Published on 03/06/2023

MagicCon Philly Report

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On February 17-19, I was on staff in Philadelphia for the MagicCon//Pro Tour. I had a lot of fun making new friends and catching up with old ones. I figure today I could go over the events I helped with and answer many of the questions I was asked during those events to give you an idea of what judging the MagicCon was like.

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The event was split across many different huge convention halls all in the same convention center. The first floor had the main hall I worked in, which was filled with scheduled side events and on demand events. Directly above that on second floor was an equally large room that had thirty or so vendors selling cards and other Magic merchandise. This vendors hall also had artist booths, the official Magic Merch store, full size dioramas of Magic planes, full size statues of Magic characters, and a viewing area for watching the Pro Tour. The next hall over to that was the Commander zone with, as you might guess, lots of Commander being played. The Pro Tour was held on the third floor, but I never got up there to see it. There were a few more areas beyond those for public play and special pass playing and hang out places.

Hall F is where I spent the majority of my weekend. Hall F was split into five zones, each named for a different Magic color and having corresponding table cloths to help players figure out where each one was. Friday I was in the Red zone. Every event held in the Red zone on Friday was Sealed, except for one Pioneer event at the end of the day. The variety of sealed events that we held was quite vast: Two-Headed Giant Dominaria Remastered, Grand Melee Brothers' War, Commander Legends, three packs from twelve sets totaling 36-packs Sealed, and Gavin's Unknown Sealed Event. More about Gavin's Event later.

The team of judges I was assigned to primarily helped other teams go on breaks, so we floated around the Red area helping other teams with their events. The only event we were specifically in charge of was the Grand Melee event, which only had sixteen players. I helped pass out product, but interacted with this event very little. The majority of my morning was spent helping the biggest event of the morning, Two-Headed Giant Sealed Dominaria Remastered. I don't know the exact number of players in this event, but I'd guess it had at least sixty teams, so over 120 players.

Two-Headed Giant Sealed Dominaria Remastered.

Q: Judge, where is my event?

A: This was by far the question I was asked the most over the weekend. Each time I was asked this question I would do two things, ask the player to load up the event on their Magic Companion app, and check if a color was in the name of the event. This indicated what color zone they would need to be in, and I would verify on a Google document I had for the zone and time of the event. I would direct them to that zone and tell them to regularly check the app, as once the event started it would give them a table number to sit at.

Q: Judge, can my opponents block my attacking Street Wraith if only one of them has a Swamp?

A: Depends if you want them to have the option. In Two-Headed Giant, when you attack with a creature, you do have to choose which player you are attacking. Normally, either player can block, but with swampwalk (or any other landwalk ability) if you choose to attack the player that controls a Swamp, then neither player can block. If you choose to attack a player that doesn't have a Swamp, then either player can block. Yes, that does mean a creature controlled by an opponent controlling a Swamp can block a swampwalk creature if you choose to attack the player that has no Swamps.

Q: Judge, I have No Mercy (or Windborn Muse or Crawlspace) in my Two-Headed Giant sealed pool. Are these cards good or really bad in this format?

A: All three of these are rather bad in Two-Headed Giant. Opponents can choose to attack the player that doesn't control these to avoid their negative effects. Windborn Muse is a 2/3 flyer for four mana, so that's at least OK in Limited.

Q: Judge, if I cast Cloud of Faeries, can I untap two of my partner's lands?

A: Yes, you can. Not only that, if you really wanted to, you could untap two lands controlled by an opponent.

Q: Judge, how does Time Stretch work in Two-Headed Giant?

A: Terrifyingly. Because the two players on a team share a turn, if one gets an extra turn, the other one gains the benefit of that extra turn at the same time.

As the day continued, we hit the next large event, Gavin's Unknown Sealed Event. This was designed as a unique event by Gavin Verhey, one of the designers of official Magic the Gathering sets. If I recall correctly, each player got five packs of Phyrexia: All Will Be One, one Mystery Booster, and one "playtest" pack. The playtest pack had a handful of cards with Playtest stickers on them. There were 62 playtest cards Gavin designed specifically for this event. They can be found in a video Gavin did on his YouTube channel found here.

Gavin's Unknown Sealed Event.

Q: Judge, I just played a Sort of _____ and _____, how does it work?

A: At the event we had a sheet that listed the first abilities of each Sword numbered 1-9, then listed the second abilities of each Sword numbered 1-9. A player would roll a D10 for first ability, rerolling results of 10, then roll a second D10 for second ability. An example result would be Sword of Light and Steel: When equipped creature deals combat damage to a player, you gain 3 life and destroy up to one artifact.

This can easily be simulated by searching in Gatherer by searching "Sword of and" in the name field. This will put out only the nine Swords of Blank and Blank in alphabetical order.

Q: Judge, how does Poison Resistance 2 work?

A: While you control a permanent with Poison Resistance 2, it takes 2 more poison counters than normal for you to lose the game. In this case you only lose the game if you have 12 or more poison counters, until that permanent is destroyed, then it returns to the normal 10 or more poison counters to lose the game.

Q: Judge, can I play with any of these playtest cards in my Commander deck?

A: Normally, no. You can however ask for permission to use them with people you play with. They may tell you no. This is similar to playing with silver-bordered cards, many groups will tell you no. However, some people will be OK with this, as your local play group is free to modify the rules of Commander, so long as the change in rules is clear to all playing and hopefully is aimed towards making the games more fun.

Although I wasn't assigned to the Modern Horizons 2 Draft event, I got pulled over to it to answer one judge question.

Modern Horizons 2 Draft.

