Pro Tour–Kyoto - Head Judge's report

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Buongiorno a tutti (hi all).

The 2009 season has begun; the first stop on the long way to Worlds in Rome was PT–Kyoto.
Japan is a beloved country for me; I played my first (and last ^__^) Pro Tour in 2003, I became L4 in 2005 and this year I had the great honor to HJ my first Pro Tour.

It was at the same time scaring and very satisfying and I would like to thank all the people who helped me to enjoy a great weekend.

Goodbye old judge shirts

Stripes, Zebras, B&W, Juventus, Footlockers... Our judge shirts were called many things, and now they are gone!

At the moment, they have disappeared from professional events; in the next months they will probably disappear from local events, but they will remain (at least for me) one of the main symbols of the judges. I still remember how excited I was when I received my first and I will always keep it.
As of today, the judges will look less sporty; they will be more elegant with the long-sleeved jackets and I wonder if, in the future, the head judge of an event will be recognized by a different color or by a tie. ^__^

The old judge shirts are part of our history; good luck to the new, very elegant judge jackets!

Japan opens the door to the world

During Worlds in Memphis last December, I met with Sheldon Menery, Toby Elliott, and John Carter, and we decided the PT Head Judges for 2009.

Since I wanted to work less (^__^), I asked for Kyoto; "Public Events will be managed by the Japanese staff, there will be fewer judges because of the flight costs, it will surely be very easy."

Before leaving for Japan, I already had 500 mails in my "PT–Kyoto" mailbox! Many more mails than any past GP (except Denver 08)... Shouldn't PT–Kyoto have been an easy and relaxing event?? ^__^

One of the main reasons for this massive communication was the interaction between the Japanese judges and the foreign judges; this was our top priority.

The Japanese and English languages are extremely different. There are very few people in the world who speak even a little Japanese and it's very hard for Japanese people to correctly speak and understand English. But even with this huge wall in front of us, I'm extremely satisfied about how the weekend went. A few judges started helping at the Last Chance Qualifier (Christian Gawrilowicz, Jorge Penailillo, David de la Iglesia, Damion Guy), all the foreign judges worked at least one day at Public Events, we had the final judge dinner together...

I really want to thank all the judges, Japanese and non-Japanese, who had so much patience in communicating and interacting with the other group; special thanks to Mitchell Waldbauer, an American who has been living in Japan for about two years (our spy ^__^); and Satoshi Miyamoto, Public Events manager.

Today, Japan's judges are much closer to the foreign judges!

Constructed-Draft change

The formats have changed; there is no Constructed Pro Tour and Limited Pro Tour. 2009 will be the first year with mixed format Pro Tours. This is surely a challenge for players because their skills will need to be versatile.

This shouldn't be a challenge for judges, but there is one detail: we are not using round tables any more for drafts! Because players will draft, build and play on the same tables, judges will always need to switch the tables from a playing to a drafting configuration; if you weren't at Worlds 08 or Kyoto 09, you may wonder what I'm talking about; I will give you an exercise:

"In front of you, there are tables for 380 players; now they are all playing the last round of Constructed; as soon as they finish, you will need to prepare those tables for a 380-player draft; you will need to change the table numbers (one number per pod), you will need to put out all the boosters, you will need to move a few chairs to have two people sitting at the end of the tables (no, you don't need to move tables to make them squares); while you are working on it, there will be 380 players waiting for you; can you do it in less than FIVE minutes?"

It's a very nice logistical challenge; at Worlds 08 it was Kevin Desprez who organized it; in Kyoto, it was John Alderfer. To give advice to the next judges who will do it, John Alderfer is preparing a written guide which will be made available to everybody in a few weeks.

Judge advancements

Congratulations to our new L3 Riki Hayashi (United States) and to our new L2 Tobias Fjellander (he's from Sweden and the judge who tested him was Johanna Virtanen from Finland; how could it be that a Swede needs to go to Japan to be tested by a Finn? ^__^). The success of an individual represents a success for the whole group and we are very proud of Riki and Tobias.

"I cheated but I didn't want to"

It was the last round of Day One and two players were 4-3, playing to make Day Two; as it frequently happens, one of them made a mistake and the opponent called a judge.

Surprisingly, when I arrived to the table, the player said "Yes, I cheated;" the opponent, obviously, expected to win the match thanks to a DQ, but it didn't happen.

You might have read about it in a report or you might have heard it from players; here you have my "official statement:" the player clearly said "I cheated," but it was immediately followed by "but I didn't want to;" the verb "to cheat" means "to intentionally violate a rule to gain an advantage;" if there is no intention, it isn't a cheating infraction; the player wasn't an English speaker and improperly used the words; this is why he didn't get disqualified.

Illegal decklist, but...

Round 5, the first round of draft: a decklist was brought to my attention because it had only 39 registered cards, but...

The fortieth, missing card was a non-basic land; the player drafted only one non-basic land; the player registered "1" as "Total" (the cell at the bottom of each column, where players have the option to write the total of cards they play of that color or type).

What's the infraction? Illegal Decklist.

Is the missing card clearly identified? It's not clearly identified, but I would bet that it's the non-basic land.

Is it appropriate to downgrade the penalty from Game Loss to Warning? Yes.

