The Dream of Judging at a Pro-Tour

Posted in NEWS on December 7, 2015

By Wizards of the Coast

Michael Kastberg

Michael Kastberg, known also for his work as Delphi Test Project Manager

Couldn't it be neat? Judging a Pro-Tour I mean. For those who haven't done, let me say: I fully recommend it! I do that for a number of reasons. But they all seem to fall in one of three categories: the "it's really, really fun" part, the "you can learn much, which you can utilize in your local tournaments" and the all important "because you can learn a bunch of stuff working these events that you can use later on in your everyday job" part.

The fun part. Well, not much to be said here. You'll meet many, many people from all over the world, which are all unique. Some of the funniest people I've encountered in my life, I've met judging Pro-Tours. People that usually look very serious on pictures from The sideboard such as Jeff Donais (Lv. 5) and Thomas Bisballe, are in fact very warm, kind-hearted and humorous when you meet them in person.

Whenever I go to an event, I always meet both new people, and reunite with old friends from all over the world. That always makes for good stories.

Consider for example my last trip to Pro-Tour Nice. One evening where we closed up really late, a small band of judges decided to go to dinner. We consisted of one American, two Polish guys, one Dane, one German and a Brit. How often do you get to have dinner with such a diverse bunch of people? Anyway, we found a small local bar/restaurant and ordered the meals. During the dinner, most of us spoke a little French with the waiters. At the end of the dinner, one guy still hadn't spoken any French, so in order to make sure we all understood he too spoke French, he said 'un billet s'il vous plaît' when he wanted the waiter to bring us the bill for the meals. Defeat was written all over his face, when the waiter brought him a BAILEYS !

Those are the moments that make for lasting memories....

The judges team from Pro-Tour Nice

And it's kind of fun to think about, that I have more people of a foreign nationality, that I call my friends, than my ten closest friends have between them.

Now, it's not only the judges that are fun to hang out with. Just because you're there to judge, doesn't mean you'll only get to hang out with judges. Most judges will have players from their own country attending the Pro-Tour, and often you can arrange to hangout with some of them. In essence, there will be plenty of people to share the good times with.

The learning part. Then there is the part, where you're bringing something back to your local community. What better way of improving professionalism in your area? Remember, professionalism doesn't mean "not fun", it means "a better way of doing things"!

Lots and lots of the problems you're struggling with in your local area are the same challenges that they face on the Pro-Tour. But there they have some of the best judges in the world, with so much experience, which they're just dying to pass on. They have know-how and often a well developed sense of improvisation, which one can learn a lot from, because you'll get involved in the process, and get to work with them - not just observe.

One of the best things about working with all these judges is that you also become more aware of your own strong and weak sides. But with help of your experienced peers, you'll always take back lots of ideas and new found know-how.

The names of all excellent judges I've met over the years are too numerous to mention here (and I might forget some!), but most of the judges I've worked with on the Pro-Tour have influenced my way of doing things in one way or another. Few of them are perfect, but each and every one of them posses several qualities that you can study and use to enhance your own performance.

Think that's all? Oh no. Judging these high level events will help develop you as a person. That is if you are open to change of course. But for those who are, you can often learn a great deal about yourself, and how others perceive you.

Most people realize they aren't perfect. Those who don't are fools. Those who realize they aren't perfect, and don't try to better themselves, are even greater fools.

Spending time so intensively (we're often talking a 12-20 hour workday) with so many new faces that all come with different cultures and backgrounds will often expose you to new ideas and new reactions to your behaviour.

During my own time judging high-level events, I have worked intensively with some personal characteristics of my own. I truly believe I worked on these things, and that I over time improved a lot. That helped me tremendously not only at new events, but in my current daily job as well. For one thing, I became better at giving and receiving critiques. When being surrounded by colleagues all the time, where each one has to help the other one grow as a human being and a professional, being able to both give and receive criticism is crucial.

Team training. And that brings me right to my next point. Being able to functioning in a team.

Many jobs require people to work in teams. In fact, more and more modern business pays consulting companies to teach their workers how to interact as a team.

On the Pro-Tour, the judges are always divided into teams. Each team will have a team-leader, which acts as a kind of senior judge. It will often be a judge with much Pro-Tour experience. Basically his main function is the same as the individuals in his team (floor judging), but he is also responsible for the judges in his team. That responsibility includes helping out if they have any questions, checking to see if they need rest/food/drink and especially coaching and evaluating them. Working under your team leader's supervision will help you understand how to become a part of a team. Also, should you try to get assigned to have your own team so that you learn about managing teams, and the problems that can occur?

If you ever make it to the floor of the Pro-Tour, your team-leader is the one to keep an eye on. This is the guy you're most likely to learn something useful from, because he is right there with you handling the problems that occur. Often, after the final round of the day, the team-leader will gather the team, and evaluate the team's performance. You WILL learn!

A neat bonus is that you get to see a new part of the world. Granted, if you're only there for the weekend, there won't be much time for sightseeing, but in my experience, you'll still get a glimpse of the atmosphere of the city and its population.


Michael Kastberg
Level 3 Judge, Denmark
Delphi Test Creator