Glad you’re back for another installment of Judge of the Week. We have for you someone who has been hailed not just as one of the best L2s around, but also one of the best judge managers around. Our latest rock star is none other than Rick Salamin!
Name: Rick Salamin
Location: Essex, Vermont
Judge start date: February 6, 2005.
Why did you become a Judge? I had a knack for the rules, liked helping run events, and was an average player so the value was better.
Occupation: Computer Software Support
Favourite card: Ornithopter. It’s free and it flies. What’s not to love?
Least favourite card: Nothing specific springs to mind as an outright dislike. Island comes to mind as generally blue decks don’t fit my mold for fun. A one-sided game isn’t really fun for either person.
Favourite format: Booster Draft. It’s not constructed and the draft itself is fun with friends.
Commander General: Teneb, the Harvester
Favourite non-Magic Game: Ticket to Ride
Best tournament result: I used to win FNM… does that count? Once the Judge bug bit, I was hooked and haven’t played much to any competitive Magic since.
Random fact about yourself: While I’ve been to more than 40 Grands Prix I’ve only ever played in one. Onslaught Sealed Deck at Grand Prix Boston.
How did you get involved in Magic in the first place?
I was introduced to the game in the fall of 1995 while I was in high school. Ten years later I became a Judge.
How has being a Judge influenced your non-Magic life?
In more ways that I probably even realize after being a Judge for 11 years. I’ve worked with and for a myriad of unbelievable people who have helped me develop soft skills. All of which has helped open doors to leadership roles and responsibilities in my professional life. Some of which even have helped as a father to my two daughters. Patience and understanding are tough skills to master and while I certainly haven’t mastered them, the Judge program has helped me understand and apply both more succinctly.
What motivates you to continue being a Judge?
Travel and friendship. The events are work for sure and in of itself rewarding and fun. But getting to travel the country and beyond, getting to meet new people, and developing friendships around the world are what I cherish most.
Tell us about the biggest challenges and rewards for being a judge manager for a Grand Prix.
The biggest challenges: Time commitment, herding cats, handling individual needs and arrangements, herding cats, keeping Judges happy, herding cats.
Did I mention herding cats?
As Judge Manager, you have 70+ people to coordinate. The busiest time may be at the Grand Prix itself, but for weeks and months ahead of the event the admin team is already working on the event. The event needs to be built on Judge Apps, applications need to be reviewed, feedback received, and schedules made (and remade). Occasionally a Judge has to withdraw or maybe the event pre-reg is well above forecast and you need more staff. Both of which can all but recreate the process to do a second time as you find replacement or additional judges to help the event.
At the event itself my priority shifts to keeping Judges happy and keeping Judges on task. Grand Prix events are hard work over a long day. Keeping up beat and providing great customer service is key. I’ve found it to be the little things that truly make the largest impact here. Sure, we are compensated for our roles and should come prepared for our shifts but things are always forgotten. I always have a pile of pens, Sharpies, and chocolate to get Judges through the day. It’s amazing how a bottle of water and a couple pieces of chocolate can keep you going.
Another challenge is keeping upbeat and happy throughout. As Judge Manager, I try to put forth the same customer service level I expect from my Judges. The days are long and it can be quite difficult towards the end of the day or the end of the weekend.
The biggest reward? Comes in two parts for me.
Being Judge Manager is entirely different than being a Floor Judge, Team Lead, or Head Judge. You have to balance everything going on and ensure the resources are as well used as possible across not just events but all the other logistics as well. Prize Wall, Reg, Line Captains, Artists breaks, VIP lounge, product prep, etc etc etc. When you have somehow made it through the weekend and finally get to look back and see that you helped to prevent GP Dumpster Fire from happening… this is part of the reward.
The other part is entirely about the friendships we make the family we grow. We don’t do this for the fame or fortune. It’s done because we enjoy the people and being part of something larger than you alone could do.
What is one tip you have for other Judges?
If you aren’t having fun, then you’re doing it wrong. Yes, it’s work and it can be stressful, but at the end of the day you need to enjoy what we do. Slow down, step back, and appreciate everything that you are a part of.
What’s the best part about your local Magic community?
The best part as a Judge is that our local community respects Judges, appreciates what they do for the events regardless of size and scope, and occasionally even admire us. Even better is when a player decides they want to Judge and we get to see new members of our family grow and develop.
What is your favourite non-Magic hobby?
Being married and having kids limits my hobby time so Magic consumes nearly all the time I commit to hobbies. Beyond Magic, I enjoy board games and the occasional round of golf.
What is your favourite non-judging moment that happened with other Judges?
My favorite non-event moments come when you get to spend time on a mini-vacation with Judges after or before the event. Seeing the cities you are in. Enjoying the food. There is a story about one night in downtown Montreal, with Jeph Foster, but that’s probably not a story I should share… There was also a night in Las Vegas where Jeph Foster and I… hey, wait, I shouldn’t talk about that either. I guess I need to find less dubious things to talk about.
Theme parks in Orlando, walking Old Quebec City, unexpectedly crossing paths in airports.
What’s the biggest rule-breaking play you’ve ever made as a player?
I find myself in a number of RTFC, not the Riccardo Tessitori Fan Club version, moments. Where I’ll go two or three rounds doing something that I think is right until someone points out I need to reread it. For some reason I always seem to stop winning around this time too…
What has been your favourite Magic event that you’ve judged?
GP Las Vegas (either one) are very high on my list. I enjoy everything the city has to offer in small doses, I loved the scope and challenges inherit to an event as large as they were, and I got to see so many friends.
What positive aspects has the Judge Program contributed to your everyday life?
Mentoring is probably the single largest aspect. I’ve learned better ways to share feedback, am more confident providing feedback, and realize the value in sharing feedback. If only I were better at writing it down.
If you could chat with one person, real or fictional, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Jean-Luc Picard. Everything about him exudes being right and just. He is a leader, an explorer, a friend all while being patient, understanding, and caring. I don’t know what I would ask him but I think a lecture series is in order.
What would you be doing now if Magic no longer existed?
Odds are I’d be playing Video Games instead. World of Warcraft was a long time vice and I suspect I would fall back into old habits.
What is your favorite “after event” story?
There is something about going out on a Sunday night after the main event is over finding a greasy spoon of some sort and decompressing with friends over a drink or two.
How do you have fun during events?
Levity is important. Simple jokes, laughs, and conversations are what pass the time and make it fun.
If you were a Planeswalker, what would be your ultimate?
-8: Make it happen.
What it is doesn’t really matter. Need 20 more Judges at a GP? No problem. Need power brought out to the artist’s station? No problem. 100 more deck’s pre-registered… sure.
If you were a creature, what would be your creature type?
I have a touch of magical powers and can soldier through nearly anything.
What was the proudest moment of your Judge life?
For the longest time I would say that not being overturned by Sheldon Menery was my symbol of pride. It was how I knew I wasn’t doing it wrong.
At this point the greatest pride and sense of accomplishment comes when I successfully Judge Manage a Grand Prix. It can be grueling but is also very rewarding.
What character in Magic (real or fictional) represents you the best, and why?
Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded. I always see myself on the outside looking in. Sure, I’m a planeswalker but I’ve always seen myself as socially awkward and not part of the in-crowd.
Two Truths and a Lie
Two of the following statements are true and one is false. Figure out which!
- I’ve met two United States Presidents.
- I once walked across active lava tubes in Hawai’i.
- I’ve been to the beach on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans on the same day.
If there is a judge who is also doing something exemplary, please nominate a judge TODAY!