Jared Sylva, L4

Hello everyone and welcome back to a brand new year with Judge of the Week! We have a super special and rare treat to start this new year: everyone’s favorite heartthrob, L4 Jared Sylva!

jaredproileName: R Jared Sylva (the R stands for Robot!)
Level: 4
Location: Salem, Virginia
Judge start date: Onslaught Prerelease (Septemeber 2002)
Occupation: Star City Games Organized Play Department Manager
Favorite card: Wirewood Savage
Least favorite card: Abuna’s Chant (you know what you did, Reedy!)
Favorite format: Legacy as a judge, Triple Onslaught draft as a player
Favorite non-Magic Game: Betrayal at the House on the Hill, a cooperative board game that becomes uncooperative
Best tournament result: I’ve successfully Head Judged a Grand Prix! Does that count? I’ve x-0ed several FNM drafts. I once came in 14th in Connecticut States.
Random fact about yourself: My wife and I adopt greyhounds.

Star City Games Organized Play Staff

Why did you become a judge? I had been running events for friends in high school and college. I was even president of the gaming club at Connecticut College. I was playing in a Pro Tour Prerelease weekend in Boston, and Toby Elliot asked me if I wanted to help out with an overnight event. My pool was pretty weak, so I dropped and ran 8 man drafts overnight and certified the following day.

How did you become a L4+?
I was actually promoted on my birthday. I was in Seattle for a Tournament Organizer Conference prior to Pro Tour Seattle in 2012 and there was a Level 4 Conference happening at the same time. Since I was the Regional Coordinator for the Mid-Atlantic at the time, I was asked to stop by the L4 Conference to say hello. When I arrived at the conference, they had a red shirt waiting for me.

What’s it like being a L4+? What would you like the community to know about being L4+ is like?
There’s a lot of discussion that goes on “behind the scenes” before things go public. Publicly, it may look like there’s not much going on….but that’s just not the case. We go through many versions of material internally before it goes public.

What is your primary role as an L4+ in the judge community?
I work with supplemental activities. Supplemental activities the way that we work with a candidate does not pass his/her L3 panel to address the concerns that are identified. I am responsible for laying out a clear path forward for a candidate.

What are you currently working on within the judge program?
Refinements to the L3 process and updates to our Supplemental Activities policies.

What is your favorite non-judging moment that happened with other judges?In college, I orchestrated the death and betrayal of Adam Shaw. Ok, not his actual death and betrayal…we were both part of the same Vampires the Masquerade game. The game is designed around power struggles, and we both have strong personalities, but we get along much better now!

How has being a judge influenced your non-Magic life?
I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question. What is this non-Magic life you speak of?

I mean… my 2 children are named Liliana and Aurelia…..


What motivates you to do what you do within the community?
I enjoy a well-run event. I love figuring out the best way to do things, and sharing that knowledge with other people, as well as seeing other people kind of “get it”. It’s great to be a part of a community that is working toward the same goal, and seeing other people who really care about it is key.

What is the best part about the Judge Program in your opinion?
The people. I have met so many intelligent, worthwhile people through judging.

What in your opinion is the greatest challenge for the judge program at this time to overcome?
As a program, our largest challenge is providing support and training to judges who want to advance, and doing so in an effective and sustained way.

What is your greatest personal challenge within the Judge Program?
Being able to properly frame feedback. I have a tendency to be overly blunt, and I don’t always fully consider how my comments will be received. That’s been a major area for personal development for me that the judge program has definitely been a part of.

What character in Magic (real or fictional) represents you the best, and why?Sorin, maybe??…. He’s an interesting mix of protector and threat, though I don’t know enough of his backstory to really say he represents me.

Who are (were) your role models in the Judge Program? What are (were) their certain qualities that drew you to them?
Nick Fang – “Being an expert” is a quality I strive for, and no one exemplifies that better than Nick. I have always been impressed with his breadth of skills and the depth of the skills he demonstrates. I don’t think he gets the respect that he deserves as a judge because it is so easy to only focus on his skills as a scorekeeper.

John Alderfer – John is someone I speak to when I have a new idea, because I know by the end of the conversation I’ll have a clear picture of whether it is a good idea or not. He is also harder working than me, and simply better at events.

Steven Zwanger – Steven is someone I use as a litmus test of other judges. If a judge can recognize how good Steven is, it reflects positively. Steven is quietly effective, but has never sought the spotlight, and I have tremendous respect for that.

Please recognize a few outstanding members in the Program.
I wouldn’t be where I am today, and neither would the program wouldn’t be where it is today without Jeff Morrow’s work on the Level 3 process. He took a process that was built when most program leadership could get together and talk face to face and modified it for a world with 100s of leading judges across the world. There was significant need to restructure a program that was entrenched and set in its ways. Jeff’s leadership in transferring us into the current process was a great development for the Judge Program. I also have a tremendous amount of respect that he was able to recognize that he was no longer in a position to put in the requisite time for Level 4 and elected to step down. I hope that I will recognize when it is time for me to do the same.

What do you feel needs to be improved in the Judge program?
There is an attitude that is becoming more prevalent that events are simply social gatherings. I’m all for having fun at events and winding down when the tournament is over (and the people are WHY I am there) but there is a lack of focus on the tournament that concerns me. With the changes to judge foils, I am concerned that GP staffs will have heavier demands placed on them. With the TOs staffing costs per judge increasing sharply, I expect many TOs to trim back staff numbers, and for each judge’s focus on the event to be more important to the success. – I’ve always valued judges who show up in the morning focused on the event and have the hustle and drive throughout the day to make it a success. I feel that this attitude will become even more important in 2015.