Q: Judge, if I use Graceful Restoration to reanimate Constable of the Realm, can it exile my opponent's Academy Manufactor without becoming renowned?

A: Yes, it can. Constable will enter the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter. This will trigger Constable's last ability. Additionally, if the Constable becomes renowned from going unblocked, it can exile yet another nonland permanent.

Friday finished up and when I came back Saturday, I had the exact same team as Friday, spending the day in Red zone again. Most of the events were the same as the day before, but we had many more players for each event as more players could show up for Saturday. I ended up head-judging the Grand Melee event, but unlike Friday's, this one had 52 players!

If you have never been involved in a Grand Melee event, they are wild! This event was one game, with all 52 players playing in one giant game. It uses the range of influence rule (you can only affect the players on either side of you) and the attack only left rule. Instead of all players waiting for one person to finish their turn, for every full four players there is a turn counter that gets passed around. Each player who has a turn counter may take their turn simultaneously with other players with a turn counter. This meant my event started with thirteen turn counters, and as soon as one player lost the game, it would drop to only twelve turn counters. Each player was given 400 tickets for sitting at the event, and then received an additional 400 tickets for defeating a player. (Tickets are used for claiming prizes at the prize wall.)

Grand Melee Brothers' War Sealed.

Can I have tickets, I defeated a player!
(very quietly) myself.

Q: Judge, I was at 1 life and then resolved Gruesome Realization choosing the first mode. Do I get tickets for defeating myself?

A: Yes, yes you do. We had announced at the beginning of the event that defeating yourself would count for winning tickets. Forfeits wouldn't count, and forfeiting before an opponent killed you wouldn't prevent them from getting tickets.

Q: Judge, I just finished my turn and passed the turn marker to my left. I then almost immediately got another turn marker, can I start my next turn now?

A: Most likely no. In Grand Melee, you can only start your turn if the nearest turn marker to your left is more than three players away. Once the turn marker to your left has moved to four players away, then you may begin your turn.

Q: Judge, if I activate this Urza's Sylex's first ability, do I destroy permanents for all 52 players in this game?

A: No, you do not. Because of the Range of Influence of 1, you only destroy permanents for the player to your left, yourself, and the player to your right.

Q: Judge, I just defeated the player to my left with combat damage, can I now cast Powerstone Fracture during my second main phase to destroy the Air Marshal controlled by the new opponent who is directly to my left?

A: You can not. The players in your range of influence are set at the start of the turn, and killing one player won't bring a new player into your range of influence until the next turn starts.

The Grand Melee event nearly took over 4 hours to complete. Once finished, I moved to help with the second Gavin's Unknown Sealed Event of the weekend. After this event finished, I was done for the day. When I returned to work for Sunday, I was moved to the Green zone and our first big event was Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate Draft. It had twenty-nine players, which we split into four pods, one of eight players, and three of seven players.

Commander Legends: Baldur's Gate Draft.

Must attack, but not you, but also not you.
Ok, fine I'll attack my controller.

Q: Judge, in this three-player game since my last turn, both of my opponents have Goaded my Chardalyn Dragon. Can I attack? Do I have to attack? Who can I attack?

A: You have to attack with the Dragon if it's untapped during your combat step, but you may choose which opponent to attack since all opponents have goaded it.

Q: Judge, my commander is Abdel Adrian, Gorion's Ward and the background I chose for him is Agent of the Iron Throne. Can my Arcane Signet tap for only ? Or can it tap for or ?

A: As Agent of Iron Throne counts as one of your commanders, the Signet can tap for or .

Before the Commander Draft event was finished, I got pulled off that event to head-judge a Constructed Pauper event. Pauper is an Eternal format where only commons are legal. If a named card has a common printing, you can use uncommon or rare versions.

Pauper Constructed.

Q: Judge, during sideboarding the player in the game next to me had a pile of at least thirty cards. It looked like he may have only looked through the top fifteen or so, but is this an issue?

A: This is definitely an issue that should be investigated. Upon investigating, all cards in the pile could be played in his deck. But the top fifteen were faced one way, while the rest were faced the other direction. After talking with the player with the extra large sideboard and his opponent, it was clear to both which cards were his actual side board. I warned the player, since at Regular rules enforcement like this event this is only a warning, but at Competitive rules enforcement or higher, storing cards with your sideboard that could be played in your deck would usually be a Game Loss and that keeping them separated was the best way to avoid issues.

Q: Judge, do I have time to go to the bathroom before the next round starts?

A: If you can make it to that bathroom and back in ten minutes, you should be good.

Bathroom breaks is likely the second most common question I got all weekend. Followed closely by "Judge, how long is left in this round?"

Q: Judge, my opponent discarded two Fiery Tempers to his Faithless Looting, can he cast both for their madness cost or only one?

A: As long as the opponent has enough mana, he can cast both Fiery Tempers for their madness cost.

Q: Judge, can my opponent tap a Squadron Hawk that just entered the battlefield this turn to pay the flashback cost of the Prismatic Strands currently in her graveyard?

A: Yes, she can. The Hawk doesn't need haste to be used to pay this cost. Haste is only necessary to attack or to use an ability the creature has with the tap symbol in its cost.

Not long after the Pauper Event finished, I started helping fold up table cloths as the MagicCon was coming to a close. I was then let go for the evening. From there I goofed off a bit until the judge dinner. The judge dinner was held at a place called Spin where we played table tennis, ate pizza, drank merrily, and watched highlights of the Pro Tour on the many TV screens around the bar.

Hopefully you found this interesting. I had fun and hope to be at MagicCon Minneapolis in a few months.

- Justin Hovdenes AKA Hovey
Level 2 Magic Judge
Rapid City, SD


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