TCGCon Houston

Houston, Texas
Time: Saturday January 21st - Sunday January 22nd 2023
Modern: 112 | Legacy: 50

Friday Modern FJ

TCGCon Logistics
I went in to do setup on Friday and began to get some serious “MTG Summit” vibes. I decided to come in a few hours early to at least organize table numbers and anything else that might be amiss. When we arrived on Saturday morning we were presented with a box of table numbers that weren’t sorted and also didn’t go very high, but had a lot of duplicates. I shrugged and assumed each different card game tournament would have their own set of table numbers. One of the other judges immediately brought up that numbering different sections in the same way could cause a lot of potential problems since there weren’t any markings for the different card game zones, the event was running Cardfight Vanguard, One Piece, Pokemon, Yugioh, Digimon and DragonballZ alongside Magic (some zip banners would’ve been nice, but they didn’t have any of that). Eventually we decided that as long as the tables with duplicate numbers were far enough away it probably wouldn’t cause a huge issue, as after round one players would know the approximate area their event was in. Another issue was the lack of a PA system, which is another thing that hopefully will be purchased before the next event.

Temporal Complications
The next thing I noticed as the day began to move forward was that while there was a dedicated Cardfight Vanguard judge and a dedicated Pokemon judge, the rest of the games were all relegated to a single guy that seemed to be getting constantly overwhelmed. I think pairing him up with 1-2 magic judges to handle logistics would’ve probably been a good idea. The next issue that cropped up was the fact that since the other card game judges were kind of the only people in the building that could solve rules disputes on their games, they didn’t have anyone that could cover for them when they went on break. I began poking around and offered to leave the building and pick up lunch for them if that’s what needed to happen, luckily when the issue was escalated to the TO he let them simply give their tournament an hour break.

The next logistical concern was the fact that the hall closed at 8pm but the tournaments all started around noon, meaning that after 7 rounds of swiss, if the top 8 wanted to play it out that evening they wouldn’t be able to. The obvious fix is to have the player play out the top 8 on sunday morning, however a bunch of the modern players also wanted to play in the legacy that started at noon on Sunday. I proposed letting the players into the hall early the next day but the TOs didn’t want to do that because they felt it would undermine the people that had bought VIP badges. I think this is a little silly since it’s only eight players but oh well. Another proposed solution was to have them play at the nearby Starbucks/Denny’s/hallway obviously this isn’t a great look for the TO but they really should’ve budgeted enough time for the event? The solution ended up being that if the players also wanted to play in the Legacy, we’d give them byes for the rounds they missed. However we didn’t want to tell them that, so instead the HJ just said “if you want to play in the legacy we will work something out”, which caused the top 8 players (predictably) to be like “uh, well what is being worked out” which eventually ended up in the HJ just saying they’d get byes. Luckily after a little discussion the top 8 decided to split.

I don’t love Companion, I’m also not a huge fan of MTGMelee either. This event however, used neither of these and instead used something called “BestCoastPairings”. Honestly it’s not bad, other than being the best named app of the three, it also supports a custom round timer, takes decklists and allows manual pairings. The issues I actually have with it are that it’s not really for magic, it’s supposed to be pairings software for any card game, the One Piece, Digimon, Pokemon and Yugioh tournaments were also using the same software. However, it’s a little confusing to players, and more importantly, there’s a bunch of features that we as magic judges expect the software to be doing that you have to manually check off. Specifically, if you want it to use opponent match win percentage to calculate final standings, it won’t do that unless you check off an option, which we didn’t do. This resulted in a player being told that they weren’t going to make top 8, but actually making top 8. By the time the error was missed that player had left the buildiung. The player in ninth was bumped up and the player in 8th was located sometime later and given 1/8th of the total prize payout. Another issue was that the prize pool was $1000 and was set to increase to 2500 at a player count of 128, however at a player count of 112 players were grumbling both about the fact that the event only paid out to top 8 and the fact that the prize pool was objectively less than the sum of the entry fees. After a little interfacing with the TO the prize pool was bumped up to 2000 and players were happier. Though the payout was still only to top 8, which I think should’ve been changed to top 16.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Bribery/Wagering
The other weird thing the TO did was how they handled prize tix. In that they didn’t have prize tix, they had literal poker chips with dollar amounts on them that people could buy for that dollar amount. When starting up a game of commander, players could choose to all wager an equivalent amount of chips on the game. Then they could spend the chips at the prize wall. This is uh, well it certainly made me uneasy. We brought this up to the TO, but they didn’t seem to think it was a huge issue.

