The Justice League – What We Think

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Monday, June 29th – Wizards of the Coast did a survey to find out what players thought of the DCI, and they discovered that about 80% of tournament players like judges, and feel that judges are an integral part of a successful tournament. 80%, eh? So why isn’t that number at 100?

With all the stuff that has happened in the Magic world in the last month, it seems like there is a lot to talk about. So what should it be?

I could talk about the M10 rules. It would make sense since I’m a judge, and I hear we’re interested in that sort of thing. But I’m pretty sure you all can read. You can read the article on Wizards, you can read the many articles, and many many threads spread across the Internet about the new changes M10 will bring. I’m fairly certain the only new information I could possibly give you would be my opinion. And even after only a couple weeks, that stuff feels like old news.

I will say one thing regarding the discussion of the topics. A lot of the people saying that the new combat damage rules are good, that it won’t really affect the game. I find this argument somewhat condescending. I agree that in a year we’ll barely remember damage going on the stack, but a lot of creatures are becoming obsolete from this change. Good for the game? Maybe. Maybe not. Completely insignificant? Hardly.

What about those new policy changes? Well, Peter Jahn already did a good article for us, and Brian David-Marshall and Toby Elliott discussed it on the Mothership. I’d rather save that stuff for when I can talk about how they worked out in real life anyway.

I continued to scour my brain for a possible topic, then I remembered the seminar presented by John Carter at Pro Tour: Honolulu. We got a nice long discussion about how the DCI and its judges fit in with the Magic world, and some interested statistics were revealed to me. Wizards of the Coast did a survey to find out what players thought of the DCI, and they discovered that about 80% of tournament players like judges, and feel that judges are an integral part of a successful tournament.

80%, eh? Considering most players see us as a form of law enforcement, it’s not a bad number. Of course, I would rather it be higher.

So why isn’t that number at 100? There are some people out there that have had bad experiences with judges and for the most part the judges were in the right. No matter who you are, if a judge stops you from getting an invite/large sum of money/whatever it is you’re fighting for then there is a decent chance you won’t be a fan.

I know one reason why players may not like us. Sometimes we make a mistake that costs a player, and we aren’t in the right. This is the unfortunate side effect of having human judges.

This showed up for me in a big way at Grand Prix: Seattle. I was watching over both the Standard for a TV event, and the Ravnica Sealed, and was under the impression that both were Competitive rules enforcement level.

Turns out they were not.

All the side events were Regular REL. This means the set of penalties are different, including the punishment for tardiness. At Regular REL if you are 1 second to 9 minutes and 59 seconds late, it is only a warning, and 10 minutes is a double game loss. At Competitive, it’s the same time but the first warning is a game loss.

(Looks like I get to talk about the PG after all.)

Like I said, I thought it was Competitive REL, and two poor fellows were 5 minutes late.

When I discovered my error I went to apologize to both players. One had already won his match despite the game loss, so he wasn’t too angry at all. In fact, me coming to apologize seemed to make him happy.

The other guy didn’t have much of a smile on his face after dropping his match 1-2. He did seem to appreciate that I was sincerely sorry, and that I would never make this mistake again. As much as he did appreciate that, I may have cost him a giant HD TV. I couldn’t help but wonder what was going through his head.

A question I have for you players. Has a judge ever made a mistake when dealing with you (or something you thought was a mistake)? What did you think of them? What did you think of the judge program? What did you think of tournament Magic, or Magic of any kind?

If there is anyone out there that doesn’t like judges, I’d love to know why. Our job is to keep events fair, and fun. If you think there is a way we could be doing this better then you should let any judge you can find know. There is a decent chance we might disagree, but it never hurts to talk about it.

Since I’m so curious about what players think about us, I thought you as players may be interested to know what judges think of you.

Where do you and your judge start?

Other than the brave souls doing registration, a judge’s first interaction with a player will be through a judge call, and if you’re inexperienced in dealing with judges (or even if you’re very experienced), one of three questions might be running through your head.

