Exemplar Wave 11 Part 1

Welcome, judges, to our salute to some of the top Exemplar recipients in each region for Wave 11! This time, we asked them, “What are some of the best pieces of judging advice you have been given?” Read on to see what helped these rock stars become rock stars! Part 2 will appear in a couple weeks. And don’t forget — nominations for Wave 12 close February 13.


L3 Dustin DeLeeuw earned nominations in areas including his contributions to the articles blog to presentations he has given at judge conferences.

His response:  The single best piece of advice comes from the legendary Andy Heckt: If you’re doing it alone, you’re doing it wrong. It’s the other judges that make judging so enjoyable, and the hive mind of over 7000 judges can teach you a wealth of insight, experience and knowledge that would be impossible to gain on your own. Reach out to other judges; before, during and after events.

An advice from Matteo Callegari: treat every judge call as though it’s the single most important call of the day. For the player, it very well might be. And for you, you never know what to expect when a player calls you, so be sharp and be prepared, ready to provide oracle, allow a bathroom break, or maybe to resolve a conflict or investigate a complex situation. Always be on top of your game.

From Frank Wareman: always plan ahead, and distinguish between tasks and actions. By planning ahead, and by being aware what your tournament needs next round, you’ll never be taken by surprise, it’s easier to delegate, and you have your hands free for whatever comes at you this round. Delegate a task like “make sure deck checks happen”. If you’re the one executing that task, split it up in actions: print a sheet with all players, sort lists alphabetically, and so on.

And finally, an advice that I’ve been given by many judges, and that I always pass on to those who need it, yet I have to remind myself of it frequently: take care of yourself. You can’t take care of others, and you can’t be a great judge, if you’re not taking care of your own needs. Take breaks when your body tells you to. And if you experience a day where you don’t feel as great as usual, where you can’t perform at your usual level: accept it, adapt to reality, and make sure you don’t hurt yourself by overextending and ignoring yourself and your limits for that day. If you’re not having fun, odds are that others around you aren’t either, so be as kind to yourself as you are to others.


Jon Goud- RC CanadaL3 Jon Goud earned nominations for areas including his team leading at GP Providence to his posting a video after Judge Center went down.

His response: When I was an L1: “Combat damage or damage from a spell is an event like any other. The result of that damage event is intuitive 99% of the time, but sometimes the results of that event can be changed to something else” (Rene Villeneuve). This helped me think of the game in a different and much more granular level. This tip opened up a door for me to understand replacement effects and state-based actions in much more detail!

When I was an L2: “Yeah, but did you have fun?” (Gavin Duggan) Gavin was an enormous influence on my growth as a judge, and I wrote about this story in Gavin’s anniversary shout-out.  I’ve never lost that as the centerpoint that all of my judging orbit: am I having *fun*? I don’t always pass the ‘Duggan test’, but it’s never off my radar.

When I was an L3: “Appeals are as much about making the player felt that they’ve been *heard* and that their concerns have been *understood* as it is about making sure they get the right answer.” (Jared Sylva) This one really unlocked an aspect of my large-event head judge toolkit that I had been working on for awhile. At larger events it’s easy to feel alot of time pressure when taking an appeal because you want to avoid lengthy time extensions and delays. At this event I rushed an appeal and as a result really blew up a player’s experience in my tournament. After that interaction my approach with players is first to really dig in to what their concerns are and *listen* to what they’re saying – and it’s been amazing. You’ll get more detail out of players that are a bit more relaxed, tense situations dissolve, and players are able to proceed past an often emotionally-charged moment and enjoy the rest of tournament!

L2 Kentaro Guthrie earned nominations for areas including his work at GP Manila to providing constructive feedback at GP Phoenix.

His response: The best piece of advice I’ve been given about judging was from Simon Freiberg and was to relax and have fun. We are judges because we love the game and the people, and when we let that show everybody notices.

Whenever I find myself in a stressful or difficult situation, I try to smile and it relaxes me immediately. Even when making announcements a smile can even be heard and felt over the microphone and your voice will not waver.

