Jarrod Williams

Welcome again, Judges, to the latest installment of Judge of the Week!

This time around, we have the Regional Captain of Kentucky, a tournament organizer in his own right, and a great judge. Let’s meet Level 2 Jarrod Williams!

jarrodwilliamsLocation: Columbus, Ohio
Judge start date: September 2011
Computer Programmer

Favourite card (and why?): Epic Experiment because I love casting that spell and getting to cast more spells for free.
Least favourite card (and why?): Opalescence because when I get asked a question about it I know it’s a corner case “gotcha” scenario.
Favourite Format: Commander or Legacy
Favourite flavor text:

Step 1: Find your cousin.
Step 2: Get your cousin in the cannon.
Step 3: Find another cousin.
Favourite Commander: Melek, Izzet Paragon and Animar, Soul of Elements because whether it’s with spells or creatures, getting free spells are my favorite.
Favourite non-Magic Games: Boss Monster, Ascension
Best Tournament result: 5-4 at Ohio States
What creature type would you be? Adviser

Random fact about yourself? I’m an aspiring writer…as my Google drive with half-finished stories and outlines will attest.

More on your occupation- What does it entail? How long have you been doing it?
I’m a PeopleSoft developer at The Ohio State University Hospital. I work on the system that is responsible for ordering and paying for supplies aka. Logistics. I’ve worked where I am for 3 years.

How would you compare/contrast your full-time job with judging?
It’s helped me because I see lots of moving pieces and schedules which made managing a judge staff or scheduling tasks for an event much easier.

How did you decide to become a judge?
I wasn’t very good at playing competitive tournament Magic (see best result above),but I loved tournaments and wanted to help make sure the tournaments that I enjoyed were around for others to enjoy.

How long have you been playing Magic in general?
I’ve been playing Magic on and off since Planeshift.

What do you like most about the game in general?
I like the deck building aspect of the game. There are so many cards and when new sets come out, it doesn’t take away from the game, but adds so much depth to it. I enjoy just finding a card that does exactly what I need it to do and putting into play in a deck.

If there were one thing you could change about the game, what would it be?
I would make every card cost 1 less and draw a card ;).

What do you like most about judging?
I enjoy the people the most. I’ve met most of my good friends through judging and love to go to an event to see the people that I haven’t seen in a while. There is something about this community of people coming together to serve the larger Magic community that really creates bonds.  

If you could meet with one person — real or fictional — involved with Magic, who would it be?
Mark Rosewater. He’s just such a fountain of creative energy and it’s impressive because he’s kept it going for so long. I’m a big fan of hearing about creative process for any creative endeavor and hearing the details behind the inspiration and work. He’s done so much to open the window into that process with his weekly column, but he’s still the person I’d like to meet.

Jarrod 1What sorts of things do you do on a typical week in so far as judging?
I typically spend a couple of hours a week networking and having discussions with other judges. This is such key time for me as I am the state (area) captain for a state where I don’t live as I need to keep tabs on the judging community in Kentucky. I’m also a TO working for Griffon Events/Comic Town so I’ll spend a few hours each week scheduling and planning those future events. I also spend time reviewing rules and policy. If I have an event that weekend then you add that time as well. Most of my time related to judging for an average week doesn’t involve actually judging at all.

What do you think are your biggest strengths as a judge? How did you develop them?
I think my biggest strengths as a judge have to do with my soft skills. Community Organization and process creation come naturally to me. I don’t just want to do something I want to create a process and empower people to make improvements to it. This way the results are repeatable and there is something objective to make an improvement to and not just tell someone to try harder. I feel that Leadership has become a strength as well, but it took asking for feedback and help from people like Steven Briggs, Dan Stephens, Rob McKenzie, Riki Hayashi, Rick Salamin to help me improve. I also got a lot of opportunities in leadership roles as a HJ and nothing teaches the skills like being thrown into the fire.

What do you think are the areas you most would like to see you improve as a judge? What sorts of things are you doing to work on them?
I have a couple of areas I’m really working on to improve. One is giving feedback to candidates for leadership development that have very specific examples and ways to improve. I’m making it a point to write reviews for people that want to develop leadership at my events and ensuring that I’m giving them concrete examples and things to do to improve on. Another area I want to improve on is to finish articles to submit. I often work on articles, but haven’t submitted any. I would like to as a method of improvement finish and submit them. I’ve improved on this by working with other judges on ideas for articles and committing to them to finish.

What’s your take on how the judge program has changed in the time you’ve been involved with it?
It’s just gotten so big. When I started judging there were something like 2500 judges and now we are getting close to 6000. I think that growth represents some of the growth we’ve seen in the player base, so I feel that it’s a good thing that the program is growing enough to help the player base.

