The New Road to Level 3 – Qualities and Checklists

Editor’s note – This article is current as of October 1, 2016.

Written by Adam Cetnerowski

Written by Adam Cetnerowski


The Level 3 promotion process has always been seen as somewhat mysterious. Not too long ago, at any given Pro Tour, a number of senior judges would enter a room. Sometime later, a Level 2 Judge would enter, and would emerge with a smile or frown depending on how the interview transpired. What was often seen as even more mysterious was who was invited to test, and when.


This lack of transparency was detrimental to the judge program. Countless judges working under the leadership of Jeff Morrow crafted a new process, one that’s both more transparent and easier on resources. This process was introduced in 2011 and underwent an overhaul in 2012 based on things learned over the first year of its existence. Now that the dust has settled, Jurgen and I volunteered to bring you a series of articles covering the process and shedding some more light into the darker recesses.

While it can be hard to pinpoint the real beginning of the road to Level 3 – some may consider the moment they actively start to pursue Level 3, others the promotion to Level 2 or even joining the judge program – the process itself can be considered to consist of three parts:

  1. Displaying the qualities of a Level 3 Judge and matching the checklist
  2. Pre-Event Interview
  3. The Panel

This article covers the first step. The process of displaying the qualities and getting the checklist done has a few steps of its own:

  • Review the checklist and start working on the items that are mostly independent of others (judging at various tournaments, reviewing other judges, community participation).
  • As you near the completion of the checklist, you will write a self-review and submit it to the Verification Committee (see below) for approval.
  • Once you have the self-review approved, you can ask for recommendations from Level 3 Judges.
  • By now you should have completed (or be close to completing) all the checklist items, except for Team Leading on Day 2 of a Grand Prix, so it’s a good time to ask the head judge of the next Grand Prix to give you an opportunity.
  • Once everything is set, you can send your application to the Testing Manager and your Regional Coordinator, who will pass it on to the Verification Committee.

It is very important to stress that during the first phase of the process (and then at all times as a Level 3), it is important to develop and demonstrate the 9 Qualities of Level 3 Judges. As there are a great number of articles, seminars, and other resources covering these, I will instead focus on the process side of things here.

It’s important to understand that it’s the Qualities, not having items checked off, that we look for in Level 3 Judges, and, by extension, Level 3 candidates. So why have a checklist at all? It provides a number of benefits:

  1. A candidate practicing the Qualities will be able to see that they are meeting the standards as they get to check off items. Someone who’s competent in one of these areas may even be surprised that they’ve been doing these things all along.
  2. A lacking candidate will see which items they’re missing and know which Quality they need to focus on.
  3. The judges involved in the promotion process will get a good deal of information about the candidate up front.

Before I move on to discuss the Qualities as interpreted through checklist items – their philosophy and how a candidate can meet them – I wanted to touch upon the role of the Verification Committee. This is a group of Level 3 Judge volunteers that review the candidates’ checklists to make sure that all items are satisfied. The rule is that at least three members (of about eight) must sign off on it. This addresses two issues: no single judge can stop advancement, and the checklist will not be stopped by one or two judges lacking time to review the checklist. Once all the Verification Committee members have had a chance to review the checklist (this is usually about a week), a decision is made.

The Verification Committee plays another role a bit earlier in the process. To submit a request for a recommendation, you must have an approved self-review. This approval is done by the Verification Committee.

And now it’s time to move on to the checklist. For each item I’ve listed the philosophy of why it’s included, how the Verification Committee verifies the item, and some tips on getting the item checked off.

Protip: The name of the game is proactive. If you are proactive about your needs for events and give us plenty of lead time, we can facilitate your Level 3 candidacy much more efficiently.


Must be a Level 2 Judge in good standing for at least 12 months

Philosophy: One year is a good time to get a handle on the judge program, develop and display your skills, and give you some breathing room after hitting Level 2, especially that now it’s a major jump in skills and responsibilities.

How we check it: Judge Center. Please provide the ID of your advancement to L2.

Protip: If you’re not sure about your readiness, have a chat with a Level 3 Judge who knows you well.


Must have scored at least 80% on a Level 3 Preliminary Exam in the last 6 months

Philosophy: If you can’t pass this, you won’t pass the real thing.

How we check it: Judge Center. Please provide the ID of the exam.

Protip: Ask your Regional Coordinator or another Level 3 Judge to generate an exam for you. Take it and see how you do. If you pass, you’re good to go. Otherwise, there are areas where you need to improve. Go over your results and study the sections of the rules where you made mistakes. Then ask a Level 3 Judge to generate a new exam for you.


Must have acted as Head Judge or Team Lead for at least 5 Competitive/Professional REL events, managing at least 2 other judges, including at least 2 such events in the last 12 months

Philosophy: Level 3 Judges are experts in tournament operations and team leading and we expect Level 3 candidates to show some experience in managing a team of judges.

How we check it: OPIS database (i.e. Wizards of the Coast’s Organized Play database), but please also list those events.

Protip: Ask your local Tournament Organizer or Regional Coordinator about head judging opportunities in your area. If you don’t feel comfortable in the role of a head judge yet, ask a Level 3 Judge to shadow you.


Must have acted as Head Judge for at least 20 other events, including at least 5 such events in the last 12 months

Philosophy: As a Level 3 candidate we expect that you have proven your willingness to judge at various tournaments and done so in the Head Judge role as well (including situations where you were your only floor judge).

