the floor for quite a long time.

15:30 Round 4
I returned near the end of the round and didn’t take any questions.

16:49 Deck Build 3
Q: Judge, will you get me a soda?
A: No, I’m not allowed into the players’ lounge.
Q: OK, can I run and get a soda?
A: Sure. (Although I was tempted to say “only if you get me one too”.)
I noticed that the product was stamped by number today, in one location. Each team had a distinct number and wrote it on their decklists before turning them in. This was a very efficient method for verifying product without the need for a master registration list.

17:49 Round 5
Q: How will this flipped creature come back if I play Otherworldly Journey on it?
A: As a new, unflipped creature, with a +1/+1 counter on it.
Q: I have Earthshaker and Kami of Fire’s Roar in play, and I want to play Devouring Rage and splice Torrent of Stone onto it. Can you watch to make sure I do everything correctly? (The opponent also wanted me to watch.)
A: Yes. (And he did, managing to kill all but one of his opponent’s creatures and make that one unable to block, and attack for the kill.)
Q: My opponent’s Hideous Laughter just killed three of my creatures. One of them has Soulshift. Can I return one of the other creatures that died?
A: Yes, the Soulshift trigger goes on the stack after the Hideous Laughter resolves, and targets are chosen then. All the creatures are in the graveyard and are legal targets (assuming they are Spirits with the correct converted mana cost).
Q: (away from the table) How does Frostling go on the stack?
A: I can’t answer that, please try a better question.
Q: Can I play it and sacrifice it without my opponent responding and killing it?
A: When you play Frostling your opponent may respond. After Frostling resolves, you will gain priority again and may play activated abilities then.
I was unable to give a better answer to the player, who returned to his table, didn’t play Frostling, didn’t kill the creature that needed 1 damage, and lost.
Q: If my opponent’s creature blocks Patron of the Nezumi and they both die, will he lose 1 life?
A: Yes, permanents with leaves-play triggers will “look back” to before the trigger condition occurred to check the game status then.

Q: I stole my opponents Island after he played and activated Genju of the Falls on it. It died in combat. Now since I stole it, that means the Genju can’t go back to my opponent’s hand, so where does it go?
A: Actually, you didn’t steal the Genju, only the Island. The Genju remains under your opponent’s control, and indeed it returns to his hand.
After arguing the point ineffectively for a short while, the player appealed to Sheldon, who once again upheld my ruling. (Is it wrong to feel vicariously satisfied when you hear “floor judge is correct”? :P)
Q: Which one (pointing to the water station) is the chilled water?
A: The blue one.
And finally, from Deputy Site Manager and my country’s DCI manager Lee Singleton…
Q: I have a problem. I need to sponsor a judge from my area [UK, Ireland, South Africa] for GP Leipzig in two weeks’ time, and you’re the only one here. Would you be interested in going? I’ll book the flights for you tomorrow. A: Sure :D

19:04 Round 6
During this and some previous rounds, I noticed issues with rulings when a judge was called to translate. As mentioned in this excellent article by Johanna Knuutinen and Riccardo Tessitori, the role of a translator judge is strictly to translate and he should generally not take over the ruling. This is important both to avoid undermining the judge who answered the call and also to avoid the appearance of partiality to the players (players always receiving rulings from a familiar judge can look unfair; we know that most judges (and surely all at PT level) are professional and impartial, but this can be lost on players). However, at this tournament most translation judges gave the ruling themselves, so I resolved to mention it in the judge debriefing.
Q: My opponent is attacking with two 2/2 creatures, one with Neko-Te on it. When I use Split-Tail Miko to prevent 2 damage to me, can I choose which 2 damage to prevent?
A: Yes, you choose which damage to apply the prevention effect to.
Q (away from table): If I activate Opal-Eye, Konda’s Yojimbo and the creature that damage is being redirected to is removed after resolution but before damage is dealt, what happens?
A: Damage is dealt to whoever or whatever it would have been dealt to normally.
Q: Judge! My opponent didn’t declare how his attacker was dealing 3 damage between my 2/3 and 2/2 blockers, does that mean he’s assumed not to be killing anything?
A: No, that would be unfair. Since no important actions have taken place, I’m going to back up to the Combat Damage step, and issue a Caution for Procedural Error – Minor (sloppy play).
Q: I control Ghostly Prison. Do I gain priority after he pays for attackers but before they actually get to attack?
A: No.

