JOTW Exemplar Edition Wave 8

Welcome back, judges! This time around, we are celebrating some of the top Exemplar recipients from Wave 8 and finding out about who they have drawn some of their knowledge and inspiration from. We asked them, “Who do you consider your mentors in the Judge Program and why?” Here are their responses:

Australia and New Zealand

L2 Chengji Wang earned nominations for areas including answering judge scenarios on his region’s Slack and his work on the Articles Translation project.

His response: When I was asked this question, I thought about my L1 mentor, my first judging, my L2 mentor, my team leads on GPs … it was quite a long list of great judges who mentored me. Then I figured out it’s hard to say my mentors are some particular judges. I will say my mentor is the “Judge Community.” Mentoring can happen anywhere and anytime if I participate in the community. I judge an event with other judges, I get mentored; I join a rules or policy discussion online, I get mentored; I ask a question or write a tournament report on JudgeApps and then read the comments, I get mentored. Every judge involved into such things mentored me and I feel it is the community that makes this possible–every time I interact with the community about judging, I get mentored. So I think my mentor in the Judge Program is “Judge Community.”


L3 Dustin De Leeuw earned nominations for subjects ranging from his inspiring proactive approach to prevent future crises at GP Chiba to his extensive coaching of a L1 who was HJing a 200-player Modern event at GP London.

His response: My most important and influential mentor is, without doubt, Teun Zijp. He mentored, trained and tested me for L1, and infused me with his enthusiasm and human touch while judging. I had the (false!) impression that judges were mean rules enforcers, spoiling the fun with all their Warnings and Game Losses, but Teun really showed me how much service we can deliver to players while keeping the event fun and fair. He then continued to mentor me towards L2, and then did the most helpful thing ever: I asked Teun to write me a L3 Recommendation, he took a month, then wrote me a very detailed review stating why I was not ready for L3 yet. It hurt, but this was the most important link that I was missing. I worked on my areas for improvement, then tested for L3 and passed the panel, which would have been impossible without Teun!

Teun continues to be a great mentor and source of inspiration: even after all those years, he still enjoys judging and does so with calm and confidence. The way he interacts with others (judges and players alike) are amazing, and something I always try to emulate. Teun, thanks for your amazing role in my personal development!


L2 Antonio Zanutto earned nominations for areas including his work on his IPG for Players project and an article on counting cards.

His response: I consider every judge in the Judge Program to be my mentor. I am really passionate about the exchange of knowledge and this can happen between any two people. When I was an aspiring L2, I had a local aspiring L1 – Jota Ribeiro – that really wanted to take the test to become a judge. I’d often chat with him on Facebook for hours, about rules and policy scenarios, and that was a great experience for both of us, because I was learning a lot of new stuff that I used to mentor him; I got a deep understanding of layers, turn structure, the importance of the JAR and many other things. Likewise, the same happened when I mentored Jaspa Stritt and many other judges.

Lately, I have been getting great advice from Jon Goud that is helping me out with my leadership skills, and he told me something so Goud that I need to share: “You have to be a judge ‘lord’, an anthem effect. It’s not about you doing a good job. It’s about your presence influencing other people to do their best.”

And I must not forget to mention Federico Donner, a person whom I have profound admiration and that I love seeing at events, because his job is always about other judges learning. He’s a great judge and even better friend. It doesn’t matter what time of the day (or night) it is, he’s always there to help me out when I need good advice.


L3 Jon Goud earned nominations for areas ranging from the amazing information cards he provided at GP Rotterdam to his great motivational work as a RC in order to increase engagement.

His response: I’ve been fortunate enough to have some great mentors in the program.

I learned how to not be afraid of providing negative feedback from Jason Wong, I learned about “How to Make Friends and Influence People” from Gavin Duggan, I learned (the hard way) how to take an appeal from Jared Sylva, I learned the importance of empathy in leadership from Riccardo Tessitori, how to plan big picture logistics from Kevin Desprez, how to plan fine detail logistics from Emilien Wild, the importance of feedback and the value of networking from Riki Hayashi … honestly the list could go on forever. I feel like I learn something new from every event and every judge I meet!