How we check it: OPIS database, but please also list those events.

Protip: Maintaining a good relationship with local Tournament Organizers and the player base is key to getting these opportunities. If you have trouble, ask your Regional Coordinator for help.


Must have participated extensively in the pre-certification training and mentoring of at least 2 different judges who certified for Level 1 or Level 2 in the last 12 months

Philosophy: Are you actively growing the program? Do you know how certification works? Can you mentor? The reason we no longer require actually testing the candidates is that a) sometimes it’s easier for someone else to test, and b) administering the test is the easiest step.

How we check it: Judge Center – please provide ID of the promotion recommendation. If you’re not administering the test, please ask the proctor to mention you in the comments.

Protip: Every store and club has someone willing to answer rules question and help with organizing the tournament. Explain to them how easy and fun it is to be an L1.


Must demonstrate communication skills sufficient to act as a Team Leader at the large, international scale, such as Grand Prix events. Must understand English well enough to be up-to-date on official documents

Philosophy: If we can’t understand you and you can’t understand us, how will we work together?

How we check it: This is usually an automatic pass unless we have really BIG concerns.

Protip: Most people aren’t convinced that their English is good enough while, honestly, if you’re able to read this article without too many problems, you’re more than likely going to be fine!


Must demonstrate participation in the judge community on a regional or global level beyond just being on staff at events (examples include mailing lists, seminars, articles, projects, etc.)

Philosophy: As a Level 3 candidate, we expect you to be ingrained with the community – either in your Region or at the global level (circumstances and interests vary) – and the best way to do this is to work together on some projects.

How we check it: Please explain what you do in detail. If it’s a project with a Level 3 Judge leader, refer to him. If it’s a public project, provide URLs (etc.). If we’re unsure, we’ll ask you for more specific descriptions or ask your references (these can also be submitted as part of your recommendation).

Protip: For local (Regional) projects contact your Regional Coordinator. For international projects, check JudgeApps projects.


Must have written a general (i.e. non-event-specific) self-review in the last 12 months, assessing your strengths and weaknesses on ALL of the Qualities of Level 3 Judges listed above

Reminder: This needs to be submitted and approved before asking for recommendations from Level 3 Judges.

Philosophy: You must be able to correctly assess yourself, so that you can work on developing your strengths and fixing your weaknesses.

How we check it: We’ll count that all 9 Qualities are touched upon and that there is some relevant content for each. The Verification Committee will generally not make any decision about whether or not your self-review is accurate. Any comments or concerns we have about it will be passed on to your pre-event evaluator. Please provide the review ID. If more than 6 months old, a small update is needed when submitted to the committee.

Protip: Take a while on this one. Think about each Quality. Make some notes. Think about the positives and negatives. Compare yourself (mentally) to another Level 3 Judge you see as a role-model.


Must have submitted at least 6 event-specific (non-certification) reviews on other judges to the Judge Center in the last 12 months, demonstrating the ability to provide accurate and constructive feedback, on both Strengths and Areas for Improvement

Philosophy: You need to be able to assess judges correctly and constructively in a 360-degree perspective (i.e. up, down, and at the same level). The judge program must also benefit from these reviews – so they must be entered in the Judge Center.

How we check it: In addition to counting the reviews (and making sure that they hir all the requirement), we also check their content for quality and depth of feedback given. Very short or shallow reviews that would indicate a likely Major Deficiency in Development of Other Judges can lead to this item being declined. Please provide IDs.

Protip: Take notes at events, and budget time to enter reviews into the Judge Center afterwards.


Must have received two written recommendations

Reminder: To ask for these, you need an approved self-review. When emailing a Level 3 Judge for a recommendation, include your Regional Coordinator in the email.

Philosophy: The judge program has always relied on the opinion of other judges. Those that work directly with you frequently are the best people to both assess you as well as help you improve. While a recommendation from your Regional Coordinator would be preferred (they should know you well), one person should not block the process, so a recommendation from your Regional Coordinator is not mandatory.

How we check it: We make sure that the two recommendations discuss at least 7 of the Qualities in sufficient depth. If we have concerns, we flag them for the Pre-Event Interview portion of the process. Please provide IDs.

Protip: Start a working relationship with some Level 3 Judges as soon as you start on the checklist. Let them know 3-4 weeks before the event that you are considering them for recommendations. A Level 3 Judge will want to work several events with you before they are comfortable writing a recommendation. And be aware of the process for correctly requesting a recommendation.


Must hold a valid Team Lead Certification or have received confirmation from a Grand Prix Head Judge within the last 36 months indicating success in a Team Lead position at a Grand Prix where the checking judge was the Head Judge

Philosophy: One of the key tournament roles a Level 3 Judge plays is team leading at Grand Prix.

How we check it: this method has changed in 2016. The Team Lead Certification status is maintained in JudgeApps. Previously, this item could be obtained by a simple yes/no from the Grand Prix Head Judge. This can no longer be obtained this way but confirmations are still valid for 36 months from the day of their acquiral. If applicable, please submit ID of review that led to the Team Lead Certification.

Protip: When judging at a Grand Prix, watch what your team leader is doing, discuss these things with him, write him a review (10% of another requirement met!). Grand Prix Head Judges are more willing to provide a team lead position to a Level 2 Judge closer to finishing their checklist. A good self-review doesn’t hurt either.


That’s all for now. Look out for Jurgen Baert’s article, which will be Part 2 of this series.