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Close Calls, Tournament Plans, and Double Bad Play!
Feb 26, 2004

As much as we hate it, in any competitive environment ethics seem to sneak their way in.  I guess that can be said about most anything.  This past weekend we had two minor problems in our Junior Super Series event that caused me to double check myself on a moral level.
 
To protect the innocent, I won't use any names of the players involved in either scenario.  
 
In scenario one, player A had an outburst.  It was a foul language issue.  More specifically, Payer A dropped the "f-bomb."  Player A was apparently playing a match with Payer B who is a friend.  Player B was not offended.  However, it was loud enough that other parents and players heard it.  Now, if this were an adult, I could have given Player A a simple reprimand accompanied by a warning.  However, after discussing it with two other judges, it was greed upon, based on the situation, that the outburst deserved a game loss for usportsmanlike conduct-major.  This was due to the profanity, the disruption of the tournament, and the fact that the player was only 12 years or so. 
 
Now, that being said, age isn't really covered in the rulebook and in many cases probably shouldn't be taken into account.  Player A did end up making the Top 8, so no major harm was done.  But, in this scenario, it was a child that shouldn't using profanity anyway giving and obvious, loud outburst of the f-bomb. 
 
Scenario two is a bit different.  This situation involves players Alpha, Beta, and Zeta.  Player Alpha is overheard discussing a prize split that he wishes to offer to Player Zeta if they win the finals.  However, a the point of the discussion, Alpha is speaking as though its already agreed upon.  What's worse is that one of the judges is a friend of Alpha and is just shaking his head at this point.  Obviously, I had to step in.  I pull Alpha side and ask him what he agreed to as far as a prize split.  Alpha lets me know that there was no formal split other than the fact that a week ago Zeta and Alpha had agree to do a product split in the finals, so one of them could just get the scholarship.  I have to call in Beta and find out Beta's part of the story involvement. 
 
The reason this was a little strange, is because Beta is playing Alpha in the semifinals and Zeta is playing someone else.  At this point neither Alpha nor Zeta is guaranteed the finals.  Beta explains that he was just going to drop and give Alpha the finals slot so that Alpha could get qualified.  Beta apparently already got second at one of these events, so it was not an issue.  Beta, as to not risk getting in trouble, didn't agree to anything or offer anything.  Beta was willing to take his half box and his foils and go home.
 
Next, I had to speak with Zeta.  The whole time, these guys were separated, so I'm pretty sure there is no way for them to collaborate their stories.  Zeta lets me know that nothing was discussed during the tournament about anyone conceding and nothing was discussed at all about anything other than a potential prize split. 
 
In the end, I only gave Alpha a verbal warning.  His verbal outburst basically caused confusion for no reason.  Now, had these been older players, I may have pursue it and tried to get one of them to slip up and then could have ended up DQ'ing two players for collusion.  After my discussions and concurring with other judges, it was obvious that at least two of the players had no real idea where the good and the bad lines were as far as collusion is concerned.  It is suspected that the third wasn't totally sure either, but it ended up not mattering. 
 
In both scenarios, I let age and/or experience level get involved.  Now, I'm pretty sure that if either situation had been clear cut, like a rules violation, or a player cheating, or anything along those lines, it wouldn't be as big of an issue.  The problem only really seems to come down to the gray areas.  These are just more examples to show that too much is riding on inexperience in the JSS events.
 
Here is another bonus scenario.  Lets say that you are at your local game store and they have a policy against you selling cards in the store.  This could be modified to anything....say, if they have a policy that you can only sell something they don't have in stock.  My store for instance has a policy that you can only sell something that we don't have AND the store gets 20% of the sale.  That's just the way it goes.  Either way, knowing your stores local policy, if you want/need a card, are you going to attempt to buy off of the person that has it while you are at their establishment?  If you do decide to go through with the deal, are you going to let the store owner know?  Are you going to compensate the store?  Or do you just do nothing and wait to see if they even notice?
 
Disobeying the policies of the place you play at, gather with friends at, and general support your gaming habit is not a smart thing to do.  I don't allow smoking in my house.  If someone were to come over and start smoking in my home, it would be equally as bad in my eyes.  There are several other comparisons that you could make, but that's just a start.
 
