Welcome back to a new edition of Judge of the Week! This time around, we are featuring someone who has shown as much excellence on the tournament floor as he has with his many projects. Say hello to Chase Culpon!
Name: Chase Culpon
Location: New York City
Judge start date: August 2014
Why did you become a Judge? It was a way to participate in MTG more widely on a competitive level.
Occupation: Audio Engineer
Favourite card: Deathrite Shaman
Least favourite card: Chalice of the Void
Favourite format: Legacy
Commander General: Gaddock Teeg
Favourite non-Magic Game: Battlestar Galactica board game, Bastion for video games.
Best tournament result: 5th (missing the top 4 cut) for a sealed Super Sunday Series for full RtR block.
Random fact about yourself: Judge dinner is my favorite part of any event.
How did you get involved in Magic in the first place?
I played back from Ice Age through 6th edition super, super casually as a kid. I rage quit after the 6th edition rules changes (WTF is the ‘stack’?!?) which in hindsight, was a really stupid reason to stop. I’d occasionally pick up a pre-constructed deck, but got back into the game during Innistrad block.
What are some of the projects you have been involved in?
I spend more time working on judge projects than I do at events. One of the secrets for anyone looking for a judge project is to just make things happen and keep at it until something sticks. Some of what I’ve been up to:
–Area Rep for New York City & Long Island. I share the role of area rep for New York City & Long Island with Sam Nathanson. My main responsibility as area rep is to know what’s going on locally and be a point of contact for our RC. We’re also encouraged to go beyond that as it’s appropriate for our area. My main focus has been trying to be a catalyst for a good judge community locally. That’s done mostly through an active Facebook group and roughly quarterly judge meetups/mini-conferences. I’m a big fan of getting together outside the context of events & conferences to really get to know people.
–Manage the PPTQ tracking spreadsheet for the Northeast. The PPTQ tracking spreadsheet in for the Northeast has a listing of every event with the date, format, location, and the reported head judge (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1g2FfwbYMbhQnwWwocBG7quSc1iBB2I-AUQknMChF4ps/edit?usp=sharing). The main goal of the spreadsheet is to make sure events can fire and highlight opportunities for L2s throughout the region to judge at stores they may not have a relationship with yet. We make this happen by pulling the full list of sanctioned events from Wizard’s website, and have L2s ‘claim’ events they’re HJing through a simple Google form. Big thanks to Joe Hughto and Dan Collins for really building the backbone of this system. My job is to remind L2s to fill out the form, verify all of the events against those reports & populate the main spreadsheet, and provide regular reports to all of the area reps about upcoming events that may not have head judges so they can act appropriately. There’s some nice side effects of having this kind of listing; the most obvious is local judges can see all of the PPTQs in their area, and have a point of contact if they’re interested in helping out at the event. My main responsibility as area rep is to know what’s going on locally, and be a point of contact for our RC, but we’re also encouraged to go beyond that as it’s appropriate for our area. My main focus has been trying to be a catalyst for a good judge community locally. That’s done mostly through an active facebook group for our area, and roughly quarterly judge meetups/mini-conferences. I’m a big fan of getting together outside the context of events & conferences to really get to know people.
–Worked on the GP NYC travel guide & created a companion FB group for travel ideas. The GP NYC travel guide is hopefully exactly what you’d expect out of a GP travel guide. It was much more of a challenge than I had anticipated when I first volunteered to help out, and I hope it was useful for everyone attending the event. I did have some twists that I experimented with. The main one was building a Facebook group centered around travel & activities surrounding the GP. I invited our local judges to join and be a resource there, and make that a friendly place for judges to ask questions, make plans, and make the best of their stay in the area (all without any grumblings about emails to the staff!). I like the concept better than the execution in this case–after an initial flurry, it’s a challenge to keep this kind of group active and engaged. The other small thing was taking a bunch of photos on the setup day, and sharing venue logistics as well–where the judge room is, the main/side events stage, restrooms, etc. I’m always anxious about exactly where I need to be going into a GP scale event, so hopefully what would make the event easier for me will help others as well.
–Developed & present a conference presentation on smaller competitive event logistics. My main conference presentation is “Anatomy of a Perfect Round” which is all about small and mid-size event logistics. Through the presentation, I outline all the little nuts and bolts that go into making a round happen, exactly when they ideally happen, and share some tips & tricks on how to handle things with limited resources. I’ve also lead a discussion on PPTQs at the last Judge Conference which is available online. It was a frank discussion about some of the opportunities and challenges in our area and ended up being geared mainly around head judging concerns, based on the attendance in the room.
–Launched a FB group for judges interested in improving health & fitness. Launching a local judge fitness group was one of more ambitious experiments. I’ve heard the Judge Program referred to as a ‘cult of self-improvement,’ so I decided to put that to the test! After a health scare last year, it became a big priority to make some major lifestyle changes. I knew I wasn’t alone in this, so I asked around, and collaboratively made an outline of what things would look like, and established the group. The good news is I’ve lost a substantial amount of weight and mostly addressed my health concerns. But, the group has faced the same challenges that the GP NYC travel group has–it is difficult to keep things active and engaging long-term.
