Welcome back to another edition of Judge of the Week. Not only has our latest honoree taught people to get over their fear of failure, but he has also carved out a niche for himself as “The Voice,” making announcements at Grand Prix and Gen Con. Matt Sauers, please report for your Judge of the Week profile! Matt Sauers, please report for your Judge of the Week profile at the above web site.
Name: Matt Sauers
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, USA (that’s near Chicago for folks from outside the Midwest USA)
Judge start date: 30 October 2010 was L1 certification, but I worked GenCon a couple years before that.
Why did you become a Judge? I was inspired to become a judge when I discovered there were rewards for players, and I felt my playgroup could use those rewards. Unfortunately, the rules changed to permit only public play to be sanctioned by the time I certified, so that purpose was defeated. I began learning the detailed rules of the game and this has made me a better gamemaster for my playgroup.
Occupation: 20 years as a Mechanical Engineer (BSME Purdue 1995, PE License for State of Indiana 2003-2013); now a Global Concept Manager
Favorite card: Tinker. It’s the most ridiculous card ever printed for me.
Least favorite card: Anything with Annihilator
Favorite format: Kitchen Table multiplayer
Favorite non-Magic Game: Ice Hockey
Best tournament result: 9-1-0
Random fact about yourself: I think The Godfather is one of the worst movies of all time.
How did you become “The Voice”? What are the ups and downs of the gig?
One night on night shift at Gen Con in 2012, I picked up the microphone to announce my events since the other staff were busy and the rest of the judges were monitoring the massive Grand Melee event. So other judges left at the end of their shift, and I inherited four events, and was administering those while offering quirky round announcements for my events. Apparently, it was really enjoyable for a lot of players and some staff, since I inherited the job the following year; Steven Briggs took a chance on me doing that job as staff, and I think the regulars enjoy the work I do still. I get to have a bit of fun while still directing some flow of traffic and keeping other staff and judges informed on events, and while the hours are longer, I get a chair and don’t feel so totally wrecked after a large multi-day event. I get some notoriety, which is nice, but I always hope that it’s not too much or too annoying for the event attendees.
A lot of people get nervous when making announcements at a 16-person event, let alone one with thousands of players. What are some tips you have for getting over that fear of public speaking?
Well, like most of my fellow nerd-kin, I have a lot of introverted habits. I walk around things rather than through, I park on the sides or rear of a building, and I honestly don’t like huge collections of humans in any way. However, I get to sit behind a table which kind of “insulates” me from them, so I have a “nest” to hide in. This lets me think and do my gig. But, when I’m running 100+ player events by myself or with other judges, when I get to stroll around and talk and they are seated, it gives me the confidence I need to comport myself that way. Making friends with folks as they come in the door lets you see friendly faces in the crowd, and focusing on them means I’m really just talking to them all spread out across the room, and then it’s not scary at all; I’m just talking to them, and other people are listening in. Talking to friends is nice, because they like you, and it makes us all a bit calmer. Then when I’m calm and in control, so is everyone else. We can feel it.
You are a big advocate of kitchen table gaming. Talk about your experiences in this area.
Gaming is a collaborative experience. I believe that just as sport is the combat-replacement in warfare, gaming is the tactics-replacement in warfare. Since we are not at war, then gaming is better collaboratively. For example our whole playgroup helps everyone learn to not miss triggers on a new card, or make sure they don’t forget to draw for turn, or allow them to take back a tactically silly play in a step due to ignorance of card function or being aware of a nerfing card on the battlefield. Where some see this as mollycoddling an inferior opponent, our goal is for the play, not the win. Therefore, teaching everyone to increase their play quality and skill helps everyone, and bonds us together. I don’t believe that competitive play forms groups; what makes and glues play groups together is when you share skills to make everyone better. I admit I speak of this as though these operate in pockets, but that has always been the way of gaming with the possible exceptions of Go, Chess, and Poker. Once there were RPGs like D&D, we got hooked on the collaborative types of gaming.
One of your roles is Indiana State Captain. What does that role involve?
Planning conferences, talking to store owners to see who needs a “store judge” at that store, talking to players about judging, helping folks become judges, observe and track judges in an area, work with and report to the RC to act as remote eyes and ears, and basically trying to serve the greater community. I don’t have the time to devote to becoming L3, so I hope to provide the time I can to the judges who matter most to me.
Tell us your favorite Judge story.
I watched a player at my second Gen Con basically dump his whole library and hand and battlefield and graveyard on the floor together in a series of fast and poor choices in shuffling after scry in the middle of a game. I had no clue what to do, so I told them I’d ask what to do next, and left the table. Jason Flatford stopped me and asked what I told them. I said nothing, so he sent me back to the table and tell them something before coming back to him to find out if what I did was right. Learning by failure is a noted skill of mine, so it spoke to me immediately, and I went on to teach that lesson to others since it is a valuable one.
How did you get involved in Magic in the first place?
June 1994, I got a couple Tournament Packs of Revised and some boosters of the Dark for my birthday. It was the game we played waiting for other folks to show up for D&D or Shadowrun, and when enough folks didn’t show up for RPGs, it just became card night, since that didn’t matter who showed up or not.
How has being a Judge influenced your non-Magic life?
It’s made me much more tolerant of Gen Y and Millennials, which will help me bridge a generation gap to my own kids. Also, I stay in the loop for which cards are valuable, which allows me to readily and easily farm my collection.
What motivates you to continue being a Judge?
I came for the rules. I stay for the other judges. No, really, the Magic Judge program is full of people just like me, who love gaming so hard that we do all the prep and learning for all the games we play and run, for everyone. It’s a fleet of game-masters, which is unheard of in any other kind of club or organization.
What is one tip you have for other Judges?
Fail more. Publicly. All you have to do is try to do more publicly, and you will fail more, which teaches you to be humble to those who are the reason you have the job to do in the first place. Judging is a service before it is a skill.
What’s the best part about your local Magic community?
Well, Hoosiers might not be the best at Magic, but they are the best at being players. Serving them is a breeze.
If you could chat with one person, real or fictional, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Neil DeGrasse Tyson. I love physics and people who get it. Pretty sure he gets it.
What would you be doing now if Magic no longer existed?
Finishing Final Fantasy XIII-3 Lightning Returns, and writing out the next session for D&D.
What do you see as your greatest strengths as a Judge?
Community-building and community service.
What are the areas you feel like you would most like to work on?
I am not as good with the rules as I’d like, which is why I help run a couple FB rules groups, so I can learn more about the rules. Always learning the rules.
Two Truths and a Lie
Two of the following statements are true and one is false. Figure out which!
- I got my first patent on an invention when I was 19.
- I started playing D&D when I was 10 and was DM at age 13.
- I have a mono-colored deck for each format.
If there is a judge who is also doing something exemplary, please nominate a judge TODAY!