JOTW Exemplar Edition Wave 10 Part 1

Greetings, judges! We are once again celebrating the accomplishments of some of the top Exemplar recipients in each of their regions from Wave 10. (And reminding you that Wave 11 closes November 1).

This time, we asked them “What improvements in the Judge Program have you benefited the most from, and how?” Here is the first part of their answers. We’ll return in a few weeks with the second.


L3 Dustin De Leeuw earned nominations for areas including feedback he gave at several Grands Prix and his work on the updating the Level 2 Team Leader Certification.

His response: With the introduction of the NNWO, several advanced roles and certifications were created to be able to differentiate certain qualities within levels. I believe this was an awesome opportunity to offer people more ways to specialize and to get recognized for their achievements.

These roles needed to be defined, operationalized and fine-tuned, so we have committees for that; I got the honour of taking over the lead of the Team Leader Certification ( ) from Alfonso Bueno. This was the biggest, most important and most influential project I’ve ever led, and it was a great learning opportunity, that also allowed me to work together with some of the finest judges in the program!

Another aspect of the NNWO is that the advanced roles of GPHJ and L3 Panel Lead are no longer intertwined. This allowed me to recently get certified for L3 Panel Lead, and that’s another achievement that I’m very proud of.


L2 Philippe Monlevade earned nominations for areas including helping a player in the middle of an emotional breakdown and his performance at GP Toronto.

His response: The new RC selection from Brazil.
Vinicius Quaiato has been very active in our community and for sure we will grow even more, not only in size but quality.

The reason why I believe this change significantly improve my judge life is because when I will need something Vinicius will be ready even before I ask. He is that fast. Two hours tops.


L2 Michael Gyssels earned nominations for areas including his ability to run a 228-player Competitive REL side event smoothly with a small staff and organizing a charity tournament.

His response: Since I was just certified in August of last year, there have only been a handful of large or remarkable changes to Judge Program that have had a tangible impact on my experience. There are two major, recent changes, though, that have fostered my growth and development more than others, the first being the migration of reviews to JudgeApps. Review integration into judging’s most used (and most usable…) platform has been a boon to my judge career both because writing reviews is a strength for me, allowing me to connect with judges in medium where I am confident, and because getting feedback, engaging with it in comments, and integrating that feedback into my work has helped me learn a lot in a very short time.

I make an effort to write a review at every event I work, if at all possible. I started this year with three reviews per tournament as a goal, (generally 1 per day at a GP, or one for the HJ, one for my team lead, and one for a colleague at smaller events) but that proved a difficult pace to sustain. Still, I’ve written 22 reviews this calendar year, so far, and I consider that an accomplishment. As a high school teacher, I’m passionate about quality reviews: targeted, constructive feedback about tasks, achievements, and skills produces better judges, and I want to help our community grow. I am thus incredibly grateful when I receive that kind of feedback from my colleagues.

Writing feedback, and focusing on the good and the bad that I’ve learned from my teammates after an event, also provides me opportunities for introspection. Reviews open up conversations not only with team members, but also internally, so that I can think about how I can be my best judge self, and how I can best serve my players and my TOs in the future.

The second major change that has driven my success in the program is the appointment of Jon Goud as Canada’s Regional Coordinator. Jon was appointed not too long after I became a judge—before, in fact, I had any idea what an RC was or what they could or could not do for me. Since I first spoke with him in February, after my L2 interview with Jason Wong, Jon has been a lifeline, a social support, an editor, an advisor, a supervisor, a counsellor, a mediator—I really could go on. In short, Jon has guided me throughout my career as an L2 and helped me to achieve a number of personal judging goals, locally and internationally. I’ve undertaken some big projects for the next 12 months as a judge, and the inception of those projects—and hopefully their eventual success—belongs in large part to Jon and his tireless efforts to keep his finger on the pulse of our expansive region. He is a credit to our region and to the program at large, and I can’t say enough about the work he’s done since taking over the role.

