Become a judge

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So you'd like to become a judge...

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What's a Judge?

A judge is another crucial piece in the puzzle that is the magic community. Much like players, tournament organizers and scorekeepers, judges play a vital role in shaping and helping the community. A judge’s function depends on the event and role they have in said event, but we all have some responsibilities that overlap regardless of role.

Judges are the neutral arbiters of the game. We ensure that the game is fair, friendly and fun for all of the players involved in an event. We are there to settle rules disputes, award infractions for mistakes and award disqualifications for intentional mistakes or to keep the tournament integrity intact. Judges are also empowered to provide pinnacle customer service to an event. An active judge at the store level brings lots of things to the table for that store. They ensure that the events in that store are run correctly and fairly to all players. They help players learning the rules, give advice and build communities.

Judges also provide a myriad of benefits and customer service to larger, competitive events. Judges at large events ensure the tournament is running smoothly, efficiently and fairly. Judges are there to answer calls, help fix mistakes and ensure integrity of the event. Judges help set up the event, make sure it maintains a professional appearance and help tear down the event at the end.

Outside of events, judges are ambassadors of the community. We are in stores helping players, helping educate store owners, and helping educate judge candidates. Judges help make this game a great experience for players!


Getting ready to test

Getting the first judge level might look an overwhelming task and takes some time – the test is only the final step on the road. The following provides some guideline on the way to become a judge.

Step 1 - Work at Tournaments

Start working as a judge! You don't need to have a level to judge at your local tournaments - just ask some organizers in your area if you can help at their tournaments. With this you gain hands on experience in judging and you learn how tournaments are run. Focus on learning about the basic functions of the Wizards Event Reporter software and become as comfortable as possible in running smaller events first (8-16 players).

Step 2 - Contact other Judges

Get in contact with other judges or candidates - be it in "real life" or via ICQ, the #mtgjudge channel in IRC or via email. You should try to know at least three other judges (or candidates) and be in closer contact with one of them, preferably a Level 2 or higher judge to help guide your preparation. If you don't know any other persons ask your tournament organizer, find judges in your region at Wizards' Judge Center, or contact your Regional Coordinator for some in your area. With them you can discuss rulings, situations, procedures, the judging life in general and probably make some friends.
Also try to get in contact with your local online community. There's a list of countries and regions with their communities here in the Wiki.

Step 3 - Learn the Rules

Learn the rules. Start with the Basic Rulebook and after this the most important documents are the Comprehensive Rules, the "Judging at Regular REL" and the Tournament Rules (all of which can be found here: http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dci/doccenter/home). Learning the game rules is harder than it looks, as you have to transform your knowledge from knowing how the cards work to knowing how the underlying rules work so that you can apply this knowledge to any game situation, not just with the cards and experiences you are most comfortable with. Some useful techniques for learning the rules:

  • The most important parts of the rules are:
    • General Game Concepts (such as converted mana cost)
    • Turn Structure (phases and steps)
    • The Combat Phase
    • Casting Spells and Activating Abilities
    • Handling Triggered Abilities
    • State-based actions
    • Determining a creature's power and toughness
    • Keyword abilities and actions in Standard
  • Work through the 10 lessons of the Judge Classes.
  • Collect questions you're asked at your tournament rules and from time to time explain your answer with the rulebook, i.e. find the corresponding rules.
  • Read current articles "Cranial Insertion" at http://www.cranialinsertion.com (or Rules Q&A on other websites), try to answer the questions asked there and also try to explain them with the rulebook. Be careful about editions of Cranial Insertion that are older - the rules documents are dynamic, and as a result are subject to change. Make sure that the article you are reading is either current, or do the additional homework to verify that older articles and their respective rulings are accurate.
  • Read rules questions in your local forum and also try to explain them with the rulebook.
  • Study not only the Comprehensive Rules, but also make sure you have a clear understanding of policy questions (Magic Tournament Rules) and the infraction procedure document for Regular REL (Judging at Regular REL Guide). Many judge candidates fail to consider the latter two documents, which are a significant portion of the Level 1 test. The infraction procedure document for Competitive REL (Magic Infraction Procedure Guide) isn't necessary to study for the Level 1 test, so you can concentrate your efforts on reviewing the Comprehensive Rules, Magic Tournament Rules, and Judging at Regular REL Guide. Study these three documents like you would study for a large-scale test. This may include making note-cards for terminology or key rules, study guides for areas like layering or the steps and phases in a turn, or even make a recording of yourself reading from these areas in the rules. Use a study strategy that best meets your personal learning style.
  • Practice exams at the Judge Center (http://judge.wizards.com) are a good training resource. Be careful not to take too many of these too early in your preparation. Burning out the test pool before you have done the actual document reading, note-taking, and judging practice can decrease the effectiveness of this practice.
  • Try to pass the Rules Advisor test in the Judge Center - this will raise your chances to pass the Level 1 test considerably.
  • Carlos Ho's article about studying for your exam might also help you: http://www.wizards.com/magic/magazine/article.aspx?x=judge/article/20090817a
  • You can find translated versions of the rules on DCIRules.org

Step 4 - Work with a Mentor

Work some tournaments with a more experienced judge, preferably a Level 2 or higher judge. Ask questions and ask to be challenged with rules and policy questions - these judges will be able to give you the preparation you need to grow into what we hope is your new roles as a Level 1 judge. Try to understand what infraction happened in a given situation - applying the appropriate penalty comes automatically once you have delineated the infraction that took place. Again, ask many questions and listen to what these judges have to tell you - they want to see you succeed!

Step 5 - Find a Test Administrator & Take the test

Find someone who will test you for Level 1 (any Level 2 and up) - the test normally includes working with the tester at two events, a preliminary interview, a written test and another interview after the written test. Damian Hiller compiled a list of tips and tricks when taking the test. Apart from this, many potential judges will come to a destination tournament, like a Grand Prix event, to test for Level 1 certification.

Step 6 - Enjoy

Enjoy your new status as a judge and judge as many tournaments as possible. As they are phasing out, you no longer need to make sure that you receive the DCIJudge and MTGRules listserv emails to help stay current on policies and rules as well as ask questions you may have about various aspects of your judging experiences. You should instead create an account on apps.magicjudges.org/ and check out the forums. Help your local scene grow as a Magic community and if possible, come join a staff at a local PTQ or GP event in your area. Congratulations on your accomplishment, and welcome to the DCI Judge community!

Online Resources

There exist lots of online resources for future judges. A good starting point is the Judge webpage on the Wizards website: http://www.wizards.com/judge
There's general information about the judge program, how to become a judge, the roles and responsibilities of the different levels and a huge archive of judging related articles.

The next stopping point should be the DCI Judge Center (DCIX) (here: http://judge.wizards.com). Login with your DCI number and your DCI password - you don't have to be a judge to access this webpage. There you can take tests, search for judges and send them messages.

And there are tons of other webpages and local forums and mailinglists. A list can be found here in the Wiki.

And there is of course the most valuable resource: other judges! Get to know some of them, stay in contact via phone, email, SMS, in person or the DCIX


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