Wednesday, January 28, 2015

This Week In Comics - January 28th

Big News of the Week
First off due to "Snow-maggedon 2015" our books this week have either not gotten here yet or have just been put out. As of writing this post at 10:30 AM on the 28th they have yet to arrive. I apologize for the inconvenience this may cause some of you. The books will be available either later today or at some point tomorrow.

On the bright side the Harley Quinn variant covers for the DC books starts next week! We're also set to get in the next Squirrel Girl issue and the sequel to the superhero/zombie book Night of the Living Deadpool, with Return of the Living Deadpool #1 next week so keep an eye out for that one!

Who Ya Gonna Call?
Well we now officially/unofficially have our all female cast for the Ghostbusters reboot directed by Paul Feig of Bridesmaids fame.  Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones will be the roster for the reboot ghost hunters. Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy aren't huge surprises because their names have been more or less attached to the project since it was announced, but the surprises are Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones (both are current cast members on SNL). I'm definitely looking forward to the reboot just to see how they pull this off. As far as the villains of the movie go, there's yet to be any definitive casting, but they have a wish list for actors. For the Walter Peck-like human antagonist Feig said he'd like to have Peter Venkman himself step into the role, which is very meta-textual seeing as how Bill Murray's relationship with any Ghostbusters related movies have been of late. The other villain, which naturally will be a ghost, would hopefully go to Game of Thrones stand out Peter Dinklage. If you'd like to read a little more, here's an Ain't It Cool News Article on the big announcement.

Stay Classy Denizens!

Zach "Erik" Burruby
Comics Manager
Dragon's Den

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

This Week In Comics - January 21st

New Releases of the Week!

This week we get to see the beginning of the Galaxy Quest comic and the next couple of entries into the Spider-verse. Galaxy Quest: The Journey Continues #1 looks like it picks right up after the movie and takes up the premise. When I originally heard this book was being made I thought it might be centered on the Star Trek like TV show characters as opposed to the actors, but not the case. As fall out from the movie, bad things happen to our intrepid crew!

Also out this week is Amazing Spider-Man #13, the next main entry into Marvel's Spider-verse event.  Within the pages of this book we'll see at lease some resolution to the big reveal at the end of last week's entry!

Crisis on Infinite Marvel Earths?!?

Marvel recently released more information on their upcoming summer event, Secret War, along with an interactive version of the Battleworld map. Shortly after, Marvel also announced that the event will also lead to a soft reboot of the universe in which the 616 universe (the original) and the Ultimate universe were to come together as one. If this sounds vaguely familiar, then you've probably read DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths. Naturally it won't be identical, but Secret War will almost assuredly serve the same purpose, restart the universe without completely ignoring ALL continuity. Make sure to keep an eye out for this when Time Runs Out.

Stay Classy Denizens!

Zach "Erik" Burruby
Comics Manager
Dragon's Den

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

This Week In Comics - January 14th

May the Force be with you!

It's January 14th and you know what that means!  Star Wars #1 from Marvel is finally here and it looks amazing.  Written perfectly by Jason Aaron and drawn beautifully by John Cassiday, I can say that this book reads like a continuation of the original film.  There doesn't seem to be a focus on any one of the core group, which is exactly what's needed from this book.  Make sure you come in to pick this book up!  Visit our site for what's going on today!

That's how they're referencing them?

So there may be extremely minor spoilers in this one, but only very minor.  In the newest issue of Spider-verse we get references to Turn Off the Dark, Electric Company and both movie versions of Spider-Man.  For Turn Off the Dark and Electric Company Spideys the references are spot on and funny.  As far as the movie versions, they are pretty spot on and funny, but there are so many other funnier references to be had with them. Ugly crying, disco dancer for Toby Maguire anyone?  Here's the link to a quick article about it.

Stay Classy Denizens!

Zach "Erik" Burruby
Comics Manager
Dragon's Den

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Weekly Comics Update - January 7

Happy New Year and Some New Books!

I hope everyone had a happy and safe New Year and a great holiday prior.  Next week is going to be a doozy in terms of new books.  First off is Marvel's return to the greatest of space sagas in Star Wars #1.  We've got a plethora of things planned for that release along with some sales. The event lineup is viewable on this page of our website! For more comics next week you can always visit our Upcoming Comics page!

Is it Too Late to Change the Name?

