Hi, my name is Bernie Hoelschen. I’m a level one judge, and I’ve been playing Magic since about 1994. I have wanted to write articles about aspects of Magic: The Gathering tournaments and judging for some time, and decided that the first topic I would write about would be appeals and the appeals process for players.
What is an appeal?
An appeal is the process by which a player can ask for confirmation or clarification from another judge regarding a ruling they have received. Appeals are covered in the Magic Tournament Rules under section 2.9 (Appeals to the Head Judge):
If a player disagrees with a judge’s ruling, they may appeal the ruling to the Head Judge.
In larger, Premier-level tournaments (such as Grand Prix and Pro Tours), with prior approval, the Head Judge may designate additional Appeals Judges who are also empowered to hear appeals. They will be wearing the same uniform as the Head Judge.
Players may not appeal before the full ruling is made by the responding Floor Judge. Rulings made by the Head Judge or designated Appeals Judges are final.
Why we have appeals
“Magic is a complicated game.”
This is a phrase that most judges have seen numerous times, as it begins one of the first paragraphs of the ‘Judging at Regular’ document, which governs judging casual tournaments like Friday Night Magic or Prereleases. The level of complication means that all competitive level events have a judge or judges on staff, whose job is to ensure the integrity of the tournament – not only for the tournament organizer’s sakes, but also for the players.
Judges are expected to have a strong understanding of the rules – both of the game, as well as tournaments and policy. The requirements for policy and rules knowledge vary significantly between the three levels of judges. Regardless of a judge’s level though, nobody is perfect; mistakes can be made by a judge of any level, for any number of reasons.
This is why large events with multiple judges, such as Grand Prix (Judge! They’re called MagicFest now), have an appeals process – to allow an opportunity for players to receive confirmation or clarification regarding a ruling.
In a competitive setting, there can be a number of reasons why a judge could make a mistake when delivering a ruling; tournament halls can be loud and busy places, people can be distracted and miss key pieces of information, a language barrier could exist which could cause communication issues, there may be confusion in the way that something is explained, players sometimes forget and then remember pertinent pieces of information (especially during the case of a backup), and more.. Fortunately, the appeals process is available to provide players the opportunity to request that a ruling be clarified or confirmed, which helps us as judges to continue to work towards our goal of maintaining the integrity of the event.
Why should I appeal? When should I (or should I not) appeal?
Generally, players would request an appeal under the following circumstances:
- They receive a ruling that is believed to be incorrect.
- The ruling, or some aspect of the ruling, is unclear.
Once a judge’s ruling has been delivered, if it is believed there is an error has been made, or clarification is necessary, an appeal should be requested. To note, it is important to wait until the ruling has been delivered by the judge, as failing to do so could result in an Unsporting Conduct infraction (for example, appealing while a judge is attempting to deliver their ruling is disruptive, which is Unsporting Conduct – Minor).
Why shouldn’t a player appeal?
A player should not request an appeal in order to buy themselves time, as this would be Unsporting Conduct – Stalling infraction, which carries a penalty of Disqualification. This is to ensure that the flow of the tournament is not needlessly interrupted, but also to ensure that the appeals process is not abused.
Finally, if there are further depth questions that can wait for the end of the match (and would not currently have a bearing on the current match), wait until the completion of the match, and then ask further questions.
What happens when an appeal is made?
When a judge’s ruling has been appealed, the judge that issued the original ruling will find the head judge or one of the designated appeals judges. They will explain the situation that lead up to the original ruling, as well as the infraction, penalty and fix that are associated to the ruling. Then, judge who made the original ruling and the appeals judge will return to the match.
Normally, the appeals judge will confirm the details of what happened leading up to the call with the players. This is done by asking both players – not just the player that appealed – about the circumstances that lead to the call. In the event that the reason for the appeal was because a player believed that the ruling was incorrect, this will result in one of the following outcomes:
- The original ruling will be upheld and the player should be provided additional explanation why (this usually comes in the form of explaining pertinent rules or tournament policy).
- The original ruling can be overturned, and the head judge will issue a new, final ruling.
If the purpose of the appeal is because a player needed clarification of a ruling, this would be provided to the player. Finally, a time extension should be granted equal to the amount of time that the entire ruling and appeal took so that players will have up to the full length of their round’s playing time available to complete their match.
What do I do if my opponent appeals a ruling?
In the event that a ruling is made and your opponent requests an appeal, both players will be instructed to stay at their match and wait for the original judge and the appeals judge to return to hear the appeal. Players should remember that the rules of the tournament are still in effect since their match is considered to be in progress, so they should be careful about talking to spectators and refrain from the use of electronic devices.
Can I appeal the decision of an appeals judge?
Appeals judges are designated judges that act in the place of the head judge. As such, their rulings are considered final.
I hope this article has been useful, and that you understand why the appeals process exists, and that you feel empowered to request an appeal when you believe it to be necessary.