As judges, we can all remember our early experiences buying cards from shops and meeting people to play Magic with. These shops became our local game stores (LGS), where we make friends and play Magic. For many judges, their path to the judge program began with a decision to take on leadership at their LGS, where they have served as de facto judges based on their play skill and rules knowledge. While many judges own or work for local game stores, the vast majority of judges have other occupations or studies and therefore build their skills in judging based on their local game store cultures. The focus of this article is to educate newer judges on judging for their local game stores.
Judging for a Local Game Store
When interacting and certifying L0s to L1s, a common question we get is: “How can I get involved in the judge program?” The great news for them is that the odds are that they already are! Judges can do a lot of good for the program by beginning with their community. The first step is to get involved whenever and wherever you can, and that starts right where you come from. Most judges are already regulars at a LGS in their town, but for those that aren’t, there are a number of ways to get involved at a LGS:
- Introduce yourself in person or on the phone. Explain that you’re interested in helping them run events. Even if they already have a judge, they won’t turn away enthusiastic help!
- Monitor any local judge forums, facebook groups, or listservs in your region. Players and judges often post requests for help with upcoming events.
- Check the TO Community Forum on community.wizards.com. If TOs are seeking help, that’s a great place to look for any local stores in need of leadership.
- Get in contact with your Regional Coordinator. It’s their job to be in contact with the stores in their region and they are a great resource for finding which stores are looking for judges.
What does a LGS Judge do?
Judging for a LGS is a lot like judging for competitive events, except that you work with the same players and TOs on a regular basis. Also, you have the opportunity to do as much or as little as you want, depending on your TO’s preferences, available help, and your own comfort level as a LGS judge. While each of these topics has been covered in detail elsewhere (and I encourage you to find more information), here is a short list of routine tasks when judging for a LGS:
Every round, there will be pairings to post and match slips to be handed out. If your store is small, it may be easier to announce pairings rather than post them. The TO or scorekeeper may also ask you to cut the slips yourself before handing them out. You may post standings at the end of the night or announce final results.
Deck Check Duties
At Regular REL events, you won’t be tasked with random deck checks every round. You may, however, be in a position where a newer player is unfamiliar with deck construction rules and it is your chance to both fix their deck and educate them on building legal decks. Pre-releases with mandatory sealed deck registration are good opportunities to explain the rules of limited events and educate your players on good deck registration behavior- it will come in handy if they ever attend a Competitive REL event.
If your LGS doesn’t have a lot of employees, you may be asked to move tables and chairs to help set up the venue. Asking the players for help will go a long way in fostering interaction between TOs, judges, and players. You may also set out numbers for the tables, which helps a lot when you or the scorekeeper pass out match slips.
For less experienced TOs, the Event Reporter software can be unfamiliar and frustrating to work with. You can help the TO look really good and save considerable time if you have a basic understanding of how to run an event in the Event Reporter software. I recommend reading these two primers by Eric Levine. If your TO becomes comfortable with you taking additional responsibility, you may assume the scorekeeping role of creating the event, entering results, and generating rounds to keep the event moving. As the judge, you are the most involved store representative and have the best leeway in keeping the event moving along.
Once you earn more responsibility in managing the event, you can have a conversation with your LGS TO about possibly waiving your entry fee for judging in events that you’re playing in. If your LGS community is small, consider contributing your services for free with the purpose of helping a local business and growing the Magic culture in your area.
Judging Magic for your Friends
Judging Magic with your friends seems like an awesome idea, and it is! Keep in mind though, that there are also some challenges in being the authority figure in your local Magic community and LGS. As the LGS judge, you get to do fun things such as sharing your rules knowledge, fostering interest in learning rules, inspiring others to become active in the judge program, and explaining zany interactions in EDH. However, you might also have to do some less-fun things such as explaining what is not acceptable behavior, correcting their play mistakes, and (rarely) DQing players from your events.
Explaining Unwanted Behaviors
The Judging at Regular REL (JAR) document outlines “General Unwanted Behaviors” that should be addressed with the purpose of educating players rather than punishing them. These behaviors include:
- Taking unreasonable time in playing/selecting cards
- Inadequate shuffling
- Requesting/giving advice during card selection or playing a match
Remember that Regular REL is not the place to apply the IPG. A simple “please do not do that” should suffice, and if the behavior persists you can speak to the player away from the table. However, if a player makes the same error multiple (three or more) times in a tournament, you can upgrade the verbal Cautions to a Game Loss. Letting a player know that their next occurrence could result in a Game Loss will help cement a corrective behavior.
As always, remember that you are representing the TO and LGS and ensure that you are delivering good customer service. You’re addressing these behaviors in order to make the event as smooth and enjoyable as possible. Good diplomacy and not invoking your authority will go a long way in helping players improve their understanding and keeping them coming back for more Magic events.
From the JAR document, remember that the following are “Serious Problems” and carry the penalty of Disqualification at any event:
- Aggressive behavior, including physical and verbal intimidation
- Cheating, manipulating game materials, lying about the game state, or intentionally allowing illegal game states
- Gambling or influencing match outcomes by bribery or improperly determining a winner
- Theft from players or the store
Being attentive during the event and getting to know the individual players will go a long way in preventing these incidents. It is important to discuss which behaviors warrant a DQ with the TO early in your rapport. If anything should happen, you are in a better position if you have the TO’s full support than having to negotiate between the TO and a player when it comes to a DQ. While these events are rare, you can also help the players by explaining which behaviors are not acceptable and can warrant a disqualification. When they know what not to do, you’re less likely to be in that awkward position of having to explain to a player why they’re getting a DQ for something they weren’t aware was unacceptable.
Remember that some offenses, such as betting on a match or rolling dice for a winner, are not inherently malevolent but still require removal from the event. In these cases, emphasize educating the player that what they did was not acceptable behavior and that they have to be removed from the event, but that you want them to continue playing in the future. When the other players hear about it, take the opportunity to explain why the behavior is not acceptable- do not discuss the individual player’s case.
For malevolent offenses such as cheating and theft, it is in the best interest of the event and the store for that player to be asked to leave the premises to prevent further disruption. Again, having the TO on your side will help you maintain a unified front in handling the incident as well as speaking for the TO when removing someone from their premises. The TO may want to remove the player themselves; discuss this with them beforehand.
“I never tell a player they’re being disqualified. They get offended and it’s a negative experience. I just tell them the truth—because of what they’ve done, I have to remove them from the event.”
-L3 Gavin Duggan
Getting involved with your LGS is a rewarding experience for judges, TOs, and players. To help you, additional information is available through the Judge Wiki, Judge Articles, blogs, seminars, and one of the best things that you can do as a LGS judge is to meet other judges and learn from their experiences. There is a lot of information available to continue your development as a judge and strengthening your ability to help your LGS- you’re doing it right now!