JUDGE POINTS: Playing Competitively

Posted in NEWS on December 7, 2015

By Wizards of the Coast

Sheldon Menery

There are numerous reasons why we choose to judge DCI-sanctioned events instead of playing. For some, it's a matter of time commitment; playing competitively is an extreme investment. For others, it's a predisposition. The skills set for being a good player and being a good judge are different; there are those who are blessed with the latter but not the former. For others, like me, it was a matter of circumstance. Until recently, I was the only Premier Event Tournament Organizer in my region. I made the commitment to run and judge our local large events because I was the only person qualified. That's changed for me; there's a new TO in town, which has freed me to play more often than the occasional Friday Night Magic. If you find yourself with the same opportunity, there are a few rules of engagement (RULE), because no matter what, you're not "just a player."

Represent: It's likely that most everyone in your local area knows you're a certified Judge. Carry yourself at all times in a manner that reflects credit upon the DCI Judge Certification program. Don't let your behavior as a player undermine your authority as a Judge.

Sheldon Menery gives good advice to judges who also want to play competitively

On the flip side, don't try to carry your Judge authority with you into any event. You're not privy to special favors or benefits because you're a Judge. If you're done with your match, don't make rulings; make sure an appropriate judge is called.

Uphold: You probably know the rules better than your opponents. You probably know ways around them, or at least the grey areas. I don't need to tell you not to cheat-but don't cheese. Don't let your opponent take an illegal action, wait until it's too late to rectify, and then call a judge, knowing that you'll benefit from a particular penalty. If you see it, correct it immediately. For example, if you see your opponent about to draw a card he's not supposed to, stop him. Your credibility is worth far more than a single game or match win.

That's not to say you're compelled to keep your opponent from making strategic or tactical errors because they don't know the rules as well. As an example, I was once playing in a match where my opponent was playing Fallen Angel. She had out several creatures. She attacked with the Angel and said "I sacrifice all my other creatures." I said "Are you sure you want to do that all at once?" When she said "yes," I responded by playing Urza's Rage, killing her Angel.

You are, however, compelled to keep them from making procedural errors-at least as well as you can. Many players play sloppily and too fast, like drawing their card before untapping. Remind them that this isn't the way the game works.

Lead: Help players that don't understand the rules so well. After your match is over, explain things to them. After the Fallen Angel match, I explained to my opponent how the stack works. She could have sacrificed the creatures one at a time, giving me priority after each one, rendering my burn useless, because she could always still respond to my spell.

Exemplify: Show everyone how a player should behave. Dress appropriately. Be polite. Shake hands. Introduce yourself if necessary. Play with technical precision. Tap your lands 90 degrees. Announce the Phases and Steps of the game. Make sure both you and your opponent are completely clear on what the game state is. Thank your opponent for the match. Clean up after yourself and encourage others to do the same. Finally, if you see or hear of suspicious behavior, report it to tournament officials. If you've developed credibility as a judge in your environment, the players will likely begin to emulate your behavior.

It's possible to be both an active judge and a competitive player. If you have the time to invest and maintain proficiency at both, a few simple rules will take you a long way. I hope to see you at the Pro Tour very soon-when you sign my results entry slip.