What motivates you to continue being a Judge?
People & projects. Work and other hobbies (mainly cycling at this point) have made attending lots of events a challenge, but having friends at events and things I can work on as I have time keeps me going.
What is one tip you have for other Judges?
Networking is the one skill that’s not in anyone’s judge class that’s absolutely required to succeed in the Judge Program (and a secret–I’m bad at it, and most people are!). Clearly, getting to know TOs is a big way to get booked for events. But it’s also important to get to know the judges you hope to work with and remember we’re on the same team. Supporting, vouching, and helping others succeed is super important, as they’ll do the same for you in turn.
What’s the best part about your local Magic community?
The judges in New York City & Long Island are universally exceptional. The TOs, especially in NYC, are fiercely independent, and prefer to handle events themselves. Being the person to call when our experienced TOs need backup is a big accomplishment in itself, and the knowledge and professionalism of judges of all levels reflects that.
What is your favourite non-judging moment that happened with other Judges?
My favorite non-judging moment was the first NYC judge gathering I hosted. It was simple–I just invited everyone to my Super Bowl party. While the game was a great excuse to hang out & have a bunch of great chow, we spent more time playing various board games than actually watching. It’s great getting to know people outside of events, when the tournament doesn’t need to come first. I’ve yet to see someone upset that a game of Codenames was run sub-optimally. Low stakes = low barriers.
What’s the biggest rule-breaking play you’ve ever made as a player?
I’ll leave it up to you if this is truly ‘rule breaking.’ In a competitive sealed event, a player set his bomb (which I had no answer to) aside when blocking, since they didn’t want to lose it to a combat trick. They then promptly forgot it existed. I took full advantage, and clawed my way to a win in a still tight race. It was pretty awkward to point out the card sitting on the side of their playmat when shuffling up for the next game, and having to shrug when they asked if that was on the battlefield the whole time. This was all long before I was a judge, for what it’s worth.
What has been your favourite Magic event that you’ve judged?
I really enjoy judging on the SCG Tour whenever I have the chance. They’re the perfect sized event for me–big enough that teams and dedicated systems are needed, but not so big that people get disconnected just due to the scale of work that needs done.
What was the toughest Magic event that you’ve judged, and how did you deal with it?
Grand Prix Vegas. I wasn’t planning on attending if I wasn’t activated, and wasn’t activated until the week of the event. Since everything was more expensive for last-minute travel, I took a red-eye flight to arrive late on Friday night, and another red-eye back on Sunday night, to save money on expensive hotels. Combined with dealing with some difficult situations on Saturday, the event was physically & mentally draining. Since that experience, I’ve stopped considering standby positions, and scaled back how far I’m willing to travel on a tight schedule.
What would you be doing now if Magic no longer existed?
I’d like to think I’d be cycling a lot more, and I’d likely still be Twitch streaming regularly.
What is the strangest card interaction you have seen in a tournament?
I’ve taken the dreaded Chains of Mephistopheles + Sylvan Library call when both players cooperated in making things go horribly, horribly wrong. Second-best was sorting out a disagreement in life totals involving a Seeker of the Way, with a player missing the prowess trigger, but not the lifelink.
How do you have fun during events?
High-fives are a personal favorite, and stashing some healthy snacks definitely helps keep me (and hopefully others) going. But really, I end up going way too deep optimizing whatever task I’m on. I have way too much fun cutting match slips & using a stopwatch to find the ideal setup for each cutter/event size.
If you were a Planeswalker, what would be your ultimate?
I’ll take Tamiyo, the Moon Sage’s ultimate. Once I’ve got something down, I’m all about value & am happy to keep rocking over & over again.
If you were a creature, what would be your creature type?
Human Soldier. Champion of the Parish is my champion.
What was the proudest moment of your Judge life?
I had one particular local player who was never happy about getting penalties in competitive events. After about 6 months, he thanked me for judging, acknowledged while he wasn’t cooperative in the past, and that he appreciated that things were consistent & fair for everyone.
What do you see as your greatest strengths as a Judge?
I have a good attention to detail, and I’m good at managing a lot of variables from round to round throughout an event. It lets me triage tasks well, and keep things flowing smoothly even when those tasks may not be.
What do you see as your short-term and long-term goals within the Judge Program?
Short-term: I’m trying to find a balance of staying active at big events, while still doing well at work and other hobbies. While it’d be great to be a judge that travels all the time for events, those demands haven’t lined up with my capabilities this year.
Long-term: I’d love to be an experienced L2 that can be flexible enough to deliver wherever I am on staff. The new team-leading certification is an intriguing goal to aim for, the opportunities I’ve had to team lead have been very rewarding, and I’d love the opportunity to challenge myself there.
Two Truths and a Lie
Two of the following statements are true and one is false. Figure out which!
- I’ve performed for a stadium of over 50,000 people.
- My record collection is valued more than my Magic collection.
- I’ve bungee jumped & loved it.
If there is a judge who is also doing something exemplary, please nominate a judge TODAY!