Friday, 7 April 2017

Southern Magic - Two Grand Prix in two weeks

Hello dear readers, and welcome back to my Path to Exile!  

Thank you to the awesome people behind the online 
judgelife comic strip for this excellent image.

It's taken me longer than I would have liked to write another blog post for all of you, but there is a good reason for my recent delays - I've been quite busy during the past couple weeks travelling across the continent to participate in Grand Prix events in both Orlando, Florida and San Antonio, Texas! 

This week I'll be offering you a look at what it was like travelling from the cold northern lands of Ontario, to sunny Florida to work as a floor judge at GP Orlando.  After that we will take a look at my trip to San Antonio, Texas, where I was joined by fellow Level 2 judge Seth Black and my good pal Ed Dowling to participate in the first ever Team Modern Unified Grand Prix.

The Road So Far...

Years ago, when I was first pursuing my goal of getting certified as a brand new Level 1 judge, I had some lofty dreams for myself.  I wasn't sure if it would ever even happen, but I imagined someday sitting aboard an airplane and flying far away to spend a weekend judging a prestigious Magic event in some beautiful, warm location.  The one location that I hoped to someday travel to, more than any other, was Orlando, Florida.  

I had been to Orlando only once before in my life, for a short vacation to visit Disney World back in 2006.   Tragically, I had become extremely sick due to heat stroke on the third day of my vacation back then, and so I had only gotten to enjoy two days of fun and adventure, before being confined to a hotel room for the rest of the week. 

You can only imagine how thrilled I was when I saw that Star City Games was going to be hosting a Grand Prix in Orlando this year.  When I received the e-mail confirming that I had been selected to be on staff for it, it was finally time to make some judge dreams come true.

Next Stop: Grand Prix Orlando

The flight from Toronto to Orlando is under 3 hours

Once you are accepted to work at a Grand Prix, the tournament organizers begin sending you tons of relevant information including what shifts you will be working, which teams and/or tasks you are assigned to and who your team leaders will be.  Another piece of information you receive is who will be the judge manager during the event, which is relevant as this is the first person you want to speak to and check in with when you arrive.  

In the case of GP Orlando, the person in charge was the highly esteemed Riki Hayashi, a former Level 4 judge (our judge levels formerly went from 1 to 5, we now use a 3 level system with 3 being the highest attainable).  I am a huge fan of Riki's, as I know he has made significant contributions to our judging community and he is one of our most recognizable judges world wide.  I *may* have had a bit of a judging fandom moment when he recognized/remembered me without me having to introduce myself at the start of the weekend.

I feel like now would be a good time for us to take a little peek at the venue for GP Orlando, the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC).

This was the view just outside of the main entrance to the hall for GP Orlando

A look from the far end of the hall for GP Orlando, on Friday during sides.
The hall would be much more packed during the Main event on Saturday!

The Feature Match coverage area, as it was still being prepared for use.
Players with far more skill than I would be seated here later in the weekend.

Let me start off by saying that Star City Games is an excellent Tournament Organizer to work for.  I was fortunate that SCG was able to accommodate every request I had for them.  I asked to work Friday and Saturday, and those were the days I was on staff.  I asked for a mid-day shift on Friday, as I flew into Orlando late on Thursday night, and they assigned me to that shift.  It makes for an excellent experience for me, when the staff at SCG is constantly so well organized.   
It felt so good to wear this!  😏

Friday was a fun day of judging for me, as all of the side events for the day were being run at Regular REL - think FNM style rules enforcement.   People were having fun and playing Magic.  I had an interesting call come up, which I will discuss at the end of this post, in my 'From The Sideboard' feature.   

At 3:30pm on Friday I was assigned to be the Head Judge of a scheduled Modern Format Grand Prix Trial.   Participants would play 4 rounds of swiss, after which we would invite any undefeated players to play in one final match where the winner would receive 2 byes for Saturday's Main Event - GP Orlando.   

My event had 50+ players in it, which meant that hypothetically we could have had 3 undefeated players after 4 rounds of swiss.  If that would have happened (it did not, thanks to intentional draws), 1 player would have received a bye and automatically gained the prize of 2 byes in the main, while the other 2 would battle it out.  My event ended around 7:45pm, and one of the Level 3 judges directing us kindly let me know that I could call it a day early, and I would get to return to my hotel an hour ahead of schedule.   That's a pretty awesome day of judging.

On Saturday I was assigned to my absolute favorite team to work while at a Grand Prix, the pairings team.   I love doing pairings because it gives me the opportunity to spend most of my time walking the event floor and taking actual judge calls.  Speaking to players and answering their questions is always so satisfying for me, it gives me the chance to interact with people directly and help ensure that they have a good experience at the event.

In what I feel must have been an inside joke, my team lead for the day was none other than Kingston Ontario's own, Level 3 judge Jason Wong.  With a staff of 60+ judges, they managed to put two Canadian judges who are both named Jason on the same team.  I found it amusing, and assumed my new role as 'Jason: the sequel' for the day.  We made jokes that if anything should happen to J-Wong during the event, his replacement (me) could just assume responsibility and no one would be the wiser.

Saturday was fun for me, with most judge calls being simple questions of the 'how does this ability work' variety.   The big pay off for me was I got to pick Jason's Level 3 brain throughout the day, and I enjoyed the opportunity to see how he looks at things in the judge program differently from how I may have been looking at them.  
I've been in a few of these now, it's always a joy to be on staff with such talented people!

Once my shift on Saturday had finished, I was free to enjoy 48 hours in Orlando with my spouse.   What's a couple to do in Orlando?   Theme parks, of course!

A Day At Disney World

Cinderella's Castle

Ride a train around the Magic Kingdom

Okay, look.  I know it's weird, but I was Knighted by staff 
and had to protect Princess Belle for a short duration.