No matter how high the stakes, or how heated the situation, we are lucky enough to travel the world and get paid to adjudicate a game that we love, and I now try to remind myself of that whenever possible.

Europe – Central

L2 Anna Zielińska earned nominations for areas including her performance as the head judge of the PTQ at GP Liverpool to her motivation of a judge at Polish Nationals.

Her response: When it comes to best pieces of judging advice, the most impactful ones in the chronological order of my growth as a judge are:

Always try to face players while you’re on the floor. Even if you engage in a conversation with another judge, he’ll understand the lack of eye contact if it’s for the better for the whole tournament. (Piotr Łopaciuk)

Take care of yourself while judging an event! Remember to drink, occasionally recharge by sitting down and observing a game when appropriate, and most importantly – invest in a good pair of shoes! There is no shame in taking a small break, take care of yourself, so you can take better care of players. (Jan Grottel)

Don’t procrastinate writing a review! The longer you wait after the event, all of your observations will become more blurred, even if backed up by physical notes. Try to write at least one review after a bigger event, people really benefit from those. (Adam Kolipiński)

The judge community is largely about the idea of inclusivity. People always will have the tendency to cluster with the ones that are familiar to them, and in judging it often means that you’ll stick to the ones from your area. This isn’t a bad thing in itself, but keep in mind, that when a judge that doesn’t speak your language joins the group, it’s best to switch to a common language. It shows that they’re welcome, and that you respect them. (Alex de Brujine)

And last but not least piece of advice that, once incorporated, benefitted me drastically:
When given feedback, either good or bad, always thank people for it. Don’t try to justify yourself, if you don’t agree with feedback you get, give counterarguments and explanations instead. You have to be appreciative of others that try to help you grow, otherwise, they will feel that their efforts are not valued and will stop helping you. The Judge Program is about learning and not repeating mistakes, so make your mind open for new ideas and points of view. (Kevin Desprez)

Europe – East

L2 Yuval Tzur earned nominations for areas including ensuring relevant announcements are shared in the Europe – East Facebook group to standardizing the organization of conferences.

His response: During my judge career I met a lot of judges who gave me great advice. Sadly, most of it was long ago, and I tend to use advice from all areas of my life in all others, so I don’t remember it all (or if it originated in judging). I do remember these though:

Trust yourself. You didn’t become a judge by having your name drawn from a hat. If people let you judge an event, it’s because they trust you know what you’re doing. I got this advice from the judge who mentored and certified me after freezing while delivering my first ruling as a judge candidate.

My second pick is great advice from Ivan Petkovic: ask questions. Each and every one of us has [our] own way of thinking and the way we perceive the world. It’s a human tendency to assume that people act the same way we do (they don’t), and that we know what made them act like they did. This assumption is dangerous, since other people have reasons we might not be aware of, a different logical thinking than ours, or just different goals than the ones we set for ourselves. When you judge someone based on your assumptions, without understanding their actions, you can easily blame them for errors they didn’t commit (or at least had good reasons to act the way they did). Ask, don’t assume.

And last, but not least: wear comfortable shoes.

Hispanic America – North

L1 Daniel Araya earned nominations for areas including his performance as a judge activated off of standby at Costa Rica Nationals to his support of an injured judge.

His response: I think one of the most important tips is that continuous learning should always be involved in judging. Whenever you have any doubt about a rule point, check to be sure that the answer you gave is correct.

Another aspect to take into account is the study. Not everyone invests the necessary time, but on the part of my mentor David Jiménez, the habit of taking an entire afternoon a week has passed down to me to review rules and do practices in order to keep me active.

The last point: I think it is important to mention that being a judge is not only participating in tournaments, but also getting involved in projects and being active for the community since there is a lot to do but not everyone wants to participate.

Hispanic America – South

L3 Federico Donner earned nominations for areas including his work on the podcast “Judges Live” to his head judging Uruguay Nationals.

