Its Tuesday Night and the day was long, we are into a new week and the elation of running your FNM is wearing off. Now it is time to brew; we made a few bucks by picking up Walking Ballistas before they spiked and that GB Snake deck is ready to be tested and tuned. At your local shop you settle in to grind a few games with your friends when it happens. The call “Judge!” cries out in the shop, your first reaction is to tuck your head and keep grinding, but people know you, they remember you and your tournament.
Alright let’s stop there, what are you feeling right now? Perhaps you have that Feeling of Dread knowing that your plans have gone awry? Or is it a sense of responsibility to respond to the call? What if it’s pride tugging at you to dispense your wisdom to the masses? What you are feeling right now tells me a lot about who you are and what you are looking for out of the Judge Program.
The Magic Judge Code guides us in proper behavior towards players and in our play as well as the consequences for when we violate those expectations. As I have been encouraged I will encourage you, do the right thing in awesome ways. When we intentionally seek to do the right things we are looking to make the player experience be fun and fair while encouraging the growth of players in knowledge and ability to play.So what do I do about that call when I am grinding? Or that PM on facebook asking rules interactions while on a date with your Significant Other? Where is the line? What am I responsible for and how do I set boundaries with Players, Store Owners and other Judges? The difference between a judge and a Good Judge is that a good judge understands their limits and sets boundaries for what they will do and honors those boundaries
A good judge understands that there is only so much that they can do in any given day, week or month. A good judge sets limits for themselves and takes care of their own needs to be at their best from day to day and event to event. Being a Professional Judge in everything you do when you run an event so that you and others can differentiate from when you are acting as a judge and when you are just hanging out can be crucial.
The first step is to dress professionally, this sets you apart physically and mentally when you are working an event. It offers players someone to look for and indicates that you know what you’re doing, even if you feel like you don’t. Professional dress is something that gets a lot of discussion as things get a little looser at FNM and very specific at GPs. The judge uniform policy allows for the Tournament Organizer to determine what is acceptable attire for their events, but the suggestion is there for a reason. If you don’t know your TO’s policy follow the rules I was given in my Theological Training, “You can always take off a coat and tie, but you can never add them.”
Set yourself apart professionally so you can show people when you are working and when you are not. This allows you to set the boundary with TOs and Players about your availability and gives you permission to not answer questions that the store owner or the person acting as store judge could answer. Do only as much as you can, be willing to say no and continue to do awesome things when you can!
When you agree to lead an FNM or run an event be present in that moment and focus on running an awesome event! When you are running an event it is your priority to make sure that event runs smooth and positively. I know some judges that never play in the events they are running and some when numbers are low and at Regular REL jump in and are still able to run an awesome event. Be aware that your number one priority is to still run an awesome event and its important to remember to not sacrifice the event for your pleasure of playing. This is one aspect of the employment boundary, but it goes far beyond that.
When a store contracts you to run an event, they are asking you do great things for them. As you learn to set boundaries, take care of yourself, and understand your time is valuable: You are spending 4+ hrs of your Friday Night when you could be at a concert, on a date or even playing in the tournament yourself. You spent weeks if not years preparing for the L1 test and now are in the position to offer your expertise as a professional to a store. Each person is different and asks for different things, but compensation is to be expected. Please refer to my last article for advice on how to negotiate and communicate with a store.
Also remember that stores are designed to make money off of a niche market and must make a profit to stay open. You are helping them stay open by running an event and offering your services to help them run events that people want to come to. Setting the boundary of Judge and Player helps you and the store understand when you are available and when they need take a call. Set a boundary when you are playing in a store for how much you will do to “help out with a call.” We play this game for fun, when we “help out” by taking a judge call it might be fun, but it takes away from your game and your opponent’s game. This professional boundary is hard to set but vital to your enjoyment.
A newly minted L1 is heady with the power to offer rulings and opinions on cards and will often allow themselves to be taken advantage of by players and stores. Instead of being able to play a simple game of commander, each turn transforms into a complex multi-layered test of knowledge which the commander pod understands but want to know if you do. Your night is ruined, you question your abilities and now believe you need to know more (of course you do, we all do). I have seen knowledgeable players do this to boost themselves up and prove that they don’t need to become a judge.
As judges we are expected to act a certain way to players and the Magic Judge Code gives us those healthy guidelines to help us be professionals. When players don’t act in the right ways we are to maintain a safe and healthy play space where all people can enjoy this game. To maintain a professional attitude when things start to get out of had takes hard work. You must know yourself, understand your hot button issues and know what you need to do to manage your emotions and maintain your professionalism.
The internet can be a great tool or it can destroy relationships in a flash. Keyboard courage can tear you down and challenge your professionalism. When you make a big call on screen and the public disagrees the courage will be strong. Don’t get involved in Reddit if you don’t have time or emotional strength to deal with the hate. Find encouragement and support from other judges and build a community of judges that can help you grow as a judge and a person. There is more than one way to make a difference.
Finally, know that these are struggles we as judges all face. Set the boundary that makes sense to you, ask for advice and seek out answers if you are confused or feel taken advantage of. Most of all take care of yourself and keep enjoying this game. Good Luck and Good Judging!
Judge Uniform Policy: http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/judge-uniform-policy
Magic Judge Code: http://blogs.magicjudges.org/conduct/files/2014/12/MagicJudgeCode.pdf