But now that I've given some things to think about, let's talk about some happier things...like big tournaments.  As much of a pain in the butt as they are to play through, they do tend to be extremely fun and have a lot to offer.  Even the casual players turn up to all of the spring and summer Magic events.  If you don't, you are definitely missing out on some good experiences.  You should set about $25 aside per month and be all set to play in each of the events as they come around.  There are several events coming around.
 
First off, there are team sealed Pro Tour Qualifiers for Seattle coming around.  These are greet.  You grab two buddies and you head to the PTQ to rip open a bunch of product and build three decks to play with.  Besides, these events qualify you for Seattle which is an affordable trip.  Also, its cheaper for a team to play in these events than it is for each player to play sealed deck singles competitions.
 
Next in line would be Regionals.  Regionals has become the busiest day of Magic here in the United States.  Each region draws and average of 300+ players, with some regions drawing over 800 players.  It's definitely an all day event.  There is plenty of fun to be had t Regionals every year.  I think that your mindset just has to be right going into it, so you don't get too frustrated.  It's easy to get worn down, when you are playing tough competitors for 10 round of tournament play over the course of one long day.
 
Then there is Nationals.  This is an invite only event.  However, WotC turns it into a full production.  They have last chance qualifiers that run all day prior to the event.  They are both sealed deck and constructed events, so you get multiple chances in multiple formats to qualify in.  WotC always goes out of their way to make sure that tournaments, demos, and artist signings are scheduled as well.  The JSS runs along side Nationals every year as well.  This leaves something for players of all ages to do.  This year, the festivities take place in Kansas City.
 
And as if this isn't enough, each regional tournament organizer seems to have some events of their own.  Here in Texas, we have the Event Horizons Invitational every year and we also have the Texas $5,000 Challenge.  I know that other reasons do store and regional challenges as well.  I would look around and inquire about these events and about how you can participate.
 
More stuff to cover still, so stick with me here.
 
My card of the week this week is Dark Banishing.  The play value of this card just keeps slowly rising.  With artifact creatures popping up all over the place, this card is great.  It's splashable.  It kills almost every important creature in the format right now.  It's also an instant.  I think this is just another card that gets overlooked in the deckbuilding process.  There are so many good cards out there right now, that it's easy to forget about this little gem.  The best part is that this card is a common and it's still legal in every format.  Obviously, it should be in EVERY deck, but if you are hard up for some removal, you might want to give it a second look.
 
We need a strategy tip this week also don't we?  This one is simple.  I think I may have even covered this before.  It's big enough that we need to go over it again anyway.  PAY ATTENTION!  That's the message.  Plain and simple, pay attention.  In the past three months, I've watched more mistakes happen than I care to mention.  This isn't really because the players were just terrible.  It's more due to the fact that the players involved were just ignoring some parts of the game state.  I watched a player just simple not pay for mana leak with a ton of extra mana open.  I watched a player die to a creature with fear, with a Solemn Simulacrum on their side of the table.  I watched a player scoop up his cards, because he miscounted his own permanents before trying to resolve a Mesmeric Orb.  I've even watched a player keep a one land hand, because he was talking and said, "I'll keep," before actually getting a good look at his cards.
 
Anything can be a cause for a mistake.  I personally caught myself make a couple of minor mistakes at a PTQ in Austin recently.  Fortunately for me, they didn't cost me any matches.  Regardless, they are still mistakes that could have been avoided if I were paying closer attention at those points in my match.  Just because a mistake doesn't cost you a game, doesn't make it any less negative.  The truth is, you don't want to practice bad habits.  If you do, and you keep making mistakes, those habits are going to come back to haunt you when you least expect it.
 
But with that behind us, I guess I can make a segue into Good and Bad plays of the week :) 
 
Truth be told, this week, I had two fun Bad Plays of the week.  The first is one that was sent to me, the other is one that I witness, but makes for interesting storytelling.
 
Bad Play One comes from Alex Davey:
 
Not that I'm particularly proud of this play especially since it was at a tournament. I was playing monoblack suicide deck and my opponent was playing some sort of white weenie deck.  He attacks with all of his creatures and has a Serra angel to block with next turn. His attack leaves me at 1 life and I'm just short of finishing him off by about 2 damage.  I draw my card for the turn... a Vampiric Spirit and I somehow get the notion into my head that casting the spirit will allow me to block the Serra Angel. I play the vampiric and my opponent handily points out to me that this kills me.  The worst thing about this is that it's turned into a legend down in these parts and has even spawned the vampiric spirit award for bad play of the day at www.suffolksci-fi.com.  It seems I'll never get away from it.
 
