My first step in what would become my career track, little did I realize it at the time, took place in the spring of 1997 and kicked off, at least in the immediate result, over six years of my life spent heavily involved in judging Magic: the Gathering tournaments. My "Judge Years" were basically Act One of the twenty years I have spent in Organized Play. Act Two sent me to law school and working for state government, and I was a player and backpack dealer. Act Three opened up Desert Sky Games and saw me evermore as a tournament organizer and host, and (intentionally) not much more, but for a wider variety of games and not just Magic.
It all began here:
Indeed, so unassuming a facility it wouldn't catch your eye driving past, the Club nonetheless was the Place where the Happen Did. It of the too-small parking lot, the dealer tables full of sketchy guys with scotch-taped binder slots, the latest tech at every table in an era when most players had no idea there was such a thing as "tech," stifling humidity no matter the time or date, the Takenagas processing any number of registrations in mere minutes, Scott Larabee being asked to sanction events if enough random pedestrians could be brought in to hit minimum attendance, Truc Bui rolling in 15 minutes late and winning a pod after drafting five-color, and The Dan Gray having disqualification criteria thrust into his judging arsenal again and again by players who thought the fifth Hypnotic Specter would be sure to escape the eyes of deck-checkers.
This was where I pulled up in the spring of 1997 to certify myself as a DCI Judge, under the fledgling judge program of the time that has grown worldwide today and encompassed officiating of competition at the very highest levels. But back then there were few judges anywhere.
I traveled by car and had essentially no money at the time, so I slept in my car overnight just outside the Center, and this was both uncomfortable and doubtless did little to enhance my appearance and the impression I delivered the next day. Level 2 judge Andrea Kunstt administered the written and verbal test to me, and Dan and Scott checked it with her afterward. I whiffed on one question, having missed the news about the David Mills disqualification for announcing his spell before tapping land -- the horror -- but my X-1 score was good enough to convince them to certify me straight to Level 2, which is no longer done. Pictured below were Dan (left) and myself with James Lee in 2001, judging Grand Prix Denver.
read about right here on this blog, and served as the Tower's only judge about 99% of the time for its life cycle. I then partnered into Arizona Gamer in 1999, a story I will have to tell at some point, and again served as judge pretty much throughout. Magic wasn't played every single day at stores all over the place back then... but it was played on most days at the stores I ran, because... okay, I was in a rut and didn't know what else to do with myself. The truth can be uncomfortable sometimes.
And thus ended The Judge Years of my two-decade-long (and counting) involvement in Organized Play. Hope you found the photos of me from 15 to 20 years ago as amusing as I did!