Failure

I want to take a second and talk about failure.

I’ve discussed in previous posts about my aversion to failure; how the fear of it drove me to near panic at SCG Baltimore.  It’s a word and concept I hate and when it gets close to rearing its ugly head I tend to throw anything I can at it to keep it at bay.  But sometimes we can’t avoid it and it comes knocking not matter the effort we put forth against it.

Judging is important to me (I hope that’s been evident so far anyway).  I like to think I have an affinity for it; despite being an introvert, I have ‘people skills’ in spades and interacting with players and fellow judges is honestly my favorite part of the job.  Throw in a dash of education to make players even better slingers of spells and you have everything I could want in a hobby or profession.

The judge program, rightly so, has levels of certification.  They’re built in fail safes to make sure that the judges Tournament Organizers tap for their events know the rules, the tournament procedures, and can hand out appropriate penalties for the betterment of players and the tournaments themselves.

I’ve been a level one judge for little over a year at this point.  To be completely frank, I didn’t really do much judging until about six months into that certification.  Then I judged five events in six weekends, got hooked, and the rest is history.  The judge program is such a welcoming and supportive place and I’m happy to have found it.  I have no doubt I will be a judge for a very long time.

It was after GP Charlotte that I really decided I wanted my level two certification.  Working a large event was nothing like I expected (in all of the best ways, even with WLTR eating tournament results and spitting out new side events) and I knew I wanted more.  To get there, I needed that next step in my judging career because as much as I want to, it’s just not feasible in my budget to do more than a few big events in a year.

For me, a few just doesn’t cut it.

And when I want something I have a tendency to drop everything and go for it with a single-mindedness that has lost me friends in the past.  In my head, it was the perfect time to move forward.  The school year was almost over, the minimum time limit had passed, I’d judged the appropriate number of events in the past, and with blog posts on several events up on Word Press, my Regional Coordinator had given the okay for it to cover my tournament report obligation.

I’d also heard from a few people that I was ready to make the plunge into the process; to quote my friend and mentor Zak DeLadurantaye: “You’re ready to be an L2 when you start acting like an L2.”

But there was a small worry in my brain that also pushed me forward; summer gave me enough free time to delve in but once I started my new teaching job in September I wouldn’t have time to pursue it any longer.”  That fear drove me as much as my passion did.

To say I jumped in with both feet is honestly a massive understatement.  I soaked in everything I could.  I asked questions and advice of every L2 I knew, mostly through Facebook.  One of the L2s I met briefly in Charlotte from Brasil, André Tepedino, quickly became another one of my mentors as he led me through several difficult questions and scenarios (and with English not being his native language!).

Brogan King was a fabulous stress sponge for me; she calmed my anxieties about judging and applying to events several times, offering up her own cover letters on multiple occasions so I would have a basis to work from.  That support was no doubt instrumental in getting me accepted to GP Charlotte.  She and Liz Richardson fielded so many questions during SCG Spring states in May, which was my first big Comp REL event.  Their calming presence keep my nerves at bay.

Sean Linkous, was also consistently there as he has been since I began the process of becoming a judge, served as a sounding board for my anxieties and my fears while pushing me forward and reminding of all the great things I had done and was doing.

I posted my desire to conquer the test on Facebook, asking for questions which turned into a huge thread covering several different aspects of judging and sent me digging through the rules and policy for days after.

Brendan Whatley walked me through the answers of complicated, yet common issues found in eternal formats.

The chat birthed by the need for roommates in GP Indy soon became a separate testing ground where Zak and another Great Lakes judge Spencer Cole grilled me on various aspects of judging.  This took on another life entirely as I drew my line in the sand and made my desire to test at GP Indy known.  The chat morphed into a weekly video call where Zak (often with assistance) led myself and a few other L1s who were also interested in testing for L2, through the intricacies of the both the IPG and Comprehensive rules.  They were a fantastic resource as they fostered several discussions and really let us dig into the meat of why the rules worked the way they did and how policy has been shaped and molded by the judges who wield it.

