Program Coordinators AMA – December 2018

Hello and welcome to the second installment of the Program Coordinators Ask Me Anything Answers!

Thank you to everyone that participated by asking questions. Our next AMA will happen in the first quarter of next year, but if you have anything to ask between now and then feel free to email us anytime at

Before answering the questions you asked on the forum thread, we would like to share with you our thoughts about the recent Organized Play announcements on Esports and Mythic Qualifiersand answer some questions on we were asked at the meetings run at GPs Liverpool and Portland.

With the information disclosed so far about Organized play in 2019 we can’t have a fully informed opinion. We don’t like the removal of Nationals and WMC, and we believe this will negatively affect the judges and players community in many regions. We believe WotC investing in online gaming is good for the overall health of the game, but we share concern that it should not be at the expense of the tabletop play structure.

We don’t have enough information about the new Mythic Championship Qualifiers to foresee exactly what is going to happen, but, if they are similar to the former PTQs, we expect two important and opposed effects:

  • On one hand, judges in main cities will have a much more interesting event to judge, they’ll work with other judges, learn and improve.
  • On the other hand, judges from isolated areas may not have local competitive REL tournaments to judge, and have to travel unless local stores decided to run a series of competitive events there.

However, if the qualification to Mythic Championship Qualifiers is done through another events (somehow similar to PPTQs) this will give us the best of both worlds. But we don’t know yet. We’ll get back to you as Wizards discloses more information about Organized Play.

At the Planar Bridge meeting in GP Liverpool, there were some questions about this topic we couldn’t answer on the spot and we asked for information to Wizards.

Here is a summary of what we received:

  • PTs will no longer be regionalized, so the Mythic Championship invites will be the same as they were for the PTs this year (in that you’ll qualify for the next MC, not the next one on your continent). There is no information yet on size or how invites are going to work, hopefully those details will be public in January.
  • The numbers of MCQ slots each country is going to have is not available at the moment.
  • There are no plans to replace Nationals with a similar organized play structure.

And now, the answer to questions you asked us in the forum:


Q: How will the Judge Program change?

Alfonso: The judge program has been and will always be changing to adapt to Organized Play needs. There is no such thing as a “perfect and eternal judge program structure”; it will evolve every time the game changes. In the near future, I see the Judge Program focused in quality. We need to turn judges into an asset Tournament Organizers WANT for their tournaments. If the only reason why TOs use judges for their events is because they’re forced to do it, we’re doing something wrong. It’s the Judge Programs responsibility to provide training and tools to its judges so they can become valuable assets for tournaments.

Bryan: Basically it’s going to shift with and respond to the demands of Organized Play.  We don’t yet have a full picture of how the transition from PPTQ/RPTQs to MCQs are going to look. We don’t yet know how stores will respond to suddenly being responsible for satisfying the Comp Rel demands in their local areas without the lure of an RPTQ invite. However, we are expecting that judges are going to be more responsible for “selling themselves” to Tournament Organizers.

Along with the level redefenition, we have started outlining the creation an Outreach Sphere, with the purpose of both explicitly outlining how a certified judge helps make a Tournament Organizer’s events better, and talking to Tournament Organizers to find out how the judge program can better meet their needs.  The level redef will focus on making sure that certified judges live up to those expectations. While I hate teasing announcements, we will be opening applications for that Sphere Lead sometime in the next 2 months or so.

CJ: The mission and vision of the judge program (find those here!) will not change. We are still going to create awesome memories for people through Magic, however the tournaments we do that through will change. I anticipate we will need to devote some resources to building the program’s brand amongst Friendly Local Game Stores and other Tournament Organizers in order to show them we are a valuable addition to their offerings.

Riccardo: I have always seen the Judge Program as a mix of individuals from all over the world who share a common passion, assisting a main company (Wizards of the Coast) and a ton of small businesses (all tournament organizers) in developing the game environment.

Judges, organizers, and Wizards of the Coast are “partners”, as they have the common goal of contributing to a healthy and enjoyable environment, where as many players as possible will continue playing.

Seeing the Judge Program this way makes me believe that there will not be relevant changes (I’m seeing it today like I was seeing it 15 years ago).

Then, if you want to discuss minor changes, there are a lot every year.



Q: What do you see as the role of the level 2 in a post-PPTQ world?

Alfonso: It would depend on what comes in Organized Play. If Mythic Championship Qualifiers are somehow similar to the old PTQs, I believe the role of Level 2s will be very similar to what it was before PPTQs existed. Level 2 will be solid ambassadors of the judge program, leaders of their areas and rules and policy experts.

Bryan: One of the advantages of having been a judge for over 8 years, means I remember what it was like before PPTQs.  MCQs seems to be looking a lot like old PTQs, so I imagine the role will be very similar to what it was then. L2s will still have a comp REL focus, they will still be GP Floor Judges.  But now they will also be floor judges or team leads at MCQs. They will still be expected to be leaders in their local communities. In a lot of the most important ways, the *role* of the L2 won’t change.  

CJ: I’ve had the opportunity to talk with a lot of store owners about the changes to competitive Magic. MCQs probably aren’t the answer for many stores. Those stores will have to be creative in their offerings if they want to stay relevant to their local communities. Offerings may be competitive, but regardless of the REL, judges add value to tournaments. We will need to be better at advertising this to stores.  I anticipate the demand for L2s will decrease moving forward. Yes, I remember judging before PPTQs. I remember the same group of 5 or 6 people judging most local events and 1-2 slots being allocated for developing new people. We have a lot more skilled L2s than we did then.

Johanna: They will still be Competitive-focused judges – they’ll judge the new PTQs and other local Competitive events, and most floor judges at GPs will still be L2s. L2s will continue to be local leaders and mentors who train new judges.

Riccardo: I see the Level 2 judge as the Competitive judge at events and as the reference for the city and province game environment. The specific event activity will depend on the number and on the dimension of Mythic Qualifiers, which may need a single L2 (similar to pPTQs) or a group of L2s and L3s (similar to the previous PTQs). The presence at GPs, now called MagicFests, won’t change. The specific community or project activity will depend, exactly like today, from the individual judge’s preferred topics and activities.


Q: I’m also concerned about L1 and L2 judges (especially L1) role after competitive Magic structure changes (aka post-PPTQ world).

Alfonso: For Level 2s see the answer above. For Level 1s, I don’t believe this organize play change is affecting them at all. The problem with the Level 1 existed before this change and this changed is not affecting it. The problem I see regarding L1s is that Tournament Organizers don’t perceive their value. This is caused partially because we don’t sell their value well; and partially because, with the goal of making the Judge Program as large as possible, we’ve set the quality entry level so low some Level 1s can just be players with some knowledge of the Comprehensive Rules. In order to fix this, we need to work in both sides of the problem

Bryan: For L1s who enjoy Regular Rel, I don’t envision the Competitive magic structures impacting them a lot.  For L1s looking to advance to L2, or wanting competitive magic experience, it’s going to be a bit tougher, but MCQs will be more meaningful events.  One issue with PPTQs is they were seldom large enough to justify having a second judge, and the opportunities for learning were… let’s be charitable and say “limited”.

Riccardo: I believe that the recent change has no concrete effect on the role of L1. Alfonso explained well some interesting ideas to increase the value of L1.


Q: Another thing I’d like to ask – do you have any “pro tips” for judges that will help them to get to their first GP/MF?

Alfonso: Look, listen, ask, learn, improve and give feedback. I’ve seen many new judges coming to the GP scene; those more successful were those eager to ask anything they didn’t understand, willing to learn and improve and provided suggestions (sometime they were good suggestion, some other time they weren’t, but nevertheless, them and others learned from those suggestion). No one will be expecting you to know how to do things at your first GPs. Don’t be shy, ask questions.

Bryan: The cheating answer is “Get to know your RC”.  RCs provide input on Judge applications, so the more they know about what you are doing, the better.  Another “pro tip”, is when writing your cover letter, don’t talk about how good the event will be for you.  Tournament Organizers want to know how good you are for their event. But the best advice I can give is: Be impressive. If you give 110% you will stand out more than someone who only gives 100%.  Presumably MCQs will be multi-judge events and allow for some L1s to be on floor staff. Take full advantage of these opportunities.  Review judges higher than yourself. Mentor other judges, ask policy questions. Be someone people want to talk about and hype. Your reputation is your resume.  Make it a good one.

CJ: Versatility is really important to staffing managers. The more positions someone is able to fill, the better their chances for being staffed. In my experience, there are less admin/ops applications than there are judge applications. Willingness to take on an ops role for your first GP/MF will increase your chances in getting selected.  There are some great L0/L1 judges who get declined frequently for events. Level 2 judges can fill more slots.

Johanna: Like Bryan says – build up a good resume with other events, and make sure your RC knows who you are. Also, applying for Ops roles seems to be a good way to get your foot in the door.

