James Lee: Head Judge of Grand Prix Milwaukee, Level three DCI Judge, and Global Judge Manager for the DCI. I sat down with Mr. Lee at the beginning of the top eight to gather his thoughts about life, the universe, and Magic.
Ben: So what were your impressions of Grand Prix Milwaukee?
James: I enjoyed it. It went really smoothly, despite the broad range of personalities involved.
Ben: Any specific occurrences that you'd like to talk about?
James: I liked how William Jensen brought his Battle of Wits deck, and the many times he taunted us with its size. I also appreciate PTR's antics being kept in check to a reasonable level. But most of all I enjoyed seeing a broad range of new faces doing well and being sporting at this event. I'd have to characterize the general atmosphere as being full of laughter and good humor.
Ben: Were you happy with your judges?
James: We had a really good staff. There were a minimum of judges for this size event, but they were all competent enough to keep it going. It really helped that the players and judges were very cooperative.
Ben: Were there any major incidents that happened during the tournament?
James: A few unfortunate ones that makes me slightly unhappy. The biggest one came in round 12, with Gerardo Godinez playing Brian Kibler. I had to retroactively give Godinez a match loss. There were stalling accusations in the match, and a judge came over to watch the game. After determining that play was going at a sufficient pace, the judge kept the game going, though there was a general outrage at the crowd from this decision. By the time I was called over, time had fully expired. The game was a draw, but Brian had the board entirely locked down and was one turn away from winning. There were many people in the area who were clearly agitated by the result, so I listened to the players and the spectators and then spoke to the judge watching the match. I interviewed him extensively, and after a lot of thought determined that Godinez had significantly altered his speed of play when time started running out. Normally stalling carries the penalty of disqualification without prizes, but I didn't feel that his play warranted that harsh a penalty. I basically turned a draw into a win for Kibler, and that defines my philosophy: I made a decision which causes a lot of controversy, but really is the most fair to all people involved.
Ben: Any other incidents?
James: Some here or there, but the overall theme on rulings was for the judges to use what makes the most sense, and give leeway where appropriate. Stuff like procedural errors and unsportsmanlike conduct were given that leeway, and a lot of rulings with madness were too, since it is a complex mechanic.
Ben: So what were the most often asked for judge rulings?
James: There were two. "What does madness actually do?", and "Who draws cards off of multiple triggerings of Standstill?".
Ben: And what was the most wacky or strange situation you heard of, like a player attacking with a Spirit Linked Black Knight?
James: Well, this is sort of embarrassing to admit, but there was one player who was out of contention and started using a Yagmoth's Bargain for three rounds in his deck. He dropped out of the tournament, but for those three rounds no one noticed it-not his opponents or the judges or anyone. Apparently he did so on a bet with his friends that he wouldn't be able to get away with it.
Ben: And will he?
James: At this point it's going to the review board for them to look at.
Ben: Any last words before I let you go?
James: I just want to say that I appreciate the high level of quality tournaments can have if good judges and good players work together-Grand Prix Milwaukee did just that.