I have been a judge for two years, and for all that time, I have not attended any judge conference. I heard a lot of good things about conferences, and since the UAE recently joined the Europe East region, I decided to finally attend the region’s Summer Conference that was held on the weekend of July 22nd in Struga, Macedonia.
What also helped me in deciding this is the fact that I was going to GP Stockholm the weekend after, so my relatively long travels will not be spent only to attend one Magic-related event. I was looking forward to all of the things I will learn in the conference, and all of the awesome people I will meet.
I arrive in Skopje, Macedonia, and Vladimir and Martin (the judges in Macedonia) were extremely kind in their hospitality from preparing a place to stay, to food and spending a good night in the city.
Other judges coming from out the country join us in the ride to Struga, where the conference will be held. We arrive early, and get comfortable in the hotel. Throughout the evening, the judges kept arriving, and I met a lot of cool people. I would like to mention each and every name, but the list will be too long (and it already exists on judge apps for that matter). People spent the evening and night hanging out, going out for dinner, playing drafts and EDH, etc. It was, in short, a nice evening for socializing.
The day started with a nice breakfast and talking to other judges. Then we started the first seminar titled ‘Counting Cards’ by Georges Rehak. The seminar was very insightful, and it went over the different types of cards and how to determine whether to count them toward the total number of cards or not.
From this moment, there were 8 seminars divided into two groups that run at the same time, so you can attend a maximum of 4 full seminars, and each time you have to choose between two. For my first choice, it was ‘Rules Interaction in Modern’ by Milos Perovic, which I chose over ‘Your First Competitive Event’ because I already have Competitive REL experience. I enjoyed the seminar a lot, because I don’t play, watch, or judge Modern events at all, so it was nice to test some of the interactions in Modern. One specific rules interaction that was very interesting was related to Wasteland Strangler’s ability while Rest in Piece is on the battlefield. Basically, the triggered ability works, and if you find a way to blink the Eldrazi, you can get the ability again and again.
For my second choice of seminars, I chose ‘Shortcuts’ by Georgi Benev over ‘Casting a Spell’ for the same reason. This was one of the two best seminars I’ve attended, and solely because of the debates and discussions we had in it. In this seminar specifically, we were discussing the ‘Combat’ shortcut very deeply. We brought up different scenarios, different kinds of players, etc.
The third choice of seminars was interesting. It was either ‘Reviews’ or ‘Serious Problems at Regular REL’. I didn’t expect to choose a Regular-related seminar, but this topic was serious enough to choose it (pun totally intended). The seminar was done by Ivan Stefanov. In the seminar, we dissected the JAR document, and looked at Serious Problems cases. We also shared some stories of when we had to DQ players for serious problems at Regular.
The fourth choice was tough. It was between ‘Layers and Replacement Effects’ and ‘Backups’. In my opinion, both topics were highly technical, but one was about Game Rules, and the other was about IPG. I chose ‘Backups’ because it is a topic that I lack knowledge and experience in. It was done by Ivan Petkovic. This one was the second of the two best seminars, also due to the discussions we had. The seminar mainly presented philosophy and different cases of backups, with very interesting scenarios. We discussed whether or not to back up in the first place, and then until when to back up if we chose to do so. The most discussed scenario was when player N has Chalice of the Void in play (X = 1) and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and player A casts Pithing Needle for 1 mana.
With that seminar, the day concluded with a final Simulation Workshop. It was an implementation of the ‘Random Siuation Generator’ project. I recommend everyone to check it out, because it is simply amazing and incredible! It fills that need in every judge to be put into a real life scenario (acted by judges) and how to handle the situation. It is great because you get the feedback right away after you’re done with the scenario. The situations ranged from cheating, all the way to players asking each other out and getting phone numbers. I enjoyed the fact that my “demotivation baggage” that I carried for sometime after making mistakes in judging just went away. I realized that not all judges are perfect, and we can all learn something new every day.
In the evening, there were many things to do like hanging out in the city, playing EDH, EMN/SOI draft, MM15 draft, or EMA draft, or simply enjoying drinks and conversations. I got to learn about many different beliefs and cultural backgrounds which was fascinating. To quote Giorgos:
After the second day’s breakfast, we attended the ‘JAR vs IPG’ seminar by Yakup Cakmak. It was good, because it draws the similarities and the differences between the two, and we had discussions about how to handle different situations in JAR vs in the IPG.
Next, Giorgos Trichopoulos presented the last seminar about recent developments in the judge program and the state of the region. It was very informative and gave the bigger picture of the whole program generally, and the region specifically.
And with that, the conferences was finished, we took a great group photo, and everyone started planning and securing rides to airports and home. ☺
In brief, here’s what I went away with:
– Going to conferences is awesome. You get to learn new things, and you get to meet and socialize with other judges (way more than Grand Prixs).
– It’s okay to not be perfect or to make mistakes, as long as we strive to learn and teach. Different people excel at different areas. Basically, if you feel ashamed that there is an area you’re not good at, you shouldn’t.
– My God the number of judges in the field of software engineering is just huge! 😀