As an aside, I can’t adequately express my gratitude to Zak for putting those calls together.  They were so fantastic and I hope that other judges pick up this technique use with their level ones and twos.

On one of these calls, John Temple (a level three from the Great Lakes) gave me a piece of very sage advice: if you can test *anywhere* but a GP, do it.

Turns out, not only was it sage advice, it also ended up being timely as well.  My dear friend, fabulous judge mentor, and all around great human Eric Dustin Brown (colloquially now referred to as 3DB) attained his level three judge certification, an eventuality that everyone who knows him knew he would reach.  We spoke, set a date for the week before GP Indy, and went to work.  He sent me questions via Messenger, quizzed me when we worked together at SCG Baltimore, and otherwise supported me as July bled into August.  His reviews of my performance pushed me and kept me motivated.

The more I did, the more I asked, the more I pushed myself, the more I realized I have never wanted anything more in my adult life than to earn my level two judge certification.

All throughout this I was consistently taking hard practices and policy practices via judge center.  In the beginning, they kicked my ass but as the test grew closer my scores got better.

I started to feel like I could really pass this test.

Considering how I started this post, you’ve probably figured out the outcome of my test.  It was deliberate.  I wanted you to see how much time effort that not only I put into it, but of some many judges of all levels.  They were all rooting for me; they all gave up personal time to talk, coach, and encourage me.  I hadn’t worked so hard toward a goal since my graduate program.

But… I still failed.

Going over the test, EDB gave me the option to hear my score first or to go over the items I missed.  I elected for the latter, knowing that regardless of the outcome I would be too emotional to absorb and learn from my mistakes. As the questions began to make a small pile I couldn’t help but count.  Towards the end I knew it was too many and I began to bite back tears.

I ended up missing two questions too many.  I was also haunted by the number two in my results; on my second run through of the test I changed two answers and the items that I was unsure of came in pairs.

Once we were through everything, I knew my emotions were beginning to slip through.  There were a few tears but I held it together as we continued to talk.  The entire time, EDB handled it with finesse and tact; the fact I was upset was obvious but he knew I needed professionalism in that moment.  The news hurt but the fact that it came from Eric, the person I look up to most and kind of judge I want to be, it stung a little less.

I was so close; there were a lot of questions that I got correct which had caused other judges problems.  Every question I missed I narrowed to down between the almost right answer and the correct one.  That only highlighted that I was ready to take this test; it just so happened that lady luck handed me items I needed to work on in pairs.

Finally EDB looked at me and said, “Don’t let this test beat you.  You were almost there; don’t stop.  The next time I put a test in front of you, I know you’ll crush it.”

We parted ways with a hug and I made it back to my car before I broke down into sobs.  I cried most of the two hour drive back from Richmond.

I put my everything into this process and it was almost good enough.  I’d be lying if part of me didn’t feel like throwing in towel and being done.  I don’t handle failure well; logically I know it’s a part of life but when it happens I’m more likely to head anywhere but toward the object of my failure.

But that would have been such a disservice to everyone who helped me prepare the first time which is why I had to show you the time and effort that goes into molding a level 2 judge.  All that effort is still there; it’s just that now I’ve been given more time to build on that knowledge, to strengthen my foundations so that when I reach that level I know the ground I stand on will be firm and un-moving.

And although I haven’t reached level two yet, I’m still a damn good judge.  Being a level one is nothing to be ashamed of; you’re still a judge.  You still get to be a pillar of your Magic community.  You still get to educate players and shape them into better versions of themselves.  You still get to be a leader is this game we all love so much.

I think what I’ve taken away from this the most is to embrace the failure.  Examine it; pick through its nuances.  Really get to the meat of the issue at hand and shake loose every piece of information you can.  Because without mistakes, we can’t grow.  You remember far more when you stumble than when you breeze through.  The lessons learned through failure become part of you; they stick to your soul and guide your future self toward betterment.

Forge failure into the tools of success.

