Welcome friends to another edition of JUDGE OF THE WEEK!! *Comic book announcer voice* This week our lovely featured judge is one Eric “Raging” Levine! Read on to discover more about our esteemed colleague and to learn of his love of boom boxes.
Eric “Raging” Levine, Level 3 from Amherst, MA (but in August, Japan!!)
Judge start date:
Occupation: Data analyst at UMass-Amherst/Marketing & Events at ChannelFireball.com
Favourite card: Raging Ravine
Least favourite card: Accursed Centaur
Favourite format: Commander
Commander General: Kangee, Aerie Keeper
Favourite non-Magic Game: League of Legends
Best tournament result: I won a local Legacy tournament in high school with a crappy Goblins deck Chas and I built the night before. I got a $70 gift certificate, which I framed after spending it. It is in my parents’ house to this day.
Random fact about yourself: I am a trained opera singer.
Why did you become a judge?
When I was young I was the rules guru in my group of friends – I learned to play at summer camp and played with those same friends for years. In high school I was involved with the Magic club, which was started by two other people – Emily, who is now my wife, and Chas Andres, who currently writes finance articles for StarCityGames.com. After a few tournaments Chas decided that I was not allowed to play anymore because I kept winning, so I started running our tournaments. I even printed out my own match slips because I did not have DCI reporter… but I used life totals as tiebreakers. (What a baddie.) I would have certified in college but I didn’t have a car or much free time.
Tell us your favourite Judge story.
When I first tested for L3 in Amsterdam in 2010 I failed my written exam. I was despondent but I knew why I had failed – I was nodding off during the test due to jet lag, which I could have avoided by flying in a day or two sooner than I did. When Damian Hiller and I went over the test later I was very frustrated because I knew almost all of the answers to questions I had gotten wrong. Ute Kronenberg encouraged me to request the full panel, which I did, and I got one – back in the day these panels were super long and involved. I was told I had done a good job in the panel and I inferred (rightly or not) that if I had passed my written I’d be L3, so I was very motivated.
Three months later in Chiba I got another chance. I had studied very hard and arrived early to Japan with my girlfriend (now wife) who speaks Japanese so that we could do some tourism and relaxation before the event. Adam Shaw administered my test and I felt very good about it after I finished. Adam made me sweat all day afterwards. He wouldn’t talk to me. He would just walk by and give me the evil eye – and if you know Adam, you know what that looks like. After a few hours he took me deep into the Makuhari Messe (the convention center) which seemed very maze-like at the time. After what seemed like an eternity of walking Adam took me into a room that contained a table, my test (on the table), and Jeff Morrow, my mentor and a person whom I felt I had personally disappointed when I did not make L3 the first time. He had a serious look on his face. Adam shut the door and said:
“You passed your test. Welcome to Level 3.”
And there was much rejoicing.
How did you get involved in Magic in the first place?
My friend Josh Starr was playing at a summer camp we both went to. He was a year older than me, and obviously that meant he was cool and I wanted to do stuff he did. My father is a coin dealer and he had friends who dealt with other collectibles, so he got me some cards. The rest is history.
How has being a Judge influenced your non-Magic life?
The leadership opportunities have been transformative. On the metro in Paris during a Pro Tour I had a conversation with Louis Fernandes where he convinced me that I should go back to school for a Masters in Business Administration so I could be a manager professionally and not just on the weekends. He was right.
What motivates you to continue being a Judge?
The people, the problem-solving, the learning opportunities, the love of the game, and of course, the people again. Through judging I have met some of my best friends. Two of the groomsmen in my wedding were fellow judges, with more in attendance.
What is one tip you have for other Judges?
When you do something good, don’t brag about it, but do make sure others know about it. You will get more opportunities to succeed if your victories are visible.
What’s the best part about your local Magic community?
