Our latest Judge of the Week Candidate takes us Into the North and shows us a bit of how life and Magic mix in Canada. Graham works daily making Magic better in his community and he shares with us how that has helped better himself. It is my pleasure to introduce to you, Graham Schofield!
Name: Graham Schofield
Location: Toronto, Canada (Tor-Ronn-Ahh)
Judge start date: L1 – 02 November 2013 // L2 – 17 August 2014
Occupation: Operations and Organized Play Manager for Face to Face Games Toronto
Favorite card: Phyrexian Unlife
Least favorite card: Courser of Kruphix
Favorite format: All of them. I currently have one or more of: Pauper, Standard, Modern, and Commander decks. I just like building decks. Currently enjoying building Brawl decks.
Commander General: Lazav, Dimir Mastermind (using only cards from Ravnica and Return to Ravnica), Licia, Sanguine Tribune, Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis
Favorite non-Magic Game: Card Game- Star Wars Destiny (its like hearthstone and Commander had a baby), Board Game- X-Wing Miniatures Game, Video Game – Assassin’s Creed series
Best tournament result: I made Top 8 in a PTQ the day before I tested for L2. I was supposed to go 0-2 and test that day, but ended up doing well and going X-1. My brain was mush the next day and I was so exhausted, I had one of my worst days judging. Jason Wong basically told me that based on just that day he wouldn’t let me write the test, but after talking to other judges perhaps this one day wasn’t representative of my judging. He would let me write but didn’t expect me to pass. Got a 90%.
Random fact about yourself: My family didn’t have much music in the household since my father is deaf and my mother didn’t really like pop music after the Beatles “got weird”. I’m frequently surprised by people having strong passionate opinions over music.
Why do you Judge?
Judging is deeply intertwined with my day job, so currently it keeps me sharp and helps me hone the critical thinking and people skills that I apply every day at work.
Why did I become a judge?
Spite and outrage. I was banned from a LGS for “cheating/stalling” by a manager after we got an unintentional draw in a PTQ (not being run by them or at their store, we were just matched). I strongly resented the implication that I was a cheater and wanted to prove that accusation wrong. The person whose job it was to tell me I was banned was Kelly Ackerman, then one of the few local L2s and he personally didn’t agree with it. He set me up with another L2 who could test me and the rest is history. Funnily enough Kelly went on to open Face to Face Games Toronto and now I work for him.
Tell us your favorite Judge story.
My favourite call was at GP Detroit during the “Eldrazi Winter” of Modern. In a mirror match of Bant Eldrazi decks NAP cast Path to Exile on AP’s creature. When AP presented their deck after searching NAP cut it…on top of their deck! They had the exact same sleeves and the cards were all in the same orientation.
Many judges I speak to about this react with “well just go get the deck lists”. That is what the judge who brought me into the call did. I realized that this was just a weird card counting situation, and figured out how many cards NAP should have in their deck and counted from the bottom, the rest of my elimination was AP’s deck. I had them playing before the judge with the deck lists arrived.
What are some tips you have for other Judges?
When taking calls: Don’t just attack the rules problem in front of you like it is a quiz. Talk to the players briefly, find out things they agree on and if they disagree on something (like where we are in combat). Asking those sorts of yes or no questions can help assert your authority in a gentle way if players are irate or in a heated disagreement, and it will help you identify where and what may have gone wrong beyond the obvious.
When at events: Bring a spare change of socks to switch into on your break. It is the greatest feeling.
What is your favorite non-judging moment that happened with other Judges (or after event story)?
I’m now the third person of this infamous car of Canadians driving to SCG Syracuse 2017 to be featured in Judge of the Week. We left way later than we had intended and ended up singing Linkin Park (R.I.P. Chester) to keep ourselves awake through the storms and the long drive. It is sort of surreal to think about. We didn’t plan it, discuss it, or even all agree that we would sing. I just put Meteora and Hybrid Theory on and we just launched into it.
What challenges have you faced or are you facing to become a better judge, and how have you worked to overcome them?
Locally I don’t get much feedback and I felt like I Plateaued. I’m the Judge Manager for the largest TO in the country and many of the local judges at this point have either already told me what they have observed, or have learned how to do things based on what I’ve taught. I still should probably write more reviews and attempt to install that culture locally, but that is a work in progress.
