A Level 3's Guide to Mentoring Judges

Posted in NEWS on August 15, 1999

By Wizards of the Coast

Ray Powers

If you're a level three or higher judge, you hear it all the time... Requests for taking tests, requests to answer rules questions, to teach floor rules to new judges, and on and on and on... Sometimes it seems like an unrewarding ritualistic task, but if you do it correctly, and effectively, being a good judge mentor can pay off handsomely in the long run.

We all want to run good tournaments. There's nothing more rewarding than being listed in someone's "props" section of a tournament report on The Dojo with a comment about how well the tournament went. We all want the players to be happy, and enjoy themselves. Happy players come back again and again. So the logic is simple, to run good tournaments, you need good judges. You need judges that have qualities that make them good judges. Qualities like honesty, integrity, friendliness, professionalism, and plain old rules knowledge. You want your judges to be people that your players can get along with, but also respect and trust. A judge that no one trusts is not one that is actually helping you, if every call they make is appealed.

So, how do we make good judges?

Well, first, all those things you hate to do? Answering 2,000 questions at each tourney about how Lion's Eye Diamond works, and what the penalty is for drawing an extra card when your opponent strokes you for 20? Do it. Do all of them. And watch who is asking you the most questions. The people asking the most questions normally falls into one of two categories: Rules Lawyers, and Judges-in-the-works.

How can you tell the difference? Well, the general rule I use is execution. If ten people come up to me and ask me questions before an event, I watch the day through to see how many of those people actually *use* the ruling I give them. Those are the players, whether they be rules lawyers, or just plain old nice players that wanted to make sure their "combo" worked before they event started. The other one's were most likely people asking the question interested only in learning the answer. These are the people with a thirst for knowledge that you should look at as possible future judges. Actively recruit where you can. A good judge is worth their weight in gold for your events. Being open for questions is integral in identifying future judges. Take advantage of it.

Once you have your judges, work with them. I sit on IRC and answer questions in my local Magic channel all day for my level 1 judges. I encourage them to judge where and when they can (one is going crazy judging E-league event after E-league event, just for the experience). If it comes down to teaching them the rules, and getting them judging experience, go for the experience every time. They will gain the rules knowledge THROUGH experience, and the actual running of events will teach them how to better interact with players, which is really what makes or breaks a judge.

At events, work *with* your judges. Not just for those first two events where they are slave judges before taking the test, work with them at EVERY event. Spend some time with each judge during the day, watching how they make calls. Don't interfere, just watch them at work and, if necessary comment to them in private afterwards about how they may have handled a situation better. This should really be delicately balanced. You don't want to mother every judge you have. You simply want to spend a few minutes with each one helping the grow a little bit each tournament.

Finally, remember that Magic is not a static thing. Rules change all the time. So do banned lists. So does DCI Reporter. Keep this in mind and keep your judges updated. A week before every premiere event, I send out an e-mail to my private list soliciting questions about rules they may have, old or new. The day of the event, we all gather together before the event and do a pow wow on new rulings, and issues. We also collectively decide what we will make as general announcements to the players. A good rule of thumb we use is "If more than one judge did not know it, we should announce it."

Don't just review rules though. At every event we have, I make sure that Mike Bahr (our resident DCI Reporter expert), gives classes to the other judges on running DCI Reporter. It increases everyone's knowledge base, including mine, and gives Mike more opportunities to roam the floor to increase his floor time experience.

These are not meant to be all inclusive rules. Far from it in fact. We should all look at new ways to teach and work with our judges all the time. One idea I have not implemented yet is Rules Lawyers Night. The concept is for us all to get together with constructed decks, and play each other in total rules lawyer mode, with one person sitting out each round as a "judge." It should bring up some excellent judge questions, and help the judges learn to deal with and understand specific rules arguments as they occur, as well as how to deal with us unruly judge/players. *grin*

Just remember the next event you run's success will be decided by the judges you use. Take the time to train your judges right, and you'll never regret it.

Ray Powers
Level III Judge (6E Compliant!)
Phoenix, Arizona