Jess Dunks

Welcome back to another “very over the top, so exciting” judge of the week, well not over the top but exciting, featuring Jess Dunks.

Name:Jess Dunks
Level: Level 3
Location: Atlanta, GA
Judge start date:
L1: July 10, 2010
L2: July 16, 2011
L3: January 19, 2014
Currently Mechatronics Engineering Student.
Formerly Event Coordinator for and Korean Linguist for the US Air Force.
Favorite card: Momentary Blink
Least favorite card: Cavern of Souls
Favorite format: Modern
Commander General: I have never built a Commander deck.
Favorite non-Magic Game: Onitama
Best tournament result: Bombed out of Day 2 after a strong day 1 of a Modern GP.
Random fact about yourself:I recently bought a house and my favorite part of it is the garden.

Why do you Judge?
I got started judging by running my own tournaments in the dorm while stationed at an Air Base in Korea. I wanted to create a fun play experience for my friends, and I didn’t know what the judge community was. When I got back to the States, I dove into the community full speed because I believed that I could provide players a superior experience at competitive events as well. In some ways, I still judge to this end, but my focus has moved to helping other judges improve, expanding the idea from “help improve tournaments” to “help improve tournaments by helping improve people.”

In the hall early to layout the room for GP Sydney with CJ Crooks

What is your favorite non-judging moment that happened with other Judges (or after event story)?
Last year we rented a house in downtown Atlanta for DragonCon. We were joined by a bunch of judge friends (14 levels in total!) and bonus friend Sara “Mama” Mox, our wonderful Judge Community Manager, and did absolutely nothing judge-related for four days as we geeked out enjoyed my favorite convention. Cultivating the friendships I’ve gained through judging has been one of the most rewarding “side benefits” of being a judge, and it’s really what’s kept me going for most of a decade.

Who have been some of your biggest mentors in the Judge Program, and what did they teach you?
I was asked a similar question recently on a post about mentors. Here was my answer:

Since certifying as a judge in 2010, I’ve been fortunate throughout my judge career to have access to great mentors, and I’m grateful to all of them. In fact, I’ve had enough mentors that trying to list them would be a disservice to those I’d be almost certain to forget. However, there are three that stand out to me as exceptional influences, and I’d like to highlight them.

Eric Levine– Eric is the judge who taught me the most early on and laid the foundation for my judge career. I went to every prerelease and every comp REL event I could get my hands on, and as the Event Coordinator for Superstars (AKA <a href=”” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener he was the HJ or TO for almost all of them.  He is a treasure trove of information on rules, policy, how tournaments run, investigations, diplomacy, how tournaments run, DQs, Head Judging, how tournaments run, and how the judge program works in general. He’s a ton of fun to talk to about these things.  In fact, he often has conversations in such an exciting way that his one-on-one mentorship sometimes turns into mini-seminars as judges gather around to figure out what he’s so animated about. More than the things he taught me, however, it is his desire to bring out the best in people that I benefited the most from. He has trusted me early in my judge career to take on big roles that I would learn a lot from, going all the way back to the first midnight prerelease I was the head judge for, and eventually to recommending me to take over his spot at Channel Fireball. He set me up in situations at events where I was challenged but still had a safety net if I was in over my head (he knows about how tournaments run), and he taught me to do the same for my own judges and judge candidates later.

Posting Pairings at Pro Tour Ixalan in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Bryan Prillaman – If you know me from JudgeCast (shameless plug), you know Bryan Prillaman.  What you may not know is that for the last 5 years we’ve spent a lot of time behind the scenes of the podcast talking and learning from each other.  He was the first on the show to hit L3, and with good reason.  He is ever-involved in the Judge Program behind the scenes.  This is becoming more apparent now that he’s in charge of the entire Exemplar Sphere, but even before I met him he was involved in ways that weren’t directly floor judging, even acting as a GP Judge Manager. We’ve spent many late Tuesday nights (It’s always Tuesday) talking about judges we’re working with, event situations, nuances of policy, and so many things I can’t mention them all. The most striking way that Bryan has helped me, however, is that he’s the person I talk to that is most likely to disagree with me and challenge my ideas.  There is a good kind of friction, one that polishes you, keeps you shiny.  This is what Bryan has been for me for years, and I hope that I’ve been that for him too. We disagree and then we argue about it.  And we learn why the other person thinks what they do. Actually, that makes it sound very civil, which sometimes it isn’t. We can get quite heated (or at least I can). But I’ve learned more from disagreeing with someone I respect than from anything I’d ever get out of an echo chamber.

My Favorite; HJ for the sanctioned FNM at the Mox wedding reception.

Matt Willams – Matt is probably better known as Billy Willy in the judge community.  He is also known by many as a very strong Logistics judge, and in truth that there’s no one I’d rather have by my side when an event goes sideways. And we work together a lot, despite living in different states. I think I have seen him at a Grand Prix, SCG Tour event, or conference at least a couple of times every month for a couple years now. Like Bryan, Billy Willy and I have spent a lot of time together delving into the nuances of judge work. Unlike Bryan, those conversations are more often about room layouts, team compositions, break schedules, and how to generally prevent events from going off the rails. Beyond that, however, he’s truly adept at giving actionable feedback. When most people are just grousing about something, he’s proactively identifying ways that it can be better. I know that I always appreciate him being there to back me up, keep me on track, then sit down with me and figure out how we can do it better next time.

Jess (as Gideon) Savaging Punching Paul “Bearz” Baranay at Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar in Milwaukee

What is your favorite non-Magic hobby?
This is hard, but probably cosplay and prop-making. Some people know that I’ve gone to several Magic events dressed as Gideon Jura in a foam suit of armor that I crafted myself.

How did you get involved in Magic in the first place?
When I was in high school, my best friend told me he wanted to teach me a game. He had bought two Judgment pre-constructed decks, and we couldn’t figure out how either of us were supposed to get anywhere if we kept having to sacrifice all these lands every time we cast a spell. A player at a local game store quickly set us straight, and I was hooked.

Two Truths and a Lie

  1. In 2017, I traveled ~30 weekends for Magic-related activities.
  2. In 2015, when the region’s other L3s were suspended, I was the US-SE’s RC for 21 days.
  3. In 2013, I was HJ or FJ for over 700 Individual Magic Tournaments.
The answer to the last Two Truths and a Lie...
Felix Ramon Capule III is not a fan of Samurai X.

If there is a judge who is also doing something exemplary, please nominate a judge TODAY!

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