Judge Tournament Report: MM15 Sealed

Judge Tournament Report: MM15 Sealed

Postby Doktor_Sleepless » Mon Jul 06, 2015 7:31 pm

Hello all,

For those unfamiliar, this is Paul Luthy. I'm not in Austin anymore, but I expect to be back in the future. With the approval of the admins, I'll be posting Judge tournament reports to these forums. Judge reports are not always the same as tournament reports from players. If you're interested in what makes good judge reports, check out this article: http://blogs.magicjudges.org/articles/2014/11/07/tournament-reports-as-tournament-essays/. It is basically the gold standard for judges in considering what our reports should include for each event. As a level 1 judge who was acting as floor judge, I found it more important to focus on mentoring and development, in addition to exploring the lessons a competitive REL event holds for an L1, rather than focusing on numerous specific details and a round-by-round breakdown of events. Hopefully this will be useful to anyone who reads it.

This is a first draft, and has not yet been submitted. Any alterations will be posted to this thread as well. Thanks and enjoy!



Tournament Report: Advantage Games PPTQ, 7/5/2015 Modern Masters 2015 Sealed Deck

Null Profusion, or How Overthinking Is the Same as Underthinking

As with any major event, I slept poorly the night before the tournament. I understand some people don’t experience this phenomenon, but in my experience anticipation is a form of overstimulation. Knowing that I’m planning to be awake at a certain time is not part of my usual schedule, nor is judging yet for that matter. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, so let’s back up.

Advantage Games hosted a Modern Masters 2015 Sealed Deck tournament, which was my first tournament as an official judge, floor or otherwise. Advantage is my local game store, just a short drive from the apartment for which my wife and I overpay. Jason, the owner/TO, was kind enough to bring me on for this event as a floor judge under Ben Bowers. Ben is a local L2 who is an excellent judge and mentor. It seems I didn’t adequately communicate my level of experience to either, and both were rightfully surprised I was L1. Whether they were surprised that I had only tested in April, I can’t say. But clearly I need to be more forthright in the future. Fortunately they were supportive and encouraging during the whole process.

So I arrived around 9:15, tired from not having slept well but optimistic about the tournament. It was encouraging to learn as the day went on that there would be numerous judges participating in the event. Nothing brings out the desire not to fuck up like being surrounded by your peers and (judging) superiors. Backing that up, a guy named Daniel whose last name I either didn’t get or don’t remember was present as an L0 hoping to test for his L1 during/after the tournament. So any screw up not only was going to happen in front of every level of judge possible, but also in front of a prospective new judge. No pressure though.

Did I mention the numerous judges? One of the guys who tested me, Bryan Spellman (L3) was playing. So was one of the 5 Minutes of Glory speakers, Vikram, from our regional judge conference. Oh, and Scott Marshall (L5). Nothing terrifying about making a bad rules call in front of an L5. Or doing anything else unprofessional, for that matter. Good times.

Again, there I was, tired and nervous yet still somehow excited and optimistic. Emotions are weird. But the game face went on, and the goal was (in spite of the internal roil) to maintain a calm, confident, professional veneer. Players should feel comfortable enough to play normally around judges, to call them at any time, and to step up and talk to judges during a tournament. My goal during this tournament was to try and sharpen my core judge competencies while also practicing the crucial interpersonal skills required to put players at ease.

As someone who very recently was a player, not a judge, I assure you all that players are not very comfortable around judges most of the time. It’s the double-edged sword of authority; to wield it you must have some measure of distance between yourself and those you have authority over. Become too friendly, too talkative, too laissez-faire, and you’re no longer an authority figure. To a majority of players, the presence of a judge can be unsettling. There is a nervousness you will see in players around judges, if you know what to watch for. Hands, in particular fingers, tremble a bit more. Sweat, or wiping of brows, occurs more often. Glances up away from their match increase as your presence lingers. As judges, it is easy to become inured to this over countless hours of tournaments. As a very recently inducted judge, my memories of competitive play are still fresh, and I sympathize with the players’ discomfort.

But I digress. We’ve barely delved into our tournament yet. Ben’s wife Ellen (I really hope I get names right in this report. I’m pretty bad with names. And spelling them) was working as scorekeeper (she’s also a judge). Our event was capped at 32 people. So we had our head Judge, a scorekeeper, a floor judge, and a floor judge shadow to run an event of 32 people, of whom more than 10% were judges (I regret admitting that one player was a judge from Columbia, MO in town with his wife, and I cannot remember either of their names, but there were at least 4 judges in 32 players… a 1 in 8 ratio is pretty judge-heavy). Our TO [Jason] had pre-registered pools already boxed up with their sheets. Having never seen a pre-registered sealed pool before, I was shocked at how obvious and efficient the idea was. Do other people know about this? Is there a secret newsletter with ways to make tournaments run really smoothly that only he subscribes to? I can’t answer these questions. But I can say that after I randomized the pools and then distributed them to players, I had the following thought:

“I have literally never seen a sealed event begin so smoothly.”

Which says a lot. There was no trash, no players attempting to sort and record their pools in a massively time-consuming effort, only a few minor errors in pool registries that were quickly and easily fixed. Players had no trouble focusing on getting their decks built, which had their deck registration sheets completely filled out lickety-split. We allowed players to walk to the front of the room and hand in their sheets one by one. If I’m being honest, I don’t know that I prefer that system. But I was also aware that this was a tiny tournament, with plenty of judges on hand, and I know Ben collects all at once for large constructed tournaments. How do I know? I asked. We talked about it. I asked a lot of questions. Probably an unnecessarily large number. I like to try and ask an excessive number of questions during a tournament. You never know which one will be the one you’re glad you asked later on at some other event. So we got our sheets, printed pairings, and headed into round 1.

