Greetings, Judges, and welcome to another installment of Judge of the Week!
This week’s Judge is Patrick Ericsson, a relatively new L3 who has been hailed as a thought-provoking, energetic judge from the Europe-North region. Patrick has a lot of lessons to teach about how he’s grown as a judge. So let’s dive in!
Location: Täby, Sweden, just outside Stockholm.
Judge start date: 2008
Occupation: I teach math and science, currently in grades 6-9. I’ve been doing this for about 4 years now.
How would you compare/contrast your full-time job with judging?
At first glance, they are pretty similar, as both deal with managing groups and providing feedback to help people grow and they are jobs that focus heavily on customer service. Obviously, there are also big differences – handling a staff is not the same as handling students – but the fact that teaching is one of the most represented occupations among judges says something about the two jobs being attractive for the same reasons.
How does your judging life affect your full-time job, and how does your job affect your judging life?
My studies leading up to becoming a teacher has made me see some of the underlying dynamics of providing feedback for one, making me understand what helps the most. That doesn’t mean that my reviews are far superior to anyone else’s, though – giving feedback and writing reviews is still a craft that is best improved with practice and experience, but having learned what I have certainly helped me in seeing my mistakes and working to improve.
Something that has impressed me a lot about the judging community is its will to improve and help its members grow. Getting good feedback on what you do is not nearly as common in the teaching profession, as it is rare to have someone else observe your job, but in judging I have gotten help to improve in ways that have definitely benefited me as a teacher.
Teaching means I am pretty restricted when it comes to vacation days though, as I cannot quite choose what days I take off freely. I’m trying to go to as many GPs as I can during the summer period, as I have to be a lot more picky during the other months.
When did you advance each level? Any stories associated with your various advancements come to mind?
My first contact with judge testing was at GP Stockholm in 2007 as I decided that judging looked attractive when I didn’t have a lot to do during Sunday. At this time, the IPG covered all rules enforcement levels and competitive events were included in the L1 job. I didn’t even know those documents existed, however, and managed a respectable 54% on that test. I still got to judge at a Legacy side event though and at that point I was hooked on judging.
I certified for real at Swedish Nationals 2008. This was at a time when there was a severe lack of judges in Sweden and the event was staffed by our Finnish RC-to-be Johanna Virtanen, German import Falko Görres and long-time Swedish powerhouse Tobias Fjellander along three L0s. Johanna certified both myself and Eskil Myrenberg at that event (the last L0 chose not to test) and since then the three Swedish judges from that event have gone on to do a lot for the Swedish community. Looking back at that event, it is really amazing how far our Nordic region has come, no longer relying on Tobias to travel to pretty much every major event.
One year later, at the next Swedish nationals, I certified for L2. At this point Johanna was actually able to staff the event with mostly certified judges. I really look back on the nationals tournaments with a sense of nostalgia. They infused the growing, struggling Swedish community with a much needed feeling of being just that – a community, really joining the judges together into a proper team.
Going for L3, the one thing that was more important than any other factor was introspection. I really had to take a good, hard look at myself to see what misconceptions I had about myself and who I was as both a judge. I discovered that the judge I wanted to be and the judge that I was did not match up and I had to make the conscious effort to change my behavior and the image I was projecting. It’s easy to focus on the practical bits, like becoming better at certain tasks or familiar with policy philosophy, but actually working on the attitude and mindset that I brought to events is what made the largest difference to me.
What tips do you have for other people thinking about trying to advance to L3?
Stay open. At least for me, that is what helped me build my skill set. There will be a lot of feedback being thrown around in the process, including some that you won’t necessarily agree with. Taking in such feedback and really processing it, thinking about what caused it and where it comes from. It won’t only help you improve on that particular aspect, but it also gives you some insight in others’ perspectives and ideas.
How long have you been playing Magic in general?
I started playing when Mercadian Masques had just been released, when my neighbor had gotten a demo kit with a magazine. He had lost the rules insert though, so we made up rules for something that in no way resembled actual Magic. Luckily we didn’t leave it at that but got ourselves starter decks from Portal Second Age and haven’t stopped playing since – we still team up for every 2HG prerelease.
What do you like most about judging?
I’ve always had a lot of fun when working with customer service. There’s something about enabling people’s great experiences that “does it” for me. It doesn’t really matter if it’s direct contact with players or working more “behind the scenes” to create a smooth and enjoyable event, seeing that I have contributed to a successful event is a great feeling.
What sorts of things do you do on a typical week in so far as judging?