Relics of Kamigawa
AP channelled Boseiju, Who Endures targeting NAP’s Relic of Progenitus, NAP wanted to know if they could exile the Boseiju from AP’s graveyard with the relic before it was destroyed, the judge on the call came to me for a double check on this ruling. At first they were thinking about it as if it was a spell that had been cast, in which case, NAP wouldn’t be able to exile it, however because it was an ability, and discarding it is part of the cost to activate the ability, it’s actually in the graveyard before the ability has resolved. Which means that NAP can exile it.

An Affective Ruling
AP controls Furnace of Rath, Torbran, Thane of Red Fell and casts Lightning Bolt targeting NAP. How much damage will the bolt deal in total? The bolt will either deal 10 or 8, depending on whether furnace’s replacement effect is applied before Torbran’s. However it’s not AP that makes that choice but NAP, when dealing with multiple replacement effects acting on the same event, it’s the affected player or affected permanent’s controller that chooses the order, not the controller of the lightning bolt or the replacement effects.

They Were Literally Asking for it
AP made some kind of minor mistake in their game, the judge on the call let them know it wasn’t a warning, but AP really felt like it should’ve been, and politely asked if they could get a warning. The IPG definitely says that inappropriately demanding that your opponent get a warning is USC – Minor, but what if a player inappropriately demands that they get a warning? In this case it was all well and appropriate and a little more explanation from the judge assuaged the player’s concerns about not being warned.

AP’s Boros deck had an island as a divider, the IPG explicitly calls out cards that “could be conceivably played in the player’s deck”. The HJ felt that an island, while technically playable in any deck, wouldn’t conceivably be played in a red deck, and elected to not issue the warning. I don’t hate this ruling, I agree it certainly feels like a “dumb game loss”.

Forcing Opponent to Look at Extra Cards
If NAP uses a Mishra’s Bauble on AP and AP accidentally reveals the top two cards of their library to NAP, is this a warning for AP? At first I didn’t think so, since there isn’t really any advantage to be gained here unless AP gets a judge to shuffle in something that shouldn’t be shuffled in (such as if they knew the second card down for some reason). Two of the other judges on the event felt that since the CR had been violated, AP should get a warning for LEC. I argued that AP hadn’t actually or even potentially looked at any extra cards, though if we were to issue warning this one would make the most sense. I mentioned that there are many other things that judges fix that don’t come with an infraction, such as communication issues. Another judge mentioned to me that AP could gauge how good the second card down was based on NAP’s reaction and make decisions based on this. At first this seemed reasonable, but after thinking about it some more, I don’t really think this is terribly valid either, since AP could make the same strategic decisions based on the reaction to the top card, additionally this seems like a low EV cheat. The most compelling argument is that a game rule was broken, and regardless of whether advantage could be gained, we want players to be playing a technically correct game of magic. Currently I still think this shouldn't be a warning, but will happily rule it that way if the HJ of the event wants me to.

Sunday – Legacy Deck Checks

Checking Decks and Taking Names
I let the HJ know on Sunday that I wasn’t feeling great (not sure what happened this weekend, but I ended up feeling light-headed and not good all weekend) and that I’d like to do deck checks, the HJ obliged. A big concern in Legacy events is always counterfeits, so I made sure I was on the lookout for those.... little did I know how this would turn out. As I was prowling the tables I noticed that a Volcanic Island looked a little off, after the match I pulled it out of the sleeve and saw that the back printing was fairly off, though I’m not really an expert so I flagged another judge and they also felt like it was fake. I asked to see the players deck and we examined it away from the table, it appeared to be the only counterfeit in the deck, and after an investigation we decided that it didn’t feel like cheating. The player took a game loss for decklist problem and replaced it with an island.

