Judge Requirements and Responsibilities

Posted in NEWS on December 7, 2004

By Wizards of the Coast

At Pro Tour Columbus 2004, John Carter led a pair of judge workshops covering the requirements for and responsibilities of the various levels of certification. The first was only for level 2's interested in testing for advancement in the near future and focused on the expectations of level 3 judges, while the second was open to all judges and covered the guidelines for candidates for level 1, 2, and 3. The judge website has a detailed explanation of the requirements for each judge level – so what more could there possibly be to warrant six hours of discussion over two days? This is your chance to find out.

General Guidelines

Regardless of certification level, a certified judge should always behave in a manner that brings credit to the judge program and Organized Play - whether acting as a judge or a player. Although your authority as a judge ends with the event you are judging, your responsibility to uphold the ideals of fair play and sportsmanship does not.

A certified judge should always exhibit professional behavior and appearance while judging an event. All players, staff, and spectators should be treated with respect and courtesy. A judge's attire is the first step in establishing credibility with players; it should make you easily identifiable on the floor as a figure of authority. The standard judge uniform at high-level events consists of the black-and-white DCI judge shirt, long black slacks, black dress shoes and socks, and a belt. Consult with your local tournament organizer or judge coordinator for guidelines for events in your area.

A common misconception is that all judges should test for advancement as often as the experience requirements and retest intervals allow. It is far more important to clearly understand how you match up with the requirements for advancement and how you will use your new certification to bolster the judge program than to simply say "I have been level X for the minimum of Y months, so it is time to test for level X+1." Many certified judges have no interest in progressing past level 1 or level 2, and there is no shame in this. Even if you are capable of passing the certification test for the next level, it is better to remain at your current level than to do a poor job at the next level due to a lack of time or devotion. More specifics about the rights and responsibilities of each certification level are discussed below.

The information presented in this article could become outdated in the future. You can always find the most current guidelines for judges under the Judge Policies section of the judge webpage.

Level 1 – Local Judge

As an uncertified judge attempting to advance to level 1, you should:

  • Be familiar with the Magic Comprehensive Rules, Oracle, and DCI policy documents. Many candidates are tripped up by their lack of policy knowledge; they know game rules through their experience as a player, but have not studied the policy documents because they have yet to need that information. At a minimum, you should be well versed in the provisions of the Universal Tournament Rules, Magic Floor Rules, and Penalty Guidelines.
  • Be familiar with sanctioned tournaments, having participated in a number of them yourself. A person who is familiar with Magic, but not tournaments needs this experience to understand their role and the responsibilities that come from it.
  • Be motivated to use your certification to contribute to the judge program. You should be interested in learning more about and supporting Organized Play in your local area. A candidate who seeks certification solely to run local tournaments should be aware that sanctioned events do not require a certified judge. A candidate who seeks certification solely to receive product for judging events is unlikely to be a strong addition to the program and should be informed that judging pays quite poorly compared to many other professions.
  • Be a respected member of your local Magic community. You should be recognized as a sportsman and a fair arbiter by players, judges, and organizers alike in the area. This respect is an important part of establishing your authority as a certified judge.
  • Have read over the information on the program found on the DCI Certified Judge webpage at www.wizards.com/judge

Some may ask if there are specific judges for Wizards of the Coast’s other games. Magic:The Gathering is WotC’s flagship brand. All DCI Certified Judges are (at this time) required to know Magic:The Gathering to become a DCI Certified Judge. A DCI Certified Judge who is very familiar with another game system is qualified to judge it. At this time there are no specific tests for other game systems.

Level 1 judges are allowed to run 24K tournaments using the enhanced K-value system. They also receive permission to post messages to the certified judges’ mailing list. (Anyone may gain read-only access to the list through the online archive.)