Basically my mentor has been the Judge Program itself. Being surrounded by highly motivated and intelligent people working towards a common goal tends to provide no shortage of learning opportunities 🙂


L2 Woosuk Lee earned nominations for areas ranging from his creation of the Korean/English judging glossary to his tremendous help in preparing the Korean conference.

His response: I can’t just name one, but the first one that came to my mind is Wearn Chong, L3 from Malaysia and also a Regional Coordinator for Southeast Asian region. When I started my judging career, it was easiest for me to work SEA GPs, given that I used to speak only Korean and English back then. (I didn’t count judging in Korea here, since there was no L3 and only one L2 back then, and then that L2 retired soon after I joined the Judge Program). He and I weren’t actually a mentor-apprentice relationship, but with the talks with him when we meet each other in most of the GPs I attended, I learned a lot: about the Judge Program, about customer service, about being a leader and so on. =)

The second should be George Gavrilita, who directly guided me on what exactly I needed to do, when I was stuck in L3 prerequisites, especially in writing my self-review. He even flew over to Korea to have a seminar with judges in Korea and I really appreciate it.


L2 Dominika Knapova earned nominations for areas ranging from her leadership in a project of Judge Candidates Management to the profound empathy she displayed when a player burst into tears at GP Prague.

Her response: Each judge in the Magic Judge Program has an area in which he or she truly stands out and has many things to pass. For me – as a not-so-much experienced L2 judge so far – practically any contact with another judge is an opportunity to learn something new. However, for lasting relationship and leadership, I consider my mentors David Záleský and Jára Karban (even though we do not spend that much time together).

David is an unique rule book and a better version of annotated documents so if I need to consult for a ruling or I have a rules question, I can be confident that David gives me the right solution with brilliant reasoning. Jára is a perfect combination of all possible soft skills that judges should have. I appreciate his sense of justice and views on the judge code, ethics, diplomacy and the general conduct and behavior of judges in the community. Talking to him helps me to understand what Judge Program actually requires from us. Thank you, guys!


L3 David de la Iglesia earned nominations for areas including helping handling decklists at Grand Prix Chiba and contributions to improving the Regional Coordinator selection process.

His response: Carlos Ho is the person I consider my main mentor. He was the one there for me during my development as a judge in my early years in the program. He inspired me to travel all around the world to judge events and to make new friends everywhere I went. He instilled in me the importance of writing reviews and introduced me to the amazing world of judge projects.

Jurgen Baert helped me learn how a big event works, and is my reference when it comes to anything related to tournament operations and logistics.

Finally, Sean Catanese taught me the importance of compassion, and was instrumental in me becoming a more mature, calmer, drama-free version of myself. Most importantly, he’s been the guiding light I’ve followed in my darkest hours.


L2 Patrik Fridland earned nominations for areas including organizing a judge conference and being a “regional cheerleader.”

His response: I will start by saying that today I have a lot of mentors. There are so many judges that help me develop and progress. And that especially helps me when I don’t believe in myself, and if I would start mentioning judges the list would be very long, and you would probably stop reading halfway through it.

But the one that first saw my potential, the one that always springs to mind as “my mentor” is (and probably always will be) Mikael Ristovski.

It was Mikael, or Micke as we all just call him, that helped my on my road to L1, helped me to focus on the “fun” in judging. He has always been a voice of reason and always puts the players in the forefront.

Micke’s way of judging has, for the last few years, been my goal as a judge: his way of always balancing between being social and interacting with players then knowing when to go into that serious mode as needed.


L3 Sophie Pages earned nominations for areas ranging from her inspiring report from GP Chiba to her edifying article about an innovative approach of the End of Round procedure.

Her response: I think I have 2 amazing judges that helped me grow as a person and as a judge. The first one is François Grossi. He is the one asking me for help in his tournaments at first, and always there since. He showed me every aspect in the Judge Program, from leading an investigation to being included in the judge community through conferences. He likes to play devil’s advocate so I can see both sides of things. He helps me to keep motivated and optimistic and share every discussion with me, almost every day since I am a judge, regarding policy, tournament operations or every thing in the judge program.