20:08 Done – Day One
We had a brief judge meeting and debriefing. Sheldon clarified the translation issue (translating judges should not give rulings unless they’re extremely simple or the judge originally called cedes to them), explained the circumstances surrounding major rulings of the day, and reminded us to be in attendance for 8:00 in the morning. As I was still hungry, I called to Steak & Shake for a cheap dinner before returning to the hotel for 22:30.

Day Two: Saturday, March 12th, 2005.
This morning I made what I felt was a more sensible choice in having breakfast at the hotel. I finished just in time to catch the shuttle to the venue, and got there at 07:35. At 07:49 I helped set out some extra tables and chairs for the site, and saw the sofa from the judge room stolen and moved to the staff room, which kind of sucked.
My team for the day was the logistics team, led by Nicholas Fang, with Lee Sharpe, Russell Linnemann, Takeshi Miyasaka, and John Alderfer along as well. Peter Lind joined us after a while. As the logistics team, we had to prepare the draft sets and set up the tables. We got straight to work, and found out that the boxes had been packed quite at random — several of the packs for draft 2 were under packs for draft 1, causing a minor heart attack when we thought we’d be short packs.
Another team set up the tables. With 39 teams left, we settled on numbering tables 1-19 on one side of the hall and 1-19 on the other side. Then teams would draft on the far side, one team would return to the near side to build, and they would play on the near side. It worked very well all day.

09:15 Draft 1
I began my first draft of the day and had only one issue during it. With two cards on the table, a player pushed the card he didn’t want to the next player before taking his own. A member of the opposing team looked at me and asked to have him forced to take the card he touched. I ruled by intent, allowing the player to keep the card he wanted, but cautioned him to do it properly in future.

09:53 Deck Build 4
During the draft I had been responsible for a table with a well-known pro team who were filming a documentary. As a result, I got to take part, and got some very positive comments from the pros, both after the draft and while I was manning the land station. And the show made it to the G4 network on Friday 18th, along with interviews with Scott Larabee and others.
Aside: we must have sorted through a dozen trays of land that day. I have still yet to hear a good reason why it cannot be shipped pre-sorted.
One player came up to us and returned 3 lands for replacement after pointing out that it was marked. I guessed (hoped) that it had been recycled from the previous day and disposed of the troublesome land.

10:30 Round 7
Word came down that Sheldon and Scott were unhappy with the length of time people were taking to register and hand in decklists, so we spent a while discussing how we could get players to go faster without handing out penalties. We didn’t come to any conclusions on it, and I don’t know if there is a satisfactory way to get this done.
The only judge call I answered during the round was to watch for slow play in a game involving a Snake deck, with Sosuke, Son of Seshiro, Seshiro the Anointed, and several other Snakes, where both players needed to be very careful to ensure they calculated damage correctly but a Blessing of Leeches was tempting one player to play slowly. No penalties were issued, and the match was finished well before time.

11:39 Draft 2
Once again Collin called the draft (indeed, he called all five, contrary to the usual tradition of rotating them around), and it went without a hitch (beyond a few people trying to pick too early or hiding their last pick at inappropriate times).

12:16 Deck Build 5
Again things went more smoothly here, helped significantly by not having to sort more land for now. We had a policy of using new land only to minimize markings, although occasionally some old land got recycled accidentally or by players.

12:51 Round 8
I spent most of this round on lunch break in the concession area or judge room. I think that in a long day like this it’s important to take a full round off if the floor is sufficiently covered, and Nicholas was of the same philosophy.

14:01 Draft 3
I had to stop the draft momentarily this time, as the first pack laid out had only 14 cards. Lee Sharpe was nearby with deep pockets and replacements so it only delayed us by about a minute. After the draft we went to set up extra tables for side events, which had exceeded the capacity available.

14:35 Deck Build 6
Again I was covering a land station, and the biggest problem was people handing in their decklists with missing information (like team name, table number, or seed).

