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Keeping Your Distance

So far away from me... (and the results)

Juan Del Compare

I started playing Magic four years ago. After I understood the complex strategy involved in the game, I realized how near it was from chess. Like a lot of other self-made players, I felt like Urza when I realized the best moment to play a Giant Growth was after blockers were declared, and the best moment to ping my opponent was in response to "your turn". After some months playing only with my friends and only with a couple of decks, I arrived to the same conclusion I made with chess in my childhood: unless I spent a LOT of time practicing the game, I'd never master it.

I could understand all the mechanics and tricks of the game, and enjoyed learning detailed rules, especially to avoid being cheated (I'm talking about the days when spell timing was ALL the difference). Being a not-so-dedicated, not-so-good player, I learned to lose and not become angry or frustrated about it, and learned a lot about Magic strategy in each game I played. Without meaning to, I learned a lesson that became useful and indispensable in my future life as a Magic Judge: a Magic game's outcome isn't really important. I'm playing to win, of course, but I don't NEED to. I'm enjoying it anyway.

The introduction may have been a bit too long, but, getting closer to the point, I'd like to write about how important I think it is for a judge to have a distance from the games' results, both your own and others'. I started as the sole organizer of sanctioned tournament in Argentina at the same time as WotC found a representative, being the only one that cared for the SFR. That was the time I figured out how important distance from the game and the results was . As I didn't play (and fortunately my friends' ratings career was short), I didn't really care who won or lost, and players could see that.

As time went by and Magic grew, I was offered the position of DCI Representative, and as I figured that the only way to let the organized play grow was sanction several tournaments in different places, my first concern was "where will I find players with the minimum conditions to be judges at sanctioned tournaments?". They would need a great knowledge of the game, and a respected image of impartiality. It was hard, but I picked a few guys and talked with TO's to advice them to have one of these guys judging their coming official tournaments. Some heard the advice, most of them didn't and preferred being their own judges. This led to a lot of complaints from the players, making my work as DCI a lot harder.

With the appearance of the JCP in the international horizon, the solution to my problem was obvious. If some guys could certify as judges, they would "ensure" the impartiality and knowledge of the rules needed, and the places that didn't want to have a certified judge would lose their players or have to improve their organization. Players wanting a better tournament environment insisted that I should bring the JCP a.s.a.p. (even before it was exported from the USA), and a lot of guys seemed interested in certifying.

Truth is I made by best effort and finally took the exam (anthological telephone hour with Tara and a couple of other judges) and made it to Level 3! I was proud of the final results, especially because it opened the JCP for other players in Argentina. After that, I went back to all the guys interested in certification... and suddenly, no one was ready to certify. Anyway, the JCP is running. Slowly. And as I expected, the first guys able to confront the exam were those whose main concern was sanctioning tournaments... and not playing in them.

So, is being REALLY careless of the outcome of a tournament REALLY necessary to become a certified judge? I don't think so. But it's essential to be a GOOD judge. If you care about a game's outcome, players will notice, even if you try to hide it, and some players will point at you for being biased. Can a game-concerned player acquire this independence? I don't know. Recently, players that care for their ranking are starting to certify. I'll keep an eye on them as judges to see if they can acquire this impartiality or just show it while in the end they care for the matches they're sanctioning.

Concluding, if you're a low-level or wannabe judge, keep in mind that you will need to show (and if possible, really have) independence from all game results in order to be respected as a judge. If you're a 3+ level judge, I think this is absolutely essential, and is an important feature to look for in an interview. If you don't know the wannabe-judge personally, you may ask several players who have seen him in action for their opinion, but never underestimate this qualification. Or at least, that's my point of view. I'd like to hear more about this.

Juan A. Del Compare
DCI Argentina
Necro Staff Member

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