If you told me from 10 years ago that one of the most anticipated movies of this summer is Ant-Man, I'd call you crazy.  Well, we're all crazy, and they've officially put out a human sized movie trailer for said movie.  It looks like it will have a similar tone to the first Iron Man, where it won't take itself super seriously.  I'll admit that I would've liked to have seen Eric O'Grady appear as the movie Ant-Man, but that's neither here nor there. Note that Ant-Man #1 is in-store this week! Here's a link to view the trailer.

Stay Classy Denizens!

Zach "Erik" Burruby
Comics Manager
Dragon's Den

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Grand Prix New Jersey: A Judge’s Report by Stephen Carpenter, L2

“Sloth is the enemy of Greatness.” Randy Blythe

Let me introduce myself. My name is Stephen Carpenter. I am a father of two little girls, a husband to a wonderful wife, the store manager of Gamer’s Gambit CT, and a Level 2 Magic Judge from Danbury, CT. I’m an ex-IBMer and I’m currently studying for my Master’s Degree in Information Systems. My employees and friends will tell you I believe in one simple mantra: “Work Hard, Play Hard (in that order)”. I work upwards of 70+ hours per week, and I don’t like it when people complain – especially if it’s me doing the whining. If you’ve ever been to my store, you know I operate with high standards of cleanliness, professionalism, and organization. I’m always pressed for time, so let’s get to it.


My story of the third largest Grand Prix in Magic’s history starts on Thursday. I went into Gamer’s Gambit to wrap up a few last minute things, and my morning manager was sick, so I sent her home and stuck around to ensure things were running smoothly before making the trip to Edison, NJ. The two-and-a-half hour drive itself was rather uneventful, if you’re used to how aggressive New Jersey drivers are. I kept myself awake listening to Slayer and Lamb of God, because they’re the only bands that matter. I rolled into my hotel around 23:00, and the first person I saw in the lobby was the GP legend himself, John Alderfer. He was standing over a table of judges slinging cardboard. I was already dog tired, so I skipped the “hellos” and went straight up to my room, ate my leftover Subway sandwich and watched Key & Peele. I checked my schedule, knowing I was working Friday and Saturday, and saw that Jared Sylva had sent me an email that I was working at 11:30 both days. It always makes me feel good when I get an email from Jared – I’ve had a good, healthy man-crush on him since I was L1 and he gave me advice that I should wear EMT pants when judging (I don’t, but that’s not because I don’t look up to him). I was in bed, asleep by 01:00 and up by 09:00.


Friday morning I hit the showers and Dunkin Donuts, arriving at the venue running a little late (~11:20) because my GPS tried to send me to Somerset at first, thinking I wanted to go to the last convention center I judged at for the SCG Invitational. How annoying. Finally arriving, I saw that the convention hall was enormous, and there were already hundreds of Magic players in the house. I spotted my Team Leader – Abraham Corson – across the hall, and started to make my way toward him. In uniform, I was immediately accosted by Magic players looking for someone to clean up a spill, so I jumped over to the Customer Service desk and had Kali Anderson call for someone from the venue to clean up the spill. Afterwards, I fell in with a bunch of other Magic judges at the side events area to listen to what was going on and to try to find Abe, who was of course gone by now. Matt Foster and Mike Cox told me to check in with Bruce Mills at side events first, so I signed in and got my food stipend for the weekend. He sent me to Jared at the main events stage across the hall to get the key to the judge room, so I surrendered my badge to the legendary L4 and linked up with 5 lost judges who happened to be looking for the key. I put my stuff down, returned the key, and went back to trying to locate the grinders and my TL. I ran into some of my locals, including Tyler Surovy (L1, Danbury) who said that SCG didn’t have a record of his byes that he earned at our store’s GPT a couple weeks back. I told him I’d look into it and booked it over to the LCQs.

The LCQ grinders are 32-person GPT single-elimination events running for 5 rounds with cut to Top 8. I fell into one of the grinders and immediately got a judge call for someone who paid 3R for Sneak Attack while his opponent had Thalia on the board. I informed the Head Judge (HJ) of the grinder (a requirement for any Competitive REL event) and issued a Game Play Error: Game Rule Violation (GRV) and rewound the game state to the point immediately before the error. I then finally found Abe, who was coming back from some errand and checked in with my Team Leader. Abe is an awesome L3 with a peculiar way of expressing rules technicalities and a deep thinker. He always challenges me, and I always request to be on his team whenever I judge an event with him. I’m never disappointed to work with Abe. He set me up with James Eveland, an L2 from PA whom I’ve probably met but didn’t recognize immediately. We fired up Legacy GP Grinder #6, with James as the HJ and me as a Floor Judge (FJ). Takeoff was a little slow, as the players waited a minute for James to run back to the printer, but we started off Round 1 at 13:37.

