Nationals 2015 was awesome for many reasons. Most importantly, I got to see many friends whom I had not seen in quite a while as well as meeting a few friends in person for the first time. Another thing that made it awesome was that Chris was an excellent host, and the only complaint I had about the facilities was that I kept losing my sense of direction in the hallways that all looked exactly the same—I think I finally figured them out, but then we left 15 minutes later…

I also had a great tournament from a results perspective. After battling through four tough rounds of Type 2 Multi on Thursday and coming out on top (barely), I managed to reclaim my Type 2 2-player title from my brother Jordan—despite losing to him in a timeout loss—on Friday.

After taking two titles in two days, I had thoughts of winning TEAMS on Saturday and becoming the first player since Ron Sias in 1998 to win 3 official categories in one Nationals (Gabe Isbell won two categories and the unofficial TEAMS event in 2009). I had been planning to team up with Martin Miller, a former National Champion in both Type 1 2P and in TEAMS, and I felt we had as good a shot as anybody to take the title. Prior to Nationals, the Elder team had discussed different scenarios for judging each day, and we decided to leave Day 3 open-ended and see how things went the first two days before deciding who would judge Day 3.

As it turned out, everyone on the Elder team hoped to play Day 3, and after having such great success on Day 1 and Day 2, it made sense for me to be the official judge for Day 3. (Props to John Earley and Dayne Maust for judging Day 1 and Day 2 respectively). Would I have rather played? Sure—I’m as competitive as they come and would have loved a shot at the TEAMS title. Was being the judge and giving others another chance to play the right thing to do? Absolutely, and I have no regrets. For the first time in 8 trips to Nationals, I found myself in an unfamiliar position…standing over the table instead of sitting down at it.

The day got off to a bit of a slow start as the late nights were catching up to everyone and people were either straggling in or frantically trying to make a few last second tweaks to their deck. To make matters more complicated, Day 3 consisted of Sealed, TEAMS and Type 1 MP—three completely different categories. I was surprised to see how many people decided to do Sealed over the other two categories as it was by far the largest category of the day. Finally everyone was settled and the events were underway…

JUDGE!!!

Well that didn’t take long. Not more than a few minutes into the events and questions were already popping up. Most were simple as people were pretty sure they knew the answer, but wanted confirmation in case something had changed. I jumped from one table to another trying to answer as clearly yet efficiently as possible. I tended to stay closer to the T1 MP and TEAMS tables as Sealed deck typically doesn’t have as many complicated scenarios with the I/J decks being fairly straightforward. Even so, I was often jumping between events trying my best to handle questions in the order which they came up. Several times, I either wasn’t sure or wasn’t sure enough so I would consult with Dayne (playing Sealed) for TEAMS questions or consult Jordan, John and Gabe (playing TEAMS) for Sealed questions (I’m pretty sure I knew all the T1 MP questions on my own…woot).

I quickly realized that judging is just as stressful as playing, and in some ways more. If I make the wrong decision while playing, it only affects me in a negative way. However, if I’m judging and make the wrong decision, that could cost somebody a chance at winning. Now winning should not be the most important thing for people, but I knew that I absolutely did not want someone going home thinking “If only that judge had known the right answer, I might have had a shot at first.” I’ve been on the bummer end of rulings before, and it’s just not a good feeling to wonder what could have been if only the right answer had been given.

As the events went on, I felt pretty confident about my rulings, and the times I went to another Elder for confirmation I usually had the right answer in mind already. I remember at least one question from TEAMS however, that I had never seen come up before and that was completely up to interpretation. I made a ruling and went with it, and later when I asked the other Elders, I got answers from both sides.

On the one hand, it was a bit disconcerting to know that some disagreed with my ruling, but on the other hand I was glad it was not unanimous because it meant that it really was a matter of interpretation. Fortunately the team that got ruled against still ending up winning that game (as the ruling did directly result in them not getting a Lost Soul in an early rescue attempt) and in the end it did not affect the placings at all.

One of the most difficult parts I found was informing someone that they had a ruling wrong that they thought they knew. I don’t consider myself a people-pleaser, but I also don’t like disappointing someone. Furthermore, there are still a lot of little nuances with card abilities and how they are worded that make significant differences in how they get played so it can be easy for someone to misunderstand how a card gets played. Learning about a new ruling (or that a card is played differently than you thought) at Nationals is not the greatest feeling because all of a sudden you’re trying to reorient your thought-process in what is already a very complex game at times.

At the end of the day, we finished the events with no major controversies and even finished ahead of schedule (well, ahead of schedule based on when we started anyway). Martin and my brother Jordan (who filled in for me in TEAMS) ending up winning the TEAMS event with decks that I designed so that felt pretty good. Congrats to them as well as Dayne for winning Sealed (read his report here) and Charles Johnson for winning T1 MP (despite facing some nasty adversity in the form of The Serpent during one of the rounds). It was a great day and a great tournament, and I literally cannot wait for next year!

To buy singles, sealed product, and other gaming supplies, please visit Three Lions Gaming!

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