Steven Briggs

Greetings Judges!  This week, we continue the RC features with Steven Briggs, L3 from Jackson, Michigan, USA, the Regional Coordinator of the USA-Midwest region!  He covers: Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin!  That’s a lot of states!

steven briggsWhy did you become a Judge?
I became a judge because I enjoyed running tournaments and the challenge of providing a terrific experience for players.

What advice would you give to members of your region?
I hope the members in my region will smile and have lots of fun, look for opportunities to get more involved in the game, and to make many amazing friendships because there are so many outstanding people that share the same passion for this game.

What advice would you give to a Judge growing up through the program?
The same advice I gave for my region – having fun, learning about others, and building lifelong friendships are the most amazing “takeaways” from judging. Focus on those things, and everything else just falls into place.

Could you recognize a few outstanding members of your region?
Rob McKenzie‘s recent promotion to Level 3 definitely deserves a huge congratulations here. Our region is blessed to have both an L5, Jason Lemahieu and L4 Chris Richter working behind the scenes on projects and ideas that are transforming and improving the quality of judging and the judging experience – these guys do not get nearly enough praise for their efforts here. We have the Jahn‘s proliferating Wisconsin with judge goodness, Art Edson, Andy Thompson, and Dave Rappaport in Michigan . . . this list will just keep going on. Everyone brings something unique and special to the table – I am a lucky RC to have such great people to work with.

What’s the coolest event you ever been to?
I had never been to Italy, or Europe in my life, so GP Verona earlier this year has a soft spot in my heart. In terms of the event itself, a moment that gives me chills is when I was at Pro Tour: Honolulu at the end of Day 1 and the video of the sky camera panning down on me judging Kibler vs. Finkel. I remember thinking that three years ago, I was struggling to learn Reporter and run a 20-player FNM, dealing with being unemployed, and now here I am at the Pro Tour judging as two juggernauts battle it out on Day 1. Crazy . . . absolutely crazy!

What’s the farthest you have ever traveled for a Magic event?
At approximately 4,400 miles, GP Verona was the furthest . . . so far!

Does your family travel with you?
Nope! My cats Chopin and Retto stay home and get cat treats instead, along with many, many pets.

steven briggs

How do you not lose your mind as a RC?
Invalid question. All RC’s minds are long since gone. But seriously, when you are surrounded by amazing leaders, the burden is much easier to handle. Delegating responsibilities not only takes pressure off of me, but it engages more judges in what we as a collective geography are doing.

What do you feel needs to be improved in the Judge program?
As we continue to grow in size, making sure that every judge feels important and needed on the team becomes a greater challenge. That outreach is something that we are only reaching the tip of the iceberg on, and is something I continue to work on in my region with our judges – how to keep current judges engaged, excited about judging and learning more about the game.

What has been your best experience in the Judge Program?steven briggs 3
It’s the relationships with people that are my best experiences. I have so many good friendships that have been forged through judging. Closely behind that was passing that rules exam for L3, which I spent many hours a day for many months studying to be prepared for.

What motivates you to continue being a judge?
I just love all of it. From the people I meet at events to the places I see, the challenge of producing a quality show for our guests every time I am at an event, I love my involvement on the event side. While I continuously point out that I am not a rules guru, I enjoy helping people learn more about how the game functions. But I am probably my best when I am working to help judges see their qualities, to see what amazing things they already bring to the program, and help give constructive feedback for continued growth and enjoyment of what they are doing. Helping people – that’s the best!steven briggs 2

What has been your favorite magic event that you’ve judged?
This one is soooo tough . . . some current senior judges and TO’s may wonder “why not me.” But I probably have to go back to my first GP – GP Columbus 2010. Nearly 1,500 players playing Legacy, me as a wide-eyed L1. Was tested for L2 by my great friend Riki Hayashi, whom I had not even heard of prior to this event. I met Tasha Jamison there, Dan Stephens, Ingrid Lind-Jahn was my first L4 as an HJ along with Jeff Morrow splitting that event, and the color-changing ceiling was trippy.

If you could chat with one person, real or fictional, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Gordon Ramsay – I carry a cheery personality, and try to carry that into every task I do. But I love, absolutely love his focus, his standards, his exactness, and just the mind and spirit that go into how he leads. Minus perhaps some foul language, that’s how I want to lead in my work and what I do both for the judge program and in my profession of education.

What hobbies do you have outside of Magic?
I love to cook great food, kayak, hike, perform on my saxophones, coffee, play classic arcade games and set high scores on them, computer gaming, slow dancing, singing Sinatra tunes, sipping red wine, and having fun every day of my life.

How often do you Travel for Magic?
3 out of every 4 weekends, I am somewhere judging an event.

What are some of your Regional Goals?steven briggs 4
At this point, our region needs to develop depth at the L3 position. We have several candidates working toward this goal. With that leadership, we will be able to build depth more rapidly as our judge population continues to increase. We are also developing new L1’s, but our region is unique in that we actually have stricter pre-requisites for testing to ensure that our candidates are actually prepared to pass the written exams. So in short: Depth of expertise, across the board.

What’s one thing in your region which makes playing magic special?
There is a deep history of professional organizers, judges, and pro players extending into the early development of the game in the Midwest. That foundation established in the mid to late 90’s continues to resonate even as we cross twenty years of the game.

What is the proudest moment of your Judge life?
A combination of making L3 and being named RC of the Midwest Region. There is a love and trust that exists when you are given responsibilities like this, and they match my heart and passion in the program – the validation of expertise and the permission to lead and help many others enjoy this game is a rewarding and wonderful responsibility.

Tell us an embarrassing story that you’re not afraid of everyone knowing.
Ask David de la Iglesia, preferably in person. He tells it much better than I could ever do in this format.

How has being a Magic Judge influenced your non-Magic life?
It has opened my eyes to a world of experiences and possibilities with my career and how I live my life that I would not have even considered prior to judging. The way I think about problems and see solutions has evolved through practicing these skills at events. I mean, it’s changed my life in big ways, and I am just so grateful to all my friends for their love, support, guidance, and encouragement.

Who are your role models within the Judge Program? What are the qualities that drew you to them?
I have had several in my time judging, and they have changed as my needs have changed as a judge. Dave Rappaport was a terrific role model early on in my judging to develop stronger knowledge of event management and exposure to judge leadership and competitive events. John Alderfer‘s mind for logistics and for how the game and program have been and gone – I can listen to him go on at length about it. Riki Hayashi and Nicholas Sabin both had strong influence in my development from Level 2 to Level 3, building expertise and confidence in the leadership qualities they saw in me. As of late, Andy Heckt, Jared Sylva, and Cristiana Dionisio have had probably the most influence on my development and continued growth as an RC and as a floor lead at competitive events.

What is the worst tournament you have judged?
At GP: Kansas City, I was made HJ of the PTQ – a 116 player Standard PTQ with 75% of the field running Caw-blade, and the entire top 32 running the same list. The top 8 took 4.5 hours with no slow play occurring. That. Was. Hell.

steven briggs 5How do you have fun during events?
I talk to people, and learn about what they are doing and working on and whatnot. I love supporting my friends and celebrating their accomplishments. I work hard, and try my best to help the event every moment I am there.

What is the proudest moment of your Judge life?
A combination of making L3 and being named RC of the Midwest Region. There is a love and trust that exists when you are given responsibilities like this, and they match my heart and passion in the program – the validation of expertise and the permission to lead and help many others enjoy this game is a rewarding and wonderful responsibility.

What is your favorite “after event” story?
It involves a Mexican bar in Texas and Kevin Binswanger. Need I say more?

Thanks Steven, for all your time and help!

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