Judging with Your Spouse: A Tournament Report of Sorts

Erin Leonard, L1, Grapevine, Texas, United States

Erin Leonard, L1, Grapevine, Texas, United States

A Bit of Backstory

A few weeks ago I passed my L1 test. The same day my wonderful husband passed his L2 test. We are both very excited to be able to judge together, but it also brings up some interesting questions and working together at events. My judge mentor and I discussed some aspects, but we found that very little has been written about judging with those who are close to you (best friend, roommate, significant other, person you are dating). My goal with this tournament report is to provide you with some insights based on our first event working together.

The Application

I noted a solicitation on JudgeApps in which a local store was seeking a HJ and FJ for a PPTQ. Neither of us had worked with this TO before, and we both decided to apply. We applied separately and did not mention one another in our applications. Either of us would have been willing to work whether or not the other was selected.

Tip: If you want to work together, say so. Don’t leave a TO guessing.

When the TO contacted my husband to HJ, he immediately asked about me since we share a last name. My husband told him that yes we are married and would be happy to both work his event, but that we handle our own judge agreements. This lead to some awkward texts between me and the TO where he repeated to me a bunch of things I had already heard from my husband.

Tip: Make it easy on your TO; have 1 of you serve as the point person for negotiations.

After that, we let my husband handle our communications and things smoothed out.

The Day of the Tournament

The day of the tournament we rode together. This could be dangerous if something unexpected happens such as a flat tire or traffic jam. I know that many judges carpool and extenuating circumstances can occur unexpectedly, but hiring a couple to judge is certainly ‘putting all your eggs in one basket’ for a TO.

Tip: Take extra precautions to be prepared, leave early, and know of a backup judge you can call in case of a catastrophe.

My husband and I met while leading a World of Warcraft guild together. I was the Guild leader; he was the Raid Leader. So we have some experience working together and separating the personal and the professional. In front of the players we never mentioned our relationship and in his HJ announcement, he introduced us using only our first names. Many of the local grinders know us already, so it’s not really a secret, just something that we don’t make a big deal about. We already work well together and know how our strengths and weaknesses overlap, so it provides a strong unified front to the players when we work together as judges.

Tip: Don’t make your relationship a part of the event, but don’t hide it either.

My husband and I had our ‘judges meeting’ in the car on the way to the event. Since it was my first time working with him as my HJ, he outlined his specific goals for the event and the duties he preferred me to focus on. He asked me to watch for slow play and to ensure that players near the end of rounds turn in their slips promptly to ensure that rounds end in a timely manner. He asked me to be the first point of contact for players who call a judge during play in order to preserve the chain of appeals. He also outlined our deck check procedures and how he wanted to run the Top 8.

Tip: Make sure that you both have the same expectations for your respective roles. Those roles may or may not correlate to the roles you each normally fill in your non-judge lives.

Swiss Rounds

We had 31 players (mostly the local grinder crowd), so we played 5 rounds of swiss. During play, things went really well. As a new judge, I took a lot of basic floor calls. (After all my studying for the L1, I was surprised how straightforward most calls actually were.) As time allowed, I reviewed each call with my husband afterwards to confirm my rulings and to ensure that he knew of potential problems before they arose. He demonstrated how he likes penalties to be noted and set the tone he wanted us to use with players.

Tip: Communicate often – just like you would with any other judge.

Deck checks

We planned to do deck checks at the beginning of several of the swiss rounds. I handled the decklists. After the player meeting I alphabetized them, and checked over them when I had time between rounds. During the second round, he selected a random table, told me the number, then swooped. I pulled the decklists and had them waiting at the station when he returned with the decks. We had agreed to use the Polish method and it worked well. When a judge call came, we had predetermined that I would answer it, so I dropped the deck and went. Luckily it was fast! We finished the checks with no problems and an 8 minute time extension.

While reviewing the decklists I noted that a player had registered 64 cards in his deck, but written 60 as the total number of cards. His deck included 13 plains, but due to his handwriting I initially read is at 17, thus listing 68 cards on the decklist. After some close scrutiny the HJ and I agreed that it was a 13, but due to the 64 cards decided to target his table for a deck check in round 3. My husband swooped again while I pulled his opponent’s decklist. The deck ended up having the correct 64 cards, so we spoke with the player about the situation and issued no penalty.

We also recruited the TO and our scorekeeper to join us in deck checking the entire Top 8.

Top 8

Our Top 8 cut yielded a field of regular grinders who knew each other well. Since we have played and traveled to events with many of these guys, maintaining our role as judges was important. My husband had to remind them about their language, but he also overlooked some minor jokes. During a quarterfinal, another player whose match had ended started to discuss sideboarding strategies with a player still competing. I quickly put a stop to that until after the match. (Note: He mentioned a hypothetical situation against a different deck, not the game in progress, so I did not consider it OA.)

Tip: Be conscious of the level of professionalism you want for your event. It is easy to let things get too casual with people you know well.


After the event the TO thanked us and handed me our compensation. He stated that he would love to have us back again. We pointed out that we would enjoy working for him again, together or separately as his needs dictate. While working with my spouse was fun, during the event it really felt much like working with anyone else. Since we both enjoy judging, it’s a great way to spend a day together with our friends in the player community.

Tip: Don’t forget to have fun when you work together.

Editor’s note: Originally posted on Erin’s Blog here!

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One thought on “Judging with Your Spouse: A Tournament Report of Sorts

  1. Erin, thanks for writing this report and congratulations on making L1! Nice read with a lot of very useful tips.

    There is one sentence where I fully disagree with you: “He asked me to be the first point of contact for players who call a judge during play in order to preserve the chain of appeals.” I hear this kind of statement more often, and it is complete nonsense. Players don’t have the right to appeal, players have the right to hear the HJ’s opinion. How else could you ever take a call at an event that you’re judging on your own, where there is no such thing as “chain of appeals”? Because the HJ is the “final judicial authority” (MTR 1.7), players are entitled to receive a ruling from him or her personally.
    There are some reasons why it’s usually a good idea to let the FJ take most calls, most of them are because of creating mentoring/learning opportunities. At larger events with multiple FJs, it’s preferable to keep the HJ available as much as possible so they can take appeals when needed; it’s silly when the HJ is involved in a lengthy ruling that a FJ could have handled instead, while the HJ is actually needed to handle an appeal.
    But please, don’t hesitate to answer a call when you’re HJ’ing and no FJ is readily available, as that would be terrible customer service.

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