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02.03.04 - Monk's Pro Tour Amsterdam Trip Report - Part 2

So, when we left off, I was on the train to the RAI, and was suddenly comforted by the sight of a McDonalds in a strange land. It was still pitch black, and I was hoping I could find the hotel quickly, so I could wash up, grab a couple hours of sleep to make up for the lack of sleep on the airplane, and get to the site for work.

The train exit is easy enough. I step off and look out to the right. There, in big glowing letters is RAI. Ok, so thatís the site, now to find the NovaTel Hotel. Everyone said it was very big and very easy to see, but I canít seem to spot it. Thereís the RAIÖ and nothing else.

After a little less than five minutes, it occurs to me to turn around. Sure enough, off in the distance on the other end of the train stop is the NovaTel. Looks like about a quarter of a mile, I can walk that. Itís chilly, but not bad, and soon enough Iím in the lobby of the RAI.

But itís too early to be at the NovaTel. Check-in isnít until 11AM, and here it is 7AM. After some convincing, I am able to talk them into checking me in. Except, once again, I do not have a reservation. This ends up being not as bad as the flight issue, as all that is wrong is the room is under Marc Hernandezís name, not mine. Marc is a level three judge testing for level four at this event, and my roommate for the weekend. He hasnít arrived yet, so the room will be all mine.

But the room is not two double beds. It contains one double bed and a pull out cot type bed. Thatís really annoying. As I unpack a bit, I realize a fatal flaw! I brought my portable with me. My 110-volt portable in a 200-volt country. The realization that I had basically just brought with me a 15 lb paperweight was rather annoying. I plugged it into my shaver plug, but that was rather uncomfortable, so gave up.

I decided to just get some sleep. A couple hours of sleep should freshen me up and then I could head to the site. Marc needs the rest more than me since he is testing for level four, and I donít sleep well in hotels anyway, so I take the cot and get a bit of rest. In two hours I awaken and decide to go check out the site. I jump in the shower andÖ. It doesnít work. Water doesnít come out of the showerhead.

Now, if you are a frequent traveler, you know that at this point, you NEVER call to complain immediately. There are a million faucet types in the world, and sometimes it just takes some time to figure them out. But after several more minutes of testing every combination of options of twisting, turning, pulling, and pushing different faucet parts, I resign myself to the fact that it really doesnít work, and take a short bath just to get clean.

I call the room service and request a room change. I was planning on doing this anyways, since I wanted a room with two double beds, but now I even have a valid excuse! The faucet doesnít work. It is here that I learn, however, that I misheard the front desk lady, and it wasnít that THIS room was one double bed one small bed, it was that ALL the rooms were one double bed and one small bed.

Crap.

I move to the new room, and pull out my new small bed, and notice that this one was dangerously close to the radiator heater, so I would be spending all night every night being concerned that I would be setting my hair on fire. Fun Fun.

I decide its time to head to the site, and head downstairs, where I run into Sheldon. We walk to the site together. Itís not that long until we hit the RAI, but we donít see any signs for the Pro Tour. But hey, the RAI is huge, so who knows. We keep walking, no signs. Keep walking, no signs. Finally Sheldon runs into someone he knows, and they point out that the Pro Tour is at the far end of the RAI, around the corner. Thatís quite a walk from our cozy hotel room.

At the site, the only people there are the set up crew. A bit of searching and we find Ilja and David Vogin, who tell us everyone else went to lunch. That sounds like a fantastic idea, and we get our own little group together and head out for some food. I know my budget is near nothing, so I order the soup. Itís actually pretty damn good. Rune drops in shortly later to my utter happiness, having not seen him since Comic Con, and we all have a good lunch with some good conversation. I get a little bit of good natured ribbing about a post I made to a judge list the week before, but its all in fun, and the camaraderie of the group does a great job of lifting my spirits.

When we get back to the site, Laura Kilgore, affectionately known as "My new Boss," is there and we chat for a bit. I tell her I brought her some filled out DCI cards because we know how much she loves those! I also bought an old Red and Black Head Judge shirt I had locked away. She told me they couldnít easily take it as they have to account for EVERYTHING in customs, and they have actually had shipments held up over one shirt before. She said if she or Scott could sneak it through in their personal luggage, they could try that. I laughed and decided to not make them worry about and would just bring it back home. Iíve had that shirt for three years now and canít seem to give it back and never get to wear it. Iím sure thereís a metaphor somewhere in there, but I canít find it.

