Hello Judges, Tournament Organizers and Players,
Recently there was a post making its way around social media where a store was hosting a Mythic Championship Qualifier (MCQ) without a Certified Judge. Later they amended the statement to say that a single Level 1 judge would be available in store if needed.
As a result there were many questions asking “Is this allowed?” or “Can they do that?” The answer is, unfortunately: Yes.
Unlike Premier Competitive Rules Enforcement Level (REL) events before it, Wizards of the Coast has decided not to enforce any level requirements for Head Judging an MCQ. Instead, Wizards is pointing Tournament Organizers to recommended staffing guidelines created by the Program Coordinators. As with any guideline, Tournament Organizers can modify or even ignore them. However, with over 70 years of combined experience judging large events, the Program Coordinators feel that those guidelines provide a proper balance of both the needs of the Tournament Organizer and the expectations of the players.
Store level MCQ events are expected to be in the 150-250 player range. Comp Rel events of this size in local stores have been relatively rare in the PPTQ era, and bring with them a series of unique logistical challenges that many stores have not seen before and are not equipped to handle. In a sense, they don’t know what they don’t know. However, a Certified Judge with the relevant experience knows, and can see many of those challenges in advance, and successfully deal with the ones that arise during the event, such as investigations, de-escalating a conflict, rebuilding a round due to a software malfunction, or just making sure there is a minimal delay between rounds. Certified Judges add the credibility of your event by ensuring a fair and fun experience for all players without the concern of bias or accusation of favoritism.
Additionally, understaffed events tend to be significantly longer as many tasks that are done at the same time suddenly have to be done one at a time. The amount of time players spend waiting strongly correlates to overall player satisfaction with an event.
The Program Coordinators, and the Judge Program as a whole, represent 25 years of learned experience across millions of events in one of the largest organized play programs in the world. We cannot stress more the value of following the prescribed guidelines for ensuring an appropriately staffed event that Tournament Organizers are proud to host, and players are excited to attend.
Will the world end if an MCQ is run by an uncertified judge or an under-Certified Judge? No. It is possible that everything will be fine. However, just like in Magic, making a misplay and suffering no ill effects does not mean it was the correct, best play. By running an understaffed event, Tournament organizers are risking their reputations, player’s experience, and possibly even the integrity of the event itself.
If you are a player, and concerned about the quality of staff at an MCQ, please express your thoughts to the Tournament Organizer, as they are ultimately responsible for ensuring a well run event. If the event was not run well, you can still reach out to the TO, however you can also submit feedback directly to Wizards of the Coast. Additionally, the Judge program has a means to submit feedback on a Judge through the feedback form.
If you are a judge, please keep in mind that there are some Tournament Organizers that consider you an unnecessary expense. Remember that you are being hired to do a job, and that part of that job is to be worth what you are being paid. If you are not providing a demonstrable value to the event, players, and TOs, you are strengthening their misconception.
Additionally, let us all remember that any judge in this daunting situation, certified or not, should be supported and not attacked by the community. They have not been set up for success, and the community does not need to make a bad situation worse. Staffing decisions are the domain of the Tournament Organizer and dissatisfaction with staffing should be directed towards them.
Finally, the Program Coordinators would like to thank the TOs that reached out to Judges and the Judge Program to help ensure these first MCQs are the highest possible quality and we hope to reward that faith and trust with excellence.
Appendix: Summary of Levels
The Judge Level system is designed to convey to Tournament Organizers what level of knowledge and experience a particular judge has.
Level 1 Judges are familiar with Regular REL events. They are certified to run FNM, Prerelease, Store Championship events as well as the casual Wednesday night draft. While an L1 judge may be familiar with Competitive REL events and procedures, it is not expected.
Level 2 Judges are certified in Competitive REL events. They are expected to have a greater level of rules understanding, policy knowledge, and tournament operations experience. In the very recent past, the bar for becoming an L2 was: Can this person effectively Head Judge a PPTQ. Additionally, an L2 has been certified in the skills necessary to act as a floor judge in the largest of Comp Rel events, the Grand Prix. However, Head Judging an MCQ is significantly more difficult than HJing a PPTQ. Level 2 is the “widest” level, with a lot of room between Level 2 and Level 3, and some Level 2 judges are experienced enough to Head Judge a 200+ person event. In this regard, the Program has not yet adapted to a level system that conveys when an L2 has sufficient experience to Head Judge a 200+ tournament. If you have questions about if an Level 2 Judge is a good choice to HJ your MCQ, please contact your regional coordinator.
Level 3 Judges are certified to run large Comp Rel events; either as Head Judges or as a team lead, overseeing 3-7 other judges. The expected knowledge of Rules, Policy, Investigations, Tournament Operations is significantly higher. Level 3 Judge are experienced and can HJ events of up to a 1,000 players. Those with the GPHJ certification are certified for the largest of all possible events.