SCG: Baltimore (AKA The Imposter Open)

This past weekend I put on a blue SCG judge shirt for the first time.  It would be my first time on the floor of a large competitive event and I was both excited and nervous.  In order to improve myself and gain more experience as I continue my road toward my level 2 certification, it as a step that I needed to take.  It’s also important to have your name and face known to the big Tournament Organizers, like Star City, because they tend to run the larger tournaments.  That was in my mind a great deal leading up to the tournament and one of the goals I set for myself was that I was going to perform better than at GP Charlotte:  I was gonna be perfect.

In the end, perfection is almost what ruined me.

As a person, I want to be in control of everything.  For me, part of that control comes from performing the jobs I am given at the most optimal level possible.  That in and of itself is necessarily a bad thing but the level at which I wish to reach is.  A lot of the things I have done in my life have come easy so reaching that optimal level only required a bit of effort.

Judging is very different.  Not only are there so many rules and interactions but the only way you can become a better judge is going out and judging events.  You may have the rules down to a science but have to work on your interpersonal skills with players.  You might be able to build a rapport with players but the mysteries of WER might elude you for a time.  I takes a very long time and a large amount of effort before you hot the point where you could be considered a well-rounded judge.  (Spoiler alert: we call that level 3.)

In order for me to get better judging, mistakes have to happen.  To quote the infamous James Kerr: “You have to mess up to get better.”

First mistake of Saturday:  deciding to volunteer for a sales booth shift.  The actual working wasn’t bad, as stressful as retail can be when things get busy, but it meant I missed judge meeting before the tournament starts.  I got to my place a mere 15 minutes before the main event started and effectively played ten minutes of catch up as I met my team lead and the rest of my team, all but one whom I hadn’t met before.  It made me feel separate from a lot of things and looking back I think it was the first step in the wrong direction for the weekend.

I was on the paper team on Saturday, which meant that we coordinated cutting and passing out slips.  The goal was to get them out as quick and efficiently as we could, a goal that was communicated to me by my team lead Martha (Skipper) Lufkin.  She also communicated all the information I missed while working the booth and trying to absorb it all so quickly was a bit overwhelming.  Again, I had no one to blame but myself.  I have a pretty embedded habit of trying to bite off more than I can chew.

Looking back on it, the majority of my day went fine.  I had several Spell Queller calls as players hashed out a new Standard format and some angling by players to see just how many turns Emrakul really steals but around the fourth round I began to feel a little disheartened.  I very much felt like I wasn’t doing enough.

I wasn’t taking enough calls; I wasn’t solving enough problems.

In my head, I wasn’t being a judge rock star which meant that I wasn’t being a good enough judge.

I was scared I wasn’t doing enough.  Scared isn’t even a strong enough word because I was downright terrified.  Terrified that someone was gonna find me out; call me out as a hack who wasn’t fooling anyone; be asked to leave because I wasn’t a good enough judge.

It was the fear more than the drive to do well that pushed me that day.  I started to feel separated from my fellow judges even as they made an effort to get to know me, attempt to make me feel more welcome on the floor it didn’t really get through to me.  I don’t know if this was their normal status quo at events (most likely this option) or if they picked up on my unease or feeling of not belonging.  I placed a barrier between myself and them and felt very much alone.

Each little misstep that happened made me feel worse, even ones that were honestly outside my control.  We had both players in a match not understand the difference between a game and match which led to a 15+ minute time extension as one re-sleeved his entire deck.  I had no way of knowing this; when playing in a high level competitive event, you just assume that your players know the difference between a  game and a match.

But when an L3 found me to ask me what was going on with the extension I still felt like it was my fault.  I had no control of the situation but I still took all the blame for it.  The judge questioning me didn’t blame me for it, he was just looking for information but I still felt at fault.

It got to the point that during round seven I excused myself to the bathroom and had a good cry in one of the stalls.  I was sure that I was messing everything up royally; even crying in the bathroom felt like a failure because I was wasting time when I could’ve been on the floor judging.

I eventually cleaned myself up and ventured out onto the floor again.  At this point I was ashamed that the feeling had driven me to tears, and that paired with a friend telling me to stop it (a response to a Facebook post), I squared up my shoulders and was ready to approach the rest of the day with  better attitude.  It worked.  My team lead even mentioned the next day that I woke up in the later rounds and really began to be a presence.

