Niels Viaene

Greetings once again! This week’s Judge of the Week is Niels Viaene, L2 hailing from Ghent, Belguim. Niels has been a judge since August of 2007. In May of 2012, Niels leveled up after he decided to step up his game.

Why did you become a judge?Niels Viaene Profile picture
I was interested in understanding the rules behind magic better. I am intrigued by how things work in anything, be it biology, engineering or, in this case, game design. As a youth animator it felt like a logical next step in my ‘magic career’, graduating from player to judge.

Occupation: I am a Research assistant at the Marine Biology Department of the University of Ghent. In normal people’s terms that means I am a lab rat who gets to go outside to play on the beach, in the mud, or on the sea from time to time.

Favorite card: Open the Vaults, I like powerful cards that get smothered by the metagame.

Least favorite card: Any transform card. I am still upset about this, the manipulation is not something I feel has a place in magic. Sleeving issues aside I am afraid its comparison to morph and implications when drafting are enough that this mechanic is a mistake.

Favorite format: Legacy or Commander. I love open formats and I suspect Modern will join that queue sooner rather than later. I haven’t really had the pleasure of getting to know the inner working of a Cube though…

Commander general: Captain Sisay was my first and remains my true love, with every set that comes out I try to update her but I have been feeling disappointed with the deck lately. Ghave, Guru of Spores is my new best friend but I have 8 decks scribbled down so who knows, there might be a new favourite soon.

Favorite non-Magic Game: D&D 4E. In fact, I just started a new campaign. I don’t like pre-made settings or encounters and almost everything from my sessions is spur-of-the-moment.

Niels Viaene 2.1Random fact about yourself: I am going bald. The long hair is just to confuse people.

Tell us your favorite judge story.
A long time ago, when Legacy was in its infancy and filled with Vintage players I was judging a tournament and at one point I got a call. In  play I see a multicolored creature on one side and a Goblin Piledriver and assorted little green men on the other. One of the players looks at  me, a slight blush of shame on his face and asks while his opponent is staring at his lap. “Um, there um… there’s a combat step…” And then stared at me awkwardly.

How has being a judge influenced your non-Magic life?
Judging has warped my life. It taught and teaches me so many things I would never have learned. It has brought me to places I would never have seen and introduces me to friends I would never have met. I can’t even begin to imagine what my life would look like without judging, or what  kind of person I would be, for that matter.

What motivates you to continue being a judge?
I have an inner drive pushing me to try harder and be better at pretty much anything I do. Judging is one of my focuses (foci?) right now. The way I see it the array of skills used in judging is so wide I will never run out of areas to improve in.

What’s the best part about your local Magic community?
The best part of my community is the respect we have for each other  even though national politics dictate otherwise. The fact that I speak French to the French guys and they answer in Dutch or English is fascinating. Additionally, the proximity of different groups of players, the commander enthusiasts, the PT veterans and the PTQ grinders hanging out in the same bar/LGS.

What’s the biggest rule-breaking play you’ve ever made as a player?Niels VIaene 2.2
I am very hard on myself on cheating but somehow I remember having played a second land in multiple occasions. While playing I find my mind wanders off a lot, thinking how easy it would be to cheat and which kinds of cheats are easiest to catch. It helped me be a better judge in the end. Catching a “creative shuffler” on day 2 of the Prague GP felt good.

If you could chat with one person, real or fictional, dead or alive, who would it be and why? The main character in the book I am writing, to see for myself if he feels real enough.

What would you be doing now if Magic no longer existed?
I would be writing more and I would be looking to fill a great void in my life with something that manages to motivate me, gives me opportunity to travel, meet a lot of great people while priding myself in doing something inherently good.

Two Truths and a Lie
Two of the following statements is true, and one is false. Figure out which!

    1. I play rugby, it took me all of 3 months to go from completely new to the game to top tier in my city.
    2. I have a semi synthetic knee, due to an injury I got while playing with 6 year olds when I was 19.
    3. I have walked the catwalk on multiple occasions, always as the only guy in a shared changing room.
The answer to the last Two Truths and a Lie...
Who would have thought, but Billy San Juan doesn’t really hate high fives and hugs.  Truly.


Written by W. Matt Williams and Alaric Stein

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