I don’t judge as many local tournaments anymore as we have plenty of L1s that take care of local events. It happens from time to time, but not in a typical week. I try to keep up to date with what is happening in the region, which means I talk to the RC and other judges through chats and our forums. We have split the region into smaller parts that each have a warden to help the RC keep track of needs and issues, which for me means I look after the northern part of Sweden. It’s quite easy though as it is filled with such amazing judges!
What’s your take on how the judge program has changed in the time you’ve been involved with it?
When I first certified, only L3s could certify new L1s. This had a big impact on the Swedish community, which had a severe shortage of judges and not really any L3s near enough to certify new ones. Because of that, the change empowering L2s to certify new judges had a huge impact on how our community developed. The new tougher restrictions will have us lose a few L2s, but I hope we’ll still be able to cover the needs of the region. Generally speaking, the program, our policy and the way we handle things both internally and at events is constantly developing and adapting. This ability to change and improve is something I really like about the program. It keeps us sharp and on point as well as allowing for anyone’s contribution – the efforts each judge puts in makes the program better, which makes it possible to have a real effect on the judge community. Considering the size of the judge program, that is really impressive.
What advice do you have for L1 judges? L2 judges? L3+ judges?
L1 sports a wide variety of different judges and judge types. As such, what I think is most important at L1 is to do what you enjoy and to engage in the community to the degree you feel comfortable with. If you just want to judge at a casual game night once per month, great! If you wish to get involved in the judge community, attend (or present at) conferences or engage in the online judge community, do it! What’s important is to know there are vast possibilities out there, but they are very much voluntary to engage in.
For L2s, I believe communication, collaboration and feedback are really important tools for growth. Depending on your location and level of geographic isolation, getting to talk to other judges might be hard. Make sure to engage in the online community. Being L2 is not an easy task with all the different expectations it might carry. Getting input from others regarding mentorship, teamwork at events or local issues can be invaluable. You are not alone, make sure you take advantage of that fact.
At higher levels, I think staying accessible is really important. It can happen that it becomes too much of an exclusive club that can only be approached through official means. A lot of judges are good at staying friendly and available for chats and I think it is important that we keep it that way. Stay open, stay friendly and talk to any judge on equal terms as often as possible.
What are your primary roles as a L3? What projects are you involved with?
I find it really interesting to see how we can make conferences better in many regards. I am just getting engaged in a project that strives to do just that by educating and helping presenters and seminar facilitators make their seminar stand out. Reading up on it and preparing has been really interesting and rewarding, so hopefully some of the first results of that work will show soon.
What is your favorite moment with other judges outside the context of running a given tournament?
I am a big fan of the post-GP Sunday judge dinner (and any other dinners that might happen during larger events). It’s really nice to be able to sit down at a nice restaurant and be able to talk to people when there isn’t a pressing task at hand. The judge program is filled with a lot of interesting people that you only get to see a glimpse of during events. Like many have said before me, it’s the people that makes all the travel to and from GPs worth it. It’s so hard to pick one occasion, so I’ll just say that any such moment is worth mentioning, be it at a hotel restaurant, a bar or a club blasting 80s disco music.
What are your favorite non-Magic games and pastimes? How long have you been enjoying those? What is it that you enjoy about those?
When not working, I spend my time by playing Starcraft 2 and Hearthstone. I also try to take regular runs and follow a bunch of TV-series. I am a competitive person at heart, so the things I generally get interested in are the things that allows me to compete and struggle to improve.
What is your best tournament finish?
That would probably be winning a 80-ish player prerelease for M12, back when stores were still allowed to do top 8s for prereleases.
What method(s) do you find best to sharpen your skills as a judge?
Giving and receiving feedback. The review system is one of the greatest strengths of the judge program, and through that along with face-to-face communication before, at or after events, there are so many opportunities to get better. Without it, the program would risk becoming a lot more opaque, which I believe in turn would cause less growth and improvements on a community level. I know that both receiving and giving feedback has been so beneficial for what I do. Everyone focuses on different things, and the best reviews I’ve gotten comes from angles I hadn’t considered.
How do you keep your energy up during events?
By drinking plenty of water (I don’t do that enough), sitting down when possible (I don’t do that enough) and eating healthy lunches (nope, not enough of that either).
What’s your favorite color in Magic and why?
Without a specified format, I’d probably say blue, as that gives you options and requires you to think every decision through.
Two Truths and a Lie
Two of the following statements are true and one is false. Figure out which!
1. I was eliminated from the auditions of a Swedish TV cooking show by vastly overcooking my potatoes.
2. I once caused a store’s alarm to go off by breathing fire.
3. I have chipped a tooth by landing on my face during a Judo bout (consequently losing the match).
Thank you Patrick for sharing your time and experiences with all of us! As usual, judges, don’t forget to keep sharing awesome judge stories round the world, nominate a judge TODAY!