A few months ago the Pro Tour came to my back yard and as a local Level 2; I volunteered to work the event. Being accepted as a judge on the Pro Tour is both an honor and a privilege, as such there is often stiff competition for the Level 2 slots. Slots are prioritized to help train Level 2 judges who are working towards their Level 3 status, especially those from areas that are lacking in high level judges. The next priority is judges who don’t require a travel stipend. I was awarded a slot as I am working towards my Level 3 status and didn’t require a stipend.
After the event Andy Heckt, the DCI Network Manager (aka Judges Manager) asked me to describe how this experience had helped me to become a better judge.
My answer: Judging at the Pro Tour challenged me, taught me, and strengthened my 'network' in the Magic community.
Meeting the Challenge:
Judging is a challenging activity and judging at the Pro Tour is the ultimate judging challenge. First there is the intensity of every judge call. Even though the questions are the same ones you’ve prepared for and answered a dozen times at your local PTQ, suddenly there’s a new level of intensity when the question comes from a Kamiel or a Kastle and your ruling affects thousands of dollars in prizes.
The intensity of “routine calls” being anything but “routine” at the Pro Tour was driven home to me by one call in particular. I’m monitoring the top tables and I respond to a judge call. The question was simple enough, a misrepresentation of the status of an Ensouled Scimitar (it was improperly tapped when the creature it was equipping became tapped) that led to confusion in the immediately following combat phase. The ruling was simple enough; back things up and issue a Proc Error Minor to the misrepresenting player.
Now let’s add in the environment. Sheldon Menery and Colin Jackson are both watching the call. The call is from a rather well known pro. To top it all off, I find out in the round debriefing that one of the players might have been intentionally misplaying to test the system (that is the judging staff) to see if they could gain a play advantage.
Do you think you’ve got what it takes to make the right decisions under pressure? The Pro Tour is the right place to find out.
Learning from the Best:
Working at the Pro Tour also gives you the opportunity to learn from experienced judges. As a new judge you’re not left alone to face the intensity that comes with big dollars on the line. The higher level (Level 3 & 4) judges work as facilitators for the learning process. You’ll be assigned to a team with an experienced leader whose job it is to help you tune your judging skills. At the start of each round your team leader will assign you tasks and at the end of the round your team will gather for a debriefing to discuss the major judging issues that the team encountered.
Whenever there are slow points in the event you’ll find senior judges presenting difficult and interesting rules questions. These questions often involve unresolved issues where they’re trying to understand the beliefs of the judging community. Sometimes they present you with difficult issues where they want to make sure that there is a common understanding. Either way it’s the chance to talk rules with the best in the business.
John Carter (Rules Manager) was on my team and during our spare time he brought up issues relating to section 420 (state-based effects). During our discussion of the concepts behind each subsection he asked me to look into a sections 420.4 and 420.5g. My conclusion was: that the rules as written make it impossible to force draw kill a player (i.e. Braingeysering them out) although due to precedent it shouldn’t be ruled that way at this event. The end result: he’s reviewing the issue for possible clarification/revision and I’ve gained a level of understand of section 420 that I could never have otherwise achieved.
Building your personnel network:
Aside from the educational benefits of having a Sheldon Menery or a John Carter challenge your rules knowledge, there are huge benefits from having face time with key DCI personnel. Having a certain level of familiarity with senior DCI staff like Andy Heckt or John Grant makes it much easier to know who you should contact when the need arises (not to mention a better understanding of WHEN to contact them).
Probably the most interesting part of building your network of contacts with the senior DCI personnel is that they look at the Pro Tour as a chance to build their personnel network with the up and coming judges. They view the level 2 judges of today as the level 3 judges of the future and thus a future de facto representative of themselves and the DCI. As such they’re actively interested in your issues and want to relate to you the issues that they’re concerned with.
Finally, there are all the usual reasons that make judging such a fulfilling role. There’s the floor judging experience, the ability to watch great games of Magic: The Gathering and the ability to contribute to the Magic community.
So in summary, if you’d want to sharpen your judging skills, learn from the best and work a few 12 hours days then you should strongly consider volunteering to work a Pro Tour. That is if you think you’ve got what it takes…
Jay Schneider, Level 2