The Road to L2 – L2 Recommendations

Written by Jon Goud

Written by Jon Goud

Hey all! I’d like to contribute to the series on L2 advancement by sharing some thoughts on L2 recommendations. I hope to demonstrate why I believe this requirement is necessary, how to solicit one, what you should be trying to achieve with your rec, and what some strong and poor recommendations look like.

What’s the Deal with L2 Recs?

Why do you think we have this as a requirement in the first place? Many judges in Canada live far away from other judges, and it can be difficult to find opportunities for multi-judge events that would score you a recommendation. While it would simply be easier to do away with it, I believe that securing the good opinion of our fellow judges is a critical part of this process. As an L2 you have responsibilities and powers that put you in contact with other judges much more often than you would with an L1. You may be part of a multi-judge competitive event, you may be head judging an event and have team leads underneath you, you may be a mentor for potential new judges in your area, you may wish to observe the efforts of your colleagues for exemplar purposes – the list goes on. It’s important that we have a step in the process where your certifying judge can get a read on how you interact with other judges. You should have a strong reputation with your community – someone else should be willing to vouch for you.

There is an additional reason this is particularly important in Canada – under the current PPTQ tournament ‘ecosystem’ many judges exist in isolated communities as the only judge in town, running the same tournaments for the same players every quarter. This prevents these judges from getting feedback about their judging from others – the phenomenon of “herd immunity” also applies to policy applications. Perhaps you’ve been applying HCE incorrectly this whole time and no one has been around to see it – players are unlikely to correct you and without some effort put into personal study you’re likely to continue with your current incorrect rulings.

Having a system whereby judges must interact with, observe, and be beholden to each other for the quality of their performance mitigates many of these issues. The more isolated you are, the more difficult it can be to get a rec – but the more important it is to do so.

Seeking a Recommendation

If you are an L1 looking for a recommendation, there are a few avenues available to you – the easiest of which is simply to connect with an L2+ and let them know you’re looking for a rec. You should expect them to engage you in some online or in-person discussion for them to get a sense of your readiness, and then find a time where the two of you can work a tournament together, so that they can observe you in action. There should be a bit of a debrief, and then they write and submit the recommendation as a review on JudgeApps.

I’d also suggest getting buy-in from the local store where you judge most frequently. If they are invested in your progress (hopefully they are) they are good partners to have in your pocket when the time comes to find an event that requires multiple judges. Perhaps they will staff your L2 mentor to head judge a PPTQ and have you on as a floor judge. They might even be willing to host a 1K or some other mid-range competitive event that would require more than one judge!

Prepare for the event. Study policy and spend some time thinking about how the tournament is going to play out. Will there be issues with registration based on the room layout? Where will your pairings go? Does the printer work? Are there enough tables and chairs? Your rulings, interactions with players, and your sense of tournament logistics will all be things your L2+ recommendation should be covering.

Writing a Recommendation

An L1 approaches you and shares their interest in leveling up. They have asked you to write a recommendation for them. What comes next?

You are responsible for gauging their readiness for L2. This is a very important responsibility and I’d urge you not to take it lightly. Whether or not you “like” the judge, whether or not you want them to be an L2, or even if they have the potential for L2 at some point in the future should not be part of your consideration. You should only be measuring whether or not they are ready, and whether or not they are ready now.

L2 judges have a great deal of power. If they are poor mentors then they can certify unsuitable L1 candidates and completely erode a local community. If their logistics, rules, or policy knowledge is weak than they can blow up a tournament with significant prizing. These failures not only hurt the experience of players (exactly the opposite of why judges exist in the first place) but also reflect badly on you as their mentor and on the program as a whole. When someone asks you to recommend them for L2 – the onus is on them to show you they are ready, not on you to show them they aren’t.

Here’s my shorthand for sizing up L2 readiness:

  • Would I recommend them to run a 1K at my local game store if I wasn’t available?
  • Do I trust them to say “no” to unsuitable candidates for L1?

Let’s unpack those a bit.

The first question looks at their ability to run events. I’m looking for their sense of tournament logistics, their ability to interact positively and diplomatically with players, their rules knowledge, and their comfort with the IPG and MTR. Your assessment should include a theoretical (interview) and practical (shadowing at an event) portion.

The second question is about their ability to identify both suitable and unsuitable candidates for L1. Mentorship at the L2 level is more of a “nice to have” than a “need to have”, but it definitely is nice to have! Do they know what the requirements are for L1? Can they make an educated guess as to why each requirement is important? I like questions like “Tell me about a local player you think would make a terrible judge”. Try and stick to specific questions about their experience rather than theoretical questions. For example, a worse version of the above question would be “Describe a hypothetical player that would not be a good candidate for L1”. That kind of hypothetical is easy to “bs”, and you’ll get much more interesting responses if your questions challenge them to talk about something specific to their experience.

Next Steps

Once you have a good read on these two qualities it’s time to make a decision. Would you recommend this judge for L2? If yes, then spend some time talking to them and write up the review in JudgeApps! If no, then spend some time talking with them, write a review in JudgeApps and be sure to include productive suggestions on where the goal is, how far they are from it, and how they might cross it.

A good recommendation, like a good review, is specific, thorough, and grounded in your experience with the candidate.

If your recommending judge gives you the green light – congratulations! Keep plugging at the other requirements (hint: whatever event you end up judging can also be the source of your tournament report and if you review the evaluating judge you’re mostly there!) and start thinking about where you can get an L2 test in front of you. You can reach out to me ( or connect with your local L3 or L2.

Good luck out there 🙂

For more help on your Road to L2, check out the previous instalments:

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