The end of the day came and I was released and while I felt better about my performance in the last few rounds, the overall feeling from the day was a negative one.  Luckily, instead of dwelling on it like I would have in the past, I’ve met a lot of great people in the judge program and I started shooting messages to a few to see if they had any insight into what happened.  Spencer and Zak had the answer:  Imposter Syndrome. I fit the symptoms to a tee; I saw my day unrolling as I read the blog post.  You should read it, and everything else on the blog while you’re at it.

The next day, with the knowledge of what happened fresh in my mind, I headed into my day with an entirely different mindset.  I was ready to learn and embrace the missteps I took.  And boy, were there a bunch.  It was my first time launching, and seating side events and my whole day was shuffling players around, asking players to move and generally even trying to watch some Magic.  Granted, it could have been because there was less pressure because I was no longer on the main event but I like to think that I faced the day with an entirely new mindset.

My team lead on Sunday, Sarah Ellis, and the rest of the judges on my team were rock stars that day.  When we had to spend a few hours a judge down, together we supported one another until that judge returned and some of the pressure lessened.  I enjoyed the entirety of my day so much more than Saturday because I was able to engage my fellow judges in rules and policy talk.  We swapped stories and tips and I engaged players in conversation and banter which helped my day fly by.

The big take away from that weekend is this:  believe in yourself.  Especially with an institution like he judge program that is built in such a way that there are layers of support, push forward with confidence and don’t let your fears of failure get in your way.  If you stumble, if you fail a call, if you fail a player, there are contingencies in place to repair the mistakes that are made.  By owning up to your mistakes, you will grow as a person and as a judge.

Let your weaknesses make you stronger.

Puppies, Magic, and Foils, Oh My!

It’s been a hot minute since I put fingers to keys and I apologize for that.  My alter ego is a school teacher and we tend to celebrate the beginning of summer vacation with a lot of gusto.  I meant to write this piece weeks ago but then people in the world were awful and I think I was recovering from that too.

About two weeks ago the players in my area did an amazing thing: they raised 620 dollars for a local animal shelter.  They also donated so much food and supplies that there wasn’t enough room in their donation boxes for it all.

Shelter Food
I mean, look at it all!

I was so proud of them.  If I was the Grinch (which I am far from), my heart would’ve grown three sizes that day.  I received so many heartfelt thank yous that I wished my players could hear.  They were the real heroes; I was just the messenger delivering their hard work.

The Magic community can be a powerful place; while it sometimes has a bad reputation, it is mostly filled with good, big hearted people who like to sling spells.  I recognized this early on but it wasn’t until I became a judge and started establishing myself as a visible part of the community that an idea wiggled its way into my brain.

This is not only about how I threw together this tournament but also why every community who can support one should do the same.  It fosters such a sense of community that it may be powerful enough to pull stores in the area together.

The idea first presented itself while I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook.  Since I started judging, my social network has grown to include several judges and other Magic folks outside of my area.  I paused at one of the events a judge friend had shared.  Someone was throwing a draft tournament and all the proceeds were being donated to a local cat rescue. I remember thinking how cool that was and how I would easily pay 15 or 20 bucks for a draft if it meant the money was going to a good cause.  I also mentally lamented about the fact that my area would probably never do anything like it.

That’s when I paused and realized there was no real reason why a tournament like that couldn’t happen here.  Maybe someone had just never taken the time.

I dropped into the Mid-Atlantic judge group and posted about advice on how to get one fired.  My fellow judges had some very solid advice about how to go about doing things.  The most common piece of advice was something the effect of:  you’ll have a lot of people who will play just to do some good in the world but to really make sure your tournament is successful, you need some kind of prize support that will draw the Spikes out to play too.

Therein lied my first problem:  I personally didn’t have a lot to offer in prize support and I knew if I went to a store and asked for both space and product for a tournament where they weren’t receiving any of the entry fees, I would likely be laughed out of the store.  I’ve worked at a LGS (local game store) and I understand that they have to make money to survive and continue giving players a place for Magic.

