Writing L2 Recommendations

Written by Josh Feingold

Written by Josh Feingold


The level 2 Pre-Certification Interview Requirements include a “brief written recommendation from a Level 2+ judge.” However, there is not much detail explaining what that means or what is expected from you in writing the recommendation. L3s at regional events such as GPs and conferences may be put in the position of testing an L2 candidate with whom they have worked very little.


This article will discuss and provide examples of what you can include in your recommendation that will be useful for the L3 examining the L2 candidate. For more reference, I’ve previously discussed common L2 Areas of Improvement useful for considering how to write useful evaluations of judges, such as Reviewing Up, Tournament Reports as Tournament Essays, and L1 Post-Test Interviews.


The Qualities of an Area Judge

For L2s looking toward L3, there is a handy list of Qualities of Regional Judges on which they will be evaluated. Although we do not explicitly list them out in the L2 requirements, a subset of these are also qualities that we expect from an L2. These are the items I would like you to address in your L2 recommendation.


Teamwork & Diplomacy

The L2 checklist requires that a candidate “[demonstrates] a working relationship with at least two organizers or stores” and “[judges] at least three ‘high-level’ events with multiple judges.”

These items indicate two expectations:

  1. The judge is venturing away from his or her LGS for competitive events.
  2. TOs and judges other than that LGS actually want this judge for their events.

In your recommendation comment briefly on how this judge interacts with players, TOs, and other judges.

“Jane is easy to work with and has a great rapport with players. She has a good relationship with several local stores and has helped out as a floor judge for 3 of them. I spoke with one of the store owners, and he said they would happily have her back to run a GPT or a PPTQ after she levels up.”


Rules & Policy Knowledge

The L2 checklist requires a 70% or higher score on an Level 2 Practice test prior to passing the L2 exam. This sanity check ensures the judge has the requisite command of rules and policy to correctly resolve the types of rules questions and infractions that occur at Regular and Competitive REL events. However, paper tests have a very limited ability to gauge the robustness of a judge’s policy knowledge, so added commentary here is always helpful.

“John has solid rules and policy knowledge overall. I can sometimes stump him with a weird Legacy interaction, but he has Standard and Modern (and most real Legacy) interactions in the bag. He’s also very good with the IPG. He still stumbles upgrades and downgrades sometimes, but he knows all his GRV partial fixes, and I don’t worry about him taking calls without an L2 shadow.”


Development of Other Judges

The checklist also calls for “a written tournament report from one of the multiple-judge events” and “three reviews of other judges entered into the Judge Center, demonstrating ability to deliver constructive feedback.” In some regions an article can substitute for the tournament report. This should come as no surprise; articles, reviews, and tournament reports are all education documents meant to help other judges improve. After this judge reaches L2 he or she will be responsible for bringing new L1s into the fold. We want to make sure that this judge is capable of providing meaningful feedback and instruction so that those L1s are receiving the guidance they need.

“Lucy has written me two reviews. The first one was really short and didn’t say much. But the one I just got from her was specific, detailed, and had excellent areas for improvement that we had discussed during the event. Her tournament report from her first 5k was also really focused on the pieces of policy she had to apply for the first time at that event. I actually had 2 other L1s read it before they did their first Comp REL events.”


Program Construction and Philosophy

For L3, this a pretty serious requirement spanning the entire spectrum of the judge program. For new L2s it’s very simple. Does this person have a reasonable idea of what a new L1 is? Beyond being able to provide guidance to other judges and judge candidates, if this person is authorized to certify L1s, does he or she know when it’s a good idea to do so.

“Travis and I talked about what it means to be L1. He said wants any judge he certifies to understand the JAR and not punt a million rulings at FNM. And not be a huge jerk. Seems about right to me.”


Logistics and Tournament Operations

Rounding out the checklist (apart from your recommendation itself) we have, “judge at least six reported events [including] least one “high-level” events.” Why is this a requirement? Because L2s are supposed to be able to head judge PPTQs and other competitive events. He or she needs to understand what makes a tournament run relatively smoothly and be able to perform the tasks required.

“I played in a sealed GPT with 19 players at our LGS that Samantha head judged by herself. It went really smoothly. Deck checks were a little bit slow, but overall it was pretty efficient. We talked a little bit about how to improve deck check time after the event, and I think she should be good to go now.”


The Good and the Bad

All the examples I gave were pretty positive evaluations of the specific quality. But that doesn’t mean you need to stick a gold star next to each of these items to recommend someone for L2. It’s fine and normal for an L2 candidate to have some areas for improvement. If I’m considering testing someone, and I know that his or her expectations for L1 are unclear or unrealistic, we can have a conversation to re-calibrate them. If deck checks are a problem, we can practice some techniques for speeding them up. If giving head judge announcements is an intimidating idea, we can figure out ways to make it easier. These are all conversations L3s have had numerous times with judges aiming for L2, and you are only helping everyone involved by promoting those conversations.


The Delivery

While it is not strictly required in all regions that a recommendation be entered as a Judge Center review, it’s something L3s, Regional Coordinators, and the candidate like to see. You’ve gone to the trouble of giving detailed feedback, and that’s not something its recipient will want to lose just because it happens to also be a checklist item.

Please take the time to discuss the contents of your recommendation with the judge before submitting it, and give them the opportunity to fill in gaps or correct anything you might not have remembered. If you haven’t had a particular conversation (for example, following up with a TO or talking about expectations for L1) use the request for a recommendation as an opportunity to do so.

If, when you sit down to start writing the recommendation, you realize that the judge really isn’t ready for L2, that’s also fine. This discovery will let you write a first review telling the judge which areas need to be improved so you can provide the final recommendation. Having specific, actionable areas for improvement in a review is an excellent way to facilitate the judge’s improvement in those areas!



When you write an L2 recommendation,  it is a tool for the judge receiving the recommendation as well as the judge administering the exam to understand the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. Do your best to cover the core qualities of an L2, relative to your own assumptions about how strong a new L2 should be in each of those areas. If you’re missing information you think might be important, try to fill in those gaps.  The candidate doesn’t need to be an all-star in every area to pass muster, but don’t be afraid to give a review that explains how the judge needs to improve before you can provide a recommendation. Finally, take the extra three minutes and make everything official in Judge Center. It helps to formalize it by writing “L2 recommendation” as the city for the event. Hopefully you’ve learned a lot about improving your L2 recommendation. It’s worth making it official and visible in addition to high-quality!