Welcome, judges! Can you imagine what it would be like to be the only certified judge in your entire country? This week’s rock star doesn’t have to imagine. For a good portion of his career, he was the only certified judge in Turkey. Meet Yakup Cakmak!
Name: Yakup Çakmak
Location: İzmir, Turkey, Europe-East
Judge start date: July 2011
Occupation: Part time student, part time store-owner, part time publishing house personnel, part time fair organizer.
Favorite card: Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind. I started the game with the Theme Deck Izzet Gizmometry. The fact is Izzet is a Turkish male given name meaning Supremacy. Since then, Red-Blue became my favorite color combination. After the deck my first booster pack granted me Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind, which I was so powerful in my high school environment with my Ophidian Eye.
Least favorite card: Asceticism. When Scars of Mirrodin Block was legal in Standard, our store was recent in the city and I sold bunch of Asceticism to people who will play in the Game Day. Every single one of them beat me in the event.
Favorite format: Modern
Commander General: Sen Triplets
Favorite non-Magic Game: X-Wing Miniatures Game
Best tournament result: Quarterfinals in PPTQ Battle for Zendikar (Around 35-40 people)
Random fact about yourself: My room still has the decorations of my childhood including a carped which has roads and houses (actually a complete neighborhood) pictured on it. I have a close friend named Alara, and it’s not because her name.
Why did you become a Judge?
In high school, I already had a couple of players around me and I was running the tournaments in a very casual level, then people started asking me questions that I don’t know. In search of ancient knowledge, I decided to become a Judge.
Several of your Exemplar recognitions come from your having organized a judge conference for people in your region. Tell us more about what went into planning and running that conference, and any wisdom you’d like to pass on to others who want to serve as a conference organizer.
I am involved with big organizations apart from Magic, but most of them are in general related to Convention Culture (Roleplaying Games, Miniatures, Cosplay etc.). Having an observer’s experience from 2 other Regional Conferences, I mostly combined needs and difficulties of those two. The main difference was organizing a shuttle from/to airport and the Conference Shirts, which people kept as a memory. Also we were always actively present in hotel to help fellow Judges, which I think would cause a major problem otherwise because most people in Turkey doesn’t know any other language then Turkish.
Also before the event I asked people if there are specific things that they would ask, because the venue was remote from any other civilization and after I took personal feedback to improve further events.
You have been credited with keeping your Magic community going in Izmir. What sorts of challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them?
We had about 10 people playing Magic in my high school with only 1 store to buy (but there were no place to play) products in a 3 million people city. After graduating we lost our “special table” to play in high school, people slowly started quitting playing Magic. By that time around we found a local miniatures gaming club named Kule Sakinleri and started playing there.
Our first event was an Extended Tournament that held in late 2009 and some old players and other players that moved from bigger cities started to join. We proceeded to be a real store with Magic Prerelease (but since our products stuck in customs we hold that tournament in release weekend). My classes started getting tougher and we couldn’t hold any big tournaments for around 10 months, but people were visiting and playing Magic on daily basis and regularly.
In 2011, we had a regular player base but slowly losing people both from Magic and other games. I took responsibility and started running tournaments monthly, going to colleges for Magic Introduction Days, started collecting people around and basically bolstering Magic. Since then I didn’t encountered any big problems except most of people in Turkey stay away from Magic because it’s expensive compared to the other countries.
I always tried to keep a casual environment apart from Premier Events, mostly people were coming to play Planechase, Archenemy, Two-Headed Giant; or all of them at the same time. At the beginning most of the people were my friends and we became friends with other people who join the environment in no time. I think this is what kept our community together and growing since then.
How did you get involved in Magic in the first place?
I had a great love for fantasy fiction in 8th grade. I always carried a book with me (Lord of the Rings, Dragonlance) and read it even when the class is in session. One of my friends brought Fangren Hunter from Mirrodin and said his brother plays it and I would most probably like it.
I somehow managed the basic rules of the game but I didn’t had anywhere to play or buy, quickly forgot about it. A year later, talking with Alper Baran Sözmen (who is a Level 1 in my local community now) said there is a shop who sells them, we bought our first starter decks there.
What motivates you to continue being a Judge?
I am a Judge because most of the people trusted me and pushed me forward during the process of development in İzmir. After that I saw that there is a big World of Magic the Gathering. Every person I met during the time kept me more connected to Magic. I also have a big phobia about being trampled by the masses, so I don’t want to upset people who trusted me for all these years.
What is one tip you have for other Judges?
Be friends with players, they don’t have to be in your local community. Random players in other cities where you visit, or GP’s, or someone who see your shirt and ask about Magic. When they see your enthusiasm, they also become excited in playing Magic.
What’s the best part about your local Magic community?
We are a virtual family. Most of the people playing Magic together for years and everyone who joins can find a role in the community. There are no sects, cliques or teams, not because we don’t allow it because no one needed them yet. In general we hang out together, we organize big events together, when there is a problem everyone takes role for solution without hesitation.
If you could chat with one person, real or fictional, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Kvothe the Bloodless, from the Kingkiller Trilogy; he is a quick-thinker, has wits to save him from every situation he fells into. He is sometimes saved by luck but it’s not coincidental, when he sees an opportunity he seizes it. Yet he is stubborn, enthusiastic, recalcitrant and has will to learn and learn furthermore.
What was the proudest moment of your Judge life?
In Grand Prix Madrid 2015, I was on side events the second day. One of the players was having problems because he wasn’t used to the tournament environment. I helped the guy. After few hours, I was there again when he called for a Judge. Before he was leaving he came to me and asked if there is a way to tell Wizards that I’m good. I gave him a feedback card (I generally carry them for players who has a complaint). Then in Grand Prix Brussels 2015, I saw him while walking to tournament venue, we chit-chatted a little bit; again in second day of Brussels, there was a Judge Call with no Judge in vicinity so I rushed there, only to find opponent of “the guy” was the one making the call. The guy said, don’t worry, he is “the good Judge” and the feeling after I heard the sentence reminded me why I became a Judge in first place.
What character in Magic (real or fictional) represents you the best, and why?
Enormous Baloth. “Its diet consists of fruits, plants, small woodland animals, large woodland animals, woodlands, fruit groves, fruit farmers, and small cities.”
I love eating, there was a debate on how much I can eat in last years and it made everyone upset including me.
What do you see as your greatest strengths as a Judge?
I think I’m very friendly and have good communication with other people. I try to emphatize people and sense their problems if they don’t or can’t directly explain to me.
I also do very quick and complete deck-checks.
What are the areas you feel like you would most like to work on?
I would like to work about how to handle toxic players, I mean how to win them as a community, most of the cases the guy is either getting hate from the community or does something bad and becomes forced away. I’m willing to commit my time to express the other individual’s thoughts about them without shoving them away, also want to understand them to have create a link between them and other players so they can integrate in their community.
What do you see as your short-term and long-term goals within the Judge program?
Short-term: Get more involved in international community, get to Level 3.
Long-term: I want to become fully experienced and resourceful about at least one or two aspects of Judging. There are some people you can say that they are peaks of their specialization. I admire them.
Two Truths and a Lie
Two of the following statements are true and one is false. Figure out which!
- I hitchhiked from France to Turkey.
- I have transformed 600 piece of bulk rares into 2 Tarmagoyfs just with trading in 2 months.
- In the year 2015 I spent more time outside of Turkey judging events than I spent in Turkey living my normal life.
If there is a judge who is also doing something exemplary, please nominate a judge TODAY!