Exemplar Wave 11

Hello everyone! Once again we’re here to bring you some highlights from the latest Exemplar wave!

We’ve had a talk with the recipients of 5 nominations in order to learn how we, too, can find ways to improve ourselves and the community.

For starters there’s this recognition to Emilien Wild, given by Niels Viaene:

This recognition is for your ability to vocalize thing I find very hard to put in words and for giving very structured explanations for why we do things the way we do. You make discussions a lot easier by giving better baselines and thus avoiding miscommunication. You are a master in phrasing things in a way that is understandable to a wide array of experience levels and personalities. It helps people improve and makes it a lot easier for them to reproduce what you teach which is a valuable skill that flies under the radar.

We at the Benelux Blog think that being able to voice the policies and philosophies of the Judge Program is indeed a valuable skill, which deserves recognition. This is what Emilien himself told us about it:

I always try to have discussions with Niels about the judge program, mainly because Niels and I are very dissimilar in the way we see the world and how we interact with it. This allows each of us to get another perspective that is often thought provoking, as it provides a vantage point that we could not get by ourselves. That leads, in turn, to both a critical analysis of what we do or believe, and to out-of-the-box thinking that could help with finding solutions to the problems we encounter.

That only works because we still share enough similarities to make it work. We both understand that the goal is not to look for who is right or wrong, but to understand each other. We also respect that judging is both something that is strong part of our identity and “just a game” that isn’t worth getting grudges or hard feelings about. We both see in each other something that we cannot do or achieve but respect.

That still sometimes require us to lay down some terms and expressions to allow us to communicate in a language we share. For example, using the colour pie philosophy was very instrumental in having a discussion at Nationals in which we could express what we felt about the community in a way that both of us would understand without confusion. We were then able to involve many other judges in the follow up of this chat. I believe that this effort to build a bridge and find common elements so we can each share our point of view in a way the other would understand despite the huge personalities gap is what Niels alluded to.

But while this recognition is wrote by Niels toward me, to me, it’s as much a reminder of Niels’ qualities and why I value him so much.

Very admireable of Emilien to turn this recognition back around. That really comes to show why he deserved this recognition.

Up next is a recognition from Floris Baerdemaeker for….. Niels Viaene!

Dear Niels,

I would like to use this recognition to thank you for all the time and effort you put into giving me constructive feedback. After GP Birmingham you spent a good hour talking to me about my strengths and on how I could improve. You helped me pinpoint some areas that needed work that I had not yet been able to identify as such. Even afterwards, back in Belgium, you took your time to answer the questions I still had and helped me to come to a better understanding of where I am as a judge and what I should be focusing on.

Even before you have helped me so much to grow as a judge and as a person, something which I have also seen you do with numerous other people. I know that I could not have become the judge I am today without all of your tireless help and dedication. I truly believe you have gone way beyond what anyone could reasonably expect you to do as a mentor.

Thank you.

Of course we asked Niels how he felt about receiving this recognition;

I am honored to be receiving a recognition from Floris for mentoring and feedback, as this is a field I am most invested in as a judge. For me mentoring and feedback is part of a larger whole, it doesn’t end when the event is over or when the exam is done. I find great pride in being able to help people get to where they want or need to be in the program, especially when I see there is a matching amount of effort coming from the other side. Floris has been one of the most, if not the most, dedicated person when it comes to self improvement. Together we went through a few phases where we found there were miss-assessments on both our ends slowing down the process. I could say a lot more about this, for many more paragraphs than people would want to read, but that is between Floris and me.

Within the framework of exemplar and the judge community I would love this idea of follow-up and remaining mentorship to be more outspoken, to see people contacting their mentor more and for mentors to ask their mentees if everything is as expected and went as planned. For L1, that could be to ask them how their first few events solo went. For L2 that could be a chat about the change of their role in the community, their first certification of a new L1 or how they perceived their first GP. And finally, for L3, I hope that becomes a panel check-up after a year or so just to check the lessons learned during the certification are sticking. This is just off the top of my head, I am sure there are plenty more points where people could have a chat about changes in their judge career.

Again, thank you Floris for this recognition and thank you BeNeLux blog for this forum to voice the appreciation.

Well Niels, we’re happy to oblige with such a powerful response.

Let’s keep this chain going, shall we?
Our next recognition is for Floris, by Olivier Wattel

The FNM at our LGS were unguided and not very consistent. You did a lot of effort to have it structured and making sure there always is a dedicated judge present, involving the local community and the TO to come to a working system for everyone.

We liked that this recognition is about ‘where the judging is at‘, namely our Local Game Stores. Of course we asked Floris for a response:

My LGS is the home base for the League of New and Beginning Magic Players, and the place where Gentry first began. As such, on Thursdays, it attracts many new players, but also judges, and judge candidates. That’s how I got involved with the judge program, shortly over a year ago now. The events that were hosted on Thursdays were very nicely organized. There were judges to help, there was a play-book of how the events should be run, which made for very smooth and fun evenings.
And then there were the FNM’s. Run by a single staff member, who also had to fulfil all their other duties (bartending, selling singles, helping the other customers) and who often didn’t have that much logistics or rules knowledge. This caused delays in the events, players couldn’t really ask anyone for clarification if they had a problem and so on.
At this time I was trying to become a judge and so I asked the TO if I could do some FNM’s, to practice. And boy, were they difficult. Compared to the Thursday events, there was no play-book, there was no handy guide and most of all players were not used to having a judge around. I remember having to chase people down to get match results. After a while, I was becoming more confident as a judge, and because my own skills and rules knowledge were evolving, players were beginning to respect me more, and to ask questions and to actually find me to give their match result.
After a while, I was running almost every FNM. But then I started on my path to L2, and I started mentoring judge candidates. Since at this point I was unofficially in control of who judged the FNM’s, I could easily use those events to train aspiring judges. This meant, however that I had to write some things down. I based myself on the principles of the Thursday event guidelines, and wrote a first document, with how the different FNM events should be run, how the prize support should be distributed and so on.