Riccardo: First, you need to have skills (rules knowledge, policy knowledge, tournament operations knowledge, customer service orientation, people skills, initiative). Then, you need to find a way to let others know about you; in the last few years I’ve heard a few judges saying “I am good, but I don’t get selected” and often my answer was “How can a person select you if nobody knows how good you are?”. You can increase your visibility, even if you are in an isolated area; forums, articles, conferences, any online discussions… there are several ways to make the other judges know about you.


Q: I would like to know if the program is going to prioritize finding solutions to the problems in the exemplar program?

Bryan: The wording of this question assumes that finding solutions isn’t already a priority. That isn’t true. I’m very aware of what the problems are (real or perceived)  and am always looking for solutions. I’m hungry for them. If you have solutions or wish to report abuse, please send them to exemplarprogram@gmail.comOne caveat though: The vast, vast, vast majority of solutions I get have some core where they make promos compensation.  Those aren’t solutions I can use.

CJ: I think it’s important to realize that while there are some abuses of Exemplar, there is also a team that reviews thousands of nominations each wave to combat abuses. Exemplar is taken very seriously.  The penalties for abusing Exemplar (creating fake nominations, setting up “rings” of nominations) include suspensions and demotions. To my knowledge, no one has been caught abusing the Exemplar program a second time.

Johanna: What problems are there in your opinion?

Riccardo: How can I answer to a question like this if not with “What do you want to talk about exactly?”.

Your questions seems implying that:

1) there are problems

2) we know about them

3) you believe that it should be a high priority to find solutions to those not explained problems of one of the many initiatives of the Judge Program

The more specific you are in the future, the better we will answer.


Q: Can you lend any insight as to what our current relationship is with Wizards of the Coast? Reading enough social media opinions, most agree that it has soured in the past several years. That said, I am beginning to become concerned about the future state of the program’s relationship with WotC as Organized Play (from a Competitive standpoint) looks to shift away from a local store model and into one focused on large events ran by fewer approved organizers (PTQs, CFBE). Is there any insight you can provide that is more than hearsay? I understand if you can’t.

Alfonso: Some years ago, Wizards decided to stop running the judge program and let it be an independent organization. Since then we have become independent from WotC. We still have a friendly and good relationship with Wizards, but not as boss-employee, but as two different entities.

Bryan: I think most of the decisions they make, they make based on what they feel is best for the perceived health of the game and the company.  What’s “good for judges” doesn’t factor into their business decisions when planning global organized play initiatives. When they decided to cancel GPTs, they looked at how the tournament series was or was not accomplishing its goals. The impact to L1s is not a reason to keep something that isn’t working. In nearly every change, there are winners and losers; and it can be frustrating when you’re the loser in every change.  I get that. Im frustrated by it too. I think the constant loss is where a lot of the ‘souring’ comes from.

From a current standpoint, WOTC supports the judge program with contracts for several positions within the Judge Program.  RCs, PCs, a few other leadership roles. They provide promo support to Conferences and Exemplar, organize MOJO, and provide a point of contact for direct issues. The individual WoTC employees that we talk to know and value judges, and I feel that they genuinely care about the health of the Judge program.  The relationship with the people we deal directly with is very good. They recognize our value and do what they can to help.

CJ: Wizards has a full time Community Manager dedicated to the Judge Program. Sara Mox does a fantastic job of being available for the program and acting as a liaison between Wizards and us. As Bryan stated the individual WotC employees we talk with care about the health and stability of the judge program.

Now, I do not believe that WotC as a company takes (or should take) the judge program’s best interests into account when they make their Organized Play decisions. I can’t envision a future without paper Magic, it’s just too profitable to let go. Therefore, I believe there will always be a need for judges. As Arena gets more popular, I anticipate more people will also come to paper Magic (just like what happened after MTGO was released). These players will need an outlet that isn’t a MagicFest or Mythical Championship and will turn to their FLGS.

Riccardo: The Judge Program is an entity that is independent from Wizard of the Coast and that has a good relationship with Wizards of the Coast and the main tournament organizers.

Some of the changes in the Judge Program depend on the organized play changes made by Wizards.

Some of the changes by Wizards take into account judges’ advice.

I have no information about the 2019 organized play programs for local store, but I can tell you that, at least in my region, several local stores organize several types of leagues or tournament series, and I invite you to collaborate with your local game stores to foster a vibrant local game scene.


Q: Does the judge program have a short-term and long-term plan? What does it look like?

Alfonso: In the short term we have an active plan to regain the perceived (by TOs mostly) value of judges. In the long term, we have a reactive plan, of adapting the judge program to whatever needs of the Organized Play structure may have and be ready to tackle any unexpected challenge.

