Working Towards Level 2

Posted in NEWS on September 9, 2008

By Wizards of the Coast

This article is intended to help level 1 judges who want to become level 2, or who are interested in what is required of a level 2. It covers the differences between the two roles, as well as how to improve your skills to those required of a level 2.

Working towards Level 2

Once you've decided to try and become a level 2, the first step is to compare the responsibilities and required skills of a level 2 judge to those you already do / have, and decide which areas you need to improve. Other judges that you've worked with will be able to provide you with their assessments of your strengths and weaknesses, and these should coincide with your self-assessment, or point out areas that you hadn't realised needed work.

The main qualities of a level 2, compared to those required of a level 1 are:

  • A more in-depth knowledge of the rules.
  • A greater understanding of DCI policy and tournament procedure.
  • Mentoring.
  • Leadership and working effectively in a team.

Something to emphasise is that many level 1 judges have some or most of these qualities. Some level 1 judges have excellent rules knowledge, but have never been in any sort of leadership position. Some know exactly what they should be doing at any given point in a tournament, but get a little confused by state-based-whatsits. That's fine – everyone will need to work on different things.

Rules knowledge

To some extent, the level 1 test focuses on knowing what happens in a particular situation, in order to test that the candidate can correctly answer rules questions. The level 2 test also tests an understanding of why a particular answer is the correct one, as well as a much more technical knowledge of the rules (as well as just testing 'harder' interactions, involving more obscure rules and cards). The level 2 test also has a higher pass mark - 80% compared to 70% for the level 1 test.

There are several resources available to improve your rules knowledge.

  • The Comprehensive Rules is available on the wizards website, but reading this monstrosity cover to cover is not necessarily the best way to study them (although, if this study technique works for you, go for it!).
  • There are several websites that publish 'Ask the Judge' columns, where judges answer rules questions on a regular basis. These are great, for two reasons. They provide exposure to a wide variety of interactions (If you've read a question where someone stacks combat damage from a creature enchanted by Temporal Isolation, and then sacrifices the creature, and a player calls you to a game where this is happening, you'll have a much better idea of what's going on and what the player is trying to do), and they provide explanations with reference to the rules for the answers.
  • MTGRules-L. Reading all of the rules questions and answers here will work in much the same way as reading rules articles online.
  • #mtgjudge on EFNet - this is an IRC channel frequented by many judges, where there is almost always someone around to answer any rules question, explain policy, or discuss any other aspect of judging. Even if you don't have anything in particular to discuss, just listening to the various discussions is interesting.

Policy knowledge and tournament procedure

A level 2 judge is more likely to be the head judge of a medium-sized event, and thus handling appeals, investigations, and disqualifications. These are serious responsibilities, and it is essential that the judge has a good knowledge of current policy, and the philosophy behind it. A level 2 judge is also much more involved in mentoring, and thus will need both to know what the 'correct' answer is to a particular policy question, as well as to explain why the policy is so.
Alas, here is no supreme list of DCI policy. You can find much of it in the documents, such as the PG, UTR, and MFR. Some is passed on through mentoring from other judges ("Here's how you swoop for a deck check"), or learned from online judge articles (why some of these changes were made to the PG). Again, #mtgjudge is an excellent resource for discussion and explanation of any particular section of policy.


At a tournament, as well as being on the floor and answering judge calls, a level 2 judge should be observing other judges and giving feedback. This is by no means limited to level 2 and higher judges – shadowing other judges and discussing various aspects of rulings is always a learning experience for both judges involved. This is particularly important with the recent changes to the role of level 2 judges – a level 2 judge will soon be able to certify level 1 judges. Think about that – would you feel confident assessing a level 1 candidate? How would you assess them? How would you advise them to improve? The best way to learn this is to think back to your own certification interviews and tests. If possible, try and sit in on a level 1 interview while you're working towards level 2. If you're working a large event, like a Grand Prix or Nationals, ask whether you could sit in on a certification interview.

A word of caution about shadowing - be careful to avoid the dreaded "zebra herd." A good rule of thumb is that only one judge should be shadowing at any given ruling. Yes, it is tempting to watch the really interesting ruling going on at the next table, where the players have managed to get seventeen different cards on the stack and one of them shuffled it by mistake, but if there's already a shadow, go and watch some of the games in an area without any judges. You can (and should!) always chat to the judges who were there later.

