Top Regional Exemplar Recipients – Wave 7

Welcome back, judges! With the nominations for Wave 8 of Exemplar having just closed, we decided to congratulate some of the top Exemplar recipients in each region for Wave 7. We asked each of them, “What aspects of judging keep you moving forward in the judge community?” Here are their responses:

Paul JohnsonAustralia
L2 Paul Johnson earned recognitions for subjects ranging from his enthusiastic announcements during a Grand Prix to his tactfulness in getting a player to understand the T-shirt he was wearing was offensive.

His response: What keeps me moving forward?

The joy of customer service. I love seeing groups of players having a blast, and that keeps me energized and excited. Just ask anyone who was at GPKL about the T’Chauss Sealed I ran!

Dustin De LeeuwBeNeLux
L3 Dustin De Leeuw earned recognitions for subjects ranging from an article about why judges might want to stay L2 to his thoughtful team leading at a couple Grands Prix.

His response: 1) The positive feedback I receive from both fellow judges and players. If someone tells me I’m doing a great job (or even an Exemplary job!), it motivates me to keep on doing that and to further improve. It’s also a vicious circle: the more I judge, the better I get at it. The better I get at it, the more compliments I receive. The more compliments I receive, the more I’m motivated to continue growing and judging. The more I’m motivated to continue growing and judging, the more I judge…

2) When other judges tell me I helped them, showed them something new, or was able to  contribute to their growth, I’m always slightly surprised. I just do what I like and what I’ve learned from others over the past 8 years. Apparently, I’m an inspiration or an example to some people, and I love that. So, by keeping on moving, I get in touch with more awesome people, and I can help more of them.

3) Then there’s the flip side of that: the more other judges I see, the more awesome aspects, ideas, and insights I see. Every other judge can teach me something. Everyone has several aspects where they easily outperform and wow me. Every time I meet a new judge, I learn something and I find new goals for myself to become a better judge and a better person. As long as I keep on discovering, I can’t imagine ever getting bored of this awesome community of amazing people!

Gregory FariasBrazil
L1 Gregory Farias earned recognitions for, among other reasons, creating weekly scenarios for judges to ponder.

His response: Well, the thing I like the most in the program is the knowledge sharing. Exchanging experiences and building up the community by growing everyone’s knowledge is what keeps me trying to do an excellent job every day.

Jon GoudCanada
L3 Jon Goud earned recognitions for subjects ranging from his work at judge conferences to his support of judges at events.

His response: For me, judging has always been about connections – making connections with local players and store owners playing FNM and running (and continuing to run) competitive tournaments in Atlantic Canada. Fond memories of my first few GPs, making connections with new players and especially other judges through reviews, and staying up way too late for good food and drinks. It turns out that it’s easy to make friends in a community of such intelligent and driven folks! On the road to L3, I needed to make a connection with myself – understanding what I wanted from the program, how I could contribute, and honestly assessing and overcoming obstacles.

In 2017, I now have both a tremendous responsibility and opportunity to help other judges in Canada create their own connections. Canada is a big place, and it is easy for Canadian judges to feel isolated. If I can help create a community where Canadian judges feel a little more connected to their players, their stores, and to each other … that would make me a pretty happy guy 🙂

Yu WangChina
L1 Yu Wang earned recognitions for subjects ranging from arranging logistics for a judge conference to being proactive during a recent Grand Prix.

His response: First of all, I think the love of Magic pushes me into improving myself all the time. And there are also lots of judge friends to help me on my way of judging. As a Magic judge, I focus on every tournament I participate in and I am always trying my best to make players feel happy. Maybe that’s the reason I receive these recognitions.

Magic has become a quite important part in my life and I really love judging events. I will try my best to make more contributions to the judge community in the future. Thank you very much.

Konrad wieczorekEurope-Central
L2 Konrad Wieczorek earned recognitions for subjects ranging from his preparation of a travel guide to creating a game to award boosters after a prerelease.

His response: I guess what keeps me moving forward is the communal nature of judging. At the beginning of my judging career, I thought judging was something done individually, in isolation. But just a few big events and judge conferences later, that notion was shattered. It turned out that the whole structure of the program is designed around cooperation, mentoring, and making connections with fellow judges.

