We are back again for another fabulous Judge of the Week interview, this time featuring a freshly minted L3 Judge! It’s an honor to spotlight this week’s Judge of the Week, Scott Neiwert from Idaho. As usual, before we learn about the man behind the black shirt lets have some quick facts about him:
Location: Boise, ID
Judge start date: According to judge center, August 6, 2011. Scott hit level 2 at Grand Prix Anaheim, May 2012, and then level 3 at Grand Prix Nashville, November 2014.
Why did you become a judge? Cawblade. Hated the deck, and didn’t want to play in that standard format but I wanted to continue staying involved in the game. Plus, I was unemployed and wanted to get some more cards so… it worked out well.
Favourite card: Stuffy Doll. It simply has *the best* activated ability in all of Magic.
Least favourite card: Solitary Confinement
Favourite format: Cube
Commander General: Prime Speaker Zegana
Favourite non-Magic Game: Minecraft
Best tournament result: Lost in the finals of a PTQ for PT: London in Kamigawa era
Random fact about yourself: I was only born with three wisdom teeth
How did you get involved in magic in the first place?
When I was 11, a kid down the street introduced me to it. The game seemed kinda fun, so I bought my first few cards – one of the gift boxes with two starter decks, and a couple packs of Fallen Empires. I immediately fell in love with Thallids; I got to play with my little beads on my guys, and make a giant army of 1/1’s to go crazy with! It was incredible, and even included my own super-secret tech; Force of Nature plus Circle of Protection: Green.
You were nominated by Charles Webber for your work mentoring him and other members of his community which seems to be relatively remote but is “about to have hopefully five certified L1 judges”. How was it, working with a semi-remote community – what challanges did you face, and what opportunities did you find working with them?
The states out west tend to be very big and very sparsely populated, especially when looking at where active judges are located. When I certified for L1, I think you could count on one hand the number of judges in Idaho (myself included). Since hitting L2, it has been a goal of mine to help create and foster judge communities in more remote areas. I was very happy to go to the Montana judge conference last year, and acted as the L1 testing coordinator where we certified 11 new judges (Editor: WOW!). I’ve worked with other judges across parts of Oregon that had no judge presence in the two years I lived there, and have certified judges in areas which previously have never had one such as Bend, OR.
The biggest challenge with training somebody remotely is that face-to-face time is limited. Through simply text, it is hard to train somebody on how to handle a call. You can point them to the JAR, and you can walk them through how to handle simple cases of looking at extra cards or the like, but so much of judging is about who the judge is at the event. I’ve found that is rather difficult to both assess, and help sculpt.
On the flip side, working remotely emphasizes the candidates rules knowledge. I find it is much easier to concentrate on teaching moments with rules via text or online communication, than it is in person. It can be easier to run off on a tangent when you initially started discussing a rules in person, but on text that doesn’t happen as easily.
Sidenote; as of when I’m writing this… Chuck and the gang from The Dalles all passed their L1 last night!
What motivates you to continue being a judge?
The community. The judges I work with at large events are amazing, and the passion from people wanting to be judges because they simply love this game astounds me. Magic tends to attract a smarter crowd, and those involved in the judge community are some of the best to be with. I haven’t found another community that I feel like I am part of quite like I have the judge community.
What is one tip you have for other judges?
Remember why you do this, especially after a rough event. We all have them sometimes, but the good weekends far outweigh the hard ones.
What’s the biggest rule-breaking play you’ve ever made as a player?
When desideboarding, I once forgot to bring the cards I sideboarded out back in for game 1 of the next match. I didn’t sideboard in that match, and wound up playing all three games with 56 cards.
What has been your favourite magic event that you’ve judged?
Star City Portland in 2012 was an amazing experience. It was my first large event – before that I had floor judged a couple PTQ’s with just the head judge, maybe one other floor judge on staff, and a max attendance of about 50-60. I was assigned as team lead. My e-mail to my head judge was essentially “Ummm, what’s a team?”
