Across the world, there are many Judges who perform excellent work outside of the public eye. This week’s featured Judge is one of them. One of his players nominated him for his work in running a Competitive event in the spirit of the DCI motto of, “Keep it fair, keep it fun.” In addition to being a Judge, he’ also a music teacher and archery aficionado who once let a Polis Crusher get away with murder. From South Carolina, we present Level 2, Michael F. Grimsley!
Location: Lexington, SC
Judge start date:
Level 1—August 31, 2013
Level 2—November 2, 2014
Why did you become a Judge?
As a teacher, I have always enjoyed teaching people the game. I was also always interested in tournament operations as a new player, and wanted to be a part of putting on quality tournaments.
Occupation: Middle School Music Educator
Favourite card: Bloodbraid Elf
Least favourite card: Stony Silence
Favourite format: Commander, and now Tiny Leaders
Commander Generals: Kresh the Bloodbraided (my first love), and Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice
Favourite non-Magic Game: Star Trek Attack Wing
Best tournament result: 5-2-2 at GP: Atlanta (2011)
Tell us your favourite Judge story.
So it’s my first SCG Open (Baltimore Jan. 2014) and I get rotated to the Side Events team for a round. The event hall was so small that Sides has been placed in a separate overflow room down the hall. I get introduced to the judge I’m relieving and the other judge who is still going to be in there with me, and then they hand me the clipboard and buzzer. Almost immediately, the buzzer went off and I went to the Side Event Stage to pick up my first draft pod. I barely have time to get them seated and pass out the product before the buzzer is going off again. I quickly ask if everyone knows how to draft and dart off to go to the side event stage. This time it’s a four-person Commander pod. As I’m getting them seated, a player in my draft is calling me back over. Apparently in that short time, something has already gone wrong!
Halfway through the first pack, not everyone is getting the same amount of cards passed to them. Apparently, the youngest member of the draft pod was a first time drafter, but didn’t admit it when I sat them. I’m trying to sort out how they broke the draft and where the extra cards may have ended up, when the buzzer starts going off again. I’m almost to a panic at this point. If it wasn’t for the help of JD Nir, a bad situation would have been worse. This was my first time on sides, my first time at an Open, and my first time breaking a draft.
How did you get involved in Magic in the first place?
I first discovered the game during the summer of 1994. I was working at a BSA summer camp and some fellow staff members were playing Magic in the dining hall after dinner one night. I thought it seemed fun, but I didn’t start playing until the following summer.
How has being a Judge influenced your non-Magic life?
When I first started out as a Judge, I felt that being a teacher was helping me to be a better Judge, but now I see that being a Judge has also helped me become a better teacher. De-escalating heated situations and conducting investigations, whether with middle school students or Magic players, use the same skill set.
The nomination for you read: “Our Head Judge ran a 33 person IQ and everything went very smooth. Overall very satisfied with the judge and the event.” What are your thoughts about this event?
This accolade came from a relatively new shop in Augusta, GA after I Head Judged their very first SCG: IQ. This was only their second Competitive REL event (I also judged their first one) and the event ran very smoothly.
Since the new Judge Feedback form launched, I’ve been handing the link out to all of the TOs in my area so that they can provide any feedback, good or bad, directly to the senior judges. I was very surprised one morning when I received an email from Sean Catanese thanking me for my “commitment to a solid event.” I’m not sure how this filtered down to the JOTW project, but I continue to be amazed.
What motivates you to continue being a Judge?
Seeing the growth in my area’s player and judge community. I like being a part of something larger than myself, but still being able to see the impact of my contributions. Also, I continue to make new friends in new areas that wouldn’t have been possible without becoming a Judge.
What is one tip you have for other Judges?
Stay a part of your local community. This is easy for a Level 1 judge who mainly judges at one shop, but this can be harder for L2+ judges. Get out there and play FNM. Be an ambassador for the Judge program at the most important level, the local game store.
What’s the best part about your local Magic community?
There are so many experienced and talented players in my local community. They constantly challenge me to become a better judge and player. When I was starting out as a judge, I knew I needed to be on top of my rules/policy knowledge because if I was wrong, they would know it. Now as a more experienced Judge, I’m a lot more confident in my rules/policy knowledge, so when they challenge me, I know I can provide the correct answer.
What is your favourite non-Magic hobby?
I enjoy all shooting sports, but recently archery has become my favorite. I taught the archery merit badge at my council’s summer camp last year and have been shooting ever since. There is an archery pro shop in my area that has a weekly tournament league that I shoot in. I am also working on starting an archery program at my middle school through the National Archery in the Schools program.
What is your favourite non-judging moment that happened with other Judges?
Stopping at my first WaWa in Virginia with David Truitt. That place is an amazing convenience store. The electronic ordering system is so user friendly, and in just a matter of moments, you can have a hot, freshly made cheese steak sandwich. Being from little ol’ South Carolina, this is magical. Oh, they also have a self-serve milkshake machine where you make your own milkshake. Fantastic! Gas stations will never be the same.
What’s the biggest rule-breaking play you’ve ever made as a player?
I allowed my opponent to target his Polis Crusher with his Xenagos, God of Revels, then got crushed. Players at my LGS still give me Polis Crushers to remind me.
What has been your favourite Magic event that you’ve judged?
So far, Grand Prix Nashville, because it was my first GP. It was great to be a part of something so large. But I am super excited for the upcoming GP: Vegas.
What positive aspects has the Judge Program contributed to your everyday life?
It has expanded my network of friends. I now have people from all over the Southeastern United States that I am proud to call friends. These are but a few that I’m proud to associate with:
- Justin Turner: The best RC in the program. Always available.
- Ben McDole: Best giver of a hug after making L2.
- Bryan Prillaman: Always available to answer my crazy questions.
- Brian Bradshaw: The most honest man I have met.
- Levi Brooks: Giver of the most motivating high fives.
- Jonathan Holland: Fellow Music Educator.
- Jonathan Aiken: My Level 2 testing buddy
What would you be doing now if Magic no longer existed?
I would be playing Star Trek Attack Wing a lot more.
How do you have fun during events?
Learning new things, meeting new people, and having positive interactions with the players.
If you were a Planeswalker what would be your ultimate?
Well according to this Planeswalker card that a player made for me one day, at the beginning of my next end step, I win the game. So, you’ve got one more turn to kill me, or I win.
If you were a creature what would be your creature type?
Human Warrior, like Kresh the Bloodbraided, my favorite Commander.
What hobbies do you have outside of Magic?
Besides archery, I enjoy camping and going to live concerts.
Proudest moment of your Judge life?
So far, it was seeing my first mentee Michael Caddell pass his Level 1 exam. I was still a Level 1 at the time, so I couldn’t test him, but I mentored him through the process.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I am honored to be nominated for JOTW, and am honored to represent the great state of South Carolina in the greater judge community.
Two Truths and a Lie
Two of the following statements are true, the other is false. Figure out which!
1. It took me 11 years to finish my bachelors degree.
2. I was once married to an opera mezzo soprano.
3. If music didn’t work out as a career, my back up plan was law school.
The answer to the last Two Truths and a Lie...
Thank you Michael for sharing your time and experiences with all of us! Judges, if you’d like to see more awesome stories and more awesome judges, please nominate a Judge TODAY