No Really, Why Do We Judge?

Posted in NEWS on January 23, 2008

By Wizards of the Coast

Nearly five years ago, I made an attempt to summarize the reasons we are into judging. You can still find this old article, although please, *please* ignore the photo. The approach that article took was somewhat shallow as I had only been judging for 6 months at that point (keep ignoring that photo). However, years have passed and I now have a different perspective. The reasons I continue to judge are significantly different than when I started, and I suspect many judges experience this as they progress in their careers. This is not by chance; we learn to appreciate different things in the judge program as we move on.

To an outsider it does not make sense. We work long hours and very often, we make nothing or very little. All these are discussed in my previous article. However, has anyone stopped and compared himself now to when he started judging?

Skills stick around

This thought occurred to me recently when I was wondering what would be left when I quit judging, which is something that will eventually happen to all of us who are not professionally into Magic. It's not pleasant if this activity that you put so much time and effort into actually leaves you nothing after years of work. Well, that is far from the reality, and that is what is great about it. Don't consider that you are spending all this effort to improve as a judge, but as a person. For example, if your mentor asks you to improve in diplomacy before you can be level Y+1, this is a skill you will still have for years to come.

There are many areas judging improves us all in. Of course, depending on the opportunities you have received so far you may not have gotten as much exposure as others, but you will still have had some exposure or will have. I will not attempt to provide a list of all the skills you improve as a judge, but for example:

  • If you are working towards Area Judge level, you will have to be diplomatic with players (people) and be able to handle difficult situations. You will have to do pretty much the same if your job requires interfacing with customers, or in some situations of everyday life.
  • If you are working towards Regional Judge level, you will have to develop yourself as a leader. Well, every managing position requires the same, and so do other activities like even managing a household.
  • If you are working towards International Judge level, you will have to start developing DCI philosophy. This is the process any research and development department puts you through.

The list goes on and we can all think of skills we developed and how they are useful. There are so many areas I have improved due to judging that I'm thankful for. Also, this cannot be attributed to a single person. The DCI judge program is a cooperation network between peers that help each other. Indeed, people improve because of the help from others and give back when able by helping others improve. Such networks are based on good faith of people, and the success of the program can only mean that this good faith actually exists.

So, the next time your mentor asks you to improve on something before they will test you, give you a specific opportunity, or whatever, do not think that they are holding you back. You may have a hard time realizing or accepting that at the time. However, they want you to improve in something, and you have every reason to do so because this skill will stick around even after you quit judging. And remember, dealing with failure is another important skill in life that some of us may deal with for the first time in the judge program.

Appreciate the people

Another observation I have made as I have gained experience is that judging is about the people, as well as the tournament. Indeed, I have made it to 20 Grand Prix, but I still go looking for more. Why? The tournament does not change. It is still a Grand Prix, players will always be unable to fill out legal decklists, and we will still be performing the usual tasks (deck checks, pairings, and so on). However, at every tournament you will get the opportunity to meet and work with different people.

What good does that do? First off you learn to cooperate with people you haven't met before (another useful skill). However, you should take it one step further and actually get to meet the people. After five years of judging I now have friends all over the world with whom I can randomly chat on the internet, visit for vacation, and so on. Sure there are ways you can meet people otherwise, but you still wouldn't have bonded the same way.

Apart from that however, you learn to have a good time with the people, be open to them, and, more importantly, get to appreciate them. This is something that has grown to me mostly in the last two years. When I am in any kind of leadership position, I try to talk with the judges working with me. As it turns out, many of them are remarkable people. I have met people who are spending time and effort for no compensation just to serve their community as it deserves. I have met people who have taken their vacation time to come to judge, or postponed meeting their spouses one more time. The people you work with deserve your respect, regardless of level. This way you get to appreciate the people working with you and have faith in them. You should also try your best to serve and help them because they deserve it.

This does not limit itself to judges however. We tend to be suspicious or fed up with players because a very small number of them give us a hard time by cheating, messing up or whatever. Players, however, are mostly people who have come to have fun. Try to talk to them, either to joke around (be careful, though, to still be professional and not appear biased), educate them or find out where they are from. They are very interesting people and if you are interested in them, they will feel more close to you, be more understanding, and will try to help you improve. Having players who try to help you improve is a great tool since their perspective is sometimes forgotten by judges.

Enjoy the game

Judging is a great way to enjoy the game. After all, very few judges would consider remaining active if they found themselves not enjoying Magic one day. That is why many of us draft locally or online, and get together to draft some more or play with our decks at Grand Prix and Pro Tours. If circumstances allow, it would be beneficial for you to play at a prerelease or even PTQ every now and then. Not only will you get to have a good time, but you will also get to see how a player would view the judges and the tournament. The game keeps judging fun and our interest intact.

There is also the other stuff

There are so many other things that we could be discussing and are not mentioned in my old article. For instance, judging is a way to see the world through travelling. However, the last thing I would like to mention is the sense of accomplishment you get. It feels good knowing that you helped other people or the community, and as a judge, you do just that. It may be because you ran this tournament the best way possible and players are thankful. It may also be because you helped this judge improve or introduced him to the judge program and now you see him progressing and in turn helping other people. As a judge you get the opportunity to make a difference and help people, which is rewarding.


So there you have it. We are part of a network that helps its members improve in skills useful in life. We are also in a position to get to meet and appreciate other people as we should in everyday situations. We also make a difference. Not many hobbies out there provide you these opportunities.

I realize that my perspective may appear peculiar or new to many of you. You can also refer to my old article contemplating the very same question. However this article actually increases its scope and tries to investigate how being part of the DCI judge program improves us all. We will all quit someday, but we would have benefited from judging in many ways that makes continuing to judge very worth it.

As always, for any comments or funny jokes, please email me at mixelogj13 at

George Michelogiannakis, L3