Monk's Corner
Ray Powers

*Level III Judge

*WOTC Tournament Organizer for Arizona & San Diego


Card Price Guide

MTG Fan Articles
Single Card Strategy 
Deck Tips & Strategies 
Tourney Reports 
Peasant Magic 
Featured Articles

Featured Writers
The Dragon's Den
The Heretic's Sermon
Through The Portal

Deck Garage

Message Board 
Magic League

Contact Us

Pojo's Book Reviews



01.27.04 - Pro Tour Amsterdam Trip report
by Ray Powers

This is going to be a bit of a departure for me on the Pojo. Rather than go over a topic and my thoughts on it, I decided to do a Trip report on Pro Tour Amsterdam. I was sponsored as a judge for this event, so the perspective you get will be a lot different than a normal player report. You can see the other side of the coin, what the judges do to try to make the event run smoothly for you, and I'm going to get a lot more personal in this report than you have come to expect from me. This was a rather emotional event for me for different reasons, and I feel like sharing.




I was very eager to go on this trip. It’s the first Pro Tour I have worked the main event on in two years. I helped out with Nationals last year, but in general I have been taking a break. Two infants make travel difficult, and I wanted to wait until they were a bit older before traveling a lot again.


At Nationals this past year, I was contracted to run some of the side events. I am the Organizer for San Diego, and in general Wizards likes to have the regional Tournament Organizer represent at events in their region. But the schedule made it so that I had nothing to do day one of Nationals, so I ended up working the main event. Mike and Jeff Donais asked me how I liked "being back" and I admitted I missed it. It was hinted that whenever I wanted to "come back into the fold" to just apply for sponsorship.


Little did they know I would ask for Amsterdam! Seriously, my wife and I had been talking, and 2004 seemed to be the right year for me to start doing this again, and Amsterdam just happened to be the first event in 2004, so that’s what I applied for. Luckily for me, I got sponsored, thanks in no small part to Rune, who knew I wanted to dust off the old Black and White Zebra Shirt and get down to business.


Before I go any further, let me say that when it comes to the Pro Tour events and rulings, all names will be changed to protect the innocent and/or guilty. I'm not here to point fingers or give opinions on players, but I am here to give you some ideas to the kind of rulings we hit as Pro Tour judges and how they are resolved. In fact, to make it easy, I'm going to pick random IRC Nicks out of #mtgwacky to replace the real names, because its always fun to tease my fellow wackizens.


So, it’s a week before the event, and everything starts to fall apart. Before this, my only snag was Wizards forgetting to book my flight, in part my fault because I had them hold off for a while. I had a job offer pending in Dallas, and needed to find out if it was going to happen or not before they booked my ticket. Alas, it did not, and booking occurred after a brief reminder.


But then, my wife had to go into surgery. Her endometriosis was acting up badly and she needed to have it checked out with a surgery called a Laparoscopy, or "scoobie-doo-rectomy" as we called it since we seem to never remember how to pronounce Laparoscopy. This was happening the Friday before I left for Amsterdam. I left on Wednesday, so feasibly this was ok because that was enough recuperation time for her.


But the surgery did not go well. Without going into details, "It took longer than expected," "Things were worse than we thought," and "Parts had to be removed." None of these are things we really wanted to hear, and now her recuperation time would be a lot longer. Add on to this the fact that we have two infants, and where they cut would prohibit her from lifting the children for roughly a week, and suddenly this trip was looking a lot harder to accomplish. It was also more important as well, since the operation cost more than we expected as well, so any thing I could do to make money had to be done.


My mother in law was coming in to town though, and she volunteered to stay at my house and help Kelly with the kids. My mother is also local, and she was willing to help as well, as was my father in law. (Yes you read that right, father in law and mother in law are in different locations. They are divorced.) Aside from the fact that any combination of these three people may kill each other if caught together, it at least seemed like I would have coverage for my children while I was gone.


