Travis Lauro

Hello Judges! We have a special feature for this week’s installment of Judge of the Week. For Exemplar wave #14, Travis Lauro from California had been chosen as your Exemplar Vanguard. So we have reached out to ask him a few questions.

Travis LauroName: Travis Lauro
Level: 2
Location: Riverside, California
Judge start date: July 2014
Occupation: Analytical Chemist
Favorite card: Armadillo Cloak
Least favorite card: Hazoret the Fervent
Favorite format: Standard
Commander General: Etali, Primal Storm
Favorite non-Magic Game: Hearthstone
Best tournament result: 6th place, SCG Open Cincinnati 2018

Why do you Judge?
Before I got into judging, I was playing Magic competitively on the local level. I discovered that when I was playing, my enjoyment at an event was largely on whether I was winning or losing, which was stressful for me. So initially, I became a Judge in order to continue attending events and be connected to the community without being emotionally invested in match results. I soon discovered that I really enjoyed judging events, and like playing Magic, continuously striving to become better is a never ending challenge, which appeals to my competitive nature.

You have been nominated to be the Exemplar Vanguard for Wave #14. Would it be possible to share with us the associated feelings?
It’s an awesome privilege to have been recognized for my Exemplar nominations. It is very satisfying to feel like the hard work you have put into improving and helping others is being noticed. Even after seeing the e-mail, I couldn’t believe I was selected out of so many hard working and deserving Judges. I also now feel a pressure to continue to work and improve in order to be worthy of this Vanguard selection.

Your nomination for Vanguard has been based on an Exemplar recognition written by Eliana Rabinowitz mentioning your superb mentoring skills and a great approach to giving feedback to others. Actually, it is a quite common point in your recognitions. What is your experience with feedback usage in the Judge Program? It may seem as if there has been a decline in this area lately. Do you have any insights or hints for other Judges in this regard?
Eliana is very kind, and she has excellent observation skills and insight, so I’m very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with her and receive feedback. I’m hesitant to speak on feedback trends for the Program as a whole, being as large and diverse as it is. That said, in my limited perspective, I think that we as Judges have moved away from the written review as the main channel for feedback. This could be in part due to the introduction of Exemplar, as it both acts as a means of feedback and consumes some of the limited bandwidth that Judges have for writing. I also think there’s a Program culture shift towards delivering feedback in person, either at an event or post-event gathering.

As far as hints for giving feedback to other Judges, for me, the most important thing is your feedback should be coming from a place of caring about the other person, and you also need to make it clear that this is the case. Pushing back on the critical feedback we receive is the natural response, and in order to overcome this emotional defense mechanism, the recipient must know that you are delivering this feedback because you are invested in their development. And as the person giving feedback, I think you’ll find it easier to be honest, critical, and constructive of another Judge when you do care about their development as a Judge.

What positive aspects has the Judge Program contributed to your everyday life?
I’m kind of an anti-social hermit in my home life, so the Judge Program has helped me to learn and practice a lot of interpersonal skills that I wouldn’t otherwise have. I’ve also had the privilege of meeting wonderful people who I can spend time with outside of judging. If I ever stop judging, these will be the things I’ll continue to benefit from.

What is one tip you have for other Judges?
Question everything! So much of our judging knowledge and tournament operations is learned from one other, often without much thought. I would encourage Judges to think critically about how and why things are the way they are. And if you’re ever unsure, or something doesn’t make sense, ask questions. In doing so, you will either learn something new or bring up points that hadn’t been considered before. This is something I wish I had realized earlier in my Judge career, as I really began to learn a lot more when I was finally comfortable asking questions of my Head Judges, team leads, and tournament organizers.

Proudest moment of your Judge life?
I was very proud to have challenged Kevin to write an article about investigations after Grand Prix Seattle in April. Being able to have an involved conversation about a difficult topic with one of the most influential Judges in the Program really made me feel like I had good insight into the particular subject.

What is your favorite non-Magic hobby?
Outside of Magic, I love to cook in my free time, especially desserts (because they’re so hard to mess up). In the past, I have invited people over to our home just so I could try making new, more challenging recipes. My wife has been very supportive in this hobby, and she had to suffer through my cooking before I was any good. My signature dish is floating island meringue.

How did you get involved in Magic in the first place?
When I was very young, my older brothers played the game casually. This was around the time of Revised Edition, and I was too young to understand the game. Later, I got a copy of the Starter 2000 set for Christmas, and soon (with the help of the included CD-ROM) I was battling with powerful cards like Vizzerdrix and Trained Orgg. After a few years of playing unsleeved cards on the school blacktop, I lost interest just before 8th Edition. In college, some of my friends encouraged me to attend the Gatecrash prerelease with them, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

The nomination selected by the Exemplar team came from Eliana Rabinowitz, and has been included below. Travis chose to be represented as an Artifact Creature – Construct. You can read more about Travis’ selection as the Vanguard on the Exemplar Project’s blog.
The feedback you gave to other judges at GP Dallas was exceptional. I went into the weekend planning to write you a review for your work as my ODE team lead, so I paid a lot of attention to how things were going, and we ended up jointly giving feedback to two of the judges we worked with. Feedback given in person can be difficult, because you have to have just the right balance between giving constructive criticism and making sure the recipient walks away feeling good about the experience. The feedback you gave was really insightful and showed an understanding for why the judges did what they did at the event. The method you used to deliver that feedback, of asking directed questions about how and why certain things happened and how they felt in different situations, did a great job of letting the recipient of the feedback control the conversation and come to the right conclusions themselves. This meant that they were very receptive to the feedback, and you were able to provide suggestions for what to focus on in order to improve. It was an impressive showing of understanding other judges and how they think, and I honestly think you made a significant positive difference to those judges.”

Travis Lauro’s Exemplar Vanguard Token

Two Truths and a Lie
Editors note: Due to the timing of this feature, the JotW team was unable to get Travis’ Two Truths and a Lie in time for today’s feature release. So here is TTaaL Magic Trivia Edition!

  1. At 307 cards, Legends is the largest Magic set.
  2. Terese Neilson and Ron Spencer are siblings.
  3. Phelddagrif is an honorary nod to the games creator.
The answer to the last Two Truths and a Lie...
Flora is indeed well traveled, but has only been to 32 states.

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

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