The second one is obviously Guillaume Beuzelin. He found me as an inexperienced judge but gave me opportunity to grow and learn. He is always available to share his thoughts, show his knowledge or break a fidget cube. He helps me to understand in depth the Judge Program, and showed by his devotion to his community that yes, we can be everywhere, helping every single judge. He is my inspiration and my best friend in the Judge program.

German-Speaking Countries

L2 Ralph Glätsch earned nominations for, among other reasons, his astonishing leadership and organization of the Random Situation Generator project in order to spread it internationally, especially in Asia.

His response: I have many mentors. Ivan Petkovic, Jeremie Granat, Stefan Ladstätter and many more I’ve met during all the GPs I have been to.

The reason why they are all mentors for me is very simple. Everyone can teach you something and if you are open and asking others how you can improve.

All people around you can become your mentor. No one is perfect, and if you are aware of your weak spots, you can ask others for help to improve.

That’s why I love the Judge Program so much: it gives your space to grow and support from all the people around you. But you have to be proactive and use the chances and possibilities.


L3 Alfonso Bueno earned nominations for areas ranging from his constructive openness of mind and courageous leadership in the L3 End of Year project to his immense commitment and creativity as Program Coordinator.

His response: Wow!!! There are many. The first name coming to my mind is Riccardo Tessitori, but there are many, many more… just to name some:
David Sevilla: mentored me from L0 to L3.
Carlos Ho: taught me the difference between been certified as L3 and becoming a real L3.
Andy Heckt: helped me to understand the judge program.
Cristiana Dionisio: taught me to be a Regional Coordinator.
Kevin Desprez: mentored me, first on how to be a good team leader and later on how to be a good GP Head Judge.
…and so many other I don’t have space here to name them all!

Italy and Malta

L3 Riccardo Tessitori earned nominations for areas including helping lay the groundwork for GP Prague and conducting a seminar on policy.

His response: Interesting question, as the answer may span over the last fifteen or twenty years of the judge program.

For today’s readers (CIAO to everybody ^__^), I will choose a few people who are currently in the world of Magic and who have been among my mentors in the last years.

The five people below are very different from each other, and, like the five colors of Magic, are able to offer a mix that is the recipe of the perfect mage… judge, I meant judge 🙂

Alfonso Bueno
I met Alfonso a very long time ago, I saw him becoming more and more expert as a judge in all aspects, and I was delighted to witness his ascent to the current roles of Grand Prix Head Judge and Program Coordinator, an unstoppable and reliable reference for any judge.

George Gavrilita
I lost count of the times this “kid” surprised me, in any aspects of life. I actually hate him from the deep of my heart, because he sets standards that I’m not able to reach, darn him!

Cristiana Dionisio
I thought about it, but I wasn’t able to find anyone who contributed the most to my entire judge career more than her.
Her psychological skills are extraordinary and she’s able to show an enormous passion and dedication to her judges which has very few equals in the world.

Niko Glik
Known today as a talented scorekeeper, Niko is a great professional, able to perform many roles and to offer high value advice on both Magic tournaments and life in general.

Andy Heckt
The real heart of the best Magic judge program of all times.
If you know him, you know how important he was for so many people.
If you don’t know him, I can only wish you will meet him.

L2 George Gavrilita earned nominations for areas ranging from his exceptional proactivity as ODE leader at GP Madrid to his “Judgecraft” game about Program construction philosophy for the Italian L3 candidates group.

His response: My biggest mentor is Luca Romano, for his clear analysis and critique of my behaviour inside and outside of the Judge Program. For some this might seem tiring, for me it’s a source of constant quality feedback.

Although fewer than I would like, every moment spent with Matteo “I’m a member of all Judge Projects” Callegari is precious. He helps me reformulate my doubts in a form where I can find the solution on my own, even if that requires a reading of “Ender’s Game” first!

Riccardo Tessitori is very supportive, and often discusses with me current issues at the regional and international level. He makes me feel appreciated and keeps me mentally challenged, and doing both in a sincere and constructive way is no small feat.

Shout out also to Walter Zarà, if I consider Logistics a piece of pie today, it’s thanks to his training; to Edwin Zhang, THE conflict manager; and to Dustin de Leeuw, the first to honestly evaluate me when everybody else considered me “L3 material.” I’ll always consider our short-termed collaboration as what changed my mental approach from being just “material”, and actually getting there.”

