Greetings nerds! Welcome to the fifth installment of my mailbag! A lot has happened since my last mailbag – well, mostly just Gencon and the North American Continental Championships – so I should probably talk about that.
FFG OP dropped a new floor rules document the week before Gencon which means it quickly got tested on a big stage. This was a much-needed addition to the organized play scene as the previous tournament document was basically “Organizer/Marshall/Judge do whatever you think” when it came enforcing rules. With the new floor rules document, infractions and penalties are laid out so that both the judges and the players should know what to expect and things are consistent.
Overall, I think the floor rules are fantastic and despite a couple of disagreements I have – with the collusion entry in particular which I will write more on down below – everything is clear and fair to me.
During the event, cumulatively, we issued 2 disqualifications (illegal decks + list), 2 game losses (legal list doesn’t match legal deck) and probably around a couple of dozen people got a single point for various minor game state issues or tardiness. There were some people worried that judges might go “point crazy” and just start throwing out points for everything, but it really wasn’t the case here. We really tried to emphasize that the point system was to be used for “teaching moments”, it’s not just a penalty system. Implemented properly, the point system shouldn’t be a stressor for players – after all, you need 5 points to be disqualified from a competitive level event. But the point system does provide a structure that encourages all players to be just a little more diligent.
Of course, it helps that we probably had one of the best Destiny judge teams I think you could assemble with myself, Kent Campos and Bowie Sessions. Kent and Bowie are fantastic, and I’d welcome them on my judge team any time for any competitive event.
Day 1 got off to a bit of a rough start with some registration/pairing issues, but that didn’t set us too far back. We caught up and beat our schedule by the end of the day, so once we got going everything was smooth as silk. The field was close to what most people would have predicted – heavy on the droids, some Aphras, some Villain supports, some Kreylos, some Ewoks – with the Hyperloops finding some tweaks to Ewoks that helped them turn the corner into a feared deck.
You can find other tournament reports that breakdown how matches and the day went, so I won’t really get into that. But I do have to toot my own horn a little bit about my Chopper droids call in my last mailbag. I was beating that drum a couple of weeks before Gencon and the Destiny Council dudes made a fantastic list and proved to everyone that Chopper droids just might be the best version of droids. I also was hot on Kreylo – which got 3 into the top 16 and then they all lost. That makes sense though, I feel like Kreylo can be mad consistent and get you high finishes, but I’m not sure if it has what it takes once it gets into the top cut to finish. It’s just too fair in the end. It cruises along at 85% power every game, where something like droids might fluctuate from 70% to 100%, but in best-of-3 droids gets those extra chances to find their big games while Kreylo just consistently keeps on.
Is the Ewokalypse upon is? Is it Ewokalypse Now? The Hyperloops taking Ewoks and going Armored Reinforcement/Podracer/Across the Galaxy to ensure they get on Arena of Death and then cutting all the action cheat stuff (Ewok Ambush/Squad Tactics) for just damage cards, proved to be the winning tweaks to put Ewoks over the top. And nobody saw it coming/took it seriously. Mad props to them.
Will Ewoks continue to dominate going forward – I’m thinking no. Unlike what we usually see for top decks in Destiny, there is a lot of room for most decks to change to gain win percentage points vs Ewoks. Mike Gemme wrote a great article about it on the Hyperloops site covering a bunch of the options that decks could gravitate towards to fight the Ewok menace. If you look at past meta’s top decks like Snoke/whatever or Vader3/Greedo – those decks didn’t have any great ways for people to tech against them and that’s usually the true hallmark of a top meta deck.
Also, so many players weren’t experienced in the Ewok matchup at Gencon and made misplays against them. Not taking disrupts, not taking shields, miscounting damage – all things I witnessed players do against Ewoks. Moving forward to other events, players will take Ewoks seriously and practice the matchup so they aren’t giving away games to play errors. It’ll be interesting to see what happens at Nova.
