Judge Academy 2022 Announcements

AUTHOR’S NOTE:

Hey! This document is extremely dense. We tried to add as much context and explanation as possible, along with a number of preview images we thought members might like. We were asked to create a summary of sorts, to make the key highlights easier to digest. That is linked HERE. Please note that while it does summarize the information, the full document below will give a much more comprehensive and detail oriented look at the changes. The summary above is also currently being translated into Japanese, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese. We hope to get those back for publishing on Monday.

Introduction

Hey, all! Nicolette here. As events slowly begin to return, we’ve made the decision that keeping judges educated, connected, and engaged is our top priority. Below, you’ll find a TON of information around our plans for 2022. This is going to be a long and detailed update with a number of changes, so sit down with a cup of tea or your choice of relaxing beverage and buckle in!

I’m going to start by passing you off to Tim, who wants to talk to you all a bit about Judge Academy and the program at large, as well as what we’ve learned over the last two years. If you are interested in reading more into the “why” of some of the big decisions we’ve made, I encourage you to take a look as his letter the the community below:

Click here to read A Letter from Tim Shields

Now that we’ve covered some of the lessons learned, we’re going to discuss Judge Academy’s trajectory for 2022 and beyond. The small silver lining to the rain cloud of the last 1.5 years is that Judge Academy has been able to use this hibernation time to refine our place in Organized Play and how we can best serve our members.

While we may have been tight on resources by not charging renewal fees for existing judges, I firmly believe it was one of the best choices we could have made to support our judges. The Judge Academy team has been brainstorming on what the future can hold and utilizing this down time as a chance to relaunch Judge Academy with a clearer purpose after over a year of hibernation.

Judge Academy will be coming out of its COVID hibernation with a large amount of restructuring. This means that there are a ton of changes to work through for 2022, including changes to our fees and services.

Judge Academy 2022 and Beyond

Judge Academy Structural Changes

After traveling the world (when it was possible) and talking to judges in various regions, we realized that to best serve our members, we need to account for more than just a judge’s location to decide how to serve them. The motivations and needs of judges don’t easily split along regional lines.

One of our most illuminating findings is that there are 4 distinct motivation groups among judges, and that all judges tend to fall into one (or more) of these categories. These groups are each unique and gain their identity based on a judge’s level of engagement and the way they interact with the community and events, rather than simply where they are located in the world.

Similar to Guilds and other color combinations in Magic, you might feel a pull towards multiple motivations, but there will typically be one that sticks out as a stronger connection than the others.

  • Event Paladins – Motivated by justice and order, often concerned with tournament rules and preventing cheating. At an event, you might hear them say, “Everyone wants this event to be fair.”
  • Event Warriors – Motivated by learning and improving the physical logistics of events and providing elegantly functional gaming environments. At an event, you might hear them say, “Everyone wants this event to run smoothly.”
  • Rules Wizards – Motivated by understanding and appreciating the complexities of the rules and intricate card interactions. At an event, you might hear them say, “Everyone wants to learn from this event.”
  • Community Bards – Motivated by forging connections with other people, and taking responsibility for the overall gaming experience of those around them. At an event, you might hear them say, “Everyone wants to enjoy this event.”

It’s important that Judge Academy has insight into the needs, pain points, and desires of each group. This way, our team can create content tailored to the needs of all judges and their motivations. To do this, we’ll be bringing on staff to Champion the needs of each group, and create content, programming and initiatives on a regular basis with those judges’ needs in mind. If one of these groups particularly resonates with you, please check out the full job descriptions HERE to apply.

Although it is a change that has really been in place for a while now, this does mean that the previous Community Consultant role that existed in 2019 – 2020 will not be coming back for 2022. We are eternally grateful to all of the former Community Consultants for their hard work and incredible insight. One of our big takeaways from Judge Academy’s hibernation period is that external contractors, specifically the CC roles, brought with them a host of issues we unfortunately could not adequately solve. This included the inability to manage them effectively and set up expectations around responsiveness to the judges in their region, due to their nature as independent contractors.

We originally wanted to keep as much consistency throughout the change to Judge Academy as possible, but what it actually meant to be a Community Consultant, and what people believed it meant were vastly different. This disparity in expectations led to a large amount of frustration and complaints. Additionally, we found that in some areas the leadership structure was stifling natural community leaders from feeling comfortable stepping up into the roles of conference organizers, mentors, etc. Finally, if the community consultant had a different judge focus (for example, if a highly event focused judge is in an area with mostly store level L1s) then those needs might get missed.