L3 Matteo Callegari earned nominations for areas ranging from his innovative preparation at GP Madrid to his inestimable work for the Exemplar Program within the Italian community.

His response: I presented you the judges who helped me the most during my growth in a recent interview ( ). I would like to use this opportunity to thank two judges who inspired me the most in the last 12 months.

Sergio Perez, you are one the most brilliant examples of how to fuse heart and brains in the judge program. Your passion for judges and your logistical skills at events are unmatched per se, but considering thay they combine in a single person… this is unbelievable! Thank you for reminding me that plans need to be well-thought and analyzed but above all they need motivated judges to perform. One of our main tasks as leaders is really to care for our judges so that they may get the tools to succeed!

Dustin de Leeuw, you are my model of how we should work at events. You are very meticulous in the preparation of GPs: thinking and discussing about new ways to perform our tasks, communicating with the HJ and the other leads and providing an incredible amount of information and guidance to your judges. And then at events you transform yourself in the most smiling and welcoming judge I met. Your presence always reminds me that we are at the GP for the show: we want to leave great and fun memories to all players and to all judges. Thanks!


L2 Hajime Fujii earned nominations for areas ranging from his management of PPTQ distribution in the Kansai area to the impressive logistics skills he displayed at GP Chiba.

His response: Naoaki Umesaki is the mentor of my soul.

He does not teach me directly frequently, but Umesaki-san always points out my weak points precisely and gives me tons of damage. That pain has been my great guide over the years.

Fumiyasu Wakamatsu is also a big guide for me.

Fumi-san often imitates me, but by doing so I confirm that I was not wrong.
Also, when he improves and adopts my method, I can grow by imitating it.

Hispanic-America North

L2 Jeffry Solano earned recognitions for subjects ranging from his excellent job in a mini-conference project to his fabulous blog “El Rincón del Juez“.

His response: Well, when I think about my mentors, two names come to my mind. First of all, I can name Carlos Ho, L3 from Panamá. He definitely is the leader in Central America and we have been working together in projects here in our area. Carlos is always looking to help us to improve our skills, mentoring us and helping us to improve our weakest areas.

Also, I can name Nemesio Bolaños, L3 from Chile. Our relationship is different. We have never worked together, but Neme and I like to share ideas regarding…well regarding everything. We talk about the difference between our regions, tournament operations, road to L3, etc.

Both of them are really important in my life. Thanks to them, I have improved some areas in my life, learned a lot of things and completed a bunch of others. They are always open to give me advice when it’s needed, and I can say they are my mentors in the program.

Hispanic-America South

L2 Federico Verdini earned nominations for areas ranging from his reassuring diplomacy with an upset player to his stimulating collaboration in many projects plus the mini-conference in Buenos Aires.

His response: Who do I consider my mentors in the Judge Program?

First and foremost, Julio Sosa. He certified me as L1 in 2013, and I keep learning from him to this day. We are really good friends now, so our chat topics far exceed the Judge Program. Still, every time I have a doubt, a comment, a weird scenario or just want to understand something within the program, I go straight to him. I know I’ll get an honest and direct answer, always with the proper explanation.

Also, as I said to him in my wave 7 recognition, he was very supportive during some not-so-good times. He’s been at my side this whole time, helping me find my place in the Program.

Russia and Russian-Speaking Countries

L2 Mihail Turetskiy earned nominations for areas ranging from his excellent L1 testing workshop at a conference to his admirable level of preparation and responsible approach to the certification of judges.

His response: Each judge I have ever worked with I consider my mentor more or less. I try to take opportunity to learn something new from everyone. Even if I have never met a judge or if it is a L0 candidate that came to learn something from me. I think the key here is to see strengths of others and to find some food for thought in each interaction.

Southeast Asia

L2 Ian Mervin Go earned nominations for areas ranging from his great support and assistance in running the PPTQs to his helpful guidance about how to overcome a severe mistake during a call.

His response: I had several mentors on my journey as a judge, and one of the first is Victor Viguilla. He taught me the basics when he learned that I was interested to become a L1. I helped the TO of a LGS to run events, a co-TO if you will. From deck checks to rulings (both JAR and IPG), to some WER functionalities. He also likes to give situations to test our skills. Besides the basics, he has instilled in me that we should try to educate players at every instance we get, especially when they get a penalty.

