April 2015 Anniversaries

Here are the April 2015 judge anniversaries!

15 years

Andrea Schwab from Bern, Switzerland
Toby Elliott from Los Altos, United States
Jeff Whittaker from Ogdensburg, United States

10 years

Luca Romano from Torino, Italy
Christopher Hartman from Pittsburgh, United States
Andrea Failla from Catania, Italy
Gerard TERPIN from SAINT-RAPHAEL, France
Luca Gatti from Verona, Italy

5 years

James Fields from Spokane Valley, United States
Steffen Dannemann Jensen from Aarhus V, Denmark
Daisuke Fujino from Yaita-shi, Japan
Kazuto Mochiki from Tsurugashima-shi, Japan
Ivan Bratchenko from Samara, Russian Federation
Adam Hunt from Denver, United States
Tom De Decker from Gent, Belgium
Nathan Stanley from Delphi, United States
Kenneth Kullbrandt from Boden, Sweden
Ian Crow from Denver, United States
David Cockram from Kettering, United States
Joseph Harrington from Woonsocket, United States
Phillip Wulfridge from Baltimore, United States
Sophie Pages from Grenoble, France
Natasha Harrington from Casper, United States
Isaac Egan from Eltham, Australia

Congratulations, and thank you for all your hard work!

We have two featured judges this month: Sophie Pages and Toby Elliott.

French Regional coordinator Guillaume Beuzelin had this to say about Sophie:

Has doubled Guillaume’s coffee intake

Has doubled Guillaume’s coffee intake

“When I saw the name of Sophie on the list for anniversary I rush to my e-mail box to inform Johanna that I wanted to write something about Sophie. I really want to do it to be fair because I completely changed my mind about Sohie the past years.

Five years ago when my friend Medhi told me he tested Sophie, I was very sceptical. Today, I can say that I totally misread Sophie and her incredible personality. The 2 or 3 last year she demonstrated an incredible energy by being involved in so many projects.

She started with translation, at the beginning just few but quickly she became one of the masters in French translation. When Pierre Laquerre decided to stop to lead the translation team in France Sophie was he obvious name to follow him. Today, if I want to see anything thing translated in French for the community I send her an e-mail and few hours after she informs me that she already did it or found someone who is doing it. She may apologize if she thinks she was too slow to answer (slow is 24h for her 🙂 ).

Translating article, Cranial Insertion, knowledge pool gave her a pretty good understanding of the policies and the “why” behind this. She used her experience to animate the debates on the French forums. If we come back two years ago, I would say that our forum where pretty dead. Once again Sophie put so much energy that a positive dynamic started and now our forum are active enough to let me drink 2 coffees  each morning to catch up what happened the previous day.

I would not detail all the projects where Sophie is involved but a quick sum up: French newsletter, translating online judge booth, participating actively in mentoring and certification, being captain of one of French region, leading the project of the French blog…  I probably forget some other projects but it’s not my fault she is too busy.

What I also really like in her personality it’s this capacity of improvement. Even if I think I was too harsh 5 years ago, I can say that the Sophie Pages you meet today on tournaments is not the same as the one who was acting as a judge 5 years ago. The judge program improve because of judges, but many judges also improve because of the program.

Happy judge birthday and keep the smile that so many people noticed as a strength in their reviews :-)”

Regional coordinator David Zimet contributed an interview with Toby:

We blame him.

We blame him.

“This month we’re celebrating the anniversary of Toby Elliott, L5 judge from the Bay Area of California. Toby is very experienced judge who many including myself look up to, and while he may be one of the program’s highest-ranked members he is also one of the most friendly and approachable judges in the program. Here are a few words on the man from his fellow L5 judge Jason Lemahieu:

“Toby has always been one of my role models in the program. Even after having been a Level 5 judge myself for a few years, it still makes my day to see an email on one of the high-level lists from Toby along the lines of ‘+1 to what Lems said.'”

“I think Toby’s leadership comes, at least partially, from a surprisingly rare place: a true and deep passion for anything and everything Magic. He loves playing. He loves collecting. He loves tournaments. He loves policy. And he loves chatting about any of it with anyone! Furthermore, discussing any topic with him is going to leave you even more interested in the topic than when you started.”

