Welcome back, judges! This week, we’re talking with a judge who has had a tremendous impact on his local Magic community, from mentoring and training L1s to organizing a charity Magic event. Meet Lyle Dixon!
Name: Lyle Dixon
Location: Salisbury, NC
Judge start date: Feb 24, 2013 (The first GP Charlotte where things exploded)
Why did you become a judge?
I was really tired of not moneying at events, and missing out on win-and-in’s. I was getting way too stressed out playing the game, and was starting to get burnt out on it. I remember having a conversation with my local TO basically saying “I can’t keep doing this. If I am going to have a future with Magic, I think it’s going to have to be as a judge.” Luckily though, the longer I’ve judged, the more reasons I have found within the program to continue to do so. I’ve kept judging because of the people I’ve met, both players and judges. The Judge Program has given me some of my closest friends, and was the reason I met my fiance! I continue to judge for the people and the relationships.
Occupation: 5th Grade Teacher
Favourite card: Hyalopterous Lemure (Reasons!)
Least favourite card: Trade Secrets
Favourite format: EDH
Commander General: Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath, Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury, Teferi, Temporal Archmage, Daretti, Scrap Savant, Nahiri, the Lithomancer, Rakdos, Lord of Riots, Brago, King Eternal, Ruric Thar, the Unbowed, Selvala, Heart of the Wilds, Phenax, God of Deception, Ezuri, Claw of Progress, Daxos the Returned, Anya, Merciless Angel, Melek, Izzet Paragon, The Gitrog Monster, Xira Arien, Prossh, Skyraider of Kher, Oloro, Ageless Ascetic, Derevi, Empyrial Tactician, Nekusar, the Mindrazer, Mayael the Anima, The Mimeoplasm, Karador, Ghost Chieftain, Riku of Two Reflections, Zurgo Helmsmasher, Zedruu the Great-Hearted, Child of Alara, Kozilek, the Great Distortion.
Favourite non-Magic Game: Warhammer 40k
Best tournament result: 2nd Place NC Pokemon State Championship when I was 12
Random fact about yourself: I was 1st Chair Alto Clarinet in All-State Band and All-State Orchestra in high school. I was also in marching band for 7 years, including 3 years at Appalachian State.
What’s your favourite judge story?
I think my current favourite judge story is probably from SCG Regionals just recently. I am out on the floor, walking around and watching matches, and I happen to see a silver-bordered “Ass Whupin’ ” on top of his deck box. I stop to make small talk about it, because I have fond memories of playing with the Un- sets when they came out. He explains to me that he brought this card with him to Regionals in the hopes that he won, at which point he would give it to his finals opponent after he beat him. We had a conversation about exactly WHY he shouldn’t do that, and I got to help prevent him from souring his event. I’ve since then had many discussions about the scenario with other judges, which has led to equally interesting conversation.
How did you get involved in Magic in the first place?
I had spent a couple of years playing Pokemon in middle school, back in the late nineties, and had just done really well at the state championships, and basically felt like I had “mastered” the game. The other people my age didn’t play it like I did (In the early days of the Pokemon TCG, playing competitively was extremely akin to playing Vintage now), and I was getting bored playing competitive decks against my friends who were trying to see how many Machops they could put in their decks. I went over to a friend’s house one weekend and he was playing a different game with his dad. They showed me how to play, and I just kept going over to play every weekend. That was during Mercadian Masques block, and I’ve been playing ever since.
How has being a judge influenced your non-Magic life?
The most important way it has impacted my life is I met my fiancee through judging! Heidi Sitten was the newbie Brian Bradshaw forced me to hire when I HJ’d my very first PTQ. We became judge BFF’s over the next two years, and then it eventually became something more. We’ve been in a long-distance relationship, but are moving to Detroit after we get married this summer. [Editor’s note: Heidi has also been a Judge of the Week!]
What motivates you to continue being a judge?
While I love all of the relationships I have developed in the Judge Program, and those are a driving force in why I continue to drive to regional and national events, I would say the largest motivation in why I judge would be the players. I am someone who enjoys helping other people. I get immense joy from teaching the game to new players, or helping long time players understand difficult rules situations. I also get huge satisfaction out of knowing that as a result of my time, the players in the tournament I am running are going to leave at the end of the day thinking “I had fun today!”
