Welcome to another edition of Judge of the Week! This week’s rock star has enthusiasm to spare and feedback to share! Say hello to Eliana Rabinowitz!
Name: Eliana Rabinowitz
Judge start date: 2/14/15
Occupation: Magic Judge! (For now… Searching for a day job that will allow me to keep judging just as much!)
Favorite card: Heritage Druid
Least favorite card: Pyroclasm
Favorite format: Draft!
Commander General: Ezuri, Renegade Leader
Favorite non-Magic Game: Terra Mystica
Best tournament result: Conceded in the finals of a Sealed Last Chance Trial for GP San Diego 2015 after finding out during the tournament that Standby judges were activated!
Random fact about yourself: I’ve been a national finalist in two horsemanship competitions.
Why do you judge?
I judge for a lot of reasons. I started pursuing judging because I saw a local need for consistent and fair rulings. Once I started studying, I also found out that the rules and policy system in Magic is unbelievably detailed and complete, and I’ve always really enjoyed complex and thorough systems of rules. Now, I still judge to create a fair and consistent experience for players, which I think is really important to enjoyment of the game, but I also judge because I love the Magic judge community. It is full of some of the most interesting and intelligent people I’ve ever met, and I learn a tremendous amount about Magic and other things every time I judge an event.
Tell us your favorite judge story.
At the Oath of the Gatewatch prerelease, I was responsible for the 2HG event taking place Sunday afternoon, after the morning Sealed prerelease. For previous sets, we had between 4 and 12 teams for the 2HG events, so I didn’t expect it to be a large event. When I checked the entry spreadsheet about an hour before the event, we had almost 40 teams. I decided to start entering teams into WER right away, because registration for 2HG can take a while (it isn’t WER’s favorite type of event to run). There were several new players who needed DCI numbers, but there was also one team of players who wrote “lookup” for their DCI numbers but were not coming up in my search. I called their names to get them to come up, and saw they were playing in the morning event, but I couldn’t find their names there either, which was weird. I had them finish their matches, so a few minutes before the 2HG was supposed to start, they came up to my desk to sort out the situation. The following conversation then happened (names changed for anonymity):
Me: “Hey, I can’t seem to find you in the system, which is weird given that you were in this morning’s event. Are your names correct on my list?” *shows list*
Me: “Well, were you using your own DCI numbers in the morning event?”
Them: “Yeah, but in that event, my name is ‘John Allen Smith’ and his name is ‘Steven Doe’.”
Me: *Look at sign up list and see the names “Allen Smoe” and “Stohn Dith” and look quizzically at players.*
Them: “Yeah, well obviously we are a team, we need to meld minds.”
Me: “… well I need to use your actual names in the event.”
Them: “It’ll still show up how we want it on the match slip though, right???”
Me: “No, it will use your actual last names to identify the team.” (Due to high attendance, I had a blanket policy of no team names.)
Them: “But how will we meld minds!?!?”
Me: “Well, you can call each other whatever you’d like…”
That was perhaps the strangest player interaction I’ve ever had as a judge.
What are some tips you have for other judges?
Don’t be afraid of giving and getting feedback. The judge community really thrives on feedback and others in the program genuinely want to help you improve. If you receive constructive feedback, it doesn’t mean you are doing a bad job, it means that someone wants to help you do an even better job! Similarly, if you see something that you think another judge does really well or could improve on, they won’t know unless you tell them! Judges are usually really excited to receive feedback so that they can improve! Plus, the return on investment on feedback is really high. You take a small amount of time to write down or tell someone what you noticed, and they get really valuable insight that can help them be a better judge and make them feel like others notice and care about them. Feedback impacts the recipient for a lot longer than it took to write it!
What is your favorite non-judging moment that happened with other judges (or after event story)?
