Nik Zitomer

Welcome back to Judge of the Week! This week’s rockstar is a fun guy with a passion for fungi, educating judges and growing community. Let’s get to know Nik Zitomer!

Nik Zitomer judge photoName:
 Nik Zitomer
Level: 2
Location: Roswell, Georgia
Judge Start Date: May 2011
Why did you become a Judge? I had effectively become a TO in my area, running drafts outside of stores (as the local stores didn’t draft at the time). I just went the next step from there, and moved to judging.
Occupation: Research Scientist
Favorite card: Hypnotic Specter
Least favorite card: Counterspell
Commander General: Ghave, Guru of Spores
Favorite non-Magic Game: I’ve been really addicted to Eternal lately. It’s a really well made digital card game reminiscent of Magic and Hearthstone.
Best tournament result: Top 4 split at a TCG Silver or Gold event some years back (using the TO’s deck with about 3 minutes of modification, as I was set to HJ it, then swapped into player role when attendance was low).
Random fact about yourself: I’m an avid mycologist (I study fungi/mushrooms) so I love going foraging for wild mushrooms.

You were nominated for your leadership in a local L2 training group as well using social media to drive interest in the judge program.  Would you like to speak on what you feel has made these efforts successful?
The main thing that makes anything successful in the program, or in most things in life, is passion. If you really care about something, you’ll put the effort in to make sure it grows into a success. It’s no secret to those who know me that I like to chat, and my efforts to drive interest in regional initiatives mostly comes from that. I talk a lot, and if there is something INik presenting on body language at a regional judge conference. want to succeed, I’ll talk about that. A lot.

The same is true for the judge classes I’ve worked to put together. They started as a collaboration with Jess Dunks and Nicolette Apraez, both of whom still have input and are actively working to run them. I had the desire to create a judge class that could be offered online, while still being “in person,” because my time constraints made going out to a store difficult. So we gather students periodically and drive some interest by talking about what they offer and what students can expect, then we just take it from there.

What are some tips you have for other Judges?
Find something you love about the program and don’t be afraid to go ahead and make it your own. Love mentoring? Don’t wait for someone else to provide a class you can use: go make one! Love community? Come up with ways to engage that community that are unique to you. Make events fun and unique, and players and TOs will remember you and look to you in the future. Mainly, don’t be afraid of doing something because you think someone else may already be doing it elsewhere. Give it (whatever it is) your own twist and run with it.

I also maintain a blog, The Elvish Farmer, where I have written numerous post covering a variety of topics, including tips for running your first event, how to balance judging and the rest of your life, ideas about how to increase your visibility, and many others. I also often host guest blog posts from other judges with topics they want to share! (Hint hint, hit me up if you have a story to tell or a piece you want to share!)

What challenges have you faced or are you facing to become a better judge, and how have you worked to overcome them?
As with many, I struggle with investigations. I have had to spend a fair bit of effort to try and reorient my mindset to tackle every single call as an investigation. It’s far too easy for me to approach a call with the mindset first and foremost to identify what infraction exists and how to fix it, without adequately attempting to determine how the error occurred and who may benefit from it. It’s taken a lot of work, and it’s something I still need to be cognizant of going into every call. I’ve had a lot of help from mentors across the US-SE to try and shift how I approach calls to better handle this. Investigation workshops, in particular, have been quite useful.

What is the proudest moment of your Judge life?
Nik Zitomer with Judge Michael Starr at an SCG Regional event
I was tasked to be HJ for SCG Regionals in Atlanta (or close enough to Atlanta) in 2016. The staff I assembled for this event was solid, but it turned out we were drastically understaffed. We had 5 judges, myself included, for an event of ~270 players. The fact that I was able to rally this team, run that event smoothly with little delays or problems and have all of my staff smiling by the end is my proudest moment. It was a huge challenge but we all worked hard to rise up to it.

What’s the best part about your local Magic community?
The Magic community here is extremely diverse, ranging from extremely rowdy tournament grinders to very casual Commander groups. There is a community for basically any format you want to play and, for the most part, they are welcoming to new players. The best part, to me, is the sheer size of our community. There really is a place for everyone. While it brings many, many challenges from an organizer and judge perspective due to the number of competing stores and formats, judging in the Atlanta area is never boring.

Nik Zitomer judging a local PPTQHow did you get involved in Magic in the first place?
I was collecting comic books and comic cards, when my local store got in this strange box of cards. I bought some packs and had no idea what any of these odd cards were, but I loved the art and the flavor. Turns out those packs were Revised, and I eventually bought some “decks” which were really just 3 packs and some land. I still had no idea what any of these things were, but now I had a rule book! That rule book made exactly zero sense to me but my friends and I thought we knew what we were doing. We played some semblance of a game that may have loosely looked like Magic for a while, but I was hooked. Eventually we started going to a shop and learned how wrong we were, but we continued to have fun. I’ve played on and off since then.

What would you be doing now if Magic no longer existed?
I don’t think much would change, really. I’d be likely more active as a player in some game. Officiating for Magic kind of naturally grew out of my interest in Organized Play, so there is a chance I’d be involved in some other game in this capacity. Between my personal/family life and a busy career, I have to specifically make time to judge, so without it, I’d likely just not be as involved in a specific hobby.

If you were a Planeswalker what would be your ultimate?Nik Zitomer talking with Head Judge CJ Crooks at GP Orlando
You get an Emblem with “All Fungi get +5/+5”

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

  1. I used to be a manager of a Dairy Queen.
  2. I was previously a member of a prominent LARPing group.
  3. I have seen the movie Labyrinth at least 200 times.
The answer to the last Two Truths and a Lie...
Phillip Painter hasn’t run a mile in under 4:30.

If there is a judge who is also doing something exemplary, please nominate a judge TODAY!

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