Staying L2, Staying Awesome

Wondering whether L3 is for you? Will anyone think less of you if you don’t go for it? (spoiler: no).

Guest columnist Dustin de Leeuw provides a fresh look at this sometimes difficult question! Please enjoy.

Dustin de Leeuw

Dustin de Leeuw

There are a lot of articles dedicated to the Road to L3, and almost every Judge Conference has a seminar on this topic. However, the other side of the medal hardly ever gets the attention it deserves, so this article focuses on why for some people the road to L3 may be just a distraction. In the meantime, you may learn a bit about Program Construction and Philosophy!

Before we have a look at L2 judges, let’s first have a look at some L1 judges and their position within the Judge Program. For example, let’s have a look at my favourite L1, Mark Koster from the Netherlands. This guy is simply amazing: he runs a rules forum, knows everything there is to know about Magic trivia and Comprehensive Rules, and knows how to make the most fun out of a prerelease. He will help new players at events to build their decks, gives explanations in plain language, and clearly shows his passion for the game, igniting fun in others. I can’t imagine a better judge to have at my prereleases. Yet, I would call you crazy if you asked him why he isn’t L2 yet… because that’s absolutely not what he’s doing. Mark loves his current role, he is doing an amazing job, and is a perfect L1, who is not on his road to L2 at all. And that’s perfectly fine!

Then there are the judges like Axel Pieterse, also a Dutch L1. He actually fulfills the role of a L2: judging Competitive events, judging at multiple stores, interacting with several other judges, having some online presence in the local community, but for some reason he still is L1. For judges like Axel, it’s a legit question why they are not L2 yet, and their answer will help you to help them grow; and possibly, they are ready to test, they just didn’t realise it yet. Axel is doing a great job as a judge, and given what he does and what he is capable of doing, I think that L2 better fits his role than his current level.

I hope the previous paragraph sounded pretty obvious and self-evident to you. However, it still happens very frequently that excellent L2s get asked the question why they aren’t L3 yet, and the exact same logic applies. Being a good L2 is a necessary but not sufficient condition to become L3, and being an excellent L2 does not mean you should want tobecome L3. It’s like saying to a chef that he’s such an amazing cook, that you’re surprised why he doesn’t own or manage a restaurant; but being great behind the furnace doesn’t mean you have sufficient knowledge of bookkeeping, legislation and marketing.

On the other hand, studying bookkeeping will not make your food
taste any better! If you enjoy judging and have little interest in management roles, being an amazing L2 is probably what will give you and the people around you maximum satisfaction. If, apart from being a great judge, you also enjoy work behind the scenes, you may want to broaden your horizon and start working on achieving L3. However, this probably means you will spend less time behind the furnace, both in terms of absolute hours and as a percentage of the time you spend in your restaurant.

When I have to name an exemplary L2 judge, Alex de Bruijne immediately comes to my mind. He is doing a lot of PPTQs in his own and even neighboring areas, he enjoys being the reference point for local competitive players, he actively mentors L1 candidates and L1s, is an active presence at the regional forum, joins regional conferences, is area captain, and sometimes floor judges a bigger event, like a WMCQ or Grand Prix. Alex is even involved in an amazing project for our region, the BeNeLux Bulletin, but for now, he is not interested in doing many more Grands Prix, leading a larger area than his own, or becoming much more actively involved in projects or fulfilling advanced roles at Grands Prix.

Judges like Alex are the backbone of the Judge Program: hard workers with a lot of knowledge and experience, involved in the program, doing a great job. It would make me very sad to see Alex pressured into becoming something he does not want to be at the moment, or for being belittled for being “only” L2. This is the role that suits him best for now, and he fulfills that role in an amazing way. And there is plenty of room to grow within one’s current level without the need of leveling up!

L3 isn’t just a title, it’s not a confirmation that you’re an amazing judge, it’s not a mere status symbol; L3 is a function, a role, a description of tasks and involvement. Some L3s have advanced roles (Program Coordinator, GP Head Judge, L3 Panel Lead, Regional Coordinator), but these are not roles that every L3 aspires, nor roles that everyone wants. You never hear someone ask a L3 why he or she isn’t GPHJ or RC yet… because those are huge commitments that not everyone wants, and that not every L3 is capable of fulfilling. That does not make them any less of an awesome judge, or any worse of an L3; just like choosing to be L2 does not make you a bad or poorly motivated judge, it’s simply the role you may like most at this moment.

So, please, when you see an amazing L2, make them a compliment for being an amazing L2. If they perform above and beyond what you would expect, affirm that message with an Exemplar Recognition. If they are great at mentoring people to L1 and contribute a lot to L1s growing towards L2, talk with them about the possibility to get the L2 Tester Certification. But don’t make them a compliment by asking why they are not L3 yet… unless that’s really the question you want to be asking.

Thanks for reading, greetz,

Dustin de Leeuw