Should Level 1 Judges write for the Judge site?

Posted in NEWS on December 8, 2015

By Wizards of the Coast

Henk Claassen

When I took my level 2 test, I was confronted with a challenge, a challenge that had nothing to do with my level 2 exam. After the written exam I sat down for the interview. The level 3 judge interviewing me wanted me to write an article for the judges page. It seemed that in the olden days every Judge was supposed to write 1 article or Judge report per year per level. Somehow this has been discontinued. And I had never heard of it before. It didn't mean it would get published, that would be up to me, the level 3 and the editor of the Judge site. The idea of writing something was frightening, but I agreed, willing to give it a good try.

After this we continued with the interview and after some unexpected questions I was congratulated...I Passed!!

To be honest, this wasn't the topic I'm supposed to write about, but when driving home after my test I was intrigued by the thought of having to write an article, so I started on this one, just to get in some exercise.

Should level 1 Judges write for the Judge site?

The benefit of judge reports is obvious; to inform other Judges about decisions made during big tournaments like Pro Tours, Worlds, and Grand Prix's. But why would someone be interested in a judge report form a "lowly" level 1 Judge, who only judges in a local tournaments.

I write this article because I feel that even something written by a "lowly" level 1 can add something to the community. Also it generates feedback for that level 1. It doesn't matter if you are a level 1 or level 5 Judge, there is always something to learn from an article or report

Writing a report for the community is important as they help you clear your thoughts on subjects or situations. And when another judge is faced with a similar situation, he knows of a way that will keep both organizer and player happy. This makes judges reports important to the community.

The most useful reports, are those written about controversial rulings or things that don't happen often.

A controversial situation

Everyone who judges regularly encounters clerical errors. Sometimes though, even a common infraction can be very extreme and will force you to make a difficult decision. Here is a situation that I would like to present to the judging community for analysis.

I was judging an event at REL 1; and I was in a strange town having been asked to fill, as the regular judge couldn't be there that day.

The fun about local tournaments is that sometimes you get to be surprised by some new player who comes for the first time. When checking the deck list you discover that after removing all non legal cards he would be playing with a deck of about 28 cards, of which there are some 24 lands, what do you do in such case?

Well I had to make a tough decision at that time. I identified two options; I could return his money and drop him from the tournament or loan him a deck I had with me that was legal. Now before you say there is only one option and that is dropping him; to be honest that is what I should have done but I like to keep players as long as possible in a tournament. I didn't want to discourage a young starting player straight off. Which is something that might have happened if I had come down on him like a "Ton of Bricks". And having recently read an article by Gijsbert Hoogendijk called The Judge, Jury and Executioner, I still think I made a good choice by giving the player the option of dropping or playing with a different deck.

I had a talk with the player and told him that his deck was Illegal for this format (standard) and that I couldn't let him play on with that deck and why. I also told him that if the next time he went to a tournament and he wasn't sure his deck was legal he should go up to the judge and ask him to check his deck to see if it was legal. I then gave him the choice of getting his money back and dropping him from the tournament or I'd loan him one of the decks I had with me that day. He chose the last option because it was his first tournament and he wanted to play Magic very much. He ended up with I think one or two wins that day. At the end of the day when he returned the deck he thanked me for the use of it and said he had a good time. It looked like a repeat player; which is what every organizer wants. So my job was done.

Should I have dropped him? Sure, at REL 2+ that is what I would have done without question, but somehow in this instance I must have felt that "Judging from the hip" and not adhering to the letter of the "Law" was right. You might think differently and if it would happen to me now I would probably agree and still I question myself, should or shouldn't I have done it this way?

The document isn't called the Penalty Guidelines for nothing; they are Guidelines, don't disregard them, live by them, adhere to them when you must, but also don't be to afraid to ignore a rule if you think the situation calls for it. And even then try to think about the possible repercussions for the rest of the tournament. If you still think that you made the right choice, go with it. That is why when there is a tournament you have to be, no, are The Judge, Jury and Executioner. But at low level events even the Law should have a heart.

It is kind of liberating to write about a decision you made, which in your heart was right, but according to the "law" should have been different.

If any reader would like to present a different viewpoint on how to handle the situation described in this article, please send your comments to

Editor's Comment:
I recommend all judges try writing for the judge's site. If your article is not posted, you will receive suggestions on what you need to do to have your article approved. The editing process for all articles includes spelling and grammar corrections, streamlining of content as needed, and occasionally some reorganization to better present the theme the author is developing. The judging community appreciates your contributions. Dorian L. Anders