From here the tournament blurs into one long day of walking the lengths of the tables. Judge calls were infrequent. Shocking based on tournament demographics, I know, but it’s the truth. Of the maybe half-dozen I recall fielding, only two were noteworthy. And not for any reason I’m particularly proud of, either. First was a “rewind” issue. Having sat through a lengthy session on rewinds given by Bryan Spellman at the judge conference, I was pretty confident on this one. Ugh, confidence. The sign that I am surely about to be humbled.

We (I say we because Daniel had been coming with me, so that on straightforward rules questions I could watch him interact with players) were called over to a table about a game state issue. I remember only the player who had (one hopes inadvertently) caused the error’s name, so I’m not going to recount either player’s name. We’ll call them Player A and Player B. Player A caught the error, and made the call. Player B controlled an Algae Gharial, which at the time of the call had 3 +1/+1 counters on it. It was also equipped with a Copper Carapace. And therein lies the problem, as it’s a rare day indeed that a creature with Shroud carries equipment. Both players agreed that the equipment had been put on several turns ago, and neither had noticed Shroud during multiple rounds of combat. During those rounds creatures died, pumping the Gharial. Cards were drawn, of course, as turns passed. All in all, a fine pickle. It was obvious we were well past the point of a rewind, so I issued the following (SPOILER: PARTIALLY ERRONEOUS) ruling:

No rewind will occur. Apply state-based actions, then continue the game. Player A and B have Game Play Error - Failure to Maintain Game State and will be issued a warning. Continue playing.

Upon instructing players to apply state-based actions, I incorrectly removed the equipment from the creature. Shroud is not protection, people. I know that, too, so I felt quite the idiot. Fortunately, that error did not affect the game outcome (Player B won the same turn, without the equipment attached to his Gharial). But I committed it in front of a testing L0, which is bad. So it was good that Ben was there to set us straight. The second error did not affect game play at all, but was rather my shortcoming as an L1. I feel that I share this with many L1’s, but that doesn’t excuse it. Player B did not have a GPE, he had a Game Rules Violation. Ben set me straight on that as well. I will say by way of explanation that I recognize the MTR is a weak spot of mine, and the area I need to focus on most carefully if I want to proceed to L2.

The other error I committed was straightforward. I was called about a Necroskitter assigning lethal damage to a creature while being assigned lethal damage. Had I correctly recalled rule 603.6d at that time (my phone was dead) I would probably have issued the proper ruling. But I said no, you don’t get your creature, Necroskitter is not on the battlefield to trigger if it is moved to the graveyard at the same time as the other creature. The player controlling the Necroskitter appealed, and Ben reversed my ruling to issue the correct one. From my end as an L1, the concern to me was twofold. First, I recently saw a similar situation play out incorrectly, and I’m certain it influenced me on some level. Second, by virtue of not having access to a mobile electronic device, I was unable to self-check.

Self-checking is crucial for all judges, but in particular L1’s. We are less proven in the field than other judges, and more likely to be the first judge on the floor to make a call. Our rules knowledge across all rules (Comp, MTR, etc) is likely to be less developed than judges of higher levels. And as the point of contact for many players, we’re expected to be confident and (at least mostly) accurate in our rulings on the floor. What can be learned here? First, charge your phones people. Second, perhaps more importantly, general preparation is key for judging. If you’re going to be out on the floor tomorrow, review rules sections you feel less comfortable with. I did not do that. I chose hot dogs, potato salad, baked beans, fireworks, etc. Yes, it was a national holiday. But I personally was aware of responsibilities the next day as a judge; I can say unequivocally that given the opportunity I would go back in time to spend at least 30 minutes on the night of the 4th of July, before bed, reviewing sections of various rules manuals.

In the end, it worked out fine. A couple of errors while judging your first tournament post-L1 testing is not the worst. The top 8 continued to play out smoothly, and Ben and I talked about a host of subjects relating to judging. We reviewed the tournament: how did I feel it went (not badly, but room for improvement), what were areas I felt I could improve in (obviously the MTR, review of Comp rules, so many more it would be silly to go on parenthetically). Then he asked what input I had as an L1 for the judge program. I had plenty of input, though a surprisingly large amount of it seemed to jibe with other input Ben had already received. It was gratifying as an L1 to feel that my input was being valued, and that my experience was going to inform the experiences of future judges. I strongly recommend that other L1’s approach their head judges during free moments to discuss ideas, questions, or concerns in regards to the judge program and the game. It’s been extremely rewarding and fruitful for me every time I have in my very brief judging career.

So Ben said I could take off as the final round was being played, for which I was grateful. My wife was picking me up, and she’d been waiting a bit as I had mis-estimated when the tournament would finish. I thanked Jason for bringing me on to work the event, and was pleased when he said he’d want to use me again in the future to judge events. It’s a wonderful relief to make an error at a job (YES THIS IS A JOB), and then discover that people are ok with you being fallible if you’re making the effort to do things correctly and improve. But I think I’ve developed a new ritual for pre-judging: pack small bag the night before, with an extra cell phone battery, then put the phone on the charger before doing at least 30 minutes of rules review and going to bed. Because it’s ok to make mistakes when you learn from your errors, but it’s even better when you implement new practices to help prevent mistakes from happening.
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