A Day At Universal Studios

Outside of the Amazing Spider-Man ride.
Probably my favorite ride ever.  10/10

Took a stroll past Jurassic Park

The Harry Potter ride was intense, and amazing!

Hogwart's Castle is real.  It's also huge.  Didn't you know?

After a very fun filled 48 hours of rides and delicious meals in Orlando, I was on a plane and returning home to the familiar surroundings of my life on my Path To Exile.




Wait, you didn't already forget about the other Grand Prix I just went to, did you?   Well now settle down pawdner, and let me tell you all about what it was like to fly down to the sun and warmth (and rain and Tornado warnings!) of beautiful San Antonio, Texas!

It was around 5 hours in the skies, flying from Toronto 
to San Antonio, via layover in Houston.

Grey skies greeted us as we landed in Texas.

I may be known to love playing Storm in Modern, but this was not what I was expecting!

The weather may have been unnerving for a while, but fortunately Texas is a place where the weather doesn't hold a grudge for long.  Within a few hours the weather alerts had passed, and we were once again enjoying sunny skies and a beautiful dry heat that won't be found in our region of Canada likely until July.

Grand Prix San Antonio was destined to be memorable, in large part due to the fact that it would be the first ever Team Unified Modern Grand Prix.  Our team would bring decks of Tron Eldrazi, Mardu Burn, and my personal deck of choice - 4 color Super Friends.

I'm going to skip the build up for this discussion, and get right to the point.  I was dead weight for my team at this event.  Although I absolutely love my deck, for every single game I played I was always either one land short of comboing off, or one turn too late.   I ended up losing most of my matches due to my inability to overcome some minor disruption from my opponents.   As a team we sadly dropped from the event after 4 rounds without a victory.  But while our main event may not have been the glorious achievement we had hoped for, we still managed to find lots of fun and adventure during our trip to the heart of Texas.

 On Saturday evening our team decided to venture out into the touristy area of San Antonio, and we had a blast.  We took a walk through the hallowed grounds of the Alamo, and I can assure you that it was a powerful feeling to stand inside the Cathedral where so many Texans died fighting for their independence. 

The grounds of the Alamo, a truly impressive site to visit.

My favorite part of Saturday night would be the three of us doing a 4D Hall of Mirrors maze.  The first time through the maze would be pretty fun, with each of us taking turns leading.   But once we had completed the maze, the staff gave us each these crazy 3D glasses and had us go back through it a second time, while we could hardly see anything in front of us.  It was so trippy and extremely fun.

Mirror Maze Team Selfie!

Sunday was filled with side events for my team mates, while I was happy to do some shopping from vendors and just observe.  Sadly, Seth had to get back to Canada early on Sunday afternoon, but that would leave my buddy Ed and I with another full day in Texas to take in the sights and have some fun.

Haunted Mansions, Wax Museums, Ripley's Believe It or Not, and some 4D rides would be how we would pass our time in Texas, and I of course would have to buy the one thing that I feel you need to bring home with you when you visit Texas...

Went to Texas, bought the hat!
It's a genuine Stetson leather hat, 
in case you were wondering.

Tourist Fun in Texas

Haunted Mansion time!

Me and Dave, chilling at the Wax Museum
Texas, where even the pens
 come shaped as guns.

Have you ever wished your breakfast could be shaped like
a gun?   In Texas, they can make that happen.

It was a truly incredible experience to be able to travel across the continent not once, but twice in two weeks to be a part of some of the biggest Magic tournaments in the world.  I am consistently amazed by the ways that my life has changed thanks to this fun little card game that we all love.  

Until next time, I'll be here waiting for you, on this Path to Exile.


Scenario 1:

You are judging a Grand Prix Trial, Modern format,  and it is at Regular REL.  A player calls you over to their match, during Game 1 of Round 1.

NAP:  "Judge, my opponent is playing a card, Innocent Blood, that is not legal in Modern!  

AP: "I thought this was a Modern Masters card, but it looks like it was actually printed in Eternal Masters.  My Mistake."

After checking online you confirm that Innocent Blood is not legal in Modern.  

What do you do to fix the situation?  

Assuming no cheating, what is the penalty?  

Scenario 2:

AP has an Wayward Giant equipped with a Slayer's Cleaver.  NAP is at 60 life, and has a Felidar Sovereign and a Blisterpod in play.   Neither player has any other cards in hand.  What happens when AP declares Wayward Giant as an attacker?  What, if any, blocks will NAP have to declare?

I will add the answers to these scenarios in a few days!
*Update*  And here they are!

Scenario 1 Answer:

When someone has cards in their deck that are illegal for play in the tournament, we replace each illegal card with a basic land of that player's choice.  In this case, if a player had 4 copies of Innocent Blood in their deck, we would offer them any 4 basic lands of their choice.  Note that we do not offer them snow-covered basics, nor wastes, as stores cannot reasonably be expected to always have them available and we want players to receive the same fix consistently wherever they are.

Scenario 2 Answer:

The relevant rule of thumb to keep in mind in this scenario is that we always try to satisfy the maximum amount of rules restrictions possible.  In this case, we have two relevant restrictions that are active at the same time;

a) the Slayer's Cleaver states that the equipped creature must be blocked by an Eldrazi if possible
b) the Wayward Giant has the Menace keyword ability, which states that it cannot be blocked by only one creature

Since there is an Eldrazi creature in play that is capable of blocking, it must be declared as a blocker.
Since the Wayward Giant has Menace, it cannot be blocked by only one creature,  hence, the Felidar Sovereign will also be required to be declared as a blocker in order to satisfy the maximum amount of restrictions that can be satisfied.

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