Removed From Game – The Judge Sideboard

Read Rich Hagon every week... at StarCityGames.com!
Tuesday, April 29th – Fresh out of a two day conference on Continuous Effects, Building a Local Community, hyper-linked Comp Rules, Professional Conduct as a Player, and a dozen more seminars and lectures covering the full range of global issues affecting the men and women who keep the game fair, Rich Hagon shares his own lecture with us, showcasing the skills and attitudes that go into making the best judges. If you think you have nothing to learn from how a judge goes about their business, this could change your mind.

As you may be able to detect from the title this week, my column is entirely devoted to matters of the judge community and the DCI. This last weekend saw the second annual UK Judge Conference, and I was privileged to be able to talk to a roomful of highly-qualified and experienced judges from around the UK, and Jason Howlett. I debated for some time as to whether this was an appropriate topic to share with you all. Should the issues that are concerning the judge community be given a wider airing? I believe that the more information players have about the work that goes into making judges better, the greater the level of respect for the judge community those players will have. Take me, for example. Now that I’m a Level 1 judge and not just a player, I think judges are GREAT!

But seriously, if you think you have nothing to learn from the men and women in stripes, I believe you couldn’t be more wrong. So below is a slightly modified transcript of my lecture from the weekend. As you may suppose, there were lovingly-crafted pseudo-Magic cards created for the accompanying PowerPoint presentation, but copyright issues prevent me sharing those here. I hope you enjoy this unusual insight into the skills and abilities that go into making a good judge. See you next week.


My talk today is about something I call The Judge’s Sideboard. As the name implies, the Sideboard contains 15 cards. It contains specific cards for specific situations. Some of the cards are quite narrow in application. Some are designed to shore up certain tricky matchups. All, when used correctly, can improve your chances of success. But the Judges sideboard contains no actual Magic cards. Instead, I’ve created for your entertainment and hopefully self-improvement, 15 split cards that highlight some of the skills and attitudes that go into making a good judge.

These skills and abilities are on the left hand side of the card. But just like the game of Magic itself, there’s a dark side to explore, and on the right-hand side of each card I’ll show what happens when judging goes bad, when you really can have too much of a good thing.

Your task is to position yourself somewhere along the line of the card from left to right. If you think you have a good measure of the skill showcased, you’ll mark your sheet right near the center of the card, where the two halves join. But if, in the quiet honesty of your judgy soul, you know that sometimes you spill over into the unwanted right hand side of the card, mark it down.

Unlike Magic, there’s a way for everyone to win using the judges sideboard. Once you’ve mapped out your position on the 15 cards, it should be pretty apparent which areas are your greatest strengths, and more importantly, weaknesses. If you’re on the far left of a pair, you could really do with a bit more of that skill. If you’re well into the right hand side, potentially you’re having a negative impact, on the players, on the match, on your fellow judges. Grim.

Where the sideboard comes in especially useful is in preparation for your next event. In my case, having the confidence to trust my own rulings is an issue. Learning to think more like a judge and less like a tournament organizer is another that I have to work on. And reminding myself that I’m not alone and am very much a part of a wider organization that will absolutely back me up is a third. Now, before I set off to a tournament, I’ll pull my three Sideboard cards out of their pack, and remind myself that these are the ‘matchups’ that most need my attention.

And, in my experience at least, the sideboard works, allowing me to constantly re-evaluate my performance, and concentrate on the things I need to do get the job done. I hope it helps you too.

The sideboard is divided into 3 groups. The first six cards broadly concern how we deal with the players at an event – how they perceive us, how we go about the business of creating and effectively communicating correct rulings, and how we can nurture better relations between judge and player.

The second group, also of 6 cards, is more concerned with the internal aspects of the DCI. How do we learn? How do we improve? How do we help others to be better?

And finally, we have 3 utility cards that don’t exactly fit in either camp.

I should mention that the opinions contained hereafter are entirely my own, formed from reasonably extensive personal experience of judging, and a huge amount of experience watching the best judges in the world go about their business. This is not necessarily the views of the DCI, and if you think I’m talking nonsense from time to time, like when I’m opening my mouth, that’s fine. This session is designed to get you thinking, and even if you only get as far as ‘he knows nothing,’ at least you’ll know where you stand on these issues.

So let’s get started with:

Strength / Threat

Judge Aura. Until the end of the next round, no player may argue with you.
And the players nodded, secure in the judge’s presence.

Remove calm from up to two players.
‘Are you talking to me?’

To me, this is largely a body image issue. Some of us slouch around the room, in a kind of mooching fashion. Sometimes we’ll stare into space. Sometimes we’ll shuffle about, look at our shoes, stuff hands in pockets. Particularly at smaller events, perhaps we’ll even be eating and drinking on the floor. None of this creates the physical image of a judge on their game, professional and ready to do what needs doing. Although subtle, players pick up on these visual cues.

So, stand up straight. When you’re called to a table, walk purposefully but without looking like you’re sprinting to get there. Try to look interested in the games as you walk past, even if you’re not. Creating the right visual impression goes a long way to making the right environment where players trust the judge as their automatic response.

On the other side of this, is the judge who looms. Generally, height is an advantage physically. Glen White, for example, comes across as a very impressive judge, simply because he has the physical tools to look in control of a situation, and as a performer he also knows how to use them. Two of the world’s leading judges from the Netherlands, Gis and Jaap, both use their height to considerable advantage. Some others, however, sometimes struggle due to their height to width ratio. The only problem with height, or at least bulk, is if you have a tendency to hover behind players shoulders, or worse, stand at the edge of the table, legs apart, arms folded, like a Judge Dredd in waiting.

So where do you fall along the line? Do you give off the right visual cues? Or are you a thug in black and white, causing the innocent to go in fear of their Magic lives? Mark yourself somewhere along the line. If you give off the visual presence of a lettuce, you’ll be on the extreme left. And if you’ve marked yourself way over to the right, you’re probably Attila the Hun, or the Terminator.

Let’s move to card number 2:

Toughness / Agenda

Summon – Hero

Summon – Anti-Hero
‘Seek not the power, lest it end thee good Hal’ – Henry iv, ii

Frankly, I shy away from confrontation. Having the mental toughness to know that the next judge call could be the one that requires me to game loss, match loss, or put in a Disqualification isn’t something with which I’m particularly comfortable. But we’re there to uphold the rules of the game as determined by people (at least hopefully) smarter than us, and for those of us who are naturally disinclined to stand up and be counted, a few well-chosen words to yourself before each round can help get you in the right frame of mind. Once machismo takes over however, we’re into the realm of judges with an Agenda. (Our Judge Manager here in the UK) Nick Sephton is on record as saying he would much rather work with people who would prefer not to DQ players than a judge who can’t wait to bathe in the blood of the innocent, or even the guilty. To me, nothing gives the judge community a worse name than the judge who is trying to make a name for themselves by being a card-carrying member of the hang ‘em and flog ‘em society. So this is a fine line – where does Toughness end and a name-setting Agenda begin? Where do you fall? As long as you’re not looking to make a name for yourself, you’ll be somewhere on the left hand side.

Card three is next, and it’s much less controversial.

Familiarity / Succour

Say ‘how you doing?’ to target player.
Because players are human too.

Commiserate with target player. Play this only if the player lost that Round.

We’ve heard a lot recently about customer care, and sometimes we forget that our customers are the players. If you judge regularly at a Pro Tour Qualifier or Prerelease, you’re likely to see a huge number of the same faces. It’s so simple to share a few words with the players during deck registration, while you’re setting out the table numbers and so on. Although once the action starts you’re entirely neutral, beforehand is the time when you can wish the player well, since even if they’re going to end up 1 and 5 we still want them to have a positive experience. Although it’s only a small factor, and isn’t going to change anything if you make a succession of horrible rulings against someone, but letting them know that you are interested in their experience is all part of humanising the judge program, and that’s good.

Overfamiliarity, though, can get out of hand, to the point where at almost any table you can be confronted with a Friend and a Stranger. Although this shouldn’t impact your ability to make a ruling, becoming too friendly with the players whilst in the Shirt is a bad plan. I’d be surprised if many of you fall too far to the right on this card, but how many of us take the time to put a human face to the judge program?

Let’s move to card number 4.

Confident Judge / Contempt

Confident Judge
Summon – Peacemaker
When Confident Judge comes into play, resolve target dispute correctly.
These six layer sub-sections are not safe. Come, I can lead you back to keywords.

Award Match Loss for Crimes Against Stupidity
‘You’ve never even read the Comp Rules?!?!’

I found getting to Level 1 extremely hard. I’m not, by most definitions, stupid, but learning enough to get through that test last Summer was tough. But that’s good, because if we know in our heart of hearts that we know if not all, at least most of the rules, we can convey that confidence to the players, who in turn are more likely to trust our ability to get things right. Being decisive is an important part of this. Umming and aahing at the table is bad news, because if they’re sensible, no matter what you end up ruling, the ‘losing’ player is going to appeal. Don’t be afraid of silence. Take the time you need. Silence for a few seconds doesn’t betray weakness, it betrays thought, and that’s good. There are no prizes for speed of ruling, and players can always be given extra time.

Given how hard the judge tests are, I’m constantly surprised how willing some of us are to display contempt for players when they don’t know some corner of the rules. Generally, this isn’t mulligan rules, or how much life players start on, or who goes first. This is stuff like responding to morphs unmorphing, the dreaded six layers, split second and so on. These are Not Easy. Yet the attitude can sometimes be, ‘well, even I know that one, so they should too.’ Although philosophically speaking the rules level defines what a player should know, practically speaking there are any number of holes in a given player’s knowledge, just like there are in ours. We may know more than them, but that’s because we worked at it. So even amongst ourselves, treating players with contempt for not knowing rule 216.3b is unhelpful.

On to card five:

Suspicion / Presumption

Examine target player’s Intent.
‘How to punish the guilty is up to the DCI. Deciding who merits such punishment is up to me.’

Deal X damage to target player, where X is the number of months he’s banned from the game.

To be honest, I’m crap at being suspicious. Personally I think Genghis Khan and Mike Long were probably misunderstood rather than, you know, actually bad. But there are plenty of stories out there to suggest that suspicion is a good starting point. My favorite is the 100% true account of the player who wore Infra-Red Glasses, and had written the names of all his cards apparently invisibly on their backs. He could shuffle and see every card name, and knew every card he was about to draw. Suspicion is well worth it, since apart from anything else, who wants to be the judge who doesn’t spot something like that? At a tournament last year, I had the opportunity to DQ a player who, on reflection, I’m now almost certain was cheating. But my desire to find good in the world got in the way of sound judgment. In the wake of that failure, I talked with someone here who said, ‘Gotta be honest, I just start out as a suspicious bastard, and go from there.’ I remember thinking both ‘gosh, that must be quite a burden to look at the world that way,’ and also ‘that’s probably something I should be doing more of when I’m in the stripes.’

The only trouble with Suspicion is when it falls into the realm of Presumption. At a recent event, I was able to find a particular card every time from a deck. It was, to me, an important card. When I asked him, he even named it as an important card. I can’t prove it, but the likelihood of this being a cheat was minimal. Instead, it was just a guy playing in hideous sleeves, who happened to have a horrible stain on one of his many one-ofs. With Suspicion I was able to pursue it to my satisfaction. Had I gone in Presuming guilt, he would by now be well on his way to a ban, and that’s what we need to remember. Frankly, the fact that there is no requirement on us to provide a burden of proof is exactly the reason we should demand a high standard of ourselves. Because stopping innocent people playing Magic is no joke. Do you love Magic? I love Magic, and if anyone’s going to prevent me from playing for six months or a year or, God forbid, a life sentence, I want them to be Right. So be Suspicious, but don’t

Finally in our first section we come to:

Reparations / Subservience

Restore target player’s belief in you as a human being.
‘Yes I know money doesn’t help, but it’s the thought that counts.’

Aura – Judge Enchantment
You lose 2 Credibility.
‘Oh thank you Sirs, thank you. Nice players, kind players, don’t hurts us Masters…’

We all give incorrect rulings from time to time. Even the most experienced judges here will openly admit to errors. Even the head judges of Pro Tours get things wrong, as Paul Smith can testify from a recent Pro Tour. Being wrong is nothing to be ashamed of. Being wrong and not putting things as right as possible is something to be ashamed of. Now I’m not talking about walking a game back three turn cycles, or awarding the wronged player 3 points. But they deserve to know that they were right, and that you made a mistake. That’s a mistake, just like the hundreds each and every player is going to make game in and game out. I know that some people find it difficult to find the right words for this sort of thing. For me it would be something like, ‘hi, can I have a quick word? I have to tell you that I made a mistake in that match. It turns out that your creature would have been 3/4, because I missed out the second Aura when I was working it out. I do apologise, it was an honest error. Good luck with the rest of the tournament.’ Frankly, this is a question of tone as much as the actual words, but it’s really important not to stray over the line into Subservience. Gollum may be good box office, but he wouldn’t make a very good DCI judge, and you may have to deal with this player again, even if not today, sometime in the future. Being spineless achieves nothing, but being open and willing to acknowledge errors absolutely does. Are you prepared to admit your errors? And do you come across as a snivelling coward when you do so? Mark your card, and let’s go to part two.

Now we move on to our second set of six. These cards are much more about how we deal with the theoretical business of judging. It’s about how we learn, how we grow as judges, how we nurture other members of the community. In short, it’s about being better judges before the players even get to the building.

Let’s start with:

Teach / Lecture

Legendary Land
Tap, add 1 Knowledge to target Judge.
Those who can, teach.

Tap, add 1 Knowledge to target Judge. Lecture deals 3 damage to you.
Those who can’t, lecture.

I’d like at this point to mention that there are certain occasions when there’s nothing more marvellous than a good lecture, when words of pure Judging gold pour from the mouth of a true expert in the field. Like now, for example. Possibly. But seriously, sharing knowledge is absolutely key to making the community as a whole stronger. That means sharing on the forums. And of course that means talking to each other during events, either about things that happened that day, or at your last event, and so on. The thing is, perhaps because Magic is such a complicated beast, we tend to have a love of the minutiae of the game. So when it comes to explaining a ruling to a fellow judge, we’ll often use ten words when three will do, and use cards from Homelands and the Dark rather than Shadowmoor and Morningtide, and, sometimes, we just can’t bring ourselves to talk in plain English. We should. Because, generally speaking, once you start to pontificate – and yes, I can once again feel the irony meter creeping into the red zone – you lose your audience. The purpose of teaching isn’t to prove how clever we are, it’s to make the other person smarter than we are, and then we can in turn learn from them.

The natural follow-up to this card is next, because sometimes you need more than one card to shore up a tricky matchup. It’s called, with fabulous creativity:

Listen / Talk

Aura – Judge Enchantment
Hear target Ruling. You gain 1 Knowledge.
Generally, when you’re talking, you’re not learning.

Return target Judge to the Event Floor.
Sometimes, it’s not ‘good to talk.’

This one could somewhat pithily be summarised as ‘ears good, mouth bad.’ Something I’ve noticed at my local events is that the scorekeeper gets to find out about every warning or game loss, and the judges don’t necessarily. This seems a wasted resource. It requires very little time to listen to a colleagues ruling, and even if you’ve dealt with the issue dozens of times, it will at least refresh your memory, or surprise you with some new wrinkle connected to a new set. To me, as a Level 1 with a truthfully only-just Level 1 grasp of the rules, almost every ruling I hear comes as either a useful reminder or a new discovery. However, sometimes we just love to get together in the center of the room and chat. Put three judges together, and it’s like long-lost family at a pub in the Welsh valleys. Convivial barely does it justice. Like a convention of stand-up comedians, we stand around cracking ‘rulings.’ Did you hear the one about the Masticore and the Ivory Mask? Oh wait, I’ve heard this one. On the Grand Prix and Pro Tour circuit, this gathering of judges is known as a Herd of Zebras. By all means, check something out, pass something on, but less of the tribal council gathering. And, at all times, keep your ears open, as even without judge involvement, players are using detailed rules interactions at all times. Every day’s a school day, if you take the time to Listen. How much listening do you do? Do you talk too much to learn? Mark your sheets.

On to card number 9. Here it is :

Book of Knowledge / Arrogance

Book of Knowledge
Artifact – Comp Rules
Read. Learn. Ask. Know.
‘4b before 9c, except in 212.3’ Andy Heckt

Aura – Judge Enchantment
Choose one – You’re right; you’re right; or you’re right. Then award a Game Loss to a player of your choice.
There’s always someone who knows more than you do. Yes, even you.

At my level one judge test, the uber-judge overseeing things was Christian G., an extremely cerebral European high-powered and respected member of the community. He was, to put it mildly, quite sniffy about the fact that I came to the Judge program as primarily a player. He wondered whether I’d read the Comprehensive Rules. Well, yes I had, before my first Pro Tour in 1999. But not since. He said he’d read it 5 or 6 times, which I guess is like Christopher Lee reading Lord of the Rings once a year, but with more jokes. I’m not going to ask how many of you have or have not read the comp rules ever. I won’t ask how many of you have read the comp rules in the last year. And I won’t ask how many of us wouldn’t have done if we hadn’t had a judge test coming up. But the fact remains that the Comp Rules are our Bible, our Koran, and our Torah, and we’re lucky enough to live at a time when our prophets are still very much alive, and called things like Jaap, Tobey, and Nick. So, if you take one thing away from today, why not make time for you, a glass of wine, a naked supermodel, and a copy of the Comp Rules? The only possible pitfall is if you decide that just because you’ve read the blasted thing, suddenly you’re God’s gift to rules enforcement. The more certain you are to be right, the greater the chance that sooner or later you end up plain wrong, and without a certain sense of humility – and I notice a shudder when I say Humility, but I don’t mean the card – we can end up shovelling rulings down people’s throats. One of the nicest things I heard last weekend at the Shadowmoor prerelease was head judge Glen White saying that he really struggled to remember the formal order for playing spells. He said something like, ‘layers are fine because they’re always around, but the actual rules of how a spell gets cast, I just have time to forget it again before I get asked about it.’ Back to the Comp Rules, which is of course where Glen went. As a guiding rule, if it’s good enough for Glen it’s certainly good enough for me. Mark yourself down, and on we go.

Card 10 is about the use we make of our rulings.

Reflection / Brainspoil

For each ruling you’ve made this Round, consider it.
‘Did I do the right thing? I asked myself and myself and myself.

Destroy Confidence of target Judge that isn’t enchanted. It can’t easily be regenerated.

This is a tricky one to get right. To not analyse your decisions afterwards is a waste of experience, but handling errors can be problematic. Now really isn’t the time to talk about specific mental techniques, but in general terms the trick is to avoid attaching blame to yourself. Responsibility, by all means. But blame is a damaging thing that can lead you to question yourself over the simplest of rulings, until eventually you barely trust yourself to put untap in front of upkeep. I got that right, didn’t I?

Remembering that you made errors is good, but punishing yourself for them, especially during the course of an event, is bad. To be honest, I had a howler of a Prerelease last weekend. I was rubbish, at least to start with. But, thanks to a patient head judge, who neglected to tell me after two rounds that I was being pretty poor, I was able to compartmentalise the errors, shrug them off, and go about a relatively efficient rest of the day. So do hold yourself to account when you get the chance, but there are no prizes for self-flagellation. How do you respond to your decisions? Make your mark and let’s move to card 11 which features a skill that I believe very few of us have. Let’s take a look.

