Today Wizards of the Coast announced a fundamental shift in its relationship to the Magic Judge Program. Going forward, what we currently know as the Magic Judge program will be managed by the independent organization Judge Academy, owned by Tim Shields, as of the start of October 2019. You can read their announcement here. While this is a significant and substantial change, we, the Program Coordinators, believe this change is ultimately in the best interest of the Judge Program.
In early February we were notified that Wizards was looking to alter its relationship with the Judge program as of October 1st 2019. We discussed goals and constraints with Wizards, and began researching possibilities for an independent judge program run by judges – talking to lawyers, researching profit and non-profit organizational structures, legal requirements, discussing potential budgets and revenue streams. During these discussions and research period, we learned that Tim Shields of Cascade Games, as well as another organization, also had a proposal for a new organization.
After several conversations with Tim, it became clear that Tim had the vision, resources and connections to form an organization than was bigger and more forward thinking in scope that we were planning. He had a long term plan to form a multi-domain organization, where skills in running events would port to certifications in other games. This was interesting to the PCs because it positioned Magic Judges in the center of something new, created with the goal of expanding into other markets, in effect, allowing Judges to judge more. We found out that Tim was very passionate about helping judges, and that he also has business skills and experience that are not easily available among judges. He was also committed to involving judges in the management of the organization. After a month of discussions, we concluded that in both logistical execution and overall vision, Tim’s plan gave the Judge Program a better chance for success in the future.
About two weeks before the London Leadership conference, the PCs agreed to endorse Tim’s plan, and chose not to continue exploring a competing plan. The rough outline of the plan was presented to the Regional Coordinators at London. Since that time we have been having conversations with Tim and the people he has hired on topics like Level Definitions, Web platforms, JCC, Conferences, Promos, a Board of Advisors, and some full time staff positions.
Now the big question is: How will this affect you?
The short answer is, we don’t fully know. Details are still being worked out every day. We don’t expect the ‘events’ part of judging to change very much. You will still judge your local events the same way as before. The same is true for MCQs and international events such as MagicFests. JudgeApps will still be around. The global community and family we have built over more than two decades will not disappear.
Things we do know:
- Contracted roles (Program Coordinators, Regional Coordinators etc) will end on October 1st; many of their tasks will be taken over by employees or contractors of the new organization.
- The organization will have a board of advisors comprised of Judges.
- Wizards will continue to produce Judge Promos but methods of distribution will change.
- The new organization will have a membership fee.
- Conferences already scheduled prior to this announcement will still be Promo supported outside of Judge Academy through the end of the year.
- Shirts and other Judge related merchandise will be available.
- JudgeApps, Judge Blogs, and related sites will still be available. JudgeApps will be focused on community functions and event communication. Judge Academy will start developing other resources, such as for certification.
With any big change, it can’t be completely rolled out by 2020. Judge Academy is working quickly, but there is a lot to do between now and October 1st. Certain geographical areas will be targeted first, with plans to bring other countries into the organization as it grows. Full international coverage is still the intended end state of this new Program, but there first has to be a program to join. The PCs and Regional Coordinator Leader are constructing a roadmap for how unsupported regions will continue to operate between October 1st and when they are incorporated into Judge Academy. This roadmap will be made available once sufficient details have been worked out and the plan vetted.
On August 9th, we will have another Program Coordinator AMA to try to address community concerns. We know that everyone has a lot of questions, and many of those questions can only be answered by representatives of the new organization. However, feel free to reach out to us on social media. Additionally, our mailbox is always open (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’re happy to hear any concerns you may have, and answer questions about Judge Program operations during this transition period and beyond.
In closing, we believe that these changes or changes very similar to them, were inevitable. We believe that ultimately this will lead to a better and healthier working relationship between the judge community and Wizards, as well as open up learning opportunities and opportunities in other platforms.