Why is it appropriate to downgrade? The player used the optional "Total" cell and failed to copy the same information in the only line above who corresponded to the only card drafted of that type (if he had drafted two non basic lands, I wouldn't have decided to downgrade the penalty) and this situation happens very rarely (in my experience, it happened once every 5,000 players).

Are we going to add it to the Penalty Guide? Adding a line to handle such a rare situation, no way! We would like the Penalty Guide to be a guide and not a 1,000-page comprehensive document where you can find a solution to all possible situations!

"Where is my Dragon?"

Another draft, another interesting problem.

After finishing his deck construction and after giving the decklist to the judges, but before the end of the deck construction time, a player came to me saying "I lost a card!"

His decklist contained 40 cards, it was legal. His deck had only 39 cards (the player himself discovered it and immediately went to the judges) and the missing card was a Grixis Charm.

Can we create a proxy for a lost card? Absolutely not, especially for a draft. I clearly explained to the player that I will never create a proxy for a lost "Dragon of any kind or Visara or Jitte" (do you vaguely remember how strong was Jitte in the Kamigawa limited?!?); even if I trust the player, it's my fundamental responsibility to avoid at any cost the impression that a player can go to the judges saying "I drafted the ultimate bomb of this format, but I lost it."

Can we allow the player to correct his decklist and avoid a Game Loss penalty for Deck/Decklist Mismatch? Of course; the player realized the problem before the end of deck construction and called the judges. Again, to avoid the impression that a player can claim to have lost a card to make a change to his deck, I allowed him to replace the Charm with a basic land.

Can we allow the player to use the lost card, in case he finds it? (In Kyoto, he found it after two rounds). No, for the same reasons above.

To summarize, this was the result:

No Game Loss, because the player called the judges about his own infraction before the start of the round; had I given him the default penalty, the player would have never asked for help from me again. Charm substituted (forever) by a basic land to avoid the potential for abuse.

Your Obelisk is tapped!

This was the most difficult ruling of all the weekend.

Anthony is the active player; Nick is the nonactive player. Anthony has 1 life point, Nick has 6 life points.

Anthony cycles a black creature with unearth, then unearths it, then unearths another creature, then attacks for the win (Nick is tapped out and has too few creatures to block).

Nick looks at Anthony's mana sources and realizes that Anthony tapped one extra land/Obelisk (one of Anthony's creatures costs 1UBR and has an unearth cost of UBR; maybe Anthony made a mistake here). Nick says "You burn for 1 and you die before attacking, thanks."

Anthony says that his lands were tapped, but the Obelisk wasn't.

This is one of the most annoying situations for a judge: the players disagree on the state of the game and on what exactly happened, but the judge must make a decision.

In these situations, I pay great attention to how I communicate my ruling to the players (and to the spectators, too!); I clearly explain to them that I have no camera that registered what happened, that I can't read minds, and that, even if I'm not sure about my solution, I still need to make a decision; the decision I make should be the most probable.

Taken for granted that I'm able to ask useful question to both players, I'm aware of all shortcuts and communication policies, I'm aware of how the game is played... there come times when I still need to determine the most probable situation.

Believe me, in these situations I never found a player who argued and who was angry at me when I used the approach of "I'm human, and I can make a mistake, but still I'm responsible for making a decision, and I'll do my best to make you understand my point of view."

Back to the Obelisk: Nick's tapped cards were clearly tapped at 90°; Anthony's tapped cards were oriented 50° and the Obelisk was (probably) oriented 40°. Since the Pro Tour is a professional event and I announced in the player meeting that they needed to play technically precise, I chose in favor of Nick, telling Anthony that his lack of precision during the game caused Nick to believe that the Obelisk was tapped and it was very likely that it was actually "oriented like the lands you used to get mana." It might have even been by accident, but an Obelisk that is oriented like a tapped land did produce mana and that mana caused Anthony's death.

When did you play your Path to Exile?

The last situation for today will be much shorter. I will use Anthony and Nick again (no, they weren't the same players).

Anthony says "Can I attack you?" Nick says "Path to exile on your creature."

Anthony plays a land (a sorcery/creature would have been the same) and wants to declare attackers. Nick says "If you played a land, you are in your second main phase."

I will keep it very short and I will copy the appropriate part of the Penalty Guide:

"A statement such as 'I'm ready for combat' or 'Declare attackers?' offers to keep passing priority until an opponent has priority in the Beginning of Combat step. Opponents are assumed to be acting then unless they specify otherwise."

The Path was played in the combat phase; the land was played in the following main phase. Anthony made a mistake and lost an opportunity to attack.

A great weekend with friends, proud to be judges

The weekend is over and all the main goals were achieved: (in random order)

* I survived.
* The PT had no delays.
* Players didn't complain.
* Japanese/non-Japanese interaction was impressive.
* I spent two days in Kyoto visiting temples and, when we were in a temple on the hill, it snowed and it was awesome ^__^

What I remember with enormous pleasure during this PT is the group of people I spent my time with, people who enjoyed their weekend and who helped me enjoy my time, people who are continuously helping the others to be better (special dedication to the Spanish judges, headed by the unstoppable David de la Iglesia, who gave me a Spanish course with the promise I will learn Spanish before Worlds... and I will ^__^), people who dedicate so much time, energy, and money to travel all around the world to judge, people who know what friendship and loyalty are, people who are extremely proud to be judges; these are the people I love...

... and this is my final ruling!

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