L2 Kentaro Guthrie earned nominations for areas including translating for players at Grands Prix and creating a Cultural Exchange initiative at GP Kyoto.

His response: The improvement that has made the biggest impact on me personally is the addition of the Grand Prix Day 2 Team Lead Certification. The TLC gave me the opportunity to strive for something while compiling experience as an L2, but not yet thinking about L3. The testing process itself puts you in a different role than usual at a Grand Prix, and gives you a chance to receive valuable feedback from senior judges. During my test, I was able to identify some weaknesses in my skill set, and start working on them immediately. The clearly defined expectations of a successful candidate paint a clear picture of what makes a good team lead, and have allowed me to give better feedback to my subsequent team leaders. The only slight frustration I have so far with the TLC is the lack of team lead opportunities available after getting the certification since most are used for testing other candidates or for L3s.

Europe – Central

L2 David Záleský earned nominations for areas including helping with turbo drafts at GP Bologna and presenting on two topics at judge conferences.

His response: For me, the most impactful improvement in the Judge Program is the levels redefinition and clarification. The fact that now we have detailed descriptions of requirements for all levels (including the advanced roles) makes it much easier for everyone to figure out what they need to do in order to achieve what they’re striving for.

It made the program much more transparent than it used to be. (Maybe even up the the point where judges might actually start believing that advancement is now based on merit rather than nepotism.) And even though there is still a lot more to be done, these changes helped me start believing that the future of the Judge Program is not as bleak as I used to see it, and that I still want to be a part of it.

Europe – East

L2 Yuval Tzur earned nominations for areas including sharing information about JudgeApps and organizing a Summer Judge Conference.

His response: When I got certified back in 2005, a certification required a L3 judge. Before we had a L3 in my country, being certified was a real hustle. You either had to travel abroad for a certification, or hope a L3 would come visit and agree to spend some of their vacation time on certifying new judges (we actually had several people whose certification was never submitted by a visiting judge).

Once we did have a L3, he was very busy, so getting certified took time, and it relied a lot on L2s mentoring candidates and convincing the L3 to test them (up until the L3 decided to quit Magic).

The change that allowed L2s to certify L1s and the NNWO introducing the L2 tester certification, allowed a relatively isolated country like ours to be able to grow our judge community, and let those judges advance in the program.

No matter how many judges I’ve certified over the years, I still get a satisfying feeling of accomplishment every single time.


L3 Charlotte Sable earned nominations for areas including her work on Ask a Magic Judge and putting together the L3 Preliminary Exam.

Her response: For me, there are two very important answers:

First of all, the changes to the L3 Advancement Process allowed me to actually manage to get to L3. Before the current system was implemented, the path to L3 was unclear and not really codified. There was a lot of secrecy around it and no one could give a straight answer to the question “How do I get to L3?”. When the process was revamped and opened up, it gave me a clear set of achievable goals to work towards. Ever since getting to L3, I’ve done as much as I can to help the L3 advancement process continue to improve. It makes me happy to help others along a road that was so very hard and unclear for me years ago.

The second improvement in the program that I would like to call out is the creation of JudgeApps. There had been the judge mailing list before JudgeApps, but JudgeApps brought judge communication to one central location. The fact that it could also host event staffing, projects, and (later) reviews is what makes judges stay engaged with it. From my point of view, JudgeApps really helped to bring people in the program together in a really wonderful way. It gives judges a place to call home on this big, scary internet.

Italy and Malta

L3 Riccardo Tessitori earned nominations for areas including his contributions to the Grand Prix Head Judge list and the amount of feedback he gives to his team leads.

His response: An improvement (or a change) in the Judge Program that helped me to improve as well? Not an easy question to answer…

I would like to find an aspect that is not the usual “It’s so enriching to travel and discover new cultures” (yes, I mentioned it anyway ^___^)…

Oh, yes, I found it!!!

One year ago I had to get the “Grand Prix Head Judge” certification, which was a role that I had been having for about ten years.

The certification process was intense and offered me the opportunity to think very deeply, not only about the specific topic, but about how my mind works, and I’m happy to share it with you.

