Imogen Tilley and David Lyford-Smith

Hello dear readers! This week we feature a Magic couple! Meet Imogen Tilley and David Lyford-Smith!

Imogen Tilley Judge Apps photoName: Imogen Tilley
Level: 2
Location: Reading, England (Formally Lancaster and Nottingham)
Judge start date and level up date: Started Judging early 2013 made L2 30.1.16
Why did you become a Judge? My FNM was in a cafe after the local game store closed and none of the staff really knew anything about Magic or how to run WER. After just under a year of playing there I decided I could make it better, so I learnt to use WER and started doing the sanctioning for the cafe and answering questions. I was acting as a judge for quite a while before I finally got up the courage to take a test.
Occupation: Homemaker (washing DL-S’s socks)
Favourite card: Knight of the Reliquary
Least favourite card: Archon of the Triumvirate
Favourite format: Draft
Commander General: Current favourite is Omnath, Locus of Mana
Favourite non-Magic Game: Viticulture and other worker placement games.
Best tournament result: Top 64 GP Liverpool 2015
Random fact about yourself: I don’t drink fizzy drinks because I don’t like the feeling of bubbles in my mouth.

David Lyford-Smith Judge Apps photoName:  David Lyford-Smith , although almost everybody calls me DL-S
Level: 3
Location: Reading, UK
Judge Start Date: November 2007
Why did you become a Judge? I wanted to give back to the community.
Occupation: Accountant that writes about technology for accountants
Favourite card: Hex – I wrote a whole article about it!
Least favorite card: Today I will say Soul of Theros. It only creates misery.
Commander General: Most recently: Alesha, Who Smiles at Death.  Next up: Vona, Butcher of Magan
Favourite non-Magic Game: Video game: Bravely Default.  Board/card game: Nano-fictionary.
Best tournament result: I won a Super Sunday Series Qualifier and played in the SSS at Wizards.
Random fact about yourself: I love making modular origami.

Imogen and Richard Wheatley
Imogen, Richard Wheatley and a hedron!

Tell us your favourite Judge story:
My favourite judge story is actually the story of a player. Four-ish years ago I was running FNMs up in Lancaster and one day while I was scrabbling under the counter at the Juicafe looking for that weeks FNM promos and heard a voice from the other side of the counter saying that they’d come to see what FNM was like but weren’t sure if they were going to be able to play. I said, without getting up, “of course you can play if you want to just watch and play some casual games this week that’s fine and then we’ll get you set up with a DCI number next week and get you playing”. The response was “Are you sure? I’m blind” to which I popped up from behind the counter and just said “Cool, and yeah, I’m sure.” That was how I met Richard Wheatley and the start of a journey that went from learning how braille sleeves worked and how they fit into FNM to arriving 4 hours before a pre-release to be Richard’s eyes while he individually brailled 40 sleeves and joking about draft being a bit beyond us to watching him draft on day 2 at GP London (after being told on day 1 that he wouldn’t be able to) and again at English Nationals just the other week alongside every other pod without a separate caller. Richard’s a great friend and his story just goes to show why Magic is for everyone.
(David) Many years ago, at a tournament I was head judging, a player was playing near the end of the round and it looked to be going to a draw.  There was a floor judge watching and the player turned to him and said “Judge, can you please leave the table?”  The judge obviously refused.  The player was adamant that he was allowed to ask the judge to leave, and he actually appealed.  The floor judge smartly managed to get my attention without leaving and I came over and explained in no uncertain terms why we were not going to leave him alone to talk to his opponent.

David and ImogenHow did you get involved in Magic in the first place?
One of my housemates at Uni bought a deck builder’s toolkit and built 5 mono coloured decks using all the cards in the box. I was happy to play with him but quickly got banned from playing the black deck (because I kept winning with it) and then the white deck and so on until I bought my own cards (the GW M12 intro deck). From there I quickly found out about FNM from the university’s board game society and went to my first FNM on my 19th birthday. I lost horribly but enjoyed every minute.
(David) I was taught at school by a good friend named Ezra, back in 2000.  I had no idea what I was getting myself in to 🙂

How has being a Judge influenced your non-Magic life?
Well it’s pretty much eaten it. The only non-Magic related thing left in my life is pretty much my parents; everything else is related to Magic in some way or another. My relationship, my income, my house, my social life they’ve all got something to do with Magic.
(David) Massively.  Judging taught me skills like self-organisation, presentation, public speaking, and leadership, that have been hugely influential in my career path.  I would not have made the career I have without those lessons and opportunities.

