Welcome back, Judges! This week we get to know a Judge who has a passion for providing positive environments for players and staff alike. Let’s get to know Dylan!
Name: Dylan Harkness
Judge Start Date: mid-March 2017
Why did you become a Judge. Comp REL was the only way that I was thinking of the game when I was primarily a player, and I loved the way that rules and policy were applied in order to make tournaments fair and rulings equal. There was also a small void in a few of my LGSs, where even as a player I knew I was dissatisfied with how tournaments were being run, and wanted to be able to do it myself. Between wanting to understand the policy of Comp REL for myself and the want to increase player enjoyment (of others and myself) Judging was a natural next step.
Favorite card: Maverick Thopterist
Least favorite card: Stony Silence
Commander General: Rashmi, Eternities Crafter
Favorite non-Magic Game: DotA 2
Best tournament result: I had a 7-0 start on no byes at a GP Toronto back in Dragons of Tarkir standard. I ended day 1 7-2 and started day 2 10-2. Got all in my head and threw matches to a no-money finish of 10-5. I did beat Seth Manfield day 1, and he won Worlds later that year, so I like to think that was the tournament where I also low key won Worlds.
Random fact about yourself: I have never judged an event at Regular REL that wasn’t a GP Side event.
You were nominated for your ability to create a positive and memorable experience for both Judges and staff at large events. Why do you think being able to cultivate this experience is important?
One thing I try to carry into every event I work is – what would I expect as a player? And the single answer I always find myself coming back to is: effort. When Judges care and are putting their best foot forward to make events smooth, players notice. Even the smallest things, from being quick about distributing slips, to thanking players for their time after a ruling, are so pivotal to generating a positive tournament experience.
Customers appreciate knowing that we are working for them, not along with them, to make a tournament successful. I always think of Turbotown as where I get to flex my customer service the most, because people don’t need “Reserved” Judge in Turbo. They need Loud Judge. They need Energy Judge. They need “I also hate waiting in the MTGO Queue” Judge. When you can be that person and get the pairings quickly – or you generate a circle of regular players coming to jam in Turbo because THEY KNOW you’re going to work hard to get them playing – it is wildly, wildly rewarding. When Judges and staff are the source of energy and exude effort, players want to keep playing, and we don’t have a job without players.
What are some tips you have for other Judges?
Think like a player and you will start to see what they need before they need it. You are running the events – it is only as smooth as your systems and preparedness.
Tell us your favorite Judge story.
So many positive stories have come from GP floors for me, but if I have to pick one, it’d be Turbo Vintage.
Two players approached me at a Turbotown in GP Seattle and stopped me, saying “Judge, we are so happy – we found each other here.” And I was happy for whatever that meant but was in the dark so I inquired. These players had been trying to find a Vintage opponent all weekend, and on Sunday, finally found each other. So they went and got a $5 Turbo Voucher each, sat down, and jammed no-proxy, full altered, gorgeous Vintage, for the lowest stakes I’ve ever seen in real life. It was by far the most money I’ve ever seen cast at each other in a single sitting, and at the end the winner earned enough prize tix for TWO (count ‘em) Rivals of Ixalan booster packs. This was an event where I remembered that it isn’t always about the prizes, or even winning, but just playing the game.
What is your favorite non-judging moment that happened with other Judges (or after event story)?
We had a very long road to GP Providence, I was going as a part of a 3 person team and my mentor Mike G was driving. We had some time to kill, and the radio was dull, so I read and voice acted the Ixalan story that had just been released out loud. It was a long story, but let me tell you, time flew by, and I haven’t felt silly-fun like that in a very long time. Drives to events often make some of the best non-judging moments.
What challenges have you faced or are you facing to become a better judge, and how have you worked to overcome them?
My biggest challenges in judging are firing from the hip at table side. My first impulse is always to fix issues and answer questions, but I often need to dial down to investigate and think about answers. Often, there are a lot of implications that we cannot understand when we arrive to a call, and we need to remember that we have to catch up to the game – not just spout of what we think is a correct answer.
In order to tackle this, I find relevant rulings and policy before I make any given ruling. It adds a minute or so to my calls, however, players appreciate the depth of explanation, and it is very satisfying to know that you are correct. There is no shame in double checking your instincts.
How has being a Judge influenced your non-Magic life?
Honestly, I used to be embarrassed to admit I played Magic. I’m sure it comes from my youth being taught that being a nerd was weird or whatever (jokes on you, schoolyard bullies).
Judging has given me a ton more confidence and pride in my hobbies; I love gaming in general and having Judging as a way to literally work running tournaments for one of my biggest hobbies is a huge mental boon. Judging has helped to build up my general self image, and has helped me come to terms with myself and the things that make me happy. Nothing is more rewarding than doing something you love, and being paid for it.
Who have been some of your biggest mentors in the Judge Program, and what did they teach you?
Mike Gyssels, Michael Hill and Graham Schofield have been my consistent go-tos for high quality judge talks, advice and guidance. Gyssels especially has helped shape my entire approach to player interaction and community building, and has been a truly excellent friend to me in the few years I’ve known him!
Honorable mention goes to Gerard Trpin, whom I have only worked with in Grand Prix ODE’s, but has been a shining example of how I aim to carry myself, and hope others carry themselves, in the judge community.
What’s the best part about your local Magic community?
The quiet respect for Comp REL style play that exists, and the extreme pride that the local regulars carry in their stores.
How did you get involved in Magic in the first place?
Context: I’m working at a summer camp in high school, and some of the kids at the bus stop I work are playing the game – so that night I popped off to a LGS and bought some garbage fire of a deck (I think I called it “BlueWhiteGreen Deathtouch”) and jammed it against this 10 year old while we waited for the bus the next day, and he destroyed me. Again, and again, and again. The kid was on Naya Blitz and was just T3-T4ing me.That’s how I got hooked. When I found what a randomized deck of 60 cards could actually do in the game, when you netdeck pro lists, and it felt like a optimized war machine. Honestly humbling to be beat by someone almost half my age at the time, and taught me never to judge my opponent based on looks or age.
If you were a Planeswalker what would be your ultimate?
Whatever it did, it would make Thopter tokens and draw cards. Those are the things I like to do.
What character in Magic (real or fictional) represents you the best, and why?
Sai, Master Thopterist. All of the ability text is relevant to what I’m trying to do in MTG, but also, the character is just extremely particular about delivering a perfect product, which is something that definitely resonates with me. I don’t believe in doing something unless you plan to try to be good at it.
Two Truths and a Lie
Two of the following statements are true and one is false. Figure out which!
- Dylan has placed first at a national improvisation festival.
- Dylan has been medically diagnosed as too stretchy.
- Dylan was briefly a carnival barker for his local heritage festival.
If there is a judge who is also doing something exemplary, please nominate a judge TODAY!