I'm a judge! Now what?
So, you made it to L1, congratulations! Now you are like, “What do I do?” This article will give you just a glimpse into things you can start delving into as a brand new, certified judge. This article is by no means comprehensive, but it's a good start. We are going to focus on being active in your local area. The program is all about providing opportunities to those who take initiative. Below are some great ways to take initiative and get started!
Local events are going to be your bread and butter as a new L1. If you aren't already familiar and involved with a store, take a few weeks to try a few out. Find a place that seems to fit your style and demeanor. Strike up a conversation with the owner or the judge who's already at that store, and ask about opportunities. If the place doesn't already have a judge, be sure to mention to the owner the benefits of having a judge at events. Some of the benefits include: more prestige, fewer accusations of the player base being scummy, more fun, more education for players about the rules, and a better environment. Make sure to tell the owner that there aren't a whole lot of stores that have had attendance drop after beginning to use a judge—except for the stores that were full of people running the cheats or when the new judge was really a jerk.
If you can't find anything in your area, that's one of the great times to contact your Regional Coordinator or use the Events Locator on the WotC webpage. This will let you know all events going on in your area, so there might be some shops that you didn't know about that you will find there!
You'll want to find out who the PTO (Premier Tournament Organizer) is in your area. Talk to him or her and find out how staffing is done for regional events. Usually, either the PTO does it or has a person he or she trusts to do the staffing. Get in contact with that person, and build a relationship. Find out if the staffer has any opportunities for a new L1 judge to become involved. This will usually be prerelease and release events. Other events, like PTQs and States/Regionals, are run at Competitive REL. You should be looking to advance to L2 if you are interested in those types of events. Another thing to look for is a local judge mailing lists or forums. A lot of states have their own forums or mailing lists; talk to the active judges in your state to see if there is anything that you can participate in to get some more exposure to the greater community. We are always happy to help someone become involved!
You'll want to get set up on the DCI website. This is the site we use to staff all large events like Star City Opens, Grands Prix, Pro Tours, and so on. You can search events and apply to them very easily through this website. If you are having issues logging onto it, talk to your Regional Coordinator, and we can easily set you up and have you applying for events. These events usually have many applicants, so don't become discouraged if you don't make it onto your first few staffs. Just keep doing good work locally, and build a relationship with your Regional Coordinator, and you'll be working large events in no time!
Get Involved in the Community
We have a channel that I mentioned in my last article called #mtgjudge on EFNet. This is a place for all judges to get together and talk about anything, but our common denominator is judging, so we usually talk about that. There is a rules FAQ in the topic for basic channel rules, but they are mostly common sense. One of the other great channels to become involved in, especially if you like talking about rules scenarios, is #mtgrules. This channel is strictly for rules Q&A, but you are free to answer the questions that are asked in there. If something comes up that you'd like to discuss further, there's no problem with moving that discussion into #mtgjudge. It might seem a little quiet in those channels sometimes, but if you ask a question, it will be answered pretty quickly.
Judge List (DCIJUDGE-L)
We have a mailing list that is distributed to every judge in the world on a daily basis. As an L1, you are free to reply and post new topics to this mailing list. You can find out a lot about events and projects on this list. We also do a fair amount of talking about scenarios and rulings that have come up in recent events. The judge list is a great way to voice your opinion or just read and learn. You will hear about calls made at the highest levels and why they were made. The higher-level judges are very available both on this list and on IRC to talk about rulings and such.
There is a page on the wiki where we have a list of current projects and whom to contact to become involved with those projects; it's called the Get Involved page. If any of these projects suits you, feel free to message the person in charge of it. If you have an idea that isn't on this list, contact your Regional Coordinator. Your RC will put you in contact with the high-level judge who oversees that area of the program, and that judge can help you get your project off the ground. Make sure you do your due diligence in this area. I can't stress enough that the judge program is built upon judges taking initiative and running with it. Once you have been plugged in, go nuts!
Now that you've ascended to the status of Level 1 judge, teach someone else how to do what you just did. It's quite an accomplishment to be a certified judge, and a lot of players and interested people can sometimes feel intimidated by the learning and procedures involved with becoming certified. There are the judge classes to help you out, but really just being there and talking to people while they are studying and learning does wonders. You'll start building a local network that you can rely on if you plan on advancing in the program. You can also mentor players! I know a few judges who just have weekly rules classes at their shops for anyone who is interested. It's not necessarily to prep those people for judging, but just a class wherein players can come and learn the rules better so that they can improve their games.
Remember, we are all part of one great big community. The most recent push in the judge program has been to tear down the wall between players and judges. As an L1, you can easily do your part just by interacting with your community and not being a scumbag. Help players out, explain to your opponent how he can kill you at FNM, and make jokes in your opening announcements!
I hope this article series raised a few eyebrows about the possibilities of being a judge. I can't even begin to tell you the amount of fun that the judge program is and the quality of the people in it. It's truly among the best organizations and makes for some of the best times you'll ever have. I look forward to meeting you guys in black shirts someday!