(For those of you that are wondering by now when I actually get around to talking about Magic, sorry. As I said at the very beginning, this article is really about what a trip like this is for as a judge, and my personal experiences. It does have Magic pieces to it, and some good rulings to review, but you have to wade through a lot of it to get there. On the other hand, if you like to hear what the other side of the coin is like at these events, this should be an excellent read for you.)

I take a few minutes to wander around and say hi to people while Jaap and Sheldon play a game of sealed deck. They are on game three when I start walking around, so I miss the deciding game. I run into the San Diego guys and chat a bit with them. When I get back, Jaap and Sheldon are done, and Jaap challenges me, to which I gladly accept. This ends up being the only time I play Magic all weekend. I win in three games, but in all fairness, the way we played, the games were all about who drew the right color land for their deck. Regardless, I had great fun.

Elaine Chase was revving up the Last Chance Qualifier. I asked her if she wanted help. She asked me if I was doing the PT tomorrow. I said yes, but I was there to work, and was up for doing anything that would cause WoTC to say "This Ray guy is SOOOOO Helpful we should give him more compensation." She had 220 players, and agreed that some help would be good, so I ended up staying for the deck hand out, construction, registration, and deck counting.

By the time I am done with helping them, everyone has left! I walk the twenty minute walk back to the hotel, feeling cold and miserable, and on cue, a slight icy sleet/rain/slush starts to fall, and I laugh at myself, thinking what a "This canít get any worse" kind of movie moment this must look like.

I was planning on staying in my room to type in this report your are reading, but in this hotel room I couldnít find the 110 outlet at all, so instead I headed down to the bar to have a beer and write "the old fashioned way" with a pen and paper.

In retrospect I was considerably more tired than I thought, or I would have remembered I gave up beer for New Yearís. "Oops"

Rune and Gordon Culp joined me in the bar, and introduced me to some of the other people in the bar that they knew but I did not, and we had a good time visiting, and I had some great catch up time with Rune, but its short lived as most of us have a long day tomorrow, so we all head up to catch up on sleep and fix whatever jet lag we may have. Marc Hernandez is already in my room when I get in, so thatís good that he got the right key and hotel room number after the room change.

Friday Ė "I am Lubos!"

My Phone alarm goes off perfectly, but I hit snooze, and Marc sneaks into the shower first. No biggie, I can get ready really fast. A quick shower, shave, and tooth brushing and I am out the door. I skip breakfast, knowing my small budget, and not noticing that the breakfast in the hotel is actually free. Because of that, Johanna and I are the first two people there, and as such we get the glory of numbering the tables for the event, after a brief introduction to our head judge, Gis.

Ok, a quick note on this. The Pro tour numbers the tables in a way that I never do. They do whatís called a snake numbering system. What this means is that the numbers go down one row, then back up the other, than down the next etc, like a giant snake. So it looks like this:

1 2 3 4 5 6

12 11 10 9 8 7

13 14 15 16 17 18

24 23 22 21 20 19

Make sense? It doesnít to me. I think it drastically confuses the players, and am in favor of the simpler:

1 2 3 4 5 6

7 8 9 10 11 12

13 14 15 16 17 18

19 20 21 22 23 24

The thing I think that makes it confusing is a player looking at the table numbers from one side. There are two seats per table, and each table number sign is two sides. So there is a sign for 1 Ė 2, 3 Ė 4, etc. So, if you were looking from the left hand sign, at the signs, you would see:

1 3 5

12 10 8

13 15 17

24 22 20

Can you see why I think itís confusing? Now, doing the old fashioned way, you would see:

1 3 5

7 9 11

13 15 17

19 21 23

Which seems very intuitive to me.

Am I on crack here?

Ok, ok, I know this is a lot of space for something that is really not a big deal at all. And in fact I would guess I had about the same amount of questions about "where is my seat" regardless of which way I would have done it. I, obviously, am just obsessive.

By the time this was done, most of the judges were there for the judge meeting, and the staff list was handed out. Now, whether Wizardís of the Coast secretly hates me, or I just have a lot of bad luck with this, I donít know, but not once has my name been correct on a staff list, and its not like my name is hard. This time, I was on Lubosí team (a level two testing for level three this weekend) and my name wasÖ Lubos! Apparently they put his name a second time instead of my name. I spent a few minutes walking around proclaiming "I AM LUBOS!" because it sounds very Spartan, and then we all got to work.

We were on the "logistics team," which basically translates to "make sure everything is running right and everything is in place." This meant the table numbering, the draft pack set up, helping the deck check team, manning the land stations, and such things. Itís a good general "do everything" team for me to jump back in on, and I was happy to be on it.