Things get less crazy once deck lists are collected and players are playing Magic, so I got the chance for a quick call on the floor to call back to the store and check in with my store’s manager. She was doing fine, so I turned my attention back to judging. I got a call where a player forgot to discard down to maximum hand-size during the cleanup step (GRV: warning). I saw my friend Nick who I hadn’t seen in a while, and he told me he was going into the navy. He said he wants to jump out of airplanes and do other crazy stuff, so he working hard to pass the PT requirements. Things got quiet, and Abe sent me on break ~14:00.

I took the time to check out the judge foil Show and Tells, and found a good price at one of the vendors. I tried to ask around with some of the other judges to find out if Show and Tell was one of the foils in the judge packet, but nobody knew. A couple of guys said that the person to ask would probably be one of the Regional Coordinators (RCs) or an L5, but that most of them were currently in a secret meeting with the Wizards from the Coast. Those guys always wear black robes and you can’t look at them directly.

I asked around about judge water, and was told to use the SCG water bottle they gave me and fill it at the water fountain, but I had conveniently left the water bottle locked in the judge room, so I held off. As a HJ at the PTQ level, I always tell my judges to stay hydrated throughout the day. StarCityGames and all other tournament organizers (TOs) and HJ’s I’ve worked for stress this as well. I, however, frequently violate this rule. Let me explain why. Frequently, the venues where Magic tournaments are held simply do not understand what it is we’re doing. I don’t know how many times I’ve said, “It’s not really like pulling rabbits out of hats. It’s more like poker – it’s a card game.” They don’t believe the TOs when we go to them and say “We don’t really know how many players to expect, but figure about ‘X’.” The venues rarely keep the bathrooms clean, and Magic players (in general) tend to overload the toiletry at these events. The bathrooms are nasty, filthy places by Round 2, and this GP was no exception. I’m sensitive to this, as my local players and store employees will tell you. We typically clean the store bathroom 4-5 times every FNM. Plus, as a Magic judge who interacts with hundreds, sometime thousands of players at these events, I frequently tend to catch a cold or some other Rhinovirus afterward. I’ve found that washing my hands (assuming there is soap still available) and bringing some hand sanitizer along helps tremendously. So yeah, I drink less and avoid the restrooms as much as possible, while being conscientious enough to know when I’m getting dehydrated.

Back from break early, Abe asked if I took enough time. I always appreciate that in a team leader. I told him I was good-to-go, and sent James off while I took over as HJ for Grinder #6. I went off to find prizes for the next round of the grinder, which SCG had ready and waiting for me at the side events booth. When I got back, CJ Stambaugh came over and we exchanged the following:

CJ: “Steve – your Grinder is starting, you need to get over there.”
Me:  “Um, I think you’re incorrect. I’m on #6.”
CJ: “You’re listed as the HJ for #7.”
Me:  “That’s not right. I’m definitely on #6.”
CJ:  “Okay, I’ll look into it.”

He ran off, and I went back to acting HJ for #6. I met an awesome judge from Italy, Anna Cotti. One of the things I love about judging large events like this is that I get the opportunity to meet folks from across the world. We exchanged thoughts about the recent changes in policy regarding harassment and Unsporting Conduct. Anna was humorous, saying that guys try to ask her out all the time, and she just tells them “No – go away now,” but never has had an issue. I know from my experience with other female, transgendered, and gay members of the Magic community that it has been a problem in the Northeast U.S., and I wholeheartedly support the strict “no harassment” policy.

There were a bunch of awesome decks being played in the grinders. One thing folks often say about the Legacy format is that people build “their” deck and stick with it for years. I noticed a player had an all-foil Goblin Welder / Painted Stone list which looked sweet. I also noticed Crispin Allen had an all-foil lands deck, and was representing Games & Stuff from Glen Burnie, MD (an awesome store).

James got back and took over #6, which was winding down, so I headed over and found CJ to find out if all was good and to check in with Abe. CJ was good, and Abe sent me to relieve Matt Foster (L2, NJ) on Grinder #14. I helped a player running late find his seat. He seemed a little panicky but relaxed once I told him I’d take care of him. We as judges realize that we’re there to help, and I’m not going to slap you with a tardiness penalty just because you had to wait in the mile-long line to the bathroom, especially once you found a judge and asked for assistance.