Next would be Phil Peña, a stern judge that always believed in my capabilities and always ready to hear me out if I have a tough nut to crack. We live far from each other (I live north of Manila and he lives way south of Manila), yet he usually endorses me to judge PPTQs in his area if he is unavailable to do so. This is a good way for me to know the TOs and players in that area. He also gave me the confidence push I needed to finish my L2 requirements back then.

Then there is Dominic Yu Ping Kun, a fun-loving judge who is known by almost all players in the community. He always does his best to maintain good diplomacy towards each player and each TO/store. He does a bit of small talk with players to check how they are when he has the chance and has an approachable aura making players comfortable around him. He often tells me that even thou some situations are worth more thinking, not every situation should be over assessed. The simpler you can keep it, the better.

And there is Joel Bantiles, our hard-working L3 here in the Philippines. He believes in the things I can do and usually gives me a heads-up when I seem to fall too low below the radar. He encourages me to move forward when he thinks I am going a bit too slow. Like last year during the WMCQ season, he told me that he would try to make me a HJ in one of the WMCQs so that I would get recognized by a lot of players and also help me grow as a leader.

Lastly, Riccardo Tessitori. He is more like an inspiration, an indirect mentor if you will. I’ve worked with him in two GPs so far and the way he does and manages things is something I want to learn to do too. Like how to be calm in almost every situation. I was a floor judge in GP Taipei 2016, and was taking too much time on a ruling. The XO told me to just give a ruling and tell the player he could appeal. They said my ruling is correct but it wasn’t the only possible answer. And the way Ricardo handled that appeal was great. The ruling he gave made the players comfortable without too much effort. His knowledge and experience will always be awe-inspiring.

Generally, I consider everyone I meet to be a potential mentor because you will never know who can teach you something new. The important thing is that you have a mind that is hungry for knowledge and always be willing to share what you know.

L3 Wearn Chong earned nominations for areas ranging from his constructive feedback to his unflinching support to the SEA community that pushes it towards excellence.

His response: When considering my mentors, it’s difficult to name names as I would inevitably miss some, as many people have had an impact on me over the years. Mark Brown is certainly a notable mentor, as he took me from Level 0 to 1 to 2. My development towards Level 3 can mainly be attributed to Adrian Teh (who is no longer in the Judge Program), and after that so many people have made a mark on me.

In my early days as a Level 3, David Vogin encouraged and mentored me to head judging my first Grand Prix (although back then events were much smaller!). He also started the initiative of Regional Coordinators and helped me take on that role for Southeast Asia. Thereafter as I became more involved in the Judge Program I have met many people who have impacted me directly and indirectly, such as Andy Heckt, James Lee, John Carter, Cristiana Dionisio, Riccardo Tessitori and many more such as my fellow Regional Coordinators, the many judges I’ve had the honour of working with over the years etc.

Being a part of the Judge Program has given me access to innumerable mentors, as everyone has the potential to teach me things, both big and small. I owe a large part of my development, as a judge and as a person, to all these fine people.

L2 Andrew Teo earned nominations, among other things, for his dedication to continuously updating and improving Judge Core App, a vital tool for quick lookup at large events.

His response: As for your question:
My mentors are plenty, as the regional L2+ do communicate frequently on issues and happenings, which in turn helps me to learn quite a bit. However, to name a few more prolific names:

Shing Nien Fong: He was my mentor from my first step into L2, and even now, I still look to him, and his actions to help improve on events I judge – be it in terms of mannerism, policy handling and understanding.

Wearn Chong: A regular appearance in our judge group chats, helping to guide me and other fellow judges on any queries, or even interesting discussions on recent policies and happenings in events

– Wind Pang: A former seasoned L1 judge who has since lapsed, who was very proficient in his rules understanding. The judge who brought me into the program, bombarded me with interesting ruling scenarios, got me hooked into going deeper; the devil of it all, so to speak, hehe.


L2 Raoul Mowatt earned nominations areas ranging from his contributions to the Judge of the Week project to spreading regional news.