Voice of Law / Misdirection

Voice of Law
Summon – Arbiter
Protection from Wrong (This creature can’t be blocked, targeted, dealt damage, or enchanted by anything Wrong)

Choose any one Ruling. Add Humility, About Face, and Incremental Growth to the situation.
‘….and here’s the fun bit. This is where it gets really complicated.’

To be a Voice of Law is about as good as a judge gets. This is the judge who knows the comp rules almost word for word. This is the judge who not only read and understood everything in Oracle, he almost certainly wrote some of it. This is the judge who gets to be Head Judge at Pro Tours and maybe works for Wizards direct, and who is, to all statistical relevance, NEVER wrong. This is something we can only aspire too. But dear God, some of us skate right past the center of this card and go waaaaaay down the line of Misdirection. What is it with judges and corner case rulings of staggering complexity, inverted logic, and counter-intuitive outcomes? I understand that corner cases are intellectually stimulating and that they help pass a few minutes on a cold, wet, miserable round 3. But let me tell you what else corner case rulings are. They’re embarrassing. Corner case rulings are the reason more players don’t become judges. Corner cases are why players don’t understand the rules, they’re the reason players think we’re just making stuff up as we go. They’re the reason some players give up Magic, and they’re the reason why plenty more should never start. UN Human Rights Lawyers shy away from questions on layers. Yet, this seems to be our daily currency of conversation. ‘Boy, that Toughness Inverter. They had to rewrite a rule just for that. Neat fix though.'(For the record, I made this bit up). Far from glorying in our ability to unravel situations with enough complexity to mean we might as well just cure world poverty while we’re at it, we should, in my view, leave the admittedly entertaining stories of 12 cards all contradicting each other to the murky world of the after-hours Elder Dragon Highlander multi-player tables. It really doesn’t help new judges to make things as complicated as possible.

Our last card in this second section is this, and it’s something that I’ve never heard mentioned in judging discussion.

Ambition / Avarice

Summon – DCI King
3/3 for 2? Now that’s really good in Blue.

When Avarice comes into play, forget why you’re there.
Truth, honor, Tarmogoyf. Not necessarily in that order.

I’m a lucky boy. I get to go to all the European Grand Prix tournaments, and all the Pro Tours. And I gotta tell you, they’re awesome. But with the exception of Paul Smith, and occasionally Graham Theobalds, I never see Brit judges at any of these. Oh, and Nick of course. Wizards actively want you to come to them and try to get to these events as a judge. Ric Powell is another Brit judge who got himself to Worlds last year. That leaves a huge number of judges, in the rest of the world just as in the UK, who haven’t yet taken advantage of a great opportunity to see something of a foreign country – although admittedly there isn’t much time for sightseeing. More importantly, once you make the move to a bigger International stage, you’re confronted with some very impressive colleagues. No disrespect intended to anyone reading this, but we are mostly all level 1, and there is a definite gap to most of the judges at premier events. But level 2 needn’t be far away, if we simply decide to show a little ambition, a word that isn’t often heard in the judge community. But it isn’t a dirty word. My guess is that almost everyone here would position themselves at the far left of the card, with minimal ambition. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a successful judge, and go as far as possible in the program. The rewards are there, but they demand an active choice on our part to be the best we can be. Frankly, I’d be amazed if anyone actually falls over the halfway point into outright greed. As someone memorably said at the conference last year, why do we judge? ‘For the chicks.’ Right though this undoubtedly is, perhaps we could add for the GPs and PTs too.

We’re on the home straight now with just three to go. But to conclude, three cards that can help in a variety of situations, mostly in subtle ways.

Organization / Rigidity

Take another turn before this one.
A little planning goes a long way.

Summon – Creature of Habit
‘We’ve always run it like this, and we always will.’