Enter the first of many super heroes: Nicholas Sabin.  He’s my regional coordinator and pretty much one of the most awesome judges I’ve had the pleasure to work with.  He kind of swooped in like Superman, but I have a feeling he’d rather be compared to Batman.  But in this case, he was actually Bruce Wayne; willing to share his bounty for a good cause.  He asked me some questions: who was going to judge, what REL (rules enforcement level) would the tournament be played, where was the money being donated to, etc.  At that point I only had the basics figured out so he tasked with solidifying the details and then we could chat again.

I was now a woman on a mission and when that happens I get things done.  I dropped into the store where I play, Comic Kings, and brought it up with my friend Patrik who runs all things Magical at the shop.  He was all about the idea but had to pass it by the big boss and I would hear from him in a day or so.

Those few days were torture; I now had the bit firmly in my teeth and I just wanted to run with it.  When I get excited about something, my enthusiasm knows no bounds, but I also knew without a place to play this would never happen anyway.  When I got the confirmation that they would love to host for free I was over the moon.

Until I realized I still didn’t know where the money would go.

I thought on it for a long time; there are a lot of bigger organizations that do wonderful things for the world but those didn’t really feel like they fit right.  I’d started to realize that this could be a chance for some real community building and for that to happen to its fullest potential, the recipient needed to be local to the community as well.  I wanted Magic to do some good in the world, even if it was just my local world.

My brain wandered but then it redirected itself back to the original inspiration and I was struck with how silly I was being.  A lot of people love animals, so why not throw it to benefit the local shelter.  I even had a contact on the inside; getting someone on the phone should be easy.

Y’all, it took weeks and several visits before I was able to talk to the right person in the shelter.  I almost gave up; I saw this little dream I created inching further and further away and I started to think it would never happen.  Then I finally got on the phone with Amanda, who was in charge of community relations for the shelter and I explained my idea to her.

She was so happy and excited and it filled my heart with such joy.  She even agreed to bring out a few of the shelter dogs which made me the most excited.  Magic and dogs?  Match made in lovable heaven.

One last obstacle lay in my path:  I needed to find a judge.  When talking with Nicholas Sabin, I had originally volunteered to do it myself because I didn’t feel comfortable asking another judge to essentially work for free.  But again, he was a super hero and not only offered prize support for the event but also support to give to a judge working the event.

I ended up asking my friend and rock star L2 Jeph Foster if he would head judge the event.  He accepted, graciously giving up his opportunity to go to GP Columbus that same weekend.

It turned out that I hit a gold mine by asking Jeph to judge.  Not only was he super excited about the event, but he also made a stunning flyer to advertise it as well.

IMG_0643
I mean, look at how pretty that is?

Together, the both of us advertised in the weeks leading up to the tournament.  (I know people in my local Facebook magic group as well as the people tied to my personal Facebook page must have gotten sick of it toward the end, but I was determined to make it as successful as possible.)

The community as a whole also rallied behind us and the tournament.  The flyer was shared countless times on Facebook and I dropped flyers off at other stores with their permission.

But that wasn’t the best part.

Our community Magic scene can be very combative.  Stores don’t always play nice and work together, which as a judge trying to build up a community can be very frustrating.  The stores know it but still refuse to budge on certain things.  A lot of my players have voiced concern that my goal to unite the stores in my area is a lost cause, but it’s one of my goals on my large judging to-do list and I will get it done.

Turns out charity helps lay down a lot of that groundwork.  I contacted more stores in the area about possibly contributing and the outpouring of support blew me away.  I had two separate stores donate boxes or packs of Magic cards.  I also had other players throw in more prizes as well, including a World Magic Cup Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and several playmats from Jeph, and my other judge friends Austin Whitehead, Eric Dustin Brown, and Brogan Elizabeth King.

