Judges! This week’s rock star has been leading awesome Judge Mobs and playing Magic for many years. It’s Ken Bearl, L2 from Minneasota!
Location: Saint Francis, MN
Judge start date: May 20th 2012
Occupation: Software Engineer
Favorite card: Whatever wins me the game
Least favorite card: Bridge From Below
Favorite format: Draft, Urza’s Saga block
Commander General: None
Random fact about yourself: My last name was a meme in Magic, so Ken Bearl LOL is the winning deck for PT Philadelphia 2005 and there’s this gem
Why do you Judge?
I love the challenge and the community, I’ve been playing since 1995 so the game has been a huge part of my life and it feels great to give back to it.
Tell us your favorite Judge story.
Probably the most recent RPTQ where Morgan Wentworth was the head judge and wanted us to dress in costumes, so my mom helped me make a split personality costume, including a coin. Having the coin lead to the joke “Can a judge flip a coin to determine a match outcome?” The answer is no of course! It was a big hit since a lot of people know me as a player and a judge, also I did a good job designing it and my mom did an excellent job sewing it.
You were nominated through the Exemplar Program. Tell us about some of the things you are doing in Minnesota as the State Captain. What are some tips you have for other Judges?
I love the community in MN and I think the main reason everyone stays a judge is because of the people. Shortly after becoming MN state captain I started a monthly social event called Judge Mob the idea being to just get together at some store and have fun. There are a lot of benefits with this, judges go to stores that they hadn’t been to previously so if the store needs a judge they have an idea of what the store is like. Also, it gives the leaders in the community a chance to hang out with people who are doing the primary job of judging at stores, they are the most important part of the judge program. It also lets people connect and talk about goals, Lee Henderson is a prime example he’s been to almost all the Judge Mobs and I think with our encouragement made progress towards his goals. Like my discussion about going to go for L3 with Rob McKenzie was after a Judge Mob.
I also have organized a lot of mini-conferences in MN, most have been outside of the Metro area which is where most judges are. It’s great to get together and have three to four presentations, it’s rather low key so it’s easy for someone to give their first presentation and they know most of the people they are presenting to. At the recent regional conference in Iowa both my own and Erick Carlsted’s presentations were debuted previously at these mini conferences.
When I first became state captain I emailed all the stores to get an idea of what their WPN status and if they needed help scheduling a PPTQ since it was the first season. I then worked to create a calendar to help them avoid conflicts and make sure they have a judge. We had a number of stores that it was their first competitive REL event and it was a lot of work to make sure they had everything lined up to run well. From that, I’ve fostered a lot of connections with stores so they are comfortable coming to me with issues or advice. As a long time competitive player, I care very much about the player experience. I’ve had my share of awful tournament experiences and want to make sure that events are smooth with proficient judges. I also want to bring competitive magic to areas that didn’t have it before.
What is your favorite non-judging moment that happened with other Judges (or after event story)?
At the June Regional PTQ, we had a mini-conference. Bret Siakel decided to raise more money for Carsten Haese by agree to eat a tablespoon of cinnamon for every $50 that was donated. Which, if you know anything about the cinnamon challenge, it’s dangerous and not a good idea but his heart was in the right place. Lee Henderson decided to donate about $400 of cards, so Bret was on the hook for nine table spoonfuls of cinnamon. Knowing he was in deep, Bret turned to Rob McKenzie to help him but after they consulted the staff pharmacist and found out the lethal amount of cinnamon was about 4 spoonfuls, they needed additional help. The first round was Rob McKenzie, Bret Siakel and another judge, but because we didn’t want people to get hurt you could drink water. The video is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZkQIUPh81FQ
I joined in for the second round, so I don’t have video of that, but I faced it without to much difficulty. Also I would like to say that no one should ever do this and it’s horrible even if it’s a regular spoonful. Then Bret took the final spoonful. In the end $450 was raised for Carsten and no one died, though Bret said he had blisters in his mouth for a week from it.
What challenges have you faced or are you facing to become a better judge, and how have you worked to overcome them?
Pre-event anxiety. I always feel the need to perform at a high level, that maybe I could have prepared more or maybe I’m not ready for this next step. Once the event starts, it’s “go with the flow” and figure everything out. Preparation helps a lot, as does talking over the plan with another judge who has the experience. Also realizing that failure is how we learn and that for pretty much anything that goes wrong, it can be fixed.
Who have been some of your biggest mentors in the Judge Program, and what did they teach you?
Rob McKenzie is the spirit leader of MN, he gives great advice and is always willing to talk about penalty philosophy and logistics. He recognized the potential for me to be a great state captain. . He’s also my sounding board. If I have an idea I’ll bounce it off him.
Steven Briggs is the main reason I don’t only do things that Rob or him think is a good idea. When I first became state captain, one of the things he said was “You don’t need my permission to do awesome things.” A lot of what I’ve done has been me thinking up something that could be awesome and trying it. I do solicit advice from people before I act, but I realize I don’t need to ask my RC or local L3 if I can hold a mini-conference or a social event. Briggs is also very outspoken about “let’s have fun doing this, we judge because it’s fun so lets try and make it fun even if it isn’t.”
What’s the best part about your local Magic community?
How much they help each other out. It seems like every time we need a replacement, someone steps up. It’s also great that the stores all work together to make a great community. It usually all goes back to Steve Port and his saying “I don’t want a bigger slice of the pie. I want to make a bigger pie so everyone gets more”
What is your favorite non-Magic hobby?
Fishing, though I haven’t gotten a chance to go out lately between playing magic and all my kids activities.
How did you get involved in Magic in the first place?
I started playing in High School with my friends, then became enamored with the Magic Pro Tour as soon as it was announced in Duelist Magazine. I still remember reading The Sideboard about Olle Rade winning the Pro Tour and I was hooked.
If you were a Planeswalker what would be your ultimate?
Opposing Bearls can no longer Bearl. Those Bearls may Bearl Bearls to ignore this Bearl.
Proudest moment of your Judge life?
Taking over the state captain from Rob and working to make the awesome community that he gave me better. Taking over from someone as accomplished as Rob can be tough he’s been a judge for a long time and has a big presence. It would have been easy to just try and maintain what we had but I’m not that type of person. I’ve never been afraid to put in the work to get something done.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Do what makes you happy in judging, just because someone else is doing something doesn’t mean that you have do the same. Such as working lots of events or going for the next level, those are optional things and if you have fun doing them great and if just working prereleases makes you happy that’s great as well.
Two Truths and a Lie
Two of the following statements are true and one is false. Figure out which!
- I cast a real fireball at work in at a ammunition plant.
- I won the MN state championship back to back in 2002 and 2003.
- I have played in 8 Pro Tours the most recent being Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir.