We are pleased to introduce this weeks Judge of the Week, Zohar Finkel! Hailing from Israel, his writing contributes great insight into leadership and most recently the retention and growth in the program. Read on to learn how to “shake off the rust”, take care of yourself at large events, and the power of planning.
Name: Zohar Finkel
Location: Rehovot, Israel
Judge Start Date: That would be the Guildpact prerelease, so January 2006.
Why did you become a Judge? Strange story – I was just getting into the game and had so many questions for our local organizer, but after looking into his answers I’ve noticed many of them weren’t correct. At that point I decided to teach myself the game rules, since I basically had to in order to get it right. The rest is history.
Occupation: Trying to make it as a Data Analyst.
Favorite card: Form of the Dragon. Because why be human – or settle for a dinosaur – when you can be a Dragon?
Least favorite card: One with Nothing. A bad card from a bad set.
Commander General: Sliver Overlord.
Favorite non-Magic Game: Definitely “Tzolk’in: the Mayan Calendar” with the expansion. At this point I’ve played it over 100 times, and as my friend would say, “it still grinds my gears.”
Best tournament result: I once won a tournament here, where the first prize was one of the power nine cards. A Timetwister I believe.
Worst BTW, was a prerelease of nearly 100 people, where I came in last.
Random fact about yourself: Loud sudden noises cause me to blink involuntarily.
You were nominated for your work on the Judge Program Organization Chart. Can you tell us a little about what that is and why it’s important?
We’ve actually written an article about that (jump to the “usage” paragraph) but to sum it up and save people the click – The Org charts deals with the Macro of the different projects and spheres within the judge program. It helps the program coordinators understand the state of all the hundreds of projects that are taking place within the program (about 750 at this point) such as what overlaps and what is missing, and it also helps judges who wish to volunteer for projects but don’t know where to look other than a big “project help wanted” page.
I’d also like to believe we make a difference – for example to my knowledge we were the first ones who came up with the need for an education sphere, later pointed out how it was getting way too big, and now it sprung the two new spheres of coaching and learning.
Another example – In the most recent chart update we’ve tried to categorize all the different independent projects, so if that would lead to the creation of a new relevant sphere that could better organize these projects, thus helping judges and the program, I would be most happy about it.
What are some tips you have for other Judges?
The first tip I ever got was to wear comfortable shoes, and after buying a cheap pair of shoes for a tournament and having to throw away those feet-torture-devices afterwards, I pretty much try to stick by it.
Second tip would be to always try and put yourself as an outside observer. Once I was back home from a tournament which I felt went rather smoothly, only to read all the complaints people wrote about it afterwards. What for me seemed like a well run event, turned out to be an unpleasant experience for the players, and I was left wondering if it could have been avoided.
Lastly, take care of yourself as a judge, so you could in return help the players.
What challenges have you faced or are you facing to become a better judge, and how have you worked to overcome them?
Just a few years ago I was THE main judge in my country – That is I was area captain, sole L2, and basically did all the competitive events. Since then the judge population here exploded, all while the number of competitive tournaments dropped. This led me to gather up some rust, and because we’re lone rangers here, plus flying over to GPs isn’t really worth while, I’m still gathering rust. Trying to overcome it, last year I went to a GP in Turin, and while it indeed showed me just how rusted I am, I also got valuable feedback, learned up to date tournament stuff (there’s a kickstarter team now!) and peeled some of that rust before our nationals.
How has being a Judge influenced your non-Magic life?
I guess it boils down to the good people I met while acting as a judge.
Who have been some of your biggest mentors in the Judge Program, and what did they teach you?
There are numerous pillars within the program, giants whose shoulders I’m standing on, and it would be impossible to name them all. I’ll list my “top 3”:
Long before there were regional coordinators, even before there was the judge pyramid, there was Uncle. Whenever I had a serious problem I’d contact him (I still do at times) and always get replies. If you have a problem just think “What would Scott Marshall do?”, or instead of thinking you can post to the forums and get an [O]fficial answer from him.
Second one would be Ivan Petkovic. Ivan is originally from my region, and I was sorry to see him leave. He’s extremely experienced, intelligent, and if you get to be on a conference with him, know that all of his presentations are just wonderful. The coaching sphere is in great and capable hands. Having said all of that, what I got from him the most was judging despite your own disabilities.
Last but most certainly not least is my dear friend George Gavrilita, who is probably the most awesome guy I know, as a judge or otherwise. Not only is he an experienced and world renowned judge, not only is he super involved in the program and probably the highest exemplar recognized L2, but he also seems to have endless enthusiasm about judging, and never ending optimism in general – sometimes I wish just a fraction of it would rub onto me.
A few honorable mentions: My RC Giorgos Trichopoulos who manages to coordinate the largest region with 16 different countries and still be there for us, Dustin de Leeuw who is also full of positivity whenever I meet him – plus he’s fine with people just remaining at their current level while sometimes I feel the program is trying to “push” people forward, my colleague Yuval Tzur who I seem to be rotating the mentor-protégée role with every now and then, and finally Alfonso Bueno who besides excelling as an head judge also cares greatly about the judge program and does his best to navigate it in good directions.
What positive aspects has the Judge Program contributed to your everyday life?
I’m actually quite the introvert, but putting the uniform on allows me to interact with people, talk to a crowd, manage a big group of people, and even lead a team. Being a judge helped get some of the extrovert part of me out into the open.
What’s the best part about your local Magic community?
At some point there were problems with the local importer of the game. People from within the community took it upon themselves to become importers and others to work for them and assist so we could all have prereleases, drafts and tournaments. Even now we have game store owners who came from within the community and care for it and for the game. I think that’s great, and hope today’s Magic kids will grow up and invest back in the community the same way if needed.
What is your favorite non-Magic hobby?
Board games. I have like 4-5 different board game groups which I go to in order to play every week.
How did you get involved in Magic in the first place?
I saw a friend of mine playing it, and me being all into games, got hooked.
If you were a Planeswalker what would be your ultimate?
A good ultimate for me is one that doesn’t win you games but rather makes it a lot more winnable. It’s also consistent with the other planeswalker abilities and interacts with them, so let’s start with those. Personally I’m a combo player, so it would be something like…
+X: Draw a card. Then put up to 1 card from your graveyard or your hand on the bottom of your library.
-Y: Target opponent skips his or hers next draw step.
-Z: You get an emblem with “If you would draw a card, instead search your library for a card. You may cast it without paying its mana cost. If you don’t cast it, put it into your hand.”
Now just search for an Ancestral Recall and you’re golden.
Why would that ultimate fit me? Because I prefer to be planned and calculated, over having stuff happen at random.
What’s the biggest rule-breaking play you’ve ever made as a player?
Not quite a rule breaker, but I once was at a tournament where an equipment (I don’t remember which one) gave the opponent’s creature some nasty abilities, plus making it hard to kill. I drew a Pithing Needle and after thinking for a bit named that creature for the needle, effectively neutralizing it. I spent the rest of that game trying to kill every other creature in response to the opponent trying to move that equipment.
Two Truths and a Lie
Two of the following statements are true and one is false. Figure out which!
- I get asked that a lot, so now would be a good time to address it – Jon Finkel is a far relative of mine. Still, me getting into Magic has nothing to do with him.
- I was once in an enemy country. It happened during my military service, and that’s all I can say about it.
- Unlike other judges who connect quite a lot on Facebook, my profile only has 10 friends.
If there is a judge who is also doing something exemplary, please nominate a judge TODAY!