From L2 to L3

  • Print
Author Image

Are you an L1 and want to know what an L3 is?
Are you an L2 and want to know what to do to become an L3?
Are you an L3 and want to know how to evaluate an L2 who you want to recommend for L3 and to whom you want to give advice?
Are you an L3 and want to be sure that you are, and do, what is required from an L3?
This article will examine the main areas where an L3 should excel and will give some practical advice to see if the time to test has come.


George Michelogiannakis, L3

Riccardo Tessitori, L4

While reading the article you will become aware (if you are not already) that the bar for L3 is high. This article does not try to push every judge to this level. It’s meant to be informative for those that are involved, or want to be involved, in the judge program at a higher level. If you are not close to attaining L3, do not use this article as a measurement of your own abilities but as an informative and long-term goal-setting article.

Please keep in mind that not every judge needs to have the desire to go for the next level. Not all judges are in the position that they can, or want to, give the commitment necessary to reach the next level, or have the required skills. Every judge should remain at the level he feels most comfortable and that doing so does not make him any less of a judge.

As a last point, it is important to point out that L3 certification should be pursued as a way to assist players and judges in your local community, as well as expand your role and experience locally and internationally. It is not a means to be able to have the final word on local judge matters, nor it is meant to be recognition of excellent L2 PTQ head judges who have no desire or resources to mentor fellow judges. Before you walk the path towards L3, question your motives and what you hope to achieve through L3.

Rules knowledge

You want to be a L3, what’s the first step?

In general, most questions a judge will encounter are rules questions. Therefore the skill that needs to be the base skill for every judge is rules knowledge. It is acceptable for less experienced judges to have a more practical grasp of the rules compared to a more theoretical understanding of the rules.

A practical grasp of the rules is mostly obtained by experience: on the floor, reading the judge list, knowing how certain cards interact. The more practical the knowledge, the more difficulty this person will have answering rules questions on new cards and new interactions (e.g. during pre-releases).

A more theoretical understanding of the rules comes from reading and understanding the comprehensive rules, discussing the framework of the rules (turn, stack, priority, spells, abilities, effects, etc.), and understanding the terminology. A person with this understanding will be able to answer rules questions even when confronted with new cards or new interactions.

The higher the level a judge has, the greater the requirement is for him to have a theoretical understanding of the rules as well. An L3 needs to be able to answer all rules questions that can arise during a tournament situation, not only to give answers to rules questions, but also to explain why things work the way they work and all this using the right terminology. Besides that, an L3 needs to be able to assess the rules knowledge of others judges and players, and be able to determine if it’s more practical or theoretical in addition.

There is a misunderstanding, however, that an L3 (or higher) needs to have the ability to redesign the rules from the ground up. This “Guru” level rules knowledge will not help an L3 in his responsibilities. It’s nice to have, but not required.

How to prepare and to evaluate?

  • Read DCIjudge-L and understand every rules question.
  • Read articles on the DCI website; there are often parts with interesting rules questions.
  • Read Saturday School and understand every rules question.
  • Take WotC Judge Center practice exams, with a score of 98+ and a full understanding of the situations and the rules involved.
  • Try to write rules questions and answers.
  • Another very useful experience is to discuss rules situations with other judges, especially during tournaments (you can use real situations or invented questions).

Some questions you can ask yourself to evaluate your preparation:

  • Do you know what self-replacement effects are?
  • Do you know all the rules changes introduced with the latest expansion?
  • Can you come up with rules questions for your fellow judges?
  • Do you know how to recognize and handle infinite loops?
  • Do you know all 6 layers used to determine interaction of continuous effects?

Want to do something extra?

  • Know the philosophy of the rules; this is beyond “simple” rules knowledge and it means analyzing why rules work the way they do. Example: With Ashes of the Fallen in play, you discard Gempalm Incinerator and you want to kill a pro-Spirit creature; can you do it? Is the source of the damage is the card that was cycled or the card that is already in the graveyard at the moment the triggered ability triggered? Why?
  • Analyze how the Comprehensive Rules are written and try to find ways to make them better. Again, this is beyond “simple” rules knowledge and includes the ability to summarize every rule in a single document in an efficient way.

Penalties

You know the rules. What’s the next step? You have to apply them in a match where you will be facing situations that are not covered just by the rules.

An L3 is required to have a full understanding of “How to correct a damaged game state;” one part is to correct the mistake, and another part is to assign the correct penalty.

How to prepare and to evaluate?

Penalty guidelines are the result of DCI policy and philosophy, which has been developed over the years. Several parameters have to be fully understood:

Rules Enforcement Level: This represents the type of the tournament, or, in other words, the goal of the tournament. (Is it an event to make children have fun? Is it a tournament with a cumulative prize of hundreds of thousands dollars?)

Potential for abuse: This represents the advantage a player can gain from a mistake, the probability that the mistake will happen, the probability that the mistake is discovered, and the probability that the mistake is intentional.

