Policing your Team Building

Hi everyone! I am Angela Schabauer a L2 judge from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Recently I have been thinking about team building exercises and how to optimize the learning gained and the immediate impact on the events that they are used at. I also want to take this opportunity to thank Oli Bird for his input and editing skills.





Team building exercises are a way to get the group of judges that are working on your team to interact and start thinking about a concept, or even just have some fun. While the exercise can be anything, making it something that will allow for growth in the knowledge or abilities of the judges involved is an important goal to have.


I have been a part of many of these types of exercises and the ones I found to be the most helpful for me were the ones that had concepts or ideas that could be immediately used at the event. Over these events I also noticed that there are a few policies in the IPG that judges tend to forget. In addition to this I noticed that some team building exercises that require discussion caused judges to watch less magic. Out of these realizations I have built a team building exercise, which is the reason for writing this article today.


This exercise is based on one question that you ask your team at the beginning of the shift:


“What are the top three infractions currently existing in the IPG that you see players commit, but you don’t think you penalize enough?”



What this question does first is to get the judges to think about the IPG. With judges thinking about the IPG, and very likely pulling out and at looking at it, you have now just made sure that your team is refreshed on the current IPG for the event. Ideally before the event you have reminded your team to review the IPG prior to the start of their shift. What this should result in is the judges making better informed judge calls and fewer wrong rulings.



The second thing that this question does is to get the judges to watch players playing magic. What better way to try to figure out the answer than to try to notice previously unnoticed infractions?


Let me pause here though to mention something. The goal of the activity is not to get judges to start throwing out penalties left, right, and center. It is the base on which you build a discussion on IPG and policy, and to have judges appropriately handle and penalize all aspects of the IPG.

To get the best use of this activity you should have your team have their answers ready for lunch, or for a 15 minute break where you have your team sit down and hydrate. Making lunch a team lunch is a great opportunity where you will have time to discuss the answers your team has come up with and for them to have an opportunity to discuss their reasons.


So now you have the rest of the event to complete the rest of the activity. This second part of the the activity is the discussion on what actually falls within these infraction and the best way to handle the issuing of penalties and/or the education surrounding the infractions.


The best way to go about this is to attempt to pair more experienced judges with less experienced ones. This will give an opportunity the more experienced judges to exercise their mentoring skills.


A good way to wrap up this activity is during the team debrief where you can have judges explain what they have learned from this activity and/or for them to describe a call where they used the concepts discussed.


Now I bet you are all waiting with bated breath about what the answers to the question are.

Given the nature of the judge program and the differences between individual judge and players communities, the answers are a flexible and can be different between each community. Below I have included some of the common answers and the reasons that I have received when using and discussing this exercise.



Tournament Error – Slow Play

Slow play is one of the hardest penalties for newer judges to wrap their heads around, this is due to the use of the word “reasonable” in the definition. What is reasonable for one person isn’t for another, and so on. Without an exact time limit on actions, judges must use their judgement on what is slow play and what is not, and this results in new judges – and even some more experienced judges – being unwilling to pull the trigger and make the comment of “I need you to play faster”.

If you wish to further educate yourself on slow play, here are some good resources:


Tournament Error – Insufficient Shuffling

Due to the way that a lot of players shuffle their decks, during the process cards in the deck become visible. This means the deck is no longer randomized. Many judges, even when witnessing a player insufficiently randomizing their deck, do not attempt to educate or penalize the player due to lack of certainty, or the thought of “Just because I can see the cards does that mean they can?” etc. This is also due to the desire of the judges to not interfere in the match for a seemingly petty thing.


If you wish to further educate yourself on Insufficient Shuffling, here are some good resources:


Unsporting Conduct – Minor

Unsporting Conduct Minor is a difficult infraction to handle, or even to recognize when it is happening. This can be due to cultural differences, or the judge not being sure whether this falls into USC-Minor and wanting to err on the side of caution, issuing no penalty. It could even be that the judge shares the same mentality as the offending player. This infraction is also pretty difficult to handle when issuing as the offending player as the player is more likely to be opposed to the penalty. A lot of judges merely tell the player to stop what they are doing or to correct what they have done.



Tournament Error – Communication Policy Violation (CPV)

Communication policy violation (CPV) is a very tricky penalty for some judges to wrap their head around. It seems to be a general consensus that if a player makes a mistake in communication, for example about the number of cards in their hand or about the power and toughness of their Tarmogoyf, and the player immediately corrects themselves that this does not fall within the realm for CPV. However what there is some confusion on what is immediately, how much of a pause is allowed. There are many times, and I have even noticed this myself, where the penalty doesn’t jump out at you even when the judge hears it occur.


If you wish to further educate yourself on Communication Policy Violations (CPV) here are some good resources:



Angela Schabauer