Paul Baranay

Hello, Judges, and welcome back to JotW! This week we have Paul Baranay, who has a lot of sweet stories to tell! Let’s meet Paul.

The man of the hour, Mr. Paul Baranay.

Name: Paul Baranay
Level: 3
Location: New Haven, CT
Certification Date:
L1: August 2012
L2: December 2012
L3: at GP Richmond in March 2014.

Occupation: Computational Biologist
Favourite card: Bear Cub
Least favourite card: Lion’s Eye Diamond 🙂
Favourite format: Rise of the Eldrazi Limited
Commander General: Borborygmos Enraged!
Favourite non-Magic Game: Conceptually, Dominion. By hours played, definitely League of Legends.
Best tournament result: First place at a TCGPlayer VIP event.  I was originally scheduled to head judge with an L1, but so few people showed up that I asked the TO for permission to let the L1 head judge it.  He graciously said yes!

Random fact about yourself: I have three sisters. None of them play Magic. 🙁

Why did you become a judge?
I was the Rules Guru and unofficial tournament organizer for my playgroup in college. After graduating, I wanted to become more involved in competitive Magic, and becoming a judge seemed like a great way to do that!

Tell us an embarrassing story that you’re not afraid of everyone knowing.
At Grand Prix Providence, I managed to leave all of my compensation at the venue.  I didn’t realize this until I was back in New Haven and trying to find my stuff in my friend’s trunk.  Fortunately, I was able to get in touch with Steven Zwanger, who thankfully was still in town.  Steven rushed back to the venue and found my case of product sitting in the hallway, exactly where I had left it.  Whew.
Thanks Steven!

How did you get involved in magic in the first place?
After playing a little when I was a kid (Fifth Edition), I got back into the game in the summer of 2010.  I was working in a research lab at Notre Dame, and one of the graduate students invited me over to draft this new set called Rise of the Eldrazi.  The rest, as they say, is history…

How has being a judge influenced your non-Magic life?
I feel that I’ve become a better communicator, more observant, and much more easy-going about stressful situations.

You were nominated by Carlos Rada because of your impressive perspective in the L3 study group and how you run tournaments.  What do you bring to events to make them so smoothly, that you feel you share in the L3 group as well?
Relentless organization and attention to detail.  My style is to lead by virtue of having the best plan for everyone to follow.  As I’ve grown in the program, however, I’ve also realized that over-planning is a real danger.  You can’t account for everything, so being able to adjust and have a flexible strategy for your event are essential.

What motivates you to continue being a judge?
It’s a typical answer, but the people.  So many of my best friends are judges or players (or both).

... and that's a very good reason to be a part of this community. :)
… and that’s a very good reason to be a part of this community. 🙂

What is one tip you have for other judges?
Borrow from your life outside of judging.  Everyone has skills and experiences that are somehow applicable to judging.  Integrate your judge life with your “real” life; don’t keep them separate. To provide a concrete example: my training as a first responder has huge applications for how I handle emergencies at events (whether medical or otherwise). Likewise, I draw heavily on my experience as a peer counselor to think about how to best communicate with players and deliver rulings, especially in stressful situations.

What’s the best part about your local Magic community?
My local community in New Haven helps keep me grounded.  For them, it’s a big deal to travel to an SCG Open or a Grand Prix.  As judges, we can sometimes get caught up in focusing on Competitive REL, but it’s critically important to remember that Magic involves so many people, with many different play styles.  Not everyone is a competitive grinder or GP road warrior, and that’s just the way it should be. Fortunately, my local players still enjoy a good draft, so we always have something to do together!

What is your favourite non-Magic hobby?
Right now, League of Legends.

What is your favourite non-judging moment that happened with other judges?
Tasha and Riki’s wedding. Being part of the ceremony was an affirmation of what makes our community so wonderful.

What’s the biggest rule-breaking play you’ve ever made as a player?
In one of my first Zendikar/Worldwake drafts after coming back to the game, I thought Veteran’s Reflexes let my creature “attack twice.”

What has been your favourite magic event that you’ve judged?
My first Grand Prix, GP Toronto 2012, ranks very highly on the list.  Also, while I wouldn’t count it as my “favorite” by any stretch, the Connecticut PTQ I head judged, that had 300 players, where WER crashed in the middle, was definitely very memorable.

At GP Montreal 2012
At GP Montreal 2014

What would you be doing now if Magic no longer existed?
Spending fewer of my weekends traveling and more of them volunteering as an EMT!

What is the strangest card interaction you have seen in a tournament?
In the finals of a Standard PTQ last year, my friend Jared was playing American Control versus a Boros Aggro deck.  Jared was having some mana trouble, and his opponent’s board state of Ash Zealot plus Hammer of Purphoros was pretty threatening, so Jared tapped out for an Imposing Sovereign. His opponent then untapped and cast Purphoros, God of the Forge… who, thanks to the rules on replacement effects, entered untapped, and promptly hit Jared in the face for 6.  Jared was not amused.

What is your favorite “after event” story?
Karaoke after SCG Baltimore.  Even though the karaoke itself was mediocre, so many of my favorite judges were there, including several that I didn’t know very well yet, and we had a fantastic time.

How do you have fun during events?
I love discussing policy and interesting rules interactions with other judges.  I also try to talk with my fellow judges about their goals for the event and in the program as a whole, especially if I’m their Head Judge or Team Lead.  Oh, and lots of high-fives! (Shout-out to Nicholas Sabin for teaching me the importance of this!)

No high-fives in this photo, sorry. :)
No high-fives in this photo, sorry.

If you were a Planeswalker what would be your ultimate?
You get an emblem with “Permanents you control have indestructible. Creatures you control can’t have -1/-1 counters placed on them.”

If you were a creature what would be your creature type?
Bear! For those who don’t know: I commonly go by Bearz in judge circles.  I first used the nickname as my IRC username (it’s based on my last name), but it stuck in real life thanks to judges like Tasha Hayashi, Riki Hayashi, Nicholas Sabin, and Ryan Hoffman.

What hobbies do you have outside of Magic?
League of Legends, poker, and board games.  I also enjoy sci-fi and fantasy (like The Dresden Files).

Proudest moment of your judge life?
Advancing to Level 3 was a huge accomplishment, one which I couldn’t have done without the advice and encouragement of so many other people.  There are too many to list here, but you know who you are — thank you!

What character in Magic (real or fictional) represents you the best, and why?
I’ve always been a fan of Venser, mainly because he’s the only blue-white planeswalker, and that’s the color pair I identify with most strongly.  Oh, also, RURIC THAR SMASH!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
My L3 panel at GP Richmond included Sean Catanese and Jason Reedy.  After the panel, the two of them decided to troll Jared Sylva, who oversees supplemental activities for L3 candidates who don’t pass their panel.  The troll was to tell Jared that he would have to monitor me for a “supplemental activity”… of handing me a new nametag with “L3 Judge” on it.

This is what a "supplemental activity" looks like. (No, not really.)
So this is what a “supplemental activity” looks like…

I hope you all liked Paul and his stories. Join us again next week to meet another awesome Judge! See you then!

Two Truths and A Lie
Two of the following answers are true, figure out which!

1. I’ve never played in a Grand Prix.

2. I’ve never played in an SCG Open.

3. I’ve never played in a Game Day.

The answer to our most recent Two Truths and a Lie...
Christian has not been to every continent he is unfortunately missing Antarctica..


Written by Stephan Classen and Pedro Gonçalves

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