The draft set up was easy, but the draft itself went very slow, not due to anyoneís fault. The microphone kept cutting out, annoying judges and players alike. For my entire weekend, I really had nothing but good draft pods, so I was happy about that. Jaap and I had a conversation on Saturday about the way different judges watch their draft tables. If you ask me what anyone drafted at any of my draft tables, I have no idea. I donít watch what cards people draft; thatís not important to me as a judge. I watch the faces of the players. Are they making motions, faces, or mouthing words to the other players? Are they focused on the draft, or are they distracted? Doing this very quickly attunes you to who will be a problem and who will not during the draft. Second, I look at their hands and the cards by their hands. Are they hiding their top card when they shouldnít be? Are they continually picking up their cards? Is it a nervous habit, or are they trying to peek at what they have drafted before the correct time? All these things need to be tracked when watching a draft. After each lay out I look at the cards. Are they scrunched together to make it hard to make a pick? Are they lopsidedly on the table so certain players canít reach or read cards? Do I need to move and center these cards while making sure not to get in the playerís views? Between all this, who has time to watch what cards they are actually trying to draft?

After the draft, it was time to set up the land station, and we moved pretty quickly on it. Lubos was good at both organizing the group, and accepting suggestions from us on what could be done better each time. Later on during the day, Lubos was able to go test, and did indeed pass his level three, which was good to hear.

And then, 11 Pages later round one of the Pro Tour started.

And boy was it boring.

Seriously. I walked around the first round, gave ZERO rulings, and signed a few results slips. Boy was that exciting. At the end of the round, the judges gathered around a little bit and talked about what they had for rulings. There werenít many. This would be the trend throughout the weekend. Most players at this level knew how to play the game, and rules questions were few and far between. Mostly, we were need for disputes on game states, and the deck check penalties.

Lo, the deck check penalties. There were a lot of them.

One of the other functions of the Logistics group is, after the deck check crew is done validating the deck lists, we help give out penalties to players. For round two, I had this job. This is where I get to start picking random #mtgwacky names to use in place of real names.

I got two Match Losses right off the bat. To understand how these work, when the Pro Tour players turn in their deck lists, they are immediately counted by the deck check crew. The deck check counts two things: 1) does the deck list have exactly 45 cards listed in Total, and 2) does the deck list have at least 40 cards in Played. Not having the first is an Illegal sideboard, which is a Game Loss. Not having the second is an Illegal Main Deck, which is a Match Loss. A lot of these are just rushed players missing something simple, so I canít encourage players enough to double and triple count their deck lists. Itís not worth a Match Loss because you forgot to mark you artifact lands in the Played column.

Did I mention thatís exactly what these first two sheets I got did? They both were playing "38 card decks" because they forgot to put the artifact lands in the Played column, well as near as we could guess. We hadnít actually seen their decks yet. But yes, thatís what happened to both of them.

The first one, who we will call Codine, was actually someone I knew because he played in my local events in San Diego. How strange. I asked for his deck, verified that is indeed what happened, and then called him over to explain what happened and the penalty. Codine was polite, but very unhappy. He argued that it was obvious what the mistake was, and it was obviously not cheating, and it should not be a Match Loss. I agreed with his points, but mentioned that it was a Pro Tour, and the Match Loss was a textbook ruling, and had to stand. He asked to appeal. I mentioned this was well within his rights, and went to go for an appeal.

At this point I made two mistakes. The first was I went to my team leader, who immediately sent me directly to the Head Judge, because "we donít do it that way any more." My bad. The process USED TO BE that appeals went from Floor Judge to Team Lead to Head Judge, but evidently now it goes directly to the head judge. Apparently, there were too many times where the Team Leadís ruling was simply appealed again anyways, and my old process was a throw back to the time when they only had level threeís and up as team leads, not level twoís learning the ways of level threeís.

Fair Enough. On I went to the head judge. I explained the issue to him, handed him the sheet to show how cut and dry it was, began waking him to the table and showed him the person who had the appeal. That being done, I then headed to my next table I needed to Match Loss. I was falling behind schedule and needed to get this second one done ASAP.

This apparently was my second mistake.

It turns out the Head Judge was not done with me, and wanted me there for the appeal. I had figured that since it was so cut and dry, and I had more deck checks to do, he would not need me. In his defense, perhaps if I had actually iterated that to him, instead of just thinking it and then going on my way, then it would have been perfectly fine. But no, I just wandered off (from his perspective) and left him standing there to talk to the player with no backup for the activities before the appeal.

