With the first year of Organized Play in full swing, I would love to be talking about Deck Lists, Character Rankings, Top Players or interesting techs. However today, we need to jump into probably the most important aspect of the game; something that currently has a large part of the player base heated. We need to talk about the Judge Program.
Over the past few events, we’ve had some problems with rulings live on stream. It started a couple weeks ago at RLE Las Vegas in the Top 4 match between Marquis McKinney and Zach Pasley when things got… interesting. In Game 3, Zach played a Destined for Mainstream Success, named Attack, revealed a Create: Capturing Net off the top of his deck and added it to his hand. Well, then Marquis asked to see the Capturing Net, Zach handed him the card, Marquis placed it on the table and announced he was responding to the activation of Destined for Mainstream Success with his own Taiyaki Fanatic to negate it. Then, Marquis placed Taiyaki Fanatic in the Discard Pile and placed the Capture Net back on top of the deck.
Okay, so there’s a lot to unpack here. First, how did the judge rule this? Well, the judge didn’t really do anything. They allowed Marquis to negate with his Taiyaki and continue the game with the Capturing Net revealed to both players on top of the deck. Now, which player is at fault is honestly up for debate. We don’t have the audio of what the players are saying and that changes everything. It leaves two distinct possibilities for how the judge should have ruled.
When Zach played his Foundation, he needed to announce it and give Marquis time to respond. After all, the Taiyaki is public knowledge and Zach can’t intentionally play at a pace too fast for Marquis to respond. However, since we don’t have audio, we don’t know if Zach announced it and gave his opponent time to respond. If he didn’t give an acceptable amount of time in the opinion of the judge, then Marquis should absolutely be able to respond with Taiyaki. However, if that was the ruling, then we can’t just put revealed cards back on top of the deck. According to the rulebook, either Marquis should have been able to remove a card from Zach’s hand from the game permanently or the Capturing Net should have been removed from the game permanently. Then Zach should have been issued a warning for drawing extra cards.
Seems harsh? Yeah, I agree. The rulebook is very harsh when it comes to correcting game states. While in Yu-Gi-Oh, you commonly shuffle accidentally revealed cards back into the deck, Jasco opts to remove the card from the game completely and continue. I’m not sure if this is to combat time concerns or keep the order of the deck, but it seems to not serve its purpose. Rectifying the game state should be done in the fairest, quickest way possible. In my opinion, that should involve randomizing the deck and continuing. You might argue that some cards like Jiro or Kurogiri that have given me info on the order of my deck would be unfairly hurt by this. Well, we can have that discussion. But, how do we voice our concerns and change tournament policies? Well, usually a judge program with a robust judge forum would be the answer. Having identity-verified, knowledgeable individuals talking about the game and voicing concerns is far more reliable than sifting through random posts on Facebook or Discord trying to figure out the pulse of the community.
The second scenario is if Marquis was offered enough time to respond in the opinion of the judge. If that’s the case, then no correction was needed and Zach should have been allowed to draw his card and Marquis should have kept his Taiyaki on the field. By now, you’ve probably noticed that neither of these situations actually happened. I’ve been an official of some sort for a long time. I was a soccer referee for 14 years, a Yu-Gi-Oh judge for six years, and currently a judge for Dragonball Super and My Hero Academia. One thing that’s true no matter if you’re officiating cards or sports is mistakes are teaching moments! A judge forum would give the opportunity to explain to people what happened, what should have happened and protect the judges next time. It would also give some vindication for the players, as a vocal minority has taken to social media to express their disdain for the conduct of the players involved, which isn’t fair to anyone!
The issue in Vegas seemed to be an isolated incident as far as the judge situation went, as the judges to this point have been doing a great job. Each time I had a judge called to my table at Vegas, I checked their ruling in the rulebook and each of them were 100 percent correct. Then, the Online Provisional came around and we had another interesting ruling in the feature match on stream. In Round 8, Tony Kavia (Jiro) faced off with Jose Huscanga (Ochaco I). To start Game 2, Ochaco built three Foundations successfully and attempted and failed to play a fourth Foundation of the turn. When he failed to play the fourth Foundation, Jiro attempted to play Ready, Get Set, Go! to build two Foundations from his hand. He built the two foundations, drew for his turn and played three more Foundations before the Judge stepped in and stopped play to correct the situation. Now, just to be clear, you can not play Ready, Get Set, Go!’s enhance unless your opponent passes the checks on all four Foundations. That is included in the act of “playing” a card.
Let it be said that if you don’t catch your opponent playing illegal cards, you can’t rely on the judge to notice it for you. However, this game was played on stream, so they had to step in. So what should be the ruling? Well, the question you have to answer is “is the game state reparable?” In this case, putting the Foundations back in the hand doesn’t repair the game state because several extra cards have been drawn and milled for passing checks. Several cards would have to be removed from play to get back to a similar game state to the correct one, but you can’t get back to the correct one. This is an irreparable game state. Under the rules, Jiro should have received a game loss for “drawing extra cards.”
Now, it should be said that in both instances, the player that gained the advantage lost the game in question, so the integrity of the final standings was unaffected by both of these incidents. But that’s not really good enough, is it? The casters calling both of these matches were able to make the correct rulings in the moment. We need to make sure that the judges far and wide have the tools to do the same. Jasco has made some unique decisions with how they’ve chosen to correct game states and punish players for infractions. That information needs to be as transparent as possible and the judges should be as accurate as possible to help this budding game grow in the best way possible. Jasco should put an emphasis on getting the full judge program up and running as soon as possible because if this is the stuff that’s happening on stream, just think about what might be getting ruled at card shops across the country. Until next time, I’ll see you on the tables!