I want to tell you something about me at the personal level: I’m a great judge! No, I’m the best judge of the world! Of course I am a great judge, it cannot be different!

Wait, am I really sure? Maybe I’m not…. no, no, I am, for sure, it cannot be any different! I cannot be weak and think that I’m not awesome! Everybody surely knows that I’m awesome!

And here is where many of us may fall.

We get to a result, be it a job we want, be it L3, be it in a relationship with our partner… and we want to be “awesome”, because we cannot accept otherwise.

If somebody or something challenges our solid position, we feel threatened, we weel endangered, and one of the possible reaction is to be defensive or aggressive.

It’s ok, it’s human, it’s instinct.

Then, we may apply some teachings, and try to see our “result” as something different; the “result” is just a temporary state, that can evolve or that has to be nurtured and maintained.

Did you get to L3? Well done… now you need to maintain it, don’t “relax” or become lazy, make us and yourself proud just like you did in the past.

Did you start a relationship? Well done… now don’t take it for granted and “feed it” every day, so that it will remain as beautiful as the first day.

Did you get to a new position at work? Well done… now do it at your best.

If someone or something challenges your position, listen, think, act, give your best, be the person who got to that “result” that day… it will make you feel more alive and it will be a very good way to have success!


L3 Asuka Nagashima earned nominations for areas including her work as GP Kobe day 1 ground floor team backup lead and her proactivity as a team lead at GP Kyoto.

Her response: We have spent 10 waves of Exemplar Program, creating an environment in which we recognize each other’s good part.

XP brought the change that made the recommended goal became more familiar and doable for most judges. It has enhanced judges’ field and destination. I struggled to foster inclusive movement to projects,  it got easier.

This also helped me grow up personally. Through I have been finding many good points, I got better skill sets for evaluation and feedback. More than anything, interacting with more judges keeps me motivated. Now we have uncountable, big or small, original or inspired and joyful activities that increase Magic experience. I’m proud of being part of this group.

Southeast Asia

L2 Zie Aun Tan earned nominations for areas including his work on flash feedback tokens and his coming up with a way to incentivize players to return basic lands at GP Manila.

This being my fifth year as a judge (and probably my third year of really getting into it) I’m afraid I’m not too familiar with a lot of changes that have happened, but after spending quite a bit of time going through the question I can’t think of a better improvement than the introduction of the Exemplar program.

What I find valuable about the Exemplar program is that it allows judges to send each other a message that’s simple in its essence: “Hey, I like it that you’re doing an amazing job, and I hope that you keep it up.” At the same time it provides judges on the receiving end a sort of a badge of honor that says “Hey, check out these things I’ve done.”

And I think what’s really amazing is that these recognitions don’t have to be based on a face-to-face interaction. I’ve given recognitions to judges who’ve done a good job online – The “Ask a Magic Judge” blog on Tumblr maintained by Charlotte Sable comes to mind – despite both of us not having met each other in real life. It’s this far-reaching aspect of the Exemplar program that makes it so great.


L2 Nathaniel Graham earned nominations for areas including his performance on On Demand Events at Grand Prix Las Vegas to his presentation on how to take a turn at a judge conference.

His response: I’m not sure.  My awareness of what projects and “things” are out there in the program increases each year, but the Judge Program doesn’t really make its way out into this rural neck of the country.  I would say a long-standing under-utilized resource (again my view) has lead me to where I am, and that is the human resource.  I think a core strength of the program and its projects are the people.

For particular projects, it would be Judge of the Week and Slack.  They have expanded my network and awareness of outstanding judges.  Joining the JotW project ramped that up big-time, and Slack allowed me near daily interaction with high-caliber people and judges.

JudgeApps is the obvious tool to get onto large events, and so the history there is important, I think.  Those large events, and the conferences, have again put me face to face with some really stellar people.  I use that as best I can by following the “two ears, one mouth” philosophy.

