Serge Yager

Welcome back to Judge of the Week! This week’s Judge of the Week is known for his work with the Pre-Prerelease and his love of Canadian Highlander. Congratulations, Serge Yager!

Name: Serge Yager
Level: 1
Location: Victoria, BC, Canada
Judge Start Date: Ooooh wow… Around Avacyn Restored? So mid 2012?
Why did you become a Judge? To give back to the community.
Occupation: Project Manager
Favorite card: Hedron Crab
Least favorite card: This is a tricky one. I don’t like playing against tempo archetypes. I ‘lost’ 10 turns ago, I just didn’t know it yet. I guess I don’t really dislike any single card?
Commander General: Sliver Queen
Favorite non-Magic Game: Civilization or Elder Scrolls Franchises
Best tournament result: Too busy running events to do well in events
Random fact about yourself: I have my SCUBA license

You were nominated for your work with the Pre-Prerelease. Can you tell us about that?
The Pre-Prerelease is an interesting judging challenge. On the one hand it’s the first time the majority of people are seeing the cards, so the judge calls have to be correct. We can’t have people take a mistake from the PPR and bring it to their local stores. On the other hand the show needs to be entertaining. It isn’t the pro-tour. Players are selected because they’re fun and are comfortable on camera, but being on camera makes it really hard to play magic. The added pressure of knowing there’s an audience is always on the player’s mind. This can result in players making misplays they wouldn’t under normal circumstances. How do we keep the flow of the game going so that the show keeps going?

This tricky balance resulted in what we’ve called REL-axed. It’s trying to find a balance between letting the cards do what they’re supposed to, while also trying to disrupt the show as little as possible. It’s different from what you’ll see at other events, and we try really hard to communicate that during the calls. Most judges I’ve talked to understand the reason behind how and why it’s run that way, but it’s challenging trying to maintain that balance.

Tell us your favorite Judge story.
Two players playing mono-blue control 100 card singleton decks. Both are using the same coloured sleeves. Both players control a Thada Adel AND a Vedalken Shackles. The board state is a mess, but they’re doing alright. They’ve got little pieces of paper and they’re writing who owns which cards.

I get the judge call, “Judge, we were short cutting resolving search effects, so we were both shuffling at the same time. I accidentally picked up half my opponent’s deck and started shuffling it into my deck.”
Me: … [facepalm]

What is your favorite non-judging moment that happened with other Judges (or after event story)?
I was playing Canadian Highlander against another judge in the community. There was a Blood Moon in play as well as a Magus of the Moon.

Neither of us were casting any spells, because we only had mountains, so we got that part right. However, there was also a Maze of Ith, The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, and a Bazaar of Baghdad in play. We were using these non-basic lands every turn.

There’s a certain shame when two judges pay for Tabernacle triggers with non-basic mountains. When we finally realized our mistake we rushed to see who could scoop in shame the fastest. I won the race to resign first. 😛

What challenges have you faced or are you facing to become a better judge, and how have you worked to overcome them?
Finding the time to study for my L2. Working a full-time job and playing Magic, as well as other hobbies, doesn’t leave a lot of room for studying.

Lucky for me I’m part of an amazing community. I’ve got access to a large number of talented judges. At events I’m always talking to other judges about calls. What happened today, what happened this week, what’s the weirdest call you’ve heard recently?

We hosted a judge conference a couple weeks ago. It was fantastic! Just listening to other judges experiences can teach you so much. While I can’t always make time to study on my own, I try and  make time to sit and hang out with other judges.

Who have been some of your biggest mentors in the Judge Program, and what did they teach you?
Callum Milne was the L2 who mentored me. When I started out, I was pretty useless. I didn’t come from a particularly knowledgeable or competitive background. I just wanted to give back, so I thought I’d become a judge. Callum did a fantastic job in helping me figure out where I needed to improve the most, and helping me get to the point where I could pass to L1 test.

Niko Skartvedt is a local-ish L3. One of the most impactful judge moments I’ve ever witnessed was seeing him defuse two angry players with a smile.

He walked up to the table, smiled, squatted down so he could be eye level with them, and defused the situation in about three sentences. It made me want to get better in how I communicate with players. It was amazing what a huge impact body language and attitude made in handling that call.

How did you get involved in Magic in the first place?
I really got into magic around the time original Ravnica came out. I was working full time in Alberta. I was in another town away from my friends, working all the time, and started feeling pretty down.
I found a small LGS in the town I was staying in that hosted FNMs. I remembered playing a bit in Elementary school and decided to try it out again. I had a great time and ended up making a bunch of friends in that community. Magic really helped me out when I was feeling pretty down and isolated.


What is the proudest moment of your Judge life?
At a convention event I was judging we were running a mini-masters side event. There was a young child playing with his Dad. The kid was new to magic, but was doing really well. I helped them out with a couple small calls, and got excited and gave them high fives when they got to add more cards to their deck.

The day after the event, their Dad sent me a message over Facebook. He thanked me for everything I did, and said his son had an amazing time especially because there was a judge who helped him out. It made me appreciate how much simple little interactions can shape a player’s experience at an event.

What’s the biggest rule-breaking play you’ve ever made as a player?
Hah, see my favourite non-judge moment 😛

What character in Magic (real or fictional) represents you the best, and why?
Hedron Crab.
Stay with me here, the Crab has a lot going for it. It’s got a plan, it knows what it wants, and it ends games! It can just sit there, and win games. But did you know it can also carry a sword? That’s right, it doesn’t have defender. Bam, crab coming at you with a Sword of Fire and Ice in each of its claws.

(Art in photo by @featherweight_)

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

  1. I worked as a coffee roaster.
  2. I started a circus and fire spinning club at school.
  3. My entire magic collection is double sleeved.
The answer to the last Two Truths and a Lie...
Patrick Nelson mains a Titan when he plays Destiny.

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

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One thought on “Serge Yager

  1. Serge is a great judge and a wonderful person. He treats everyone with kindness and respect and never ceases to be a beacon of positivity.
    I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this honour.

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