This week’s judge is Daniel De Swarte, the Scottish Area Captain and a fungi lover! Get to know him in this edition of Judge of the Week!
Name: Daniel De Swarte
Location: Dunfermline, Scotland
Judge start date and level up date: Started GP London 2013, levelled up December 2014
Why did you become a Judge? To formalise the role I was already performing in my local store; an enthusiasm for the rules of the game had led to me being “the rules guy”.
Occupation: Software Test Engineer
Favourite card: My Vendilion Clique judge promo given by Snap Lauder.
Least favourite card: Armageddon
Favourite format: Cube draft
Commander General: Azami, Lady of Scrolls (no combos though)
Favourite non-Magic Game: Lords of Waterdeep
Best tournament result: GP Day 2 or PPTQ win
Random fact about yourself: I love pink gaming accessories (deck box, sleeves, etc.).
Tell us your favourite Judge story:
I was judging an event back in Return to Ravnica Standard, where a player called me over to a table because they’d cast Sphinx’s Revelation for some number before realising they had fewer cards remaining in their library. The worst part was that they had their Elixir of Immortality on the board and would have been fine had they used it beforehand. Later that event, I was watching a different game when I heard from behind me, “Judge, I’ve done it again!”
How did you get involved in Magic in the first place?
I found a 2 player starter set for 8th edition and learned to play with my younger brother. The decks were somewhat unbalanced, with the UW not quite control deck being pretty disadvantaged, but I ended up getting stuck with it more often than not. This has led to me trying to make control work in almost any format I play.
How has being a Judge influenced your non-Magic life?
It has had a huge impact on pretty much every aspect of my life due to the self improvement which the program emphasises. Talking to new people, addressing a room, or giving feedback to a friend are things I struggled with before judging. Also, when I’m not playing Magic, I’m usually spending time with awesome people I met playing and judging the game.
You were nominated for being a lead example as an Area Captain. What are your primary goals in this position?
Previously, I was particularly focused on development of judges within the area, judge/player/store relationships and coordination of organised play in order to make the PPTQ system work for us. We now have a lot of judges from new/prospective L1s through to experienced PPTQ and GP judges, and have managed to avoid a lot of the issues other areas faced with the PPTQ system.
My current goals are to improve communication within the area, allowing remote judges to be included more easily, strengthening the community of Scottish judges and helping local judges get involved regionally and globally. Building on our current judge development offerings such as conferences and adding more opportunities to meet other judges is a core part of those plans moving into next year.
What motivates you to continue being a Judge?
The UK judge community is incredibly supportive and continues to push me to be a better person, but I also feel like I have something to offer, which helps make that relationship work. The player community in Scotland is also generally pretty awesome, and have been really responsive to initiatives in the area such as our event calendar and competitive Facebook group.
What is one tip you have for other Judges?
Give feedback. The best way to get feedback from someone else is to make sure you’re giving them feedback yourself. Putting context around how other people are using their skills also helps with self evaluation and lets you be a mentor to yourself through learning to constructively assess your own feelings and responses to situations. If you give someone feedback and start a discussion about why and how they did things, it can be a great way to learn.
What’s the best part about your local Magic community?
Our local store closed a while back, but the community stayed together and formed a club, making sure Magic events continued at a local cafe. One of the primary aims is to encourage inclusivity and to make everyone feel welcome. I think we’ve made some progress there and I hope we can continue to do more. Also, back when Highspire Mantis was in Standard, they insisted on calling me Highspire Dantis, which has somehow continued on a less frequent basis. There was also a tradition of giving your opponent a high five when it entered the battlefield. We tend to find small things like this every set which everyone can get involved with.
What is your favourite non-Magic hobby?
I play pool in a local pool team. It’s UK blackball pool, and is played on a table about a third the size of a snooker table. We’re not very competitive, but it’s great fun. I’m the worst pool player in my immediate family, since my parents and brother have all played for Scotland, but I can at least hold my own in some casual pub games.
What is your favourite non-judging moment that happened with other Judges?
Earlier this year in Prague when we went to escape rooms on the Monday after the GP. I’d never tried an escape room before, so had no idea what to expect, but ended up having a great time solving puzzles with some judges I hadn’t really spoken to before (and a couple I had). It was strange, because I used to set up similar chains of puzzles for my brother to solve when I was younger and didn’t ever think it would be something other people would do.
What’s the biggest rule-breaking play you’ve ever made as a player?
At a local PPTQ back in KTK/BFZ Standard I was playing Atarka Red. On turn 2, I played and sacrificed a Windswept Heath to cast Dragon Fodder, shortcutting by passing the turn before going to find my Forest. My opponent played their turn and passed back to me, at which point I was still searching for the Forest. The one Forest was the only untapped land in my deck Windswept Heath could fetch. Unfortunately, what I had failed to notice is that I had it in hand already. There was also that one time I made it all the way to the semi final of a WMCQ and didn’t find out my deck list contained 4 Gemstone Caverns rather than 4 Gemstone Mine. I found out later when the person writing up my deck list online queried the strange choice.
What has been your favourite Magic event that you’ve judged?
GP Rotterdam 2017. Since this was the team sealed event immediately prior to the WMC, there were a lot of very strong teams in attendance, so it was a great opportunity to watch high level Magic up close. This was also an interesting event for me since I ended up juggling about 5 side events at one point, and somehow didn’t mess up!
What positive aspects has the Judge Program contributed to your everyday life?
It’s enabled me to talk to new people a lot more easily than I could ever do before, and made it possible for me to do things like giving presentations and generally addressing a room. I was never a confident person beforehand, but the encouragement and positive reinforcement I’ve received through judging has pushed me to do these things a lot more.
What would you be doing now if Magic no longer existed?
Probably be spending a lot of my time trying to play online card games such as Hearthstone competitively, and almost certainly joining or starting a board gaming club.
How do you have fun during events?
When I have a chance, I like to talk to players about their decks and any interesting decisions they’ve had to make during the event, or cool interactions which have come up. It’s surprising how often this leads to them asking about becoming a judge!
If you were a planeswalker what would be your ultimate?
I’d create an emblem for my controller with the text “At the beginning of your upkeep, shuffle your library, and then reveal the top card of your library. You must cast that card if able.”
If you were a creature what would be your creature type?
I’d have to go with Fungus, because I’m definitely a fungi 😀
Proudest moment of your judge life:
Being asked by Snap Lauder to take up the role of area captain in Scotland. I was a fairly new L2 at the time, and had no idea I was considered capable of this role, so it was really nice to have someone put that faith in me.
What character in Magic represents you the best, and why?
I tried to avoid saying Jace for this one, because I certainly couldn’t relate to the older version of the character, but the reboot is probably the most appropriate match. While I’m not nearly as organised as he manages to be, I tend to serve a similar role within my groups of friends as he does in the Gatewatch. I’m often the person coming up with plans and organising things in the background while others make more decisive calls.
Two Truths and a Lie
Two of the following statements are true and one is false. Figure out which!
- When I was 14, I pretended to be 21 so that I could be a tournament organiser for online games.
- At 17, I lived in a tent in my best friend’s back garden for almost 2 weeks because I wasn’t allowed to paint my room black.
- I performed “Return to Sender” by Elvis Presley in front of my primary school class.
If there is a judge who is also doing something exemplary, please nominate a judge TODAY!