A new expansion has arrived, and once again the cries of "Magic is Dead" echo through tournament halls worldwide – through FULL tournament halls worldwide. Record numbers of players turned up for Invasion Prereleases, eclipsing Stronghold’s standard. Meanwhile, I’m inundated with requests for Judge tests. Let me state for the record that Magic is not dead. It’s alive and well and living in places like Anchorage.
So you want to be a Judge, do you? Well, there’s quite a bit you need to know, though some folks think it’s easy. I even had a guy at work tell me that he "qualified for Level 2 way back when"* and how simple the test was. I offered to give him the test, and upped the stakes by promising him a dollar for every point he scored above 50 if he’d pay me a dollar for every point below. He declined.
Fortunately, there are loads of good people interested in the Judge Certification Program. And I’m here to help them get ready for the whole process.
Being a Judge involves knowing the game rules of Magic, the DCI Universal Tournament Rules, the DCI Penalty Guidelines, and the Magic Floor Rules. First, one must contact a Level III or higher Judge. Some folks living away from the metropolis must travel to a high-level tournament (such as a Grand Prix or Pro Tour) to find someone thus qualified. That Judge, or someone so delegated, will administer the test. If the score is sufficiently high, the Judge does a short interview with the candidate. Then, the candidate must Judge a tournament under the supervision of the same tester. If all goes well, certification follows.
The written test is the most difficult part. To date, I’ve tested twelve people since I arrived in Anchorage. Two have achieved a passing score (one of them is Star City’s own David Phifer). (Of course, I failed on MY first shot, which Sheldon has kindly refrained from mentioning – The Ferrett) Of the nearly forty people who I tested in Europe, only eight passed on the first try. A passing score doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be certified, however. Certification also involves a level of maturity and salesmanship. Judges are DCI representatives. Their behavior and ethics must be reproach. Judges are in a position to make or break the tournament scene. We can’t have just anyone wearing the shirt.
As I say above, the game rules and the DCI rules lay at the heart of the test. Being strong in one particular area can’t carry you through the test unless you’re also strong in the others. I had one unfortunate fellow get every DCI-related question wrong. He missed passing the test by just a few points.
The rules of the game, or the Comprehensive Rules as they’re correctly called, are the first part of the equation. It’s as simple as knowing what Protection is, all the way up to tasks as difficult as breaking down the steps in the announcement of a spell or ability. These constitute the type of questions that I answer most of the time. Can I target my opponent more than once with Firestorm? If my opponent steals Academy Rector and sacrifices him, who gets to search for the enchantment? Why can’t I play Treachery during my upkeep step?
The second part are the DCI Universal Rules. They cover the overarching rules for all DCI-sanctioned games (with a heavy bias toward Magic). They help maintain fair and consistent sanctioned tournament play. Things such as eligibility, Judge, Player, and Spectator responsibilities, and tournament mechanics are covered. "What can and can’t a player do?", "What’s the pre-game shuffling time limit?", "Is it okay to take an Intentional Draw?" or "What constitutes collusion?" are all discussed within.
Next comes the Magic Floor Rules. This is the stuff unique to Magic (as opposed to Pokémon or Legend of the Five Rings), such as tournament mechanics, rules for Constructed and Limited tournaments and Banned and Restricted lists. Questions might include, "What’s the seating for Team Rochester Draft", "How many lands can we swap in Sealed Deck?", "What sets constitute Extended?", and "How do I correctly play the Mulligan rule?"
Finally, we have the DCI Penalty Guidelines. They help provide a structure by which Judges determine the appropriate penalty for infractions that occur during the course of a tournament. Penalties exist to protect players from potential misconduct. The document not only gives the penalty for an infraction, but the philosophy behind the penalty. Why is "Drawing Extra Cards" more serious than "Looking at Extra Cards?" It lists nearly all the likely types of infractions and the appropriate penalty at the various Rules Enforcement Levels (from the local tournament all the way up to the World Championship). It’s also quite helpful in rectifying a nasty situation (if possible), like, "My opponent played Nekrataal six turns ago and we just realized he targeted my White Knight. Do I get my creature back?"
Now you know what you need to know. Where do you find it all? On the WotC Judge Page (http://www.wizards.com/dci/judge/Welcome.asp#). Another great source of information is the D’Angelo rulings (http://www.crystalkeep.com/magic/rules/summaries.html). Updated monthly, the summaries break down both the game rules and chronicle rulings on each card. I keep copies of the latest D’Angelo on the laptop at all times.
Another way to help yourself out is to volunteer at your local tournaments (or larger tournaments if they appear nearby). Get familiar with the local tournament scene. See how tournaments work, how the different people interact, and just get the feel of the environment. And play the game! As simple as it may sound, frequent play is the best way to see all the cards and see how they interact.
I’ll touch on one area of the rules that has tripped up most applicants: State-Based Effects. Fortunately, most Star City readers are experts already, having read my column of 7/31. Jog over to the Featured Article Archive for details, or check out section 420 in the Comprehensive Rulebook, or see T.11 of the D’Angelo rulings. You wanna be a Judge? Study it!
I already have a mailing list of my local Judges. I occasionally send little quizzes out to them to keep their skills sharp. If you’d like to be included on the list (or just ask me further questions on the Judge Certification Program in general), drop me an email at [email protected]
And that’s my Final Judgement.
Sheldon K. Menery
* – I’m not sure what "way back when" he was talking about. I am sure, however, that he was never certified. What "qualified for Level 2" means, I’ll never know.