1. Do you think I’m an idiot for asking this?

One thing I hear from a lot of teachers say at the beginning of a semester is “If you have a question, don’t feel nervous about asking. Odds are there at least ten other people in the room with the same question.” This is a great style of thought to bring to a tournament.

I know it can be intimidating to deal with an expert when you’re new at something. Fortunately for you, judges are very professional, and we still remember what it’s like to be newer to the game. Any question you may have for us is just as valid as a question involving Humility, or some equally evil concoction.

There are physicists out there that don’t understand how flying works. Why should you feel bad about not knowing either?

2. Do you think I’m a jerk for asking this?

Too many times now I’ve heard players tell me that they didn’t call a judge because they didn’t want to seem like they were being rude, or look like they were fishing for penalties. What makes this situation more complicated is that you can be penalized for inappropriately demanding a penalty.

It may encourage you to know that I’ve never given a penalty to someone asking about their opponent being penalized if the inquiring player was calm and polite about it. The responding judge will recognize that you’re just concerned and looking for fair match.

Unless you really are fishing. Then we have something to talk about.

I can’t promise that your opponent will feel the same way, but you shouldn’t risk being mistreated just to look good in front of the guy across from you.

3. Do you think I’m up to something?

Are you?

If you are up to something, then we’ll probably think you are. Baring that, it’s unlikely that we’ll find you suspicious. One thing I often find players concerned with is that simply asking a question will get them in trouble. But there is nothing wrong with simply asking

“Judge! If I say ____ to my opponent, is that considered bribery?”

We actually like it when you do that. You should always ask away from the table though. If you ask about a potential infraction in front of your opponent, the opponent or even the responding judge may interpret the question as a secret offer.

So now the problem has been presented, and the responding judge will provide their solution. Once a ruling is given one of two things will happen. Things will either resume with the judge’s ruling in effect, or one of the players will appeal.

Ah the appeal. One of the most uncomfortable aspects of the player-judge relationship.

At least for the player anyway. For us its business as usual.

One of the skills a good judge has is the ability to recognize when a player wants to appeal. This is due to the fact that that many players won’t appeal without being offered one. The reason for this will vary among different hesitant players, but I know there are a fair few people out there that are afraid of offending us.

I can think of two reasons why a player wouldn’t want to avoid offending a judge.

You’re afraid that if we’ll feel insulted, and that we’ll get back at you, or you’re worried you’ll hurt our feelings.

I’ve never met a judge that is this idiotic, or petty. We simply see an appeal as you being unsure or cautious. If you think one of us is wrong and appeal then the head judge will either back us up, and life will go on as if the appeal never happened, or the head judge will overturn our ruling, and it will prevent a wrong ruling. Any judge that wouldn’t want that shouldn’t be judging.

I will admit, after my first appeal I was slightly taken aback, but it’s something every judge has to go through. After the first time, it will seem perfectly natural.

There is one more important thought a judge will have about a player, and that is if they’ve committed some sort of penalty.

This may offend some of the narcissists out there, but to be honest, unless you’ve done something horribly offensive, we won’t think much.

I’ve seen players do all kinds of things, and nothing has made me think less of someone. Every penalty I’ve witnessed I saw as a mistake, not a representation of the player committing the infraction. I’ve disqualified people for stealing, and I’d be happy to have them back at my future events. People make mistakes, and judges recognize this fact.

Hopefully this has reassured a few people. There may still be questions about what goes on in a judge’s head, and I can’t answer them all here, but any that you do have, I’d love to answer. Feel free to post/PM me about concerns.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to publicly pay my respects to Brian Baker, and his family. He was a fellow judge who recently passed away. I only met Brian once, but I can tell just from that meeting that the world has lost a good man far too soon. As cheesy as it may sound, we as judges see each other as family, and to lose one of our own, no matter how distant, always hurts.

There is talk of trying to hold a memorial tournament for him. If it fires, which I hope it does, I encourage anyone that can to donate, and/or play.

Until next time, stay out of the penalty box.