The day of the tournament was beautiful, if hot, and once the doors open the donations just started rolling in.  We ended up having 31 players, just short of six rounds, and  Jeph ran a smooth tournament and I could tell the players were enjoying it (door prizes after every round helps).  I hopped from player relations to making sure the dogs and shelter volunteers were hydrated and as cool as we could make it.

It was amazing to watch the players interact with the dogs, but it also brought the attention of the people shopping in the area that day.  Each time I went outside, the volunteers were talking to someone new.  Inside, I could tell that my players felt good about the good things they were doing for the community.

All told we raised $620 and enough supplies to fill up the trunk of my car as well as almost the entire interior.  When I dropped off the supplies, the employees at the shelter just watched with big grins as I brought in armful after armful.  Even more exciting; the money we raised was able to pay for heartworm surgery for (in my opinion) the cutest dog there, Ranger.

Now a full month and a half later, I still have people talking about it.  More than a few have asked me if I’m planning on doing another one (it’s certainly in the back of my mind).  I’m hoping that continued philanthropy and cooperation between stores will help push my area toward a better, more positive Magic scene.

Our work is far from done, but with the help of players and stores, we can make that concept a reality.

Oh!  I almost forgot the best part:  we helped get two of the shelter dogs who showed up (the Dachshund Charlie and the yellow Labrador) adopted!  Keep scrolling to gush over their adorable faces.

 

Charlie
Charlie
Lab
Sadly, I never got this cutie’s name.
Marigold.jpg
Marigold
Ranger.jpg
Ranger ❤

 

 

 

 

GP Charlotte: How I Fell in Love with the Judge Program

So I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon and write about my experiences judging at GP Charlotte this weekend.

Needless to say, it was not the GP I expected.

I went into it nervous: not only was this my first GP on staff, it would be my first large Magic event as a judge, period.  No getting my feet wet with a SCG Open or a large RPTQ because who has time for that?  But I stayed with friends who talked with me the night before being on staff Friday (Thanks Brogan and Eric!) who shared their stories and advice and it helped calm my nerves.  It also helped that I wasn’t on staff till 3pm the next day and I could sleep in a little longer.  (I’m not a morning person.)

The next day I hit the first hurdle of the weekend:  the shirt I ordered didn’t fit.  I’ve struggled with weight for a long time and recently I’ve been taking very strong steps to change that but it stung to put on that and not have it fit.  There was a mild moment of panic that convinced me this would mean I couldn’t be on staff (seriously anxiety riddled brains are so dumb), but I just as quickly realized how silly I was being and went back to the judge manager (thanks for being so understanding, Riki) to explain the situation and got a larger shirt to wear.  I had no more time to be upset or nervous: it was time to get to work.

Turns out On Demand Events can be kind of slow on Fridays.  I was eased into judging with an awesome team which included L2s and my L3 team lead Casey Brefka that had all judged more than me.  They were full of advice and filled the time until shift was over with judging stories and personal looks into their lives.  I shared pictures of my cat with a fellow cat lover Dave Tosto.  My brain was picked by Zach DeLadurantaye who was questing for information to help ease transitions into big events for L1s and L2s new to judging big events.  There was teaching shop talk with Casey who was looking forward to new one-on-one teaching job as a music professor.

One of the best parts was working with one of the first friends I made in the judge program, Sean Linkous.  Sean just being there helped ease my anxiety as I got used to working with so many new people.  My inner introvert was screaming at me to run and hide but I quieted that part of my personality and just enjoyed interacting with players and judges.  In my core I’m a people person and that, added to my love for the game of Magic, is what led me to judge program.  I only fired two drafts and a few Commander pods but I interacted with players the entire time until my shift was done and did my best to make sure the players were having a great time.  Most Magic players are good, fun people and I was happy to see them at my side events.

Then Saturday happened.  I don’t need to go into the details at this point;  much of the Magic community has been discussing it since the misstep occurred.  My day started by helping to start and run a 300 person sealed event, an event I thought would be the biggest side event of the day (little did I know), if not the weekend.  Star City Games recently introduced something called the infinity badge; you pay a flat fee and get entry into all of the scheduled challenges all weekend.  What this means for players is that they can sign up for a sealed event, get their product, and drop to play in another event (SCG wisely was not letting anyone double queue into two events at the same time).