Riccardo: Interesting, as this is the key point for me: Why do we do it?

While the short-term goals vary from “how can we better adapt the Judge Program to the Organized Play structure that had very recent changes?” to “how can we better use our resources and become more efficient?” to “how can we better demonstrate the added value of judges to non-judges, like organizers, players and Wizards?”, a long-term goal I want to offer you is “Why do we do it?”.

Some of us judge for a year, and others have reached twenty years.

There might be several reasons why people choose to start judging, to continue judging or to stop judging, and I believe that a fundamental aspect to contribute to a better environment is to understand why we do it, so that we don’t create false expectations, we better understand others’ points of view, and we can better collaborate for everybody’s higher satisfaction. All these volatile words translate in small concrete actions to increase trust, commitment and satisfaction, with a common goal that is being satisfied in what we are doing.


Q: Any updates on possible restructuring of levels?

Alfonso: No restructure of level planned. Instead, we’ll update the definition and threshold for each level to ensure quality on judges and work on explaining the value of judges to Tournament Organizers.

Bryan: We had a plan.  Then we got word of OP changes that might impact that plan, so they got delayed till we knew what they were.  Changes trickled out slowly.

We finally have enough information to feel comfortable moving forward.  The L1 team is gearing back up discussing what changes to make. Personally, I don’t like teasing announcements.  I like to have all the bits and pieces in place, vetted and agreed to before something is rolled out. So it’s going to seem like nothing is happening, but it is 🙂

I will say that one of the goals of the L1 part of the redef, is to turn L1 into something TOs *want* to use, instead of saying “I can do that.  Why am I paying someone extra to do this”.

Riccardo: My recommendation is to restructure the expectations that people in specific levels have.

“I am a level X certified judge, therefore my local store / Wizards / the Judge Program MUST give me XXX” is an expectation that is going to lead to high disappointment.

Instead of a level redefinition, I believe it would be much better to communicate to people what they should expect and what they should not expect.


Q: If each of the PCs were Pokémon, who would they be?

Alfonso: I don’t know much about Pokemon, I guess I belong to a previous generation… but I can tell you what Saint Seiya character I would be: Dragon.

Bryan: Squirtle with the sunglasses, obv, B)

CJ: I choose Heracross! Pokemon Go is actually the first pokemon game I’ve ever played. Very proud to have the first 3 generations done thanks to all the generous judge players around the world.

Johanna: I have consulted the Judge Program’s ultimate authority on such matters (Kim Warren), and they say I’m a Psyduck.

Riccardo: Piplup!


Q: What has been your favorite moment of being a PC in the last year? What has been your most challenging moment?

Alfonso: My best moment was, the very first moment when we became 5 PCs, after a long time of being 4 or less, and we started working on plans and divided tasks.  My most challenging moment seems to be now, when the Organized Play structure seems to be lighter on tabletop Magic (removal of PPTQs, 2 PTs, Nationals, WMC and a few GPs) and the value of judges in doubt.

Bryan: I’ve only been a PC for two months now, so I’ve had less time to gather favorite moments, but one of them was right after I became a PC, Eskil Myrenberg reached out to me and asked for some video content for his conference presentation half a globe away.  It was really cool being asked to help, and at the same time as being able to help promote awareness of what the Spheres are and who leads them. For the most challenging: Keeping up on the emails.  It seems mundane, but keeping track of all the different conversations as they span days/weeks/months is pretty challenging.

CJ: I often say “Let me put the PC hat on” during L3 meetings or Planar Bridge meetings. Tony Houst surprised me with a hat that just has PC on it. I love it. Thanks Tony!! Every month seems to come with new challenges. It’s hard to see past the current changes to Organized Play. There was this time when my opponent had Vraska’s Contempted all my Arclight Phoenix’s in an Arena match and I had to win with were Bird tokens.

Johanna: My favourite is our recent meeting in Atlanta, which was very productive and we accomplished a lot. Most challenging moments are related to confidential behind-the-scenes things (boring answer, I know).

Riccardo: Very interesting!

The most satisfying moments are when judges come to us and tell us that our messages are effective, our support means a lot to them, our presence made them feel confident that their efforts are well spent.

The most difficult moment happened at the beginning of 2018, when there were public and very vocal accusations to the integrity of the entire Judge Program, with also a communication from Wizards about background checks.

At that time, there were only two active Program Coordinators and they were from regions not affected by all that was happening online, so we wanted to count on our Regional Coordinator colleagues for our public communication.

