What Is a Local Judge?

Posted in NEWS on September 16, 2009

By Wizards of the Coast

So, what is a Local judge? This is a discussion that comes up again time after time. There are a lot of different opinions around as to the requirements to become a Local (L1) judge, and this article is based upon a seminar at PT—Kyoto which I had the privilege of taking notes for! This article is not concerned with the "mass testing" of the past, but assumes the candidate will become a Local judge looking to work in your area or a judge you are otherwise able to work with.

Those that know me are aware that I don't take a lot of things seriously, but when it comes to certification I step forward and take interest. This article will cover what a Level 2+ judge should know about the requirements of a L1 judge and the actual test. I will briefly touch on what I call the "wish list" – those factors that are commonly looked for in a Level 1 candidate but should more correctly be looked at and developed after they have become Level 1.

There's a lot of information in previous articles that cover how to evaluate candidates and how to mentor them. This article is aimed at giving you practical info for the actual test and interview, but you should still review these other articles!

From Certifier to Certifier, by Alfonso Bueno
Making a Good Level 1 Judge, by Frank Wareman
Judge Level Requirements, official DCI document

What do we look for in a Level 0 wanting to test for Level 1?

This might be a shorter list than people would imagine. After all, Level 1s are the backbone of the program, and we want more of them! Level 1 is essentially the starting life for a judge, where they begin to learn the ropes and evolve. Holding them to a higher-than-necessary level is not good for the program: it discourages potential judges and can serve to lock them out of the program. What the DCI looks for in a Level 1 candidate is:

Rules, policy, and tournament procedure knowledge – If they can pass the test, they have enough book knowledge to start! This does not need to be assessed in any other way. If a Level 1 did not achieve the test pass mark, the test will help you identify areas for improvement for a successful future test.

Motivation – If someone is interested enough to work a couple of events in training to pass the test then that is motivation enough. Judging for product or recognition is not a problem – if this encourages them to progress, judge, and learn, then so much the better!

Confidence and Maturity – A judge needs to be able to make a ruling or ask for help in a reasonable amount of time. They also need to be able to take feedback as all judges help each other improve.

Customer Service - A judge needs to be able to interact with the players without causing offence or creating problems for the players.

The testing day!

As a Level 2 judge you have a responsibility to mentor potential Level 1s into the program. The culmination of this is when you promote a judge to Level 1. There are a few steps you should take when assessing a judge for promotion. This guide does assume a basic level of familiarity with the judge.

Step 1: The pre-interview. By this stage you will have assessed what we mentioned above. This is a simple chance to get a baseline understanding of the candidate.

Step 2 – Create and print out a personalised exam for the candidate with an answer key for yourself. The process for creating these is exactly the same as a regular practice test; the only difference is that you have to type in the name or DCI number of the candidate instead of yours. These tests are paper-intensive, so you could print two pages per sheet and/or use double-sided printing to save paper and make the test less bulky. However, try not to make it too small. If you do not have online access but have a generic test prepared, that is fine, but it is preferable to have a personalised one - especially if they have taken the test previously - so that there are not as many duplicate questions. Arranging prior to the event for the candidate to test allows you to prepare! You can always create a personalised test and print it in advance, and then delete it if you don't end up using it. Also, if you'll have a printer onsite (likely if testing is taking place during a tournament), you could save the exam in a pen drive as a .pdf or .html file so you don't have to bring a physical copy with you.

Step 3 – Give them the test, the answer sheet, some basic lands, and scrap paper. Sit them in a quiet area and explain how long they have (technically they have as long as they want, but an excessive test time can be cause for worry). Briefly explain how the test works and let them know that they can call you if they have any questions about the exam itself (although the likelihood is that you will only be able to read them the question out) and let them know no outside assistance! That doesn't mean that they can't use visual aids to help them visualize the complex situations presented in the exam. They could use basic lands as proxies to represent spells on the stack, write down in their scrap paper the order of the layers (from their head), or draw a diagram of how players are seated for a Top 8 booster draft.

Step 4 – Mark the test. At this stage you need to decide whether it is worth discussing all the answers. If they have passed, then you need to sit the (soon to be newly certified) judge down and go through the answers they got incorrect. With good preparation and mentoring, you will most likely be passing them! Yay! In any case, I would tend to go through a few questions they got wrong and find out why they missed them, and advise them on what they need to concentrate on. Let the judges that fail know that a lot of people (including me) fail their Level 1 test the first time (and my second).

Step 5 – Input the test onto the Judge Center. Make sure you attach a review (you'll have to choose "Interview" as the review's type) outlining where their strengths and weaknesses lie and how to address them, especially if they did not pass. Focus on strengths and encouragement as well as areas from the exam that they need to work on. If they passed then you can input the answers to the questions and they will have access to them on the Judge Center along with explanations as to why it was wrong.

Congratulations, you made it! Ensure you follow up with your new Level 1 (or your Level 0) and ensure they remain keen in the program. Now that they are Level 1 you can start focusing on the wish list!

The Wish List

As mentioned above it has always been a problem in the program that people are held to too high a level – I have done it (I'm sorry James M!), but we now need to maintain more consistency than ever with more people being able to certify judges. The below points are what you could look for in a Level 1 wanting to progress to Level 2, or in a senior Level 1, that aren't requirements for testing a Level 1 candidate

Understanding why policy and procedures are as they are (You don't even need to be able to do this at Level 2!)
Being able to Head Judge a tournament with more than one judge in the team.
Being able to submit effective reviews.
Being able to run a tournament with software or on paper.
Being able to properly write a penalty on a match slip.
Being able to diffuse tense situations.
Having judged an event larger than 12 people.

Hopefully this will serve as a guide for Level 2s as well as those looking to test for Level 1. For any clarification, feel free to email me through the Judge Center or post in the forums!

Ryan Dare