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Pojo's Magic The Gathering
Judge's Corner

The Champions Pre-Release

09.16.04 
 
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Prereleases are a very unique experience in Magic. You get to see and play with the cards from the new set for the first time. For many people, the event coming up on Saturday (and Sunday in some places) is one of only 3 sanctioned tournaments they will attend all year. (The other two, of course, being the other prereleases.)
 
My column today will take 3 parts. First, I will review some articles already written on the subject. Second, some links to rules and rules explanations that will help you with the Champions prerelease. And third, a first person view of playing in a prerelease in San Diego, interspersed with some comments more applicable in general.
 
(I will actually be playing and not judging Saturday, for once. I normally judge these events, so I will also intersperse some "Judges' eye view" comments.)
 
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First - some articles already written on prereleases.
 
Prerelease Primer by Brian David-Marshall: This was originally written for the Legions prerelease, but most of the comments written there are also applicable for this prerelease.
 
The Top 10 Reasons to Play in the Champions Prerelease! by Brian David-Marshall: His article from Monday repeats some of the stuff in the previous article, but also gives a top 10 list for this one.
 
The Casual Player's Guide to Surviving the Legions Prerelease by The Ferrett: Yes, I know it's for an old set. But the first half of his article is a group of tips that can apply to any prerelease.
 
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Next, some links for Champions rules:
 
Champions FAQ: should be self-explanatory. I know some of you are "anti-spoiler," but I would strongly suggest reading this anyway. It helps with most of the common questions that will come up.
 
"A Kamigawa Glossary": An explanation of some of the places, as well as a pronunciation guide.
 
MTGNews Spoiler: By the time you read this, this spoiler should be pretty close to complete. Not required reading if you are the Anti-spoiler type ... I know the excitement of seeing a card for the first time can be greater than the strategic value of being able to evaluate the whole set. But I personally find that knowing the cards that are out there helps me to be able to build my deck faster.
 
Legendary Rules Changes (as well as rules changes for walls) by Aaron Forsythe: Covers one main part of what this column was going to be about when I first heard about the Legend Rule changing. Rather than repeat everything he said, I'll just point here and to the Champions FAQ above.
 
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My Day (and a half) on the Day of a Prerelease:
 
The story of a typical day for me on a Prerelease day actually starts the night before. One thing I insist on is getting to bed by 8:00pm the night before a prerelease.
 
(Yes, I hear the murmurs of "he's crazy" in the crowd. Let me try to explain...)
 
My Prerelease day usually starts with me waking up around 4:00am. I also insist on getting a full 8 hours of sleep the night before, especially if I'm judging. So that makes me go to bed by 8:00pm.
 
(Which also means I skip Friday Night Magic the night before the prerelease. It didn't matter this time, though, as I haven't played FNM in months, and don't plan to until Champions is legal. But that's another story altogether.)
 
I also have to make a trip to Wal-Mart the night before for snacks. One thing that I find, playing or judging, is that I'm a much better player if I'm not on an empty stomach. Since there's no food within about 15 minutes of the tournament site in San Diego, I bring snacks to keep me "not empty."
 
Here's how I plan my day will go Saturday:
 
4:30am (since I'm playing, I don't absolutely have to be there at 8:00am): Wake Up.
5:30: Leave my house.
6:30: midpoint stop at Denny's for breakfast.
 
Another part of my ritual involves stopping for breakfast about halfway there. The trip usually takes me about 2 hours from my house to the tournament site, and there's a Denny's conveniently about at the midway point. It also breaks up the monotonous car trip.
 
While I'm eating breakfast, I take time to review the FAQ, so I know the questions I'll get as a judge. This time, since I'm playing, I'll still review the FAQ, but I'll also have another look at the spoiler list.
 
7:15: Leave Denny's.
8:15: Arrive San Diego.
 
There aren't times for the stuff I plan to do at San Diego, because it all depends on how quickly they can get the flights going. They're usually pretty quick about it though.
 
Flight tips ...
 