The best way to learn mentoring is just to try it! Think about how other judges have mentored you: they've watched a few of your rulings discretely (shadowing), they've discussed why you or they did something a particular way, they've offered hypothetical scenarios and tricky rules questions for discussion. Well, none of this is the unique prerogative of high level judges! Next time you're at a tournament, try some of them.

A common misconception is that you can only mentor or review judges less experienced, or of a lower level than yourself. This is completely false. Higher level judges will make a point of mentoring whenever they get the chance, but learning is always a two-way process. Make sure that you give feedback to all judges that you work closely with, whatever their level. Even if you did not see the head judge give any rulings, you likely have feedback on topics such as how the judge teams and duties were structured, how they communicated with the floor judges, and how you found their mentoring and feedback style.

Also, submit reviews of other judges you've worked with online at the Judge Center. This serves several purposes: it gives a judge a record of feedback received from other judges to reference later, and it allows judges to assess how they're going (both from the reviews themselves, and by comparison with previous reviews).


A level 2 judge is much more likely to be the head judge of an event with a small team of judges or a team leader at a larger event (such as Nationals or a Grand Prix). The ability to effectively organise a small team of judges is thus an important skill for level 2 judges, while not one that many level 1 judges acquire by themselves.

It's hard to get a good idea of what's required of you here without being thrown in the deep end. (At Grand Prix: Brisbane, 2007, I was the head judge of the Trials on Friday. The head judge informed me of this fact over breakfast. That was fun). While I did a decent job of this, I made several mistakes, and in hindsight see many things that I could have done differently. That's learning – I think I'd do a much better job if put in a similar position now, which is the whole point.

Preparing for the exam

The way I prepared for the exam was to read through each of the documents (CR, PG, MFR, UTR, PEIP) (Writing this, I realised that I completely forgot about the PEIP – whoops! This isn't a good idea, folks!) and copy anything that I wasn't sure of into a separate document to study several times (This document ended up at 7-8 pages of things that I wanted to study further). Different study techniques work for different people – use whatever works for you.

I also did practice tests through the Judge Center; by the day of my exam, I had run out of practice tests to do. These are probably the most valuable resource you have, in that they (particularly hard practice tests) are in the same style and cover the same sort of content that you will encounter in the exam. Easy practice tests are easier than the level 2 exam, but are still good practice. If you can regularly get 11 or 12 out of 12 on the easy practice tests, and 10 to 12 out of 12 on the hard ones, then you'll be in good shape for the level 2 exam.

Preparing for the interview

It's hard to prepare specifically for the interview, as you really don't have any idea what will be covered in it. I'd suggest giving some thought to your own strengths and weaknesses, as these are likely to be discussed, but other than that, the interview could cover almost anything. General preparation such as reading the documents and judge articles, discussing anything and everything on #mtgjudge, etc is always useful.

One last thing that I cannot emphasise enough – the whole point is to understand things, not memorise answers. If you don't understand an interaction, or the reasoning behind a particular item of policy, or whatever, ask someone! You have an incredible number of resources available – other judges, your level 3+ mentor, the judge and rules lists, #mtgjudge. Ask until you understand as much as possible, and you'll be well prepared.

Links, etc.

Comprehensive Rules (CR) is a useful hyperlinked version, for easier reading.

Reading this all in one sitting may be dangerous.

DCI Document Center

Here you can find the Magic Floor Rules (MFR), the Penalty Guide (PG), the Universal Tournament Rules (UTR), and the Premier Event Invitation Policy (PEIP), as well as other documents (banned and restricted lists, list of suspended players, tournament organiser documents), as well as documents related to other games.

Judge Center

Go here for practice exams, reviewing other judges and reading other judges' reviews of you, as well as other useful features like looking up judges and reporting DQ investigations.

Judge articles

Articles on all aspects of judging. See also the Friday Ask the Judge columns, above. Note again that older articles probably contain out of date policy or rulings.

Online rules columns (May take a while to load - there are a lot of them)

The ones I read regularly are Ask the Judge on starcitygames (daily rules question columns, weekly judge discussion columns) and Cranial Insertion on mtgsalvation (weekly rules question column). Note that older articles may contain out-of-date rulings - if you think something might be out of date, ask someone (#mtgjudge or MTG-RulesL is an easy way to do this)


You can get onto IRC through software, but this website is an easy way of doing it that doesn't require you to install anything.

Graham White
Level 2 Judge, Sydney.
PenumbraP on #mtgjudge.