Level 3 Advancement Process

Level 3 judges are the leaders of premier Organized Play and the judge communities in their regions. They generally operate in large areas, provinces, and countries. They are recognized as regional leaders and are respected in their communities. They mentor Level 1s and Level 2s in becoming better judges. Level 3 judges are expected to have a presence in their community and on mailing lists, web forums, etc. They are expected to conduct judge reviews, be Team Leaders at major events, and provide feedback on judges to the Judge Program.

For updates on the Level 3 advancement process, visit the Level 3 Testing Manager’s blog.

The Qualities of Level 3 judges

Level 3 judges are expected to show strength in the following areas:

Level 3 judges command the respect of players and other judges as authorities on the practice of judging and the ways in which they accomplish judging-related tasks. They have an understanding of effective leadership in a broader context both within and outside of tournaments. They are trusted by the judges whom they lead. A deficient judge may lack leadership capacity, or may confuse authority granted by a position (e.g. Head Judge) with leadership in general. He or she may have problems commanding the respect of players or judges in his or her local community. An exemplary judge is one who is acutely aware of his or her leadership capacity and capabilities. The judge is able to exert his or her influence on the community in a supportive and positive way, often subtly and through the orchestration of others. He or she inspires other judges and motivates them to contribute toward the goals of the Judge Program.

Read more about Leadership, Presence and Charisma.

Level 3 judges understand that organized play requires teamwork with other judges, players, stores, organizers and venues. They can follow as well as lead. They demonstrate solid and consistent commitment. They are worthy ambassadors of the Judge Program who cooperate with their Regional Coordinators. They are recognized as fair and firm arbiters of disputes and display significant diplomacy in disagreements, both in person and in other venues such as the internet. They are mature, trustworthy, punctual, and amiable. They are rarely, if ever, regarded as being negative, tardy, irritating, lazy, etc. A deficient candidate may display difficulty in cooperating with others, a lack of teamwork when not in a leadership role, or have a history of negativity or tardiness. He or she may have lapses of diplomacy and tact, either in person or in internet-based venues. He or she may display a problematically low maturity level that affects his or her performance at events. If the panel believes that the candidate would not be a good ambassador for the Judge Program, the candidate is likely deficient. An exemplary candidate is equally comfortable in both leading and supporting roles, can collaborate well with judges, players and others in a variety of settings, and is frequently sought after by fellow judges and tournament organizers for his or her exceptional attitude and contribution to events. He or she is highly regarded for diplomacy and tact in disputes, and is an excellent ambassador for the Judge Program and Magic in general.

Read more about Teamwork and Diplomacy and about Maturity.

Level 3 judges understand the underlying philosophies that inform the Magic Tournament Rules, Infraction Procedure Guide, Judging at Regular REL documents (MTR, IPG, and the JAR) and other policies relevant to tournament operations and judging. They can effectively critique these philosophies and policies in the context of improving the Judge Program. Level 3 judges know the importance of adhering to policy, but can also identify circumstances where policy is unclear, absent, or contrary to the spirit of the Judge Program’s practices. A deficient judge applies policies incorrectly or has philosophical views regarding policies that run contrary to the Judge Program’s most basic principles. He or she may be unable to explain policy to players and other judges, and may have little to no grasp of why policy is written the way it is. An exemplary judge has an impressive knowledge of penalties and policies and demonstrates a careful consideration of their underlying philosophies. He or she is capable of offering critical analysis of policies and judge practices that is particularly constructive and helpful.

Read more about Penalty and Policy Philosophy.

Level 3 judges are self-reflective and capable of assessing their own strengths and weaknesses. They can effectively identify areas for their own improvement beyond superficial practices such as rules knowledge, and they demonstrate insight regarding their own judge practices. A deficient judge’s self-reviews lack depth, detail, or accuracy. He or she may be unable to assess his or her own performance in meaningful ways. An exemplary judge is one who enters self-reviews into JudgeApps regularly, shows deep insight into his or her own judging practice, and is able to identify specific strategies for improvement.

Read more about Self-Evaluation.

