Earlier this weekend I noticed a new feature that's been quietly introduced to the Pro Tour, in the back of the hall near the Public Events station. It's an "Ask the Judge" station with a twist: You're the judge.
Well, not quite. But a judge will ask three questions, Holy Grail style—one easy, one medium, and one hard. Each correct answer gets you a foil card, of increasing rarity, and each incorrect answer is a chance to learn something about Magic you didn't know before. Level 4 judge Jason Ness explained the purpose of the booth to me.
"It's partly to create a face-to-face interaction between player and judge that's more than just yelling 'Judge!' and signing match slips," he said. "This is our chance to say, 'Here's what we actually do, and maybe some of you will get interested in doing it too.' Plus, it's fun."
I pride myself on my knowledge of the Magic rules, so as soon as I got the chance, I sat down to take the test for myself. I'm shaky on the tournament rules, though, as I admitted to level 3 judge Shawn Doherty after he explained the rules to me. He told me that the policy questions are mostly in the harder piles, then drew a random slip from the "easy" pile and presented me with my first question:
"If a player loses his or her sideboard, what is the proper way to handle the issue?"
Awww, a tournament rules question! I had to think for a moment.
"You'd have to replace it with basic lands?" I guessed.
BZZZZZZZZZZ. Nope. Shawn and fellow level 3 Chris Richter explained the correct procedure to me: Because there's no advantage to misplacing a sideboard, the player is allowed the chance to replace the missing cards. If that's not possible, that player continues the tournament with as many of the sideboard cards as he or she can find (which might be 0).
That's ... really good to know, actually, but nonetheless, my judging debut was off to a rocky start.
"Oh, wait a minute," said Shawn, scrutinizing the question slip. "This is a hard question in the easy pile."
Aha! I hoped for a moment that this meant it wouldn't count against me, but all it meant was that I had gotten my hard question first. Oh well. With that in mind, I moved on to a question that was actually easy:
"What three words identify triggered abilities?"
I know this one: "When, whenever, and at."
Ding! (Note: There was no actual bell or buzzer, but Chris pointed out that there really ought to be.)
Now it was on to the medium-level question—my last—which was a bit involved:
"I have two copies of Pariah enchanting two different creatures. My opponent deals 2 damage to me. What happens?"
"Well," I said, "when two or more replacement or prevention effects try to modify the same event, the affected player or the owner of the affected permanent chooses the order in which to apply them. In this case both of those are me, so I get to choose which creature will take the 2 damage." I thought for a moment. Had I missed anything? "Oh, and I don't get to split the damage up—one takes 2 or the other does."
"Wow," said Chris. "That wasn't just right, it was textbook."
Sweet! With that, I'd won a random draw of foils: one uncommon and one rare, the super shiny DCI promo pile being reserved for those who answered the hard question correctly. I thanked them but gave the foils back—I am a Wizards employee, after all—but I still walked away with a little more knowledge ... and a little more pride in it.
That look on my face? That's pride.