Exemplar Wave 9, Part I

Welcome back, judges! We are commemorating some of the top Exemplar recipients from each region for Wave 9. This time around, we asked them, “What are some of your favourite things about your local Magic community?” Here’s the first installment of what they had to say.


L1 Brenden Gansner earned nominations for setting up a judge booth at GP Vancouver.

His response: My favourite thing about my Magic Community is that even though we are remote and don’t have a Local Game Store, we still manage to play regularly and have a great time. For a time, we used to have to meet at coffee shops and private residences. We still meet at coffee shops and private residences but recently two game stores opened up in a neighboring city. We can now participate in Friday Night Magic events, but the travel to and from is more than an hour and a half drive. It is a surreal experience to play in a garage filled with kayaks, lawnmowers, boxes and power tools. I am fairly certain that this is not the norm for most Magic players, or judges for that matter.

We have some pretty strong community bonds and at Grand Prix Vancouver 2017, we had rented a house online so we could cost-share, but our rental fell through. We had to find emergency accommodations, and the only place we could find on such short notice had twelve of us (mixed gender) sleeping in a single 30’x15′ room. The closeness and dedication it takes to get twelve people to get along in such close proximity speaks volumes to the character and respect for each other. I am extremely privileged to engaged with these people on a near-daily basis.

L2 Michael Hill earned nominations for areas including helping bring Toronto judges together and hustling to make a potentially chaotic tournament run smoothly.

His response: The Magic community means everything to me. i met most of my closest friends through Magic, and as a result, it’s contributed immensely to my life and has helped me grow as a person. 5 days a week, I run events of all sizes for players and seeing them have a great time playing my favorite game is something I look forward to every day.

I love working with aspiring judges in earning their L1 certification, helping my fellow judges, and learning from them in turn. More than anything I love my work — contributing positively to a thriving community that I am honored to be a part of and serve.

Europe – East

L2 Yuval Tzur earned nominations for areas including his work on a regional conference and on a regional L2 project.

His response: The best two things about my local community are:
1. It’s a small community, so everybody knows everybody, and all are treated equal (When was the last time you played a 2HG prerelease where one of the teams was Uri Peleg and a friend or Shahar Shenhar and his dad?)

2. Being a judge in Israel is very demanding. The local culture and the young age of the players, mixed with a very small number of players with experience ranging from barely understanding English to a twice-world champion, create a community with limited resources and high expectations. I like it because I get challenged in ways that most judges don’t get very often, which allow me to learn and improve.

L3 Christian Gawrilowicz earned nominations for areas including his work on the Leadership Meetings project and the assistance he has given judges during Grands Prix.

His response: Favourite things about my “local” community? I’m having a bit of a problem here, as my “local” community is more or less worldwide. My apartment is in Austria, but most of my time I work in Istanbul and the rest of the year I travel to events in Europe, South East Asia, Japan, and sometimes Australia and Latin America.

So let’s talk about the GP “community” instead as this is my “local” one. – One of the best thing is the internationality – people from different cultural backgrounds, speaking different languages working together to create something much bigger than them. There’s a very strong will to improve – themselves, the tournament, and the ones around them. And after an exhausting day at the tournament(s) they sit together and discuss ideas, share knowledge, and learn from each other. For me this is the definition of a perfect workplace and that’s why I try to come back again and again as I want to contribute to and profit from this.

Europe – North

L2 Patrik Fridland earned nominations for areas including helping and inspiring judges at GP Prague, GP Utrecht and GP Barcelona.

His response: So I played my first game of Magic before the release of Ice Age, but like most, I have stopped playing and returned again.

So it was that I returned during Theros, I was just going to play a draft or two cause I was bored (Spoiler: So it became more than a draft or two).

The last time I played Magic before that the scene was pretty cutthroat and it was not really for me. But something had drastically changed and it had become only what I can describe as warm and friendly, the other players engage me and each other in discussions about how to improve and a lot talks about just having fun whilst still trying to become better.

What I really love is the openness and friendliness. So many of the players in my local community these days I call my friends. It might not be a big impressive community but what we lack in size it make up for in warmth and dedication.


L3 Sophie Pages earned nominations for areas including innovations in End of Round procedure and restructuring the Education Sphere.

Her response: My community is really small but made with passionate people. A lot of players involved themselves to help running tournament, and even proposed to organize some of them when the LGS are not available. The more active LGS has players as vendors and are always there to help people.

We don’t have a lot of judges in my town, but we have one of the most active judging community in the area. The last one we certified in Grenoble, Jean Beaumont, is a young player from which enthusiasm is good to see. He already applied for regional events and he was jumping everywhere when he learned he was accepted to one of them!

My area captain, Théo Cheng, is really active, reaching every store, creating contact between mentors and mentees for the whole region, organising judge dinners before pre-releases. He spend a lot of time and energy to keep the region united and dynamic.

Finally, we have an incredible pool of talented judges in the area, with really experienced judges that likes to share their knowledge and passion. On the last judges dinner, Mikaël Rabie for example presented his counting card seminar, to help judges to work through complicated scenarios while there were not a lot of help to practice this kind of exercises before he set up them.

