Good to have you back, judges! This week, we’re chatting with one of the most veteran active judges in the program and a member of the Magic Judge Hall of Fame. Like Elvis or Madonna, many know this rock star by just a single name: Carter!
Name and Level: John Carter
Location: Renton, WA
Judge start date: April 8, 1997, according to my “suitable for framing” Judge certificate.
Why did you become a Judge? When I started, rules where done store-by-store with their own banned and restricted lists. I wanted to have a consistent experience no matter where I went in town. That, and the groupies.
Occupation: Events Experience Designer
Favourite card: Balance (the irony!)
Least favourite card: Humility
Favourite format: 5-Color
Commander General: Numot, the Devastator—so very American
Favourite non-Magic Game: League of Legends (current), Heroes of Might and Magic (classic)
Best tournament result: Played in the last Pro Tour on “The Boat.” That event made me the judge I am.
Random fact about yourself: I celebrate the holidays every year with ribs flown in from Memphis, TN.
Tell us your favourite Judge story.
I have many favorite judge stories and their lengthy tangents. Probably the most important one is from an event where Antonino De Rosa came up to me after an appeal and explained that he knows nothing he could say would change the ruling but that he wanted to talk about it anyway. That one best summed up in two lessons:
1) “Even when a player is wrong, they always deserve the chance to be heard.”
That is a good reminder that players are people, and recognizing each other’s humanity is part of being an exceptional judge.
2) “If someone says you’re being a jerk, the first thing you should ask yourself is, ‘Am I being a jerk?’” When we hear negative things, the impulse is to immediately justify or explain. Sometimes we just do or get things wrong. Respect the people in your events or your life that are willing to tell you what you get wrong—that’s the first step in getting better.
How did you get involved in Magic in the first place?
A girl named Stormy taught me to play at a diner in the middle of the night, and my best friend in college got hooked, too. He read stuff to be more competitive, and I read to understand the rules better.
How has being a Judge influenced your non-Magic life?
I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question. What is a non-Magic life? I have been incredibly fortunate to be able to make Magic and gaming a central part of my life and do many awesome things. I have sacrificed a lot and endured a lot, but me, my life, Magic, and being a judge are basically indistinguishable at this point.
What motivates you to continue being a Judge?
I am a judge. It’s not what I do—it’s what I am. And the fact is that most of the very best people in my life are judges. Judges in the aggregate are some of the best people one can find almost anywhere.
What is one tip you have for other Judges?
What’s the best part about your local Magic community?
The genuine care we have for each other and willingness to work together for the benefit of individual members as needed.
What is your favourite non-Magic hobby?
Gaming of some sort—always something gaming, though the specifics vary.
What is your favourite non-judging moment that happened with other Judges?
Actually, I have a favorite moment pending. Vicente Davis knows what it is. In related news, be careful about handing your phone to Carter.
What has been your favourite Magic event that you’ve judged?
Many favorites each for their own reasons. Either of the Modern Masters GPs in Las Vegas.
What positive aspects has the Judge Program contributed to your everyday life?
I can be terribly shy. Judging gives me confidence. It’s also taught me how to analyze, problem-solve, lead, follow, listen, and so on. My everyday life is better every day because judging has made me a better person.
If you could chat with one person, real or fictional, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Abraham Lincoln. I thoroughly believe in how he brought together rivals and used their struggles to make the answers he came up with all the better for it. He also knows a thing or twenty about making hard choices and helping people commune with the angels of their better nature.
What would you be doing now if Magic no longer existed?
I’d likely wind up working in community development or event planning—always trying to connect people to each other and what they love.
What is the strangest card interaction you have seen in a tournament?
Does interacting with the environment count? A few years ago, I was playing in a 2HG Prerelease. Our opponents tried to block. I pointed out the card had flying. He lifted his non-flier up and said, “Flying?” I lifted ours up, “Fly…ing.” Higher the opponent went saying, “Flyyyyying?” At this point I flicked our flier straight up saying, “Flying!” (Btw: don’t try this at home.) The weirdness is that the creature never came down. Somehow, the corner had gotten in the tiny ceiling tile gap such that the card and sleeve were dangling from the ceiling… Flying.
What is your favorite “after event” story?
You do know what the first rule of “after events” stories is, right?
How do you have fun during events?
Well, I’m me, so I pretty much hang out with myself.
A lot of what motivates me now is seeing events go smoothly, judges get better, and players have fun. So when I’m not executing on a specific task, I look for ways to make any of those three things happen. Seeing a judge to better on calls late in the weekend after getting to talk to them early in the weekend about taking calls is fun to me.
If you were a Planeswalker, what would be your ultimate?
[+ 6] Draw a card.
Yep, it’s that simple. “Draw a card” is my favorite mechanic—it introduces a world of opportunity. +6 means my ultimate is actually making me stronger, not weaker. And what kind of ultimate adds loyalty instead of removing it? The kind that puts a huge value on loyalty and that’s willing to turn old ideas on their heads.
If you were a creature, what would be your creature type?
Sage of Lat-Nam (for which I own the 8th Edition original art) is a Human Artificer, but he used to be a Sage.
What was the proudest moment of your judge life?
For actual event effectiveness? Seeing the beginning of the main event at GP Las Vegas 2013, despite all the doubters and setbacks. I had designed a floor plan with many features that were new and maximized every square foot of the available space. The event almost doubled the previous Magic event size record (a day after the Vegas Mini-Masters had broken the Magic record), and it set a new World Record for trading card events (previously held by a non-Magic event).
From a more pure-judging perspective? Being elected on the first ever ballot for the Magic Judge Hall of Fame. I’ve always worked to make the Judge Program more accessible, friendlier, and more effective for judges, players, and organizers. To have my peers recognize my contributions to a program we all love is both touching and humbling.
In all I’ve done, though, the thing that makes me most proud is seeing the successes of the people who I have helped, defended, supported, or given opportunities as they grow and develop.
What character in Magic (real or fictional) represents you the best, and why?
Urza—he has been around a very long time, he wears glasses, he likes to tinker with stuff, he has a temper, he’s imperfect but keeps trying, he’s a father, and he doesn’t get along with his brother. Oh, and he’s pretty baller.
Two Truths and a Lie
Two of the following statements are true and one is false. Figure out which!
- Except for judge shirts, I have only worn red shirts for the past ten years.
- I once removed a catheter from inside my own kidney while on break at a tournament.
- I once broke my ankle at a large tournament, wrapped a bandage around it, and kept working anyway—for two days.
If there is a judge who is also doing something exemplary, please nominate a judge TODAY!