If you frequent the discords you’ve probably heard me wax poetically for thousands of words on my issues with the new collusion rule in the floor document. The biggest issue with the new collusion rules is they don’t allow for the on-the-bubble pair down concession.
What that means is, for example like Gencon, if the top cut is everyone who makes 6-2 for their record and heading into the last round we end up with a 6-1 vs a 5-2, the 6-1 player who is already guaranteed the top cut cannot concede his match to the 5-2 player. Likewise, we also end up with a 5-2 vs a 4-3, where the 4-3 player who is already eliminated from top cut contention cannot concede to the 5-2 player. A concession in either of these cases can easily be considered collusion for the advantage of one of the players in the match.
The floor rules also consider the act of asking for a concession grounds for a collusion disqualification penalty. Or even a conversation that could “lead” to a concession is grounds for a collusion disqualification. Hence the joke scenario that’s been floating around that you can’t even ask your opponent’s record. It depends on the context, but if you’re in one of the on-the-bubble scenarios above it is easy to construe “What’s your record? 6-1? You’re in the top cut no matter what. I’m 5-2 and I have to win this match to get in.” as a conversation that is “leading to a concession.”
My main issue with all of this is, in the end, you cannot force people to play games well. A player could play poorly instead of conceding and still lose. You could argue that a judge could rule that a player was playing poorly in an attempt to collude, but that opens an even bigger can of worms where now you’re asking judges to determine a player’s standard of play. And you never know a judge’s experience level, particularly with top tier competitive play – it’s an unfair burden to place on judges.
Since you can’t force players to play well and you can’t ask judges to determine if a player is intentionally throwing a game, I’m in favor of following the rule WotC learned/setup a long time ago. This kind of collusion doesn’t matter – let players discuss any concessions they want if there are no bribes involved. Let players in the last round of an event discuss a prize split. I’ve sent in my suggestions to FFG OP – we’ll see if we get any change from it.
Stalling (…. Stalling?) Yeah…….. stalling:
One of the more interesting judge’s calls at Gencon was about stalling. Stalling is one of the hardest calls to make as a judge and as a player losing a game at time that you would have likely won given 5 more minutes is a very frustrating experience.
What exactly is stalling? Stalling is intentionally playing slowly in order to gain an advantage by the round going to time/tiebreakers. The keyword here is “intent”, merely playing slowly and methodically or taking the time to think about a decision is not stalling, the player must actually intend to play slow to abuse the time/tie-breaker rules.
Usually, the first question I get asked about stalling is “how long should a player take for an action? 15 seconds? 30? 1 minute?” And the answer is there is no such thing as a fixed amount of time a player has to take an action. A player could take 2-3 minutes to make a decision and that doesn’t necessarily mean stalling – because again, it’s not about the time, it’s about the intent.
As a judge, watching a player, we naturally have to give them a huge benefit of the doubt when it comes to the time it takes to make a decision. Often we are coming in to observe a game that is in progress and there are many factors we are not aware of that players could be contemplating when making any decision. Even if the decision might seem small to us, the player needs the benefit of the doubt because of that. Plus, just think about situations where a player only has 1 card in hand, all their cards activated, 1 die left in their pool – how many choices does a player have in that “simple” scenario?
- Play the card
- Discard the card to reroll
- Resolve the die that they have in the pool
- Claim the Battlefield
That’s 5 different choices that don’t even account any other card actions they might have at their disposal. The player could be considering whether they need that card for the next round or not – playing it/discarding it removes the option of having it later. They could be thinking about the cards their opponent has played or could play or how next turn could play out depending on if they use that card or claim now.
Basically, my point is, even the seemingly “simple” situations can be quite complex.
So, as a player, if you suspect your opponent is trying to stall, what should you do? First, call the judge as soon as you suspect it with as much time left in the round as possible. If you call a judge with only a couple minutes left in the round, you’ve probably already given up too much time and the judge isn’t going to have any evidence to rule stalling. The player will make a handful of plays with the judge watching and the game will go to time.