Thanks to becoming a judge, I’ve met some of the most intelligent, generous, caring and passionate people I know. These people helped me improve as a judge and as a person. They showed me incredible hospitality and made me feel welcome when I was away from home. They’re always supportive, even if I make mistakes. But mostly, they make judging so fun I seldom choose playing Magic over judging it.Everything I do for the judge program, I do to give back some of the love I’ve received from these people in the past. I’m working in several judge projects because they aim to directly or indirectly make judging easier, more comfortable, and/or fun. These days, even when I judge at some bigger events, I tend to focus a lot of effort on mentoring the less experienced judges because I remember other judges doing that for me and it being very helpful.

I doubt that I’ll ever repay the debt of gratitude I have for my fellow judges, but attempting to do so is what keeps me going forward.

David de la IglesiaEurope-East
L3 David de la Iglesia earned recognitions for, among other things, communication projects from the L3 promotions blog to a L2 FAQ.

His response: To me, judging is all about the people. Meeting friends, old and new, and sharing experiences with them is what has kept me motivated all these years. Personal growth, my own and others’, would also be among my priorities in judging. Meeting so many judges has allowed me to learn a lot from many, and I’ve also have had the chance to mentor other judges, effectively transmitting the knowledge I’ve received and helping others the same way I’ve received help when I’ve needed it. When traveling to GPs, it is very appealing to me to spend a few extra days sightseeing and blending into different cultures. Trying foreign food and taking pictures of beautiful locations are my favorite side activities when travelling to events.

Johanna VirtanenEurope-North
L3 Johanna Virtanen earned recognitions for subjects ranging from her work on the Judge Conduct Committee to her work as a Regional Coordinator.

Her response: I work on many projects and have received recognition for those, but the most satisfying part of what I do is when I’m able to help an individual judge learn or accomplish something. It’s great to build systems that work well, but those personal connections are what keeps me involved in this community.

Kevin DesprezFrance
L3 Kevin Desprez earned recognitions for subjects ranging from feedback he has given other judges to his help with a disqualification.

His response: I’ve been motivated by many different things throughout my career of judging. What I’m really thrilled with these days is relentlessly reminding judges that the Judge Program has developed to the great success it now is thanks to a (sometimes blunt) peer-to-peer review system, where members highlight both strengths and areas for improvement, so as to help the other to learn and improve.

Sometimes, it’s not about the hard skills nor the soft skills, but about helping others moving a step further in terms of mindset. It’s not about what they should do to improve, it’s about how they can change their vision to clear the (great) path that was hidden in front of them, helping them realize where they are and where they have a chance to go, helping them overcome failure and celebrate successes.

Ivan PetkovicGerman-Speaking Countries
L3 Ivan Petkovic earned recognitions for subjects ranging from helping set up L2 mentoring to his contributions to the Policies and Guideline team.

His response: Very short: People.

A bit more descriptive: I have a personal motto saying: “Every new person is a potential friend who can enrich my life.” And the judge community has proved that countless times. Being able to learn as well as help others develop is my main motivator for moving forward.

L2 Aruna Prem Bianzino earned recognitions for subjects ranging from helping translate at a Grand Prix to work on the Italian Magic Judge magazine.

His response: Well, this is certainly something that keeps me moving forward in the community, together with all other positive feedback, being a review, a recognition or a pat on the back. At the same time, the opportunity to constantly improve as a judge and as a person feels great and the judge community helps a lot in this aspect, with plenty of judges willing to share their experience, observations, strategies, etc. People in the judge community are a great family, ready to help and to share success and failures, wherever you are and wherever you go (I have lived in Sweden, Italy and Spain during my judge life, and always found wonderful people in the judge community, wherever I was!)

MatteoCallegari300_cropped (1)Italy and Malta
L3 Matteo Callegari earned recognitions for subjects ranging from his handling of side events at Grand Prix Atlanta to his work on the Player Investigation Committee.

His response: The easy answer is “the people”. What I do in the program I do it for the people inside it. But why? What’s so special about the people in the Judge Program?

This can be a tough question to pinpoint or to answer in a few words. The people in the program are great both because they are diverse and because they are actively willing to learn and improve. I love to meet and get to know new people, to share experiences and culture, to join goals and objectives and to visit together new places. Such a diversity incredibly expands my opportunities to learn. And yes, I love to learn, and through the Judge Program, I learned that I also love to teach. Finding so many individuals willing to go beyond their current reach and delve into the unknown is a constant source of motivation and inspiration for always improving myself in order to better fulfill their desires. So desire high, my friends, and make me happy. 🙂

Lamberto_Franco_2012L2 Lamberto Franco earned recognitions for subjects ranging from his work as the Grand Prix London side events lead to his work on the Announcement Translations Project.