Level 3 judges improve the judging communities in their local regions through active recruitment, training, mentoring, and reviewing of other judges. This mentorship is tailored to the needs of the judges being mentored and results in measurable improvement in those judges. This is accomplished directly at events, and is accompanied by written reviews on a regular basis. The reviews they write are professional, constructive, detailed, and helpful to the judge reviewed. They cover a wide variety of skills, attitudes, and abilities in their reviews. They are able to give feedback to judges of higher level. Mentoring can also take shape outside of events through a variety of channels (forums, mailing lists, IRC, direct dialogue with other judges, etc). A deficient candidate shows little to no active mentorship, or mentorship that is clearly ineffective. He or she reviews infrequently or assesses other judges very superficially. His or her reviews may lack substance, depth, and detail. The reviews may show evidence that the candidate only ever assesses a very small selection of skills in other judges. He or she shows little effort to develop his or her local community. An exemplary candidate is a prolific reviewer, is consistently detailed in their reviews and feedback, and merges their evaluation of other judges with their mentorship of them seamlessly. The candidate is also insightful and constructive when reviewing or critiquing judges of higher level. His or her influence as a mentor likely extends beyond a local community of judges.

Read more about Assessing and Mentoring other judges.

Level 3 judges can describe the roles of Level 1, 2, and 3 judges and the qualities that make good judges at those levels. They have expectations for judges at each level that are consistent with the philosophies of the Judge Program. They are aware of and understand recent developments and changes within the program. A deficient judge has expectations and views of the Judge Program’s structure that are incorrect or inconsistent with the program’s philosophies. The judge may have expectations for other judges that are significantly out of step for one or more of the judge levels. The judge may be unaware of or misapplying recent developments in the Judge Program. An exemplary judge is one who, in addition to understanding the structure and philosophy of the Judge Program, is also able to offer constructive opinions on how to improve the program going forward. His or her views reflect an understanding of the current needs of the program and areas where deficiencies or areas for improvement may be worth exploring.

Read more about Program Construction and Philosophy.

Level 3 judges can perform under pressure, maintaining a calm and focused demeanor at all times. They can handle leadership duties without allowing stress or pressure to adversely affect performance. They are capable of managing conflict as it arises between players, judges, event staff, etc, and they can do so without displaying signs of stress, doubt, or panic. A deficient judge is unable to handle the varied demands of an event while in a position of authority without having stress or pressure affect his or her performance. When under pressure, the judge may become noticeably affected, unable to maintain his or her composure or focus. He or she goes “on tilt” easily. An exemplary judge is one whose performance actually improves under stress. He or she thrives when under pressure, making effective decisions while maintaining attention on numerous aspects of the tournament. He or she rarely, if ever, appears to be negatively impacted by the pressures of an event and all its challenges.

Read more about Stress and Conflict Management.

Level 3 judges can identify instances where an investigation for potential cheating, fraud, etc. is appropriate. They can ask probing questions in a timely and productive manner, and arrive at an appropriate conclusion that protects the integrity of the event and shows respect and professionalism to the parties involved. When a disqualification is warranted, Level 3 judges are capable of issuing one efficiently, unapologetically, and without disruption to the rest of the event. A deficient judge does not investigate beyond the basic resolution of the situation presented during a judge call, or investigates ineffectively. The judge may take an excessive amount of time, or may arrive at decisions that are inappropriate to the situation. An exemplary judge is highly effective at investigating a player’s intentions. He or she is acutely aware of situations and cues during a judge call that indicate a need to pursue further investigation. Questioning is effective and efficient, and the judge is able to effectively assess a situation using information beyond the basic testimony of players involved (e.g. non-verbal cues, game state, player motivation, etc).

Read more about Investigations

Level 3 judges are experts in the area of running large events using a team structure. They can fill a variety of judge roles and have a clear understanding of what is required of each team to support an efficient, enjoyable tournament. A deficient candidate may be sufficient in one role, but struggle when assigned a different team. He or she may exhibit a lack of awareness of the tournament’s needs and be unable to handle the magnitude of tasks at Grand Prix level events. An exemplary candidate can excel while leading any team and is often sought after for advice on best practices and new techniques. He or she is able to support the event from any role and often aids others in identifying essential tasks before they are missed.

Read more about Logistics and Tournament Operations.


The Advancement Process

To become a Level 3 judge, you will be assessed on the above qualities via a four-step process:

To be considered as a candidate for advancement to Level 3, you must meet all of the following requirements (“the Level 3 checklist”). References to “last x months” refer to the date of formal submission of the application.