What is the largest change that you’ve brought to the Magic rules/Policies or the Judge program?
Most larger changes are a collaborative effort. I’m proud of my work on the current trigger policy and even through the evolution of lapsing triggers and current breakpoint model of when a trigger is missed.

What has been your best experience in the Judge Program?
GP San Diego. The first one that I Head Judged on my own as a Level 4. The first time I was out there, on my own. I did a lot of prep work, and I think it paid off since it was an enjoyable and efficient event for both the players and the judges. It was a great staff with a ton of my friends, and there have been wonderful experiences before and after, but it was special because it was the first time I was given the reins and told to go make it happen.

What is the strangest card interaction you have seen in a tournament?
Shipwreck Singer and Loyal Pegasus. When the Siren forces the Pegasus to attack, it can’t attack alone so Loyal Pegasus can be forced to drag a friend to its doom.

What advice would you give to a Judge growing up through the program?
Don’t forget to actually grow up. It may sound flippant, but a lot of the progress that judges make in their judging is driven by them growing up in real life. A ton of judges are at the age where they will be different people in a year or 2. Growth outside the judge program is very influential on your growth in the judge program. Often, judges can be so focused on developing as a judge that they don’t think about the social skills which are exceptionally important to becoming a better judge. What is holding a judge back may not be something that can be learned directly through the Judge Program. This is also something to keep in mind when evaluating other judges. Someone you dismissed for being immature a year ago might be completely different person today.

What is your favorite “after event” story?
Grand Prix DC 2013 – Judge on Judge laser tag at Grand Prix DC 2013.

Worlds in San Francisco 2011 – We went out to karaoke with a LOT of people. Gavin Duggan, Helene Bergeot, and Eric Levine to name a few. We stayed out way too late and I somehow wound up with Gavin’s hat at the end of the night. He was staying at a different hotel and leaving the next day, so I had to get his hat to him that night, so walked all the way to his hotel. Unfortunately, the phone number I had for him was apparently his landline…because his wife answered…at 5 am east coast time. :/

How do you make events you judge at fun, and what do you do to help judges under you have fun during events?
What’s fun for me at events is running it quickly and efficiently. I try and have a couple of meetings during the day to keep the energy up. Events drag when it slows down and you don’t feel like you understand why. When you get out of the habit of pushing round turnaround, it slows down more. Honestly, the most fun for me is when we are able to finish a tournament much earlier than expected.


Tell us a story of a challenge or problem at an event, and what did you and your teams did to overcome it?
At a StarCityGames.com Open in Philadelphia in 2010, we actually got kicked out of the venue during the top 4. We relocated the top 4 to the lobby of the staff hotel, playing on one of the coffee tables. We were there for a little while before we were hassled by the hotel staff who ultimately, the hotel staff called the cops (because apparently our quiet game was an issue) and we were kicked us out DURING game two of the finals. I managed to preserve the game state and transferred the game to MY hotel room three floors up where we finished with StarCityGames.com President Pete Hoefling sleeping on the bed behind the match.

If you were a creature what would be your creature type?
Well, robot is not a currently supported creature type so… Golem?

What country/continent is your favorite for GPs/PTs, and why?
I actually have less experience than I would like. I’ve done a ton of GPs in the US, a Grand Prix in France as well as Pro Tours in Canada, Ireland, and Japan. I’d love to do an event in Australia.

What do you do to make GPs/PTs special?
I Head Judge them. *laugh*. I try to be specific in my scheduling. I look for situations where I can give judges opportunities by putting them in a position to succeed. The best part of a GP is there are a ton of chances to Head Judge side events where you are NOT just thrown out there on your own.

Lems and Jared being awesome!

What’s the coolest event you ever been to, and why was it so amazing?Pro Tour Honolulu. I don’t know that much explanation is needed….it’s pretty awesome. Got to hang out in a pool with a lot of awesome judges….go snorkeling with a whole bunch of judges. Got to see a volcano. Perfect weather and beach volleyball. All with a ton of awesome judges!

What’s the farthest you have ever traveled for a Magic event?
Worlds in Chiba, Japan in 2010.

What hobbies do you have outside of Magic?
At times in my life, I’ve considered myself an athlete…less so now. I still like to throw a baseball or football or play tennis when I have the chance.

What was the proudest moment of your Judge life.
Jason Reedy’s recognition during the judge dinner at PT Philadelphia. Jason was the sides lead that weekend and it was the event where the judge community started to see just how good he was. Nicholas Sabin and I had been involved with Jason as a judge since before he certified and we’d been aware that he was a top flight judge for a long time and seeing others get in on that secret was a great moment.

As an L4 AND being responsible for the largest Magic tournament series in the world, how do you not lose your mind?
You’ve got to keep perspective. At the end of the day, even if your life is intertwined with this game, it can’t be the most important part of your life. I’ll be the first to say that it can be one of the pillars that you build your life around, but there have to be other pieces. I have my wife. I have my kids. I have my dogs. Having something that you step away to is very important. Judging is going to be the most enjoyable, and fulfilling, when it is something that you want to do. That makes it much easier to find balance.

“Cool Guy”

Two Truths and a Lie

Two of the following statements are true and one is false. Figure out which!
1. I competitively ballroom danced.
2. I’m related to John Adams.
3. I have an auxiliary calf muscle.

The answer to the last Two Truths and a Lie...
While Nick Rutkowski has many German foils in his commander decks none of them are completely German nor foil.

Judges, we would love to hear more about some awesome stories and awesome judges! If you believe one of your local colleagues is doing an Exemplar’s work, this might be your chance to make him an upcoming Judge of the Week, so nominate a Judge TODAY!

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