So, while poor Gis was handling an appeal while wondering where I was, I headed over to the table of the next Match Loss recipient, who we shall call Platy. Platy was actually an old friend of mine I had not seen since Vegas a couple years back. I felt really bad about this one, since it was the exact same scenario, and a deck check quickly verified it. But Platy was a good sport about it, and didnít argue at all. He knew the rules, and knew they had to be enforced like that. I really appreciated him making this easier than it felt, and got to talk to him a couple more times before the end of the weekend.

Round two was still underway, so I went and looked for rulings. I am a judge after all, I should, you know, judge things. Once again I was denied of any card rulings, but I did get a nice dispute with someone we will call Freeko. Freeko called me over because there was an argument over whether or not Freeko had declared a block or not. The other player did not speak English very well, so there was a slight language discrepancy, and it was hard to tell if Freeko was trying to take advantage of it. Freeko was also a player that played at my local events on a regular basis, so it seemed I traveled halfway across the world to do rulings for the same people I do at home.

After much conversation and pointing, it was determined that Freeko had put a card in front of another creature to indicate a block, then pulled it away and put it somewhere else to indicate a block with someone else. Freeko argued that his hand never left the card, but his opponent said that he had. The more I talked with them both, the more apparent it became to me that this was blowing up over nothing. Both players agreed that Freeko had not given any indication of passing priority. Both players agreed that the opponent had not tried to move forward to do something before Freeko changed his block. So, Freeko was obviously not baiting his opponent to see his reaction, and really received no advantage from placing it one place and then another. He was simply going over blocks in his head and settled on the second one instead of the first one. As such, I ruled that the second block stood, and that they both should try to be clear about where they are in the game state. I specifically told Freeko to try to be careful about making sure his opponent understands the different between him thinking about blockers, and actually declaring blockers.

Ironically, five minutes later they had another "miscommunication," which took another ten minutes to resolve, but I did not rule on that one, so I wonít comment except to say that I told the judge adjudicating what had happened earlier to give him history, then moved off to let that judge do his job.

And that was round two! When time was called, I quickly headed over to the lunch area and grabbed a hot ham sandwich and snarfed it down, getting back right as round three was beginning. Iím a work machine I tell ya!

Round Three was pretty quiet. I only had one issue; with someone we will call MiikeB. He called me over and explained the situation to me. His opponent, who spoke no English, had last turn played a Sun Droplet. Then, during MiikeBís turn, he attacked for 10, and his opponent put no counters on the Sun Droplet. During the opponentís upkeep, he then pointed to the Sun Droplet as if to remove a counter, and thatís where MiikeB called a judge. The opponent was a Spanish speaker, so we got a Spanish judge, and the opponentís story matched up pretty well. The only exception he had was that he had gestured to the Sun Droplet when he took damage, but had no counters to put on it, which MiikeB freely admitted he may have just missed. This was pretty clear-cut, and we explained that the adding of counters to the Sun Droplet was a mandatory action, and so they had to be there. We gave the opponent a Procedural Error - Minor warning for not putting the counters on, and told him he needed to have some way to keep track of the Sun Droplet counters. He put a paper on it with a number, and we were good to go.

Halfway through round three, it was time for the Logistics Team to get to work! We got out the packs for the next draft and got moving putting everything out before the round ended.

The second draft went fine, except once again, the microphone kept fading in and out. After the land table was done, I ended up doing deck counts with the deck check team. This was fine by me, and I got to notice a couple amusing parts in the deck lists I counted, including someone who drafted five Vulshok Berserkers, and the most amazing person who drafted five Consume Spirits.

Round four, I spent counting deck lists, and then signing a couple slips. It was a very boring time.

Round five I spend a bit of time in the Feature Match area, because the normal Feature Match judge was needed for translation at another match, but overall, it was pretty uneventful. Everyone noted that there were a lot less rules questions than normal with this format.

Round six had quite the interesting situation come up. Weíre rounding down on time, and this is crunch time for a lot of the players. This is their last round if they are 3-2 and they lose or draw, so we are very careful to make sure no "deal making" is going on. As such, with just a couple minutes left, and nearly everyone done, I sat down to watch a match with a "name player" we will call Stally.

Stally and his opponent were in game three, and as time was called and we began extra turns, it looked as if no one would win, and the game would be a draw, so no one made day two. Obviously neither player wanted this. In turn five, "it" began.

