Monday, April 27, 2015

Good Practices #4 - What's My Name Again?

This practice is one that I've been mulling for a while. Recently I saw a player, Brian DeMars put it into use at an event, and decided that it was a good time to write about it.

At larger events like SCG Opens and GPs it is inevitable that some number of players have to use the restroom when the round is ready to turn over. Maybe they were playing in one of the last few matches of the round. Perhaps they kept walking by the restroom and saw a ridiculous line, and they've chosen the beginning of the round to try to snipe an open stall. Or it could just be that nature calls at that particular moment.

In these situations, players are instructed to seek out a nearby judge and tell them of the situation. If you don't, you're risking Tardiness infractions. While it sucks to issue a Game Loss to someone who was taking care of a natural biological function, we can't let the excuse "I was in the restroom" slide because this is such an easy lie to tell. Or not even lie at all; if you're late coming back from a smoke break, just stop by the restroom and you're technically telling the truth.

It used to be that when a player came to me with this situation, I would write their name down, go to their match, and inform the opponent of the situation, sometimes sticking around until the player arrived in order to issue a time extension. That's a fine practice time permitting, but that isn't always the case, and if the judge can't make it to the match, that's when things get complicated.

As soon as the round starts, the opponent is going to call for a judge and be told that he wins game one. Then the player is going to return from the restroom, call for a judge, and explain where he was. That's when the question is asked:

"Which judge did you talk to?"

Since the average player can't name the average judge, this leads to an awkward stand off where the player is scouring the hall looking for that person he talked to five minutes ago. I actually had this happen to me, and eventually had to take the player's word for it that he had spoken to a judge. The opponent was not happy about the lack of a free game win.

Enter Brian DeMars at SCG Cleveland. When he had to go to the restroom, he came up to a cluster of judges, and one of them took point of the conversation. After getting the ok to go, Brian asked for the judge's name and wrote it down on his life pad. It's such a simple thing, but it revolutionizes this whole interaction. Instead of putting the onus on the judge to hunt down Brian's table, Brian can simply arrive at the table, call for a judge and say that "Judge X ok'd it." From there it is a much simpler verification process.

Players, get judges's names. Judges, give your name out (and make them write it down) when you give the okay for a restroom break.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Good Practices #3 - Breakfast of Champions

They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I don't know if I agree with "them"; I'm pretty partial to the ice cream meal. But I guess there's some good evidence that shows how much more active and effective you are when you've eaten breakfast, and that is something that translates to a good day of judging. But I want to touch on something more specific than "eat breakfast."

Team Lead breakfast. This was a practice that I first encountered when working events Head Judged by John Carter; I believe the first time was GP Boston 2009. Details on this are sketchy. My inbox seems to think that Frank Wareman was the HJ, although I do know that we planned on splitting the event (the first time in the United States?) so Carter was HJ2. We met for breakfast at a hotel, which was probably the staff hotel, back when TOs booked such things. All of the L3/TLs were invited.

If you're the Head Judge of an event, this type of breakfast does a few important things:
1) It ensures that your leadership is fed and energized for the morning.
2) It also means that they will all be on time. (Unless your whole breakfast group is late...)
3) It gives you time to go over some of the important bullet points of the day. More and more, this type of communication happens via e-mail or judgeapps forum posts, but let's be honest. We don't always read those, and there's nothing like a face-to-face talk to get important points across.
4) If you so choose, you can show your generosity by picking up the bill. This is not a necessity. I've had it both ways, and I've done it both ways when I was the Head Judge.

There are a lot of reasons why this whole idea is no longer feasible at GPs. The size of the staff, not to mention the shift schedules. No centralized staff hotel. However, it strikes me as an activity that could still hold a lot of value for the above reasons at the PPTQ level all the way up to SCG Opens, where I've done Team Lead breakfasts to great effect.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Is It Missed? #4 - Whisperwood Elemental

This ruling came up at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, and I've seen it play out at a few SCG Opens as well.

AP controls Whisperwood Elemental and says "Go." Is the trigger missed?

Many judges say yes. "Go" passes the turn to your opponent, so clearly you are moving past the point where you should have resolved the trigger without having acknowledged it or taken the physical action. However, this position is contradicted by the official tournament shortcut from the MTR:

"The statement "Go" (and equivalents such as "Your turn" and "Done") offers to keep passing priority until an opponent has priority in the end step. Opponents are assumed to be acting then unless they specify otherwise."

Note that the shortcut ends in your End Step, not your opponent's turn. You're giving your opponent one last chance to do something on your turn. If they don't have anything to do, they can begin their turn. Where this gets weird with Whisperwood Elemental is that this triggered ability can be on the stack when you pass priority in your End Step.

Normally, a player will pass the turn in some fashion like "Go, make a manifest" or "Ready to go to my End Step." These are pretty clear situations where the player remembers the manifest trigger and is getting ready to take the appropriate action.

It is likely that a player who says "Go" with a Whisperwood Elemental in play has forgotten their trigger. However, policy now allows for players to have forgotten a trigger as long as they acknowledge it before it becomes relevant to the game. Prowess is the classic example right now. You can cast a spell, forget about prowess, but you're okay as long as you remember before the creature deals damage.

What this means here is that the Whisperwood's controller has until he or she takes an action or he or she allows the opponent to take an action that could not have been possible. Cracking a fetch in the end step? That's fine. Trigger could still be on the stack. In fact, just about anything could happen in the End Step with that trigger on the stack. There are a few minor things possible for the controller to do that make it clear that the trigger is missed. Discarding for the turn or ending some turn-based duration effect. But for the most part, it is allowing the opponent to take an action that signals the death of this trigger.

The most typical action here is untapping permanents, with drawing a card being a close second. The tricky part about this is the part about "allowing it to happen." If Whisperwood player says "Go" and the opponent untaps, is the trigger missed? Yes, unless he or she immediately points it out. "Whoa. You can't untap yet. My manifest trigger still has to resolve." If that isn't your reaction to the untap, then you've missed your trigger.