Welcome to a special Birthday edition of Judge of the Week! This week, we’re feature Nick Rutkowski, L2 from California. Happy Birthday, Nick!
Name: Nick Rutkowski
Location: El Cerrito (Near Berkeley) CA
Judge start date: L1 4/2011, L2 3/2012
Why did you become a Judge? It started with being the local rules know-it-all, then realizing that I was not very good at it. I then wanted to see how deep the rabbit hole went. I am still looking for the light at the end of the tunnel.
Occupation: PC Analyst for AC Transit
Favourite card: Berserk
Least favourite card: Mindslaver (I auto-scoop everytime)
Favourite format: Commander followed by Legacy.
Commander General: Hazezon Tamar (not close)
Best tournament result: Game day Champion
Random fact about yourself: As a child I used to do impressions of Donald Duck.
Tell us your favourite Judge story.
My first event as a Comp REL Head Judge, I was a bit nervous being a fairly new L1 Judge. My mentor was playing in the event in order to keep an eye on me. The event started smoothly, and by the end of R1 I had finished checking all the decklists. My mentor came up to see if I had finished with the lists, and with a smile I said “I’m glad you’re here, I need to talk to you about your list.” He had forgotten to list the quantity of a few cards in his side board. This judge is now L4 Sean Catanese. This taught me a few important lessons. Judges make mistakes also and it’s OK to make them.
Tell us an embarrassing story that you’re not afraid of everyone knowing.
At a PTQ about a year ago, I had a pretty big emotional breakdown. Fairly close to the beginning of the event, I had to stop judging because I was in tears. Many Judges have seen glimpses of my particular story on SeaCat’s blog. This story still makes me emotional.
During the PTQ at the end of round 3, I sat down to watch a match. Time had been called and they were in turns. Guy uses Ghost Quarter on the player to my left. He tanks a bit and then searches his library for a land. It was a signed Guru Plains. I thought to myself, “I hate those now,” only because mine were stolen. Then something caught my eye. There were cards all over his playmat – I could only see bits and pieces of it. In the upper left corner was a black mana symbol. It looked kind of familiar. I couldn’t place it right away. Then my brain clicked and told me that in the bottom left corner there should be a blue mana symbol. “THAT’S MY STOLEN PLAYMAT.” The idea went through my brain like I had been shot. I didn’t say a word to either player, got up and walked to the Judge’s station. “Hey guys we have a serious problem. There is a player here with my stolen playmat. He probably has my cards too.”
Immediately, Louis Fernandes and Jess Dunks sprang into action. I had to leave the room. All of the emotions hit me like a brick. I couldn’t speak. I could barely move. Luckily for me, Vicente Davis overheard what was going on and mentioned that he knew the guy who had my stuff. I then pulled Sean Catanese into the fray. He was the best person to help me resolve this. By this time, my brain had checked out. I was an emotional wreck. I couldn’t eat or sit still. I didn’t know if I was happy or angry or sad. All I knew was my stolen cards were here.
Sean managed to talk with the hero of our story. We worked out a reward for returning my collection. He apologized that some cards were sold already. I didn’t care – most of the cards that were really important were still there. After 3 days of headaches and lack of hunger, the stress of not knowing what’s happening was almost too much to bear.
If I were not a believer in fate or destiny, this was all the reason I needed for that to change. Every single person in this event was the exact person to help me recover from a painful chapter in my life.
How did you get involved in Magic in the first place?
Many years ago, my closest friend Josh got some Unlimited starter decks from the Game Room in Toledo, Ohio. We had no idea what we were doing, but it seemed fun. Little did I know that would start an addiction that lasted 20 years. Even managed to “quit” once.
What motivates you to continue being a Judge?
I have seen more of the world through the windows of a convention center than I would have normally. I want to continue to see more places.
What is one tip you have for other Judges?
Steal one idea from another Judge at every event you attend. Incorporate that idea into your Judge skills.
What’s the best part about your local Magic community?
I am fortunate to play Commander, Legacy, or Modern any day of the week. I never have to play standard.
What is your favourite non-Magic hobby?
Making music. It has been a part of my life even before I was born. My father is a musician, his father, and his father before him. I come from a long line of musicians. Mostly brass and woodwinds but I don’t play any of those. I currently have a 5-string Bass and a newly purchased 8-string guitar.
What is your favourite non-Judging moment that happened with other Judges?
The creation of The Fat Guy Mafia. When I was getting my feet wet as a traveling judge on the west coast, I quickly fell into a group of similar judges from California. Our “small” team of 4 (Will Bumgardner, TJ “80%” Morrison, Adam “Taz” White) started showing up at the same events and started rooming together. Were all big guys and I’m the smallest at 250lbs. We would go to some restaurant and order massive amounts of food, then spend the next few hours eating and laughing. I know on more than one occasion my ribs were sore the next day from both overeating and laughing.
What has been your favourite Magic event that you’ve Judged?
Each event creates a special moment in my life. It’s very difficult to pick one. I think I’d have to say GP Seattle 2012. At that event I leveled up. It was my first GP as a Judge and second GP ever. That event defined so much of my Judge career. Eric Levine running at me for a celebratory level up hug. My first sealed stamped product. My first Cascade Games event. While looking back at all these moments, they might not seem like much, but they all have a place in my heart.
What positive aspects has the Judge Program contributed to your everyday life?
Being an I.T. guy, it would not surprise many that customer service and conflict resolution are key qualities in my day to day. Learning how to improve on both of those aspects has made me much more effective at my job.
If you could chat with one person, real or fictional, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Victor Wooten: Getting the chance to talk with one of the greatest bassists in the world would be a chance of a life time. Talking with him about music as a language and being able to just groove.
What is your favorite “after event” story?
After GP Sacramento, there was a Judge dinner of about 10 Judges. I started with a nice hard cider and a steak. Frank Chafe performed some amazing magic tricks for all of us. About 30 minutes later I ordered a second steak (have to keep my FGM cred in check).
How do you have fun during events?
1. I like high 5’s. It is crucial for maintaining a high energy output.
2. Stories of crazy game states. I heard once of 9 dissolves being cast in a single turn. (SCG Oakland, by Chad Havas. Currently the record.)
3. Diet Coke.
4. Being around other positive people.
If you were a Planeswalker what would be your ultimate?
Grow an awesome beard!
If you were a creature what would be your creature type?
Ninja: I’m not a small guy but I manage to sneak up on people and have the ability to hide in plain sight.
What hobbies do you have outside of Magic?
Occasionally I can be seen on League of Legends battling poorly with Nami. “bubble bubble pop pop.“
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Shameless plug for my music. https://soundcloud.com/nick-rutkowski
I’m open to feedback and collaboration ideas.
Two Truths and a Lie
Two of the following statements are true and one is false. Figure out which!
1. I was a grave digger for 2 years.
2. All of my Commander decks are German foil.
3. I’ve never been outside the USA.