Friday, 24 February 2017

The Next Step - Learning the various roles of judges at events

"To the next step..."

Hello again, Magic folk!

People who know me well will tell you that I absolutely love the game of Magic.  More than just the game itself though, I love the community that Magic creates and the opportunities that come from being a part of said community.  

Once I began playing in organized Magic tournaments, it wasn't long before my love for our growing player community would lead me to take an interest in becoming a Magic Judge.  My desire to get certified at the time was driven entirely by the need for our store (Jack's on Queen, in Elmvale, Ontario) to have someone qualified to allow us to run Grand Prix Trial events. After passing my Level 1 certification we had far more flexibility for running Competitive level events.

But as time passed I found that I became less and less satisfied with simply being the Magic Judge for my local store.  Sure, it was exciting to be able to officiate GPT events for local players, and it gave them opportunities to play Competitive REL Magic on a regular basis, but I never really felt like I was learning or improving as a judge from working those events by myself.  I knew I would never be satisfied simply by being "a" judge with the bare minimums in experience.  I had to push myself to become the best judge I possibly could.  I have great respect for 'the black shirt' and those who wear it, as it takes so much work and preparation to be able to perform competently as a judge.   That respect keeps me focused on ensuring that my actions always reflect positively on the Magic Judge program and my fellow judges.  

At the start of 2016 I set out to work as many events with multiple judges on staff that I could get.  I figured that the best way for me to learn and improve as a judge would be to surround myself with as many experienced judges as possible and to try to learn from each of them.  

I should note that while I do often feel somewhat isolated from the judging community due to the fact that I live in a small town in rural Ontario (hence the name of this Blog - Judging From Exile), I will admit it could be far worse. I am fortunate to have the city of Toronto within a 2 hour drive from me,  and the community there has been both kind and welcoming to me when I needed a place to hone my skills.  

I was an inexperienced Level 1 judge with almost no connections or friends in Toronto, and yet two large gaming stores constantly gave me opportunity after opportunity to work their events and learn from their staff.   I give thanks and praise to the great people at Face To Face Games Toronto and Hairy Tarantula North because without them, I simply would not be the accomplished judge that I am today.   For all of my Magic playing friends, I highly recommend taking the time to play in some events at either of these two wonderful establishments!  These stores believe in the value of always having experienced judges on staff, and their tournaments are always quality experiences.  

And now here we are in 2017, and I have come so far since those first few GPTs!  I'm now a Level 2 judge with 3 new judges floating around that I personally certified.  I've spent some time flying around North America judging at Grand Prix events and I have been blessed to have worked a dozen Face to Face Opens.   

I have learned so much from my experiences over the past years and can honestly say that I am a completely different judge (and likely a different person) than I was two years ago when I began this journey.   But what good is all of my experience if I keep it to myself?  I'd rather share my insights with you, dear readers, in the hopes that perhaps some other judges who are looking to follow a similar path can benefit from my experiences.  

Tips for being a helpful Judge

*NOTE*  if you are not currently a certified Magic Judge, or have no interest in tips for judging at events, you likely will want to skip down to the section 'From the SideBoard'  located farther down this post.

Floor Judge

Floor judges make up the majority of staff for all mid to large size events.  More often than not, you likely will find yourself working in a FJ capacity.  Here are a couple tips that I recommend you keep in mind while judging:

  1. Watch magic.  If you are not taking a judge call, watch some games being played.  You may notice an error that players have missed, and it also helps keep your mind focused on Magic.  Checking to see if both players life totals match while observing a game is a good idea.
  2. Don't talk so much!  This is a big pet peeve of mine.   When you are lucky enough to be hired by a TO to judge, do NOT spend your time casually talking to your friends who happen to be there to play.  We are getting paid to provide a service to customers, and even though judging is a lot of fun we have to remember that it is still work.  When I am on staff I try to always limit any conversations with friends to between 30 and 60 seconds.  Also, I make sure to constantly be scanning the floor for any judge calls rather than looking directly at my friends while we chat.  It's important to always convey the image that we are putting the event first.
  3.  Don't create black holes.  You know how judges always wear black when working?  When too many of us are talking in a group together we tend to make black holes, which are a sure sign that the floor around us likely isn't getting enough supervision.   If two judges are already discussing something, try your best not to join into the conversation unless there is a significant need to do so.
  4. Drink.  Lots.  This is a good tip for judges while filling any role at an event.  Seven or more rounds of Magic makes for an extremely long day, so be prepared to drink lots, as dehydration will definitely sneak up on you.  Personally, I usually will bring a backpack with a couple Gatorade drinks with me to big events in order to ensure I am prepared.   You can't always count on Tournament Organizers to remember to provide water for you, although the best TOs usually do.