I thought this was a good one because he got an award for it.  Alex will be receiving some Darksteel product and a card or two from my store for his poor play skills.  If when you lose you can still be a winner!
 
This other one is a bit more detailed, so please bear with me.
 
This exchange involves multiple bad plays from both players.  The two perpetrators are Chase Lakey and Chad Koss.  This is basically the last turn of the game.  Chad has out a TWO Mesmeric Orb, Isochron Scepter with Boomerang imprinted on it on the board.  He has a few lands with Wrath of God and Brain Freeze in hand.  Chad has enough land in hand to enough mana to cast Wrath of God and either activate the Isochron Scepter OR cast Brain Freeze.  Chase's board position is completely tapped.  He has Goblin Pildriver and Goblin Sledder tapped from the previous attack step and an untapped Goblin Sharpshooter.  The two major problems here is that Chase only has 20 cards left in his library.  With six lands tapped on his side of the board, plus his two creatures, he is going lose during his draw step due to the Mesmeric Orbs.  Chad is only at five life, so he has to do something about the Goblin Sharpshooter. 
 
The situation gets a little more complex.  Chad knows that Chase has at least one Patriarch's Bidding in hand most likely.  If Chase can survive, he can possibly cast it and win on the next turn.  However, Chase only has one black source of mana on the table.  Just for the record, it turns out Chase has TWO biddings in hand and was waiting to cast them all game.  Chad counts Chase's deck multiple times out loud.  The crowd at hand is watching everything unfold.  Chad, trying to stay alive and stay in the game decides to cast Wrath of God to clear away the immediate goblin threat.  Chase hits Chad with some shooter damage on the way out.  With his two remaining mana, Chad decides to cast Brain Freeze targeting Chase with both it and the storm copy.  Chase overturns six cards and is left with 14 cards in the deck.
 
Chase thinks for a few seconds and does some math and then starts scooping up his cards and extends the hand.  All of the players watching give condolences to Chase for a rough first game.  I remind them that Chase could have one that one.  People want to argue with me...then I point out the math.
 
Chase was only going to overturn 12 cards.  This would leave two cards.  All he had on his side of the board were six tapped lands.  His creatures were gone due to the Wrath of God.  Also, when he was overturning, his last two cards were City of Brass and a Swamp.  This means that with Chad tapped out and a whole host of goblin in Chase's graveyard, Chase would have had an easy win.  Also, Chase was worrying for no reason.  He could have saved himself a few cards by simply sacrificing his creatures to his Goblin Sledder if need be.  As if this wasn't enough, after the WoG, Chad should have activated the Isochron Scepter to Boomerang Chase's one Swamp back into his hand.  This would prevent Chase from ever casting a Patriarch's Bidding which was the only spell in his deck that could win the game.  Both players were quite shocked when I pointed this out to them.
 
The funny part is that goblins wins so much in that matchup, that Chase still came back and quickly and easily won the next two.  It's easy to tell why this happened.  Both players got wrapped up in the card count of Chase's library.  Both players were so distracted by this one item, that both failed to pay attention to the other points of the game state around them.  Funny as it is, both players had to acknowledge the WoG and Chase even had to physically pick up his cards and put them in the graveyard.  This just goes to show you how easily you can get distracted in the middle of a game or match.
 
Well, here I my last bit of standard fare:
 
My alternate game of the week is Duel Masters.  It's a new CCG.  As a matter of fact, it doesn't even release until next week if I am correct.  However, several stores are participating in the demo program and you can even get FREE product from these stores.  It's a solid game.  It's very interesting.  It also carries a lot of similarities to Magic.  And best of all, it is run by Wizards of the Coast, so you know it will have the proper backing and tournament support.  You should do yourself a favor and at least check it out. 
 
Wow, I'm glad that I'm ending on a positive note.  I felt like I've been really negative this week in my writing.  At least I got to give away some prizes, right?
 
Keep those good and bad plays of the week coming.  I've got a ton of prizes to give away still.
 
Until next time,
 
DeQuan Watson
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