His response: The aspect of judging that keeps me moving forward the most in the judge community is development of people, both other judges and myself. In the judge community, there’s a lot of impressively good human beings, and many more very promising sprouts. I truly enjoy learning from the best ones, while teaching myself and others. What I like the most is that the field of learning and improvement is so wide, that anybody can learn  from and teach to anybody. I love seeing the smiles of satisfaction of people that I helped grow and the happiness of my mentors as I improve. Along the same lines, I truly enjoy seeing others improving after my advice and support. I love how the judge community is a big and positive supportive family.

Hajimee FujiiJapan
L2 Hajime Fujii earned recognitions for subjects ranging from spreading information through Facebook and Twitter to running many PPTQs in his region of Japan.

His response: I like reviews, getting feedback and the Exemplar Program very much in the Judge Program.

Being praised is very nice experience. When the Exemplar Program just began, I went to a judge conference and asked everyone, “Please praise me a lot. If you can not praise me, tell me what I should do for you to earn your praise.” As a result, the result of Wave 7 proves that I have become good at earning praise.

And, as a result of being praised by many people, I also like praising people. In this way, I love that there is a mechanism where Magic judges can mutually enhance each other.

Federico DonnerLatin America – Spanish Speaking Countries
L3 Federico Donner earned recognitions for subjects ranging from his leadership on side events at Grand Prix Rimini to his giving of advice and feedback.

His response: The Judge Program is full of amazingly talented people. From ones that can code, to others that are incredible at public speaking, to some that spot the tiniest problems and give great feedback. Find those people around you and stick to them. Learn from them. Ask Toby why they added the scry shortcut, ask Riki how to give better verbal feedback, ask Alderfer how to better plan product distribution for your limited PPTQ. Getting better is easier if you recognize the talent around you, and the judge program is full of it!

janit mindisL2 Janit Mindis earned recognitions for subjects ranging from her attention to detail to  her work on GP Santiago.

Her response: What interests me most and where I focus most within the Judge Program is the community. I believe that being a Magic Judge is much more than judging in a tournament. It is mainly being part of a group, where we all seek to move forward and feel comfortable. That’s why I participate in projects that have these goals. I am in charge of the Latin American Community Team, where we recognize judges for their work, make interviews to share experiences and share reports of conferences and projects, so that all judges in the region know what is being discussed and what we’re working on.

ArsineyRussia and Russian-Speaking Countries
L2 Arseniy Egorov earned recognitions for subjects ranging from his presentation on deck checks to his relieving another judge during a GP even though Arseniy was already off-shift.

His response: I don’t need to think much what to answer: it is people! Every time I’m going to Grand Prix I make new friends, in Europe, USA, Asia, all around the world, there are awesome people.

I’m sure they will help me if something happens, and I will be glad to help them, too. Clubbing with a famous Malaysian DJ, drinking Russian Vodka with Italian judges, solving Escape Rooms with British and Dutch judges, sangria and ham with Spanish judges, museums and sightseeing with French judges, local experiences with Asian judges, LEGO stores with American judges, eating candies while walking around the city with Brazilian judges, being invited to a Chinese wedding while traveling across SE Asia… I can keep writing this list forever :)I learn from fellow judges. Many of them are role models for me and I’m looking forward to meet you, dear reader, and having a blast!

JANikitaNikita Tarima earned recognitions for subjects ranging from finalizing the translation of the Comprehensive Rules to testing a judge candidate in a remote location.

His response: I always see that if we do our work right, the game of Magic becomes better. I love M:TG. 🙂 That’s all.


Irina SamonovaL2 Irina Samonova earned recognitions for subjects ranging from maintaining a Magic-related web site to mentoring other judges.

Her response: The answer is short and clear: the people, the game and opportunity to see a lot of places.


QJ WongSoutheast Asia
L2 QJ Wong earned recognitions for subjects ranging from his travel guide for Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur to providing feedback for the Southeast Asia Judge Conference project.

His response: What drives me to continue my efforts in judging and judging community, like many others, are the people within the Magic community: the players, fellow judges, organizers and staff, as well as everyone involved. It makes me happy to help players enjoy the game that brought me so much joy, and helped me get through bad times. I take great pride in helping to ensure players have a good time at events I attend.

My fellow judges, organizers and staff have always been a valued source of motivation; their enthusiasm and dedication to their work never fails to awe me. Everyone has taught me so much, which helped shaped my life for the better, in ways both big and small. What better way to give back and show my appreciation to the community but to do the same (to the best of my ability) as all those who had inspired me all these years?

