Here at Judge of the Week, we take the time to highlight and thank judges who do amazing things to promote the community. And since bringing you these fine interviews is pretty amazing in itself, we have asked our brave volunteers to interview themselves. Today’s offering comes from Dominick Riesland.
Name: Dominick Riesland
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Judge start date: August 1997
Occupation: Event runner for pay, game designer for fun
Favourite card: Fireball. It’s one of the first X spells, and it’s far and away the best to be published up to now.
Least favourite card: Chains of Mephistopheles. Any card that requires a flow chart to understand is a nightmare.
Favourite format: Turnabout. It’s a format I came up with in 1996 (before the card was published) as an approximation of duplicate Magic.
Commander General: Glissa, the Traitor
Favourite non-Magic Game: I consider myself a “Renaissance Man” when it comes to games. Some of the ones I don’t turn down are: Titan, Merchant of Venus, Acquire, Catan, or Advanced Civilization.
Best tournament result: At GenCon 1995, Wizards ran a test booster draft with 27 players at one long table and using only two Fourth Edition packs per player. I drafted a Black/Red deck of small creatures, including three Frozen Shades, two Dwarven Warriors, and singles of Dragon Whelp, Carrion Ants, Dark Ritual, and Fireball and ran away with the win.
Random fact about yourself: My DCI number is 4-digits long. (Editor’s Note: It’s true. Had to do a double take.)
Why did you become a Judge?
I am the person in the area who is drawn into reading the rules of any game in great detail. As such, everyone in the area asks me how rules work, so once I took up Magic, I was acting like a judge anyway. Being in the Judge Program just makes it official. Also, I get invited to more events as a competent judge than I would as a mediocre player.
Tell us your favourite Judge story.
Some people know me as “The judge who broke Waylay in 1999”. I didn’t break it, I merely confirmed that the Comprehensive Rules broke the printed text. Since not everyone is aware of this bit of Magic history, here’s a brief summary:
Urza’s Saga was released in Fall of 1997 under the original Magic rules, and the Comprehensive Rules were released in 1999. That created a window where cards from that set were Standard legal but being interpreted under a different set of rules from those under which they were designed. One such card was Waylay. The intent was to have the tokens from Waylay only be used as blockers that get exiled at the end of the turn, but the Comprehensive Rules changed the meaning of “at end of turn”. This allowed the tokens to stay until the next turn if they were cast in the end step, meaning if the card were cast in the opponent’s end step, they would survive long enough to attack. Before heading to US Nationals that year, a friend I was going down there with asked about the interaction, and I confirmed it with the judges there. As it turned out, he busted it out in the “Last Chance” Grinder event before Nationals. I was head judging that Grinder, so when I confirmed the ruling, news spread through the hall and the rest is history.
How did you get involved in Magic in the first place?
I almost got involved Christmas of 1993 when the local game store had a single starter deck of Unlimited sitting on a table. I thought about getting it for several minutes but passed on it.
At the time, I was monitoring several mailing lists, including one for role playing games (like Dungeons & Dragons). After the new year, that list started getting threads about this card game called Magic and backlash from people who didn’t think it was appropriate to discuss a card game in a roleplaying mailing list. So when I checked on this a month or two later, there were no cards available until Revised. I got a starter deck for myself and one for my roommate at the time, and then a few boosters which turned into boxes, and it snowballed from there.
How has being a Judge influenced your non-Magic life?
I have been extremely introverted most of my life. Being a judge means that I have had to learn to interact with people more and see life from a perspective I would not have otherwise. Throughout my youth, I dreaded any attempt to speak in front of more than ten people, and would stammer my way through, and killing myself over how I had botched it. Now, with repeated announcements and explanations of rulings, I am much more comfortable in my interactions with others.
In effect, you were nominated by John Temple, the Project Manager for Judge of the Week, for your work on the project. Why did you get involved in the project?
I have been a fan of the project since it began, so when an opportunity arose to help out, I took it. Judges are people, too. They want to be recognized for their hard work and dedication to Magic, just as players do. Now that I am a part of it, I am grateful for the chance to recognize excellence in Judging.
What motivates you to continue being a Judge?
I am known in my area as the person who can get the answer to how any game works. It helps people learn and have more fun. Doing so as a judge means that even those who don’t know me know that I can help them.
What is one tip you have for other Judges?
Whenever you get the chance, read the
card Oracle. A subtle difference in wording (such as “choose an opponent” vs. “target opponent”) can make a big difference in how the card works.
What’s the best part about your local Magic community?
People tend to be accepting of one another here. We have people from all ends of the playing spectrum, and many of the most experienced players are willing to help those who are having a harder time learning the game.
At one store, we had one person who was legally blind (he can barely read the cards) and it took him a while to understand how they interacted. Yet in all the FNM matches I attended, his opponents were gracious and willing to help the game run smoothly, even when they were being beat.