Well it would have been enough, except then my children got sick. Sunday night Randall started projectile vomiting in ways you don't want to read about in details. Monday we took him into the doctor, and he explained that Randall had a stomach virus. Nothing serious, but he wasn't going to be able to keep anything down for roughly 48 more hours, and we could expect a lot more vomiting. How exciting. I left Wednesday morning, so this means my wife would have to deal with at least one day of him being sick without me being there.


Then, on Tuesday, Kaitlyn started getting sick as well. Now we had two babies with extreme vomiting, and Kaitlyn would not be near done when I left. To make it worse, I had to naturally assume now that I had it too, and would begin the pukefest soon enough. In addition, Kelly's hospital bill and now the two kids Doctor bills added up quickly and higher than expected, and I suddenly found myself with $30 to my name to survive in Amsterdam for 4 days, and two sick kids and a sick wife. I cancelled my planned night out with some IRC friends from the .nl IRC server I know, planning on working every waking moment to try to gain extra compensation to try to make up lost money ground, but suddenly this trip had gone from a fun jump back into high level judging to a depressing broke trip where I was going to spend the entire time worrying about my wife and kids. If Wizards hadn't paid for my ticket, I would have just cancelled.


This… This is the situation under which I packed my bags and headed to the airport.


The Trip


So, I packed light. I didn’t want to deal with lines, and I wanted to not have to do baggage check and DID want to use the cool automated computer that you can use for e-tickets. Heavy heart, bags in hand, I trudged to the computer.


It didn’t work.


The screen said, “see attendant.” That’s not good. Well, Wizards booked it and they may have had my name a bit wrong or something, so that sucks. I stepped off into the normal line, the one I didn’t want to wait in. Ten minutes later, I get to the front of the line, and the person directing walks me to… one of the automated computers. I kindly explain that I just tried that and it didn’t work.


Oh! Well then I need to go to this OTHER line. Keep in mind this “other line” has no signs and is not anything anyone could have intuitively known they should have gone to. This is proven quite well for me when the next four people behind me get told the exact same thing.


After a few more moments, I get to the front of this line and get to talk to a person! Yay! I give her my passport and confirmation number and get told that my reservation has actually been cancelled.


This does not bode well.


After 20 minutes of searching, they find that I am indeed on the passenger list, but my confirmation is incorrect. In fact, ALL of my flight information is identical, but my confirmation number is wrong. Apparently Wizards at some point cancelled my flight then rebooked the exact same flight. The nice lady gives me my new confirmation number, tells me to expect the same problem on the way back, and off I go.


My flight itinerary is to go from Phoenix to Minneapolis, then to Amsterdam, with an hour layover in Minneapolis. Because of the time change this means I am leaving Phoenix at 10am on Wednesday and arriving at 6:30am on Thursday. On the way back I leave Sunday at 4pm and get back Sunday at 11:30 pm, and that’s WITH a three-hour layover in Minneapolis on the way back. It almost feels like time travel.


The trip to Minneapolis is relatively uneventful. We show up a bit late, and I wanted to grab lunch before hopping on the long flight to Amsterdam, so I hit a McDonalds To Go and rush through the airport to my gate, McDonalds bag in hand. I hate bringing that sort of stuff on a flight because it smells long term, so I take five minutes while the line is dwindling to snarf it down and get on the plane with a few minutes to spare. We take off without a hitch and…. they start serving dinner immediately. I knew there was a meal on the flight, but I expected it to be halfway through the eight hours. Evidently they were already on Amsterdam time, and it was time for dinner.


I didn’t eat much.


My plan was simple; sleep on the plane, wake up as we arrive, be over jetlag and be ready to work when I got there! Rune had given me directions for how to take a train to the RAI from the airport, so I was all set. I grabbed a pillow and settled in to sleep. This is why I got a window seat, so I could lean and sleep.


Ah, how easily my plans are foiled.


Directly in front of me was an elderly lady, I would estimate 70 or so. In front of her was a man in his early 20’s. He also had the idea of sleeping, and so set his chair back to try to catch some Z’s. The elderly woman did not appreciate this. She asked him to put his chair forward. He refused. She told him he was in her way. He explained he was allowed to put his seat back.