We had some incidental rulings in grinder #14. One player tried to float blue mana with Noble Hierarch after allowing Exhume to resolve returning Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite – after realizing that his Hierarch was going to die. I explained that he would have had to respond to Exhume, and that he can’t respond once Lady Gaga was in play and state-based actions checked, killing Hierarch. I issued the GRV penalty and moved on. Another player opted to tap the top of his opponent’s deck after he shuffled for a fetch-land. I explained that he had to shuffle his opponent’s deck; it’s a requirement at competitive rules enforcement level (Comp REL). I feel this is especially important to educate players with the allegations of rampant cheating in the pro circuit lately.

One of the discussions we had among the judges during Grinder #14 was about the rules for end-of-match procedure in single-elimination matches. Since the grinders are single-elim, and there can be no draws, the procedure for ending the match is different than what most players are used to. When time is called, there are five additional turns. At the end of those turns, if the game count is not currently tied, the player with the higher game total wins the match. If the game count is tied, the higher life total in the current game decides the game. If the life totals are tied, the current game continues in “sudden death” mode, where the first change in life total for either player – up or down – decides the match. Then the player with the higher life total wins. We had this discussion ~16:00, and it was going to be relevant later (in Grinder #26).

Around 16:30, I was bored watching magic, so I filled in my time by pushing in chairs and picking up trash on the tables and floor. One of my mentors always said that the ‘J’ in “Judge” stands for “Janitor”. I went looking for Abe to be reassigned to a busier event. I ended up getting side-tracked by some judge calls before moving over to Grinder #19.

Player A (the active player) attacks with Qasali Pridemage. Player N (the non-active player) blocks with Gaddock Teeg. He thought the two creatures would trade, because his opponent didn’t announce his exalted trigger. I explained that the attacking player was not required to mention the trigger until it was relevant to the game state. No penalty here, just a disappointed player who was playing by last year’s rules.

Another player used Vendilion Clique to put his opponent’s Sensei’s Divining Top on the bottom of his library. The opponent then forgot to draw a card off of V. Clique’s ability. I noticed it, waited until someone took another game action, and then stepped in. I issued both players a GRV (warning). Players should be aware that it’s both of their responsibilities to enforce the correct game state. One thing spectators should remember is that judges are trained to step in and correct an issue after a violation has occurred, and we do not stop violations from occurring. I always give the players a moment to catch the violation themselves – there’s always that pause where most folks catch things – before issuing a penalty.

Over to #19. Now I’m acting as HJ in place of Megan Baum (L2). She’s an awesome judge, and though we’ve only worked together once or twice before, we have a great rapport. A player asked if he could respond to Delve by using Deathrite Shaman’s ability. I explained that he could not, because Delve is part of the cost of casting the spell. You can respond after a spell is put on the stack and cast, before it resolves, but not before it is cast.
I went to pair the players for round two, and realized half-way through that the pairings were by bracket, and I sat folks down wrong at every-other table. They were facing the proper opponents, but were at the wrong tables. I quickly had the players play musical chairs and reseated them. It really didn’t matter to the players or to me, but with the dynamics of having judges in and out of the events, it’s important to make sure the logistics are executed correctly in case I have to hand off the event to someone else. Meg came back early, so I sent her back on break. When she came back the second time, I handed off #19 back to her and went for my second break of the day. Two breaks in one day? Sweet. Some events, you work 12+ hours with a ½ hour break. I don’t complain, but having a second break in an 8-hour shift is nice.

Back from break, I took over Grinder #26. A player found a “suspicious” suitcase and called me over. I asked him what was in it, and he was afraid to touch it. I’m not exactly Naval E.O.D. either, so I’m not sure what he hoped to accomplish by calling me over. I figured if the thing was going to explode, we were dead anyway, so I opened it up. It had some wrist-bands with the name and logo of one of the vendors on them, so I returned them to the vendor booth. The guy looked at me like I stole it. Nobody had any clue how the suitcase got out in the play area, but nothing seemed to be missing.

As alluded to earlier, we had one match go to sudden-death. Player A had won game one, and Player B won game two on the fourth extra turn of the match. The players asked me what to do, and I had them shuffle up for game three, and explained that it was sudden-death. The players both started sideboarding out anything that caused life loss: Force of Will, Thoughtseize, Reanimate, fetch lands. This lead to one of the dumbest games of “draw-go” I’ve ever watched, as both players were just looking to find a land that didn’t damage them so they could cast their spells. The whole ordeal went on for about 10 minutes.