His response: I got two big pieces of advice that fundamentally changed my attitude towards judging. The first came from the judge that certified me, Facundo Bonaza, former L2 from Argentina. He taught me that, whenever I’m involved in a ruling and feel like I need to penalize a player, it’s very important to first identify the infraction, without even looking at the possible penalties or fixes. If you do, the documents will guide you through the whole process. When studying the IPG, game losses (much more frequent back then), match losses and even DQs become interesting and it’s easy for newer judges to try to find excuses to use them. If you put the infraction first you’re not only making the ruling much more fair but also reducing potential mistakes. The responsibility then is remembering what to do with each infraction according to the documents!

The other big piece of advice came with Damián Hiller, L3 from Argentina, after GP Rio de Janeiro in 2013. I had just finished TLing Sunday as an L2 on my way to L3 and we were on the debrief. Damian told me that he would have notes and comments about my team building activities if I had done *any*. That day I understood that team building doesn’t just happen automatically, that team leaders need to dedicate time and energy towards that objective. Especially for judges like me for whom those things don’t come naturally. If it hadn’t been for Damian’s honest efforts towards making me a better judge, I would have missed out on seeing judges as human beings and not ruling robots.

L3 Julio Sosa earned nominations for areas including his work on judge conferences in his region to his concern for a judge who was preparing for his L3 panel at GP Sao Paulo.

His response: The most resounding one, I got it from Damián Hiller. It was my first PTQ as a L1 judge, and he only said “have fun.” All the nervousness was gone really fast, with those two simple words, and I always try to live up to that advice in everything I do within the judge program. Being part of the judge program is a choice we all made at some point, and there are only a few things more painful than choosing to do something we don’t enjoy. So always do what you love, and love what you do.

Related to that, Christian Gawrilowicz gave me one of the greatest advices I’ve had , during my L3 panel. We talked about, and compare, my job as a teacher and my role within the judge program; at that point, Christian told me: “You are a great teacher. Apply teaching to judging.” While I tried to bring things from each “side” to the other, I hadn’t fully grasped the whole idea of it. Nowadays, I couldn’t differenciate where one the activities end and the other begin; I see myself preparing judge seminars as if it were one of my classes or approaching a certification process like I tutor at school.

Russia and Russian-speaking Countries

L2 Nikita Tarima earned nominations for areas including showing how a judge from a remote region can be active across many fronts to his hard work answering player questions.

His response: After my L2 exam, I had a little talk with my RC, and he said something that met with my own sense of good judging and still applies today:

“Use common sense while working with players, judges and candidates. Your role described in Judge Center, in documents – it is only an approximate guideline. You do not need to judge every tournament you can. Nikita, do it only if you are sure that you are doing it right.”

I do my best for MTG, even if I have no oportunity to take part in WMC and GP’s.

Southeast Asia

L2 QJ Wong earned nominations for areas including his performance as the Logistics team lead at GP Hong Kong and his performance on the Breaks team at GP Las Vegas.

His response: The best advice that I’ve been given in various forms from many amazing people is to “remember to have fun judging.”

Having fun not only helps you to have a great weekend, when you are happy, it’s easier to help players and other judges have fun too.

If you find yourself not enjoying what you do, it’s OK to take a step back and talk to other judges. Find out what is stopping you from having fun, and do something about it. 🙂

United Kingdom, Ireland, and South Africa

L2 Imogen Tilley earned nominations for areas including her work as ODE team leader at GP Liverpool and giving a judge great feedback at GP Birmingham.

Her response: The best pieces of judging advice that I have ever been given are:

– Be Loud and be Proud, you’ve put a lot of work in to get to be a judge so own it and let them hear.
(Some of the most influential judges around me when I entered the program were amazing at doing big booming announcements, they really showed me how to own the floor)

– Invest in a good water bottle. One that you like drinking out of and that you can easily carry or strap to you while judging. Then you’ll always have water with you and it’s the type of bottle you’re used to so you’ll drink more.
(I used to just rely on cups off water and fountains at GPs but fountains run out and many a judge has shown be just how valuable your own water bottle can be).

