Welcome to the Northwest Passage!

Welcome to the NorthWest Passage!

Judges of the USA-Northwest! Welcome to the Northwest Passage, a blog where we discuss the latest happenings in our region and work to connect our geographically separated region.

We plan to use this platform to provide news, updates, and random bloggings about all things related to our region. Our region is one of the most diverse and geographically isolated regions in the judge program. We have judges separated from major cities and stores by large distances. Many judges may not realize that our region includes Alaska, Hawai`i, and Guam!

Our region could improve on communication, which we will address in various ways, one of which is this blog. We need all of you to help make our connection and unity stronger!

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This inaugural blog post provides details about a recent gathering of Area Captains and Level 3 judges to align our regional goals and develop our initiatives. We discussed projects to build unity, improve judge knowledge, and increase communication throughout our region.

Creating a Vision

We wanted to create a vision statement that we can all look to. Many regions across the Judge Program have similar goals; most do not have the same challenges that the Northwest has, including mountains, oceans, and vast undeveloped areas. We drafted a statement, and now we need your input:

Vision: Strengthening judges of the largest and most isolated region.

What do we mean by this? Strengthening judges is essential as we work together to improve our knowledge of rules and policy, develop interpersonal skills, and enhance communication channels. We want to move towards training and skill building while overcoming the challenge of being the largest and most isolated region. We know that many of you reading this are in the middle of a major metropolitan area, and many of you are not. Do you know who your Area Captain is? Do you know most or all of the judges in your state or area? Do you know the judges in the state next to yours? We are geographically spread out, resulting in us having the largest region in terms of travel distance. We need to find ways to build connections between us, to cross the Ensnaring Bridge of isolation, and develop a sense of community including those who are in an Isolation Zone.

What modifications would you like to make to this vision statement draft? What can we work on to support judges in all of our region’s diverse areas, from Mountains to Dust Bowls, from Forsaken Citys to Tropical Islands? Please feel free to respond with a comment or start a conversation on Slack!

Finding Strength in Isolation

Strength of IsolationWe have chosen a special insignia card. We can carry this to identify us as judges of the Northwest as we work together to build and unify our region.  We will find strength despite our isolation!

We are hoping to build initiatives within our region through various projects, and these require regional participation. We need your participation! Read on for information about projects you can join. Let it be known that we need judges interested in contributing to this blog. If you would like to write or edit for our region, please contact Stephan Classen or Bryan Spellman (through Judge Apps, Facebook, email, or Messenger Falcons).

We are working to make the Areas and Area Captains more visible. Joe Klopchic is working on a map to display our areas. He could use your help! Please contact him for more information. (Joe prefers you avoid sending the aforementioned falcons.)

A Meeting of Minds

The Area Captain Meeting covered many topics. We’ve provided a list for your browsing pleasure:

  • We would like to create a regional icon as has been done in other areas. We plan to hold a regional contest for a design idea and adopt a symbol to represent our region. Stay tuned for details.
  • We want to design more regional items (notepads, bottles, more judge shirts). We have heard the complaints that some judges missed order deadlines for the shirts; we are going to build a schedule that allows the online store to open at least once a year. Feedback from the last shirt order was extremely positive. We would like to thank Stephan Classen for organizing the last design and print run and Neil Pendon for the regional map design!
    The store is currently open!  You can order hoodies and polos, and the order will close on 9/7, when the shirts will be made and shipped!
  • Heroes' Podium Montana is trying out a cool new initiative for areas that do not have large enough events to compensate two judges. Each event at a store has increased the entry fee by $1 to go towards supporting a second judge every few events. This provides a way for L1 judges to have more opportunities for training and experience. The stores can offset the cost of having two judges at an event and players will have a better trained judge staff to help ensure events are well run. Brook Gardner-Durbin will have more to tell you soon!
  • We spoke about TO-Judge interactions, and how we can help judges get more opportunities, especially in isolated areas. One suggestion was to find ways to make it easier for stores to find a judge. Along with this discussion, we discussed that  judges need to make sure we balance the statement: “Keep it Fair, Keep it Fun”. Events should be fun for players. That fun can be lost if we enforce the rules as if we were in a criminal trial. After all, Magic is still “just” a card game.
  • We want to institute Regional Projects to help support our judge community. The initial projects are:
    • Area Captain Meetings – This will expand what the ACs are doing already, provide input on how to keep the other projects running smoothly, and support judges and areas as needed. Meetings will be held online and in person as needed. Uncle Scott will be leading the scheduling of these meetings.
    • Communication Team – Blogging, spreading information about events and reports, announcing roles needed in the region, new judge announcements, in-region activities (slack rules review/GPs, etc.), and regional goals.
    • The Welcome Wagon – This is an existing project that we would like to continue supporting. All new L1 and L2 judges receive a welcome letter with suggestions on what to do next, contact information, and resource links.
    • Education team – This team of judges will be responsible for helping our judges learn and grow. They will handle the online Slack rules reviews, share resources for teaching, build a knowledge base of shared experiences and ideas, and teach policy application.
  • We would like there to be term renewals for the leaders. This is to help ensure passionate leaders and provide opportunities for judges looking to be more active within our region. We will try out a Project Lead duration of approximately six months. Near the term completion, the AC team will ask people to apply or re-apply for the position.

Please contact us if you would like to be a part of these teams! Let us know your ideas and desired projects. Do we want a swag team to handle making products for our region? How about conference organization? We are open to any and all ideas that you believe the Northwest region needs!

You’re almost to the end!

Wow! That was a lot of information! Congrats on making it this far!

Did we miss anything that you would like the region to work on? We are going to be pushing more discussions to our Slack channel. (contact Stephan to be added!) We ask that everyone keeps an open mind and puts on their patience pants. This may result in growing pains with some conversations being in different channels, and people starting to use Slack in different ways. Please do not discourage the use of Slack; let discussions run free for a bit, even if they are not in the “proper” channel. We hope to soon have articles on the best-practices of Slack, but for now, please remember that you can turn off notifications or leave a channel if you need to.

If you are not in our regional groups, but want to be, join us in Slack (contact Stephan) and Facebook.

Thanks for taking the time to read this lengthy blog post.


Bryan Spellman, Stephan Classen, Scott Marshall, Nole Clauson, Lee Fisher, Brook Gardner-Durbin, Mark Hensley, Jeff Higgins, Joe Klopchic, James Lee, Jeremiah Adams, Neil Pendon, Chris Schafer, James Watson, Brandon Welch