After the match, I talked it over with Michael Caffrey, owner of Tales of Adventure and fellow Level 2 judge. I think I would revise the rules so that when time was called, if a player is up one game, I would not progress the game into extra turns. This cuts down on the possibility of the above situation from occurring. It could still occur if the players are shuffling up for game three when time is called, but that should be rarer.

Friday ended with me getting off work at 20:30. I found pizza at Tony’s, and headed back to my hotel room. A lot of judges like to go out to dinner or play magic after working, but I had homework to do. I put on some Stephen Colbert and ate at my hotel room desk while studying. I fell asleep around 23:00, and woke when my roommate, Jeremy Smith (L2) arrived at 00:30. Jeremy was the first judge I really ever interacted with, and he was the one who certified me to L1. We caught up a bit, and I fell back to sleep around 01:30, waking to my alarm at 10:00. Jeremy was already gone – he had the early shift. For those of you counting, I slept a good 10 hours. The secret to working 70+ hours per week, studying for your Masters, and traveling to these events is simple. Sleep when you can and pound caffeine.


I hit the showers, brushed up, and donned the uniform. Hygiene is important, and more players & judges should perform their morning ablutions. After grabbing an extra-large hot tea from Dunkin and shoving a bagel in my mouth, I hit the floor at 11:15. One of the head-judges announced the start of round 1 right as I walked in the door. How unfortunate, I thought. I found the judge room, already crawling with rules gurus in black uniforms.
At 11:45, Chris Richter called us together for a formal briefing. He explained that there were some problems getting started due to excessive drops, an unfortunate networking outage, and excessive printing for the event. The drops apparently stemmed from folks registering for the event to get the unique Brainstorm play mat, deck box, and sleeves – then dropping before round 1.

I was assigned to A Pairings Team, otherwise known as Late Pairings Team ‘A’, under Jason Reedy. On my team was Sam Nathanson, an awesome L2 from NJ that I had worked with before, and three other judges whom I had not met, but were a pleasure to work with at this event. There were seven pairings teams total, and we were responsible for posting pairings, floor judging, and sweeping the tables for match result slips. Specifically, we were responsible for end-of-round slip collection during rounds 3, 4, 7, 8, and 9. I noted all of this down in my notebook; it’s important that we write this stuff down so we can execute our responsibilities during the day.

Early in the day, I hit the floor. I like being a floor judge at large events for a couple of reasons. One, it is the primary means by which the players interact with us as judges. Everything else, such as scorekeeping, head judging, or tournament organizing, is “behind the scenes”. Players benefit from an efficient scorekeeper, but likely never have to interact directly with him or her. To the Magic players, we as floor judges are the face of the Magic judge community. Two, I experience interesting situations pertaining to Magic that I can learn from as a floor judge that I would not otherwise experience.

Early in the day, I shadowed a judge (Matt Williams, L3) that answered a judge call. Player A played Ponder, and accidentally touched the cards to his hand. Player B immediately called for a judge. After asking some questions, Matt rules that this is not a Game Play Error: Drawing Extra Cards (DEC), because the cards only touched at the corners for a brief instant, and Player A never actually held all of the cards in a single hand. Player B clearly wanted the judge to issue a Game Loss, and appealed. Jason Lemahieu (aka “Lemz”) answered the appeal. He took his time, and pulled each of the players away from the table to question them separately. The players could not agree on the length of time the cards touched, and Player B, at this point, couldn’t “confirm the cards were not held in one hand”. While Player A was away from the table being questioned, however, Player B told me that he “definitely” knew which cards were the pondered cards, and which were in the hand. Lemz upheld Matt’s ruling and we issued a 15 minute time extension. The moral of the story here is that Magic judges don’t allow “gotcha” Magic to be played (e.g., “Your cards touched briefly, Gotchya!”).

The remainder of Round 1 went very smooth. I walked some slips back to the scorekeeper, as we were instructed to return them after we collected more than two or three. At the end of the round, time was called, and I found a table still playing that I could sit at to watch for Slow Play. After the High Tide player took his incredibly long turn and fizzled, I asked them what turn they were on. They said they hadn’t heard that time was called. I realized then that the room was so noisy, the players toward the back had trouble hearing the announcements. I decided and told them that the previous turn was turn zero, and the current turn was now turn one. The High Tide player ended up dying quickly.

In the beginning of Round 2, I posted pairings for the round at one of the pairings boards. At these events, I typically like to hand around the boards for a few minutes to help players find their seats or address issues, before roaming out to the floor. Lucky I did because there were a few problems. One player, James Johnson, has a pretty common name. He was listed twice on the pairings, once for table 96 and once for table 676. The software used at the GP didn’t have the players’ DCI numbers listed, so he couldn’t tell which James Johnson he was. I had him report to the scorekeeper so they could help him out. I had heard from other judges that this happened with multiple sets of Richard Smiths and Max Thomas’s during the day. It seems like another opportunity for improvement in the software.

