Hello everyone, and welcome to another installment of Judge of the Week, and this time around it’s a special feature! Hot off the presses, I am here to talk about the amazing judges from Star City Games Regional Championship Season One – Columbia, MO. A major winter storm was due to strike this fateful day at a location to our north, and other venues had already sold out. With colossal effort, we expanded and well… let me tell you about the team. It was comprised of many “first timers”, a few who had worked for the TO a handful of times, and then a few mainstays to the Regional event system. At our morning meeting, I asked them to come to me with “kudos” they saw from their peers and leaders. These are their stories and some personal observations as well.
Imported from Chicago, Jason and I worked together a lot in the weeks leading up since he was the Head Judge. He demonstrated a keen acuity to details and planning. As we neared the event, I was able to witness his guidance to the selected team leads as well as the general floor staff. At all times his communications skills were top-notch and he seemed to be prepared for whatever curve ball may come.
On Saturday he demonstrated a blended leadership, guiding his leads to re-mediate issues on the floor that were more systemic while also providing one-on-one mentoring to judges to address personal growth. The overall system was developed for growth, and this included Jason too. When he needed to confer, he had options and utilized them. A leader may not have all the answers “right now”, but they seek them out to have them ready in a timely fashion. Jason was marvelous all weekend, taking care of his judges and staff.
Hailing from St. Louis, Elaine was one of the early choices for Team Lead. This would be her first lead experience, though it was hard to tell. Leading into the event she prepped by studying relevant Modern interactions, and laid a plan for success for her team.
The first of many kudos (the most actually!) came shortly into Round 2 when another floor judge came to me and related how in Round 1 Elaine had nailed a difficult ruling involving replacement effects and delivered it with aplomb. It wasn’t just her cool on the floor that got her noticed that day, but her team management as well. Every decision for break slots, duties, and more were guided by the questions “What is good for the Judge? What is good for the event?” For example early shift judges were sent on breaks first, and judge pairings were made with mentoring opportunities in mind. And she could articulate this when asked “why?” Nothing about her performance was haphazard.
Supposedly from Peoria, Chase actually came from Omaha this weekend. Or had planned to. Leading into the event a personal crisis occurred and we weren’t sure that he would be able to make it. He left work for a week to deal with these issues and joined us as our other Team Lead, his second time leading Deck Checks.
If you have never had the pleasure of working with Chase, all I can say is watch out. The man is full of high positive energy and driven by a need to succeed. Don’t let his antics-like behavior fool you; he is a professional to the core. That storm I mentioned? It drove our numbers up, beyond what the venue could support. In the wee hours of Saturday morning Chase and I drove across the city and delivered additional tables twice to make sure we had enough to seat everyone. Throughout the day he was hitting his deck check metrics and then diving into the “next thing.” Never shorting a task nor ignoring a need; Chase was there.
As the Regional Coordinator for this area, I asked Eric to be involved early on. He helped in the planning meetings, guided Jason and myself early in and throughout the process, and never overshadowed a single step. His thoughts and input were critical to assembling the finest event staff I’ve ever had.
This exceptional Saturday I had a floor judge with more letters after their name than my dentist. A floor judge. He demonstrated quiet leadership on the floor by providing coverage to sparse areas, which others saw and followed suit. This created more even coverage for the entire event, including the often-neglected lower tables. We stopped to talk early in the day and he excitedly related to me how he gave away his door prizes.
As an aside, I give judges a “token” to give to players however they see fit for door prizes. Be it nice deck list, good sportsmanship, or even just being helpful. Whatever catches the judges eye that they want to reward.
“Oh wow, you have a 19/2 Goblin Piledriver. That’s the largest Piledriver I’ve seen in years! Have a door prize,” and then he turned to the opponent “You just got hit with a 19/2 Goblin Piledriver. That’s the largest Piledriver I’ve seen in years! Have a door prize.” Eric really connected with players over the day, and later ran me down (yes, he ran) to tell me more about his experiences with the procedures on how we run events. That connection all from handing out a Mountain with my scribble on it.
I see this as a merger of the “hammer” we can be at CREL, as well as the “fun enablers” we can be during Sides/ODEs. A way to bring up the whole player experience while also maintaining high standards of play.