An L3 should be able to explain to players and judges why there is a specific penalty, in a specific tournament, for a specific infraction. The word “guidelines” means that it is possible to deviate; an L3 should use his best judgment to decide when to deviate from the penalty guidelines and when not to deviate, also taking into account longer term (other rulings in the same tournament or other tournaments in the area) implications of the deviation; every deviation should have a good reason and an L3 should be able to explain why to deviate in a specific situation.

Some questions you can ask yourself to evaluate your preparation:

  • Do you know why there is a difference between "improper drawing at start of game" and "drawing extra cards" in the middle of a game?
  • Do you know why a game loss is recommended for drawing extra cards for REL 3+, even though a solution is described in the PG for RELs 1 and 2?
  • Why are decklist errors game losses and not match losses? Why don't the penalties for decklist errors change with REL?

Want to do something extra?

You probably know something that has changed in the recent past; something about a specific penalty (e.g., The penalty for Illegal Maindeck List was downgraded to GL at all RELs) or something about how to solve a specific problem (e.g., Shuffling the random portion of the deck, instead of revealing the cards, for Looking at Extra Cards infractions). Why?

Go through the penalty guidelines and try to understand why those choices have been made. There are always other good choices; try to think about advantages and disadvantages of any choice.

DCI Policies

You know the rules and you know how to solve problems in a match. What’s the next step?

You have to manage an entire tournament, and the most important word you have to keep in mind is consistency.

An L3 is required to know how tournaments have to be run, in every single detail, because every tournament in the world must be run in the same way (players should never think that every judge has his own rules). An L3 should strive to bring the level of consistency of a PT to his PTQs and demonstrate increased professionalism at all times. Moreover, an L3 is required to know why specific policies exist.

How to prepare and to evaluate?

Penalty and policy are more or less the same; policy documents are the result of DCI philosophy as well.

An L3 should be able to explain to players and judges why there is a specific policy to guide how things are done.

One of the best ways to improve policy understanding is to compare your ideas to others. This can be achieved through mailing lists, forums and IRC channels, or, even better, during international tournaments, where you can meet other experienced judges.

Example: Any subject could be a good example, just look at a random line on a policy document, or go to an international tournament and talk with the other judges. Do you show the decklist to top 8 players in a Limited GP? What about removing the standings before posting the pairings of the last round? Would you proxy a lost card in a Constructed PTQ? What about decklists at a FNM? …And many, many more. Don’t forget to provide reasoning for any answer you give.

Some questions you can ask yourself to evaluate your preparation:

  • Do you know why non-verbal communication is allowed in team Rochester, but verbal communication is not?
  • Do you know why players can't look at their picks before a booster has been fully drafted? In which document would you find rules for when you can concede a match? Which cards are legal in a format? How do national teams work?
  • Do you know if, and why, decklists are shown to the players before every top 8 match?

Want to do something extra?

Once again, policies come from choices made by a group of very experienced judges. Try to think of, and balance, the advantages and disadvantages of any choice and keep in mind that everybody may have a good idea to improve the way tournaments, and the judging community, are managed!

Experience

You know the rules, you know how to solve problems in a match, and you know how to manage tournaments. What’s the next step?

Take a look at the new judge level names:

  • L1 is now called “Local” Judge.
  • L2 is now called “Area” Judge.
  • L3 is now called “Regional” Judge.

These names represent the geographical area where a judge should express himself. Of course, a bigger area means larger tournaments, different types of tournaments, greater numbers of judges and different levels of judges.

An L3 is required to take care of everything in his region, and the most important word you have to keep in mind is community.

How to prepare and to evaluate?

First, there is tournament experience. If you want to become an L3, you should have judged all tournament formats (yes, some Vintage and team tournaments as well), you should have judged at all RELs (from 8-player FNM booster drafts, to 1000 player Grand Prix, or a Pro Tour) and you should have had all roles in a tournament: floor judge, head judge, scorekeeper, floor judge with a less experienced head judge, logistics team leader, deckcheck team leader, etc. You should also be capable of comfortably communicating in English in order to function in an international environment.

Many expert-level judges consider the minimum number of international tournaments to reach the minimum experience required for an L3 is 5 (4 GPs and 1PT), and that a more appropriate number would be 10 (7 GPs and 3 PTs).

Then, there is mentoring experience. If you want to become an L3, you should have mentored some L0s who wanted to become L1 and some L1s who wanted to become L2. Remember that an L3 should be the example to follow for any L0, L1 and L2. For this reason, an L3 should be able to find areas where an L1 or an L2 is weak or strong and should be able to give good advice on how to improve.

Finally, there is community experience. We said the most important word was “community;” in fact, an L3 is responsible for developing his own community. This could be done during tournaments by focusing your attention on the other judges who come to help you, or through the internet (forums, mailing lists, websites, etc). An L3 should have initiative and promote growth of the whole community. This could be done alone, by collaborating with other judges, or by collaborating with the DCI office. What to do? Just use your imagination and do everything you think might be useful for others!

Don’t forget one important thing: “community” means “judges and players.”

