Frequently Asked Questions

What is Judge Academy?

Judge Academy is a new company which has formed to train and certify event staff for organized play. Our initial client is the Wizards of the Coast and the Magic community. We are in talks with many other companies, both in the table top and esports realms, and are excited to add on partners and opportunities.

Who are the staff of Judge Academy?

Judge Academy was founded by Tim Shields, and is currently staffed by Nicolette Apraez – Program Manager for Magic; Megan Holden – Accounting Manager; Kyle Knudson – Senior Project Manager; Chris Pompeo – Technical Project Manager; and Eric Reasoner – Head of Business Development. We will also have 10 regional Community Managers, see below.

When does this start?

Judge Academy will launch on October 1st, 2019.

What areas will Judge Academy serve?

Ultimately, we will serve Judges worldwide. At launch, we will serve Japan, much of Europe and all of the United States and Canada. We will add additional areas as quickly as we can.

We launch with four major regions, two of which are further subdivided – Canada and Japan will operate as single regions, while the USA and Europe will be divided into four sub regions to start.

Why not all the world at launch?

There are many complications with starting an international business. Our order of roll-out decisions needed to balance legal restrictions, areas that can be reliably serviced by mail, the popularity of Magic in those regions, and the density of Judges that currently exist in those areas. At launch we’ll be able to support over 75% of all current Judges. The remaining areas that are out of service are still priorities, and we are not leaving those areas behind. It simply meant that we felt we couldn’t establish a legal presence in time for launch. We are working to ensure that conferences and other initiatives can continue in areas outside of our service during the transition period.

So when will the other areas go live?

Although we don’t have set dates yet, we are working hard to bring all regions within the fold as soon as possible. This is a high priority for us, and we are currently working on the legal and logistical hurdles in order to ensure we continue to have a unified and global program.

Who will be the leaders of the new program?

The day to day operations of the program will be run by Nicolette Apraez. There are 6 experienced Judges that are serving as advisors, and 10 Community Managers overseeing different regions throughout the world. We will be adding additional staff as we expand.

Who are the advisors?

Our Advisory Board is:

Alfonso Bueno – Level 3, Spain
Jon Goud – Level 3, Canada
Damián Hiller – Level 3, Argentina
Bryan Prillaman – Level 3, USA
Rob McKenzie – Level 3, USA
Johanna Virtanen – Level 3, Finland

What do the advisors do?

The advisors are a group of experienced high-level Magic Judges who provide the Judge Academy with advice and guidance on the complex issues we grapple with as we roll out a global program to support Magic and other games.

Who are the Community Managers for each region?

Community Managers for each area are listed below. They will start their roles as CM when the company goes live on October 1st. If you need anything before then, your current Regional Coordinators are your contact point.

Canada – Kaitlin McLachlan, Level 2
JapanRon Foster
USA-West – Chris Higashi, Level 2, (USA-Northwest/Southwest)
USA-South – Nicholas Zitomer, Level 3 (USA-South/Southeast)
USA-East – Eric Dustin Brown, Level 3 (USA-Northeast/MidAtlantic)
USA-Midwest – Eric Levine, Level 3 (USA-North/Central/Great Lakes)
Europe-South – Cristiana Dionisio, Level 3 (PT, ES, IT, MT, GR)
Europe-North – Jack Doyle, Level 3 (UK, IE, DK, EE, FI, IS, LV, LT, NO, SE)
Europe-Central – Stefan Ladstätter, Level 3 (AT, DE, CH, CZ, HU, PL, SK, SI)
Europe-West – Sophie Pagès, Level 3 (FR, BE, LU, NL)

What do the Community Managers do?

Community Managers help grow and support Judges in their Region. They act as a conduit of information for the community. This includes disseminating information from Judge Academy to local Judges, and acting as a voice for Judges’ regional needs and feedback. They also help ensure conferences in their area are being organized, and coordinate education efforts.

Will there still be levels?

At launch we will have – Rules Advisor (RA), Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. These levels were created with the idea that each member of the community should be able to be a part of the program in whatever way makes the most sense for them personally.

Rules Advisors can be used as a stepping stone to L1, or simply as a note for other players and TOs that someone has been tested on the Magic Comprehensive Rules. This certification is strictly rules based, since not everyone has the time and bandwidth to become versed in the intricacies of running events.

