Behind the Stripes

Posted in Event Coverage on June 30, 2007

By Wizards of the Coast

Get all the latest regarding DCI and judging straight from the source at Pro Tour San Diego.

Looking for the most recent stories or yesterday's stories?


  • 11:21 pm - Ask the Judges: Favorite Event
    by Nick Fang
  • 10:03 pm - Cultural Exchange
    by Nick Fang
  • 4:23 pm - The Will to Judge
    by Gavin Duggan
  • 2:00 pm - Elder Dragon Hijinx, Late into the Night
    by Gavin Duggan
  • 9:08 am - Saturday Morning Bootstrap
    by Gavin Duggan


All judges are morning people, myself especially, so the late night was no problem. Everyone was nice and chipper for the judge meeting this morning.


There's lots to do at large events, so Pro Tour and Grand Prix judge crews are broken up into teams by task. Each head judge breaks down the tasks differently, but the basic structure is always the same: one or more teams for checking decks and decklists, a team for handling paper (posting pairings, result slips, etc), and a team which handles the other tournament logistics. This weekend, we actually have three deck check teams plus slips, paper, logistics, and feature matches. After the general briefing from Toby, everyone split off for task-specific details from their team leads.

Side events look to be back with a vengeance after the slow start yesterday. In a reversal of pace, today it's the main event folks keeping an envious eye on the hectic buzz across the room, as the main seems quiet so far.

Saturday, June 30: 2:00 p.m. - Elder Dragon Hijinx, Late into the Night

For various reasons, Elder Dragon Highlander is the casual Magic format amongst judges at the PT. The late night games aren't restricted to judges, and occasionally people will come and join us for a chance to play while getting some more information about the judge program.


Last night, we started with 15 judges and friends and split up into three different games. Level 5 judge Sheldon Menery, who is famous for playing the Phelddagrif as his general, decided to run a different deck this time, bringing Garza Zol, Plague Queen to the table. Chris Galvin and Scott Larabee, both onsite representing Wizards, joined us with Jhoira of the Ghitu and Teneb, the Harvester respectively, and I ran Sakashima the Imposter. A long and swingy game ended with Sheldon and me both floating mana to play threats on the far side of his Obliterate. He spent his five floated mana on a Mirari, and I was sure I'd won when I countered it and flashed out Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir and then Memnarch with my Tolarian Academy-fueled nineteen mana. "Swamp, Reanimate Garza Zol, swing" showed me the error of my ways.

I didn't get a lot of information on the second of three games, but the laughter was loud enough to echo around the hall. Apparently it had something to do with Toby (Teferi) cackling insanely when Adrian Estoup's Tombstone Stairwell allowed him to exchange a large number of ephemeral 2/2s for everyone else's giant dragons; Keiga, the Tide Star, Scourge of Kher Ridges, and the like. Oops.

While that was going on, EDH combo-master and Chicago Level 3 Rashad Miller beat Minnesota Level 2 Chris Stagno to the finish line of a combo race. A battery of Wrath effects kept them both alive long enough to go off, but Rashad's Replenish-based monstrosity was a turn faster than Chris' Salvagers.

As the evening started to wind down, Nick Fang (Kaervek the Merciless), Karen Degi (Asmira, Holy Avenger), Duncan McGregor (pinch-hitting Karn, Silver Golem), and Jason Lemahieu (Darigaaz, the Igniter) joined me for a five-player game. I decided to call upon Kangee, Aerie Keeper and his flock to champion my cause. To keep the game short and apolitical, we elected to run a 5-pointed "Star" format, where each player tries to kill the two opponents seated across the table.

Armageddon Clock

Karn's battery of artifact mana powered Duncan out to an early start, and Lodestone Myr started beating down as I built up a collection of esoteric artifacts (Quicksilver Fountain, That Which Was Taken, and Armageddon Clock) to disrupt my opponents while my Birds beat down. Nick and Karen recruited some small men and Anthem-enhanced Saproling tokens, respectively, while Jason ramped his mana up to approximately infinity with no threats in sight. The Clock continued to tick, though, and soon it was a race between Duncan and me to finish off our non-mutual opponents. Jason bit the dust first, putting Duncan ahead, but Nick's Sedge Troll soaked up enough damage for him to stay alive… and Kangee arrived with three feather counters, enough for me to finish off both of my Clock-softened opponents.