What is one tip you have for other judges?
It’s OK to make mistakes (as long as you learn from them and do your best to not make them again). This was a hugely important lesson that I had to teach myself at the beginning of my judge career due to the path I took to get there. I didn’t have a mentor as an L0 at all. I just walked up to a GP and managed to get tested. Then I passed and starting judging stuff locally at stores that had never had a judge walk in them before. I had no training, no experience, and no guidance other than what I had seen judges do in all the competitive tournaments I had played in for the last decade or so. So I made mistakes. LOTS of mistakes. Mistakes where I still feel bad for the players they impacted. However, I took those feelings at the time, and used them as motivation to do better, and not repeat the feelings I had when I screwed up that badly. I try to tell my local judges this all the time: You are going to make mistakes. Horrible, tournament altering mistakes. Accept this now, and embrace those learning opportunities when they come up.
What’s the best part about your local Magic community?
I love my local community. In the greater Charlotte area, we have a large number of very good competitive Magic players, but the tournaments we have are pretty laid back, and I attribute that a lot to the attitude of our local community. The players want to play good decks, they want good competition, but they also still want to come to our tournaments and have a good time with their friends they have made through the game. I know that is not something you are guaranteed to get everywhere.
What is your favorite non-Magic hobby?
I play a lot of World of Warcraft. Heidi and I use it to have date nights while we live 600 miles apart.
What is your favorite non-judging moment that happened with other judges?
I was judging on Sunday at SCG Columbus right after Heidi and I had started dating. I was sent on my lunch break, and was walking around the venue, getting a bite to eat. I am a few bites into my sandwich when I hear someone yell “Stop playing on your phone!” I looked up, and there was Heidi, carrying like 5 dozen cupcakes. I was actually, for the first time in my life, completely speechless (which is a HUGE deal for the people who know me)! Heidi had driven 5 hours by herself after staying up all night to bake cupcakes, just to bring them to me and some other friends that were judging the event. We ended up having an amazing day with all of our friends, and it was awesome.
What’s the biggest rule-breaking play you’ve ever made as a player?
Before I became a judge ( and maybe some amount of time after I became an L1 but still before I really knew anything) a friend and I had a standing agreement that whenever we played each other in FNM we would play a match with our Legacy decks because we hated Standard so much. I found out later on that you aren’t supposed to do this…
What has been your favourite Magic event that you’ve judged?
I have judged GenCon every year that I have been a judge, and that is always a blast. People are playing the game for love of it, not for prizes or money or anything like that. It is a very refreshing environment to be in, in contrast to the seriousness of high-level play at GPs or the SCG Tour. As far as an individual tournament, I would probably say GP Charlotte 2016. Hometown GPs are always great to have, but Charlotte had a lot of… unprecedented issues. I feel like I do my best work when the poop starts to hit the fan, and I felt really engaged as the judges had to quickly help solve problems and work on the fly to make sure that players had as enjoyable an experience as possible in the face of an unfortunate situation. I felt like as a judge staff, we really pulled together and did some amazing work that day, and I felt both challenged, and like I had accomplished something by the end of the day.
What positive aspects has the Judge Program contributed to your everyday life?
I feel that judging has made me a better teacher, and that teaching has made me a better judge. I use things I have learned for conducting investigations every day in my classroom when one kid says another kid did something. I feel like it has also made me a much more confident and concise speaker, as it has given me ample opportunity to speak to large groups of people and explain confusing concepts.
If you could chat with one person, real or fictional, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Jesus Christ. I would really love to know what he thinks about our world today.
What would you be doing now if Magic no longer existed?
Playing and painting 40k miniatures way more consistently!
What is the strangest card interaction you have seen in a tournament?