Level 2 – Area Judge

As a level 1 judge attempting to advance to level 2, you should:

  • Be prepared to transition from "a player who judges" to "a judge who plays". You should be prepared to make judging rather than playing your first priority at tournaments. As level 2 judges are looked on as mentors by other judges, you should also be prepared to advise the judges you work with to help them improve.
  • Be proficient in all components of DCI policy. In addition to the documents described above for rules and policy knowledge for level 1 judges, you should understand the K-value system, the modified Swiss pairing system, the High-Level Tournament Information document, disqualification reporting procedure, and other technical aspects of DCI tournaments. Players will look to you as a reliable source for knowledge on all aspects of rules and policy.
  • Be active in supporting Organized Play in general and premiere Organized Play in particular in your area. You should be running local tournament on a regular basis; in addition, you should be familiar with tournament organizer requirements and the process of sanctioning tournaments and willing to assist local stores in setting up their own sanctioned events. You should have judged at all types of premiere events available in your area (including prereleases, JSS Challenges, Grand Prix Trials, State Championships or the equivalent, Pro Tour Qualifiers, and Regionals), and should have head judged at least one premiere event. Although no single event listed above is strictly required, your experience should reflect your commitment to judging.
  • Be familiar with DCI Reporter and the steps needed to complete common tasks. At a minimum, you should be able to handle these tasks: player enrollment; results entry; creating pairings for both the Swiss rounds and a single elimination bracket; printing pairings, standings, result slips, and other required documents; re-entering incorrectly dropped players; and fixing incorrectly recorded match results. When feasible, you should have acted as scorekeeper for two PTQs or events of similar size to demonstrate this proficiency. Naturally, the easiest way to learn DCI Reporter is to be taught by an expert user; several articles on the judge page discuss the operation of DCI Reporter for those looking to learn about its use on their own.

Level 2 judges are allowed to run 32K tournaments using the enhanced K-value system. In general, level 2 certification is required to head judge a PTQ or floor judge the main event of a Pro Tour.

Level 3 – Regional Judge

Advancing from level 2 to level 3 is arguably the most important step in the judge program. A level 3's responsibilities go beyond simply running tournaments to include supporting the overall judge program in your region. Although giving the judge certification test is an important part of this and is restricted to levels 3 and higher, any judge seeking to advance should look to take on a leadership role in the judge community as described below, regardless of level.

As a level 2 judge attempting to advance to level 3, you should:

  • Have experience judging at every type of premiere event. In addition to the tournament types described in the level 2 section, you should have judged a Grand Prix, National Championship, and Pro Tour. You should have head judged at least one Pro Tour Qualifier or equivalent event. Again, although no single event listed above is strictly required, your overall experience should reflect your commitment.
  • Have expert knowledge of the rules and keep up-to-date on them. You need an understanding beyond how a card interacts, to why a card interacts. You must be able to educate others in your expert knowledge.
  • Have a good measure of diplomacy with others. Regional Judges interact with all parts of the organized play community: players, judges, storeowners, professional organizers, the DCI, and Wizards of the Coast. Often a Regional Judge is in the unenviable position of being the middleman of a situation between these parts.
  • Have a clear understanding of the philosophy of the judge program and the Penalty Guidelines. In addition to simply knowing rules and policy, you should understand why each rule and each policy exists – each one has its reasons. If there is a rule whose reasoning you do not understand, discuss it with your fellow judges; maybe you will find that the rule needs to be clarified or modified. Such discussions can only improve your judging abilities.
  • Be able to accurately evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of yourself and the other judges you work with, and to identify ways to address these weaknesses. Consequently, it is just as important to be willing and able to give honest advice and feedback to other judges. As a leader of judges in your region, it's your responsibility to give your judges constructive criticism so they can improve. Sugarcoating your comments to avoid conflict will only hurt your program in the end.
  • Be active in supporting Organized Play and premiere Organized Play both within and beyond your area. In addition to supporting premiere events in your area, you should be willing to travel to tournaments as circumstances warrant to develop judges in areas further from home.
  • Mentor other judges and assist motivated judges in advancing in the judge program. You should make every effort to raise other qualified judges in your region up to your level. A candidate who holds back other judges to protect his own position is doing a disservice to the judge program. To this end, you should facilitate other judges in gaining the experience they need to advance (or encourage your tournament organizer and judge coordinator to do so if you're not in charge of staffing decisions.) This may include floor judging, scorekeeping, or head judging various types of events. As much as possible, neither you nor any other judge should be indispensable in your region; regional leadership and the week-to-week running of events should not be a concern if any one person is unavailable.


The guidelines presented in this article are just that – only guidelines. Each certification test is a holistic process including a written rules and policy test, an interview with the certifying judge, and possibly evaluation of recommendations from the judges the candidate has worked with. Consult with your certifying judge for suggestions on how to prepare for your own test.

As always, further discussion on dcijudge-l is encouraged; private feedback via email is also welcome.

Daniel Wong