15:11 Round 9
The first call was from a Japanese player who simply didn’t know what his opponent was asking when he said “damage on the stack?” and needed a translation. It took a while to clarify the exact situation to him and they eventually continued with a 3 minute time extension.
The second problem was when I was standing around watching another judge answer a call, but the other judge had some problems and asked my opinion, and then asked me to take over. The situation involved player C’s Gutwrencher Oni blocked by player D’s Plains, which was enchanted by Genju of the Fields. Player D played Shining Shoal to have the next 3 damage that would be dealt to him or one of his creatures dealt to the Oni instead. Player C then asked a theoretical question: if the Genju of the Fields was destroyed, would the Oni still deal 3 damage to itself? (I can’t remember why it was important, perhaps player D had some kind of creature on the table which dealt direct damage.) I answered that due to the wording of Shining Shoal (“The next X damage that would be dealt… is dealt to target creature or player”) and the fact that without the blocking creature in play, damage would not be dealt, it would also not be redirected to the Oni.
Of course, this was a goof-up. Gutwrencher Oni has trample and would indeed have dealt the damage, but I only realized this when I got home and was discussing it on IRC afterwards. In the end player C decided to save his kill spell, and assign all 5 damage to the Plains to be sure of killing it that way.

Before I left, player C asked me one additional question.
Q: If a creature has both protection from black and the Shining Shoal effect on it, and is being dealt damage from a black source, which effect will apply?
A: A replacement and a prevention effect are trying to apply to the same event, so the controller of the permanent concerned (i.e. the creature being damaged) decides which to apply, and then the other effect applies if applicable.
This ruling with explanations generated eight extra minutes for the match.
Q: My opponent activated Nezumi Shortfang when I had no cards in hand and wants to flip it. Does that work?
A: Yes, unlike Nezumi Graverobber where you have to target a card, Nezumi Shortfang doesn’t care whether the player discards or not as long as the player himself is a legal target.

16:23 Draft 4
Twice during this draft the player laying out the booster laid out six cards in the top row and I almost ended up stopping the draft to replace the pack after seeing four cards in the bottom row and assuming a total of 14 was there. Fortunately a quick sanity check avoided that delay each time.

16:57 Deck Build 7
Once again I was keeping watch over the land station. At this stage players were very accustomed to the way things were working and I didn’t have any problems during this construction period.
We did realize at this stage that the amount of land we had left was far in excess of what would be needed for the final two rounds and shipped all the returned land and a couple of trays of new land over to side events, who had reported a shortage.

17:30 Round 10
During this round I was taken off the floor by Lee Singleton, DCI manager for UK/Ireland/South Africa, to sort out the details of my attendance at GP Leipzig. We also discussed some other administrative issues, the details of which I will not bore you with. It took rather longer than expected due to the lack of ideal flights from Ireland, but we eventually did manage a booking.

18:40 Draft 5
The final draft of the day kicked off, and for a while I was covering two tables, but this was reduced to one after a short while. I had to issue a warning to one of the players at my table for talking excessively after twice being asked to stop.
My draft table was weird. After seeing last-pick Nezumi Graverobber and Glacial Ray in consecutive packs, followed by players drafting out of order, I finally stopped and asked what was going on. It turned out one of the teams had already conceded to the other and they were “backwards-drafting” for fun. While there was nothing I could do about this, I told them that it would have been nice if they’d told me that before starting.
I left the table as they didn’t need me, and was roaming picking up booster wrappers and plastic cases for the rest of the draft.

19:18 Deck Build 8
There’s not a whole lot more you can say about deck builds, really.

19:53 Round 11
The last round began and early in the round I was standing near one of the top tables when I heard Player E say to his opponent player F “Would you like to prize split?” Player F, a Japanese player, seemed not to understand, or possibly declined the offer. Player E repeated it, and I asked him to come aside and summoned head judge Sheldon to report.
I had picked it up too early to issue a penalty, because he had not yet offered to concede or asked his opponent to concede, and prize splits are legal at any time if no draws or concessions are offered or received. However, it was intercepted before it could get any worse, and Sheldon told the player to get on with the game without offering any more splits.
Q: Judge! Can you find out which one of these is my library?
This arose when a player had his sideboard and main deck both unsleeved and next to each other. He asked me to look through both piles, the pile having land in it being his library. I did, verified the correct pile, and asked him to move the other pile away to the side.
Q: If my Plains (with Genju of the Fields, our favourite card of the weekend) is blocked by a Kitsune Riftwalker, do I gain life?
A: No, Kitsune Riftwalker prevents all damage to it from Spirit sources, and damage that is prevented is not dealt, so you gain no life.

We finished up in time for the judge dinner. Cabs were ordered for 21:30 outside the main entrance to the site. The judge dinner venue was an Italian restaurant, where as always the food was good and the conversation was excellent. It did drag on quite late, and it was midnight before I got back to the hotel.

Day Three: Sunday, March 13th, 2005.