Perhaps a shift/change in the program that I have seen (though again, this neck of the woods may be atypical) is the re-evaluation of L1 judges and their ability to contribute.  I spent the last few years not only attending conferences in and out of region, but also presenting at them.  I feel that is a major step up for me personally and also with the program allowing an L1 to present.

So perhaps ultimately an improvement or an initiative within the program has been to connect more people together?  I haven’t seen that from public posts and what not, but maybe the Cabal of Supreme Judges (that’s a thing I swear) made a silent decree.


L2 Jacob Milicic earned nominations for areas including his work on the Judge of the Week project and his focus on giving feedback.

His response: The Exemplar program.

I had occasion to work with Megan Linscott at GP Las Vegas, wherein we had a conversation where I mentioned that I did not really judge a lot of GPs. This was surprising to her, because she knew me from program work and probably assumed I did a large number of events as well like many judges who also do a lot of program work. I feel as though I do a most of my work for the Judge Program off of the event floor, and a significant percentage of that are things that have very little, if anything, to do with events at all. Before the Exemplar program, recognition for these types of efforts did not seem to have an official avenue, whereas I am given to understand that people were getting public recognition at GPs. While I do not feel anyone would genuinely argue that efforts outside of events were not valued before Exemplar, I believe it is quite fair to say that Exemplar made it easier for the Judge Program to acknowledge that value.

It is not perfect, and I won’t pretend it is. I am very much a beneficiary of the program and have been effectively since its inception, so I would be kidding myself if I did not admit to some personal bias. Still, the recognition means a lot to me and has consistently helped to drive me forward. I have a commemorative binder that contains all of the judge foils I have received and all of the exemplar tokens Rob McKenzie has made for me. I treasure all of it. It reminds me that what I am doing on a day-to-day basis matters to people who are not me. And that instills me with an irreplaceable sense of purpose.


L2 Brook Gardner-Durbin earned nominations for areas including stepping up as the Swiss Sides lead at Grand Prix Vegas and his efforts as an area captain.

His response: The best change to the Judge Program, in my eyes, must have been the emphasis on mentoring and feedback. I say “must have been” because I was lucky enough that the culture was already in place when I was certified as a judge.

The Judge Program’s feedback culture helped me grow as a judge, quite quickly. I’ve been a judge for a little over four years, but only working large events with other judges for about two years — before that nearly everything I judged was small events where I was the only judge. I learned more in the first six months after I started working with others than I had in the two years before that, because I finally started meeting people who could mentor me and receiving feedback.

Nearly all of my Exemplar nominations on this wave were directly the result of the mentoring and feedback culture in the program. I received nominations for two big things on this wave: mentoring, and stepping up to take over as sides lead at GP Vegas when the scheduled lead had to leave early. The mentoring was my attempt to pass along what I had been taught by many others over the last few years — I have a great debt to many judges for helping me in many different ways, and I try to pay that down by helping teach other judges whenever I can. Stepping up at Vegas was only possible because I had received enough mentoring from others that I felt capable of doing the job; I couldn’t have volunteered without the help of all the other judges who taught me.


L3 Nicolette Apraez earned nominations for areas including her team leading at SCG Atlanta and GP Vegas.

Her response: I think the growth of Investigation Workshops has had a huge impact on myself from a mentoring and skill building perspective. I remember a time when saying you had been through an Investigation Workshop meant you went through THE investigation workshop, with the same 4 scenarios that still used keywords like “Soulbond.” Recently, there’s been a push to revamp and create new scenarios of varying difficulties, and roll them out to involve more people. I think it’s really helped to remove the scary and intimidating stigma surrounding Investigations. A few months ago, we even tried bringing an L1 into an investigation workshop! Although some of the material we covered with the other participants was a little advanced, being able to just see lines of questioning or tips for interactions with players means that she is now one step ahead in her understanding of the topic, and less afraid to ask that “one additional question” during a call.

Next week, we will return with a regular installment of Judge of the Week. Keep an eye out for Part 2 in a couple weeks. In the meantime, if there is a judge who is also doing something exemplary, please nominate a judge TODAY!

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