In order to meet the ever changing needs of Organized Play and our members, for 2022 and beyond we will be more focused than ever before on education and easily updated content creation. This means with dedicated Champions, in 2022 you’ll see a lot more content flowing out on a regular basis. While most content will be available for all judges, each type of judge will have something exciting to look forward to.

  • Event Paladins will see policy update quizzes for the IPG, JAR, and MTR as needed for each set, as well as additional modules and tools for practicing key investigation skills.
  • Event Warriors will find logistical tools to help at events, including a sandbox-style EventLink account to practice a variety of skills from running events to testing out new functionality before an event to ensure they’ve got the hang of it!
  • For Rules Wizards, we’ll be updating current content, producing CR and other update quizzes for each set, and expanding our exam pools.
  • Community Bards will see updated classes on mentoring, conferences, and several added classes around Cultural Competence.

That said, we will still be using distribution hubs for conference sponsorship distribution in order to decrease the delays getting sponsorship from JA to the organizer of the conference.

Our commitment to education for 2022 includes the expansion of our Level 1 Translation materials to include both Portuguese and Chinese, and we’ll be working with external experts to determine how to best serve the most judges with these translation efforts.

2022 Fees and Services

Membership Dues

So let’s talk about 2022 Membership Fees and the services we’ll provide. We had two primary goals when determining how to restructure Judge Academy fees and services. First off, we wanted to remove the transactional nature and feel that membership dues had. At its core, Judge Academy is an educational service with professional certifications, and we wanted to keep that in mind as we made changes. Secondly, we wanted to expand the number of ways we pulled in resources.

At launch two years ago, Judge Academy charged different amounts based on judge level. The idea was that judges who were higher up would have access to more content, and receive more benefits. This placed a large burden on a small group of individuals, and with the restructure, we are going to take a different approach to funding the program.

During the hibernation time when we waived membership renewal fees, we were asked over and over if there were some way those who DID have the ability to do so could continue to support Judge Academy financially. While we were not ready to do so at the time, this did serve as the initial inspiration point for determining possible fee structures.

2022 will bring some changes to Membership Dues and Judge Academy Services. First off, rather than each Level 1 paying $100, each Level 2 paying $200 and each Level 3 paying $400 every year, we’ve decided to bring everyone’s membership dues down to the same cost and supplement those fees elsewhere. This means that judges will pay the same amount of membership dues regardless of level. To off-set this change, we will be offering specialty merchandise. Some packages will be available to all, some will be restricted, but the general idea is to lower everyone’s membership dues down to the same level, and then allow those judges with extra disposable income, an eye for collection, or a desire for some unique items, to continue to support Judge Academy without pushing those higher prices onto everyone else. We’ll have more information about our new and exciting merchandise packages available soon.

The yearly membership dues for all judges, regardless of Level, will be $75 USD. Judge Academy has recategorized in the EU to no longer require Judge Academy to collect Value Added Tax from our members.

Membership dues/certifications are valid for 1 year. If you purchased your membership recently, your membership will not need to be renewed for 12 months from your purchase date. However, for the vast majority of judges, your 2019 and 2020 memberships were extended through 2021, meaning that those levels expire at the end of this year. 2022 Renewals will open in November with the $75 fee for an easy and smooth transition, but no one’s membership will be set to expire until Jan 1, 2022.

What happens if I don’t pay my renewal in time?

  • Whenever memberships and certifications expire, an account normally reverts to the highest badge without a membership fee associated with it, which in this case is the Rules Advisor Certification.
  • There WILL be a small grace period of 1 month, where you can still renew and keep all of your existing benefits for 2022. After that month, on Feb 1st, 2022 you will be set to Rules Advisor and will need to re-take any final exams needed for your level.

2020-2021 brand new memberships had a welcome bonus for 2021 conferences. Will that continue for 2022?

  • No, the welcome bonus was to account for the removal of direct mailings when judges may have signed up prior to changes being announced and implemented. Now that everyone will be renewing with the same information and membership fee, they will all receive the same services and benefits.

Judge Levels and Maintenance

As each set is released and new content is published, if the content is required for your certification or badge level, you will receive an email notification informing you that rules/policy changes have been made and are ready for review.

Starting today, the cost of all Judge membership will be lowered to $75 USD. If you already purchased your membership new this year, since you paid the previous membership price, you will still be eligible for the old 2021 welcome bonus, but please remember the welcome bonus must be redeemed at a 2021 conference.

Aside from cost, the Level 1 and Level 2 advancement processes have not changed, however we have finalized the L2 Badges, Level 3 advancement Process, and Advanced L3 Certifications. While the official requirements page will be updated in the coming weeks, you can read more about those changes HERE.