What positive aspects has the Judge Program contributed to your everyday life?
Professionally, judging has helped me a lot. There are a lot of leadership roles that a judge can take on, and the amount of growth in some of those “softer” skills that I normally don’t get when playing with spreadsheets all day still astounds me. When I’m working in a spreadsheet, two cells won’t often argue with each other. When you’re judging, it’s not uncommon for two players to argue with each other, and judging has taught me how to do that and prepared me for the next steps in my career.
If you could chat with one person, real or fictional, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Jeffrey Skilling – former CEO of Enron. The Enron scandal continues to dominate accounting and everything I do in my day to day life, and I would find it fascinating to speak with the man.
What would you be doing now if Magic no longer existed?
Tinkering on my car or playing random games on my computer. And throwing my toy for my dog. He never gets tired of that.
What is the strangest card interaction you have seen in a tournament?
It wasn’t a real interaction, but rather one that two players thought was true. I walked up to a table at a Legacy event, saw one player with a Standstill in play, 7 cards in hand, and a bunch of islands and I thought to myself “This must be a boring game.” Then I looked at the other player’s board and it was completely identical, including a Standstill of his own in play. Seeing no way to cheat any of this in or cause this board state, I pointed to the Standstills and asked “Hey guys, how did this happen?” They both looked at me and responded, in unison, “Oh, Standstill doesn’t trigger Standstill.”
What is your favorite “after event” story?
Driving back from the Montana judge conference with a carload of other Idaho judges was rather entertaining. We played (and sang along to) the entire Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, found the perfect island in the middle of a lake near the Idaho-Montana border to start a kangaroo farm, and started half a dozen other facepalm-worthy inside jokes that, when looking back, back no sense. At all.
If you were a Planeswalker what would be your ultimate?
You gain an emblem with “At the beginning of your upkeep, add one charge counter to each permanent you control.” and “Remove three charge counters from amongst permanents you control: Draw a card.”
If you were a creature what would be your creature type?
What hobbies do you have outside of Magic?
I joke that Magic is my cheap hobby, as I have been racing my car for about 6 or 7 years now. I drive a Mazda RX-8 at Autocross, almost fully prepped to STX class limits. Autocross, for those who don’t know, is a grassroots level performance driving event where you take a bunch of cones, lay them out on a giant parking lot in the form of a miniature road coarse, and send one car through at a time. At the end of the day, the fastest time wins. Sometimes, top speeds on a track may only be around 50-60mph, but then you realize that you just went through a hairpin turn the width of a decent size garage, doing 35 miles per hour and it changes perspective a little bit.
I’m also a member of the Timbers Army – the supporters group for the Portland Timbers, Portland’s soccer team, as well as the Rose City Riveters, the Portland Thorns supporters group (National Women’s Soccer League). Come game day, I’m right in the middle of 5,000 jumping, screaming, singing fans going crazy and pouring my heart into the game. It’s an experience unlike anything else.
Proudest moment of your Judge life?
When I head judged the Seattle Legacy Open, at the end of the day when the top 8 was starting and the majority of my judges were leaving for the day, Kyle Knudson surprised me and bear hugged me from behind and lifted me what felt like 10 feet in the area. As startling as it was, that moment was kind of the signal that I’d tackled what has (so far) been my biggest challenge in my judge career.
Two Truths and a Lie!
Two of the following statements are true and one is false. Figure out which!
1. I once managed to sink a truck in a lake (thing came out of nowhere!)
2. I don’t have Netflix.
3. I traveled to London when I was two, but have not traveled internationally since then (not counting Canada).
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Scott, and congrats on your L3!
Judges! Don’t leave us without awesome Judge stories – if you believe one of your local colleagues is doing an exemplar’s work, this might be your chance to make him an upcoming Judge of the Week, so nominate a Judge TODAY!