Greetings judges! Today we continue our focus on our Regional Coordinators, as we turn the spotlight onto the RC for Europe-North, Finland’s own Johanna Virtanen!
Johanna Kaarina Virtanen.
What is your Judge Level?
Where are you from?
I live in Espoo, Finland but I’m originally from Oulu.
When did you become a Judge?
Tested in the spring of 1999, started judging some months before that.
Why did you become a Judge?
Because people on IRC told me to! After moving to Espoo, I was spending a lot of time on IRC, on a Finnish Magic channel. The people on the channel convinced me that I should come and judge some local tournaments. I’d never played in a tournament before judging one.
What advice would you give to members of your region?
Winter is coming.
What advice would you give to a Judge growing up through the program?
Help others. Focus on your strengths but don’t ignore your weaknesses. Iron your shirt. Make a few trips out of your comfort zone. And don’t try to do every event.
Could you recognize a few outstanding members of your region?
This is not meant to be the “top 3” of my region, but the following judges have impressed me lately:
Eskil Myrenberg (L2) is doing a fantastic job leading and coordinating the judge community at the Dragon’s Lair store in Stockholm and I’m sad because he’s planning to leave my region to go to school somewhere else.
In Denmark we have Anders Thiesen (L2), who has been writing interesting tournament reports on our quiet regional forum and inspiring others to do the same. He’s pretty new, but I have a hunch we’ll hear more about him in the future.
Last weekend I worked with Aleksi Kytölä (L1), who is from a somewhat remote part of Finland. He’s the first certified judge from that area in quite some time (or perhaps the first ever, I’m not sure). Aleksi really impressed me with his policy knowledge and I hope I have a chance to work with him again.
What’s the farthest you have ever traveled for a Magic event?
California, I think. The time difference to Finland is 10 hours. I’ve been to a lot of Pro Tours in California; somehow I always get selected for those and never for the ones in other parts of the US.
My husband Pasi used to be a L3 judge, so we did quite a few events together when he was still active. Nowadays he prefers to play Magic Online and watch draft streams, but he still sometimes joins me for tournament trips.
How do you not lose your mind as a RC?
I have a few judge friends who are willing to listen to my rants. RCing isn’t super stressful to me, though.
What do you feel needs to be improved in the Judge program?
What has been your best experience in the Judge Program?
It’s hard to pick just one! I really enjoyed GP Utrecht. I signed up only three days before the event to replace Carlos Ho, and ended up in an XO-like role, helping the HJs. It was a lot of fun.
What motivates you to continue being a judge?
The friendships I’ve made along the way.
What has been your favorite magic event that you’ve judged?
I have to say Finnish Nationals. I was involved with Nationals organization from 1999 to the very last Nationals in 2011, first as a floor judge and then later as tournament organizer and Head Judge. It was such a special event for both players and judges. It brought the whole community together and it was an opportunity for Finnish judges to work together and meet foreign judges.
If you could chat with one person, real or fictional, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I don’t know; someone from a very early civilization, like Sumer or something like that. I’d like to know what daily life was like in those days.
What hobbies do you have outside of Magic?
I love good food. I enjoy cooking at home, trying out new recipes or just buying some ingredients that look good and then figuring out how to use them. I also like to eat at nice restaurants. Magic travel is partially to blame for this. At some point you get bored of venue food and McDonalds and start to look for good restaurants to balance out the terrible things you end up eating at GPs.
What character in Magic (real or fictional) represents you the best, and why?
I have no idea. I don’t really pay attention to the storyline.
How often do you Travel for Magic?
Lately my travel patterns have changed, because I used to do a couple of Pro Tours per year, several National Championships, and just a couple of GPs. Now there are no Nationals and Pro Tour staffs are smaller, so I do more GPs. This year I’ve been to one Pro Tour, three GPs and a stand-alone judge conference. I’m going to another Pro Tour and at least one GP.
What are some of your Regional Goals?
The region really needs more L3s, so my number 1 goal is to support our L3 candidates. Luckily we have some good candidates who are almost ready. I’m also trying to build more of a regional community – it’s always going to be 8 separate countries, but I’d like to see more discussions and reports on the regional forum. Finally, the region still has some underdeveloped and remote areas, so I want to find L1/L2 candidates in those places.
Tell us an embarrassing story that you’re not afraid of everyone knowing.
It’s not embarrassing to me, and half the world already knows, but I’m a big fan of “Take That,” a British pop group that started out as a boy band in the 90s. I buy all their CDs, I go to concerts and camp out all day to get a good spot, and if one of their songs is being played in a supermarket or something, I can’t help it – I have to stop and listen. In the 90s I was never able to see them in concert because I was too young, too broke and I lived too far away. When they came back some years ago and started doing concerts again, at first I wasn’t going to travel to another country on my own just for a concert. But then I realized that I had plenty of travel experience thanks to Magic. If I was happy to spend money to go work a tournament somewhere, why not spend money on pure fun for once? So I got tickets to a few shows, queued all day (in November), got in the front row, and had an amazing time. I don’t think I would have done this without Magic.
How has being a Magic Judge influenced your non-Magic life?
What non-Magic life? I met my husband because of Magic and we got together because we were spending so much time together as judges. I had a Magic-related job for almost 10 years, and I got that job because I was a judge. I’m not doing that job anymore, but it’s safe to say that being a judge has had a huge influence in my life.
Who are your role models within the Judge Program? What are the qualities that drew you to them?
The Head Judge of my first GP was Jaap Brouwer, who is an Emeritus judge now. He was great at inspiring the troops to do their best. I didn’t do such a great job at that first GP, but he made me feel welcome and appreciated and I went home excited about such novel concepts as “judge teams” and wanted to sign up for another GP soon! Another early role model was former L5 Rune Horvik, who certified me for L2. He was a great role model in terms of work ethic. Out of the judges still active, Jason Lemahieu’s awesome attitude is very inspiring, and I also admire Kevin Desprez for his insights into policy and investigations.
How do you have fun during events?
I find Jurgen Baert and start composing more songs for “Judging: the Musical”.
What is the proudest moment of your Judge life?
Probably something related to Finnish Nationals. The first time I was HJ, maybe.
What is your favorite “after event” story?
My after event stories are all pretty tame. At GP Göteborg this year, we decided to go for a walk on Monday morning and visit all the important historical judging sites in the city. Like the house where the Deck Check Treaty of 1980 was signed, the house of the first RC in the North, built in 1780, and the International School of Logistics and its chair-pushing workshop room…it was very educational and great fun.
What is the worst tournament you have judged?
There was never a GP in a certain Dutch city in 2007 and the format most certainly wasn’t Two-Headed Giant. It is absolutely not true that my friend had a medical emergency on Saturday morning before the tournament started, had to go to a hospital, and when he came back we had only just started deck building. That tournament never happened and we don’t talk about it, ever.
Thank you Johanna for all of your hard work!