The elderly lady pushed the Call button. An attendant arrived. The lady told the attendant to make the guy put his chair forward. The attendant of course said no, he was allowed to do that. The lady and the attendant got into an argument; with the attendant ending it with “He is allowed to put his chair back, end of story.”


Of course this was not the end of the story. After the attendant left, the elderly lady continued to rant, to the gentleman next to her (who was being VERY polite through this unfortunate occurrence) and then to no one in particular, but making sure to be loud enough to stop the man in front of her from resting. After a few minutes of that, the man turned around and started yelling at the lady about how he can put his chair back, and if she didn’t like it she could move. They yelled and argued some more, with her yelling that she paid for that seat and would not move.


Of course, after five more minutes or so or arguing, she had “HAD ENOUGH” and she picked up her things and left. The polite gentleman next to her gladly let her out, then sat down and sighed openly and contently. The nightmare woman was gone.


In reality, the nightmare woman had moved exactly two rows back, behind me, into the completely open row behind me. You know, the staff row: the row of seats where the attendants rest during the flight. Needless to say she did not stay there long, as an attendant quickly ushered her out of there.


She roamed the cabin for a few moments, and then came back, to the polite man’s chagrin. She explained that she could not find another window seat, and she paid for a window seat damn it, so she was going to sit back in her seat, and not to worry. She would behave. Now, we all know she didn’t pay diddly squat for a “window seat” versus any other seat, but the polite man continued to be polite, and let her back in.


In less than a minute she started rambling again at the guy in front of her about how rude people were and had no courtesy for others.


This time the guy with his seat back rang the Call button.


The attendant came again and he just went off on her. He shouldn’t have to deal with this. He’s not doing anything wrong. This woman is ruining the trip for everyone! The attendant had heard enough, and told them to sit tight while she got the purser. The purser arrived and the both erupted into an argument about the chair all over again. The purser chided them both for “acting like school children” and told them to sit tight while she came up with a solution.


A few minutes later the purser tells the lady she found someone to switch chairs with her, and to come with her. The polite gentleman HAPPILY gets up to let her out, and as she walks off, he heads to the restroom mumbling about insane traveling companions.  When the purser comes back, it is with a twenty something cute blonde lady.


All I could think was “Upgrades!” The nice young lady sits down and turns around to ask me what happened, and if it was really “that bad.” I tell her the story and she laughs, and says they moved her forward but she had an open row, and she only agreed to move if they kept an open row for her. So poor polite guy was about to get kicked out of his seat.


But, a free bottle of wine from the airline later and a bit of conversation with the polite guy, and she didn’t even ask to have him moved, and all was well. As entertaining as this all was, however, it completely destroyed my sleep schedule and I arrived in Amsterdam with only about one hour of sleep under my belt.


My directions were simple from here: the airport and the train station were actually the same location. I just had to find it and take the train to the RAI, which was supposed to be a direct train, and the hotel was supposed to be right by the RAI. A quick conversation with the currency lady gave me directions on where to go, and I headed downstairs to buy a ticket then waited for the train. A kind soul seeing I looked a little disoriented explained to me that the train had two stops, and I should take the second stop, not the first.


One thing to mention, it was PITCH BLACK when I showed up. Coming out of the desert, I’m used to early sunrises, and the fact that the sun wasn’t up unnerved me just a bit and I was concerned I would get lost easily in my travels. As the train rolled out and started speeding up, I felt a bit like a stranger in a strange land, and as it rocketed through the tunnels towards the RAI, I began to feel like everything was off kilter a bit.


Then, as the train came out of the tunnel and I caught the first glimpse of Amsterdam, what should I recognize first but a McDonalds, and all was right with the world again.


Tune in Next Week when I actually get to be at the event, and you get to see what its like to be a Zebra Shirt at a Pro Tour!

Copyright 2001


Magic the Gathering is a Registered Trademark of Wizards of the Coast.
This site is not affiliated with Wizards of the Coast and is not an Official Site.