Loïc Hervier, a Level 2 judge from my town, also known a few months ago as an incredible contributor in French projects, had set up a wonderful tool for judges going to travel in foreign GPs : orbis linguae, a magic lexical in several languages !

German-Speaking Countries

L2 Konrad Eibl earned nominations for areas including his leadership in a mentorship project and his participation in a Judge Tournament Qualifier.

His response: We have a very healthy, friendly, open and active community in Aachen, Germany.

First of all, I want to highlight my other local judges. The L1 judges excellently take care of the community, new players and experienced players alike, explain the rules of the game to newcomers and make sure they find connection to the local playing groups. The experienced judges sit down together with the local judge candidates and help them study CR, JAR and even explain the philosophy of the IPG (something that is always good to know). They also observe them taking calls during FNM and give detailed feedback afterwards. And the regular rounds of Judge Tower don’t hurt either. Due to this enormous dedication, all tests candidates in the last years passed their tests with scores upwards of 90%. Since all local judges are very friendly, fair, supportive and outgoing, many local players become interested in joining this great community.

The relationship between the TO of the store I usually judge in, the judges and the players is also very good. The TO makes sure that judges are fairly compensated and regularly gives out extra compensation at his own expense. Entry fees for non-PPTQ events are very low and prices are fairly distributed among everybody attending, with only the first few players getting a little more, in order to put the focus on friendly competition. The shop hosts events many days a week and is usually open far longer than its official opening times for that reason. Many different local players additionally organize weekly events like Commander, Cube Draft, regular Drafts and other casual events, which makes it very easy to play our favorite game (almost) every day a week.

Hispanic America – North

L2 Daniel Gallegos earned nominations for areas including organizing judge conferences and trying to get Mexican judges involved in regional projects.

His response: I believe that what I appreciate most about my community is that they have been for many years my source of inspiration to grow within the program and strive to offer them the best of me.

The players, judges and especially my wife have always shown me their affection and support in every step I have taken in the Judge Program from the moment I became L1.

I just have to thank all of them for every event we have participated in, for every night of “kitchen table” Magic and thanks to that person who taught me this game and for those who have made Magic a part of my life.


L3 Daniel Sole Garcia earned nominations for areas including facilitating Skype discussions with his Regional Coordinator and preparing L2 leadership conferences.

His response: I have been judging for more than 10 years, and one of the things I like the most of my local community is that, even though the judges that are involved in that community have changed during these years, we are like a big family, and now we are, for sure, very good friends. To prove this, we are always trying to do thing together outside Magic, and we always meet together, the new and the old judges.

Magic has given us the opportunity to meet and to become very good friends. That’s one of the main reasons I’m still involved with this game and with this community.

Italy and Malta

L3 Riccardo Tessitori earned nominations for areas including his friendly interactions with his floor judges and an article he wrote about the program coordinators.

His response: At the beginning, we may start judging because we are intrigued by the rules; then, we may get fascinated by the big tournaments; then, we may get involved in travelling; a sentence I hear from several expert judges is “I keep doing this for the PEOPLE,” so I am convinced that there is some truth in this.

What do I like about my “local Magic community”?
First, I still need to understand if my “local Magic community” is the Rome area, the Italian conferences and online channels of communication or the Asian GPs… OK, I will jump here and there, among memories.
– I love when we joke in groups at conference weekends, it gives me a great sense of camaraderie.
– I enjoy a lot the escape rooms on Mondays of the GP, it’s a simple activity that even helps me strengthen my friendships.
– I love organizing a couple of extra days between GPs with other judges, renting a car and looking for adventures.
– I enjoy the dinners, the holidays and the many chats organized by the Italian judges, chats that go way beyond “just Magic,” and that have become real friendships
– I rejoice in the welcoming atmosphere of Asian GPs, where everybody (staff, judges, players, spectators) comes to the event to have a great time and actually smiles

Yes, that these last two are definitely my favourite aspects of my “local” Magic community!
– the deep friendship that I created with a few people who I travel with and I frequently discuss about the world of Magic in general and about life; they have become pillars of my private life
– the amazing atmosphere I sense at Asian events, the pure smiles and the absence of “Western, first-world troubles.”

Russia and Russian-Speaking Countries

L2 Tanya Skugarevskaya earned nominations for helping translate the Comprehensive Rules and Amonkhet policy changes into Russian.

Her response:  Let me start by saying something common: my local Magic community is awesome! It was one of the main reasons I decided to start judging in the first place – I wanted to give back.

Despite being rather small, the Belarusian community is welcoming – there is a steady stream of new players, and you can always find like-minded people. The community is growing, exploring new ideas. People always want to move forward, organize new tournaments, get better at playing and it impacts everyone around them. I have also multiple times heard that players here are very polite, sometimes to an extreme extent. 🙂


L3 Steven Briggs earned nominations for areas including being a great sounding board for judges and giving a detailed report after head judging a Dallas SCG Open.

