What We Learned—There’s Too Much Pressure on Judges

Hello reader! What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast. The goal is to take some of the events and articles polluting the Magic world, strip out the chaff (tournament reports, game theory, economics) and give you our superior opinion. Complaints are encouraged.

Apparently Magic players, for all their mastery of red-zone mathematics and ability to maintain mana pools and storm counts, can’t keep track of life totals properly. Pro Tour: Return to Ravnica included two high profile instances of life total misrepresentation. In round three, Tzu-Ching Kuo and Kyle Morlock had to call a judge when Kuo had claimed Morlock’s life total was lower than Morlock had recorded it at. Then in round six, Jackie Lee was disqualified for misrepresenting life totals involving Stab Wound triggers that were not announced. Wizards made official statements on both incidents here and here.

The statement on Kuo contains an incredibly important piece of information:

In incidents where intent are in question we do not wish to replace a live judge’s ruling with one from an offsite committee which is based solely on a video.

-Wizards of the Coast, November 19th, 2012

This is not to be taken lightly and should be very concerning for judges. If you’re a fan of any sort of sporting activity you’ll be familiar with the concept of video replay and it’s usage in the adjudication of competitive sports. We see video replay in almost every major sport these days. It’s used in the NFL to verify scoring plays and to confirm rulings on the field. It’s used in Tennis to confirm line judgments at difficult angles. It’s seen in the MLB when a home run needs to be confirmed because of the quirks of ballparks. In the NHL it’s used to verify every single puck that crosses the goal line. Video replay is simply a part of our lives.

What Wizards fails to understand, and what their statement highlights, is that they view video reviews as a replacement for judges. This is not how video replay works in competition and it isn’t how anyone should imagine it working. Wizards’ opinion is archaic and shared only by FIFA who memorably shot down the idea of using video replay in the World Cup after two high-profile incidents in South Africa where goals were scored and disallowed by the referees.

Video replay should be treated as a boon for anyone overseeing any competition. When a judge in a Magic event needs to resolve a dispute it is, in essence, the word of one player against the word of the other. The judge isn’t just relying on their knowledge of the rules of the game, but they need to rely on their ability to read human emotion, facial expression, changes in vocal expression. They aren’t just professional rules-experts, they need to be professional psychologists as well. It is a difficult position for anyone to be in.

The Quick Hits

On Shiny Things: It was a good run while it lasted but it looks like Wizards is back to printing irrelevant cards as FNM promos.

On Friday Nights: Wizards used their Facebook page to announce that Modern will become a playable format for FNM. I have a feeling Modern Masters won’t be the only reprints of Modern staples we see next year.

On Spoilers: It looks like someone came across some shiny Gatecrash cards and decided the correct thing to do was sell them on Craigslist. How quickly do you think Wizards will quash this one?

On Bling: Good job by Wizards to finally replace the Top-8 PTQ Pins with Top-8 PTQ Playmats.

The Week Ahead

Signoff

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Comments
One Response to “What We Learned—There’s Too Much Pressure on Judges”
  1. Li Xu says:

    I think video replay is important to get to the bottom of things, and I find it odd that they didn’t do it for the Kuo/Morlock incident when they have a precedent at PT Dark Ascension in the Finkel/Kibler semi-final. Watching over the VOD, the Kuo/Morlock incident comes down to whether Morlock took two from playing Overgrown Tomb, but viewers at home joined the match when both players had three lands out already.

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