If you’re hoping that the judge is going to swoop in with 2 minutes left to play and disqualify your opponent for stalling giving you the win based on what you and other spectators say, that’s never going to happen. At this point resign yourself to your game going to time and maybe the judge can keep an eye on that player in future matches.
If you suspect stalling and you call a judge to observe with 10-15 minutes left in the match – the judge observing will likely speed your opponent up just by virtue of being there and at that point, there might be enough time left to do you some good in the match. There isn’t any harm in asking a judge to watch your game – though keep in mind that doesn’t necessarily mean that the judge will stick there the whole time, they might have other judge calls to answer or other games that request a judge to watch, but just letting the judge team know they will usually still come back and check up on your game.
When the judge is watching, refer to the above scenario about how complex even simple situations can turn out to be. I highly suggest at this point that you (any other spectators) don’t continue to pester the opponent or the judge about stalling. Any storytelling you have about a situation that the judge didn’t observe isn’t really going to help you out here – in fact, it will likely end up losing you precious seconds of round time. Just let the judge know, “I feel like my opponent has been taking too much time on his turns and I’d like you to observe my game. Thanks.” and then let the judge do his job.
Once a judge is observing, they might verbally ask the player to speed up a turn. At this point, it isn’t a warning or a point. If the judge feels like they ignored the warning and are still playing to slow, a normal warning and 1 point could be issued. If it continues, it can escalate, but it’s honestly hard at this point for it to get up to a game loss or a stalling disqualification. The player while being openly observed is probably going to make plays in a timely manner and as I said above, the judge is going to be fairly lenient in regards to some decisions and give the player time to think as they see fit. The judge shouldn’t be strictly enforcing 10-second turns, because that isn’t how the game is played.
On the whole other side of the coin, there are players who also intentionally try and make their opponent play faster than they’re comfortable with to try and make them make mistakes. These players usually play their turns at a high rate of speed, then constantly pester their opponents to play faster as well. Player’s are allowed to take the time they need to take their turns and players have different levels of cognition speed, it’s important for judges to also take this into account and not let the fast players flex the slow play rules to their advantage the other way.
If I do suspect a player of stalling – here are some key things I look for (and most of these the player won’t do if they know they are being observed):
- A player who was maintaining a pace of play noticeably slows their pace of play in response to a round nearing its end.
- A player noticeably changes their pace of play depending on if they are ahead or behind on the damage tiebreaker in a game.
- A player who has undeniably (and I mean undeniably) no options on their turn and takes longer than ~10 seconds to pass/claim. I do feel players should be allowed some wiggle room to allow for the bluff.
Anyways, I’m sure I’ve lost all my readers after 1,100 words
What am I playing this week?
Inspired by the trilogy deck that 6-0’d the Australian GQ, I put together this spicy number and 3-0’d a weekly with it.
It was fun to play, but I’m not sure if it can crack competitive standard. It’s hard to figure out what to do with the slots which feel really limited with the required bounties. Removal is limited and it’s quite possible that cutting some removal/Bounty Hunter Masks/Armor Plating/Riot Shields for more gas/action cheating is the right call. There definitely are some things that feel really good about this deck though.
Bourbon of the week:
In Indianapolis, I had so much bourbon, but the stand out by far was an Orphan Barrel Rhetoric 25 Year that they don’t make anymore. It was a $30 pour and worth every damn penny. They served it with a side of water, but it would have been an absolute travesty to water down this masterpiece. Bottles are getting scarce, but I might have to hunt one down before they’re gone.
Oh yeah, this is a mailbag article – onto the mail!
Everyone knows you as The Judge, but I know you also help run your local Idaho group as the organizer of events. I’d be curious to get your say “Top 5 Do’s and Don’ts” for running a local group. How do you manage a broad range of player types week to week, month to month, and set to set? Thanks for all you do!
