Mentor Series: Motivation

The role of “Magic: The Gathering Judge” is complex. At the core, we encompass the three main areas of Rules, Policy/Procedure, and Customer Service.


Beyond this trinity of identity lies a vast tabula rasa for us to explore who we are and incorporate what we know. It is in the tabula rasa that we bring our outside lives into the Judging Community. It is in the tabula rasa that we create a niche for ourselves for the betterment of our extended family.

Many Judges choose to Mentor. The Mentor is an identity which encompasses aspects of a teacher, a role model, and a friend. Most of us had a Mentor (if not several). And many of us will, in turn, become Mentors to others. Unfortunately, the role of Mentor is not something we often speak about. It is assumed that experience alone makes for a wise teacher. Though experience is a key part, communication and connection are also necessary for the Mentor to efficiently convey a message to their Student.

I will be presenting a series of articles on Mentoring. This series will cover a wide variety of topics taken from the worlds of psychology and academia. They may work for your style of Mentoring. They may not. Take what you will from this article and use it for your own work. Please feel free to share it or keep it in your mind. It is a gift to you.

The first article in this series looks at…


(Note: This article is highly influenced by the work of Richard Lavoie, M.A. M.Ed.).

Why are you reading this?

Go on. Take a second. Think about it.

You are getting something out of reading this article. There is a reason you are reading these words instead of playing a video game, eating a meal, talking with friends, or building a deck. Likewise, you are getting something out of being a Judge.

Players become Judges because they are motivated. Motivation is a basic human mindset that fulfills a certain need. Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs from Psych 101? Those are needs.

There are two groups of needs: Primary and Secondary. We won’t touch on Primary Needs at the moment. These are biological needs such as hunger, thirst, and safety. Instead, we’ll focus on Secondary “Psychological” Needs. These are needs that motivate human beings. In fact, it can be argued that everything you do is a reflection of the degrees by which you are motivated by these concepts.

These needs are not dichotomous in nature. They are not a “yes or no” deal. A person can be highly motivated by one of the concepts, not motivated at all by one of the concepts, or anywhere in-between. Likewise, there is no judgment in these needs. We cannot help what we need, and there is no need that is “good or bad.” It is only how we attempt to fulfill those needs that can be labeled as such. Here are the secondary human needs, with definitions from Richard Lavoie’s work “The Motivation Breakthrough.”

“The need to feel important and valued.”

Alpha Status

There is a status that comes with being a judge. We are keepers of the peace. We are holders of the rules. Players look to us in times of question. We are an important and valued part of the community. Likewise, there is status in the hierarchical “level” system within the Judge system. The position of “Level 3” has a certain status over the position of “Level 1.”

For myself, this need is fairly average. I do not take too much stock in my Level 1 status. However, I do take stock in the real-world feeling of importance on the floor. I need to feel valued and I attempt to fulfill this need by being active in the community. For some, status is the very definition of why they are Judges. To be a Judge means they are important and valuable. They wear their Level proudly as a sign of their duties and achievements. For others, their contribution is not as important. These behind-the-scenes Judges may do work that is never acknowledged.

“The need to know.”


Being a Judge means you have studied the rules and policy of the game to a higher level than the average player. We know layers. We know sub-layers. We know the what and the where and the when and the why and the how. Though there is a common joke among Judges regarding a less-than-average ability to play Magic, there is no question that knowledge of the rules allows for better gameplay. Some people thrive on attaining information. Some people love knowing the rules and the intricacies and the corner cases.

For myself, this need is fairly low (as evidenced by my yet-to-be-passed Level 2 rules-test scores…). The rules and interactions hold rather low interest for me and I study them only to the degree that I need to know them. Some Judges may love the rules and policy. I know judges who can cite entire chunks of rules text ver batim. They want to know how the game works. They seek the craziest, whackiest rules interactions for dissection. Other Judges may not care as much. The need to know is surpassed by other needs that the Judge Program fulfills. These Judges may have difficulty passing their exams and may need alternative ways to study the rules.

“The need to feel connected.”

EN MTGHOP Cards V3.indd

Judge shirts. Name tags. Foils. Meetings and conferences and Facebook groups. Being part of the Judge Program means being part of a society 5000+ large. It means making friends across the globe. It means that you are part of a group without which an entire hobby would not exist. You’re part of a club that gets to do cool things and go cool places.

Affiliation is a very large part of why I am a Judge. I proudly announce that I am a Judge at parties. Sometimes, I don’t even have a lead in. I just scream, “I’M A JUDGE” and walk away with a shrimp cocktail. I enjoy knowing that I’m part of a network that spans the entire world. Having a Level 3 judge I’d never met recognize me in a country I’d never been to was an amazing experience. It was empowering and made me feel like I was important in the grand scheme of things. For some people, affiliation fulfills a great need. There is no doubt that the Judge Program can feel like a family. For others, affiliation does not matter. They do the job without needing to belong to something “bigger.”

“The need for control.”

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The need for power may appear to have negative connotations. After all, control is often seen as something exhibited only by movie villains and blue players… both of which are seen as intrinsically evil. Remember however that there is no judgment in these needs. People with a need for a control play very important roles in our society, especially if this need has driven them to pursue control in an educated way.