“Years ago, when Out of Order Sequencing was first introduced, I was anything but a fan, and I sat down with Toby to pick his brain on the subject. Twenty minutes later, Toby hadn’t just convinced me that it wasn’t going to destroy tournament Magic as we knew it – but that it was actually the greatest thing since the removal of the interrupt window! Of course, this wouldn’t be possible if he wasn’t also one of the most mind-bogglingly intelligent people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.”

“It’s also worth noting that Toby is so much more than just ‘Mr Policy.’ He has, and shares, large visions for the future of the program. He’s an awesome evaluator and mentor. And most importantly – he’s a great friend.”

Toby also sat down with me for a Q&A about his history in the program and to share some stories about his experiences:

How did you get into judging?

I got into judging because I won the very first PTQ of the Urza’s Saga/Legacy/Destiny season, and had nothing else to do for the rest of the summer. It was a slightly contentious win – there were some top 8 split shenanigans going on – and the end of it I was like “hey you guys were awesome, I got nothing else to do for the summer, can I come judge?” This was back in the Your Move Games days in Boston – back in the days where if you won a PTQ you couldn’t play in the rest of them. The head judges at the time were Nat Fairbanks and Matt Villamaino.

It was PTOs back then, right? Was that Dougherty?

Yeah, that was Rob Dougherty.

So how did the Pro Tour go?

I went 2-4-1 on Day 1. It could have gone better, but actually the thing that was most notable about the Pro Tour was just how amazingly nice everybody was, everybody was just super happy to be there, super chill. I played some people who were decently famous at the time and everyone was just genuinely happy to be playing. Just in general though I’d gone through this wringer of a Pro Tour Qualifier where there were a lot of people deep in the Levine Trench, and so I went to the Pro Tour being like “Oh god, this is not going to be good” and – yeah, they were all awesome. And that’s my enduring memory of the Pro Tour – that and I got really sick for Day 2, …so it’s probably for the best that I didn’t qualify for Day 2.

So… you didn’t gravy train.

I did not gravy train, oh dear god no.

Did you end up continuing with the judging when you got back to Boston?
I came back to Boston after the Pro Tour – by that time I was probably level one, and I was enjoying judging, but I was still playing the PTQs. Well, to be honest, I only ever played Sealed PTQs, I’ve never really been terribly interested in constructed so that didn’t really matter. So what I would do was that I would play the Sealed PTQ seasons and judge the Constructed PTQ season, and that worked great.

So was this back when you tested and got a certain score and your level was determined based on that?
No, this was after that… hmm, yeah I probably scored well enough initially to go to level two initially, but it didn’t matter, it was past that point. So I just did level one and level two just like you did back in the day, several months apart. There was a time limit that you had to spend at level one at that point.

Do you remember who you tested with?
Yeah, Nat Fairbanks. For both for level one and level two. Then, right after making level two, I ended up moving out to California. It turned out I moved very close to MatchPlay, or at least the MatchPlay outpost out here.

That’s Conan’s shop? (Conan Blackwell, long-time Bay Area PTO)
Yeah, that was Conan’s shop. So – Don Barkauskas – he was the main L3 out here. He and a guy named Peter Costantinidis who was more or less getting out of the game when I arrived. So what happened is that Don and I had the same arrangement I had everywhere else, because Don liked to play constructed and didn’t care too much about limited, so we’d simply swap off the events. So, I would do a lot of the head judging of the constructed events and he’d judge the limited ones – I got tons of experience that way – and I went to Grand Prix Las Vegas (waaay back). It was my first Grand Prix, and I met James Lee there. It was the first time I’d met James or really had any contact with anybody from Wizards. I talked to James there about testing for level three, because at the time level three testing was mysterious and strange, and it was – you were required to be a level two for a year, and then there was the mysterious test, and the mysterious interview, and it was just a lot of mystery. So, shortly after GP Vegas, which was a very interesting experience – it was head judged by Mike Donais, I distinctly remember having to interpose myself between – well nearly having to rugby tackle this guy who was very very upset that he was being DQed – yeah, that was fun times. He basically sat down opposite his opponent and started sideboarding in cards, and informed his opponent, “yeah you’re allowed to sideboard now, it’s a new rule, you can do it before the first game.” His opponent was level three judge Michael Feuell…

It didn’t go well from there. Mike handled it really well, he was extremely calm – I thought the guy was going to make a move at him, so I’m standing three feet away ready to tackle the guy if anything crazy happened, …so, yeah. (laughs) So that was an experience! Anyway, not long after that was Pro Tour San Diego which was my first pro tour, and I arranged to test there. San Diego was the one and only time I’ve ever slept on the floor of a hotel room, so I don’t know what to say about that necessarily.