Top 5 do’s:
- Do have a passionate leader that commits to being there on tournament night week in/week out. A good community needs an anchor – a guy they can depend on. Players will show up because they know that guy will be there and they won’t be stood up
- Do build a good rapport with the store owner/manager. Destiny players aren’t in the store selling it to customers all day every day, but the owner/manager probably is. If you can get and keep them on your side they’ll help build your community by recommending destiny 24/7
- Do keep it casual oriented. Keep the cost of participation low, keep prizes spread out. At my store we do $5 entry for constructed, prizes are 1 pack per win with a 1 pack minimum. The winner might get some special prize, but generally, there will also be a random door prize that is just as good that anybody can win. And obviously, get promo kits and hand those out. If your prizes are top-heavy, the kitchen table players will stay on the kitchen table and your community will stay small.
- Do encourage people to not play top tier at your weekly. I won’t flat out deny people from playing what they want, but if you show up with droids or Jabba/Wat supports to our Tuesday night casual, you will be the butt of many jokes. As the community leader, I lead by example – not only do I not play tier 1 decks, but I also never play the same deck twice in the same meta. It’s a fun challenge to see if you can keep competing while staying off tier and constantly changing it up.
- Do find ways to change it up – standard constructed is fine, but it can get boring too considering 12-15 weeks between sets or whatever. Draft is great for a changeup, but not too often because the cost is prohibitive. Infinite and Trilogy are also options. We designate a player as a “bounty” each week (highest ranked player from the previous week) – they get to sign a bounty playmat and get the reward of sitting at the same spot all night. They don’t have to move seats each round. If a player beats the bounty, we have a “bounty prize box” that is full of all kinds of kitschy Star Wars items that the player can pick one of. Also, consider putting together a league – there are tons of ways you can do it.
Top 5 don’ts:
- Don’t expect your local stores to handle everything for you in regards to starting a community/running events/getting prize kits/applying for big events without asking. You’ll see them do a lot of this stuff for Magic, but Magic is their money maker. Therefore having a leader is important, you need someone to work with the store to get this stuff set up. They’ll be more than happy to accommodate your Destiny group, but if someone isn’t bugging them, they will forget about you. Especially if you’re just starting out.
- Don’t buy your Destiny product online – support your local game store. Yeah you might be able to grab a box of Spark of Hope for $90 online and your local store charges $108 – but that $18 is going to help keep your local store in business. And the more they make money from Destiny the more they will go out of their way to help you out with the stuff from #1. Encourage everyone in your group to do the same
- Don’t play tier 1 decks at a weekly – I know I said it up there, but I’ll say it again here. Crushing casuals with the same tier 1 deck week in and week out will send them back to the kitchen table
- Don’t be negative – negativity is contagious, doesn’t matter if you’re at work or school or at the game store. Turn out is low? Don’t complain to all your players about how the game’s dead. That’s just going to make more players abandon ship. Stay positive! Find ways to help draw more players in. Run demo nights. Advertise on Facebook. Get the store to let you put a sign up.
- Don’t quit – or at least give it a great try. You want to build a community and you have low turnout for the first 6 weeks? Don’t quit, keep going. It can take a year to build up a community and even after that point things will fluctuate. Going all the way back to my #1 on the Do list – communities need that anchor – if people know they will have someone to play with because he’s there every week they’re more likely to pick a game up. Can’t happen if you quit before it even gets off the ground.
I think that mostly answered your questions on how I manage player types too.
If you could stand in front of a large room of players before a big event and give them 3-5 pieces of advice or tips to help your (and everyone’s) day, what would they be? A happy Judge is a happy tournament, right? Hopefully, you get to this before GenCon, but if not, maybe good info heading into Grands, Primes, and Worlds.