Deck Checks Team Lead 

I was recently the Team Lead for Deck Checks at an event, and have some insight for anyone who may be taking on this task for the first time.  Note that these tips are derived from my working in mid sized events (80 to 200 players).

  1. Have a plan for deck list collection.  Deck lists need to be collected.  Sometimes you may get lucky and the TO is in favor of seating all players for a 'Player's Meeting', which gives you the chance to collect all deck lists while players are seated in alphabetical order.   More often though, you may have to get deck lists collected while players are already seated for Round 1, which means you will need to sort them out during the event.  In large events you may also need to coordinate collection plans with the 'Paper Team' lead in order to get everyone's lists collected in a timely manner.
  2. Get a Master List.  If you are working an event that offered online deck list submission, you will need a Master List as soon as the event begins in order to confirm that all players have actually submitted lists, either via online or by handing one in at the start of the event.
  3. Keep that Master List.  Once you have confirmed that all deck lists are physically accounted for, you will want to start marking on it every time you team does a deck check during the event.   Being able to easily (and quickly!) verify whose deck's have been checked during the day will help you greatly as you near the end of swiss and can get an idea of which players will be in Top 8 contention. 
  4. Review potential Top 8 lists during swiss.  There is nothing worse that having a player make it into the Top 8 of an event only to then receive a game loss due to a deck list error that wasn't caught earlier.  Taking some time in the final rounds of swiss to glance at any likely contender's deck lists and ensure that they have actually listed the correct amount of cards (usually 60 main and 15 in the sideboard) is a great way to help reduce the chances of player's getting the 'Feel Bad' news in the Top 8.
  5. Report your time extensions.   At any mid-to-large sized events there should be a judge in charge of making sure that end of round procedures go smoothly.  Make sure to let this judge know about all time extensions resulting from deck checks, in order to ensure those tables are properly covered when the round ends.

Paper Team Lead

The paper team plays a very important part in ensuring that tournaments run efficiently.   A good paper team will ensure pairings are posted as soon as possible while also getting match slips cut and distributed to players promptly.  Note that at Grand Prix sized events separate teams will each handle parings and slips.

  1. Communication is key.  Need a team member to cut slips?  Want someone to always be ready to run pairings out at the start of a round?  Are things going to get shuffled a bit due to breaks?  Let your team members know what they are responsible for and where you need them to be, before you need it done.  Keep in mind that assigning people to the same task all day can make for a long event, you may want to shake things up half way along.
  2. Every end is a new beginning.  End of round and beginning of round are the two most crucial times for judges to be on task in terms of helping keep a tournament running on time.   Judges should know to always be waiting near the scorekeeper at start of round if they will be posting pairings or cutting slips.  Similarly, having judges report in with 5 minutes to go in a round gives you a chance to make sure any tables with lengthy time extensions are properly covered. 

Closing Thoughts

I can say for a fact that effort and hustle absolutely will get noticed when judging.  The judges who carry themselves with a professional image and put in a good effort always get hired again.   Knowing rules and tournament policies can only get a person so far, you need to also have a positive attitude and good work ethic.  I will leave you with a personal quote, one which has been my philosophy ever since my first Competitive event where I was allowed to write my Level 1 certification:

If any judges (or potential judge candidates) happen to be reading this Blog, be aware that I am always available to help with any support, guidance or insight that I can offer.  I've been lucky to achieve every goal I have set for myself, I'd like to help others find success as well.