The 8:00 report time for the PT judges raised more than a few groans, but (almost) everyone showed up on time for the judge debriefing. Overall we were extremely happy with how things had gone and we were hard-pressed to find something we might have done better.
Arrangement of the site was slightly criticized, because the Pro Lounge could not be accessed without cutting through the play area.
I had no assignment in the feature match area or with the “show” that day, but I did receive an assignment with another judge to test out a new team draft format with four teams at a time, using four of the best teams on the PT who hadn’t made top 4. Again I won’t go into details, but I was happy with how it turned out although I think the players were less so.
I attended seminars on Unsporting Conduct and Slow Play, and as always I highly recommend going to judge seminars at PTs whenever possible. There is a lot to learn and plenty of knowledge to be shared. The draft testing caused me to miss the seminar on passing a level 3 test, which was the one I most wanted to attend, but I caught up on most of the details with Doron later.
At 15:35, Sheldon received a request for an extra sides judge, because one or two of their judges were trying to pass level 2 and they were short cover. Head Judge Jimmy assigned me to the Pro Tour Qualifier that was in progress. Unlike the PT, where I was a relatively low-experience floor judge, at this Qualifier I was a relatively high-experience judge and most of the other judges looked up to me and confirmed rulings with me. Remembering what I had heard in John’s seminar on Friday, I tried especially hard to set an example for the local judges and to put my experience to good effect.
A judge had to struggle to get a judge call on the PT floor, but the PTQ was definitely not short of them. One thing I observed that I wasn’t accustomed to was that there was no Name of Judge line printed on results entry slips, and players were expected to hand them in themselves. Scorekeeper Cari told me that it simply wasn’t done in most of the US, short of PTs and GP day 2s.
I’ll summarize the general questions and answers first, and then talk about the two major issues that arose.
Q: I attack with my Arcbound Ravager, and my opponent blocks with his Savannah Lions. In response I want to use Seal of Removal to bounce the Savannah Lions so they won’t block. Is that allowed?
A: No, blocking assignments do not go on the stack. You can return the Lions to their owner’s hand, but the Arcbound Ravager is still considered blocked.
As I was beginning to clean up some sleeves, a pen, and scraps of paper (probably used for counters) from a table, the player who had just been playing there returned and scooped them off himself, saying “I’ll clean up my own mess, judge”. We need more players like this.
Q: If I play Cavern Harpy while my opponent has Engineered Plague in play set to Bird, do I get to return a blue or black creature?
A: Yes, indeed you must do so. The ability triggers despite the fact that the Cavern Harpy spends very little time in play. You may not use it to return the Cavern Harpy.
Q: If I play Ghastly Demise and my opponent Cremates a card in my graveyard in response, bringing the total cards under the toughness of the creature it targeted, what happens?
A: The “if…” clause is checked on resolution, so the spell fails.
Q: Judge! My opponent played Chalice of the Void for 2 and then Chalice of the Void for 1! And it was two turns ago!
A: I verified the details with the Chalice-player. The player who called had five 1-cost spells in his hand, and the game state seemed irreparable, so I issued the Chalice player a Game Loss for Procedural Error — Severe (failure to handle a mandatory triggered ability and disrupting the game state), and the other player a Warning for Procedural Error — Major (failure to keep track of the game state). (This Warning is necessary in case a player deliberately delays calling a judge to get a higher penalty — it means that multiple occurrences of this behaviour are tracked and can be acted upon by the DCI.)
Q: What can I do with my Æther Vial without paying for it due to my opponent’s Energy Flux?
A: At the beginning of your upkeep, Æther Vial’s trigger goes on the stack and then Energy Flux’s trigger goes on top of it. You then have priority to play spells or abilities.
Q: So I can activate it in response but I can’t add a counter unless I pay the 2?
A: Right.
Q: Can my Wall of Blossoms attack if Humility is in play?
A: Yes, since your Wall loses its ability Defender when Humility is in play, it’s welcome to attack.
In among those calls were two more serious problems. Near the end of the round when I was first working the PTQ, Brian Schenck called me and asked me to watch a match while he took a player away for questioning. I did so. While I was there it transpired that Brian had seen the player with outside notes on the table, about how to sideboard and what to do in certain circumstances. After interviewing him, it was determined that he should be disqualified without prize for Cheating — Other (intentionally receiving outside assistance).
The second, in the next round, was even more confusing. I was called to watch a match for slow play with 9 minutes left on the round clock. Player G was playing Life and had gone off, and had 100 trillion and 63 life. Player H was playing each turn carefully, using Opposition methodically in each of player G’s upkeep steps to tap all his land (including 2 City of Brass, dealing him 2 damage each turn). Eight turns had passed this way. He was also playing lots of creatures. I had been previously asked by another judge whether we could declare player H the loser as he “obviously had no way to win”, which of course we could not. Player G was permitted to ask player H to concede (although not repeatedly), but other than that the game had to be played out.
Player H eventually made a Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and a Seeker of Skybreak, and at the end of player G’s turn made a copy of Seeker of Skybreak and used it to untap Kiki-Jiki, repeating until he had 50 trillion and 24 Seeker of Skybreak tokens, and untapped and attacked with them to win the next turn.
With six minutes left, I urged both players not to delay with sideboarding and shuffling and reminded them of the three-minute time limit. Player G finished very quickly and presented his deck. After thirty seconds of sideboarding and a minute and a half of shuffling, player H asked me how much time he had left. I replied that while he had a minute left, deliberately delaying the match would be treated negatively. He quickly presented his deck too.
Player G then proceeded to count player H’s deck and found 61 cards. Player H immediately handed me his sideboard, and I looked through it and counted 15 cards. I verified with player H that he was playing 60 cards in his main deck, and player G spotted one of his own sleeves in player H’s sideboard. The card proved to be a Gilded Drake, and player G had presented a 59-card main deck.
My first reaction was to give both players Game Losses for Illegal Main Deck (Legal List) and indeed I almost had the match slip completed and turned in when suddenly a light came on in my head: how on earth did a card of his opponent’s deck get to be in player H’s sideboard? Player G wanted to appeal my ruling and I was getting the head judge anyway to investigate further.
We discussed it for a while and were hovering on the border between Match Loss and Disqualification without prize, referring it to John Carter for an outside opinion. We also asked the opinion of a trustworthy spectator, who told us that the slow, deliberate, meticulous play had been going on through the match.
After more deliberation, Jimmy made a decision with my advisement. None of the three problems (the card in his sideboard, the slow play bordering on stalling, and asking how much time was left in shuffling with a view to using it all) would have been enough to warrant disqualification there and then, but piecing the puzzle together, we figured that the guy was trying to use every shady method in the book to try to win the match, and eventually he became the second recipient of a DQ and Go Home Award. Although I haven’t taken one, it seemed like a situation right out of a level 3 interview.
Not long after I had finished getting statements together from players, spectators, and myself, the certifying judges returned and Jimmy released me from the PTQ with his thanks for my handling of a very sticky situation.