Another player, Erin, was dropped from the event. She had written a “0” in the drop section of the match result slip. She did not intend to drop, and we let her stay in the event. I had the person with the bye paged, and he actually responded pretty quickly. We sat them at a random table and got them playing. I went back to the scorekeeper and she gave me a match result slip, which I walked back to their table. The lesson for players here is a simple one: do not record anything in the drop section of the match results slip unless you intend to drop from the event.

As is typical, the early rounds had a lot of judge calls. A player wasn’t sure if he could use his Pithing Needle to stop his opponent from equipping Umezawa’s Jitte (he can). Another player didn’t know how to use his sideboard for the deck that his friend loaned him. I told him he could move cards from his sideboard to his deck for games two and three, but that he had to return the deck to its original configuration for his next match. He asked me which cards he should sideboard in his match, but I told him I’m not allowed to give him strategic advice.

I briefly stepped in and instructed a player that he was not allowed to answer rules questions in the match next to him, even if he thought he knew the answer. The player he was talking to had cascaded through his entire library, and wasn’t sure what to do. He seemed relieved when I told him he doesn’t lose the game.

I couldn’t get to the printer for a set of pairings for Round 3 (too many judges in line ahead of me!), so I took a brief opportunity to grab a drink of water in the break room. What I found on the way excited me: a judge-only bathroom! It smelled fresh and clean, like spring flowers. I immediately started rehydrating, then headed back out to the floor.

Things started to settle down, until I shadowed another L3 judge to a call in Round 4. During combat, Player N had played Aven Mindscensor. The Player A stated “before blocks, I’ll Brainstorm”. After resolving brainstorm, he attempted to fetch. The players disagreed whether or not Aven Mindscensor had resolved, and whether Player A could search his entire library or just the top four cards. Player N acknowledged that he should have said “in response to Aven Mindscensor”, but was just in the habit of saying “before blocks”. As the responding judge was asking some questions, I asked Player A whether or not the Brainstorm had resolved, because he had a counterspell in his hand. He said “no, I want to counter Aven Mindscensor”. The responding judge immediately cut me off and said “Stephen – I’ll handle this judge call.” He was absolutely correct, and I should not have intervened as the shadowing judge. I fell silent, but continued to observe. The judge issued the ruling: that the Aven Minscensor was on the stack and Player A could still respond. I silently agreed with the ruling, and the players did not appeal.

After the call, the responding L3 judge chased me down. He explained the role of the responding judge is to handle the judge call, and that the shadowing judge should not interfere or distract the players while working with the responding judge. I agreed, and told him I understand. I had a brain lapse, and spoke before thinking. He continued to explain, and I told him “Yes, I understand.” He told me that when I interfere it makes him look stupid, and that it appears to the players that he doesn’t know how to handle the call. I explained that I absolutely did not intend to make him look bad, and that I was truly sorry. He continued to explain that what I did was terrible, and it turned into a feel-bad moment for me. After I told him “I got it,” and he continued, and I started to feel even worse. After he finally let me go, I walked away.

In Round 5, I went on break. I got a chance to chat with my local L1, Michael Cox, who is an excellent up and coming judge who is working with Paul Baranay to rank up to L2. He was working side events all day. I asked him how his day was going, and he shared with me that he was walking by a match in the Grand Prix, and a player stopped him for a judge call. He ended up issuing a penalty for an infraction. After a while, the scorekeeper or HJ (I’m not sure which) called him up to the stage over the public address system. The issue was that the scorekeeper could not figure out how to enter the penalty because Mike was not listed as a judge for the main event, since he was assigned to side events. Mike told me that the person on stage instructed him not to answer judge calls for the main event, because he was not a judge in that event. This is fair, but awkward when actually out on the floor, because players don’t see assignment rosters, they just see a judge in uniform walking by their table. The person then went on to tell Mike that he needed to go find a Level 3 judge to teach him how to fill out the results slip. Mike had listed his name first, then the player’s name, which is the order in which the scorekeepers prefer for PTQs, GPTs, and smaller events. At the large events, however, they want it in reverse, with the player’s name first followed by the judge’s name. The reason for this is because they use different software. Mike said that he knew how he should fill out the slip, but forgot. He was told to go find an L3 anyway. Yet another feel-bad moment for a hard-working judge. I told Mike that I knew how he felt, and related my story from the previous round. I also went through a lot of this as an L1 working the PTQ circuit as a floor judge, and it’s one of the main systemic problems in the judge program. We push judges to give feedback, but a lot of judges have no real managerial or leadership experience, and are not good at giving constructive feedback without leading to feel-bad moments.

