Alphabet Soup

One of the things I love the most about Magic is its thriving subculture. As with any subculture, we’ve developed a variety of abbreviations and other linguistic shibboleths that simplify communication. “Sorry, I can’t head judge FNM this week, I’m HJ’ing a PPTQ that weekend” might sound like gobbledygook to my mom, but my fellow judges know exactly what I mean.

The goal of this post is to demystify some of the many abbreviations that we judges use so casually. Even if you’ve been a judge for a long time, you might even learn something new!

For ease of use, abbreviations are sorted under several broad headings. Unlike a dictionary, entries within a category won’t be sorted alphabetically; rather, they’ll be organized such that similar abbreviations are clustered together, for ease of understanding and reading.


Types of Events

FNM: Friday Night Magic. A major component of organized play at Regular REL, emphasizing the social aspects of Magic.

PT: Pro Tour. The highest level of competitive play. Pro Tours are exclusive events held four times a year; players can qualify for the Pro Tour through a variety of sources. Pro Tours are currently staffed by L3+ judges.

PPTQ: Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier. The core component of the new path to the Pro Tour. PPTQs are usually small, open events run by individual stores. PPTQ’s are run at Competitive REL, so they are a great avenue for judges of any level to gain more experience with Competitive REL; however, the Head Judge must be L2 or higher. Also called Pre-PTQ, Pre-TQ.

RPTQ: Regional Pro Tour Qualifier. Winning a PPTQ earns you an invitation to an upcoming RPTQ. The Top 4 players from the RPTQ (or, for large RPTQ’s, Top 8) will qualify for the Pro Tour. RPTQ’s require an L3+ Head Judge.

PTQ: Pro Tour Qualifier. Defunct. PTQ’s were large events where the winner was directly qualified for the Pro Tour; they were retired in favor of the PPTQ/RPTQ system.

GP: Grand Prix. GPs are multi-day Magic festivals, usually running Friday through Sunday. They are the largest open Magic events in the world. The main event is a two-day event, featuring 9 rounds on Saturday; players who accrue at least 21 match points (i.e. a record of 7-2, 6-0-3, or better) advance to Sunday, where they play a final 6 rounds, followed by a Top 8 to crown a winner. GPs include many other attractions such as side events, artists, Magic vendors, special guests, and more.

GPT: Grand Prix Trial. Small, Competitive REL events usually run at the store level. The winner of a GPT receives two byes to a specific upcoming Grand Prix.

SCGO: Open. A major component of SCG’s competitive circuit. Similar to a Grand Prix, an Open is a two-day event where only certain players qualify for the second day of competition.

PIQ: Premier Invitational Qualifier. Typically refers to the two $5K tournaments run alongside the second day of an SCG Open.

SCG IQ: Invitational Qualifier. A local, Competitive tournament usually run at the store level. One of the major prizes offered is qualification for an upcoming SCG Invitational, a prestigious, invite-only event. Often just called IQ.

5K: An event that awards a total prize pool of $5,000 in cash.

10K: As a 5K, but with $10,000 in total prizes.

1K: You get the picture.

WMC: World Magic Cup. An exclusive team event where each competing country fields four players.

WMCQ: World Magic Cup Qualifier. Each eligible country holds three WMCQ’s; the winners of these events comprise that country’s team for the next World Magic Cup. Only players who meet certain qualifications can play in a WMCQ.

SSS: Super Sunday Series. A large side event held on Sunday (natch) of Grand Prix events. The winner receives an invitation to a special tournament held at Wizards headquarters.

Tournament Roles

HJ: Head Judge. The overall leader of a judge staff for an event, and the final authority for any rulings, disqualifications, etc.

TL: Team Lead. At larger events, judges may be assigned to specific teams, supervised by a Team Lead. TL’s are responsible for executing certain tasks, as well as helping mentor and support the judges on their team.

FJ: Floor Judge. The backbone of an event, Floor Judge typically refers to judges without a specialized role. The name stems from being “on the floor”, i.e., being actively available to take judge calls and assist players.

SK: Scorekeeper. Actually the most important person at the event. Records match results, generates pairings, etc.

TO: Tournament Organizer. The individual (or company) responsible for hosting an event. Responsible for sanctioning the event with Wizards, securing a venue, advertising the event, etc.

AJ: Appeals Judge. At large events, such as Grand Prix, the Head Judge may delegate the ability to handle appeals to certain other judges. Informally called “red shirts” for their distinctive uniform.

XO: Executive Officer. A role occasionally used at large events, the XO supports and observes the head judge. Using the XO role can help distribute experience between the HJ and XO, in either direction. Serving as XO is a good way for less experienced judge to learn more about head judging large events; conversely, an XO is more experienced than the corresponding Head Judge can be a useful safety net.

JM: Judge Manager. A liaison between judges for a given event and the event’s organizer; helps ensure the judges’ well-being and address concerns before, during, and after an event. Often, but not always, an employee of a TO. (Not to be confused with Andy Heckt, a Wizards employee whose job title is the Judge Manager.)


WotC: Wizards of the Coast. The company that makes Magic!

LGS: Local Game Store.

FLGS: Friendly Local Game Store; see LGS.

PTO: Premier Tournament Organizer. Generally used to refer to the group of TO’s who run Grand Prix events.

SCG:; more commonly referred to as just Star City Games or Star City. A major PTO, online retailer, and the organizer of the SCG Open Series, based in Virginia.

CFB: Channel Fireball. A major PTO and online retailer based in California.

Policy Documents and Penalties

IPG: Infraction Procedure Guide. The document that defines various penalties players can commit, and procedures for fixing them. Sometimes referred to as MIPG (Magic Infraction Procedure Guide).