What is your favourite non-Magic hobby?
I do a lot of tabletop role playing games. I am currently a Local Coordinator for the Dungeons & Dragons Adventurers League. I have also been working on a couple of design projects based on other role playing games.
The game I devote the most time and effort into designing is called Torg. It was first published in 1990 and allowed multiple world settings to be in effect at the same time, which no other game before or since has done quite as well. I ran a group that consisted of a New York City police officer, a werewolf, an elf magician, a helicopter pilot, and someone with a prototype Iron Man suit all trying to stop cybernetically-enhanced demons from taking over downtown Los Angeles.
What is your favourite non-judging moment that happened with other Judges?
At a PTQ in 1999, we had the head judge, scorekeeper, and all three floor judges discussing whether Raistlin was justified in becoming a lich.
What’s the biggest rule-breaking play you’ve ever made as a player?
In the early days of Magic, it was assumed by many people that all discards were random. I had a deck that “took advantage” of that misunderstanding by having a turn 1 Dark Ritual/Mindstab Thrull or Hypnotic Specter followed by a turn 2 attack and Hymn to Tourach. Those who chose to let me pick their Mindstab Thrull discards randomly were putting themselves at a huge disadvantage.
What has been your favourite Magic event that you’ve judged?
I was a floor judge at the Unglued prerelease event at GenCon. It was unique in many ways, but I will mention just two of them. One, Mark Rosewater head judged it in a chicken costume. And two, the prizes were not based on finish. Instead, the players were given a raffle ticket for each match win, plus more tickets for certain achievements, such as doing the Hokey Pokey to activate an ability, casting the B. F. M., getting a Paper Tiger, Rock Lobster, and Scissors Lizard together on the battlefield, etc.
What positive aspects has the Judge Program contributed to your everyday life?
I have grown in many of the social aspects of life, such as empathy and assertiveness. I also am getting better at explaining things in ways that other people can understand.
If you could chat with one person, real or fictional, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Ultimately, I would want to talk with Jesus. Being able to get the context of what happened while he was alive and why things happened the way they did would be amazing.
What would you be doing now if Magic no longer existed?
I would probably be putting more time into the D&D Adventurer’s League, and working harder on some of my side projects for other games.
What is the strangest card interaction you have seen in a tournament? A single Goblin Rabblemaster attacking with any number of 1/1 Goblin tokens only deals 2 damage when the defending player has a Circle of Flame. The Circle triggers kill the tokens before the Rabblemaster can count the number of other attacking Goblins.
What is your favourite “after event” story?
After a friend won the Wisconsin State Championship in 1998 with a deck he called Ponza, about seven of us (including the winner) went to a restaurant in the area that served ponzas. (A ponza is a made by taking a single-serving pizza, folding it in half to seal the toppings inside, and cooking it in a deep fryer.)
How do you have fun during events?
The process of running an event is fun for me. It doesn’t matter if I am pairing a round, scoring it, offering rulings, doing deck checks, or explaining how a particular interaction works—I can find fun in it. When scoring, for example, I can look at standings and try to predict how the next round will turn out (how many intentional draws, possible interesting pairings, etc.) When doing a deck check, I can appreciate the choices made, and so on.
If you were a Planeswalker what would be your ultimate?
[-9]: You get an emblem with, “You may pay  rather than the cost of any loyalty ability. If you do, loyalty abilities of Planeswalkers you control of that type can’t be activated.”
If you were a creature what would be your creature type?
What hobbies do you have outside of Magic?
I am starting to make videos on YouTube. I currently have one Magic-related channel called MtG Heretic, plus a few others. The next videos on MtG Heretic will feature what I call crusades instead of heresies. A heresy is a controversial position on a topic, such as advocating chess clocks in Magic. A crusade is a push to do something I don’t really consider controversial and corrects something done out of ignorance or habit, such as reducing the amount of judgespeak in rulings and announcements.
Proudest moment of your Judge life?
Any time a player comes up to me and thanks me for running a smooth event.
What character in Magic (real or fictional) represents you the best, and why? Ertai, Wizard Adept. If life had gone better, he could have been Jace. Instead, things go a little crazy for him. I can identify with that.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I received my degrees (in mathematics and philosophy) in 2006. Both of these rely on strong logical skills, which I use in many areas, including Magic. This background has helped me work through situations I did not anticipate, as I can walk through them one step at a time.
Two Truths and a Lie
Two of the following statements are true and one is false. Figure out which!
- I finished first in mathematics for my division at the US Academic Decathlon
- I have also judged events for duplicate bridge and chess
- I invented a monster for Pathfinder called the Rhinoceraptor.
Judges! We would love to hear more about some awesome stories and awesome judges! If you believe one of your local colleagues is doing Exemplar-y work, this might be your chance to make them an upcoming Judge of the Week, so nominate a Judge TODAY!