Judge Academy Promos

One of the largest changes to existing offerings, and the primary reason we are able to decrease membership fees, is where we have chosen to utilize our Judge Academy Promos. As Tim mentions, direct mailings were both time and resource intensive, yet still led to mixed results.

In a year without those member mailings, we were still able to distribute Judge Academy promos to judges by supporting increased numbers of educational judge conferences, which would not have been possible while doing direct mailings. This year we’ve sponsored over 100 conferences, with ~75 more conferences scheduled over the next 3 months. Those conferences have been a HUGE success, and we expect that number to keep growing next year. We saw conferences used as a means to pool knowledge, connect judges with their community, and build up friendships locally and across the world. Judge Academy is overjoyed to continue sponsoring them.

As previously mentioned, as events are slowly returning, we’ve made the decision that keeping judges educated, connected, and engaged is our top priority. In order to keep membership dues as low as possible and support more conferences, we have decided not to go back to direct member mailings for 2022. The 2022 promos will ONLY be given as a thank you for taking part in the community networking and education that conferences bring. You do not have to attend, present, or organize any conferences to keep your certification, but it is your participation in those conferences that will be rewarded.

A Judge Academy Membership and Certification includes a variety of services and benefits. Judge Academy Promos have always been only a small part of that, and this change will shift our focus back to the community and allow us to keep incentivizing judges to remain engaged and educated.

Before COVID, digital conferences were not promo supported. We made an exception to this during the pandemic. However, there are many areas where digital conferences not only helped judges stay connected during COVID isolation, but also opened new community opportunities for more remote or spread-out areas/regions.

Below you will find Conference Support Structure for 2022. Every 3 months, there will be 2 new promos released. Digital Conferences will give out those 2 new promos to each attendee at a sponsored conference. Physical conferences will receive the 2 new promos, as well as 2 older promos from a previous wave. While determining sponsorship policies, we also wanted to respect the benefits of digital conferences, while acknowledging the increased time and input that goes into attending a physical conference.

We also got a lot of feedback regarding the desire to make presenters feel more appreciated for all they contribute to the overall community. With that in mind, organizers and Presenters will also receive a previewed Judge Academy Promo. Those previewed promos will ONLY be available by organizing or presenting until the December End of Year Celebrations in 2022.

Without direct mailings, we still wanted each and every judge to have the ability to receive new Judge Academy promos regardless of whether they attend a physical or digital conference. This breakdown is designed so that even if you attend only 1 digital conference each wave, you will still be able to collect all of the Judge Academy conference promos in 2022. This will also allow judges that join later in the year to still have a way to collect some of the previous waves’ promos.

The 2022 Judge Academy Promo Theme is: Enchantments!

Jan-Mar (W1) Organizer/Presenter Preview Bonus: Preview A – No Mercy

Digital Conference Attendee Promos:

  • Greater Auramancy (NEW)
  • Omniscience (NEW)

Greater Auramancy, art by Lucas Graciano

Omniscience, art by Alayna Danner

Physical Conference Attendee Promos:

  • Greater Auramancy (NEW)
  • Omniscience (NEW)
  • Grand Arbiter Augustin IV (‘21 W2)
  • Karlov of the Ghost Council (‘21 W2)

Apr-Jun (W2) Organizer/Presenter Preview Bonus: Preview A – No Mercy

Digital Conference Attendee Promos:

  • Parallel Lives (NEW)
  • Stranglehold (NEW)

Physical Conference Attendee Promos:

  • Parallel Lives (NEW)
  • Stranglehold (NEW)
  • Zacama, Primal Calamity (‘21 W3)
  • Morophon, The Boundless (‘21 W3)

July-Sept (W3) Organizer/Presenter Preview Bonus: Preview B – TBA

Digital Conference Attendee Promos:

  • Wave 3 promo A (NEW)
  • Wave 3 promo B (NEW)

Physical Conference Attendee Promos:

  • Wave 3 promo A (NEW)
  • Wave 3 promo B (NEW)
  • Greater Auramancy (‘22 W1)
  • Omniscience (‘22 W1)

Oct-Dec (W4) Organizer/Presenter Preview Bonus: Preview B – TBA

Digital Conference Attendee Promos:

  • Wave 4 Promo A (New)
  • Wave 4 Promo B (New)

Physical Conference Attendee Promos:

  • Wave 4 Promo A (New)
  • Wave 4 Promo B (New)
  • Wave 2 Promo A
  • Wave 2 Promo B

End of Year Celebrations Digital Only – December
Digital Conference Attendee Promos:

  • No Mercy
  • Preview B – TBA

Site Improvements and Updates

Now that we’ve gotten through the structural changes, I’m going to pass this off to our Tech Lead Chris to go over all the exciting improvements that will start rolling out over the next few months!