Stally asked his opponent if he wanted to concede, his opponent said no and asked the same. Stally said no. He asked me if they could use a random method to determine a match winner. I said no, of course not. The asked me if I could close my eyes for a moment. I had to turn down that offer as well. He then began to discuss with his opponent who they thought WOULD win if the game kept going. He asked if he could look at his next card. No. Could his opponent. No. He asked his opponent if he had ever been to a PT before. His opponent said yes, plenty, but had never made day two. Stally asked me what would happen if they both refused to concede, and he didnít end his turn. I explained that it IS his turn, and technically he now has a warning for slow play, which will become a game loss if this goes on much longer. He looks at the board, looks at his opponent, takes a moment, and extends his hand saying, "Enjoy your first Day Two."

Rather nice of him, I think.

For those of you who missed it, this PT we actually had the third draft on Day One, and they Day Two competitors drafted and played one round today, making Day Two a bit less exhausting. While setting up for draft three, Scott Larabee comes over to talk to me about an article I had written for the Pojo, but had not yet been published. He was a bit concerned about it, and so I had given him a copy to pre-read first to make sure he had no issues with it. Thankfully, it was good news, and it went to print on time. For those of you that are curious, it was the article on Prerelease Prizes.

Draft three went just like the other two. Everything was fine except the microphone. I am highly amused to note that someone at my table almost drafts two TimeSifters. Thatís a bit scary.

Round seven was utterly anti-climatic. I gave one ruling on whether or not you drew a card from Leonin Elder if your artifact was countered (of course not), and signed a bunch of match slips. Then we had an end of the day Judge Meeting, and got the schedule for the next day. I was to head up the Deck Check Team tomorrow. Good times. Some people may consider this a boring job, me included, but I wanted the opportunity to run a team while I was there to get back into the swing of things, and this gave me the opportunity.

It was pretty late by the time we left, and we were worried that everywhere was closed, but one of the local guys had arranged for a Japanese restaurant to stay open for us, but he needed 20 people. I was hungry, but I was broke. I asked Rune if he was going, and he asked if I was going. I told him I was hungry, but I was broke, and no one seemed to know how much this place was going to cost. Rune told me no worries, he would cover me. Love the Rune.

The Japanese place was actually fantastic. The food was great, and they just kept shoveling different dishes our way of vegetables, sushi, and meats. Apparently, we didnít have to order, they just kept feeding us food until we exploded. The food was fantastic. Our table included Jeremy Smith, Johanna, Ray Fong, Rune, and I. Conversation was great, and it was a wonderful way to wind down

Next to us were some of the Wizards of the Coast people, who were at their own table to make sure they got a separate receipt. We shared food back and forth, and had a great time, until the bill came. Our tableís bill came out to 150 Euros, not counting drinks, so dinner with drinks and tips was like, $50 U.S. Ow! Rune still paid my way gladly, proving himself an all around Amazing Guy. We did make fun of the Wizards of the Coast guys when we saw the receipt, which said "30 Drinks, 150 Various." Good luck getting accounting to reimburse them for that one.

The walk home was made shorter by good friends and good conversation. We all parted our ways, and headed in for some sleep.

Saturday Ė One Little, Two Little, Three Little Deck lists.

Once again I am off and running nice and early, and get there with time to spare. I spend some time talking to Elaine and the night crew, which ended up being a tradition for the event. Every morning I would talk to them about what happened the night before, and listen to their extremely tired punch drunk dialogs. The best had to be when they showed me prize they had acquired the night before, a giant silver spoon/ladle! They have no idea how they got it; someone left it on the sign up desk. It was truly a fearsome object to behold, and they planned on using it as a disciplinary device for the rest of the weekend. A wise idea.

I head back the judge area, and Gis takes us team leaders aside to give us some conversations about his expectations for us. After he is done, I sit down with my team and we start talking. We do introductions, I tell them who I am, and we talk about expectations for the day. Then we kind of move into idle chit chat. Its early and no one is very awake yet, and this seems to be a pretty good way for everyone to feel more at ease with each other and get to know each other better.

My team, in all reality, was unbelievably good. I canít say enough good things about them. During round eight we did a couple deck checks, then floor judged. At the end of the round I had all of my judges sit around and we did a post round meeting where we talked about any rulings we had and discussed them. I tried to have a topic available for every round so even if no one else did, we had something to talk about judge related.