  • Must be a Level 2 judge, in good standing, for at least 12 months.
  • Must have scored at least 80% on a Level 3 Preliminary Exam in the last 6 months.
  • Must have acted as Head Judge or Team Leader for at least 5 Competitive (or higher) REL events, managing at least 2 other certified judges, including at least 2 such events in the last 12 months.
  • Must have acted as Head Judge for at least 20 other events, including at least 5 such events from the last 12 months.
  • Must have participated extensively in the pre-certification training and mentoring of at least 2 different judges who certified for Level 1 or Level 2 in the last 12 months.
  • Must demonstrate communication skills sufficient to act as a Team Leader at large, international scale events, such as Grand Prix. Must understand English well enough to be up-to-date on official documents.
  • Must demonstrate participation in the judge community on a regional or global level beyond just being on staff at events (examples include mailing lists, seminars, articles, projects, etc.).
  • Must have written a general (i.e. non-event-specific) self-review in the last 12 months, covering all of the Qualities of Level 3 judges listed above, graded as Strengths or as Areas for Improvement. If that self-review is more than 6 months old, your application must include a brief update indicating progress on the Qualities of Level 3 judges.
  • Must have submitted at least 6 event-specific (non-certification) reviews on other judges to JudgeApps in the last 12 months, demonstrating the ability to provide accurate and constructive feedback, on both Strengths and Areas for Improvement.
    • Must include at least one review of a Level 1, of a Level 2, and of a Level 3 judge.
    • Must include reviews on judges of at least 2 Regions.
  • Must have received two written recommendations from Level 3 judges.
    • Each recommendation must cover at least 7 of the 9 Qualities, each graded as Strength or Area for Improvement. Each quality must be supported by specific examples.
    • One of the two recommendations may be co-authored by two Level 3 judges; in that case, the primary recommender is the judge who enters the review and thus vouches for your Level 3 candidacy. Each observation must be credited to one of the recommending judges.
  • Must hold a valid Team Lead Certification or have received confirmation from a GP Head Judge within the last 36 months indicating success in a Team Lead position at a Grand Prix where the evaluating judge was the Head Judge.

Level 3 Preliminary Exam

The Level 3 Preliminary Exam is a 25-question exam with difficulty similar to the written Level 3 test, including both rules and policy questions. To take one, you need to ask any Level 3 judge to create it for you. When you make such a request, you must include the dates and scores for all Level 3 Preliminary Exams you have previously taken.

The first request by a Level 2 to create a Level 3 Preliminary Exam will always be granted. Second and further requests after a failed attempt will be granted after an increasing cooldown period (starting at 2 weeks) and will require some proof of study. Level 3 judges have precise instructions about test generation.

Requesting Recommendations

  • You may not begin requesting recommendations until at least one year after your L2 certification date.
  • You may not begin requesting recommendations until your self-review is written and approved by the Verification Committee.

While you are encouraged to keep track of your progress on the Candidacy Prerequisites as early as you deem fit, the recommendation stage of the Level 3 advancement process is reserved for those candidates who have been Level 2 for at least a year, and who have taken an active role not only in the community, but in improving their craft and investing into their own development. Before requesting recommendations, you must send a copy of your self-review to both your Regional Coordinator and l3.testing.manager@gmail.com. Once you receive notification that your self-review has been approved by the Verification Committee, you may ask for recommendations from any Level 3 judge. Any request for a recommendation must include a copy of your self-review and must be cc-ed to your Regional Coordinator.

If you believe that you have met all of the Candidacy Prerequisites, send your application to both your Regional Coordinator and l3.testing.manager@gmail.com. This application must be detailed and specific; make sure that it contains explanations of the ways in which you have met each of the requirements. Your application must include:

  • Review IDs for advancement reviews (even if you were not the certifying judge), self-review, recommendation reviews, and other relevant reviews
  • If your self-review is more than 6 months old, a brief update indicating progress on the Qualities of Level 3 judges
  • Exam ID for your Level 3 preliminary exam
  • Event dates for the Competitive/Professional REL events for which you acted as Head Judge or Team Lead
  • Specific examples of your participation in the judge community

Your application will be reviewed by the Verification Committee.

Candidates who wish to return to Level 3 after an absence of no more than five years may do so via a slightly modified list of Candidacy Prerequisites.

Passing the Candidacy Prerequisites does not make you a Level 3 judge. Instead, it gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your ability level in each of the Qualities of Level 3 judges.

After you have met the Candidacy Prerequisites, you will be contacted via email by a Level 3 judge who will serve as your initial evaluator. Your evaluator will ask you a series of questions about you and your experiences as a judge. The evaluator’s goal is to begin documenting your strengths and weaknesses with respect to the Qualities of Level 3 judges listed above. You should expect your pre-event interview to last several weeks.