With nothing else to do, I sat around for a while before hearing about John Shannon’s plan to meet up for dinner in an all you can eat Brazilian Meat restaurant. I was considering going, but the quoted prices were rather high and I decided not to bother. I went to KFC with Doron, where we had our own low-price all you can eat. We paid $12.58 for two people; the check in the other restaurant was $1178 among the 17 who went.

With a flight at 2pm on Monday, I figured I had plenty of time for sleep and recovery from the tournament, and went back to the site for a judge draft and a few games. I managed to get exceptionally wet walking back to the hotel in a storm, but a hot bath quickly ceased any discomfort.

My travel home was uneventful, although very tiring due to the willingness of Aer Lingus to interrupt my sleep on the overnight flight with drinks, food, and merchandise that you don’t want to buy. A bus, a train, and a cab brought me home, and I was able to get to college in time for the two exams I had that Tuesday.

What tournament report would be complete without:


  • The judges, staff, and scorekeeper who made this one of the most efficient events I’ve known of.
  • The table-cloths which had a little sticky patch so they stuck to the table at either end and didn’t keep shifting around.
  • The several people who passed judge tests over the weekend
  • All you can eat buffets and free refills
  • Everyone I met in the US for being extremely polite


  • Me, for losing my judge foils on the way between collecting them and putting them into my bag
  • USCBP for causing us to be short a Japanese judge (although Miyasaka’s extremely hard work meant that we were never badly affected)
  • Delta, for delaying my flights to and from Atlanta
  • While there was a concession stand on site each day, there were no tables set aside for eating, meaning that side event tables were necessarily used by players for food, and that judges had to move back to the judge room to eat, which got crowded.
  • Most US airports, where you have to carry your checked bags to the security screening yourself. What happened to baggage belts?

My first US Magic experience ended very satisfactorily, and I hope to be writing a report from Grand Prix Leipzig at the end of the month.

Thomas Ralph
DCI Area-Level Judge
Island on EFnet’s #mtgjudge

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