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The Road to Tourneyland: "Judge!"
By Mark Ortego
May 22, 2005
The Road to Tourneyland: “Judge!”
By Mark Ortego

For those of you who had the opportunity to attend the Saviors of Kamigawa pre-release I hope you had a good time, it seemed like one of the best expansion sets in years. [Seemed?] Yeah, I said ‘seemed’, because I didn’t play at the pre-release, instead I had chosen a path that was presented to me, judging.

My inner-self has a nurturing facet which is probably why I became a teacher. In fact, I knew I wanted to be a music teacher since 7th grade. Many years later when I was about 23 years old I found myself spray painting hospital signs for a family owned company and I was headed nowhere fast.

To make a sort of long story really short I came up with my “Seven-Year” plan; I would join the Army for three years and get the GI Bill and the Army College Fund and attend college for four years working get a Music Education degree. It actually took seven and a half years because I had to automatically be put on academic probation my first semester since I never took my SAT’s, ACT’s, or anything-else-T’s. I DID, in fact, make the Dean’s List all nine semesters with a 3.5 or better.

But all that time I was in college I was “interning” with competitive marching bands as a drum-line instructor then later as an Assistant Band Director. Years later from then, I started judging competitive marching band shows and by this time I had started playing Magic.

Okay, things are a little disjointed at this point. Let me finish my first point; assessment is something I take very seriously and “fairness” is an undisputable truth for me. Judging marching band competitions was something I knew I could do well.

Now, onto my other point of this topic; as a magic player I have not missed a pre-release since Exodus. Bear with me because I AM going to list all of them and maybe a little blurb about them or where I was at in my magic playing skills:

~May, 1998 – Exodus: Syracuse, NY – I went with a bunch of competitive Magic guys (The Kaiser, Rory and someone else) from Centerfield Comics in Endicott, NY. First card I fell in love with; Forbid.

~September, 1998 – Urza’s Saga: Syracuse, NY – I made it in time for one draft.

~January, 1999 – Urza’s Legacy: Syracuse, NY

~May, 1999 – Urza’s Destiny: Syracuse, NY

~September, 1999 – Mercadian Masques: Pittsburgh, PA – I’m originally from Pittsburgh and my family & I moved back to be closer to our (her) relatives.

~January, 2000 – Nemesis: Pittsburgh, PA

~May, 2000 – Prophecy: Pittsburgh, PA – All I remember is that straight red ‘rocked’ in drafting with all Prophecy boosters at that pre-release.

~September, 2000 – Invasion: Pittsburgh, PA – One of my favorite sets, it was the first time I won (I got 6 packs).

~January, 2001 – Planeshift: Pittsburgh, PA

~May, 2001 – Apocalypse: Pittsburgh, PA

~September, 2001 – Odyssey: Pittsburgh, PA – It was weird since 9/11 had just happened and we all were trying to get on with our lives. It was just weird.

~January, 2002 – Torment: Pittsburgh, PA

~May, 2002 – Judgment: Pittsburgh, PA

~September, 2002 – Onslaught: Pittsburgh, PA

~January, 2003 – Legions: Butler, PA

~May, 2003 – Scourge: Butler, PA

~September, 2003 – Mirrodin: Monroeville, PA – I only attended the Sunday event and I was so late that I only drafted once and I HATED the whole artifact thing… at first.

~January, 2004 – Darksteel: Butler, PA

~May, 2004 – Fifth Dawn: Butler, PA

~September, 2004 – Champions of Kamigawa: Pittsburgh, PA – I wrote an article called Champions of “Ivan”gawa due to the horrendous rain storm we had resulting from Hurrican Ivan. During the pre-release, we actually witnessed whole docks floating down the Allegheny River…no kidding!

~January, 2005 – Betrayers of Kamigawa: Butler, PA – My first judging event and one heck of a snow storm! They ended up having an additional pre-release the next weekend at all of the Northeast cities. Actually, I judged on Saturday and played on Sunday.

~May, 2005 – Saviors of Kamigawa: Pittsburgh, PA – A Saturday only event and I judged. The very first time I didn’t play in a pre-release since Exodus.

[Note: some of these were held at either the Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh or at the Days Inn in Butler, PA]

It felt weird.

First of all, let me say that I have no regrets about judging, the folks I judge with are FUNtastic people and the organizers are some of the best people I have ever volunteered/worked for, anywhere! I consider them my close friends.

But nonetheless, it felt weird. By the Saviors pre-release I had 3 events under my belt and I was doing great, I was answering questions correctly, I was running two flights at the same time and later I ended up by running 8 drafts, things were hunky-dory.

But it still felt weird to hear, “Judge!” Do these players know who they’re calling? Oh sure, they know that they’re calling someone to come and answer a question or settle a dispute but do they know, let alone even care, who they’re actually calling? Probably not, but then, why should they?

They don’t know that I was one of them just recently, alright, that’s not entirely true. All of my tournament buddies that know me and know that I WAS one of them just recently but they’re so many other players that I don’t know and, who don’t know me.

I can’t really figure out yet why this topic is weighing on my mind. So, in an attempt to make sense of it I asked some of my judging pals about their tournament magic playing past.

It was interesting to know that most of them went right from casual player to tournament judges. Now, not all judges are like this, but of those who I did ask (except one); are like this. If and when they read this they’ll know who they are and maybe they’ll comment on this article.

I couldn’t hear in their answers that they missed playing in tournaments. I mean one of my judge friends has only participated four times in a tourney event. FOUR! I was amazed. Now before I go on let me inform you that being a tournament judge and having been a tournament player has NO correlation what so ever. In other words, just because someone wasn’t a pro-tour jock doesn’t mean that they can’t judge, these folks I judge with are highly intelligent, highly motivated and have the highest integrity and are totally and thoroughly knowledgeable of the DCI Floor Rules and the Magic Comprehensive Rules Book. I forgot to mention that they’re GREAT at multiplayer games, too.

One of these guys did stress to me that it is good for judges to refresh themselves as a tournament player every now and again just to stay ‘in-touch’ with the environment. Actually, one of these guys, the one who WAS a former tournament magic player, IS participating in our local Regional’s event. I volunteered to judge that day so I won’t be playing in it, besides, I’m really rusty in the standard environment.

So, what do I know now that I didn’t know before I started pondering this topic? No conclusion yet, but I think that I’m still in the “Honeymoon” phase of my judging, I enjoy it a lot, I really like the folks I judge with and I have a sense that I’m contributing something to the Magic community in return for all of the wonderful magic tournament experiences I’ve had.

Here’s the bottom-line question: Do I miss playing in tournament magic events?

I have, in fact, mentioned many times before how I consider myself more of a casual player these past 18 months or so what with attending the Multiplayer Magic League at GASP and having organized casual magic events at Blue Star Games recently and hooking-up with my judges friends to play multiplayer games with.

[Insert: Playing a night of magic with FOUR judges is insanely “Clean-Playing”!]

I just looked up my DCI Ratings History and my limited rating is 1579 and the graph they show you of your past never has me peaking above 1600 so it’s not like I was pro-tour good, PFFT! Or even close to being average. But, yeah, I guess I miss it a little but I don’t think I’d want to trade the position I’m in now for the tournament life I’ve spoken of. Hmm, maybe a visit every now and again is all I need.

Thanks to you folks out there who’ve been reading my articles, I really appreciate the posted comments and personal e-mails you’ve sent me.

Maybe I’ll see some of you on that long and dusty road…to Tourneyland.

~Mark (aka Killer Joe)

Read More Articles by Mark Ortego!

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