It's ironic that Josh Bennett is back in the house this weekend, writing for the primary coverage, because it was the other OMC that came to mind when everyone looked at my winning collection of miscellany… "How bizarre!"

Saturday, June 30: 4:23 p.m. - The Will to Judge

Heroes' Reunion

As a community, judges are usually very passionate about our work… for a lot of reasons. Different things motivate different people, although most share a love of the game and an enjoyment of the community. Whether it's the seminars, evening dinners, or casual games after-hours, big events like PTs provide a chance to catch up with old friends from around the globe. Wisconsin Level 3 Chris Richter was telling me about a traveling player he met once at a Grand Prix Trial 3 years ago. The fellow was only in town for a few days, but they ended up hanging out after the event, and now they run into each continually in various exotic locations. Most regular PT judges know each other, and we all look forward to rallying together each year.

There are other worthwhile motivations, though, which players sometimes misunderstand. Most of them revolve around challenging oneself: the intellectual puzzles, the stress of dealing with high-pressure players, and the responsibilities of leadership and management. The desire to help the game succeed, to lead people or build communities, is strong in many judges.

It's perhaps the most common misconception about the program that judges do it for the product we receive in thanks. Very few people judge just for the material compensation. That said, though, at the end of the weekend it's nice to be appreciated, and the judge foils are a gorgeous and fun way for Wizards to show it. On that note, I present the newest judge foil to be released, that subtle masterpiece of brokenness. Click here to see it.

Saturday, June 30: 10:03 p.m. - Cultural Exchange

As Gavin has already mentioned, one of the highlights of judging at the Pro Tour is the chance to catch up with other judges from the community, who are oftentimes friends that we only see at these events. What he hasn't yet talked about is how global a group this is, with judges flying in from all over the world. One of the great things about the worldwide nature of the Pro Tour is the chance to compare notes and exchange ideas with people from all over the globe.

Over the years, some of the PT regulars have developed an informal cultural exchange program, wherein judges bring small trinkets or other gifts from their neck of the woods to trade. For San Diego, one of these exchanges developed between two Finnish judges (Johanna and Pasi) and two Americans (Karen and I), all of whom are regular denizens of the judges' online chat channel. A virtual lollipop, offered in jest, led to widespread incredulity that someone might not have heard of a Tootsie Pop; an agreement to trade real lollipops in person ensued.

This was all well and good, and seemed like a fair exchange, except that Johanna forgot to mention that her idea of a lollipop from Finland was not so much a lollipop as it was an elaborate work of candy art, lovingly crafted for visitors to the Helsinki Zoo. And while it would be folly to deny the chocolaty goodness at the center of a Tootsie Pop, the discrepancy is still rather striking.

While I'd certainly not make any cultural comparisons based on my own flawed confectionary judgment, it does seem that a better showing on our part might be in order next time. Still, it's hard not to feel like we came out ahead in the bargain. Score!

Saturday, June 30: 11:21 p.m. - Ask the Judges: Favorite Event

Judging takes all types, both here and back home. Curious, I asked about preferences in event types.

Question: What's your favorite kind of event to judge, and why?

Ingrid Lind-Jahn
L3, United States
Answer: Big, hectic Prereleases
Reason: "Large and busy, but with smiling, happy players."

L3, Mexico
Answer: Anything that isn't Rochester Draft
Reason: "Zzzzzzzz…"

Diane Colley
L2, United States
Answer: PTQs
Reason: "PTQs provide the most challenging opportunity for me to take leadership roles."

Nick Fang
L3, United States
Answer: Large Limited events
Reason: "I love extreme logistical challenges."

Karen Degi
L1, United States
Answer: Store-level Release events
Reason: "The excitement of Prereleases, but small enough to manage and be sociable."

David Vogin
L4, France
Answer: Grand Prix
Reason: "Wide range of players, from scrubs to pros, makes for a variety of challenges and lots of rules questions."

Paul Dickinson
L3, Canada
Answer: The after-event party
Reason: [None given, but we can guess!]

The responses were split pretty evenly between GPs, Pro Tours, and Prereleases, which isn't that surprising. GPs are the most challenging events; hectic and crazy and large. Pro Tours are the epitome of the competitive spirit, with the highest pressure to perform, while Prereleases fall at the other end of the scale: far less staff means more challenges and more opportunities to get comfortable as a judge.

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