John Carter began playing Magic in early 1995 in Memphis, Tennessee.
He began reading the Stephen D’Angelo Rulings Summaries as a way to better understand the patchwork rules system. Wanting a consistent play experience in his local game stores, Carter became certified via the Arena test on April 7, 1997.
Without local mentors, Carter traveled to DragonCon in Atlanta and tested for Level 2 under Jeff Donais. At Grand Prix Memphis is 1999, Carter passed his Level 3 certification.
A year later, job opportunities took Carter to Philadelphia where he engaged with the local community and revitalized the Mid-Atlantic judge community based out of Washington, D.C. During this time, Carter got involved with a group of rules experts interested in creating a publicly accessible judge test for people preparing for certification or interested in evaluating their skills. This group created the Delphi Test (“Do you guru?”) and began a history of judges helping judges master the tests they need to pass.
Success on the East Coast helped Carter land a job as the Wizards of the Coast Magic: The Gathering Rules Manager. As Rules Manager, Carter created the Magic multiplayer rules and worked to make the game rules and tournament experience more accessible to players and judges alike. After a break from Wizards, Carter returned to the company as the Global Judge Program Manager. As Judge Manager, Carter tapped into the core of what binds judges to the program and introduced the concept of the DCI Family. Giving judges the freedom to lead themselves, Carter fostered the creation of DCIFamily.org—the precursor to MagicJudges.org. Further enhancing the judges’ ability to do for themselves, Carter implemented the policy that every judge level is promoted by the level above it which allowed Level 2 judges the capacity to test Level 1s and exponentially expanded the program.
Carter started head judging Magic Grand Prix while he was still in Philadelphia. The only Rules Manager or Judge Manager to ever do so, Carter remained an active judge working event alongside regular judges. After leaving Wizards, Carter’s focus turned more to developing judge and player experiences at local and Grand Prix events. He stays active managing at West Coast Grand Prix where he can be easily spotted in his trademark bright red shirt. Some of Carter’s work can be seen in the circular-modular design of the 2013 and 2015 Grand Prix Las Vegas, and he is also responsible for popularizing Mini-Masters at Magic Grand Prix.
When asked what keeps him so involved with the Magic judge community after nearly two decades, Carter is unequivocal is his reply: “Judges are some of the best people you will ever know.” His mantra of keeping judging both fair and fun gets to the heart of Carter’s love of the people that make up the Judge Program. Despite all the things Carter has accomplished in his judge career so far, he has a quick answer for what makes him most proud: “The most important thing is the people I’ve had a chance to help. I’m proud I could help them get started. What I’ve done on my own is nothing compared to the things that we’ve done as a group.” Carter is well known for having animated tales on almost any subject and for setting high standards of effort and excellence, but his visible care for judges at every level makes it clear that he will help his fellow judges meet those great expectations.