What sorts of changes would you like to see in the Judge Program going forward, if any?
More organization and educational outreach at the local level. We are at a point where the program is just too big for some of the methods of managing it that we have used in the past. I think the Regional Coordinator program is a really good model for what we should do organizationally, but we need to push that down a level. In the same vein, conferences are great and wonderful ways for judge program immersion and some higher level education, but the bigger the crowd the more that breaks down. I think the challenge for the program going forward is to operate at a level that educates and engages the local store level judges while maintaining the large structure required to run events at the GP level.  

What advice do you have for L1 judges? L2 judges? L3+ judges?
For L1 Judges, I would say take pride in what you do. You are the face of the program for a majority of the player base. I don’t think we say thank you enough to the local store judges. When L1s are working at the local stores, they can create great play atmospheres that encourage the growth of the game. Players, that play at stores with great L1s, are better prepared for the environment at competitive events. This is a credit to all you do as an L1 creating a great gateway to Organized Play.

For L2 Judges, I would say don’t forget about your roots. I see lots of L2s that get there and are so excited to do GPs and SCG Opens that they forget about the local area they came from. Your local area helped get you to where you are and be sure to let them benefit from your experience and knowledge.

For L3+ Judges, I would say always be pulling people up. I know that in my development just a few words from an L3 here and there have been a huge impact on how I approach judging and made me a better judge. It may seem like a trivial conversation to you, but it may spark an idea for improvement in the judge you are talking to.

What projects are you involved with?
I’m currently involved with the Judge Candidate Textbook project. I wrote the sections about the Combat Phase. I’m also an Regional (State) Captain for the State of Kentucky in the Midwest region.

jarrod 2What was your biggest mistake as a judge, and how did you bounce back from it?
I messed up a call that cost a player a shot at Top 8 of a Legacy Open. He pulled me aside from the table and asked about the Emrakul, Oblivion Ring, Show and Tell interaction. I punted and told him incorrectly how it worked. He then went back to this table played a Show and Tell and promptly was told by the next judge and head judge that I had told him incorrectly. I apologized to the player and he was understandably upset. I was just sick with having made that mistake even though I knew how the interaction worked. Dan Stephens was my team lead and he sent me away for a half-round break. It was the space I needed to collect my thoughts and get refocused to finish the event strongly.  The Ice Cream from the food court didn’t hurt either.

What was your proudest moment as a judge?
I think my proudest moments are when people I’ve mentored level up. I worked with Mark Wanich and Johnpaul Adams to get them ready to take their L2 test and I was pumped when they got their certification. I’m really excited when I get to help people accomplish their goals and those were some instances where I was very proud of what those two great judges had accomplished.

How much of your time, as a TO/Judge is actually running tournaments versus having policy discussions versus maintaining correspondence versus traveling?
I spend several hours a week networking and communicating with judges in my area and in the state I’m Captain for. I can’t manage the area I’m in without that time. It allows me to know what’s going on and get a pulse for where a lot of the judges in my area and where they want to go. It also helps maximize my impact as I don’t have to go to all those stores to see those judges. If I have an event that weekend, I do spend more time at the event, but if I don’t have an event that weekend I would say my ratio is almost 2 or 3 to 1 of hours spent on judging but not at a tournament and hours spent judging at a tournament.

What is your favorite moment with other judges outside the context of running a given tournament?
I would say dinner after the tournament. In Columbus, OH, we have a great restaurant called Barley’s across the street from the venue. It’s a great spot for Judge Dinner and we’ve been there till closing time a few times after events.

What do you think were the toughest obstacles you have had to try to overcome as a judge?
I think the toughest obstacle that I’ve overcome is taking charge. I can be passive by nature and I would defer in situations that I was capable to handle on my own.

What method(s) do you find best to sharpen your skills?
For Rules Knowledge, I find the ability to quiz yourself using the spoiler feature on Cranial Insertion to be invaluable. The policy discussions generated by the knowledge pool are also extremely helpful. The thing that I find most helpful is area and regional conversations. The Magic Judges of the Midwest Facebook group is really helpful as a method of capturing a variety of opinions on a given topic which really helps you be sure as to what your opinion is on a given subject.

Who are some of the judges you think are unsung heroes of the program?
I think there are a class of L1s that will probably never advance and that’s by choice not skill level, but they focused and dedicated to running very good store level events. They are the face of program to a ton of players who will never step foot in a competitive tournament. They are just as dedicated and spend just as much time to hone their skills and we all owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

How would you describe your local judge community? How about your local player community?
The Local Judge community here in Columbus is very focused on improvement. The judges here want to run events that are very high quality and this is shown by the judges who are local store only judges and the judges that want to work at competitive events. Our local player base is a competitive event focused one, but also a very committed one. We are able to support multiple advance stores with multiple large FNMs. It’s also very cooperative you see players loaning each other cards for decks or supporting local shops that are running competitive tournaments for them.

How do you keep your energy up during events?
I make sure I’m drinking a lot of water. I also make sure I take opportunities to sit down when I can. The biggest thing is to be honest with yourself about how you are doing. I know that sometimes my energy level is lower than I think it should be for a given point in the day and I need to manage my own expectations for myself. If you need a break to help you finish an event strong don’t be afraid to ask.