There were moments, both before and after publishing the message, when it seemed to me that every line we were writing was inappropriate, offensive, dismissing or negative. For example, one of the sentences that caused negative feedback was inviting judges to speak and collaborate with stores, as clashed with a fear that this invitation would have created legal risk for the entire program. Another example was that the final message was not empathetic enough, which made me think that whatever you do, there will be people complaining that “it’s too X” and at the same time that “it’s not enough X”.

What Interaction/s from this year’s events have brought you to a better understanding of your role as PC? 

Alfonso: All Leadership Meetings (formerly known as L3 meetings) and all Planar Bridge meetings I’ve been to have taught me something and have helped me developing. If I have to choose only one… I would choose two: My first Planar Bridge meeting at GP Seattle 2019 and the Leadership Meeting after GP Liverpool 2019.

Bryan: I’ve only been a PC for 2 months, so I’m going to cheat and pick an event from before I was selected.  At the beginning of the year there were some incidents that really solidified what I expected a PC to be.  I wanted PCs to get in front of problems and speak to the community and publicly address issues.

CJ: It’s always interesting to hear what people think the role should be. Thankfully the current group of PCs has a similar vision, but my initial month of getting on the same page with the others was a lot of fun. We each look at problems or opportunities in a different way and working together to figure out how we can best approach different scenarios has been extremely rewarding.


Riccardo: The best interactions have been all those that started with “As PCs, you should…”, “I expect you PCs to…” and “PCs need to…”. You may think that they are the beginning of complaints; instead, they are the beginning of the explanations on why people count on you and how important it is that you don’t fail them.

Q: What Gummi Bear colour is your favourite?

Alfonso: Any gummi bear in my reach!

Bryan: Are we talking Black Forest Gummy Bears or Haribo? If Black Forest, my favorite color is red.  But if we are talking Haribo, then it’s still red.

CJ: Clear gummi bears are the best 🙂

Johanna: [O] Gummi Bears should be eaten in pairs of different colors.

Riccardo: Red, always red!

Q: Why did you originally apply to be a PC, why are you still a PC, and why the change (if any)?

Alfonso: I applied because I wanted the Program Coordinators to be visible leaders of the judge program, not Air Traffic Controllers, as originally announced. I’m still a PC because I want to lead the Program thought the challenges it’s facing.

Bryan: So, this last time I applied as PC, was actually my third (or forth depending on how you count) time applying.  The first time was over 2 years ago and I think I applied because a lot of people encouraged me to and I thought ‘why not?’.  It’s not a great reason, and well, the results backed that up. My first application is embarrassingly bad. Over time though, I shifted my perspective, as opposed to a role I wanted to have, I looked at is as problems I wanted to solve, and PC was a way to attempt to solve them.

CJ: I applied because I wanted to be involved in shaping the future of the judge program specifically in level redefinitions and quality assurance. We have started to make some strides in those directions, but with the future of organized play still up in the air a bit making changes isn’t pragmatic right now.

Johanna: I applied because it felt like the natural next step in my long career. I had already been helping the PCs as JCC lead, and I felt I could help more by being an actual PC. I’m still a PC because my term is not over yet and I haven’t been crushed under the weight of responsibility! It’s challenging work and I want to continue helping the program.

Riccardo: I applied because the entire Judge Program is an entity I care a great lot about, and one of the best way to give a positive contribution is to be at the center of it and present every day. More specifically, I felt that many judges were very concerned about a lack of direction immediately after the disappearance of L4s and L5s and an increasing distance between Wizards and the judge program, with also an almost complete lack of communication and presence of the Program Coordinators. If you want to make a change, you better invest your time, your reputation and do it from within.

I am still a Program Coordinator because I want that we are clearer in the direction we are going to, giving correct expectations to judges and focusing on the appropriate priorities.


Q: I suppose that every Program Coordinator enters the role with some expectations and visions of what they would like to have implemented. Could you share your experiences with this? Have you been able to work on your priorities and bring at least some of your ideas into living?

Alfonso: In my first term I wanted to redefine the role of Program Coordinator and I consider it done. In my second term I want to work on the Global Projects structure, I still have much work to do.

Bryan: So I entered the role with a very pragmatic approach of what can and can’t be done.  The other PCs have been super supportive of initiatives I’ve suggested. From my application, I had some priorities (Level Redef, and Outreach) and those are progressing.  All in all, they are a great bunch of people to work with.