His response: I owe a lot to so many present and former judges, it is hard to know where to begin, especially knowing that I will inevitably leave people out. I suppose I will begin with the mentors who are no longer active in the Judge Program: Jason Long, James Elliott and Dan Stephens come foremost to mind.

Of my current mentors, Steven Briggs stands out for so many reasons. He encourages an entrepreneurial spirit when it comes to judging. He has tons of good advice. And he cooks a mean pork shoulder. He, John Temple and Rob McKenzie have been driving forces in keeping morale up for me and others who have been thinking about going for L3.

The good folks at Judge of the Week also deserve a shout out. Thanks to Michael Arrowsmith, not just for being visionary when it comes to the project and judging in general, but also for moving out of USA-Central. This way, I have a chance to be the top regional recipient, because few are going to be more exemplary than you. And to Jacob Milicic, for being there as a sounding board for so much. He is also often one of the highest Exemplar recipients in his region. It’s great to work with people who are as fun as they are talented.

USA-Great Lakes

L3 John Temple earned nominations for areas ranging from his great mentoring of people on the path to L3, to the accommodations he made for a disabled player at the Eternal Weekend.

His response: I consider my mentors to be Riki Hayashi and Justin Turner.

Riki has been an idol of mine in the judge program for almost all 5 years I’ve been doing this. He has position in both the player and judge communities, is a prolific reviewer, and one of the best judges of character in the program. Still to this day, I can talk and talk then he will pop over and say a sentence that nails everything I was trying to get across. I strive every time I judge and work with other judges to reach the same heights as him.

I remember emailing him prior to an event simply asking for “Feedback” back in 2013. I didn’t hear back from him and figured the email was just lost in the business of event preparation. What I didn’t know was that he had his eye on me the whole weekend and spent time asking me various questions or putting me in charge of his zone End of Round challenging me to not use the scorekeeper for End of Round. At the end of the weekend during the Top 8 of one of the events he sat down and talked with me about my future in the judge program. I wanted to be a Level 3 in 6-9 months and looking back on that I totally understand why Riki said that was a bit aggressive! Riki helped me to see a path forward and I gained a new friend.

Turner and I have had a rocky past but that hasn’t stop either of us from working together. He has always been frank and to the point with me, telling me exactly what I needed to hear — not necessarily what I wanted to hear — both in and out of judging. As an RC and community leader, he is one of the, if not the, best in the business. The way he engages and is omnipresent in his community is the bar I believe RCs should strive towards.

I have lots of stories about Turner but most I can’t share here 😛 I will just say that as an RC and friend he has had my back even when I didn’t think he did.

Each of these gentlemen have helped to shape me into the judge I am today and I would not be here without them. Thank you, Riki and Turner, for your continued friendship and mentoring!


L3 Riki Hayashi earned nominations for areas ranging from his ability to inject humour into serious actions to his willingness to promote a culture of feedback.

His response: How much time and space do you have? The old school names are John Carter, Toby Elliott, Seamus Campbell, Jeff Morrow, Jared Sylva, and Adam Shaw, to name a few. That this is a collection of ex-L4+ speaks to how much the Judge Program has grown and changed over the years, but also to just how lucky I’ve been in the people I’ve met and the relationships I’ve been afforded the opportunity to cultivate. These days, you’re probably lucky to spend a significant time with any one of these luminaries, let alone all of them.

What was and continues to be the thing that I value the most about their mentoring was how they held me accountable. There were plenty of times when I screwed up, got called out on it, and we would talk it out. Over the years, some of these people have retired, while others I see less often due to geography. And over those years, the student has become the teacher to others. But I still screw up, get called out on it, and we talk it out. Eric Dustin Brown, John Temple, Nate Hurley, Matt Williams are a few names that come to mind of people that I mentor, but also learn from as well. I consider this to be the cornerstone of what I want the Judge Program to be. I continue to forge new relationships with people, and I hope they will impact my life in the same ways over the next few years: Erik Aliff, Jacob Milicic, Angela Aliff, and Jarrod Feight. They are all lower level than me today, but they teach me things and I would consider them mentors.