The pre-event interview is a full part of the interviewing process. You’re expected to give proper thought and argumentation to your answers. In case the interviewer thinks you would fail a panel taken immediately after the pre-event interview (because of at least one Major Deficiency or three Minor Deficiencies), the Level 3 Testing Manager is alerted and two Level 3 Panel Leads are invited to analyze the pre-event interview. In case of doubt the panel will proceed. In case of agreed opinion that you show too many deficiencies, testing is stopped. You’ll be given full feedback based on the testing process so far and will have a corrective path at your disposal, requiring two Level 3 reviews instead of a checklist to resume testing.

Failed Pre-Event Interview

If testing is stopped at the pre-interview stage, you will receive feedback about testing so far with clear indication of which Qualities are deemed deficient. If you receive two reviews from Level 3 judges each indicating steps you’ve taken to improve in these deficient Qualities within twelve months of the interview stopping, testing can resume at the pre-event interview stage. Testing can’t be resumed less than three months after stopping. While this corrective action is in place, the rest of the Level 3 checklist is ignored (though you’re encouraged to continue judging in order to maximize your experience). Past twelve months you’ll need a new checklist in order to test.

Any time after you have met the Candidacy Prerequisites, you may schedule your written test with any Level 3 judge willing to proctor it. The date and identity of the Level 3 must be communicated to l3.testing.manager@gmail.com as the Level 3 Testing Manager will create the written test. If you’re unable to schedule the written test, it may be possible to take it at the event you’re paneling at; though advance testing is preferable.

The Level 3 written exam is a difficult 50-question multiple-choice exam covering Magic: The Gathering™ rules and tournament policy. The passing score is 80%.

Failed Test

In the event of a failed written test, you will not be promoted but can still take the panel with the panel lead’s permission. If you pass that panel, you will not be promoted immediately, but will have 12 months to succeed at a second attempt at the written test.

After your pre-event interview, you will be scheduled for a panel interview, most likely at a Grand Prix event. Interviews will be scheduled based on the needs of the Judge Program and the availability of experienced judges who can act as panelists. The Judge Program will make reasonable efforts to schedule your interview in a timely manner, but does not guarantee that you will be scheduled for an interview at your next Grand Prix. In general, a Grand Prix event will have the capacity for, at most, one Level 3 interview. This means that you will likely not be able to request testing at a particular Grand Prix. If your Candidacy Prerequisites lapse while you are waiting to be scheduled for an interview, this fact will not be held against you. (For example, if your passing Level 3 Preliminary Exam score becomes more than six months old while you wait for your interview, this will not affect your testing process.) The Judge Program will endeavor to give you at least two weeks advance notice about whether or not you will be testing at an event you attend.

In some cases where event accessibility is an issue, the panel interview may be conducted online using videoconference.

A Level 3 panel interview is an intensive one- to two-hour discussion with two Level 3 judges, one of whom must be an official Level 3 Panel Lead. In this interview, the panel will complete the investigation of the Qualities of Level 3 judges listed above, covering areas that were not previously covered by your evaluator. One or more role-playing scenarios may be used, although this will not be necessary for all candidates.

If your panel decides that you have a major deficiency in one or more of the Qualities of Level 3 judges, or that you have minor deficiencies in three or more of the Qualities, you will remain Level 2. Otherwise, your panel will recommend promotion to Level 3.

At the conclusion of this process, your panel will provide you with a detailed and specific review. Regardless of whether you are promoted to Level 3, this process will provide you with targeted guidance on how to continue your development both as an individual judge and as a valued asset to the Judge Program.

Failed Panel

In the event of a failed panel, you will be assigned a Level 3 mentor who is responsible for assisting you in developing the skills identified as deficient by the panel. The mentorship will last up to twelve months or until you successfully pass a second panel as detailed below. The mentor will enter a JudgeApps review detailing your progress.

If you fail the panel, you may reapply after 6 months. For this you will need a complete Level 3 checklist. All items from the previous checklist can be reused as long as they’re still current, with the exception of the Level 3 recommendations.

The new checklist must include two new Level 3 recommendations that must each detail steps you’ve taken to improve in the identified deficiencies.

If successful the first time, the written test stays valid for 12 months, although you must still submit a passing level 3 preliminary exam with your new checklist.

This page written by Daniel Kitachewsky and Jeff Morrow.