Judging in Montreal

I was talking to KYT at GP Montreal and we came to the conclusion that, apart from Derfington, I have probably written more for ManaDeprived (and for longer) than anyone else. One thing I haven’t ever done in that time is write an article from the judge perspective. GP Montreal had a lot of interesting things that I wanted to talk about, and since I’m not really playing Magic at the moment I figured I would take this week to talk about them.

Insert Crack Pun Here

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be another diatribe about how good/bad the buttcrack photos were. We’ve all had our fill of those, and of taking part in them.

We weren’t an hour into day 1 of GP Montreal when a player approached me and said that they were uncomfortable with the amount of cleavage a female player was displaying. He asked that we ask her to cover up, as he thought it was excessive and not appropriate for a family event. We discussed it and decided it would be better if a female judge made the approach to the player in question. Although she did cover up, the look the player was said to have given was withering to say the least. I did see the player before the judge spoke to her (there was some discussion with the TO and head judge before any action was taken) and I could certainly see how it could have made someone uncomfortable.

By the end of the weekend I had been asked twice to ask players to pull up their pants as they had butt crack showing. I was happy to comply, the conversation was not difficult or uncomfortable and the culprits were quick to elevate the waistband. No pictures were taken in order to achieve this. It really is that simple, folks.

Call. A. Judge.

When a player is disqualified, normally judges who are involved cannot talk about the situation as there is an ongoing investigation. This particular situation did not result in a DQ so I wanted to bring the circumstances to your attention as a cautionary tale. I will not be naming the players involved, so don’t ask.

We’re at the end of day 1, round 9 is about 10 minutes from ending. I’m discussing a rules scenario with a senior judge near a group of players who were chatting. One of these players started telling a story about his round 9 opponent offering him an incentive to concede the match. The senior judge was just a little faster than me in going straight to the group of players and pulling the speaker aside. To cut a relatively long story short, the head judge got involved and it was ultimately decided not to disqualify anyone…but the point is the head judge COULD have disqualified both players, even if they hadn’t made day 2.

Regardless of how pointless you think it is, how much you want to avoid looking like a jerk, how bad it would feel to get someone else disqualified…call a judge. Protect yourself. By not calling a judge, this player put themselves in a position to not only have the one making the offer disqualified, but to also suffer the same fate. Similarly, don’t make an offer like this, even as a joke. It’s just not worth it.

Keeping Score

The expected attendance for Montreal was around 1200 players. We had 1600+ instead, which led to many improvisations and much scrambling by judges. One such occurrence led to me scorekeeping on Friday evening for all the last-chance grinders for most of the night. Considering I had used Wizards Event Reporter maybe twice before that day, this was a very interesting experience. I don’t think players fully understand how much work is involved in scorekeeping, and I would encourage you all to visit this blog written by scorekeeper extraordinaire Nick Fang.

Simply put, there are a lot of things you can do to help your scorekeeper. They have multiple things to be doing at any given time, and they have a very uncooperative piece of software with which to do those things. Whether you are a player or a judge, the tips on that blog can be helpful to you and consequently to your next tournament running more smoothly. Something as simple as correctly marking the fact that you are dropping, or putting your result slip in the box facing the right way, can be helpful.

Would I scorekeep again? Maybe. It presented a new challenge and I enjoy those, but I don’t think I could do anything that would take me off the event floor like that. Not on a regular basis, anyway.

Fun With Rules!

Fall of the Hammer and Protection – Of course any judge-side tournament report comes complete with some interesting rules interactions and questions that led to discussion. The obvious place to start is the ruling in the final involving [card]Fall of the Hammer[/card] on [card]Battlewise Hoplite[/card] in response to a [card]Mortal’s Ardor[/card], and then a God’s [card]Willing[/card] in response to the Fall. Now, [card]Fall of the Hammer[/card] has two targets, so naming red on God’s [card]Willing[/card] won’t counter [card]Fall of the Hammer[/card] because one of its targets is still legal. If you name white, the damage from [card]Heliod’s Emissary[/card] (which was the other target for Fall) will be prevented but the [card]Mortal’s Ardor[/card] at the bottom of the stack will get countered on resolution.

So what is the best plan here? Well, naming red doesn’t counter the [card]Fall of the Hammer[/card], but it does mean that Fall can’t target the Hoplite. The rules were recently changed to state that if a spell cannot legally target one of its targets, then it cannot perform any actions on that target or cause that target to perform any actions. That would include taking damage, so naming red for God’s [card]Willing[/card] works just fine.

Fated Infatuation and Artisan of Forms – Judges really do enjoy tormenting each other with convoluted rules scenarios. This one allegedly came up in a real game, but that’s never stopped us from chatting about the ruling. You control a [card]Daxos of Meletis[/card] and I control [card]Artisan of Forms[/card]. I cast [card]Fated Infatuation[/card] targeting my [card]Artisan of Forms[/card], and trigger the heroic ability. I choose for [card]Artisan of Forms[/card] to copy [card]Daxos of Meletis[/card]. When the [card]Fated Infatuation[/card] resolves, what is the token?

