Six months ago my wife and I planned a holiday. We were going to Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo, had been saving for a very long time and were pretty excited.
Two months ago the date of the sixth World of Warcraft Realm Championship was announced - 16-17 April 2011, a date which I was unable to make due to being out of the country on said holiday.
As a result of this, I spoke to the staff at Patriot Games in Sheffield and offered to judge at their upcoming Realm Qualifier as I had no real need to qualify, and today was the day of my first competitive level judging experience.
Just over a week ago, Japan was hit by one of the largest earthquakes on record, a tsunami to follow and has been encountering problems cooling its nuclear power stations as a result. Reports suggest that things are getting better now but maybe you could spare some change for the British Red Cross Tsunami Appeal.
As a result of this, we're not making the trip to Japan any more.
As a result of that, I can now make it to Realms.
It's of little consolation.
I dropped by the store a while ago to pick up some supplies and happened to bump into Jim, one of the owners/managers/staff (delete as applicable). He mentioned how the store had been given a Realm Qualifier and after learning of my inability to make the championship date, suggested I could try judging - especially given the new and improved prize support, including support for judges.
Win a Realm Qualifier and get 8-9 packs and a few foil promos. JUDGE a Realm Qualifier, get 18 packs and a foil Darkness Calling.
Compared to back in the day when you would get a few packs and a couple of random EAs for judging, this was insane. Even in a vacuum, three quarters of a box for calling some timings and answering rules questions isn't so bad, right? I expressed my interest and confirmed my position not too long afterwards, and then gave it little thought for a while.
There was an overall turnout of twelve for the event, which for Patriot Games was pretty excellent. Last time I came for a tournament was the Worldbreaker release, when there were six attendees, one of whom was a member of staff at the store and two of whom were Steve and myself, who'd travelled up from Derbyshire. Today was totally different - Steve, Julian and myself representing Chimera Ripley, Tom, Neil and Jack from Chimera Beeston, Justin who was working at the store, Andy and Matt from the old Patriot WoWTCG group and four new players.
It wasn't quite going to be the lazy few hours I'd expected!
We kicked off deckbuilding at 12:00, after ensuring everyone had a valid Cryptozoic ID number. 30 minutes were allocated rather than the standard 20, which seems incredibly tight even to someone who plays a lot of sealed. My first mistake came when pairing the first round as I told everyone they had an hour to complete the round, and then told them the round ended in half an hour. Well done me.
The new shuffling rules didn't go down too well - after shuffling your own deck, you must present it to your opponent. They are now not allowed to merely cut - they must also shuffle your deck to ensure sufficient randomisation before returning it to you, at which point you are not allowed to modify the order of the deck.
The general consensus in relation to this new rule was "who came up with that then?"
From this point on everything is a little bit of a blur. Judging is weird - I spent as long making the piles of prizes look pretty as I did actually answering rules questions. We had a few boosters left over at the end so the payout was excellent - nine boosters for the winner, additional promos provided out of the store's pocket for every player, Path of Cenarius Loot for the top 8... I think we were going to give out some playmats too but they didn't surface in time. Either way - WoWTCG at Patriot Sheffield - great prizes, well worth the trip over if you're umming and ahhing about it.
I spent a lot of time wandering between tables and watching games - leading Steve to remark that it felt like he was back at school, doing his exams! I guess it's a difficult balance to strike - you want to appear interested and available but not imposing and intimidating.
The other awkward thing is that you must be careful not to come over as biased or giving advice to players during the tournament. I did a few deckchecks before the tournament started (and found one with 29 cards in) and it was difficult to resist the temptation to offer advice on cards to cut! One player was playing a ~35 card deck containing just one quest and all I could do was hand it back and tell him it was fine. Torturous.
Steve narrowly avoided a warning for wasting judge time after asking me to fetch him his bag of Haribo from the other room. I settled for stealing a cola bottle and telling him not to do it again.
|One week later: still really good|
Avatar of the Wild
Charmed Ancient Bone Bow
Cairne, Earthmother's Chosen
Filth. He took home the top prize, along with a sealed pool worth well over £25 in itself.
The day was largely a success, though there was one slight dampener on proceedings. Cryptozoic Tracker to be precise.
It'd been working like a charm all day, but due to the tournament not having been sanctioned in advance, I had to run it as a temporary tournament and will need to manually re-pair it all once the sanctioning ID comes through from the guys at Cryptozoic.
Unfortunately, it appears that if you enter all the results in the tracker software for the final round and then close the tournament, the software doesn't create a backup for the final round's results! Luckily I've remembered the results and am popping back into the store tomorrow to double-check them against the sheet I left pinned to the vending machine.
Still, you live and learn.
It's been a bizarre day - I missed not playing but watching others play is a really intriguing way of spending your time, actually answering the questions on the occasions you're required is incredibly fulfilling, and the judge support makes it worth your while not playing.
Luckily my craving for organised play means I've already qualified for the Realm Championship three times over so judging this event was a nice deviation from the norm. I'll definitely have another crack at it in the future, even if the judge support isn't as ludicrous.
We're drafting with it in Ripley this coming Wednesday by the way. Not opening packs as soon as you get your hands on them is another pretty difficult thing to do!