CJ: I completely agree. I always try to follow the Covey principle of “Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood”. I think it’s very important to do this while entering an existing group. I expected the dynamics to be very collaborative and while that was true for some areas, we decided to have each person focus on a specific area. I choose to focus on level redefinitions and quickly ran into the unknowns that were OP changes. I also wanted to focus on increasing educational opportunities, some of that is in progress and I hope we see some of that soon.

Johanna: One of my goals was to improve the way we communicate, and I think we’ve managed to make at least some progress there. There are other things I wanted to do where progress has been slower.

Riccardo: I started 15 months ago, and one of the main goals/desires was to increase communication between the Program Coordinators and the rest of the judges, and also increase transparency, meaning that I wanted judges to know what the Program Coordinators were doing, as earlier it was unknown. I am satisfied about how it has been going in the last year, and I see that we are continuing in the correct direction.


Q: Which ideas of the latest PC candidates (Meg Baum, Michael Chamberlain, Bryan Prillaman) do you consider as easiest to implement? Which ones do you see as not realistic?

Alfonso: I’m not judging other’s ideas publicly. I’ll just say they were all great applications.

Bryan: I’m really reluctant to publicly critique others applications, but I will answer your questions using mineNone of them are easy to implement.  If they were easy, they would have been done already. The least realistic thing I wanted to do was a drastic change to the level system.  Basically I wanted to split up levels from certifications, where both existed, and there was a place for those that wanted to just do events, and those that wanted to do program stuff.  Ultimately, it was too messy, too confusing, too complex and didn’t solve any problems without creating larger ones.

CJ: Both Meg and Michael brought up ways to increase the visibility and communication of the PCs to the program. I believe we are working in the right direction. Our next AMA will be on Reddit. Personally, I have mixed feelings about that platform but others strongly believe it will be beneficial.

Johanna: All three applicants had some good ideas, but I don’t want to comment in more detail.

Riccardo: I am available to offer you my opinion on any topic, but I ask you to be specific in the future, giving me the necessary elements in your question and with a reasonable focus.


Q: What is your estimation on for how long the Level system will survive?

Alfonso: As long as Magic exists as we know it.

Bryan: I’ve had some introspection on this, and I think that the concept of levels does a lot more work than judges give it credit for.

CJ: I’ve definitely lost sleep over the current level system. In the end, I believe that the levels continue to help some Tournament Organizers and players understand the level of experience and knowledge that judges have. Moving to any other system we’ve considered doesn’t impart the same information to stakeholders. Its arguable a large marketing campaign could educate people, but I believe we could spend those marketing efforts on better endeavors.

Johanna: I think we’ll keep levels around for a good while. The concept of “levels” is easy to understand for people who are not deeply involved with judging.

Riccardo: I consider the level system as fundamental in our structure, so I am confident that it will continue existing for as long as Magic will continue existing. Any comment like “Compensation doesn’t depend on level” or “You can do at level X anything you could do at level Y” are not valid reasons to consider abandoning the level system, because the levels represent the whole of the skills, the role and the responsibilities of judges (both inside and outside tournaments) and they are aspirational to many people.


Q: Do you think that Judge Program organization could switch to some kind of a representative/indirect democracy? Or even a direct democracy?”

Alfonso: I believe it currently is a sort of indirect democracy, because the most invested judges in the program choose all advanced roles.  I don’t see it becoming a direct democracy in the near future because the logistical challenges this present are too much for our current resources.

Bryan: So like direct voting for its leaders? Could it switch? Sure.  Would that be better? Probably not. First is, we would have to add a lot of process and rules and watchdog groups just to make sure no one does anything shady and that things are fair. The program is already drowning in process, adding more will cripple it. Then we have the fact that some friendships would not survive campaigning against each other.  Then let’s consider the fact that there are people that are qualified for the job, but won’t apply if they have to go through a very public campaign and a vote where the results are published. Finally, I think they’ll just devolve into actual popularity contests.

CJ: Most selection committees are purposefully designed to include individuals from several geo-regions and backgrounds. We could probably do a bit better at ensuring that they are representative of those areas and not just native. Involving Regional Coordinators to help create those committees may be worth exploring.

Johanna: Could we? Maybe. Is anyone willing to do the massive amounts of work this would require? I don’t know.

Riccardo: I am not sure I understand what you are referring to, so I will extrapolate it from my colleagues’ answers. The leaders of the several areas (Program Coordinators, Regional Coordinators, and the highest level of event certification) are determined by committees, that are groups of people selected based on their experience, region, role and who proved for years that they are knowledgeable and trusted. Maybe this could be called indirect democracy? The idea of a full democracy in the election of the leaders of the Judge Program concerns me, as I would never like to see political campaigning in our organization.


