Welcome back, Judges! With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, the JotW team wanted to take this opportunity to write a “love letter” to the Judge program. We would like to do this by taking a look back at some of the many reasons that individuals have noted for becoming a Judge
I play Magic as a way to make new friends and spend time with old ones. Once I got into judging, I found a way to do the same without mana screw! What still motivates to wear the Magic Judge shirt is the challenges that keep arriving that always push me to improve.
I met an amazing PTO (Premier Tournament Organizer) and his event staff many years ago, back around Mirrodin. They were in Kansas City, about 2.5 hours west of where I live. The events there were just so much better than what I was experiencing locally. Living in a new city, in a new country, Magic really was my social activity and was the catalyst to many of my friendships back then. There were a handful of stores back then, about half of them are gone now. A bunch of us used to meet-up and play at Sub Shop (much like a Subway) and play for store credit with a comic shop that also had singles.
I started working with a few of the local stores to improve in-house play somewhere around 2005? I’d drive to Kansas City every month or so for Feral Event events, and try to figure out the path of where my local community was and where I wanted it to be. It took time, in fact it’s still ongoing. I think an essence of what we Judges are is that we are stewards. We have taken on a duty and obligation of providing excellent game experiences and “correct” games (oooh back in the day how my buddy Phil would cheat). So in part I judge because to me it is in part like service (remember I was in the Navy?) and some people do need others looking out for them.
It is because I want players to enjoy fun-filled Magic. The rules of the game are the game itself. I think it is better to follow rules to appreciate good fun of games.
Like many judges, I started doing “judge stuff” before I was certified. I always had a keen interest in the rules, so I became known as a “rules guy” in my store. When I went to college, I organized a weekly draft with my friends. That sort of thing. I avoided the Judge Program for a long time, though, because I’d had a string of bad experiences with certified judges. I had come to believe that judges as a whole were arrogant, dismissive, focused on their own community rather than the players and thoroughly convinced of their own infallibility, and I didn’t want to associate with people like that. Eventually, I decided that being bitter about it would do no good. I certified for L1 well aware of the pitfalls I had to avoid and vowed that I would use my position to advocate for the players as best as I could.
I started playing and I got really into the game, I wanted to know about the rules and what I could and couldn’t not do. I had no idea what the judge program was about.
I was at a prerelease when I drew a game I should have won. As soon as we finished our extra turns, my opponent and the judge explained the interaction that I was missing. (I don’t remember the interaction exactly, but I think it had to do with encoding Ciphers onto a Keyrune, I either didn’t realize I could encode more than one thing on a creature, or I didn’t realize that the card was still encoded after my keyrune stopped being a creature.) Not only did I want to know more cool rules so that I could be a better player, but I also wanted to help others the way that judge helped me!
I played occasionally in high school. Years later, I wanted to start again and loved the community, but I am far from a competitive player and I did not have established play groups. Being a judge allowed me to be part of the local and international community and have fun, without the stress of competitive play. Of course, I always loved learning rules and tricks, so that was perfect!
Strange story – I was just getting into the game and had so many questions for our local organizer, but after looking into his answers I’ve noticed many of them weren’t correct. At that point I decided to teach myself the game rules, since I basically had to in order to get it right. The rest is history.
In my community there are very few female magic players, let alone female judges. When I was a player I always felt isolated or like I didn’t belong simply because I was almost always the only woman. Becoming a judge was a way to be more active and visible in the community and gave me the ability to encourage more women into the game!
I was interested in understanding the rules behind magic better. I am intrigued by how things work in anything, be it biology, engineering or, in this case, game design. As a youth animator it felt like a logical next step in my ‘magic career’, graduating from player to judge.
We’ll return next week recognizing even more awesome judges. In the meantime, be excellent to each other this and every other week. We’d love to hear about what judges speak to your heart, so please nominate a judge TODAY!