This week our special guest is Eric Cheung, L2 from Irvine, California!
Why did you become a judge?
Magic is an awesome game, knowing the rules helped in many ways, and a friend, Brian Couchman, wanted some help running a Comp REL event and I would be an easier sell to the Tournament Organizer if I was a certified Judge. I’ve stayed active because it’s such a great bunch of people with a lot to offer individuals who want to learn.
Occupation: A Mechanical ‘Designer’ of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. I can’t legally call myself an ‘engineer’ because I haven’t gotten that certification yet.
Favourite card: Rites of Flourishing. It lets everyone play more Magic. That’s what we’re all about, right?
Least favourite card: Deadeye Navigator. Whenever that card hits the EDH battlefield, the table just groans. I actually have ~10 of them but refuse to put them into my trade binder or EDH decks because that’s 10 less decks in the world that will create unfun EDH games.
Favourite format: Commander. Modern is in a close second.
Commander General: Karador, Ghost Chieftain. The graveyard is a great resource.
Favourite non-Magic Game: Action shooting.
Best tournament result: Top 8 in a 62-player modern event or winning a 28-player Game Day.
Random fact about yourself: My blood type is B+.
Tell us an embarrassing story that you’re not afraid of everyone knowing.
Back when I was a newly certified L1, I attended a Judge Conference and was informed that our Regional Coordinators are great individuals to bounce off questions regarding the Judge Program and to let them know what we were up to. I took that literally and e-mailed Sean Catanese a tournament report for a recent competitive REL event I had Head Judged. I quickly received a response that, in the nicest way possible, informed me that he would be happy to help me in any way possible and that he would like to know of any goals or concerns I have but that I should not give tourney reports for each event I participated in. I then realized that our region has over 400 judges and if half of them were to send him one report once a year, our RC would have an enormous amount of reading to do on top of whatever actual duties they may have. Whoops.
How did you get involved in magic in the first place?
Back in elementary school, I would walk home after school and pass two comic book shops on my way. I would stop at them for a “brief” period and would see the older kids playing this cool-looking game in the store. Wanting to be like them, I picked up a starter and nineteen years later, here I am.
How has being a judge influenced your non-Magic life?
My weekends have gotten a lot more busy and I’m accruing a lot more frequent flyer miles 😛
You were nominated by Angela Chandler. She mentioned that you strive to find ways to help new judges. What are some of the things that you do to help new judges? What advice would you give to other judges for helping new L1s? What advice would you give to new L1s, especially to judges who are just starting out in an area that already has a large established judge population such as LA?
With regards to helping new judges, its important to find out what they want out of the program and then find them a place where they can get that. If they like to work with new players or help with non-competitive events, Prereleases are a wonderful fit. If they’re looking to advance to L2 or get more experience at competitive REL events, then introducing them to stores that run Grand Prix Trials or other events like Star CIty Games Invitational Qualifiers, and mentoring them at events goes a long distance. As an aside, the mentor and the student don’t have to both be on staff for mentoring to occur. I’ve done some mentoring while being a player enrolled in an event. As long as you both have time to talk and the authority of the event judges isn’t being undermined or questioned, mentoring can happen pretty much anywhere and from any role.
No matter what the local judge population is, being in touch with your community is important. If your Regional Coordinator doesn’t know you, how can (s)he give a recommendation when a TO or judge manager asks? If the local stores don’t know that you’re a judge, why would they offer you a spot on their judge staff for their upcoming $1K event? Knowing your players can be helpful as well; they might bring upcoming events to your attention. In an area with an established judge population, it’s even more important that you be aware of and in contact with the local judge community. Judges are really awesome people and want to help you grow, but if they don’t know that you’re looking for opportunities to work at events or assist with projects, they can’t help you get those opportunities.
TL;DR: Let others know what you want. We’ll help you get it.
What is one tip you have for other judges?
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Randomly remembering relevant religious quotes.
What’s the best part about your local Magic community?
The Orange County / Los Angeles / Inland Empire area is great for playing Magic. We have a bajillion stores all across the casual-competitive spectrum. No matter what level of play you’re looking for, what format, or what day you want to play, there’s something going on to tickle your fancy.
What’s the biggest rule-breaking play you’ve ever made as a player?
I’m playing Modern UWR and am land-screwed while my opponent is playing Modern Big Zoo and is land-flooded. He’s been drawing, playing a land and passing for the past three turns, while I’ve been drawing and discarding a card. I then realize that I have a Think Twice in my graveyard and flashback at his end of turn. On my turn, I still don’t have a land, so I discard a single card and pass. At my opponent’s end step, we realize that I have 8 cards. We call a judge and receive a ruling to just discard it in my upcoming discard step. I appeal and try to correct the ruling. The Head Judge upholds the ruling, so we continue playing while the penalty slip is being filled out. On my turn, I draw and discard a single card. After my opponent draws a card, I realize this mistake and call for a judge. The responding judge just marks a “x2” at the end of the previous penalty description.
What has been your favourite magic event that you’ve judged?
I don’t think I have a favorite, but the event that sticks out the most in my mind was the second Comp REL event I ever judged (the one that Brian Couchman wanted me certified for). I was a fresh L1 and had studied the IPG pretty well, but skipped the lapsing trigger policy because they were being changed to the first iteration of our current missed trigger policy in two weeks. The third judge call I took was a missed trigger call and suddenly, I felt bad that I hadn’t studied that section. Mike Swager was shadowing me and I was able to hand-off the call to him. Lesson of the day: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. That thing you don’t think players will do? They’ll do it and look to you to fix it.
What would you be doing now if Magic no longer existed?
My hobby that was pushed to the wayside was pistol shooting. My bank account is grateful for the switch from shooting guns to playing and judging Magic.
How do you have fun during events?
Fun is mandatory when judging events in the Southwest by dictate of our Regional Coordinator, David Zimet. Thus just being at the event in a judge-y capacity, I am having fun.
Proudest moment of your Judge life?
On the morning of GP Las Vegas’s Day 1, I was at Starbucks picking up some caffeine while in my Judge uniform. While waiting, a pair of parents come up to me and inform me that their son was at the venue the previous day and was very impressed by the hard work put in by the whole judge staff.
Two Truths and a Lie
Two of the following statements are true and one is false. Figure out which!
1.I completed the requirements for the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America 2 weeks before my 18th birthday – the deadline to do so.
2.I have completed a half-marathon in under 5 hours.
3.I cannot ride a bicycle.
The answer to the last Two Truths and a Lie...
Thanks for the time, Eric, and you Judges for read this interview. hope to see you again next week for another Judge of the week!