L3 Rob McKenzie earned nominations for areas ranging from his tireless work on the L3 Support Group to handling feedback from all the RCs on the Exemplar address collection form on a very short timeline.

His response: Chris Richter is the biggest mentor I have had, followed by Pete Jahn and Steven Briggs.  Chris certified me for L1 and L2, gave me tons of feedback early in my judge career, and has pushed me into difficult situations where I could grow.  Pete showed me the ropes as a floor judge, gave me tips and plans, and we talked and talked about so many things over car rides and PTQs in the Madison area.  Steven Briggs said to me “I need an L3 in Minnesota.  Is that you?” and would not let me stop pushing to relentlessly improve


L3 Scott Marshall earned nominations for areas ranging from his most interesting feedback to the GP HJ Committee to his courageous and humble public apology to Shahar Shenhar.

His response: My first mentor was the organizer who recruited me, Steve Boeff.  At that time, he was a driving force in the Denver area, and a visionary; he saw a need for more judges, long before most.  He taught me a principle that I’ve always tried to impress upon others: judging is about customer service.  Steve also arranged to have an L3 visit Denver, during a PTQ, and provide judge tests for a few of us; that L3 was my next mentor, James Lee.  At that time, James was not only one of the closest and more available L3s, he was also the Judge Manager.  James went on to arrange my L2 test, and was on my L3 panel.  Finally, and by far the most influential, is Andy Heckt, who was, essentially, my “boss” – without ever being bossy – for most of my judging career.

I know that, by only mentioning three, I’ve slighted many deserving folks, people too numerous to mention.  Certainly Carter was a big influence, since he suggested to Andy that I take over as NetRep; Sheldon Menery, Mike Guptil, Collin Jackson, Jaap Brouwer, Gijsbert Hoogendijk, Toby Elliott; locally, Michael King and B Tucker.  Again, so many, and so little space.  However, there’s one more that I must mention, due to recent and very sad news: Mike Goodman.  Mike, more than anyone, taught us all to smile, be friends and friendly, and make everyone else smile, too.


L2 Josh McCurley earned nominations for areas ranging from his hard work as an efficient and benevolent Area Captain to his organization of the Dallas – Fort Worth judge meetups.

His response: Probably one of the most influential mentors to me in the Judge Program is Jim Shuman. He taught me so much; how to deliver a ruling properly with confidence, how best to apologize when you flubbed a ruling, and how to mentor the next judge. He is a mainstay in North Texas Magic and the judge landscape here would look a lot different without his influence.

Jarrod Feight was someone that I helped mentor to L2, and yet I have learned a lot from him over the years. We often have different viewpoints on things and have had more than one lively discussion about philosophy. It is refreshing to have my views challenged and humbling to realize I don’t always understand things as well as I thought I did.

Nate Hurley has also been a great mentor helping to push me past my comfort zones. He is always willing to talk, whether to discuss rulings or help me realize that something I am stressing about at an event isn’t going as off the rails as I think it is.


L3 Jess Dunks earned nominations for areas ranging from his hard work on JudgeCast to his super intuitive management system for the Sleep-In Specials.

His response: 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 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.

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.

Matt Williams – 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.


L3 Jeff Morrow earned nominations for areas ranging from his refreshing approach to L3-specific projects to his insightful description of the cultural differences foreign judges should expect in Japanese GPs.

His response: I’ve had a bunch of help from various mentors over the years, including Don Barkauskas, Eric Shukan, Mike King, John Carter, Sheldon Menery, Mike Guptil, Jason Ness and Andy Heckt. Most of those people gave me some form of good advice in my earlier days as a judge. Some of them gave that advice in the form of kicking my butt, which was useful.

More recently, I’ve learned a lot from discussions about judging with my old friend Kevin Desprez. I’ve run a lot of GPs, but he’s run way more, so his advice is always valuable.

But, of course, my main mentor since very early in my judge career has been Toby Elliott. Over the years, he’s been very good at setting me up for success, supporting me when I needed it, kicking my butt when I needed it, and just generally expecting excellence from me. I’ve learned a lot, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without his great advice and mentoring.

Congratulations to all these rock stars, and thanks again to the judges who help inspire them to awesomeness! See you next time for a traditional Judge of the Week! 
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