Most players had already gotten very used to having a judge at FNM now, and the events themselves had also become very streamlined. This made it increasingly easy to get new judges to feel comfortable and to properly run an FNM. Some of these new judges decided they wanted to keep judging FNM’s post certification and some other judges were also becoming interested. I felt it was time to organize this new endeavour. I collaborated with the TO, to work on a master guide for FNM. Everything from prize support to judge compensation was covered, for several things I had to go ask what the people who regularly judged FNM wanted, so the making of this document took a while. And then, finally, I organized the judges in a Facebook group, where we decide who will judge what FNM on a monthly basis.
So now, for the last few months, every FNM had a certified judge on staff, players knew what to expect, and player satisfaction levels have clearly increased, and so has FNM attendance.
I am very grateful to Olivier for this recognition, but most of all, the huge difference to how smooth FNM’s go now and how they were run a year ago and the effect that has on player satisfaction, to me, is the bigger gratification. It was a lot of work, a lot of negotiating with the TO, it sometimes caused frustrations, but now looking back, it was all very much worth it, and I’m very happy and proud to have been a part of this adventure.

Wow, who would’ve thought such a simple thing could mean so much?

Let’s have another look at judging at your LGS, shall we? This next recognition is from Jonas Drieghe to Stijn Langendries:

Right before the Ixalan prerelease I fell ill and couldn’t judge the events that were scheduled for me. Not only did you take over the midnight prerelease in a heartbeat, you also followed up on a new judge candidate that was supposed to run the event on Sunday.

If that wasn’t enough, you sent me an extensive review of the qualities and areas of improvement for this candidate which will be very useful in the interview. Thank you for not just being there, but being excellent as well.

We were quite satisfied to hear about an L2 who didn’t just step in to cover for someone, but went the extra mile to make a difference!
This is what Stijn had to say about receiving this recognition:

When I received this recognition from Jonas I really wasn’t expecting it. At the time I just remember getting a message from the TO asking me if I was able to judge the midnight prerelease since Jonas had fallen sick, and since I was already planning on attending I thought I might as well judge it. The same is true when it became clear that we then also would need a replacement to follow up on the new L1 candidate on Sunday.

Looking back at that I don’t think I did something out of the ordinary, but I understand why it should not always be taken for granted to be able to rely on a backup as such. To me it just came naturally that I should jump in if I was able to help. I think being a level 2 judge who doesn’t get to go out of his own LGS a lot due to time constraints helps in this regard. It makes it so that I can focus a lot of my time spent judging on making the local community as welcoming a place as it can be. So, when there were factors jeopardizing that growth it was obvious that I should make up for that.

On the topic of writing a review on the new candidate I thought it was only fair to Jonas and to the candidate to provide as much information as possible on the candidate’s performance and his background that I was able to gather so that their interview at a later date could go as smoothly as possible and still be relevant to his trial at the prerelease. After all it was also in the best interest for the local community that they got a new capable judge.

It is nice though to get recognition for something that is not that visible. It gave me an opportunity to reflect upon the progress and be proud of my community. Thank you for that.

We’re happy to hear Stijn thought he was just doing his job, but to us that’s what makes this more special.

Another judge who thought they were merely doing their job is Sylvester Schruijer, who got recognised by Toby Hazes:

I really like your ideas and plans for judging regular tournaments like prereleases outside of your local store. Sometimes local store judges can be a bit isolated because they don’t interact with other judges or other communities much. Judging in an unfamiliar environment allows for more interaction and gives you fresh and new perspectives for at home. Keep branching out!
(ノ^ω^)ハ(^ω^ )ノ

Here’s what Sylvester had to say about it:

I’m really happy that I have been recognized as a judge that has special plans. I don’t see it that way, I just want to do my best to create a fine environment for playing Magic. It started as a way to help my local community out. But as this grew I also went as player, judge and organizer to other places. Going to other places brought me much fun and enjoyment as I discovered new players, communities, other ways of community building and organizing. Not only for Magic, but also for Dungeons & Dragons. If I can help other communities like I help my own, then why shouldn’t I?

Visiting, organizing and judging outside your own community (your own comfort zone) can seem scary and pointless at first. But my experience is that the meeting new persons and enjoying the hobby with each other, while learning from each other, can be really rewarding.

I would recommend new judges that find this step also scary to take this leap and go venture forth into the unknown of going into new places and meet new people. It will be really worth it and the community will thank you for it.

Magic is very much a game of inclusion, and branching out the way Sylvester has done is definitely a benefit from and to the Judge Program. If you, yourself, would like to do more, feel free to browse your area for other stores, our Regional Forum for projects, or the internet for other initiatives in order to make your mark!

The BeNeLux Blog Team