After actively avoiding shadowing any judges for two rounds, I shadowed another L2 who answered a judge call late in Round 6. A player forgot to draw a card for his turn. The responding judge had him draw a card, but was unsure of the infraction and penalty to assign. He asked me, and I motioned for the judge to step away from the table so we could discuss it. It was a GRV for the player who forgot to draw, and a Failure to Maintain Game State (FTMGS) for the opponent, so he went back to the table and issued the penalties.

I continued to monitor the floor, this time trying to stay near the middle of the play area where the bulk of the players were. A player pulled me aside and told me that he thinks a player in the match next to him tried to cheat his opponent by changing his attacks after blockers in order to deal lethal damage to the defending player. I had that player sit down and pulled aside the opponent (Player N) of the player suspected of cheating (Player A). Player N seemed super nervous, like he was the one that had done something wrong, and was visibly shaking and stammering while I questioned him. I explained that he was in absolutely no trouble, and tried to get him to relax, and asked what had happened. His opponent said that he was attacking with two Angel tokens at Player N’s Jace, the Mind Sculptor with 3 loyalty and one at Player N. After Player N didn’t block and put Jace in the graveyard, Player A changed his attacks and sent one angel at Jace and two at Player N. When I asked Player N why he allowed that, he said he was confused and didn’t really know what had happened (even though he had just explained it to me). I asked him to sit down and pulled Player A aside. I asked him to explain to me what had happened, and he recounted the same events Player N had told me, with more detail. I asked him to sit and flagged down Scott Marshall, an L5 judge who was acting as one of the head judges for the event. Scott questioned both players extensively, and determined that the player’s actions had fit the three criteria for Unsporting Conduct – Cheating. The player broke a rule in magic (you cannot change your attacks), he knowingly broke the rule, and he was seeking to gain an advantage from it. The player asked if he could appeal, but since Scott was an acting HJ and was the one who issued the DQ, he could not appeal. The player continued to argue his case, and Scott listened politely to everything he had to say. It came up that the player did not change his attacks in order to deal lethal damage, as the player in the match nearby had stated. When asked why he changed his attacks, he said “I dunno” and said he didn’t mean to do anything wrong. Scott determined that the likelihood that the player was trying to gain an advantage was probably low now that we knew he wasn’t going to deal lethal damage, and reversed his decision. He had me issue a GRV penalty (warning) and a lengthy time extension. This was a valuable learning experience for me, though I think I probably should have told the player to take a shower because his body odor was almost overwhelming.

The last call in Round 6 was interesting. A player activated Sensei’s Divining Top in order to draw a card, but his opponent had Chains of Mephistopheles in play. The players didn’t know what to do, so they called me. Since the player with Top had no cards in hand, he had to mill a card into his graveyard and put the spinner on top of the library without drawing a card. Chains is a great example of a card that shows you should always take the time to read the oracle text just to make sure you get the ruling right. The players appreciate it.

Early in Round 7, a player asks a judge if he can go to the bathroom. That judge got tied into another call, and asked me to babysit the table to make sure they get a time extension. After about five minutes, the player had not returned, and I couldn’t find the judge. I had the stage page him, we waited, but he never showed up. SCG went the extra mile and checked the bathroom – something I would have avoided, but hey, it’s good customer service – just to make sure he was okay. We never found him, so I had him dropped from the event.

Round 8 had more judge calls than most rounds. A player activated Grindstone while his opponent had Rest in Peace in play. The players weren’t sure, so they called me over. Two cards were exiled and play continued. A player cast Searing Blaze and his opponent cast Lightning Bolt on the targeted creature, hoping to avoid three damage. He seemed sad when I explained that it didn’t work that way, and that Searing Blaze would still resolve. A player thought his Eidolon of the Great Revel would deal damage to a player playing Force of Will (it does not). A player triggered Bridge from Below in his graveyard and his opponent exiled the graveyard in response to the triggers. Since Bridge has an “intervening if” trigger, they check the conditions on resolution and do not create Zombies if they are no longer in the graveyard. Some players had trouble resolving Cataclysm, so I walked them through it step-by-step.