Imogen working a Grand Prix eventImogen, you were nominated for your work during wave #6 of the Exemplar Program. Would you care to explain to the community the work you did during this wave so we can follow your footsteps?
Wave 6 was about a year and a half ago now but I remember it well. It was (unbeknownst at the time) the last season of WMCQs and I was on staff for all 3 in England. Each had over 150 players and each presented their own challenges ranging from the logistics of using 3 floors of a venue to having a WER issue that meant the whole tournament had to be rebuilt half-way through round 3. But the big thing that they all shared, and the thing a lot of my nominations that wave recognised, was a high number of L1 judges at their first large Comp REL event. Mentoring has always been something that’s meant a lot to me, as I had such great mentors up in the North West of England when I was starting out as a judge and WMCQs were a great place to share knowledge and help judges transition into learning about wider tournament logistics. My biggest recommendation to others is to never stop communicating; every time you see something that could be improved talk about it. It doesn’t matter if it’s to a brand new judge or someone who’s been in the programme ten years longer than you, everyone has room to improve or change with the times and it’s only be keeping those communication channels open that we all improve together.

David, you were recently recognized for your outstanding performance as Regional Coordinator as well as your role in transitioning the leadership of your region. What are your biggest insights regarding being a program leader as well as helping others be successful leaders?
(David)Being the Regional Coordinator was a big challenge, but also a huge honor. Having now retired from it, it’s been interesting looking back on what I accomplished in my time at the top. I guess the number one thing I learned is just how much influence you can have over people’s motivation and mood by how you act as an RC or other authority figure. People look to you to get a read on the tone of the program and to judge how they should be feeling. So putting out those positive vibes and looking to inspire others can pay real dividend. Helping others learn leadership is way too complex of a topic for an answer like this one, but I’d start by saying: empower people and trust them and learn how to guide from the back seat without taking over. Being a supportive part of a team but not taking over is a very fine balance and takes practice – it’s hard not to try and fix things and take over if you’re supporting someone less experienced than you. But allowing them the room to make their own decisions and , yes, their own mistakes, will pay dividends in the longer run.

David presenting at an L3 conference.What is one tip you have for other Judges?
Enjoy Magic more, play, chat, engage not only with other judges but with players as well. Remember that we’re all here for the love of the game and we’re all the same.
(David) Listen.  This goes for a lot of things: Listen to your colleagues’ opinions and ideas.  Listen to both players’ sides of the story.  Listen to the sound of your tournament to see if you can hear something going wrong.  Listen to complaints and don’t dismiss them out of hand.  The more time you spend listening, the better a judge you will be.

What’s the best part about your local Magic community?
I still consider myself part of the 3 Magic communities I’ve been part of in the last 5 years and I love them all for different reasons: Lancaster for its resilience, Beeston, Nottingham for its love of the casual community and Reading for its insatiable desire to draft and the optimism and nonsense of team 2/2 Fast 2/2 Furious.
(David) We have a local player named Kelly who often makes amazing Magic-themed cakes for our prereleases – models of Elesh Norn, the Helvault, guild flags, the lot

What is your favourite non-Magic hobby?
It’s an ongoing battle between Lego and Board Games both for my love and for shelf space.
(David) Watching anime and reading manga.  I love the variety and depth that’s available.

David and Imogen at an escape roomWhat is your favourite non-judging moment that happened with other Judges?
It’s a tie between escape room team “team shoodie”’s success after GP Birmingham and that time I almost kissed Jason Howlett.
(David) After Worlds one year, Tobias Fjellander, Andreas Jepsen and I were sharing a pizza.  Now this pizza place delivered the pizza uncut and without any cutlery, and it was pretty messy work – but I’m already a messy eater.  We were all tired and a bit silly, and the other two guys starting laughing at me, and the more I laughed with them, the worse it got.  By the end of it I could barely breathe from laughing and had tomato sauce all down myself, on my face, on my glasses, everywhere.  I still laugh thinking about it now all these years later.

