JUDGE POINTS: Professionalism

Posted in NEWS on November 5, 2001

By Wizards of the Coast

Sheldon Menery

The way the DCI is portrayed by the Judging staff at each and every event is vital to the sustained long-term success of Magic as a competitive sport. Every Judge, from the most newly-certified Level 1 all the way up to Jeff Donais, is a representative of the DCI. In order for the DCI to be viewed as a professional organization, its representatives must hold themselves to a higher standard, a standard I call professionalism.

Professionalism can be broken into three distinct areas: appearance, bearing, and competence. Appearance is one's general outward presentation. Bearing is the way one interacts with others, including players and other staff members. Competence is one's actual Judging knowledge.


"Good clothes open all doors."
- Thomas Fuller

Human beings are very visual creatures. The first thing anyone knows about us is the way we look, and we have no way of undoing that first impression. We can't all be poster children, but we can all be presentable.

Being presentable includes the simplest things, like good personal hygiene and clean, neat clothes, but that's only the beginning. It also includes going the extra mile to portray the DCI in a positive light: clean, perhaps even polished, shoes, shirt tucked in, hair neatly combed, and a fairly conservative amount and style of jewelry.

All judges at the ProTour are required to dress appropriately

Just as individuals have the right to express themselves how they wish and the freedom to wear the clothing and accoutrements of their choice, the DCI has the right to determine what is acceptable appearance for its events. If you have several facial piercings, wear them in good health. Consider removing them while Judging an event.

Appearance also involves what you're seen doing and who you're seen doing it with. While you're walking the floor, do so without the distractions of food, or anything else that might detract from your ability to make rulings in a timely fashion. In order to avoid the appearance of favoritism, be careful about spending too much time with a particular person or group. Finally, never express a desire-for good or ill-regarding a particular player's performance.


"The Master said 'Have no friends not equal to yourself.'"
- Confucius

The professional treats everyone with equal respect. Everyone, from players to staff to spectators, from press to the lady working the concession booth, deserves to be treated with honor.

Use applicable terms of address such as "sir" and "ma'am" when talking to people, and not just your elders. Dealing with especially players respectfully as opposed to authoritatively will generally diffuse tense situations and bring a smoother resolution to difficulties. Players feeling that they are given respect will tend to return it as well.

Emotion has no place in Judging. Inform or instruct, but never scold. Players will sometimes get emotional; never fall into the same trap. Emotion will cloud your judgment-and your judgment is why you're there in the first place. When a player is upset or angry, speak calmly to him. Explain why you're making a ruling a particular way or why you're issuing a particular penalty. Even when you're Judging, don't be judgmental.

How you treat the people around you, especially when the situation is extremely volatile, confusing, or difficult, is how you will be measured by the Magic community as a whole.


"To be possessed of a vigorous mind is not enough; the prime requisite is rightly to apply it."
- Rene Descartes

The foundation of Judging is your knowledge of the Comprehensive Rules, the DCI Universal Tournament Rules, the Magic Floor Rules, and the Penalty Guidelines. When you know what you're talking about and can pass that along to others, you gain a great deal of credibility in the eyes of the players, as does the DCI as a whole.

Constantly seek to improve your knowledge. There are numerous resources, like this very web site, dedicated to keeping your rules knowledge sharp. Don't think that knowing the rules is everything, however.

All of you know the basics of what Protection from Red means. But what happens when a player spills his drink on the match next to his, making both players' cards unplayable? Unusual situations will be a far more difficult test of your mettle than interpreting the rulebook.

Study situations. Read tournament reports or talk to other Judges and Tournament Organizers about the things that go wrong in tournaments, and how they handled them. Think about worst-case scenarios and how you'd resolve them.

When faced with a situation whose answer can't come directly from a book or guideline, you need consider only one thing. Ask yourself "What's in the best interest of the game?" Step back, and take a look at the bigger picture. You'll never go wrong.

The DCI is the body that has the greatest impact on the competitive game of Magic, and the Judge is the most visible representative of that body. For Magic to become a professional sport, it must have a professional infrastructure. Follow the ABC's of appearance, bearing, and competence, and you will be laying that very foundation.