Q: With the new shape the organized play is taking with the integration of MTGA, is there an opportunity for the judge program to explore an eventual involvement in the management/running of MTG Arena events (either online or at LAN Events) ?

Alfonso: I don’t see any direct relation between the judges and MTGA. However, definitely there are some organization skills that will be useful to organize any kind of events. Moreover, judges create a contacts network that may place them in good position to get in touch with LAN organizers or, MTGA developers.

Bryan: We don’t know what WOTCs global plan for MTGA is and if events are going to be in person or if you can play from home.  However, any event that has players physically coming together is going to need people to run the event. That’s part of what judges do.  We make events happen. So yes, absolutely we want to be part of that.

CJ: Other e-sports have similar positions. We will definitely work with WotC to the best of our ability to create opportunities for the program. I don’t have a good forecast of what that would like.

Johanna: I think there are opportunities here. I would encourage any judges who are interested in this to get involved and not wait for some sort of program-sponsored initiative to happen first.

Riccardo: My first emotional reaction was “No. How could it be possible?”, but then the rational part of me thought “You need to get information first”. Thank you for the hint on an area that I may choose to explore in the future.


Q: How do you think the Judge program could change to better assist judges in isolated/low population areas in being as active as judges in major metropolitan centres?

Alfonso: There may be some differences between judges in those areas, but the core of what being a judge means is the same: judges are Magic tournament experts and ambassadors of the game. We need to provide more and even better tools to train judges’ skills. And we need to make the Tournament Organizers and Players communities aware of the excellence judges bring. In other words, most out action, will be on-line and will be as good for the isolated judges as they are for the judges in major cities.

Bryan: You asked how we can assist judges in being active in isolated low population areas.  For ‘active’, I’m going to assume you mean active at events. The painfully blunt answer is: We can’t. We can create education initiative, and provide mentorship, we can create online methods to participate with the larger community, but we can’t create opportunities to judge. If there are no events in your area, you need to either work with the TO to create new events or travel to existing ones.  We can help mentor you on how to encourage your local TOs to run events, but ultimately the success or failure of that is going to depend on your ability to convince your tournament organizer.

CJ: I believe our RCs in these areas understand this concern better than anyone. I know they are working on projects and conferences to better support judges in these areas. While some initiatives have been going on for a while, new ones are always

Johanna: The judge program can’t do much to create opportunities for judging if there are no local tournaments to judge. What we can do is educate tournament organizers about the benefits of using trained, certified judges for their events and provide online training materials for the isolated judges who can’t work and train with others very often.

Riccardo: Bryan explained my thoughts better than I could write them myself.


Q: Did I miss an announcement, or is MOJO simply not happening this year?

Alfonso: It was late (latter than this question was posted), but MOJO 2018 is real!

Bryan: Chris, are you saying you lost your mojo?

CJ: MOJO! MOJO! MOJO! Also, special thanks to Adrian Estoup for organizing!

Johanna: MOJO is indeed happening (it was announced shortly after this question was posted). There were some communication problems that caused a delay, but Adrian Estoup has done a great job putting the event together for all of us!

Riccardo: It is happening, and I still remember seeing several photos of judges gathering to play it together, so that the celebration goes way beyond simply playing!


Q: “While there is a common refrain that the judge program is a “cult of self improvement”, the machinery that moves about our environment largely predicates the need to “pull people up”; ultimately, this “cult” is the embodiment of a willingness to learn that is fueled by *other* people with the knowledge and experience to help them. This creates a dependency (or at the very least, the perception of one, which is just as bad when it comes to growth) wherein the people already in a position of power effectively get to decide who’s going to be equipped to succeed in the future. 
How would you propose to combat this?”

Alfonso: Hello Rebecca, I believe you nailed one of the most difficult-to-see issues in the judge program, but I draw a completely different conclusion from it.

I agree with you a significant part of the judges are developed or trained, because someone else says “I’m going to make a better judge out of you”. I believe, this is negative because some judges are forced to be involved in the Program deeper; or to level up faster than they enjoy.

I believe this is a problem because judging is a hobby and everybody in the program should be enjoying what they do, no matter if you’re giving a hand at FNMs or Coordinating the Program. In my opinion, anyone seeing judging as an obligation or a job is making a mistake and will end up disappointed.

