20 Years from Now

Posted in NEWS on June 18, 1999

By Wizards of the Coast

Charlie Catino

In a recent discussion about Magic, a friend of mine started off by saying "20 years from now, Magic will be..." Upon hearing this, a lot of people started laughing at the thought of someone thinking of Magic that far into the future. However, it got me thinking how good that attitude is for Magic. In fact, it's a great attitude for judges to adopt. Remember that competitive organized play is just moving out of its infancy. This brings judges into positions where they are shaping how organized play for Magic will work. This gives judges opportunities to set ruling precedents, to set expectations about how events will be judged and run; to basically shape the thinking of every Magic player now and in the future. This also means that we are shaping the impression each and every player has about Magic tournaments. The fact that these impressions will be the foundation for future tournaments is a very sobering thought.

Because judges currently have a lot of influence on how future events will be run, they should therefore use a lot of long-term thinking when making decisions. Instead of just thinking of a fair resolution of a problem - think about how knowledge of your ruling would affect players' behavior in the future. Sometimes if players have knowledge of how you would rule a particular situation they will warp the intention of your ruling, or even be able to get around the intent of your ruling. Therefore, before making your ruling, think about your ruling as a player not as a judge, and see if players can get around your solution or abuse your ruling. Next make sure that your ruling is one which can always be used in tournaments and will be easy for other judges to apply. For example, when discussing procedures for PT drafts in the past, we came up with rules that would require a judge per draft table. This would have been bad since not every tournament organizer can do this. Also, make sure that whatever you rule, it is easy to explain and that other judges will have no problem ruling consistently based on your ruling. I believe that all of these things are easy for judges to do if they are thinking long-term instead of just what will "fix" the current system.

Also, it is very easy for judges to the right thing if they are thinking about the distant future. Any player might feel that he is being punished too much in a particular situation. Judges are sometimes vulnerable to requests for leniency in emotional situations where the ruling will knock a player out of contention. If the judge is thinking long-term, however, it will be very clear that 20 years from now, it was more important to be consistent than to be lenient. Nobody will remember individual rulings 20 years from now; but everyone will remember that rulings were always consistent and fair. This is the long term goal judges should be striving for.

Another reason judges should be thinking long term is that this attitude helps get them into a correct frame of mind. If you are worried about the integrity of Magic tournament play 20 years from now, it is much easier to make sure you are treating situations as opportunities to educate the players instead of punishing the players.

Andrew Finch (Level 4 judge and former DCI Tournament Manager) uses a (now) popular phrase when talking about DCI organized play: "integrity of the tournament environment". This is very evocative of what judges and organizers should strive for. I would like to modify it to make sure everyone understands that it's our job to insure the integrity of the tournament environment, now and in the future - even 20 years from now.