My view on… Program Coordinators

What are the Program Coordinators?


Interesting question…

*I don’t know.*



… and this exactly the point I want to make.

Actually, it’s the advice I want to give to the Program Coordinators:

*Please, tell us what you are.*

OK, now, it may look that I have no idea at all; I fooled you, right?

… I have my own idea about what they can be, and I would like to share it with you, starting with a little history.

First, a disclaimer: what you will read is my way to describe the past and the current roles in the judge program, so don’t take them for the “absolute truth”; this column is called “MY view on…” and it means that I can describe the topics with some, well, poetry 😉


The old levels

Until about a year ago, the Magic judge program had five levels.

Level one and level two fluctuated a little in the years.

When I started judging:

L1 judges had to know the IPG and they were fewer, a lot fewer than today.

L2 judges in my region were the ones entitled to head judge PTQs of 100 to 200 players

L3 judges had a very low activity (at that precise time), but I was told that they had been more active in the past years and that there were very active L3s in the other countries. Yes, it was a period of change of “judge generation” in my region.

When I started travelling (2002), I met some L4 judges; I vaguely remember that they were very very few; the legendary Sheldon Menery was still a L3.

When I became L3 (2003), there was only one L5, but it seems like he wasn’t an active judge; he was the “owner” of the judge program, and I had no opportunity to know him well.

After another year (2004), there was a very big change in the judge program, and we had the first L5s (they are the first class of the Hall of Fame).

After a dozen of years (2016), there has been another very big change in the judge program, and we now have no more L4 and L5.


What were L4 and L5?

I give you my very brief description of the levels:

L1: the local rules expert, who takes care of local tournaments and communities.

L2: the local tournament expert, who is able to operate in tournaments of any level and who guides the judges in his city/area

L3: the community expert, who, in addition of being a great tournament judge, takes care of the regional/national community.

Note: this description above now has a very specific role, with a name: Regional Coordinator.


OK, now we get to a level that doesn’t exist anymore.

L4: a very expert judge who is able to effectively run an event with thousands of players and up to a hundred of judges (it’s much much much more than making announcements at the microphone and handling appeals!), who is able to take care of an area of the program and who is able to inspire all judges.

Note: the description above is the sum of:

  • A very specific role today, with a name: Grand Prix Head Judge
  • A relatively specific role today, which is called Sphere Leader
  • A very good judge overall, who is seen as an example to follow (there is no official title for this, but people tend to call it “He’s damn good!” ^___^)

OK, now we get to the most unknown level of all; I heard it described in several ways, from the dismissing “A L4 who can head judge Pro Tours” to the exalting “A God level judge”.

In the years, I also described it in different ways, depending on what we wanted to highlight in each period; here you have my favorite description (reminder: it doesn’t exist anymore, except in the mind and heart of a few people).

L5: a judge who is a symbol, a person we want to become when we grow. In addition of being an excellent judge of all the other levels (each level contains the levels below it), a L5 judge is a source of inspiration of a significant portion of the judges in the world and has a major impact on the entire judge program. Think about the most important football player of the world. Your team is Barcelona? I believe you are thinking about Messi. Your team is Roma? I believe you are thinking about Totti. Just think about your favorite sport and about your favorite “hero”, the one you dreamt to become when you were a kid… OK, that’s a L5 judge, and each of us has his favorite!

The current levels… sorry, roles

Today, the highest level is 3, and we have special roles; we call them “Advanced roles”.

  • Grand Prix head judge (
  • Regional Coordinator (
  • Program Coordinator (

The people who have these roles apply for them, have to pass a selection, and keep the role for one year and a half.

There is no “lifetime” role, and the roles are fulfilled by the most appropriate people.

These three roles are associated to the three main areas of the judge program:

  • Tournaments
  • People
  • Projects


The GP head judges are the most expert tournament judges.

The Regional Coordinators are the most expert community/people judges.

The Program Coordinators are the most expert project judges.

WAIT… I understand the first two, they have been around for years, but… I don’t get how we can use the same sentence for the third group!

The role of the Program Coordinators

Program Coordinators were created at the beginning of 2016, we have now almost completed the “second generation” and I am seeing significant changes in their role and in their communication to the whole judge program.


Most of 2016 looked like a moment of transition, with a lot of work behind the scenes and very little communication. I believe that the real work will remain a secret forever ^__^


Then, towards the end of 2016, we started seeing some more communication.

Maybe it was the result of the work behind the scenes, or maybe it was the response to the request of a significant part of Level 3 judges to have Program Coordinators with a higher visibility.

The main message in 2016 was “We are not the leaders of the program”, and the visible efforts were about a kind of reorganization of the judge projects, with this chart as a first result:

So far, it all fits into the concept of division in the three macro-areas: tournaments, people, projects; the PCs had been started acting as *Project* Coordinators.


In 2017, especially with the arrival of Alfonso Bueno and the creation of the “From the PCs desk” blog, which has an article every month, the amount of public communication has significantly increased.

We really want to see more communication!

Then, it looks like there has been a change of direction.

From the previous approach of “we observe from behind the scenes and we are available to support”, I have the impression that the current Program Coordinators have been taking a more active and more visible role.


Will they be willing to act as spokesperson for the judge program?

I believe it would be useful to have such a role, and I hope that they will be a group of people able to give a direction to the program.

Will they be able to increase the communication in the judge program and have a centralized platform?

I am a huge fan of a centralized portal where all information are immediately available and I hope that they will make efforts to optimize the execution of projects and also to have an effective communication about the vast knowledge base.

Will they be able to take into account different points of view, different cultures and the interests of different groups?

I believe that diversity of cultures is a very high value because putting together people with different ideas has the great potential to bringing to higher results.

Will they be able to interact with other groups, nurturing our relationships with the most important entities of the organized play?

I believe that judges are partners with Wizards, tournament organizers, players and press. We all contribute to the health of a single environment and we share a single goal: the future success of the game.

Will they be able to keep a balanced approach, without being trapped by conflicts of interest, and instead being able to make decisions for the wellbeing of the entire judge program?

This is a fundamental aspect, and an external observer would be a significant addition to the group.

Five goals for five people…

… good luck to the current generation of Program Coordinators!

I hope you enjoyed this article, and I’m looking forward to reading your comments.

Contact Riccardo Send-Email-Button-Transparent-PNG 

If you want to add a comment and discuss this article in the Judge forums, click HERE.

All comments, feedback and advice are very welcome 🙂