What was the most surprising thing you’ve experienced as a judge?
The Bomb Squad showing up outside our States Championship in Ohio. There was a suspicious package outside and they have brought the robot to investigate. Ultimately it was nothing, but it did remind me that we should always know where the emergency exits are at all times just in case.

If you could make your own Magic card, what would it be?
It would be Mana Flare meets Howling Mine for 2G mana.

What’s your favorite color in Magic and why?
Red. I tend to work more by instinct which red does even if it gets me in trouble. My favorite Color Combinations in Magic are U/R, RUG, R/G, and R/W.

Who do you consider your role models in the program?Jarrod 3
I have several people I consider role models in the program. They mostly are role models because of how they have dealt with me and the impact they have made on me. In our interactions I’ve seen traits and characteristics that I want to emulate.

Dan Stephens has such a calm presence about him. Whether you’ve made a huge mistake or are crushing it on a given day, Dan has a good even demeanor that helps balance out whatever the event is throwing at you.

Steven Briggs because he’s just a force of nature. I learn so much about organization and process improvement from him each time we work together. I think given sufficient motivation and planning he could take over the world. Prior Prudent Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

Riki Hayashi for the varied methods and effectiveness of his feedback. I want to be able to give feedback that affects judges like Riki.

John Alderfer for the atmosphere he creates at events and with you in conversation and not to mention he’s great with Tournament Logistics. He gives the absolute confidence that this event will be fine and when you are in a conversation with him you have his full attention. These are both qualities that I have tried to emulate and had a huge impact on me when I didn’t pass my L2 the first time. John went over the exam and did the exit interview with me. We talked over lots of things in granular detail that he didn’t have to do, but that was a huge help for me.

Rob McKenzie for dealing in facts. I’ve seen Rob take on conversations with players and other judges that were dissolving into hysterics and calmly deal with using facts and reason. Sweet Facts!

What was the toughest (or weirdest) judge call you remember having to make?
I don’t really remember a too tough or weird judge call that I answered, but while playing in a competitive REL event I did have to call a judge on myself for not making my opponent discard to Thoughtseize. I cast the spell and saw that I could play around everything then passed the turn. The next turn I cast a second Thoughtseize and saw that my opponent had too many cards. Once I realized what happened I had to call for a judge.

What is it like to be both a judge and a TO?
I think it can be really fun while challenging. There is so much that goes into running an event that I think we can overlook when we just come in to judge. As a TO, your name is on the line so you naturally push for smoother running events because you want players to have the best experience they possibly can have. Being a judge as well, it makes me want to make sure judging my events is a good experience for judges and that they want to come back. It’s also always a new challenge, we are always trying to improve and make our events better and better and that fits right in with the culture of improvement in the judge program.

Describe the company you work for.
Griffon Events is a premier event company serving areas throughout the Great Lakes area and Central Ohio. We are a company that you can contact to help a store run an event. We can help you find a venue and a staff and run a quality event. We typically would work for stores that aren’t really that experienced with larger event management or those interested in running a quality event but not desiring to divert staffing resources towards those events.

How did you come to be the operator of Griffon?
Steven Briggs founded Griffon Events and he ran a lot of events in Columbus, OH which is my local area. I would apply to every Griffon event here and have worked on Griffon from the beginning where Steven took a spoon. Security Spoon. Eventually he asked me to start Scorekeeping for the events. During this time, I started  to HJ events outside my area into Pittsburgh and West Virginia and Kentucky. I was working with first time organizers and was frustrated when they wouldn’t have everything we needed to run events even after agreeing to have those things on hand like a Round Clock or paper for the printer. Those events made for great stories (like having Johnpaul Adams run to a Sears to buy a printer or bartering with a Books A Million store for paper), but had wanting to just buy my own kit to run events with. Steven and I had the discussion about becoming a TO and it just kind of ended there because those organizers were grateful for my help and compensated well for it weren’t ready to buy a service. When Steven took his position at Pastimes and sold Griffon Events to the owner of Comic Town in Columbus OH, he needed a replacement for the judge part of events and event planning. My name was mentioned and after a discussion with Ryan (who owns Comic Town) the rest was history.

If there were one thing you could change about judging, what would it be?
Softer Floors at events. Create a transporter system to prevent judges from having to fly/drive to events. Let’s go with that last one.

Two Truths and a Lie
Two of the following statements are true and one is false. Figure out which!

1 I was once almost arrested at a national monument for attempting to bring bullets into the monument, St. Lois Arch.

2 I feel asleep while playing in a match at the last Competitive Rel event I played in.

3 I have hunted Easter Eggs at Morgan Freeman’s house.

The answer to the last Two Truths and a Lie...

Dominic did not actually finish first (in his division) at the US Mathematics academic decathlon.  He actually finished second, to his teammate! By only ONE question!


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