Round nine was our first big deck check issue. One of my judges noticed that a player had some cards he noticed as marked during the deck check. We will call this player Raeth. The more he looked at them, the more obvious they looked to him, and pretty soon he could pick them out with remarkable accuracy. Sometimes this just happens from wear and tear, as the card were not sleeved, but these cards were all "good game breakers" including a Nim Shrieker, a Balance of Power and another "really good black card" I have forgotten. This seemed fishy enough to bring Gis in on it. Gis took a look, and agreed it definitely was a Marked Deck, but felt it the pattern was inconclusive and really hard to notice, so was only severe enough to warrant a warning. A warning was awarded to Raeth, who took it ok, but complained that, ironically, a judge had told him to take off his sleeves just last round. We were never able to verify this claim. The judge who found the marks and I were still concerned about this guy, so I found a judge Raeth had not seen before, and had him innocently watch Raethís game off and on, to try to determine if Raeth was looking at the top of his deck to try to determine what card was next. The end results were inconclusive, but this was his last round with that deck anyway, so hopefully that was over.

After our judge meeting for this round, which included that excellent story, we took to the draft tables for the draft. At this point I had one of the seven person tables. For those of you new to this idea, some of the Rochester tables, due to uneven player numbers, only have seven players. But the Pro Tour needs to do the draft count as if every table is an eight-person table. So itís up to the table judge to make sure the seven-person table "stays on track," and is a little more difficult than a normal table.

Now, if you think about, the packs go, in player order: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. This means, during a regular Rochester draft call, if you have a seven person table, during the "8-8" part at the end of the first third of the draft; you basically have a table of players doing nothing. They have to wait until player sevenís pack is called again, and have to wait for everyone else to draft. During this time, one of my players asked if they were allowed to use this time for review time. I said sure, and they began reviewing.

Quickly another judge ushered me aside. This was wrong! They could not look at their cards during this time! I asked why not? It certainly was much easier than making them stay quiet and sit still for two full packs, and seemed to give no one an advantage since they all got to do it. Well, he said, because it gives an advantage to them over all of the other drafters. The other drafters, I questioned? The oneís who wonít be playing any of these players because you only play other people at your table? Well, he said, the last three big events he did this at, they did not allow them to look at cards. Well, ok, I am rusty at this, maybe I am wrong. I resolved to not let it happen again, and for my next seven-person table, I did not allow them to review. (I would like to note, however, that after checking when I came back from Amsterdam, I was right, they can look.)

After the draft, I split up my team quickly, behind each land station. Speed was of the essence. This was Day Two; we wanted no mistakes. We wanted every deck list counted before the round started, which means counting them as they came in, full speed ahead. We decided to cut down time by not even TRYING to sort them until they were all counted, and did it all in record time. I was extremely happy with my staff, and told them so. They blasted through the deck lists and we were able to give our game losses and match losses before we even began the first round.

During Round ten, we had a pretty uneventful time, except for one interesting issue. Apparently, Raeth, who we had told to sleeve his deck to prevent wear and tear marking, had not done so, and the judge that saw the marks the first time had noticed it. Interesting.

For Round eleven, once again the random tables printed out for the deck checks, and, lucky us, Raeth was going to get another deck check! For those of you who donít know, the program we use to run events has a "select random table" function we use for our deck checks. Itís very handy as a tool.

The first odd thing we noticed was his deck had sleeves. Somewhere between round ten and eleven he had decided to sleeve his deck. The sleeves looked fairly new too. After more in depth checking, however, we once again noticed a pattern, this time in the sleeves. The judge checking the deck was able to pull out, with accuracy, Oblivion Stone, Icy Manipulator, Copperhoof Vorrac, and Reiver Demon. So we brought in Gis again. The judge showed him the marks, and pulled out the cards. This, this was very serious said Gis. Now we had history and another marked deck! This looked like cheating.

Gis would handle this himself.

We got Raeth and walked him over to the Gis, let him begin the conversation, and then we left for him to hash it out with Raeth. We finish off the round, and sit down and have our judge meeting for the end of the round, discussing Raeth and his multiple marked decks. Time is called and Gis is still over there, talking with Raeth. Raeth looks pretty frustrated, and Gis is animatedly talking to him. We assume the Disqualification is in, and now Gis is talking Raeth down. In a short while, another judge who has a collusion issue interrupts Gis, and he wanders off to handle that. We talk some more, and time is droning on, so I ask my judges to tell me about the most interesting Disqualification they have ever had to do, and that keeps the conversation going. A couple other judges from other teams join us and we learn a bit about the collusion situation, but its nothing worth mentioning here, since its second hand information. Finally, Gis goes back to Raeth. They talk some more, and then Gis comes up and walks over to the judge station. He says Raeth has suffered enough and he has set the penalty to a Match Loss for Marked Deck Ė Pattern.

