Greetings, judges! This time around, we have a praiseworthy person who can do it all, from head judging a large event to running on-demand events to mastering the administrative side of things. She just recently reached L3. Let’s hear from Nicolette Apraez!
Name: Nicolette Marisol Apraez
Location: Atlanta, GA, USA
Judge start date: 9/1/13
Why did you become a judge? I was at a prerelease when I drew a game I should have won. As soon as we finished our extra turns, my opponent and the judge explained the interaction that I was missing. (I don’t remember the interaction exactly, but I think it had to do with encoding Ciphers onto a Keyrune, I either didn’t realize I could encode more than one thing on a creature, or I didn’t realize that the card was still encoded after my keyrune stopped being a creature.) Not only did I want to know more cool rules so that I could be a better player, but I also wanted to help others the way that judge helped me!
Favorite card: Aggressive combo-y cards like Ghor-Clan Rampager and Temur Battle Rage.
Least favorite card: Blue cards that don’t let me do what I want.
Favorite format: Drafting whatever the current draft set is!
Commander General: Athreos, God of Passage and Marath, Will of the Wild
Favorite non-Magic Game: Hearthstone or Ticket to Ride
Random fact about yourself: Since I certified in 2013, I have spent over half of all my weekends working events.
One of the things you are known for is trying to better organize on-demand events. What are some secrets for running ODEs well?
To me, it’s really abut communication. At this point, I’ve tried dry-erase maps, Excel sheets, binder pages of lands, no map at all, electronic mapping, Post-Its, and several other methods. They can all succeed so long as there is effective communication between the registration people sending judges off to their event, and the judges launching the events. My advice is to find something that works for you and do it, but always keep an eye on progress in the other options, because there will undoubtedly be best-practices or new advancements that you can adapt to fit your style.
What do you enjoy about being in administrative roles at large events?
I am a project manager by trade, so scorekeeping and other admin roles tend to click for me. The data-entry of scorekeeping can get boring, but I challenge myself to get all the slips entered, double-check my work, time my round turnovers, and other things that help me improve. I also think spending time as a scorekeeper has made me a better judge, as I am able to better communicate with a scorekeeper, understand workflow and bottlenecks in the process, and figure out what I need their help with, and what I can do to help them.
How did you get involved in Magic in the first place?
When I was in high school, my friends and I would have LAN parties (where we’d bring our computers and set up in someone’s basement for a night of gaming). Eventually your eyes got tired of staring at a computer screen, and so a couple of the people there would bring their Magic decks with them, and so I learned in between games.
How has being a judge influenced your non-Magic life?
When Jess Dunks and I were deciding where to move (in addition to Jess finding a school he liked down here), we judged so often that finding a city with an airport hub become a mandatory stipulation. When we bought our new house a year later, distance to the airport was almost as important as making sure it had the right number of bedrooms! But.. since I travel so often, there are definitely projects and chores around the house that tend to go half-finished if I get back in town from an event Monday night and leave again Thursday morning for the next event.
What is one tip you have for other judges?
Step One: Figure out what you want to do in the program. Step Two: Ask yourself why you want to do that thing. If the reason is just to check a box or because you feel like you are supposed to, stop where you are and repeat Step One. And then once you decide, contact people who can help you. If there are people already doing the thing you want to do, reach out to them. If there’s no one doing the thing you want to do, talk to your RC or mentor, and work with them to find out where to go from there.
What is your favorite non-judging moment that happened with other judges?
Judging has given me some of my best friends, and because of that I’ve had so many amazing memories with other judges. Almost all event after-parties have great memories attached to them. I’ve spent time traveling around Europe, Sydney, and Japan in between different events. We had Matt Williams, aka Billy Willy, over to our apartment for New Year’s during our first year in Atlanta, and played an epic game of Zombicide. And then there’s always Barcelona, where myself and almost all the US Regional Coordinators got stuck coming back from the 2015 World Magic Cup, and ended up at a hotel for a few nights where we met a number of characters, including a 70-year old ex-cat burglar.
What was your path to L3 like?
I was hoping to test and Panel at GP Minneapolis the Head Judge was the only one where with the Panel Lead Cert, which wouldn’t have worked. And then I went to PT Dublin as a host. I was an Event Host at the Pro Tours and World Magic Cup from 2015 until PT Dublin in February when I passed my panel). When Toby Elliot asked where I was in the L3 process I told him about Minneapolis and he suggested that there were plenty of L3s to do it there in Ireland. I was sick so taking an exam would have been a bad idea, but who I am as a person and judge was not going to change between when I was sick and better, so we decided to at least get my panel out of the way. Having policy discussions with Abe and Toby, who were the two L3s on my panel, was a little crazy due to their different stances on Policy. I passed, but since it was a little out of the ordinary to panel before taking the exam and I hadn’t actually been promoted or anything, we didn’t make any real public statement, but we did celebrate at the Staff Party for the PT! By the time I took my exam at SCG Atlanta, Nashville and Kyoto apps were already closed, so Albuquerque is the first one that I’ll be able to apply for as a judge. (Fingers Crossed!).
What has been your favorite Magic event that you’ve judged?
I love going to foreign events. It lets me travel, meet new judges, learn new cultures and customs, try new foods, and every time I work an event in another country I feel like I’ve grown as a judge and a person.
What was the toughest Magic event that you’ve judged, and how did you deal with it?
Grand Prix Chiba this past November was easily my toughest event inside the event hall and out. We had just bought our house, Jess Dunks was in the process of helping his mom and sister pack, and I was missing Thanksgiving back home, and I was about to go judge a Grand Prix where I didn’t speak the native language, so I was a little overwhelmed. I had been at events in foreign countries before, but at the European GPs most people spoke English and in Australia, well, I just needed to learn what “Macca’s” and “Out in Whoop Whoop” meant. [Maccas and Whoop Whoop are Australian terms meaning McDonalds and what’s basically the equivalent of the middle of nowhere] However, I had an amazing time exploring Japan, and I started trying to learn as many basic Magic Japanese terms as I could. By the end of the weekend, I could tell someone they missed their trigger to “call a judge after 10 minutes or when their opponent showed up”, but I didn’t know how to say, “My name is –”. It was a surreal experience and I hope to be back soon.
What would you be doing now if Magic no longer existed?
If Magic suddenly stopped existing, I might find myself still in the gaming industry, because I love it here. However, I might also find myself using the logistical skills I’ve toned in the program to become an event planner, which I’ve considered doing in the past, since a LOT of the skills overlap.
What are the areas you feel like you would most like to work on?
For those of you who know me, you know I tend wear rose-colored glasses. I want to see the good in people, and want the world to just be good to one another. This is great for keeping a positive attitude during a long day, or comforting someone who’s going through something upsetting, but not so good for effectively investigating. Because of this, I have to actively remind myself of this bias during events.
Two Truths and a Lie
Two of the following statements are true and one is false. Figure out which!
- I once Head Judged an event with more players than table space in the room.
- I have never sold a Judge Foil that I have earned from GP packets, conferences, Exemplar, or any other recognition.
- Excluding the US, I’ve done more events in Canada than all my other foreign country events combined.
If there is a judge who is also doing something exemplary, please nominate a judge TODAY!