(laughs) I would be very disappointed if you had missed that judging rite of passage.
Oh, it was glorious, yes. Anyway, that was the night before my level three test – I don’t recommend this, by the way, don’t do this, anybody – but I passed the test thankfully, and this was back when the passing threshold was 90%, and there was one question where I argued with Colin Jackson forever about it – but anyway I had my panel, which was Mark Hernandez, James Lee and Colin Jackson I think. It was an interesting panel, it had some resemblance to a modern panel – not total resemblance, but it would be recognizable. And then, they passed me! You could tell at the time that they felt it was questionable – they told me that they were taking a flier on me, it’s a thing, we’ll do what we can – and so as I’m walking back with James Lee, and Danny Mandel who worked at YMG, awesome guy, comes running up to me and says “Toby! I’m so sorry about the trouble I gave you earlier with that ruling – you were absolutely right and I was being a jerk about it and you handled it so perfectly so I just wanted to apologize and thank you for doing that!” – and James Lee gave me this look that was like “Huhhh… maybe this will be ok after all.” (laughs) So, that’s how I made level three.

How did things get established with the later crew of L3s – Jeff Morrow, Sean Catanese, and Riki Hayashi?
Well, level threes are cyclical, or at least they were around here. Initially we had a lot of really good candidates and a lot of really interested people – Nick Fang was around here for a bit, Seamus Campbell predated me for a little bit, we had Don, we had Peter – we had a guy named Joe DeMattei who was going to make level three but he had some health issues, so there was a fertile period then. Don and I were still trading off the constructed and limited and everyone was used to having me around and… then we just went dead. There was a three or four year period where every judge candidate I got just would not have been a viable level three candidate. I’m just hunting around desperately trying to find these people, trying to find someone who can do this stuff, and it just wasn’t happening.

Then, suddenly, all these people walk into my lap – J-Mo, Riki, Sean Catanese – all within six months maybe? They just sort of appeared, like “hey guess what, we’re ready to go, we’re fully formed, and all the rest of it.” And it’s like “Ok, cool! This is good.” And suddenly we had this great L3 crew. That was in the span of a year – in that year was the glorious situation where little newbie Jeff Morrow – well, I show up to the Guildpact prerelease and Conan forgot to get judges. And there were 696 players. (laughs) So I dragooned poor little level one Jeff Morrow into helping out; the printer immediately died… Yeah, it was a thing.

When did you level up to four?
That was a while later, in 2005 at Pro Tour LA. The other significant event that happened before that was PT Philadelphia. Two important things happened there – I got to know Sheldon really well, and I discovered Commander. That was the Skins PT, and the third story from that PT is that I table judged the finals back in the days when we still table judged the finals, and it was the Gifts mirror, so an hour and a half into the first game I’m sitting there going, “Can I uncross my legs? I’m on camera…”

There’s one more story – they had walled off the top 8 so it was this very quiet area, and we did an L3 test there, and we do the interview and we get to the roleplay, and we’re about thirty yards away from all the players quietly playing their matches and we start the roleplay and I kick off the roleplay yelling, “JUDGE!!! …ulp! sorry everybody…”


Thanks to Toby for taking the time out to talk, and congratulations on the anniversary!”


About Ronald

From Seattle, WA
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One Response to April 2015 Anniversaries

  1. The best part of Toby’s story about his L3 certification is that, at the time, I did not really know him. Under that old system, I had to be present for and acknowledge each candidate in some fashion and it was, honestly, not super easy to keep track of all of the names and faces. However, Danny Mandel was someone I knew, he is awesome, and a trusted person I respect. When he came up and was so open and deferential to Toby, that was, for me, assurance that Toby was capable, wise, and stand-up. I have not always been proud of all of the things I did to establish the Judging Program as it exists today, but certifying Toby to L3 is something I will always claim as one of my good deeds.

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