Level 1 Judges can of course also answer all the rules questions that the RA can, and more. They also have knowledge of how to run events, and what to do per the Judging at Regular document when issues come up or mistakes are made. The big thing that differentiates an L1 from an RA is their additional training in the soft skills that help create an excellent event. The L1 has been trained in conflict resolution, how to demo, service mindset, organizational skills, and more. L1 is intended to be the go-to person at an FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store) that can put together a fun, inclusive, memorable event.

Level 2 builds on the skills and traits of the L1 and expands their reach beyond the FLGS, and up to Competitive REL. L2s are expected to be mentors and leaders in their area. They will enjoy continuing refinement of their customer service skills as well as training in how to Judge at larger events. They will help with the creation and fostering of L1s. They represent the bulk of Judges on the floor of a Magic Fest and other large tournaments.

Level 3 Judges are the experts of Premier Organized Play and the Judge communities in their regions. They generally operate in large areas, provinces, and countries. They mentor Judges by Team Leading at or Head Judging major events, and provide feedback to help improve other Judges, regardless of level.

Do I get to keep my current level?

Yes! Current Judges in good standing in the served regions will be transferred into Judge Academy with their level intact when they join. Due to the increase in focus on customer service, Level 1 Judges will be required to participate in some additional education modules to keep their level. Levels 2 and 3 will port straight over. Successful transfer of one’s level will be contingent on payment of their yearly membership fee. We have spoken with the current Level Sphere, and for ease of transition and scope we have decided not to change any Levels 2 and 3 prerequisites at this time, although all levels will need to take update exams throughout the year, starting in 2020. We are working to iron out pre-test requirements and continuing education for L2+ Judges, but want to make sure we have time to properly evaluate and incorporate changes that Program Coordinators and the Level Sphere have been researching over the last year or so.

A note for current and former Level 3s: We understand the immense amount of work that goes into the Level 3 Process. Level 3 Judges in Judge Academy who step down voluntarily or due to inactivity will be granted “Emeritus” status. Emeritus Judges can recertify for Level 3 within five years of lapsing with a modified checklist/process. This will also extend to former Level 3 Judges in those same circumstances, who choose to join Judge Academy.

You mentioned membership fees?

Judges will pay a yearly fee based on their level (all values are in USD) –

RA – Free or $50
Level 1 – $100
Level 2 – $200
Level 3 – $400

Rules Advisors with paying memberships will receive Judge Academy gaming accessories. Possibilities include sleeves, playmats, deck boxes, and more.

Level 1 Judges will receive Judge Foils and other considerations.
Level 2 Judges will receive additional Judge Foils and other considerations.
Level 3 Judges will receive additional Judge Foils and other considerations.

Judges are considered members in good standing when they complete their coursework and their membership fee. This membership lasts 1 calendar year from that date. Judges will be required to complete the upkeep requirements and renew their membership fee each year to remain in good standing.

Alright, so when do I pay my membership fee?

Judge registration begins on October 1, 2019. Judges who complete their membership requirements between October 1, 2019 and November 1, 2019 will enjoy an extra mailing of Judge Foils on November 15th, 2019 in addition to the Foils they will receive in 2020.

What is happening to Judge Foils?

Beginning in 2020 there will be 10 Judge Foils issued during the calendar year. 2 of these cards will be reserved for conferences and special events. The other 8 will be shipped out to Judges in two waves of 4, one in January and one in July.

Each Judge in good standing at the time of a wave will receive foils commensurate with their level.

Level 1 – 1 of each card in each wave. 4 cards per wave. 8 total cards per membership year.
Level 2 – 2 of each card in each wave. 8 cards per wave. 16 total cards per membership year.
Level 3 – 4 of each card in each wave. 16 cards per wave. 32 total cards per membership year.

Judge memberships last one year, therefore each Judge will receive two mailings during their 1-year membership.

Can you give us any hints about upcoming Judge promos?

We are pleased to announce that the next four judge foils are going to be Chalice of the Void, Monastery Mentor, Reflecting Pool, and Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow – and all will be receiving new artwork!