As event runner, this meant an extra level of difficulty because it’s bad customer service to potentially have almost half of your players not have a round one opponent.  This is where my head judge Eric Dustin Brown devised a solution; a line set up where players would come to us to drop and once we checked their name off a list we provided their product.  It worked like a dream and led to a lot more happy players and smiles.  I continued to walk around during deck building with a list of names for players who saw their card pool, didn’t like it, and wished to drop.  Overall things went smoothly and once round one started I got a real chance to watch Magic being played.

The focus on my own event was high and I hadn’t listened to any of the announcements regarding the main event all day.  I’d checked in with my local friends playing modern before my shift started and nothing had seemed awry at all.

Then the announcement for random pairings happened, followed by the offer that any player who doesn’t agree with the decision may drop and receive an infinite challenge badge.  I was sitting on a match about to go to time when it happened and I was caught by surprise so much that I gasped out loud and unfortunately broke the flow of the match I was watching.  I apologized to the players who went back to their match but I continued to sit there wondering about how my friends were doing when the next announcement came:  They would be adding more events to the challenge schedule, which included two more sealed events.

Well, there goes the neighborhood.

My original break was pushed forward and when I came back I was drafted into the first of two new sealed events of the evening.  No big deal, I just handled the equivalent to an old PPTQ so this would be fine.

Except this one would have almost 700 players.

…what?

At this point I felt caught up in a storm.  I’m sure the panic showed on my face but then Nicholas Sabin showed up, head judge of the event and my regional coordinator.  He spoke to the judge team of North Carolina being his home and how it was our job as judges and representatives of the event to show southern hospitality to these players who were clearly not having the best day.  I took the words to heart, squared my shoulders, and got ready to work as I was swept up into a gaggle of judges (Just what is a group of judges called?) getting ready to hand out product for the event.

Product handling was chaotic but effective (despite my own goof ups at counting) and as players got up to leave with their product to drop I was able to direct them to the correct places to do so.  I patrolled the column of 12 or more tables they gave us, answering questions as players built decks, congratulating players on sweet cards pulled, and guarding belongings as they waded through a sea of people to the land station.  I realized something as I was moving from place to place: I was having a blast.  I was part of the solution to a problem for several hundred players that day and by keeping my outlook positive and staying upbeat the players would feel and act the same.  They didn’t care about what was going in behind the scenes; all they saw was the judges being awesome at what they do.

After a pretty awesome exchange with a whole table of players (since they were at the end of standings several of them were dealing with no-shows) during which I showed the most effective way to get a judge once the ten minute wait was over, I turned to find Nicholas Sabin waiting and he asked if I had really never judged a GP before.  I was filled with pride from the compliment and rode on that feeling through the rest of my long shift.

I need to be clear:  I was just one of several rock stars that evening.  The entire judge staff, on each of the added events as well as the main event and on demand sides, worked a longer shift than they expected.  They also did everything in their power to make sure the players left feeling good and better than when they dropped from the main event.  They checked on their fellow judges to make sure they were drinking water, eating a quick energy bar or two, or getting off their feet as needed.

At the end of the day I was sore and hurting but I felt so very accomplished.  Nicholas Sabin even brought over a bunch of promo foil Judge’s Familiars and signed them for us with the event name and the number of players.

I’m keeping that forever and consider it my first ‘judge’ foil.

The weekend was filled with introductions, smiles, firm handshakes, and hugs from old friends and new. I felt like I’d been adopted into a big, happy, diverse family full of people who love the things I love.  It solidified my decision to join the judge program and my desire to push for my level.  This weekend was when I really fell in love judging and I hope to be part of it for years and years to come.

These words are as personal as I get online and they don’t even come close to expressing how honored I was to be part of the judges who helped improve the day of so many players.  I can’t wait to do it again (though this time maybe I can sweet talk WLTR into cooperating).

First GP, best GP.

Get at me, Level Two.  I’ve got this.