While it is an illegal interaction, that would probably have to be the GRV that was thence dubbed “Grovulax, King of the GRV’s” by Josh Feingold. A player at a SCG Open was playing a Storm deck, and was looping Lion’s Eye Diamond and Ill-Gotten Gains. He would get mana from the Eye, cast an Ill-Gotten Gains, getting back the Diamond, the Ill-Gotten Gains, and a third card with each iteration. He had apparently failed to read the first four words on the card (Exile Ill-Gotten Gains). He had just been discarding it, and then putting it back in his hand with two other spells each time it resolved, which is clearly WAAAY more powerful than the card is intended to be. By the time I walked by, the player was on his 20-somethingth loop, alternating between Dark Ritual and Preordain as the third card each time. I was able to stop them and explain to the players how Ill-Gotten Gains actually works, and told them to continue playing from that point. The fun continued after the call however, as we spent much time the rest of the day discussing throughout the staff if you can back up through 20 Preordains in this scenario, since each iteration of “the loop” resulted in the player discarding his hand or playing the card he drew with Preordain, thereby revealing every draw that had happened since the first illegal resolution of Ill-Gotten Gains.
What is your favorite “after event” story?
I proposed to Heidi after we both got off shift at GP Louisville. That one is probably going to be pretty hard to beat! Initially I was going to propose to her at GP Vegas, and then take her down the street to get married at the same event, but she shot that idea down pretty quickly, lol. I proposed to her with a Ring Pop initially, because she told me she didn’t think I would ever do that (big mistake on her part!). I actually had to propose to her twice, because I didn’t think she understand what was happening the first time I did it. I then proposed down the road again with the real ring, so she ended up getting THREE proposals from me, but two of them were at a Magic event, so I like to think those were the ones that counted. =)
How do you have fun during events?
I am energized at events by talking to other judges. I enjoy policy discussion, mentoring, trivia, what did you just see happen in that match, etc. I need my other judges to help keep me up for the event, challenging me and engaging me so that I stay sharp and can better serve the players. I also enjoy the “Who can watch the biggest misplay” game. I once watched a guy kill himself with his own Trumpet Blast by accidentally pumping his opponent’s creatures, lol.
If you were a Planeswalker, what would be your ultimate?
Conduct a slap bet with target opponent. You cannot be penalized for this ability.
If you were a creature what would be your creature type?
What was the proudest moment of your Judge life?
I got to HJ NC States in 2015, and that was really cool to me. I felt like my peers in NC were telling me that they thought I had become a good judge, and it was cool for me because I had multiple judges working for me that day that had encouraged me to look into judging a few years earlier, and it felt like things had finally come full circle judge-wise.
One of your Exemplar recognitions was for putting on a charity tournament. Tell us more about that.
Last summer, one of my stores I work with suffered the tragedy of the owner committing suicide. After the immediate tragedy had been grappled with, several other judges and myself began to discuss things we could do to honor her and her memory. We decided to run a charity tournament to raise money to send to the Depression and Bi-Polar Support Alliance, to try and help other people not suffer the same way she did. Having never run a charity tournament before, there was a lot of trial by fire that occurred, but we managed to pull it off, thanks to the support of local players, judges, and shops.
What tips do you have for someone who wants to put on a charity tournament?
If anyone would be interested in running a charity tournament in the future, my best advice would simply be to take advantage of the networks and groups you have created through judging. Every single store that I had been working with in my judge career stepped up and offer to help in some way. The players that were regulars in my tournaments stepped up to help, either by donating prizes, spreading the word, or coming to play and participate in the events. The judges I had worked with before all volunteered to come work either in the shop or at the tournament that day for no pay to help support the cause. I was overwhelmed by the universal support that came from our community, even competing shops or players who had never frequented the store. I don’t think many people could run a charity tournament on their own and make it something the players would want to attend, so working with the people around you, and tapping into your Magic and judge networks and communities can make the event succeed at the highest possible level.
What character in Magic (real or fictional) represents you the best, and why?
Probably Teferi. I believe canonically he was a known prankster growing up!
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Detroit! I am coming for you!
Two Truths and a Lie
Two of the following statements are true and one is false. Figure out which!
- I only buy throw-away dishes and cutlery, because I don’t believe in washing dishes.
- I won the only Yu-Gi-Oh! tournament I have ever played in.
- I won’t eat green beans. Like, at all.
If there is a judge who is also doing something exemplary, please nominate a judge TODAY!