Correction/Clarification about the art status of these new Judge Promos:
Chalice of the Void (New-To-Paper Art)
Monastery Mentor (New Art)
Reflecting Pool (New-To-Paper Art)
Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow (First Time in Foil)

Why are there membership dues?

Membership dues allow us to set up Judge Academy for current and future success as a program and company. They help the program in two main categories: covering structural costs, and supporting community initiatives. From a structure standpoint, they will provide us with full-time staff to manage and grow the program, contracted Community Managers, and all of the necessary support structure such as attorneys, accountants, and the like. We will also be continually hiring community members to help expanding the content and training on our site. We are also creating a budget for community initiatives. This includes everything from snacks and venue budgets for conferences, to a technology budget for CMs to spend on their region without it coming out of their own pockets. The program takes a ton of resources to run, but every set of dues means we are one step closer to being able to create new initiatives for the program, new features for JudgeAcademy.com, and additional CMs or other support roles.

How is the learning structured?

The concept of a checklist or set of requirements will be handled in a very visual sense in the skill tree system we are designing. A Judge will able to very clearly visualize their learning and advancement pathway as they move through the program. As requirements for advancement are completed, Judges will see those modules colored in on their skill trees, and earn badges signifying their accomplishments.

What do I have to do to get access to the lessons?

Nothing, to start! Everyone will have access to the RA and L1 lessons. L1s will have access to additional material that’s designed to bolster their customer service skills, and/or prepare them for L2 (if they desire). Similarly for L2. Then L3 will have access to more refined lessons that focus on leadership and continuing education.

Why does everyone have access to the Rules Advisor and L1 lessons?

The material covered in these lessons will be Sportsmanship, Conflict Resolution, Creating Welcoming Environments, and more. We believe in the importance of these skills and want everyone to be aware of how to create awesome gaming communities. We will strongly encourage everyone to join us by viewing and sharing the material. Even if one decides Judging isn’t for them, we hope they’ll still come away with some tools to help their community.

Wait, so to become a Judge all I need to do is watch some videos and take a few tests?

Not so fast. There’s a little more to it than that. The online lessons are important, but so is practical experience and community involvement. When possible, we will require prospective L1s to have spent time shadowing and then running an event with an L2 or higher. That Judge will then endorse the prospective L1 to us. Once they have the endorsement, have taken all the online lessons, and passed all applicable tests, then they will be a Judge Academy Certified Level 1 Judge!

As an L1, what kinds of lessons will I have to do to keep my level?

If you are an L1, you have already been tested on Rules and the JAR. Lessons will focus on Hosting, Demoing, Conflict Resolution, Maintaining Store Relationships, Public Speaking, and more. Some skills we intend to add to the repertoire of the L1 and some skills we aim to bolster or refine.

I’m a current Judge; does this mean I am employee of Judge Academy now?

Definitely not. We are a training and accreditation service, not an employer or a staffing agency. Event organizers and Judges will be able to find each other on our site, but all employment arrangements will be private and between them.

What about conferences?

Conferences are here to stay. We believe that conferences are critical to Judge communities and individual Judge development. We are putting a special emphasis on the structure of and participation in conferences. Judges will be strongly encouraged to attend conferences in their area, and those conferences will be foil-supported. This will begin in 2020. Wizards Conference support as it exists now, will continue through Dec. 31.

What will happen to out of service areas?

As mentioned, we are working hard to ensure that the transition period is as short and seamless as possible. However, any gap is too long of a gap, and we want to make sure we continue to foster the judge community in those areas as best we can in the meantime. This means finding answers to questions in a few main areas: Event Staffing Technology, Certifications, and Conferences.

Technology: Since we have no ownership over JudgeApps, this isn’t really our question to answer, but we know JudgeApps is important to many people. Technology is important to us as well, and we are working hard to ensure JudgeAcademy.com has all the necessary features it needs to be the hub for all Judge activity in incorporated regions starting Oct 1. As the PCs have stated, out of service areas will not lose access to JudgeApps during this transition.

Certifications: When Judge Academy launches, we will certify judges in the areas where we do business. We are committed to respecting Magic Judges’ certifications that exist as we launch in each area. 