The day after GP Portland 2016, Steven Zwanger, Jeremy Fain, Kyle Mcquilkin and I had relatively late flights out and decided on a whim to go to the zoo. After spending a rather large amount of time figuring out how to get there, we had a pretty great time. They all got to learn that I think pretty much every animal is cute, and all of our Facebook pages became inundated with a variety of photos and videos of the animals we saw for quite a while after that. Before that GP, I had always tried to fly out early on Monday, but now I try to stick around until the afternoon or evening when possible, because spending time with judge friends is pretty much always fun.
What challenges have you faced or are you facing to become a better judge, and how have you worked to overcome them?
Especially when I first started judging, I found it really stressful to deal with uncertainty or unexpected situations. I’m someone who really likes to be organized and have a precise plan of when and how everything will get done. In judging, however, that’s just not always possible. Things don’t always run as expected and sometimes flexibility is necessary. I’ve found that I can approach this from two directions to overcome this difficulty. First of all, I learn everything I can about how events run. That way, no matter what role I’m in, I have some understanding of my place in the event and what I need to prioritize. Additionally, I try to practice dealing with these situations when I can. The more I experience unexpected situations, the fewer situations are unexpected when they come about!
Who have been some of your biggest mentors in the Judge Program, and what did they teach you?
When I first started judging GPs, John Brian McCarthy was one of the first judges to show me the ropes of how GP Main Events worked. He gave me a lot of great advice about how to be effective and efficient on the floor of an event, and he has continued to be a great resource any time I have questions. Ben McDole has also been great at helping me step up my judge skills to be a better leader and mentor. He taught me that different judges have different learning styles and personalities, and that being a good mentor or leader sometimes entails figuring out what a particular judge needs.
What positive aspects has the Judge Program contributed to your everyday life?
The Judge Program gave me a lot of confidence to give and receive feedback. I used to find it really hard to receive or give constructive feedback and it always made me feel uncomfortable. The Judge Program helped me learn that no one bothers to give feedback to someone they don’t care about, so getting feedback means that someone is trying to help you grow. Judging also introduced me to some of my best friends and I get to be part of an amazing community of people from all over the world, with all sorts of backgrounds and fields.
What’s the best part about your local Magic community?
The best part of my local Magic community is probably the scale of it. I live in a very large city, so there are tons of Magic players who enjoy all kinds of different formats. The community is large enough to support frequent events of all kinds and it means having a lot of choices and variety of Magic in the area, which is really cool.
What is your favorite non-Magic hobby?
I ride horses! Specifically, I do Dressage. (Stephen Colbert calls it “Horse Dancing,” and he’s not really wrong.)
How did you get involved in Magic in the first place?
My friends tried to get me to play Magic for years while I was in college, but I kept saying it was too nerdy, even for me. Eventually, the week before I graduated, I tried out my friend’s casual Vampire deck. I didn’t like it at the time, but I couldn’t get it out of my head, so I decided to learn more and read the Comprehensive Rules (because reading the rules is definitely how you learn to play a game, right?) I went home after graduation, ventured to my LGS for the first time, and tried a draft. I’ve loved it ever since!
If you could chat with one person, real or fictional, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I would probably want to talk to Gandalf. He’d have some really terrific stories and I’d want to hear them all.
If you were a Planeswalker, what would be your ultimate?
You get an emblem with “Whenever a player casts a spell, you get 3 energy counters.” I tend to get excited and enthusiastic about pretty much anything!
What was the proudest moment of your Judge life?
The proudest moment of my judge life was probably organizing the Judge Buddy program for GP Pittsburgh 2016. It was my first time doing that and also my first time getting to post a new thread in an event forum! It felt amazing to have been trusted to do something that would impact so many judges at their first or second GP and it was the first time where I was publicly acting in the mentor role. I got a lot of positive feedback from that event and it was great to know that my efforts made a difference.
Two Truths and a Lie
Two of the following statements are true and one is false. Figure out which!
- I have never eaten a slice of pizza.
- I performed in President Obama’s Inaugural Parade.
- I’ve never been south of the Equator.
If there is a judge who is also doing something exemplary, please nominate a judge TODAY!