Joe Sapp

Who says you need levels to have a big impact?  This week we talk with Joe Sapp, a L1 Judge from California with amazing heart and a fixture on the GP circuit.  He recently told me it’s not about personal accolades, but rather accolades for the event.  Read on to discover the beat of his drum.

Joe Sapp

Joe Sapp

Name: Joe Sapp
Level: 1
Location: Santa Rosa, CA
Occupation: Events Specialist at Channel Fireball Events
Favorite Card: Sensei’s Divining Top
Least Favorite Card: The Mike Goodman Spirit Token
Favorite Format: Draft, specifically Khans aka “The five color dream.”
Commander General: Karador, Ghost Chieftain
Favorite non-Magic Game: Dungeons & Dragons
Best Tournament Result: 100th at GP Malmo 2012

Why do you Judge?
Becoming a judge has allowed me to be a leader and community builder in my local gaming community. I absolutely LOVE getting new players hyped up about Magic. At FNM, the store owner constantly sends players who are interested in Magic over to sit next to me while I draft. I enjoy teaching people how to play, and it’s a great feeling when you can help players to better understand the game. I do all my judging at Pre-releases and FNM.  Pre-releases are one of my favorite activities, as I often cosplay, and serve gummy bears or other treats. I enjoy actively making my LGS a comfortable and welcoming environment to all. I have also enjoyed mentoring several judges who have certified over the last year. I enjoy trying to give players and GP attendees the best possible customer service experience.

Joe alters a card for Magali Villeneuve
More like Wonderful Offering!

Tell us your favorite Judge story.
GP London 2016 I was on Artist duty. Most of the Artists were on break at the time, with the exception of Magali Villeneuve.

A player approached the table and asked if I was an artist. I shook my head and said “no, I’m afraid I’m not that talented… I need a ruler to draw a stick-figure.”

Magali chimed in and said: “Would you do an alter for me?” I was shocked. “No”, I said. “I don’t even have a card on me”. The player at the table immediately got out his binder and pulled out the first card he could find, which was a Harmless Offering by Howard Lyon.

My mouth dropped open and I sat there staring at the card that was now on the table in front of me. “I would be very offended if you didn’t do this for me Joseph!” Magali said. As I looked over at her she was already handing me her bag of pens, smiling brightly.

“Are you going to do it?” the player asked. “I guess I have to now”, I said. I completed an alter of the card and presented it to Magali, who was quite happy with the gesture. The player took a picture of us and said that I made his weekend. I like this story because it was completely impromptu and ended up being a really fun experience.

Joe and John Carter hugging.
Always time for a hug.

What are some tips you have for other Judges?
Self care is very important. Always stay sated and hydrated, and make sure you are making enough time for yourself. From an event standpoint: “always play the long game.” Sometimes things don’t go as planned, and sometimes we fall down. These are moments in time, and in actuality you will likely get another opportunity another day and/or at another event. I often recite a famous Japanese proverb to my students: “Fall down seven times, get up eight times.”

What advice would you give for those applying for Set Up and Tear Down?
Understand that you’re part of a bigger picture.  You’re getting the opportunity to “create” an immersive world for the players.  It’s really a great opportunity to learn a new skill set, which is useful at literally every GP.

Self care is especially important, and so is wearing close-toed shoes! 😉

Who have been some of your biggest mentors in the Judge Program, and what did they teach you?

Joe and John Alderfer
Staying cool.

I have been lucky enough to have a few great mentors in my life: John Alderfer and John Carter.

Alderfer has been mentoring me since late 2015 at GP Sea/Tac. Since then, he has taught me how to lead the setup/strike of GP’s, and he has always provided a steady hand and guided me as needed. Alderfer is such a calming influence. He is patient, and can “roll with the punches” better than anyone I know. Alderfer is very selfless and he’s always willing to do what’s needed at the event. He also helps me keep my feet on the ground. There are times where I get away from myself, and he’s always there to help me out and give me feedback. Alderfer is a consummate professional, and I strive to emulate those qualities in my own work.

Carter and I have known each other since before my time as a judge. Even at PAX Prime in the mid 2000’s, Carter has been influential in my experiences with MtG. Carter helped me navigate my first GP: Vegas 2015. Additionally, he has always been in my corner through trials, tribulations, and “The Embargo”. He has helped me grow and learn and he has always been my biggest “cheerleader”. He has instilled in me the importance of self belief and self confidence. He has always assured me that “I can do it” sometimes even before I can admit it to myself.

Joe and Alderfer working hard.
A Tireless Tribe!

You are synonymous with “Convention” Magic.  How did this start, and how did you get to where you are today?
I really fell for convention magic after attending PAX Prime in the mid 2000’s. Tim Shields was always so nice and engaging and he endeavored to make sure that people were having a great time. I have always tried to carry that same sense of enthusiasm to provide great customer service interactions for players in any kind of events. I have taken that attitude from FNM to Grand Prix and I still love occasionally judging at conventions.

I started working GPs in mid 2015 and was a floor judge for my first couple events I then moved to Customer Service rolls and eventually found a niche in the special operations role. I have endeavored to put the “special” in special ops and I was hired full-time by CFBE in late 2017.

What is your favorite non-Magic hobby?
I can’t pick one, so I’m going to be greedy and say Judo and Music.

I have been involved in music since I was very young. I started off playing the drums, and eventually picked up a guitar in high school. I also started singing in the school and church choir when I was in high school. I have always loved performing and I’ll never turn down an opportunity to share music with someone.

I have been studying judo since 2001. I am a 3rd degree black belt and a Masters National Champion. I was on the United States National Team in 2006, and I used to be the #7 ranked Heavyweight in the country. Now i’m old and broken and I have my own judo club, “Next Level Judo”, where I teach twice a week (when i’m actually home).

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

  1. I love control Magic.
  2. I love public speaking.
  3. I am a huge professional wrestling fan.
The answer to the last Two Truths and a Lie...
Sashi Kumar Balakrishnan did indeed own a store, but it was called Pendelhaven.

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

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2 thoughts on “Joe Sapp

  1. It is quite remarkable to see how much of an impact Joe has in the community. He is a remarkable person and is an even better friend. It is these qualities and also a competitive spirit to be better than oneself that makes Joe and extremely valuable asset to the community and to the convention scene. He is a man who genuinely cares about other people and it shows.

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