Back Alley Oracle #6: Judge Program overview

20th Jun 2022 Joshua Scott

The new Procedure and Penalty Guide previews the release of the 3 tiers of rules enforcement level (REL) which will be the new standard of official organized play from June 27th. As such, we are taking this opportunity to progress to the next phase of the judge program which involves certifying level 2 judges and taking the first step to aligning judge levels with the 4 tiers of organized play.

Judge Levels and Organized Play Tiers

With over a thousand level 1 judges now active in the community across the globe, we have a solid platform to start ramping up the level certification of the judge program. Our goal with judge levels has always been to align the judge level with the requirement for head judging a tournament tier. In this way, level certification can be more targeted towards certifying the skills we are looking for in head judges for the different tiers of organized play. Event organizers can be assured that their head judge is qualified to lead their event, and judges themselves can set personal goals based on their desires to head judge. Below is a brief overview of the future requirements for head judging an event based on tournament tier, and some example events that a judge of that level could be expected to handle. The date for these requirements is yet to be determined, but we estimate that it will be some time in 2023 when we have enough level 2 judges to run all of our tier 2 events across the world.

Please note that these are not requirements as of yet, and level 1 judges can still head judge tier 2 events such as Road to Nationals.

OP Tier Head Judge Level Required REL Event Example
Tier 1 Level 1 Casual Head judging a 16 player Skirmish, by themselves
Tier 2 Level 2 Competitive Head judging a 32-64 player ProQuest with up to two floor judges
Tier 3 Level 3 Competitive/Professional Head judging a 500 player Calling with a large team of floor judges
Tier 4 Level 4 Professional Head judging a 500 player Pro Tour with a large team of floor judges

Some events may not strictly fit this formula. In particular, there are large battle-hardened events (tier 2) with hundreds of players which may demand an experienced level 3 or 4 head judge. In addition, there are some nationals (tier 3) with only 40 players, which may only require a local level 2 to head judge. These exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis. Levels will not be a requirement for being a floor judge. We encourage event organizers to incorporate a healthy mix of experienced level 2-3 judges and level 0-1 judges to be floor judges for their event to ensure that judges have the opportunity to learn and grow, as well get the opportunity to receive review recommendations for their level advancement.

New Certification

The online certification for level 1 and 2 judges has done its part to spread the judge program far and wide ensuring that we have a large networked community that can aid in the running of events. As part of the release of the new Procedure and Penalty Guide, we are revamping our certification process for level 1 and 2 judges. In particular, we will be adding the additional requirement of time, experience, and a review recommendation for level 2. The process for becoming a level 1 exam has been put on hold in the meantime, and the new processes for becoming a level 1 or 2 judge will be available from July 1st. These requirements are subject to change:

Level 0 requirements:

  • Passing score in the online level 0 exam

Level 1 requirements:

  • Passing score in the online level 1 rules exam in the last 120 days
  • Passing score in the online level 1 policy exam in the last 120 days

Level 2 requirements:

  • Have been Level 1 for at least 120 days
  • Have judged at least two tier 2+ events in the last 120 days
  • Passing score in a level 2 rules exam in the last 120 days
  • Passing score in a level 2 policy exam in the last 120 days
  • A review recommendation from an existing Level 2+ Judge in the last 120 days

Once a judge has been certified as a level 0-1 judge, there is no ongoing requirement for re-certification. However, from the release next set onward, every level 2+ judge will be required to pass a short re-certification exam to ensure that they are up to date with the latest changes to the rules and policies and that they are familiar with the most recent set of cards. Failure to do so will not de-certify the judge, but will prevent them from judging events until they have taken (and passed) the re-certification exam.

Outside of being a Head Judge

We recognize that with this level system, most judges who do not want to pursue being a head judge for tier 3+ events will eventually plateau as a level 2 judge, and that’s okay. We understand that there are many skills a judge can contribute that are distinctly separate from the skills required to be a head judge. As such, the level of a judge should not strictly determine the quality of a judge or the contributions they can make to an event. Similarly, head judges should not be required to be experts in all aspects of the judge program that are irrelevant to the running of an event.

As part of the future of the judge program, we will soon be establishing a global network of judges that specialize in particular areas that can help improve the program as a whole. This includes (but is not limited to):

  • Exam administration and question writing
  • Rules and policy editors
  • Player and judge conduct committee members
  • Seminar organizers and presenters
  • Tool and technology developers
  • Community representatives and regional coordinators

We hope that by recognizing judges in their respective spheres of skills, we can provide the support for judges to share their expertise without being bound by arbitrary limits (such as having to be a level 3 or 4 judge), and can improve the judge program as a whole by providing a coordinated and targeted effort towards areas that need the most improvement. If you’re interested in sharing some of your expertise in this way, keep an eye out on JudgeHub for when these spheres begin to develop.