1) Read the spoilers. It helps, especially in San Diego when they only give 20 minutes of deck building time.
2) Play 17+ land. This isn't Mirrodin, folks ... time to go back to the tried and true land count.
3) Play a maximum of 3 colors. More, and you're just asking for mana problems.
4) Don't be afraid to call a judge if you have a problem.
 
This is the number on judge tip I can give in this. Call the judge right away, and don't wait until the end of the round. They can fix a problem if it's happening right now. They can't fix a problem if it happened any amount of time ago. Related to this judge tip, we have ...
 
5) Your opponent is not the rules expert - the judge is.
 
I don't care if you're playing against me. I don't care if you're playing against Jeff Donais (a Level 5 judge). When we're playing, we're not in charge of the rules of the event. We're playing, not judging, after all.
 
You can ask us, and we'll likely give you the right answers. But who's to say "Random Level1 Judge" will? And that person can even give you wrong information ON PURPOSE. He's trying to beat you, after all, and if he can make you believe something that's not true (and not have a judge hear it), then it might just work out for him.
 
This relates back to the tip previous... if you're at all unsure about what's going on, call a judge. It's their job to get it right.
 
6) If you think (or know, if an answer the judge gives you goes against something printed in the FAQ) the judge got the call wrong, you have the right to appeal to the head judge.
 
99.999% of the time you will get an answer from the judge, it will be the correct answer. They have been put on the staff to oversee the event because they have shown they know their stuff.
 
But in the random case where a judge might have his mind wander and get something wrong, you can ask for the head judge to review his ruling - kind of like an appeals court. You have to let the judge who answered your call finish his ruling first, though.
 
(I have an experience to relate to this here. Back for the Stronghold prerelease, the Utah players had to travel to Colorado, because Utah had no prerelease due to a recent change in organizers. The FAQ didn't come out until the day before, so no one in our car had access to it, since we had to leave very early Friday morning. [I was a judge back then too - it just hadn't been posted yet.]
 
So during round 2, I ask the judge what would happen if I cast Cannibalize, targeting my Acidic Sliver and another random creature, and then sacrificed the Acidic Sliver before Cannibalize resolved? He tells me the creature still left would be removed from the game, because the spell did things in the order written on the card, and the remove from game effect was first.
 
So I thank the judge, and continue play.
 
Later, in round 6 or 7 [it was one big event back then, and we had 9 rounds], I play Cannibalize on my opponent creatures, and he sacs one and puts the counters on the one still left! I call over the head judge on an appeal, and he informs me that that was the way it worked ... and gave ME a warning for Misrepresentation!
 
I got the warning removed by writing the DCI after the event ... but better to ask if you're not sure when it first happens anyway.)
 
7) Have fun!
 
This is the most important one ... that's why you're here, after all, isn't it?
 
Post Flight Tips (some of these will work between rounds too):
 
1) Bring some decks to play with between rounds or afterwards.
 
It's not just about the event, after all. There will likely be 300+ people there you've never even met, or only meet at the prereleases. They're there to have fun, and you can get some pretty cool games going on the side.
 
2) Bring a trade binder.
 
All those rares you can't trade to your friends? Bring them. You'll have 300+ new trading partners for a day.
 
3) If you need cash, there will be a vendor on site to buy your cards. (At least, that's what I've seen at every event I've gone to.)
 
If you mostly play Magic Online, and don't care for paper cards, this is a great way to cut the cost of attending the event. If you have older cards that you just don't want any more, they'll be happy to buy those too.
 
And the cards you get Saturday and Sunday. The prices the vendors pay may never be as high as they are that day. After all, they have to get their stock started somewhere too, right?
 
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Well, I'll end my column here. I could write more about there bring drafts (where you open 3 packs, pass them around, pick 45 cards, and build a deck), the team sealed flight (where you and two friends get product to build 3 decks), and other things, but I'll leave those for a rewrite of this column for Betrayers (hopefully), as my deadline is fast approaching.
 
Have fun at your events this weekend, and see you Tuesday.
 
Bill Guerin
DCI Level 2 Judge

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