People hear that I am a Pastor, and they make assumptions that I am the typical Preacher you see on The Dark card. It’s ok: I have fun telling newbies at the shops that I am a Pastor and watching their eyes go wide just like the Thoughtseize I cast turn one while trying to Jund them out. Then, just as they settle in to play intently, a call is sounded out, and I almost win the game on the spot as I set off to Judge the Unworthy.
Being a Judge is about knowing the rules and interactions, understanding the JAR, IPG, and MTR; but being a Good Judge is being able to navigate the social and relational interactions, understanding the roles of TO and Store Owner as well as their goals in holding events. I would like to use this new series to help the average Judge to not just get by or muddle through, but become a Good Judge.
Let’s say you have just become an L1 and you are asked to Judge your first solo event as your L2 mentor has a concert for some local band. If you are anything like me you might be a little excited and glad to be trusted with an event. You walk in like a normal FNM at your usual time and then realize that you only have 15 min to prep and fire the event. What are you going to do? What should you have done? What am I responsible for?
This questioning of logistics is not how things are supposed to go and this is not how a professional Judge expecting to get comp should act. The purpose of Regular Rules Enforcement Level, that 95% of events are run at, is to provide a safe, fun and friendly tournament where learning and growth can occur. As we judge these events our philosophy needs to shift from Strict Rules Enforcement, as all our studying and tests emphasize, to teaching players and developing community. With this philosophy in mind we have a lot of communication with the TO and or Store to do in preparation for this event.
First we need to understand the store’s philosophy of relating to players, tournament play and the needs of the community at the store. If you are a regular at a store and have been mentored well a lot of these questions and philosophies will already be understood, but if you move, find a different store to judge at or are asked to help with a new store this needs to be understood and communicated about.
So what do we do? First off set up a meeting, during a slow time of the day and when the focus can be on understanding and being understood. Ask about everything; be bold, but humble. If the TO or Store Owner is unwilling to talk or doesn’t have adequate answers you need to make a decision, will you stay and help or walk away? This is a tough choice; I am willing to help once or twice but if things go bad or nothing changes after I offer advice I have to be willing to part ways.
So what do we want to know going into an event? Let’s start with the easy ones that we all know. Tournament Logistics – number of rounds, who has the round timer, who is running WER, how are rounds reported, are we firing rounds ASAP, what are the payouts?
We should also ask about the gray areas – Can I play for free, will I get to keep my prizes, will there be judge comp and at what rate, what is the goal of the community, any problems in the community, are there any special needs players, are you expecting me to do anything beyond run the event?
Finally discuss the store’s goals and the player’s expectations this will allow you a chance to see if you are good fit or not. If you have never watched a legacy game should you really judge one? What about Competitive Rules Enforcement Level would you be comfortable? Don’t lie to yourself believing you are better than you are or don’t need to learn. Remain humble and note when you need help, call another judge, hop on slack chat, or watch a little Mystical Tutor. There is always a chance to learn. Don’t allow your pride to stop a store from holding great events.
Finally, you need to understand a deeper philosophy of Judging at Regular REL. As Judges we are the final word but we are also the first. When a player walks in and see you are judging are they glad to see you? Judges are there to teach and educate, correct and demonstrate self-discipline, communicate and bring clarity, be friendly and accepting of all who come to play this game we enjoy playing. Good luck and Good judging!
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