If I read properly, your message, the conclusion you’re drawing from this issue is that “you need someone to take you under their wing to progress in the program”. I believe this is not entirely correct, of course it helps if an expert judge helps you improving, but there are more than enough on-line tools and resources to become an expert judge. However, I believe the skill of finding other judges who can help you and creating a network of judges is vital for the ultima role of a judge: providing a fair tournament and creating a safe and welcoming environment.

Bryan: When we talk about the Judge program being a volunteer program, the volunteer part is everything that happens outside of events: Projects, mentorship, other forms of community building.  There is a pressure within the program to do some of these things, but its not mandated as to which you must do and to what degree. The program can’t force someone who doesn’t want to update the Annotated IPG to update the Annotated IPG.  The same is true with mentorship. The program can’t force a mentor/mentee relationship with a specific pair of individuals, and if someone isn’t motivated to work with you, you wouldn’t learn a lot from them anyway. We can encourage the existence of mentor/mentee relationships generically, but we can’t mandate it specifically.

This doesn’t mean that you are stuck.  This doesn’t mean you don’t have any options. This doesn’t mean you are cut off or shut out. This does mean that that specific judge isn’t right for you as a mentor, reach out to another one. Or several other ones,  not every judge is awesome at all things. There exceptional rules focused judges at every level. There are large tournament logistic masters at L2. Everyone seems to have an opinion on Program Construction and Philosophy 🙂 Mix and match.  Build a group that can learn off each other. That very act is a great way to learn about leadership.

CJ: This is a fantastic question. I grew up in the Florida Magic Community and while that period has received a bad reputation from some, the community was a family. We celebrated with each other, supported each other in times of sorrow, and gave continuous feedback at events we worked together. But that was also a time when level 1 judges were head judging PTQs with full teams. We didn’t always have someone with more knowledge and experience to guide us at those events. Self-reflection became an important aspect of events. Analyzing how we handled situations and looking for other options was a primary path to growth. These were my experiences and I don’t mean to say they are the only way.

We have a much larger community now than we did back then. We have a fantastic forum space on JudgeApps to share experiences and get feedback. I would suggest to anyone who is having trouble finding mentors to write tournament reports and share them on the forum. I also encourage anyone looking for help to contact their RC. There are a plethora of projects and communities within our community focused on developing each other. RCs have knowledge of those groups (maybe even some specific to their region) and would love to help.

Riccardo: I will try to answer to this question at my best, with what I understand from your question. If I go off topic or I don’t focus enough on your point, please ask for a follow-up.

I share the idea of the Judge Program as a “cult of self improvement” as I believe it offers to a huge number of people excellent opportunities of life experience, and also judges are people who have a desire of becoming better people and contribute to a better environment and also better people around them. I consider this aspect extraordinary, very rare in other associations or working environments.

Then, regarding the fact or the impression that it’s the people in position of power who decide who are the ones who get opportunities, I believe it’s “natural”, meaning that in all organizations or industries there will be people with the responsibility and authority to make choices, and also limited resources and opportunities. As I don’t see anything I should “combat”, I have the impression that your question may imply something that would need to be mentioned more clearly.


Q: It seems to me like the judge program is getting more and more splintered, or silo’d … There’s store judges, and there’s GP/SCG judges. Lots is said about how store judges are just as valuable as GP judges, but tangible demonstration of this is lacking. Is program leadership aware of this? Is anything being done to address this?

Alfonso:  I disagree with the initial statement. In my opinion, the community is not becoming more splintered, but more connected. However, this is making the differences more visible. The important part is the Program provides the tools for each judge to reach the place they want to be. And, at the same time, not making feel any choice inferior to others. As good is choosing to stay involved in a local level and choosing to judge Pro Tou… I mean Mythic Championships. By the way, what do you mean by “tangible demonstration”?

Bryan: The judge program provides lots of tangible resources for store level judges.  We provide a communication center like Judgeapps. We have RCs to assist you. We have chat groups to answer questions and articles on how to better run your events. We have a exam team that generates questions for you to study with.  We provide conferences where you can learn. This past year we made Rules Lawyers available to everyone. Most of the tools we provide are to assist you so that you can approach your Tournament Organizer for other ‘tangible demonstrations’.

Riccardo: What I’ve been seeing in the last 15 years is that the Judge Program is becoming more and more connected, both at the international and at the regional/local level.

Each region (with the Regional Coordinator acting as facilitator) and each province or city (with the help of the judges with a high initiative) can have a very strong network, which would bring benefits to everyone.

I’ve just moved from one province to another in my region, and I immediately joined the new province judge communication channels and dinners. I encourage all of you to create a strong network in your city/region/country.

I consider the local networks very important for the enjoyment of every judge’s activity.