I’ve cheated a little here, so I suppose I should be banned, but this card overlaps into the world of Tournament Organizing. The simple truth is that for many of us we sit simultaneously in both roles at our events. But even as a pure judge, this card has relevance. I’m definitely at my most effective as a judge when I’ve done a little bit of preparation. That might mean reading some articles here on StarCityGames.com, looking at the latest Standard decks. It might mean doing some of the online judge rules tests, just to get my game into shape. Or it could mean turning the radio off in the car for the last few miles to the venue, so I can think about likely issues for the day ahead, and mentally be ready to do what’s necessary. But just like Magic, the DCI moves on and adjusts, as witnessed by recent changes in communications policy, the new nature of Level 2, and so on. Doing something in a particular way just because that’s the way it has been is counter-productive. Again, this crosses over into T.O. land, but setting up the tables differently than usual might just help you as a judge to oversee more tables than you normally got to without severe neckache. So, take the time to prepare, but be open-minded.

Next up is one of my favorites.

Stamina Boost / Masochism

Stamina Boost
Aura – Judge
Counter target fatigue. You may judge another round after this one.
“Phew, I needed that.”

Aura – Judge Enchantment
For each round beyond the third, your rulings get -1/-1.
“No, really, I’m fine, it’s only been 18 hours!” Level 0 Judge, Last Words.

This may have escaped your attention, but the DCI is packed with Masochists. Yes, I’m talking about you. What are you thinking? There is a definite culture of turning up at 7 in the morning, finishing at midnight, and then starting again at 7 the next morning to do it all again. I know players sometimes don’t like to think so, but we’re human too, and that means basic human needs like food, drink, and sleep have to be met, at least occasionally. Now truthfully, there’s no way of knowing when and where the unmanageable shift will occur. It could be a Grand Prix, or Nationals, or it could just be a local PTQ where you’re one judge short. Whenever it strikes, be ready. Rather than hoping liquid refreshment will suddenly appear, which is what I rather stupidly seem to do most of the time, take some with you. And make it an isotonic sports drink, or Lucozade, or at least something like, you know, water, rather than 12 litres of diet coke, which is the other thing I rather stupidly seem to do the rest of the time. Have some fruit. Just take care of your body, because if you don’t, your mind will know about it. And truly, being on your feet and working a twelve hour shift without a break isn’t a badge of honor. It means you’ve done something wrong, it means the head judge has definitely done something wrong, or maybe, as in the case with Worlds 2006 in Paris, the DCI has done something wrong. And no amount of wrongs make a right. Do you look after yourself at a tournament? Do you end it in as good a shape as you went in? Mark your cards, we’re almost through.

We’re just about at the end of the judges sideboard. I hope you’ve found it thought-provoking, and given you some more tools and avenues to explore as we all become better judges together. If anyone would like copies of the images I’ve used to create these cards, please feel free to email me and I’ll send them through to you. As I said, I’ve found the sideboard most useful in printed form, as it allows me to bring to my attention the weaknesses I need to work on before each event.

But I’ve saved the most important card for last. When you’re at a table making a ruling, when you’re doing a deckcheck, when you’re disqualifying someone for the first time, when you’re putting up the pairings, when you’re handing out a match loss, from the moment you put on the stripes you are never alone. Even at its most extreme, when you’re the only judge in the building, the internets crashed, none of your level 3 friends are answering their mobiles, the fact remains that you are a representative of a very large, largely professional organization, and that organization will back you and support you when you need it. The DCI is a large family, and if you ever feel you’ve been left out on a limb, something’s gone wrong. So my final card reminds us that we are all part of that outstanding community of people who devote their time and thought to making the game we all love as fair and equitable as we can. And on the right hand side of the card, we see what happens when we forget that the community is behind us, and nobody wants that.

In conclusion, have fun and more importantly, enjoy your judging. Here’s that last card.

DCI / Me

Summon — Judges
You may play cards from anywhere
‘Clearly a high pick’

Summon — Ginger Podcast Man
You may play no other spells.
‘Meh, not so much.’

As ever, thanks for reading.