Luke MayUnited Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa
L1 Luke May earned recognitions for subjects ranging from his stellar customer service at GP London to his efforts organizing a regional judge conference.

His response: This answer is quite easy for me, it’s the camaraderie! I’ve been judging since 2004 and I certified a couple of years back. Every interaction I’ve had with judges has been progressive and forward-thinking. Judges from around the world seem to have the same goal in common on self-development and a keen drive to do what’s best for their community (be it local, regional, international or even a specific community inside the judge program) Back in the day, I was humbled and impressed by the Judge Program when I first found out about it and have continued to be inspired by it to this day. That camaraderie, to me, is the sitting in hotels after Grands Prix, discussing late into the night what’s important to us, individually and collectively, as judges. The European GP circuit has some incredibly passionate and dedicated judges with some incredible experience.

For example, when reflecting on an event with fellow judges and hearing them passionately describe something that went well for them, or exactly how they’d approach something the next time. That gives me a load of inspiration, allows me to share in their reflections, grow from it and make my own contributions to the player experience and the judge program. It’s also that camaraderie which allows me to be totally honest about my shortcomings, get crucial feedback and learn from it to grow. That’s what keeps me moving forward and that’s the energy I continue to use on my quest for L2!

Michael ArrowsmithUSA-Central
L2 Michael Arrowsmith earned recognitions for subjects ranging from the guidance he gave at SCG Milwaukee to his running the Judge of the Week project.

His response: I would have to say, the camaraderie.  It is amazing to basically have a second family every weekend I go to an event, put in work on a project, or attend a judge conference. People helping others grow, achieve goals, and enjoy the event with friends makes me look forward to going at it the next week.

John TempleUSA-Great Lakes
L3 John Temple earned recognitions for subjects ranging from his work on the Verification Committee to his advice to other judges.

His response: Simple, the people in the program. I have met some of the most amazing people in the Judge Program and I love being able to help them accomplish their goals. I wouldn’t be where I am in the program without the help of all the amazing people in the program and I want to be able to give just a little bit back of what I received.

Eric Dustin BrownUSA-Mid-Atlantic
L3 Eric Dustin Brown earned recognitions for subjects ranging from his work as judge manager for Eternal Weekend to acting as a backup regional coordinator.

His response: I believe in the cult of self-improvement. Over the last 6 years of really being active in the Judge Program I have not only become a stronger judge, but I believe that I’ve become a better person. People invested their time and their energy in me and helped me carve a path where I worked to keep improving. Because of that, I move forward by investing my time and my energy into the community here in Richmond, in the Mid-Atlantic, and really, to anyone that’s ready to face the things they’re bad at and work to get better. I don’t just do this to make better judges, I do this to help make better people.

CJ CrooksL3 C.J. Crooks earned recognitions for subjects ranging from his excellence as a judge manager to his mentorship.

His response: The snap answer is the people. I’ve met truly caring, talented, and dedicated people through my time in the Judge Program. From the friendships forged in PTQ grinding to the judges I’ve met once at an event, the support and love in the community is second to none. I grew up as a judge in the Florida Judge Crew. When life tried to knock one of us down, the others were always there to help in any way possible. It was and continues to be a network of friends who share a hobby, but a family first. I see much of the Judge Program in the same way. We, together, can run some of the best TCG tournaments in the world, but nothing surpasses the personal bonds that we create outside the game.

However, I have to acknowledge the people can’t be the only reason. Judging M:TG offers other unique opportunities. Each event is another logistical puzzle to figure out. Each event is another opportunity to interact with different cultures. Each event brings new lessons and learning opportunities.

Whether it be community building or event execution or the hundreds of projects in between, there is something in the program for anyone who wants to be involved. That is the success of the Judge Program in my eyes and what keeps me moving forward; a safe, welcoming community that provides opportunity for anyone willing to put in the effort.

Rob McKenzieUSA-North
L3 Rob McKenzie earned recognitions for subjects ranging from his work on the Exemplar Project to his assistance with a judge conference presentation.

His response: People.  No question, my motivations are about people.  I want people to be happier, better, and nicer.  I try to make these things happen.  Sometimes, this is taking personal time.  Sometimes, this is building a tool or a set of data.  Sometimes, this is going to an event to see someone.  Sometimes, this is playing in a team trios event with my buddies.I enjoy logistical challenges, I like building tools and spreadsheets, but I’m a huge extrovert, and the thing that gives me energy is interacting with people and getting that charge of energy from them.