**Special Event!**

Oh, and I definitely need to mention here that I've been given the honor of being the Head Judge for the next Face to Face Open happening at Seneca Campus in Toronto on March 18th.  Info and pre-registering can be found by clicking HERE. I'd love to see as many familiar faces as possible there, it's gonna be a blast!


Today we are going to take a look at a few scenarios, and see if we can't figure out what's going on.

Scenario 1

Our first scenario involves prevention effects and redirection effects, which are both excellent examples of replacement effects.

Andrew and Nick are playing some Commander games at their kitchen table.  Andrew controls Marath, Will of the Wild and activates Marath's ability while removing five +1/+1 counters from Marath, choosing to use the 'deal x damage to target creature or player' mode of the ability.  While doing this, Andrew says to Nick "I'm going to redirect this 5 damage to your Planeswalker".

In response, Nick chooses to cast Selfless Squire with flash and says to Andrew "No, I'm going to prevent the damage instead and put five +1/+1 counters on my Selfless Squire."

To which Andrew replies "but I'm directing the damage to your Planeswalker, not you."

And so the question I pose to you, dear readers, is does the damage get prevented by Selfless Squire?   When you are ready, you can see the answer for yourself by scrolling down.

Scenario 2

Arthur and Neil are playing at at Modern PPTQ.   Arthur has just cast Spreading Seas, targeting Neil's Mutavault.   If Neil chooses to activate Mutavault's ability to become a creature until end of turn in response to the Spreading Seas, knowing that the Mutavault ability will resolve first and then the Spreading Seas will resolve after, is Mutavault a creature until end of turn, or will it simply be a fancy looking island?

Sideboard Solutions

Scenario 1

In our first scenario the question was raised as to whether or not damage being redirected from a Player to a Planeswalker could be prevented with an ability that prevents damage to target Player.  The short and simple answer is 'yes', this damage can be prevented.  The longer (and technically more accurate) answer and is both 'yes' and 'no'.

First of all, it's important to understand that the act of redirecting damage from a Player to a Planeswalker that player controls is a replacement effect.  Similarly, an effect that prevents damage from occurring is also a replacement effect.  What happens when multiple replacement effects want to change the same thing?  Well, let's take a look what article 616.1 of the Comprehensive Rules says, shall we?

The player being affected gets to choose the order in which the replacement effects are applied.   So in this case, if Nick chooses to apply his creature's Prevention effect first, once it has prevented the damage there is nothing left for Andrew to redirect to Nick's Planeswalker.   Yes, technically Nick could choose to apply the redirection effect first and thereby make his prevention effect useless, but why would he choose to do that?

 It's also worth noting that Andrew made a noticeable strategical error by telling Nick ahead of time that he planned to redirect the damage to Nick's Planeswalker.   If Andrew had waited until Nick chose to let the spell resolve, (assuming that Nick would have been okay with letting himself lose the 5 life versus losing a Planeswalker)  Andrew could have then told Nick that he was redirecting the damage to the Planeswalker when Nick tried to record his life loss.  At this point Nick has already demonstrated that he is allowing the spell to resolve, but Andrew still has the ability to apply the redirection effect.  Once Nick tries to record himself taking the damage he is at the point where he can't stop it anymore, and his Planewalker would be visiting the nearest graveyard.

Scenario 2

So what do we think, dear readers?   Is this poor, doomed Mutavault going to get one last opportunity to shine as a creature, or will the impending Spreading Seas cause it to forever remain a lonely island unto itself?

The answer is that it will indeed get to be a creature until the end of turn.   The reason why is that while Spreading Seas resolves later and will have a later time stamp (in case any of your were considering time stamps as a potential factor), the spreading seas itself will only cause the Mutavault to lose it's existing land types and abilities printed on it.  What it won't affect is any abilities bestowed on the land by other effects.   So the Mutavault would get to be a 2/2 creature with all creature types until end of turn, and then it would become an island with all of the blue mana generating goodness you would expect.   Also worth noting, this new Mutavault-looking-island is not a basic land.   'Basic' is a supertype, not a land type and as such it is not added onto any non-basic lands that get the Spreading Seas treatment.

That's all from exile for now, see you next time!

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