A rudimentary knowledge of the rules will tell you that when you copy, say, an animated [card]Mutavault[/card] you get an unanimated [card]Mutavault[/card]. That’s because the copy effect doesn’t see things that set power and toughness or change the permanent’s type. That would suggest that you would get an [card]Artisan of Forms[/card] without the copy effect. That would be wrong though, because it will in fact see other copy effects, and will also become a [card]Daxos of Meletis[/card]…and promptly cause one of them to be put in the graveyard. The token copy will have the Artisan’s heroic ability too.

Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Batallion – On Sunday I was judging the Super Sunday Series Standard event, and this interaction came up. A player attacked with Brimaz and [card]Daring Skyjek[/card], and his opponent went to block the Skyjek with [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card]. The white player called me over and said that the Skyjek had flying because of the Cat Soldier token made by Brimaz.

Except, not so much. Batallion triggers when the creature with the ability is declared as an attacker with two other creatures. Brimaz makes his cat buddy when he is declared as an attacker. By the time the Cat Soldier token is on the battlefield and attacking, the time for Daring Skyjek’s ability to trigger has passed.

It’s Not Chipotle, But It’s Possibly Better

Magic events in Montreal tend to be held at the Palais de Congrès, which has a decent selection of eateries downstairs. Or so I’m told, anyway. I only ever went to one of them, because it was awesome. That one was Noobox, which according to their website exists only in Québec. THIS IS A CRIME. The food is reasonably priced, delicious and comes in large servings. Plus they call themselves “Noodlelicious” which is enough to make me love them anyway. SO GOOD!

If It’s This Good In Sealed…

[card]Archetype of Aggression[/card] is powerful. Like, really powerful. I would be surprised if it never saw any Standard play, being aggressively costed and providing a relevant ability to your entire team while having 3 power for 3 mana. I’ll be keeping an eye on this one.

Similarly, how has a white weenie heroic deck not taken off? [card]Fabled Hero[/card] is a scary creature in any format, and cards like [card]Phalanx Leader[/card], [card]Eidolon of Countless Battles[/card] and [card]Glimpse the Sun God[/card] are very powerful. I guess [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] decks are a valid reason in Standard, but surely you should be able to do enough with [card]Mutavault[/card]s and Eidolon that you can get in the last few points?

Judges CAN play Magic…

For the second GP in a row I entered a side event draft with 3 other judges, including the ubiquitous Jeph Foster. In GP Vancouver the 4 judges all ended up next to each other, meaning we didn’t face off until round 2. We all ended up winning round 1 then split the prize. In Montreal this wouldn’t be the case, but as the prize this time was a box I doubt I would have split anyway. I managed to draft a really strong RW Midrange deck and…ended up splitting in the finals, beating a judge along the way. Turns out double strikers are good, who knew?


Canada has a new level 3 judge, as Sean Hunt passed his test and panel interview this weekend to become Canada’s fifth (sort of) active L3. Reaching level 3 is a major accomplishment that represents a significant investment of time, so we tend to celebrate these advancements when they happen. Dinner at The Deer Garden was a fun time, even if our illustrious regional coordinator was under the impression that it was a Brazilian-style steakhouse. It was a Chinese restaurant…

Lessons Learned

It’s important to reflect on our work at events when we’re judging so we can come up with things to work on for the next event and also things to keep doing that worked well.

First and foremost, I learned that Grands Prix need a LOT of staff working on the stage. Aside from the scorekeeper for the main event, you need at LEAST two others for side events, plus others to handle logistics and issues with the venue or angry players. I have not worked for a lot of tournament organizers but I never understood why they needed so many people on the stage until Montreal happened.

Second, when you as a judge make a mistake and are called on it by another judge or a player, there is NOTHING wrong with owning up to your mistake and thanking them for correcting you. Never mind pride, never mind losing face. Neither of those is important when judging. We are there to get things right, and as long as the correction is delivered in a constructive way you should be happy to have received it!

The pain in my left foot that lasted for three days after the event reminded me that a Grand Prix is the worst possible time to break in new, cheap shoes. Even with pricy gel insoles and the hot new tech of changing socks part-way through the day.

The judge community really is incredible. The people with whom I shared a delicious beer (which before Sunday I considered an oxymoron) on Sunday were on Tuesday working on things as varied as secret projects requiring petabytes of server space, saving lives, teaching children, serving coffee, running game stores, demoing cutting-edge electronics and consulting on everything under the sun. And these are people I can call friends.

I learned that having me, Jeph Foster, Rick Salamin and Michael Zimmerman in the same place at the same time and in physical contact with each other might actually end the world. We tried all weekend to get it done, and something always got in the way. And then…this happened.


Finally, it’s surprising how much you can learn when you take the time to listen to everyone. Level and experience don’t matter, every judge has a strength they can share with you, and they all know something you don’t or do something slightly differently. The day we stop learning is the day we stop improving.

We’ll be back to regularly scheduled durdling next time. As I have been finishing this, I have been working on a brew with one of the Twinjas that he is planning to play this weekend. Let’s see how that goes. Until then…brew on!