Currently, JudgeApps is the system that keeps Judges’ certification level and creates the opportunity to test for new levels. We’ve spoken to the PCs and the Technology Sphere Lead (Paul Baranay), who plan on maintaining judges level records in JudgeApps and are looking into ways to continue supporting new level testing in all areas not yet served by Judge Academy. So if you are mentoring someone right now, don’t stop! Once we have expanded globally, all certifications will go through JudgeAcademy.com.

Conferences: We will be working with a separate non-profit in order to ensure that educational conferences continue in out-of-service areas. These conferences will be foil supported through Judge Academy until we can expand into that area.

Realistically, we know there’s still more to figure out regarding out-of-service areas, and we will share additional information as soon as we can so that you can prepare for Oct 1.

What about Facebook, etc.

You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Discord all under JudgeAcademy.

What about Reviews?

Our site will have a function where Judges will be able to give private feedback on other Judges. These reviews will only be visible by the creator, the recipient, Regional CMs, and the Judge Academy staff.

What’s happening with Exemplar?

The Exemplar Program will be taking a hiatus after Wave 18 to do some introspection and data aggregation. You can read Bryan’s announcement here. We understand the importance of Peer-to-Peer recognitions, and want to figure out how to incorporate a way to highlight excellent behaviors in the program. More details to follow!

Who will shape future tournament policy (MTR, IPG)?

Tournament policy will continue to be created by Wizards of the Coast, and their contractors.

What about Scorekeepers and other event staff? Will they be part of the new structure?

Yes we will be developing training materials and tests for as many of the skills that are necessary for Organized Play as possible. This includes Scorekeeping, Streaming Video and more. We are still working out the details to determine how this will fit into a learning tree or level structure.  

What about projects?

Most projects will continue to exist as they are now. If you want to start a project or a blog, there will be forums where you can request help, and you don’t need anyone’s permission to be awesome. What IS changing, is that responsibility for some of the high workload or sensitive topics (JCC/PIC, Official Translations, Exams) will now fall to Judge Academy or Wizards to handle. That said, we are a small workforce and we WILL need help. The details aren’t 100% fleshed out yet, but if something is integral to our success (an exam translation or Level 3 Panels, for example) AND we need to ask non-employees for help, we intend to pay people for their effort.

What will happen with Grand Prix Head Judge Certifications?

We are still working out the details, but we will have some form of certification for head judging large premier events.

What kind of conduct oversight will there be? Will there be a Judge Conduct Committee?

There will be a process for reviewing reports and ensuring misconduct is dealt with.

Will we get new Judge shirts?

There will be Judge shirts available moving forward, but we do not have additional details at this time.

Are you supporting any other games at launch?

Yes indeed! We are very pleased to announce our partnership with Asmodee to build a Judge program for their very popular card game KeyForge. Asmodee has big plans for KeyForge and needs excellent Judges around the world to help them create amazing events.

We are building the courses and curricula similarly to what we are doing with Magic. Soon you could be a Level 1 KeyForge Judge in addition to your current Magic level! 

Why are there other games?

We know that Judges are highly-skilled individuals with tons to offer other games. As we onboard new brands, the opportunities for Judges will expand greatly. By bringing together excellent Judges with more games, new employment opportunities will open up to Judges, and the standards for the experience for players of those games will be enhanced. 

We are eager to introduce additional games to the standards that Magic Judges have brought to events around the world. We believe in the power of Judges to make any community stronger, more inviting, and more fun.

 I understand the future, but why the change?

The members behind Judge Academy have been part of the Magic Judge community for years.  We have watched the program grow and evolve through every iteration. We have watched this community grow bigger and greater than any of us could have ever imagined.

As this community continues to grow and improve, one of the biggest challenges is finding the resources to continue to make necessary improvements.  We believe that it will be easier for a single entity to be able to secure the resources to allow this community to be able to continue on a path that we all can be proud of.

Do I have to do anything right now?

Not really! You can click ‘back’ and sign up for our mailing list, and follow us on the various social platforms.  If you have any questions that we didn’t answer here, please send them to questions@judgeacademy.com, so that we can get those answered as soon as possible. Thank you for taking the time to read all this, and for your patience as we work to answer all of your questions and concerns.