Penalty and Policy Philosophy

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This is the third piece in a series that I’ve started while working towards completing my L3 checklist. As I mentioned in previous posts, one of the major steps of this process is the creation and occasional revisiting of a detailed self-review. This review specifically must address strengths and weaknesses in the 9 identified qualities of an L3 judge. As I have been spending some time contemplating these qualities, I realized each individual quality is worth a discussion here. One topic I’ve mentioned previously is the idea that a level does not define you as a judge (though it certainly does have implications on the amount of work/testing you’ve gone through). It strikes me that many judges, therefore, may not have taken the time to think about and review their strengths and weaknesses at each of these qualities until they are contemplating going for L3. These qualities are not reserved for L3s or L3 candidates. On the contrary, many of these are characteristics of judges I see regularly, and from those who have likely not yet even thought seriously about the L3 advancement process. These qualities, therefore, serve as a nice framework for a series of blog posts. I hope to bring a discussion of how each quality may apply or be seen at a local (L1) or area level (L2), not just at the regional level (L3).

Penalty and Policy Philosophy

Level 3 Judges understand the underlying philosophies that inform the Magic Tournament Rules, Infraction Procedure Guide, Judging at Regular REL documents (MTR, IPG, and the JAR) and other policies relevant to tournament operations and judging. They can effectively critique these philosophies and policies in the context of improving the Judge Program. Level 3 Judges know the importance of adhering to policy, but can also identify circumstances where policy is unclear, absent, or contrary to the spirit of the Judge Program’s practices. A deficient judge applies policies incorrectly or has philosophical views regarding policies that run contrary to the Judge Program’s most basic principles. He or she may be unable to explain policy to players and other judges, and may have little to no grasp of why policy is written the way it is. An exemplary judge has an impressive knowledge of penalties and policies and demonstrates a careful consideration of their underlying philosophies. He or she is capable of offering critical analysis of policies and judge practices that is particularly constructive and helpful.

This quality is one of the easier ones to translate across judge levels. L1s and L2s routinely apply policy during events, and many times an inherent understanding of the philosophy behind that policy is what guides them. Now, of course an L1 or L2 isn’t required to demonstrate (through testing) that they have a strong understanding of the policy or philosophy behind all policy documents. Let’s break this down a little further by level, just so expectations are as clear as they can possibly be.

Level 1 Judges

Level 1 judges are expected to know and apply the Judging at Regular policy, as well as understand and apply portions of the Magic Tournament Rules. The philosophy underlying the JAR is not that hard to grasp, and is often summarized cheekily as “fix it or disqualify.” Really though, the philosophy at work here is that the document isn’t even aimed predominantly at certified judges; it’s written for TOs to have something to guide them in the absence of a certified judge. That doesn’t change the fact that the philosophy behind it shows us that Regular REL events are designed to be fun, educational experiences. The JAR directs us how to fix common problems, and how to handle a few more problematic behaviors, but overall, its guidance is to educate and facilitate learning and fun. This makes complete sense, of course, in that the events it covers tend to be ones occurring at the very local level, and exist as a fun escape for players to test out new decks, learn new formats, or generally just enjoy this game that we all love.

Level 2 Judges

This is where policy knowledge really hits the books. We move from requiring the JAR for Regular REL events (at 2 pages long) to now requiring knowledge and application of the Infraction Procedure Guide (at way more than 2 pages long). Now, of course, an L2 is expected to know both the JAR and the IPG, but the JAR was already addressed when they certified for L1. The IPG is much longer, has many more branching decision points in it, and generally requires a deeper understanding of the policy itself to apply uniformly and consistently. The aIPG is a great resource if you ever find yourself having trouble parsing the language in the IPG directly.

One of the challenges as a HJ of Competitive REL events is to be able to adequately explain your rulings to players, some of whom may be very agitated with that ruling. Being able to clearly define in the documentation and back it up with underlying philosophy makes this task much simpler (though still not always easy).

Examples from Exemplar!

As with the other posts in this series, I took some time to delve into this wave of Exemplar (wave 7) for some examples of these traits from judges throughout the program. Here are a few that stood out to me:

From Chuanjie Seow to Wei Jia Tjong (L2) – Wei Jia your enthusiasm in all things Judge is really amazing. This positive energy is contagious in a good way and I will point out to my L0s to you as the role model. The professionalism when you judge is stellar, you are able to handle difficult situations with players in a calm and professional manner and also seek to explain the rationale behind the policy and infraction. I have players come up to me to say that you actually help them learn the rules better after receiving a penalty from you! Keep up the great work!

From Tobias Durose to Todd Bussey (L2) – Todd has always been a compassionate and caring judge, every time I work with him I can really tell he loves the players & magic itself. Specific things I recall, were Todd taking a good 10-15 minutes to explain to a concerned player at Pastimes PPTQ the philosophy behind a ruling he made, and at GP Van when he gave out random cards to the players we had to deck check. I can think of few people who deserve to be recognized for their excellence in the judge community more than Todd. 🙂

From Charles Russett to Mathew Mitchell (L1) – Matthew, in recent months you have demonstrated your potential to progress as judge by going above and beyond what i would expect of a level 1. You have handled difficult situations with admirable tact and shown that you have great knowledge of the IPG and its application. This was particularly noticeable when you were called upon to conduct an investigation during a top 8 draft at a Grand Prix Trial, the professionalism with which you handled the situation was a credit to you, and appreciated by the players and tournament organiser. In addition your work with new local judges candidates, helping as a mentor in an area with a low number of higher level judges, has been both excellent and crucial to the continued improvement of the local community.

From Chuanjie Seow to Wei Jia Tjong (L2) – Wei Jia your enthusiasm in all things Judge is really amazing. This positive energy is contagious in a good way and I will point out to my L0s to you as the role model. The professionalism when you judge is stellar, you are able to handle difficult situations with players in a calm and professional manner and also seek to explain the rationale behind the policy and infraction. I have players come up to me to say that you actually help them learn the rules better after receiving a penalty from you! Keep up the great work!

From John Brian McCarthy to Quinten van de Vrie (L1) – Qvdv, your responses to players confused about the “combat?” shortcut on Reddit were really helpful (https://www.reddit.com/r/mtgjudge/comments/55d0ar/move_to_combat_and_vehicles/). You explained it clearly, explained why policy works the way it does, and didn’t resort to trying to help them find the “magic words” to get around it. Thanks for your contributions!

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