If you could chat with one person, real or fictional, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
My grandad, definitely. He passed away unexpectedly just before I left school and my life has changed so completely since he died that I want to tell him all about it. He’d always been interested in games and new technology and so I’d love telling him all about Magic and tablets and smart phones.
(David) Probably my paternal grandmother.  From all accounts she was (a reference for Discworld readers) a real Nanny Ogg type, a force of nature and an all-around kickass lady.  She wasn’t well when I was young and died when I was still very little, so I would have loved to have known her in her prime.

What would you be doing now if Magic no longer existed?
No idea, literally none. Crying probably.
(David) I can’t even imagine this.  Magic gave me my mental health, my skills, my friends, my partner, my job, and really my whole life.  I can’t picture I would be without it.

Proudest moment of your Judge life?
Being Judge Manager at English Nationals. It was an incredible weekend. I was hugely happy with the staff I put together, the floor plan I designed for an iconic (round!) venue and being part of Richard Wheatley’s draft. It nicely combined all the things I think I’ve done best in judging over the years.
David and the other Head Judges from Grand Prix Lyon 2015(David) Certainly making Level 3.  I failed on my first attempt and overall had to fight an uphill battle to get there, and it was a massive turnaround in my personal skills to be able to conquer the panel on the second attempt.I am also very proud of the work I did on the Judge Code of Conduct, and although they were both flawed in the end, I think a lot of good came out of the Magic Judge Hall of Fame and Player Experience Sphere as well.

What character in Magic (real or fictional) represents you the best, and why?
If Venser made judges and tournaments rather than artifacts.
(David) I feel like Karn: Someone who tries to be a good person, but sometimes has struggles, and someone whose best parts are made from pieces of many of their experiences and friends.

David, tell us your favourite Judge story that happened to both of you together.
(David)We got to organise and run English Nationals together this year for Axion Now, with me as the Head Judge and Imogen as the Judge manager. I felt a bit nervous putting forward Imogen as judge manager as it could be seen as favouritism, but she did an incredible job with it and I think showed everyone why I rated her abilities so highly. This was a big deal for me as well as I’d missed out on a chance to be Nationals HJ back when they were first around. We spent weeks together on the logistics and schedule and the event went off amazingly well, which was hugely satisfying. Turns out we make a great team!

Imogen, what is your favourite non-judging moment that happened with David?
(Imogen) It has to be when David asked me if I wanted to come with him on his trip to Seattle for the Super Sunday Series final. Not only did we get to go on a brilliant holiday together but we got to visit WotC Headquarters together in Renton and hang out with the lovely Sara Mox, our awesome Judge Manager. I sadly got sick while we were out there and didn’t get to watch all of David’s matches in the SSS but cheered him on from our hotel room while watching the Twitch coverage.

Imogen and her store champion playmatWhat is the best part about your local Magic Community?
(Imogen) For David, I think it has to be that he gets to play with the same people he drafted with growing up. We live just down the road from his school and some of the people we draft with every week were some of the people who David learnt to play Magic with.
(David) And for Imogen, I think it would be that she’s the best drafter in the area.


Is there anything else you’d like to add?
(David)I can’t leave without mentioning The Magic Bracket.  It’s a crazy idea I had back in early 2016, when I noticed that the number of Magic cards was close to crossing a power of two and hence would be perfectly set up for a single-elimination contest.  The Magic Bracket is a two-year-long, fourteen-round single-elimination contest of public vote to determine the greatest Magic card ever.  It’s about one year in (halfway done!) and has been a lot more time-consuming, popular, and fun than I ever expected 🙂

Two Truths and a Lie


  1. I have a lifetime sanctioned draft win percentage of over 75%
  2. I’ve had a player curse and shout at me for a solid minute for being a woman at their previously all male play group when I wouldn’t give up my seat for them
  3. I hate having to DQ players, it makes me feel sick to my stomach


  1. I was an extra in an episode of long-running detective show Midsomer Murders
  2. I used to be a gold certificate trampolinist
  3. I have modeled for a wedding cake topper
The answer to the last Two Truths and a Lie...
Josh McCurley has not had poetry published.
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