A player cast Vindicate on a creature that had shroud due to Vines of Vastwood that had resolved earlier. I issued a GRV and (after conferring with an L3), rewound the game state. The player was not happy because he had used Deathrite Shaman’s ability to create mana for Vindicate, but I would not rewind through that play, which was a legal play prior to illegally casting Vindicate. Since Dr. Shaman’s ability is not a mana ability, it is not rewound like the mana abilities of tapping lands or other mana-producing creatures. I politely told him not to Vindicate creatures with hexproof, and that he had the right to appeal. He chose not to.

In Round 9, a player tried to use Snapcaster Mage to flashback Treasure Cruise, and tried to exile the Cruise to pay for the delve cost. I explained that the first action you take when casting a spell is to put it on the stack, and it was not eligible to pay for Delve. I issued a GRV and was appealed. Lemz upheld my ruling.

After time was called, I was camping on a table that had just drawn. Both players were eligible for Day 2 with a win, but neither was eligible with a draw. One player was clearly dead on board, so he asked his opponent politely if he would concede. His opponent was clearly tired and frustrated, and practically shouted “No, YOU should concede.” He muttered something about being the better player and that he can’t believe he lost game two. His opponent then says “I would normally concede, but not when you ask like that.” They continued to debate for a minute, and I monitored to make sure it didn’t escalate. I politely told the players they had to make a decision. The player who was dead on board threw the match slip on the table, conceding, then he stormed off. I understand that both players were frustrated and tired, and sometimes tensions run high.

I was cut at 12:00 A.M. after receiving my judge compensation. For working the event, I was paid four boxes of Khans, the Brainstorm play mat, sleeves, and deck box, judge tokens, one month of free premium, awesome judge foils, and $190 in store credit to help cover the cost of the hotel room and travel. StarCityGames always takes care of their judge staff, and the Grand Prix was no exception. I love working for these guys, and will continue to do so in the future.

After scrubbing out of the Super Sunday Series, I headed home on Sunday night, listening to Slipknot, Mudvayne, and Dry Kill Logic on the way, because they’re the only bands that matter.

A couple of thoughts regarding the Grand Prix before I wrap up this extensive report. As you can tell from the excessive amount of relatively simple judge calls, there are a lot of players at these events, even at higher tables in the later rounds, who simply do not have a real good understanding of how the rules work. That’s okay, and that’s why we’re there as judges. I know some elements of the Magic community are quick to raise pitchforks and cry for suspensions when they see errors happen on camera. Let me assure you, these errors are very common and are sometimes hard to catch, even with a table-judge watching. Not every error involves intent to break the rule or an attempt to gain an advantage. Judges are very good at investigating these situations, and we should trust the suspension committee to be fair.

This was the last event that WotC is giving away judge foils as part of the direct compensation package. I can definitely say that it is disappointing, and I’m unconvinced that the new Exemplar Program will motivate me to judge events. At IBM, we had a Thanks! Award system that ran in a similar way. At the end of the year, IBMers would typically give each other awards for very little in the way of “exemplary” behavior. It was typical they would just give awards to their circle of friends. IBM did away with the program and chose to funnel their incentive dollars through other channels. The system feels like cronyism, and I’m sure the Judge program will come to realize that the system does not work well and will change it sometime in the future.

You’ll notice that I did a lot of name-dropping regarding other judges. That’s because these guys and gals are awesome, and it’s only through the judge program that I know most of them. I love meeting dedicated people interested in the same game I’m interested in. If you haven’t met these folks, you’re missing out. Also, I frequently attach the level of the judge to their name. Judge levels are important, because they distinguish those among us with extensive experience and great leadership qualities, such as Kim Warren, L4. Judges and players would do well to remember, however, that every judge works hard at these events, and that judge levels don’t always reflect the knowledge or skill of the judge. There are some L1s, such as Elizabeth Richardson, who have worked tons of events.

These events are extremely long. I was on the “late” team, and worked a twelve hour shift on my feet all day, walking the concrete floors of the convention hall. The next time you are playing in an event, thank a judge for helping to run it. I can tell you from personal experience that it feels good. While the compensation is nice, I really did get into the judge program to better a community that I care about. Whether it’s cracking down on intolerable behavior in my local community or just making sure events run smooth, I’m always there to serve. I know I’m not the only one motivated like this, and that’s why judges work so hard. That’s what makes judges great.

The views expressed in this post are solely those of the credited writer, and do not represent the opinions of the rest of the Friendly Local Gaming Store writers or the Friendly Local Gaming Store blog as a whole.