Finally, round twelve occurs. More random deck checks occur. And once again, my judges spot a deck problem. This one was a really interesting case, and weíll call him Cruizer. Some cards had slightly more wear on them than other cards, and the judge who noticed it could separate the cards into two different piles with some effort. The cards with less wear on them included: all of his land, one talisman, two mana Myr, a spell bomb, a Loxodon War hammer, and an Atog (his only red spell). All the worn cards were all his green and black spells. Soon enough, we figured it out; Cruizer was a card shuffler. When he kept cards in his hand, he tended to shuffle them, wearing them down. When he drew a land or a mana card, or, perhaps, a War hammer, he tended to play it immediately, so the wear was much less. Once again, we called Gis. Gis reviewed the deck. Surely this was a match loss at the least.

We bought Cruizer over, and stayed there while Gis began talking to him. Gis explained how his deck was marked, and went through the deck, separating it into two problems, to show him the issue. Gis explained how obviously it was possible that he could get a huge advantage from this, so he had to give out a match loss for this. It went rather smoothly from there, so I got up and went out to floor judge.

As the round started to wind down, I heard Scott say something, and two gentlemen started walking my way. They asked if I was Ray, and I said yes, I was. It was my friends from IRC that ran irc.efnet.nl with me! They heard I couldnít make it to go hang out with them, so they came to me. This was amazing, and the high point of my day by far. The next draft was about to start, and we had more judges than tables left. I quickly assigned my judges to tables, turned over my team to one of my judges, and went to lunch with Garion and mofo.

We hit a quick little tavern across the street, and they ordered drinks while I grabbed a sandwich and a drink. We had a good conversation about how the server was doing, and some of the silly politics that happen on IRC, but alas, I had near no time, and had to get back soon. They gave me their phone numbers, and offered to take me out later on during the night. I told them Iíd call them when I got out later on. I expected to be hanging out with Rune again, and could use his phone.

I make it back with perfect timing, as they are on the last pack of the draft, and quickly collect my team and prepare to do the same Deck Count procedure as the last draft. Again, it goes exceptionally, and we get everything counted before the round even starts. Interestingly enough, however, we notice someone with a 39-card deck.

Itís Raeth.

Well, thatís a match loss offense. I decide itís better if I do this one myself. If I give it to one of the other judges and he blows up over his third deck check and second match loss for the day, Iíd rather it be at me than another judge. I ask for his deck, and sure enough, its 40 cards, so he has a missed card on his list. It turns out to be a Pyrite Spell bomb. He takes his match loss with good grace, but complains a little bit. According to him, he was worried after his last penalty, and had given his deck list to a judge to check, and that judge had counted 44 cards total. They quickly figured out the missing card, and the judge marked the Pyrite Spell bomb for him, in the total column, but not the played column. He understood however, that the deck list was his responsibility and took his loss with good grace.

This made for a great conversation during that judge meeting. I asked each judge, if, in that same situation, they would mark the deck list for the player. Over half of them said they would. We discussed how, although it seemed like the polite thing to do, it gave the player an excuse/argument for any deck list errors, as they could just blame the judge for whatever error they saw, and that we should never mark their deck list for them. While we all agree that this is never a good argument for the player, and it should never work, as they have the ultimate responsibility for their deck list, that doesnít mean we should even give them the opportunity to have that conversation.

We also have an issue where we deck check someone at a feature match table, who weíll call Aether. Their deck list has the right amount of cards, and the amount matches the deck, but one card is wrong. They have marked in the played and total column a Tel-Jihad Exile. What they really have is a Tel-Jihad Chosen. Itís an honest mistake, but its an illegal deck list, sideboard, and main deck, depending on how you want to look at it. I call over Gis, and he takes a look as I explain. We both agree that it does not appear as if there is any form of cheating in any way, and itís simply an incorrect mark. As such, Gis brings Aether out of the Feature Match area, and shows him the issue we have. He decides to give Aether a warning, and we fix the deck list, and give them extra time and send him back in.

The last two rounds go pretty easily, and we have a few more judge meetings, which seem to go well. At the end of it all, we have one final judge meeting with everyone, and Gis tells us about tomorrow. A specific number of us will be doing top 8 Judging, something I really like to do. As luck would have it, I get assigned to the top four matches, which is great. Also Gis explains that everyone else will be required to attend a Judge Workshop on Sunday. I admit to finding this a bit odd. Being invited to a Judge Workshop sounds great, and a possible good educational exercise for judges. Being told we HAD to go to a Judge Workshop made it seem much less appealing. As we figured out the schedule, however, it quickly became apparent that I would not be able to judge a top four match, as then I would miss my plane. I was moved to the top eight match instead, and this meant I would miss the Judge Workshop. All the same, I asked Jaap for any work notes he had on it, as he would be running half of it.

