Lev Kotlyar

Welcome back for another installment of Judge of the Week!

This week’s recipient is Lev Kotlyar, who has the fierceness of a lion when it comes to bringing professionalism and high levels of customer service to judging. That makes sense since “Lev” is Russian for lion.  Read on to find out about some tips he has to improve your judging, his hobbies and an unusual guessing game he likes to play with Magic cards!

LevName: Lev Kotlyar
Level: 2
Location:  Moscow, Russian Federation
Judge start date: May 2012
Occupation: Research Scientist, I do mathematical modeling for petroleum geophysics.
Favourite card: Tolarian Academy. Tolarian Academy is like a quintessence of things like about Magic: to start with, it’s an Academy on an island where the whole story of the Weatherlight saga has started, also it’s a land with an awesome art, it’s legendary, it is a combo piece and it’s so powerful it is banned.
Least favourite card: Splinter Twin (it’s personal). Somehow a blue-red combination of colors is my least favorite and as much as I love Modern format, Splinter Twin is the namesake card of the most played deck in those colors.
Favourite format: Modern
Commander General: Ghave, Guru of Spores, Oloro, Ageless Ascetic
Favourite non-Magic Game: Dixit
Best tournament result: Top 2 in a local modern competitive of about 50 people (I’ve been to the top 8 of a GP once!… I was the one calling the draft….)

How did you get involved in Magic in the first place?
September 2000, my friend comes over after school with a Starter 2000 CD and a pair of decks… next thing I knew I had a bunch of Invasion precons that we were playing at school almost daily and I was spending most of my leisure browsing through Magic Encyclopedia and reading Magic fiction. It wasn’t until 2006 when I actually made it to a LGS for a couple of Coldsnap and Time Spiral FNMs. Then there was a significant break with a couple of semi-successful attempts to play Magic Online, and only when I saw the name “New Phyrexia”, I knew I want to try Magic again.

Lev 1You were recognized in the Exemplar Program for reinforcing the importance of customer service with your local player community. How did you do that?
Every time a player approaches me with a question or concern, I try to invest my time and focus on the problem. Even if it is as simple as missing the line in a sealed deck list, I would make a change myself and put a signature nearby to assure the player that this will not affect his tournament play.

When I started judging, the general level of paranoia regarding cheating in our community was very high, and players felt it. It took time to change the perceptions of the players to see judges not as inquisitors.

You were also recognized for your professionalism with players. What are some tips you have for judges to seem more professional?
Being professional for me means behaving confident, calm and polite. All of the time.

This is how I want myself to be regarded as and I want to maintain this image. “Be polite” would be a common tip, but it is too general, so I’d go with:

  • Do not backtalk about players;
  • Do not make jokes about disqualifications;
  • Do not get engaged in flame wars online.

How has being a Judge influenced your non-Magic life?
Since I started meeting more people, judges and players, I was forced to overcome shyness, become more confident, otherwise it wouldn’t work.

How has judging helped you become less shy?
Well, pretty much any judge-related activity involves talking to people, and those people often start as strangers. If you are shy it won’t get you far. The hard steps were the first ones, meeting new people: judges, TOs. Building confidence became easier when I realized that we have a lot in common, usually it is not just Magic, but also backgrounds, love for tabletop and/or computer games etc. At some point I learned to break the ice and eventually made a few friends.

Lev 2

Tell us more about your job.
Math modeling is like experimenting, except most of the time you study mistakes and bugs in your own code. Carrying out true experiments is way more expensive than creating a code that can simulate the natural processes and then studying its behavior, especially in the Earth sciences. The models that reflect the physics of the processes and yet are not overly complicated and time-efficient make it to engineering. They are then incorporated into software and are used to analyze data collected in the real experiments or to design future experiments.

My job involves developing models, validating them and creating a useable code. My current activity is in the scope of isothermal hydrodynamics (I am creating a model that describes temperature and pressure behaviour of the gas and liquid mixture flowing in a pipe).

What is one tip you have for other Judges?
If you want to grow and self-develop, do the homework. Make notes, analyse them (share if you need to) and review before the next event. Don’t be frustrated by the failure, let the fact that you’ll do better next time motivate you.

What is your favorite “after event” story?
We had a PTQ-WMCQ weekend coming to end and went to a restaurant after the event. There was a lovely round table for 8 people exactly. We were discussing a lot of different stuff, including rulings. That’s when where the ruling about the “Game Loss of Mercy” came up. At competitive event player A casts Green Sun’s Zenith, finds a creature and then shuffles Zenith along with his hand into the library. Some judges suggested to give that player a GL “because it would be too cruel to let him continue without a hand”.

Lev 3How do you have fun during events?
Although, we don’t usually run out of the situations and rulings to discuss with colleagues, sometimes I try to come up with activities and games for my colleagues.

Thanks to the localization, I have a deck of creatures with funny names. I deal the cards, sleeve them face down and we play “who are you?”. It’s like “who am I” but instead of you asking questions about your card, people come over and ask questions about your card. The aim is to guess all the cards. Mindless Null is the true star of this deck, but there others: Slitherhead, Goatnapper, Dumb Ass, Drainpipe Vermin, Fleshmad Steed, etc.

What was the proudest moment of your Judge life?
Being recognized is probably what made me proud most, and while the first wave of recognitions did a great job in that direction, I guess the proudest moment was when I accidentally ran into a bunch of old players drunk after some party and they introduced me to their friend as “probably the best judge we have around”.


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

1) I’ve been specifically trained on how to survive in the open sea and how to safely escape a helicopter in case of crash landing over water.
2) I play violin and piano and I have several awards from Russian and international contests.
3) Until 25 I was convinced that a term “pony” is a synonym of a “foal”.

The answer to the last Two Truths and a Lie...
Toby admits, “I did write the Boston Red Sox chapter for the prototype book that would become BP a year later.”

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

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