Welcome to the Player Experience Sphere

David Lyford-Smith
L3, Reading, UK

David Lyford-Smith
L3, Reading, UK

Hello and welcome Magic players.  I know this is an article on a judge blogging site, but yes, this post is for you.  I’m David Lyford-Smith, the leader of the Player Experience Sphere.  Today I’m laying out some goals and my philosophy for this major new initiative to get judges’ work and your needs better aligned.  I’ve got a few things to talk about to explain what this blog, and what this whole endeavour, is all about.

And who are you exactly?

I’m known to most people as “DLS”, or @SaviaWanderer if you’re on Twitter.  I’ve been a Magic player for half my life, about fifteen years, and have judged for about half that time, a little shy of eight years.  I’ve dabbled in competitive play, and still play Magic Online, draft, and the occasional PPTQ or GP when I can.  I also work on judge projects and tournaments 4 days a week.  I was involved in the teams that brought you the modern-era triggered ability rules, the Judge Code of Conduct, and the Magic Judge Hall of Fame.  My true love is for Magic community and experiencing as much of Magic’s different facets as I can.  I got this job because I have a consuming passion for making people who come to Magic tournaments go away feeling as happy as I feel when I’m surrounded by cards and friends.

As I’ve grown into judging more and more over the last eight years, I’ve found a wealth of support and friends from among the judge community.  Magic Judge culture is strong – we have a great sense of community, peer support, and self-improvement.  But myself and many other judges feel that, as time has passed, judge culture and player culture have become too separate, and too oppositional.  Many people think of “judges” and “players” as two distinct groups, or at best two with a minimal overlap.  But in reality we as judges all came from being Magic players, and we all still play Magic today.  “Player” is a term that includes judges, and I think we should embrace that.  What’s more, whilst seeking level advancement and self-improvement are admirable goals, as judges we should always remember that the customers – that’s you – come first.


So given that, what’s the aim here?

This Sphere doesn’t seek to detract from or reduce anything about the Judge community, only to make a drive towards reorienting us to player experience.  Customer service, community feeling, and fun are our major drives.  And nothing we do will be done without seeking and considering input from non-judges, the very people we’re looking to serve.

This post and the projects that go alongside it are the start of an initiative to take that philosophy and put it into action.  I want to see judges go back to basics on customer service skills and cool things they can offer their communities, build and strengthen bonds between the judge and non-judge communities, and help open up the experience of great tournament Magic to everyone.


What’s a “Sphere” anyhow?

The judge programme organises itself in various ways when we’re working on different things.  “Projects” tend to be focused around a specific task, like producing training on rules, or running the @MagicJudges Twitter account.  A “Sphere” is a larger umbrella that covers a whole area of operations, including several projects.  Other Spheres cover areas like Judge Education, or Tournament Policy.

This Sphere is a new one, which is all about you and making your experience of tournaments better.  It exists to listen to your concerns, train judges to better serve your needs, and to bring the judge and non-judge parts of our community closer together.

The specific projects we’re starting with can be read about in the launch post here.


This is all well and good, but why do you need me to read this?

We want your input.  And yes, I mean you, whoever you are!  Several non-judges volunteered to get involved in this Sphere by working with the Project groups, directly steering the discussion and the content that we’ll be working on.  But even if you aren’t looking to commit that much time to this, we’d be happy to have input from whoever you might be.  You can share your opinions on judges, judging, and how judges can better serve the player experience by emailing mtgplayerexperience@gmail.com.  One of the projects will be working on publishing occasional surveys to gauge your opinion on a variety of topics.  And of course you can also volunteer your time to work with one of the Sphere projects, inputting your ideas and collaborating with a mixed judge- and non-judge team to produce articles, training materials, and other content.

Thanks for your time.  I’m very excited to be starting work on this big new task and I’m excited to be sharing it with the people who have already stepped forward.  I look forward to hearing from you.