The majority of the judges then invited me to dinner, but we had just received our compensation, and I was desperate for money, so I wanted to go talk to Kingís Games to see what they could offer for the foils I had gotten as compensation. I graciously passed, and they all headed out. A quick visit to the other side of the room, however, showed that Alex of Kingís Games was busy running the Question Mark Game Show, and could not talk to me. I headed back to the judge side, and Rune was still there, but he was heading to dinner with someone else, so rather than play tag along, I let them head out and then went to dinner on my own. In all honesty, it was fine, as I needed a little alone time. However, it then meant I couldnít call my IRC friends later on to take me out, and I realized this too late, as they had left. A quick trip to the Italian restaurant, and I headed to the hotel for the night.

Sunday Ė Top 8 and Homeward bound

Sunday I got to sleep in a bit more, but its not like the hotel bed was comfy, so I got up pretty early, showered, packed everything up and headed to the RAI with my luggage. I mused that Marc now had the hotel room for an extra day, and my credit card was on it. I hoped he doesnít have a pay per view fetish.

I dropped off my luggage and talked to Laura for a bit, where she revealed to me that Mike Turian was off the Gravy Train soon, due to his wife-to-be taking a job with Wizards of the Coast. This made Mike my instant favorite to win the Pro Tour, although, to be honest, he was my favorite anyways. As the top 8 drafted, I talked to Kingís Game about my foils, then I went and got a few cards signed that a friend had asked me to bring to get signed. Then, I helped with collecting the deck lists for the top eight and counting them, and now it was my time on the stage.

I had Antonís match, which was in the front right hand side. We all were fitted with microphones, and given the quick camera cues, but the camera was going to be on the Turian match for now. I was told to make sure to stop after someone had won two games in case the cameras wanted to switch for a decisive game on my match. No problem. Iíve done this before, and its kind of fun.

As a table judge, itís your job to "pretend to be modo." You have to make sure that nobody misses any mandatory effects, and that you track everything for them. You track damage, how it was dealt, cards drawn, and if a land was played that turn. And you have to do it quickly, quietly and efficiently, because you also have to be out of the damn way. The spectators and cameras are there to watch the players, not you. You need to be as unobtrusive as possible.

You can read the match coverage for how things went. It was a pretty simple match. At one point I was asked if someone had played a land yet or not, and was able to quickly do a count and point out that by my markings they had not. After game one the camera director asked the game count and I told them one to zero. During game two, there was a very slight life discrepancy, when it was noted that Aeo had been continuing to pull life off of last games life totals, and had not reset both players to twenty. After Game Two, I did a quick reminder to Aeo to make sure to use the Red Zone when attacking if the camera crew moved over, because itís much better visually. As if on cue, the camera director came by and asked the game count. I said two to zero, he replied one to one, ok, and turned before I could correct him. I was unsure if that was really what he said, and didnít want to step in from of the cameras to interrupt him if I was wrong, so I let the games continue on. In retrospect, this was probably a bad idea, and I should have interrupted, but I wasnít sure what he said, and I really had no desire to leave a table with thousands of dollars on the line on the off chance that a quick deal was struck in my absence.

In any case, game three went quickly and the match was over. Both players were exceptional, and it was the easiest top eight I have had to do. After it was over, I changed out of the judge shirt, and started saying my good byes to everyone. As I was heading back to the pick up my luggage, I noticed people walking in front of me to the back area. Scott was ushering people in and said "Ray, you can come in too, come on." I curiously walked in only to realize it was the top eight lunch buffet. Good times! I sat with Chris Galvin and the Sideboard crew, and ate contently around a conversation about the best hotel rooms at all of the events they have been to lately. It was lively and energetic, and ended too soon as I had to quickly get back on the train to the airport and head home.

Iíd love to give you some cool story about my trip home, but it was boring. I stayed awake as much of it as I could, and even watched the crappy in flight movies. The new Freaky Friday is possibly the worst movie I have ever seen, and Second Hand Lions was fantastic, up until they cut off the film ten minutes before the end because they were gearing up for landing. I still donít know how it ends.

I stayed in Minneapolis for two hours, buying a Grisham book and pretty much reading the whole thing by the time I got to Phoenix. My wife, cool as she is, picked me up, and we drove home, talking about how things went while I was gone. The kids were all better, she was feeling better, and overall, life was good. We got home and I snuggled up to her in bed and happily fell asleep.

And thatís what its like to go judge a Pro Tour. I hope you enjoyed it, as this was a huge writing for me. As always, feel free to email me at rayp at primenet.com with any thoughts or questions. Thanks for reading!
 

 

 

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