We are some serious hippies. My local shop, Worlds Apart Games, is a co-op and I am on the “council” – basically the board of directors. We hold general membership meetings every two months where people can vote about store issues or propose changes to the rules. It’s awesome. We also have an amazing judge community – we currently have two L3s who attend the store regularly. (Joe Hughto is the one that isn’t me.)
What is your favourite non-Magic hobby?
Video games. I love playing, watching, and thinking about games, and particularly, video games. Ever since my father brought home an NES when I was a kid I’ve loved playing games. I bought a capture card and a nice microphone so I can stream… I should do that more.
What is your favourite non-judging moment that happened with other Judges?
It’s hard to pick a favorite, but here’s a good one…
Recently I was at the SCG Invitational in Richmond, VA. When I got to the hotel room I was going to share with Elliot Raff, I discovered it had a boombox in it. Boomboxes are not super common these days, so I was amused by it and decided to start taking silly pictures with it to put online. I got Elliot to help me take more pictures as the weekend went on, including the now-infamous
picture of me holding the boombox over my head, John Cusack-style, while wearing my head judge shirt. The boombox became a major point of discussion over the course of the weekend, which I thought was tons of fun. You may see the boombox again in the future…
What’s the biggest rule-breaking play you’ve ever made as a player?
I am well-known in my local judge community for tapping Fetchlands for mana during Comp REL events. To be fair, I had been casting Sphinx’s Revelation in Standard a lot, where you just turn your lands sideways and say “Rev for a million,” but this practice does not work so well with Arid Mesas.
What has been your favourite Magic event that you’ve judged?
Worlds in Chiba. Judging in Japan was an amazing experience despite my limited facility with Japanese. I can’t wait to do it again.
What positive aspects has the Judge Program contributed to your everyday life?
When I started judging I was at a tough time in my life. I had no job, few friends, no self-esteem, and no emotional stability. Judging turned all of that around, or at least, it gave me the shove I needed to turn that around.
If you could chat with one person, real or fictional, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
F. Scott Fitzgerald. I have a lot of questions about The Great Gatsby.
What would you be doing now if Magic no longer existed?
Trying to figure out how to help it make a comeback. I might try to buy the intellectual property in the style of the guy who bought the rights to UFS.
What is your favorite “after event” story?
I was at a judge conference at TJ Collectibles in Milford, MA and we were experiencing a ridiculous snowstorm. Some people left early to beat the storm, but many of us stayed until the bitter end, booked a hotel nearby, and drove/slid our cars from the store to a restaurant and then to the hotel where we drafted and played other games all night. It was amazing.
How do you have fun during events?
Talking to judges and players is awesome, and completing tasks well is awesome, but so is watching Magic. This game is amazing and the people who play it at a high level are incredibly smart. It’s likely that the people who play in your local store make awesome plays too. Watch Magic!
If you were a Planeswalker what would be your ultimate?
-8: Put a rage counter on target land without a rage counter on it. For as long as that land has a rage counter on it, it has “At the beginning of your upkeep, tell a story about something ridiculous that happened at an event.” (The land continues to rage after Raging Levine has left the battlefield.)
What hobbies do you have outside of Magic?
Games- video games, board games, other card games. My house is full of them. Other than that, reading, travel, hiking, singing… tons of stuff I need more time to do.
What character in Magic (real or fictional) represents you the best, and why?
Probably Gerard. He’s a leader, he cares about his crew/friends, he’s devoted to his mission, and sometimes he makes really stupid decisions because of all of the things I just mentioned. Also he talked to Urza’s floating head, which I also do all the time.
Two Truths and a Lie
Two of the following answers are true, the other is a lie! Figure out which!
1. Between Raging Ravines and Tolarian Academys, I have personally signed over 100 cards despite not being a professional player.
2. I have performed in Disney Hall in Los Angeles, CA.
3. I won a cruise for my family at the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire game show attraction at MGM Studios in Orlando, FL.
If there is a judge who is also doing something exemplary, please nominate a judge TODAY!