JAR: Judging at Regular REL. The document that defines how to handle common errors and serious problems at Regular REL tournaments.

MTR: Magic Tournament Rules. The document that governs the logistics of running tournaments at all Rules Enforcement Levels.

PEIP: Premier Event Invitation Policy. The document that outlines policies for who can participate in high-level events organized by Wizards, such as the Pro Tour and Grand Prix.

REL: Rules Enforcement Level. The REL of an event defines the appropriate policies for handling infractions and sets players’ expectations accordingly. The RELs are Regular, Competitive, and Professional.

AIPG: Annotated IPG. A helpful resource for gaining a deeper understanding of the philosophy behind the IPG.

W: Warning. The least severe recorded penalty, serving to alert players that an error has occurred and encouraging them to play more carefully in the future.

GL: Game Loss. A serious penalty issued in cases where the offense has a high probability of being used to gain an advantage, takes a significant amount of time to correct, or results in such disruption to the game that it is impossible to continue. Examples include Deck/Decklist Problem, Tardiness, and Drawing Extra Cards.

ML: Match Loss. The second-most serious penalty, immediately ending a match in progress. Issued when the match itself has been compromised and cannot continue. Awarded only in cases of Unsporting Conduct-Major and Outside Assistance. (A player who doesn’t sit for their match 10 minutes into the round also receives a Match Loss for Tardiness.)

DQ: Disqualification. The most serious penalty, resulting in a participant’s immediate removal from an event. Issued for actions that damage the integrity of the event (e.g. cheating) or for significant unsporting conduct (e.g. threats of violence).

GPE: Game Play Error. The category of infractions that cover violations of the Comprehensive Rules. Sometimes used with another abbreviation or prefix denoting the specific infraction; e.g. GPE-GRV.

TE: Tournament Error. The category of infractions that handle violations of the Magic Tournament Rules. Sometimes used with another abbreviation or prefix denoting the specific infraction; e.g. TE-D/DLP.

USC: Unsporting Conduct. The category of infractions that address disruptive behavior that impacts the comfort of attendees or the integrity of the event. Commonly used with a prefix denoting the specific infraction; e.g., USC-Minor, USC-Major, USC-Cheating.

D/DLP: Deck/Decklist Problem. A tournament error resulting from filling out a deck registration sheet incorrectly, or presenting an illegal deck/sideboard. Usually merits a Game Loss due to the higher potential for advantage.

OA: Outside Assistance. A tournament error committed when a participant gives or seeks play advice or hidden information during their match, penalized with a Match Loss due to the significant potential to compromise a game.

IDASOG: Improper Drawing at the Start of Game. A game play error committed when a player draws too many (or too few) cards in their opening hand, but has not yet taken any game actions. Also ID@SOG.

LEC: Looking at Extra Cards. A game play error awarded for seeing cards you weren’t entitled to see; a minor infraction, penalized with a Warning. Also LAEC, L@EC.

GRV: Game Rule Violation. A “catch-all” category of game play error awarded for violations of the Comprehensive Rules that don’t meet the criteria for any other GPE.

DEC: Drawing Extra Cards. A severe game play error awarded for illegally putting a card into your hand, usually penalized with a Game Loss due to the high potential for advantage and the potential for the error to be overlooked by opponents.

FTMGS: Failure to Maintain Game State. A minor infraction issued when one player allows another player to commit a game play error, and does not point it out immediately.

CPV: Communication Policy Violation. It’s never CPV, so you shouldn’t have to worry about this one.

Game Rules

CR: Comprehensive Rules. The document that contains all the rules of Magic.

SBA: State-based actions. The janitors of the game, responsible for killing creatures with lethal damage marked on them (for example).

OoOS: Out-of-Order Sequencing. A concept from the Magic Tournament Rules that allows players to take a batch of physical game actions in a technically incorrect order, as long as the final game state is legal and clear.

DEBT: Damage, Enchanting/Equipping, Blocking, Targeting. A mnemonic for the four types of actions that protection prevents.


RC: Regional Coordinator. L3+ judges who lead judges in various regions of the world. RC’s are the first point of contact for any judge-related issues in their area.

WER: Wizards Event Reporter. A software program for scheduling events, generating pairings, and reporting results of tournaments to Wizards.

DCIR: DCI Reporter. The predecessor to WER, no longer publicly available. Currently used only for specific situations such as exceptionally large tournaments (e.g. GPs, SCG Opens).

KP: Knowledge Pool. A weekly series that challenges judges to figure out how to handle tricky situations involving the IPG.

MJC: The Magic Judge Code. A statement of the values of the Magic Judge community, which defines what behaviors are acceptable and which are not.

CoC: Code of Conduct. An alternate abbreviation for the MJC.

JCC: The group of L3+ judges who adjudicate reports of misconduct.

PEI: Pre-Event Interview. One of the final steps of the L3 advancement process.

WW: Welcome Wagon. A process for onboarding new L1’s (and L2’s). Never heard of it? It might be coming to your region soon!

HLJ: High-Level Judge. Formally, the L4’s and L5’s. Colloquially, L3’s and higher.

TR: Tournament Report. Reports from specific events; writing one is now part of the L2 requirements.

EOR: End-of-Round. Generally refers to the end-of-round procedure, in which judges track down matches that have not yet turned in their result slips in order to expedite the tournament.

HoF: Pro Tour Hall of Fame, comprised of “most significant and influential competitors of the game.”

RTFC: Read the F****** Card. A common admonition or exclamation when a judge or player makes a mistake due to misunderstanding or failing to fully read a card’s text. Alternatively, the Riccardo Tessitori Fan Club.

Is your favorite abbreviation missing? Let me know!

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