I’ve made a bigger effort this year and last to go out and diversify my experience and work with others outside my local area. Where previously I would just yell at the sky and bemoan that no one would give me feedback, I’ve tried to be better about communicating my desire for it and seeking out those who can give it. I’ve also poked my “local” L3s (as much as Halifax is local to Toronto) and they have generously given me opportunities and guidance when they can.
Who have been some of your biggest mentors in the Judge Program, and what did they teach you?
Most recently Jon Goud and Jason Wong have been helping me improve, being more aware of my gaps in social skills and how to manage my batteries to last a whole event without my default “Resting Grumpy Face” scaring people off. A takeaway I would suggest to others is that if you are leading it’s okay to step away and have time to yourself so you don’t have to be “on”. Your team will survive and you’ll have better interactions when you’re rested.
When I was an L1, Kelly Ackerman (now my boss) modeled a lot of great judge behaviour that I try to pass along. He doesn’t judge as much but he still has a lot to teach anyone about interacting with people and making people happy and excited. Or at least less grumpy when faced with bad news. Smiling really does help.
Alexis Hunt, who since stepped down, helped me a lot in preparing for L2 and offered me the opportunity to test ahead of schedule, back when there was a minimum of 1 year as an L1. Alexis taught me a lot about investigations, the importance of finding the root of problems and the source of the error, and not just what the players present to you. Alexis was also pretty instrumental in me just learning the IPG and policy in general.
I also should give a shout to Michael McCliment who stayed at my apartment (over other closer-to-the-venue options) the weekend I was testing for L2 because he knew I was testing and wanted to help. I had never met him previously and yet I probably have him to thank for my current career.
What positive aspects has the Judge Program contributed to your everyday life?
That is difficult for me to measure as it is so intwined with my day job. It taught me humility, perhaps a little too late in the process, and it has greatly helped my planning and logistical mind. It’s most recently teaching me how to manage the way I carry myself and how people respond to that.
What’s the best part about your local Magic community?
Toronto has a very passionate and large community. They just show up and encourage each other so much. The result is that if you find you don’t get along with a particular group or way that they play at a particular LGS you aren’t out of options to play locally. You’ve got a buffet of options every night in Toronto.
What is your favorite non-Magic hobby?
Fencing. I used to run the Fencing Club at University and I miss it dearly. Especially Sabre.
How did you get involved in Magic in the first place?
My friend Sean got me into it (like he did so many other things when we were kids) around Urza’s Legacy and 6th ED. I kept playing casually, losing at the occasional FNM, and stopping when I went to university around the end of Ravnica block. There wasn’t a great scene locally and Time Spiral Block made no damn sense.
I got back into it around Innistrad. Return to Ravnica got me excited to play with my familiar Guilds and this new Modern format seemed great as all my (good) cards were still legal. I went 6-0-3 on Day 1 of my first GP playing 4 colour Delver of Secrets w/ Isochron Scepter and have been pretty into the game again since that event.
If you could chat with one person, real or fictional, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Octavian or Hannibal. I’m just a sucker for Classical Mediterranean history. They are such excellent strategists I’d love to understand how they think. I sometimes struggle thinking multiple steps ahead and who better to learn from.
If you were a Planeswalker what would be your ultimate?
-8: Search your deck and graveyard for two cards and add them to your hand. Take an extra turn after this one. Until the end of your next turn, you can’t lose the game and your opponents can’t win.
Proudest moment of your Judge life?
Seeing my first judge whom I certified, Kaitlin McLachlan, reach L2 was pretty special. She’s killing it, and I’m proud to have played a part in that. I’m stoked to see who will be next.
What character in Magic (real or fictional) represents you the best, and why?
Karn. I’m pretty stone faced and can be a little enigmatic. I also love building things, decks, D&D settings, planes etc.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Don’t rely on people asking you how to become a Judge to find new Judges. Find people who you think would be good at it and suggest it to them.
Some selling points I use
– it’s a great way to help out the community
– it can help subsidize the cost of keeping up with MtG
– it’s a way to stay in touch with a community if you don’t have the ability to continually play events at the level you might like
– and, you can help bring about the change, culturally or otherwise, that you want to see in your local community.
Many thanks to Graham Schofield for sharing some of his trials and tribulations along with the victories and experience of overcoming them. But, we need one last thing from you (or three (two is right out))…
Two Truths and a Lie
- I used to have an ”epic” rat tail
- I’ve swam in Glacier Bay Alaska
- I have seen Nickelback live in concert twice and enjoyed myself every time