Gil MedUSA-Northeast
L2 Gilbert Medeiros earned recognitions for subjects ranging from organizing the Northeast Leadership Conference to his diplomacy with players.

His response: The Magic Community is what keeps me going. As a whole, the Magic community is extremely accepting and provides a home for everyone.  From the beginning of my involvement as a player at the LGS Game King in Fall River, MA, to actually becoming a judge, I’ve been blessed with the opportunities to judge larger events and meet some of the amazing people in the Judge Program.Over my tenure as a judge, I have developed other reasons for judging. Most recently, it has been something that piques my interest in the “how” behind making events work, beyond just being a floor judge.  I love planning and executing events of all sizes, and love being able to work under pressure to make events work for everyone involved.Overall, the Judge Program has amazing people who continuously do amazing things. I have a sense of pride being one of their peers, and that is what keeps me going.

Scott Neiwert_SMUSA-Northwest
L3 Scott Neiwert earned recognitions for subjects ranging from his excellence as a team lead to his help with an L3 advancement.

His response: The passion and camaraderie that everybody in the program exhibits, and the enjoyment that we as judges help deliver to players pushes me forward.  This community has an incredibly diverse group worldwide, serving an even more diverse group of players.  The one thing that unites all of us is that passion, and reaping the rewards of that passion is so rewarding.  Whether that comes in the form of a huge smile from a first-time GP-er as you tell them about all of the awesome things you can do at GPs, or a pro very subtly pulling you aside and thanking you and the staff for the often grueling work.

Plus, sharing a beer with good friends from around the globe Sunday night is never a bad way to unwind and celebrate.

Spin RodriguezUSA-South
L1 Spin Rodriguez earned recognitions for subjects ranging from his performance at Grand Prix Portland to his efforts at a judge conference.

His response: It really took me a long while to think about this, but one thing kept resonating in my mind: The community itself.

I started judging maybe a year ago, because I wanted to find a way to give back to a game and a community that I loved. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to travel around the country, meet other Judges from all over the world, teach new players, and continue to enjoy a game that means a lot to me. And every time I do, I think to myself that, somehow, I’ve stumbled into finding the best people I’ve ever had the pleasure of being around – players and judges alike.

So, I think what keeps me moving forward, is simply the desire to positively impact the community that so many before me built, in any way that I can. And have some fun doing it.

L3 Bryan Prillaman earned recognitions for subjects ranging from inspiring judges through team-building exercises to his work on the Verification Committee.

His response: I like to accomplish things.  The Judge Program enables its members to create and innovate and lead and improve in so many different ways, it’s actually difficult to choose a direction.  You want to make events better?  There is a path for that.  You want to make judge training better?  There is a path for that.  You want to make the program infrastructure better?  There is a path for that.  Does the path you want to take not exist?  You have the power to make that path.  The freedom to choose an objective, create a plan for achieving it, and then make progress towards that goal is massively rewarding, and goes a long way to personal fulfillment.  It’s even better when you pull others into your goal (or they pull you into theirs) and you work together with friends.

Eliana RabinowitzUSA-Southwest
L2 Eliana Rabinowitz earned recognitions for subjects ranging from starting a discussion about microaggressions at tournaments to guiding people in how to handle judge calls.

Her response: I am really motivated by the level of mentorship in the judge community.  Judges very frequently will go out of their way to use their expertise to help other judges who need it.  The judge community is really centered around feedback and the amount of time and effort that many judges will contribute to helping each other grow is tremendous.  When I was just starting out as a judge, I was really scared to take judge calls at large events with an L3 or other experienced judge watching.  At one point, some judges took me aside and explained that more experienced judges in the program weren’t trying to catch me messing up.  They were there to help me improve and to be a safety net, so that I couldn’t fail.  Since then, I learned to trust my mentors, and it makes a huge difference.  It would be hard not to improve and grow in the program with the amazing resources available, if you are willing to accept help, seek feedback, and learn from others.  Unlike so many other communities, the Judge Program isn’t really about competition among judges.  It is like a really big team and that is really refreshing.  I have a lot to learn from other people, and as I get better at judging, I can also help other judges improve too.

Thanks to all the judges above for being awesome and sharing their motivations! See you next week when we return to highlight another judge and provide the answer to last week’s Two Truths and a Lie. In the meantime, if there is a judge who is also doing something exemplary, please nominate a judge TODAY!

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