– Ask more questions. Don’t be scared to investigate and find out more about a situation even if it seems it should be simple!
(At UKISA judge conferences we run a lot of simulations and through doing those with judges surrounding me for support they really helped me push to ask those niggling questions that sometimes we ignore that help us to find out when something dodgy is going on)

– You are better than you think you are.
(It took me a long time to take my L1 exam because I didn’t think I was good enough, never mind my L2. It was the judges who believed in me (Nick Hall and Jack Doyle, I’m looking at you) and pushed me to take those exams who showed me that not only was I good enough to take the exams but that I was already a great judge and for that I will be eternally grateful).


L2 Mani Cavalieri earned nominations for areas including fostering discussions about diversity to taking care of a new judge at GP DC.

His response: The Judge Program is such a constant stream of advice that it can be hard to remember where all your habits came from. I don’t know if I can narrow it all down to a short list of “the best” – but I’d like to give a shout-out to just some of the judges whose lessons stayed with me over the years:

Anthony “Krug” Hullings told me not to run to a call, and instead raise my hand as I make my way to the players. Letting them (and other judges) know that I heard the call and am on my way is better than rushing like a cannonball through a crowded tournament floor.

Eric Levine told me that while it’s good to be friendly and conversational in a ruling you deliver, one of the best forms of customer service you can provide is an expedient ruling. Since then I have reflected on how to balance thoroughness, friendliness, and concision in all my rulings.

CJ Stambaugh told me to trust my team when leading, and delegate more tasks to them. Many early team leads fall into the trap of fixating on getting everything done perfectly – and trying to do it all themselves. Your team is full of awesome friends; work through them!

Jason Wong told me that what is most likely to make an event memorable is the conversations you have with other judges there. This totally changed how I looked at large events, especially as a lead. Getting our tasks done is important, but getting to really connect with other judges can really make a day of judging more special than just another event.

Brogan King told me to be mindful of my language when addressing players, and to try to be as inclusive as possible – which sometimes means un-learning common idioms or phrases. She’s absolutely right: Everything we can do to make our community as friendly and comfortable as possible is worth it.


L2 Erin Leonard earned nominations for areas including organizing judge conferences and stepping up to lead a team during her team leader’s unexpected absence.

Her response: When I became a new judge, lots of people offered suggestions and ideas. The best of those tidbits came from my judge mentor Josh McCurley who recommended, “Whatever shoes you wear everyday, buy them in black and make them your judge shoes.” Well, I have a pair of Clark’s that are blue and grey and super comfortable. I wear them with jeans for everyday things like walking, taking my kids to various parks and activities, and pretty much any other time that I need to wear shoes. So I called the Clark’s store and was excited to find out that they came in solid black and they had a pair in my size in stock. I picked them up as I was headed out of town for GP Albuquerque and my first day as a certified judge. I have worn those shoes literally every single day that I have judged. And Josh was right, they are super comfortable on my feet, and I am super comfortable in them.

However, Josh’s advice extends beyond just shoes. Whoever you are every day, be that person when you’re wearing judge blacks. I’m a homemaker. I spend my days managing 5 preschoolers – juggling laundry, bills, PTA meetings, and dance classes while trying to cook dinner and find a missing shoe. I’m a certified educator with a background in retail and I’ve done social media and marketing for a nonprofit. As a judge, that means I’m good at management and logistics with an eye for customer service. Unlike many judges I’m not a programmer or an accountant, and learning the detailed intricacies of the rules of Magic poses more difficulty for me. The important thing to me is understanding who I am and my own personal strengths and weaknesses, both as a judge and as a person. If knowledge is power, then knowing yourself gives you the power to leverage your unique talents into being the most effective judge.

That’s all we have for Part 1 of this feature. Keep an eye out for Part 2, coming soon!

If there is a judge who is also doing something exemplary, please nominate a judge TODAY!

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