-Smerle part II, Electric Boogaloo
The biggest piece of advice for everyone is COMMUNICATE. Communicate everything you are doing clearly with your opponent. So many problems are a result of a lack of communication. Next thing is don’t be afraid to call a judge – you don’t have to take your opponent’s word for anything you’re unsure about. If your opponent messes something up that might be innocent but could be something more – like drawing an extra card – call a judge. If you think your opponent might be stalling – call a judge to watch your game. At the end of your match, fill out the match slip and turn it in. Don’t be late to the next round, sometimes rounds end early – so you don’t always have all the time left on the clock. If you have a dice tray, stipulate at the beginning of the game if the dice are accepted no matter where they lay or if you only count ones that stay in the tray.
I think I already know the answer to this question, but if you hit the special on Niman Training do you have to turn an upgrade die in order to play Niman mastery? Or can you just play the darn thing? Also, who is your favorite coworker and why?
Here’s an old school trick – following the process of resolving a die, you carry out the effects of the die symbol, then you return it to the card. So, while resolving Niman Training’s special, the die is in the pool until it has been completed. Meaning the Niman Training die is a valid target to turn with its own special ability. This essentially means you can use the special, turn the Niman Training die, then discard it to play Niman Mastery – not turning any other dice in the pool.
As for the last question, the best answer I can give is “Not Jeremiah”.
R2 c3p0 and rex blaster. There has been some confusion in our playgroup about the order of sequencing of the after abilities. My thinking is if rex blaster is on r2 you activate r2 you then choose to use the after ability of rex. Laster to activate c3p0. R2 after ability is still waiting to be resolved. R2 can’t be used to turn 3p0 dice because r2 ability to turn must be resolved before 3p0s dice are in the pool. Is that correct?
Not quite. Let’s break this down.
You activate R2-D2 with Rex’s Blaster (and you control the battlefield). This triggers both R2-D2’s ability and Rex’s Blaster’s ability simultaneously.
You get to choose the order both of those abilities enter the queue (which is the order they will resolve in). So you can choose:
1. Rex’s Blaster
In the queue in that order.
So you resolve the next ability in the queue – Rex’s Blaster – which activates C-3PO, which triggers C-3PO’s ability. His ability has to go to the end of the queue after R2-D2’s ability that is already in there. So you now have:
So you resolve the next ability – R2-D2’s – and turn a die.
Then you resolve the last ability – C-3PO’s – resolving a die.
I think you’re thinking that Rex’s Blaster adds an “Activate C-3PO” effect to the queue, but when any effect describes something to do – it happens inside the effect that is doing it. It doesn’t add another effect to the queue unless it is worded like Fateful Companions that specifically says it “triggers” an ability again, which would follow the normal queue process for triggered abilities.
How does Yoda2 work against FaDM and other simultaneous AOE damage? For example, Yoda has 1 health and 3 shields and Ahsoka has 4 health and Vader resolves a FaDM for 4 against both. Can Yoda use his shields to keep Ahsoka alive, or does Yoda get hit and killed first? (ie, who decides whether Ahsoka survives or not)
In this situation, Yoda2 could choose to keep Ahsoka alive. Basically, all the damage would be “dealt” simultaneously and then “taken” simultaneously which are both kind of two separate substeps of damage dealing. Using shields and other similar effects to block damage are all “before taken” abilities, which means they interrupt the game and resolve immediately before damage is taken.
So in this case with Yoda2, since the damage would be taken simultaneously – all of that is interrupted by the shields on Yoda2 and you could choose to use the 3 shields to block 3 of the 4 damage about to be taken by Ahsoka. Then after that Ahsoka would take the remaining 1 and Yoda would take the full 4.
This is my longest mailbag to date, but it also had the most time in between with the biggest event, so that is understandable. If you made it through all 4500 words, I would give you a cookie if I could. I don’t know if I’m that entertaining of a writer.
Thanks for all your questions! Keep them coming. I hope to get out one more mailbag before Nova, so if you have any Nova specific questions (of which I will be the head judge) let me have him. Until next time…