The Eye of The Lion
Once again I was prowling the rows looking at dual lands, and I noticed that the coloration on AP’s underground sea looked a little off and asked to see his deck after the match. Upon further investigation, I discovered four fake lion’s eye diamonds, as well as six fake dual lands. The rest of the deck was expeditions and full art cards that appeared real enough, but it’s hard to be certain. When we pulled him aside he was nervous. He mentioned that he bought a lot of his cards from Hareruya, as a lot of his cards were Japanese. He offered to show me the order for the LEDs but he also mentioned he’d bought two sets of LEDs, since the first set got stuck in customs for a long time. This might actually be a real story about the counterfeits, as customs might hold something like that for an extended period of time. I felt like it was somewhat likely he had one real set that he had legitimately purchased from Hareruya and one fake set to take to events to avoid damaging or losing the real ones, which would make looking at the receipt pointless. He mentioned he had a bank box with a bunch of dual lands in it, but I also didn’t see why that mattered, a bank isn’t going to authenticate your cards. When we mentioned he had some counterfeits, he calmly said “which ones” and was fairly even-tempered the entire time. My suspicion at the time was that he had a few real cards and a bunch of fakes to use as “proxies” when travelling. In retrospect, it’s likely there were more counterfeits in the deck that we were unable to identify. We decided that this player would be issued a DQ.

Counterfeit Menagerie
The last player with counterfeits was particularly interesting. I noticed his duals looked off and called for a targeted check. When we took apart his deck we did indeed find fake duals, but also fake foils and fake foil retro-framed stuff that was signed, I’m not sure if the signatures were fake or the artist just didn’t look very closely at them, I found this particularly interesting, since it’s something that would’ve previously thrown me off the trail. We also found cards that had the authenticity holo stamp but were also fake. This deck was by far the most diverse collection of counterfeits I’d encountered so far. When we mentioned to him the counterfeits he had a bit of a meltdown. Me and the HJ were a little startled and considered not DQing him, however I remembered something I’d learned a long time ago, and that was to put very little weight on emotional reactions, since there aren’t really any good rules that will persist across most people. Based on the diversity and amount of counterfeits we felt like the DQ was appropriate. A few days after the event, the player confessed and wrote an apology.

Timer Woes
In round 5 the HJ forgot to start the round timer, and after about 7 minutes had elapsed, noticed and announced that the round timer was now starting. Their motivation for this was to ensure that the players didn’t lose out on any play time. I don't totally disagree with this, I usually just estimate how long it’s been then add 2-3 minutes and call that the round time.

Life Totals Matter
AP is at 19 and controls a K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth and casts Shadow of Mortality, intending to pay four life, how much generic mana will they need to pay? 12 mana and two life, the costs of the spell are determined before AP pays them, so by the time AP is paying four life, the cost of {12} has already been locked in.

Regenerating Outerwear
NAP casts Dress Down, but before that resolves AP activates the regenerate ability of their Drudge Skeletons, after Dress Down resolves NAP targets the skeletons with a lightning bolt, what happens? When activated regenerate creates a regeneration shield around the permanent that will be invoked the next time that permanent would die or be destroyed, this isn’t an ability, but a continuous effect, so it isn’t blanked by Dress Down.

...In Conclusion
I actually very much enjoyed TCGCon, I like working with newer TOs, and while I know there will be a lot of issues, it’s kind of fun to try and fix them and work within the limitations presented. I like challenges and these sorts of events offer them aplenty. I also was kind of shocked at the amount of counterfeits present on Sunday, and think that this might be something I’d like to learn more about and improve my knowledge on.