In the Judge program, the need for control may manifest in several ways. If recognized, kept in check, and fostered correctly, the need for control can lead to amazing team leads. Organizational skills may stem from this need to control, which also leads to scorekeepers extraordinaire. The need for control is not a big one for me. I am a very laid back do-as-you-will type of person.

“The need to be recognized.”

Trophy Hunter

The Judge program does a great job of recognition. There are wonderful Judge-of-the-Week articles, Judge Foils, and even shout-outs on Facebook. Judgelings with a need to be recognized may find the recognition they are looking for in the program. Whether the achievement lies within their Level number, their work on a Judge Apps project, or even a simple thank you from a Level 5 judge, being recognized can fulfill an almost existential void in a Judge’s life. It validates hard work and is a boost to the ol’ self-esteem.

I have pretty bad existential issues. Being recognized in the program validates my existence. It means that I have purpose, worth, and identity. As such, the need for achievement is pretty high for me. I’ve been lucky enough to be recognized in a few ways within the Judge program which is one of the reasons I love it. It fulfills this need for me. Some Judges hold recognition and achievement in high regard. Some Judges do hard work for the sake of hard work and don’t mind if their contributions are not noticed.

“The need to assert.”

Assert Atuhority

Again, I stress that there is no judgment here. The need to assert can be very beneficial when done correctly. Asking a waiter to return food at a restaurant is an example of this need. Another example may be a confrontation with someone who is not doing their assigned work. It is important to note that the need to assert does not mean you must act in an aggressive way to fulfill the need (more on aggression and assertion in a future article). An example of this in the Judge program is the idea of justice. Judges may want to protect the players from cheaters and charlatans. Judges may see an underrepresented community in Magic and seek to be their voice.

My need for assertion fluctuates. I feel a need to assert only if I feel there is an injustice occurring. If there is not, then my resting point on this need is nearly zero. There are some Judges for which the need to assert and dominate is prominent. There are some which seek to avoid conflict, preferring to soothe or dodge.

*This was changed from Lavoie’s original phrasing of “Aggression.”

“The need to be with others.”


I don’t like the term “social butterfly.” Butterflies aren’t social. Sure, Monarch butterflies swarm in certain seasons, but that’s just to do their dirty dirty butterfly business. No, I prefer the term “social bees.” Bees rely on each other for information and energy. They hang out and do bee things. They’re all-around social critters. Some Judges are social bees. Some Judges are not.

I am a gregarious guy. I enjoy being with others, though it is not necessarily a need of mine. There are Judges for whom their need for social interaction is fulfilled solely by the Judge Program. There are Judges who could care less for social interaction. There are some Judges who fulfill their need in other ways beyond the Judge Program.

“The need for independence.”

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The Judging Program is inherently collaborative. We work together to put on events and better our policies. However, some people display a need for independence. They work better when given freedom to use their creativity and personal skills. Other Judges work better when given a specific task with specific instructions.

I have a high need for independence. This is partially why I started this Judge Blog. I wanted a place to give my unique views in a creative fashion. I wanted freedom to express myself. Some Judges do not have a high need for this. They work better under a constant Mentor or as a member of a team. Other Judges have a very high need for independence. They might prefer being a Team Lead or working on solo projects for the program.

How do we use this information?

We often try to motivate others by using what motivates us. Take the following example:

Anna is Nova’s Judgeling. Nova notices that Anna is having trouble with the layers. After scheduling several study sessions throughout the week and walking her step-by-step through the layers, Nova notices no improvement. Nova then schedules group study sessions with other Judgelings. She figures that Anna will work better if she is in a casual and social environment. After all, group study sessions are the same method Nova used to pass her own L1 exam.

On the surface, this seems fine. However, let’s take the following into account as well.

Anna needs independence. She does not need social interaction.

How do Anna’s needs interact with Nova’s mentoring style? What can Nova do to help Anna learn in her own way? Scheduling study sessions on Nova’s time will not meet Anna’s need for independence and may actually disrupt her motivation to work on her rules knowledge. Likewise, a social setting may impede Anna’s ability to retain whatever information is shared during the group study sessions. Nova may even see Anna’s lack of progress as laziness or stubbornness.

Here lies the problem regarding needs: We are aware of our own needs and often use them as a measuring stick. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work. We have over 5000+ judges in the program and only a few of them will have matching or even similar need-profiles. It is a reflection of their personalities. A reflection of who they are and what they contribute.

When mentoring a Judge, determine their needs. Why are they in the program? What do they get out of it? There are dangers in assuming these things rather than asking and assessing. Judgelings may be discouraged or even become unhappy with the program. They may not reach their full potential or they may not contribute ideas which are unique to their field of study.

Use your knowledge of a Judge’s needs to help them within the program. If a Judgeling has low need for inquisitiveness but a high need for achievement, give them rewards every time they show improvement on a practice test. If a Judgeling does not seek gregariousness but needs control they may be the perfect trainee for a scorekeeper. Be creative and be receptive. Most importantly, be collaborative. Only your Judgeling knows if their needs are being met.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article.

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