His response: Chicago is a massive place to call “local” but I love it for the passion and diversity the different communities of Chicago have for the game.  One of our biggest strengths is that no matter what type of player or type of judge you are, there’s a place in Chicago for you to call home.  Love Competitive?  There are stores that stream events weekly.  Prefer a casual Commander event or a smaller store experience – we’ve got that too.  Kids, adults, college students, retirees – Chicago has got them all, playing in awesome events every single week.

And of course, I cannot talk about Chicago Magic without getting more in-depth about Chicago judges.  Chicago judges are like Chicago Cubs fans and Chicago deep-dish pizza; we only accept the best from ourselves. While at times we can be a bit *too* critical, every week I hear about and see and am a part of running smooth, courteous, professional events.  That translates to terrific discussions on our regional Slack and Facebook groups, because everyone wants to share and wants to improve week in and out.

When you play in Chicago or judge in Chicago, know that you’ll always get a friendly smile, a great event, a terrific food recommendation, and some of the best Magic in the world.

USA – Great Lakes

L2 David Elden earned nominations for areas including his work on the Rulesday Tuesday project and for the excellent job he did as a sides lead for a SCG Open.

His response: Ft. Wayne has the best FNM scene I’ve ever seen. No matter where you are on the casual-competitive spectrum, you can find a store that caters to you and play 7+ rounds of FNM per week with some great people.

Everyone is really friendly. You’ll hear a lot of sincere “good game”s even from the players at the more competitive stores. If you’re missing cards for a deck, you can always find someone who will lend you what you need. If you’re new or want to switch it up, people will have whole spare decks that they’ll let you borrow.

USA – North

L2 Joshua Marin earned nominations for areas including his mentorship of several judges.

His response: I am very lucky to be part of a remarkable judge community in the Twin Cities (Minnesota).  While part of this is due to a very high density of judges, I believe that this very density is because of the support, encouragement and camaraderie that we have.  There are exceptional amounts social events, mentoring, training and high expectations.  My peers are responsible for the judge I am today, and I hope that I am doing my part to pay this debt forward.

For me a key part of the community has been Rob McKenzie.  From back at the days of the Regional Pre-Releases where I was given 32 person pods to run as an L0, through the person tutoring sessions that Rob ran for many weeks for myself and another judge after I failed my L2 exam, as well as the many social events that Rob served as the nucleus of – getting the judges together to draft and play Commander on a weekly basis, Rob has made sure that we are not just a collection of judges, but friends, community and even family.

USA – Northeast

L2 Jonah Kellman earned nominations for areas including his stellar performance as a sides lead at SCG Baltimore and the support and advice he provided to a head judge of a TJ’s Titanium event.

His response: I think my favorite part of the local community is the passion. Of course it applies to the greater community as a whole, but I love e how this game makes people so happy and excited and sometimes angry.

Being there when a local kid 3-0s his first draft pod. Getting when a friend foils out their modern deck. Commiserating with them when it gets banned (Pod). Repeating the process the next year with Twin.

Seeing my friends in the feature match area or going to their first GP or PT, whether as player or judge is awesome.

Those late night chats ranting about spoilers and how Siege Rhino might see play, but only after Polukranos rotates. Disagreements in cube philosophy.

Magic and the Magic community s such an omnipresent force in my life that it is surprisingly easy to forget what the game means to me.

USA – Southwest

L2 Eliana Rabinowitz earned nominations for areas including creating the Judge Quiz blog and the flexibility and skill she showed during GP New Jersey.

Her response: My local Magic community is extremely large, since I live in the LA area.  There are players of every level who play just about any format, and there are great stores for every format or level of competitiveness.

In general, I think I’m pretty lucky that my local community is mostly quite friendly and welcoming.  I haven’t been playing or judging Magic for very long, and there is no way I could be where I am now without my local community being supportive of me as a new player and a new judge.  Even when local players make rules mistakes or don’t understand a piece of policy, they tend to be genuinely interested in learning what they don’t know.  That makes my job as a judge much easier.

We also have the benefit of some great role models in the player community that I think have helped guide the community in a less salty direction.  We also have a pretty large community of serious competitive players, and they seem to have formed a bit of a support group that travels to events and cheers each other on.  Magic is ultimately about having fun, and I think it is really good that they are able to do that while also competing at the highest levels.

See you in a few weeks when we bring the second installment of answers to this question!

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2 thoughts on “Exemplar Wave 9, Part I

  1. Hi Steve!

    I wanted to point out a few things.

    First, we are publishing answers from top Exemplar recipients in two installments. So there are some people who we have received responses from (or will shortly) and we will be publishing their responses shortly.

    Second, some of the top Exemplar recipients for regions may not respond to our questions. We reach out to the top Exemplar recipient in each region (or top two or three if there is a tie) and usually do at least one followup e-mail. Sometimes, they may be busy with other things. Sometimes, they may forget. Sometimes, they may just not want to participate for whatever reason.

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