Hailing from the Kansas City area, in fact just 15 minutes from MF KC, I’ve known Brandon for some years. I mentored him for some time to reach L2, after quite an interesting interaction: he DQ’d me, for “jacking around” no less! After a stressful training event, we began meeting weekly to improve CR and IPG knowledge.
The other half of “Operation Tables”, Brandon also reported in hours early to unload tables and reconfigure the room. While Chase and I were grabbing tables from various locations, Brandon was in the hall making space to put them out. By the time that early shift came on the room was done and ready with the expanded capacity. Over the course of the day Brandon mentored our L1 judges and nailed deck check timings, sharing his knowledge and expertise.
Paul is fairly new to me, but not to the program. Having recently moved to Kansas City, our circles have intertwined more. He has shared some of his plans in the program with me and, seeing him on the tournament floor, I can only think that it is just a matter of time until he is known as a leader in our program.
Paul was responsible for EOR procedures, and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen it done smoother. His peers noticed and commented to me as well. He always had a handle of what tables were out, their time extensions, and was able to deftly redirect judges to where they were needed. He would verify his notes with the scorekeeper to make sure nothing slipped past during this process. Additionally, he made sure most staff stayed hydrated by asking during this process if they had drank water recently. I say most… apparently he didn’t think to ask his TO. 😉
I am not sure how to introduce Matt, as I have spoken words about him before. One of my mentors in my formative years as a judge and a TO, Matt is one of those judges that I hold in high esteem. Known for working most of the top games in the area, Matt is a wealth of knowledge and very professional.
Over the course of the day, Matt was Matt. No task too small or too difficult to not be done in a timely fashion and correctly. He really shined at the end of the day, when taking over for another. A skill I admire is a judges ability to step in and relieve another from their event. Matt stepped in to take over for me, the TO. He asked pointed and relevant questions, and the transition process was smooth and fast. It’s one thing to take over an 80 person side event, it’s another to take over a Regional Championship from the organizer.
Another mentor from my early days, and also someone I continue to look up to. I introduced him to you all not that long ago, so again I have a hard time finding a new way to open up. Perhaps by a peek behind the scenes. Alex is sometimes referred to as “The Better Jacques”, generally by himself. He and Matt have a great sibling rivalry and they can run a ~180 player event with just a scorekeeper.
Over Saturday, Alex was a member of the Deck Check team. Being a senior L2, when he wasn’t at the table verifying decks he was on the floor nailing calls and more importantly providing guidance to the other 1’s and 2’s. His peers noted that he was always able to handle being pulled in multiple directions and manage to keep his tasks in order as well. He embodied leadership in a floor role, and filled in wherever the leads required.
Steve is a quiet judge, always ready with a smile. He also hails from the Kansas City area, and at events he is an active listener. Steve has worked for me a few times over the years, and always comes with a “can do” attitude, willing to do what is needed and open to learning new processes.
Steve stood out to the senior judges in the room early on. They would comment on not only his knowledge of our documents, but also his ability to deliver rulings and connect with players. In fact, my notes on the day say “maybe level up you slacker!” Steve is, in my opinion, a prime candidate for another stellar L2 judge in the Central Region.
Stephen is a local judge, and plays in our weekly games as well as prereleases. Not only the “youngest” judge on staff, this was also his first CREL event. Stephen has always demonstrated an acuity with the CR, I think this comes from his love of EDH and building crazy decks.
Saturday was a day of pure growth for Stephen. He learned the in’s and out’s of Deck Checks with some of the best in the region, as well as applying policy on the floor. A common pitfall of newer judges to CREL is say something to the effect of “I don’t know” when taking a ruling, Stephen informed players that he felt he had the answer but was going to confer before delivering. This increased player confidence and is a hallmark for delivering great rulings. The L2 judges all reported that he knew the answer, even some more trickier applications, and was a joy to work with. Stephen constantly stayed busy, learning as much as he could about this new world of judging.
We had a stellar team, and I am certain there were many such last weekend. As a judge and a TO, I am very fortunate to be able to pull together such wonderful team to host an important event within our region. I look forward to working with all these fine folks in the coming months.
If there is a judge who is also doing something exemplary, please nominate a judge TODAY!