I’ve been a Level 5 Judge for about three and a half years now, and in that time, I’ve worked with judges and interacted with players from all around the World. I just wanted to take a few minutes to dispel some of the common misconceptions about the five of us that I’ve noticed in that time.
For reference, the current Level 5 Judges are:
- Kevin Desprez (@KevinDesprez)
- Toby Elliott (@TobyElliott)
- Jason Lemahieu (@MadtownLems)
- Scott Marshall
- Riccardo Tessitori
Myth #1: We are Wizards of the Coast employees.
We’re not. We’re volunteer judges, just like most of you reading this, who happen to really, REALLY like the judge program. While we get contracted to run a Grand Prix or Pro Tour here or there, we aren’t actual employees of Wizards of the Coast.
Myth #2: We’re full-time judges.
As much as we love judging, we’ve all got very real jobs that keep us quite busy.
I’m a WordPress developer with the University of Wisconsin system. Toby manages geolocation engineering and a few other teams at Mozilla. Scott‘s a senior software developer in the oil & gas industry. Riccardo manages his game store, in addition to doing translation work for engineering manuals and teaching math, chemistry, and physics. And while Kevin used to do technical English/French translations, he now focuses primarily on being a full-time Tournament Organizer with Bazaar of Moxen.
Myth #3: Events are most of what we do.
As much as we all love events, there’s a lot more to running an organization with over 6,000 active members. We are program leaders, coordinators, and administrators. We spend time working on projects, crafting program and tournament policies, and writing articles and sharing our experiences. We support, motivate, and encourage judges from all around the World.
That’s not to say we aren’t involved in a lot of events – our travel schedules can get excessive! – but they only make up a small portion of what it means to be Level 5.
Myth #4: We have advance knowledge of (or even help design) Magic cards and sets.
When spoiler season comes around, we’re just like you – on the edge of our seats, clicking refresh constantly until we get our daily fix!
We DO occasionally chat with members of Research & Development, and make sure to give feedback on what kinds of cards can be problematic (I’m looking at you, Desecration Demon!) – and we’ve received one or two ‘heads ups’ about general concepts to make sure we’re prepared for them from a policy perspective. (“Heads up, guys! There’s a card in Dragon’s Maze that can deny a player’s draw as a replacement effect.”)
When it comes down to it, I think I’m actually glad that I don’t have advance information. It’s way more fun to get excited about new cards and mechanics along with everyone else – and it certainly makes it easier to avoid accidentally leaking something!
Myth #5: We’re perfect.
Some people have the idea that we know the rules on a superhuman level and that we can immediately answer any question, regardless of how convoluted or corner case it is, and back it up with specific rule numbers. Or that we can immediately know if a player is lying to us just by glancing at them.
While I wish these were true, they’re simply not. We’re humans, we make mistakes, and we don’t have superpowers.
What we DO have is a strong knowledge of what we know, what we don’t, and how to find out the latter when we need it. We have the skills to work through problems logically and effectively in order to derive a solution. We have the ability to lead a discussion among peers to help us do just that. And we have a wealth of experiences – both our own and those learned from others – to help guide us.
There are rulings that we’ve gotten wrong, and situations that could’ve been handled better. We make an effort to learn from them – and to share what we’ve learned with others.