Some questions you can ask yourself to evaluate your preparation:

  • Do you feel your approach to tournaments is slightly different than when you first started judging?
  • Have you received feedback from different judges, and have you worked to improve yourself?
  • Have you ever led a team at an international tournament?
  • Have you provided constructive feedback to your team members?
  • How many new L1s or L2s have you successfully mentored during the last year?
  • Do you know most of the judges in your region?
  • Do you manage mailing lists, forums or websites about judge issues?

Want to do something extra?

If you live in an area where it is difficult to get to an international tournament, you may help yourself by contacting L3+ judges in your area (to judge PTQs with them), or by contacting other L3+ judges through forums, mailing lists, or the Judge Center.

Moreover, even if you are not sponsored for a Grand Prix, you can organize and finance your own travel and lodging. This way, you will have many more opportunities to judge at international tournaments.

Finally, an L3 should be able to give good advice to an L2 who wants to advance to L3.

Leadership

You know the rules, you know how to solve problems in a match, you know how to manage tournaments, and you have lots of experience in managing tournaments and building your community. What’s the next step?

An L3 is required to be a respected leader of his community, both during and outside tournaments. Players and judges should recognize him as a trustworthy resource of insight, integrity and experience. Judges and judge candidates should also view him as an approachable mentor and a representative of the DCI judge certification program.

A good leader should be able to delegate tasks and to coordinate teams, according to each judge’s skill and experience. Moreover, a good leader has to provide instruction to his people.

A good leader should set the example to follow in everything he does (when he judges and when he plays as well) and should be able to set the example as a follower under another leader; in any case, a good leader should be able to provide constructive feedback to the people he works with. A good leader should be able to use diplomacy whenever needed, in order to manage difficult situations with angry players, with judges who made a mistake, with organizers who don’t respect DCI policies, etc.

A good leader should take every opportunity to mentor judges in, and out, of tournaments and give them paths toward progress. He should be able to provide constructive feedback as well as suggestions on how to improve. Mentoring is an L3 judge’s key responsibility. You can find very useful information about this topic in Paul Morris’s article “Principles of Leadership.”

Some questions you can ask yourself to evaluate your preparation:

  • At each point during a tournament, can you predict what is most likely to go wrong, do you know steps to take to prevent problems, and do you know the best approach to fix those problems?
  • Can you identify which managing style is best to use each time you lead a team or a group of floor judges?
  • Do players recognize you as a responsible and knowledgeable figure in your community?
  • Do judges come to you for advice?

Judge certification

You know the rules, you know how to solve problems in a match, you know how to manage tournaments, you have lots of experience in managing tournaments and building your community, and you are a great leader. What’s the next step?

Where would the judge program be if there weren’t judges able, and available to test and certify new judges?

An L3 is required to know the difference between L1, L2, and L3 and he’s required to be able to administer tests for L1 and L2 candidates.

How to prepare and to evaluate?

There are two main subjects to discuss when you talk with an L1 candidate: motivation and rules knowledge. Unfortunately, while you have a lot of time to mentor judges, you may have very little time to test candidates; in less than half an hour you may have to discover motivation, past experience, future opportunities and basic rules knowledge.

The first piece of advice for an L3 candidate is to watch an L3 who is interviewing candidates. The second piece of advice is to interview some candidates, if possible, with the help of the same L3. It’s not always easy to find rules questions that can quickly determine if the candidate has the necessary knowledge to be allowed to take the written test.

Some questions you can ask yourself to evaluate your preparation

  • Do you know what the DCI wants from an L1 judge, and what role he will serve in the organized play scene?
  • Do you know what the DCI wants from an L2 judge, and how his role different than that of an L1?
  • Have you ever participated in role-play scenarios, and do you feel that you can make one for your candidates?
  • Do you know five rules questions that are appropriate to ask to an L1 candidate?
  • What about five rules questions for an L2 candidate?
  • During an event with mass certification, would you allow the L1 candidate to take the written test immediately, or would you ask him two or three quick rules question before? Why?

Want to do something extra?

Try to write some new questions for the Judge Exam Center, with the same structure as the questions you’ve seen, being conscious about what area of rules knowledge you want to examine with each specific question.

Congratulations

You know the rules, you know how to solve problems in a match, you know how to manage tournaments, you have lots of experience in managing tournaments and building your community, you are a great leader, and you know how to test L1 and L2 candidates; what’s the next step?

You are now ready to take your L3 written test and to go through three hard hours of interview. You will celebrate with beer, and all of your judge friends, tonight!

For your future as an L3, remember that you now have a role that gives you more responsibility and requires more time commitment.

Congratulations for advancing to L3 or for being a good example of a L3!

This article is a follow-up of a PT London workshop; we would like to thank every judge who was present and contributed to the workshop and to the article.

If you have any opinion, question or comment about this article, we will be happy to read it. Feel free to write to us privately or to send your comments to DCIJudge-L.

Riccardo Tessitori, Italy, L4 (riccardotex@hotmail.com)
George Michelogiannakis, Greece, L3 (mixelogj13@yahoo.co.uk)

  • Planeswalker Points
  • Facebook Twitter
  • Gatherer: The Magic Card Database
  • Forums: Connect with the Magic Community
  • Magic Locator