Graphic Design Overhauls

The most prominent thing that you’ll notice when visiting Judge Academy starting next month is that most of our pages will have received a complete design overhaul! A graphic pass of our website has been on our to-do list for quite some time and after working with an external design team we are excited to bring these changes to life in the coming months to enhance your experience in 2022 and beyond. We’ve taken extra care to ensure that your experience with these pages either on a desktop or a mobile device remains consistent and functional. While the previews you are about to see are not the final designs, they’re very close to what you’ll be interacting with when these changes go live.

Judge Academy Homepage

We have redesigned the Judge Academy homepage to bring more clarity and features right to the start of your experience. Combined with our Persona system (more on that in a bit!) the homepage will appear slightly different depending on the role you’ve selected on our site. We hope these changes are not just visually appealing, but get you where you need to be with a few simple clicks!

User Profile

Each user’s profile has been redesigned to be engaging, dynamic, and functional. The familiar tab system is being retained, but each one will be rebuilt to make use of all our new features and design elements. Features you’ve used before like Reviews and the Skill Trees are joined by new items like Messaging, a Friends List, an Activity Feed, and the Skills Endorsement Panel. You’ll also be able to customize both your profile picture and your banner image to make your profile feel more personalized to better represent yourself to the community.

Event Creation, Listings, and Historical Events

Our team has revisited the design of our Event Management system to make event creation and viewing capabilities more intuitive. While there have been many iterative changes to the event form since the Judge Academy launch, this combines them all and presents them in a cohesive manner. We are also developing a system whereby users can mark certain events as ‘Favorites’, which will be saved on their own list, so that they can easily be kept track of or returned to later.

Many judges have asked us whether the events they’d worked from their past would ever be available to list on their Judge Academy profiles. We have been working directly with Wizards to offer a solution to meet this desire while following laws around personal information. We’re happy to say that we are developing a system that will import records from past events into our database, create unique event pages, and populate their staff lists with any existing members. Additionally, judges will be able to self-report attendance to a historical event and this will be included (with a designation as being self-reported) on their profile if that information was not reported originally.

Persona System and Registration

One of the most important updates we are making to the website is a system we are calling the ‘Personas’ of our members. We have identified four general groups of users: Judges, Tournament Organizers, Players, and Game Publishers. The Judge Academy website will soon provide customized experiences and specific tools relevant to each account type.

These personas represent a top layer of customization to your experience of the site and denote which sort of user you are operating as at any given moment. This will be shown as an individual color around your profile and a persona selector in the nested menu.

For the launch of this system, and due to the nature of most people joining up as Judges we are granting existing users the ‘Judge’ persona and new registrants will make their initial Persona choice during account creation. That being said, each user can add other personas to their account through an easy management tool, and flip between them using the selector in the top menu.

Generally speaking we’ve designed the personas to bring each group’s primary functionality right to the forefront, and to provide tools specific to these individuals.

  • Judges – You’re all going to be most familiar with this persona as it is essentially the same as what everyone has been using since day one. However, we are going to be moving some of the most visited and necessary resources to the main homepage tiles to make them easier to access. The goal with this persona is to make it simple and easy for judges to do the things they do most often – network with judges, find events to judge, and expand their skills and knowledge.
  • Tournament Organizers – The TO persona is very similar in structure to that of a judge, however it will be the home for our new Tournament Organizer Program; a set of tools and features designed to develop and certify these specific skills and assist with the tasks of setting up great events. Skill Trees filled with educational modules designed for TO’s will be found here, as well as documents and resources specific to TO needs.
  • Players – Most judges start out as players and continue to play at events in their free time, so we wanted to make sure this part community was being served as well. The player persona is designed to help gamers find events to join, connect with their friends, and clearly lay out the path to becoming a judge for those who are not already.
  • Game Publishers – Continuing our theme of connecting groups of people together, we wanted to give designers and publishers the ability to reach out to our dedicated and experienced community of judges. We are designing a system whereby opportunities to interact with publishers can be listed, searched, and those connections can be made.

We are redesigning the flow of our registration system to make it easier than ever to get started with Judge Academy. New users will be walked through the process of signing up, choosing their default settings, and selecting a default persona. We want the process to be engaging and welcoming for every new user.

 

Social Features

Friends List

Part of the Magic (pun extremely intended) of judging are the friendships made along the way. We are implementing a friends list to allow you to forge those connections on our website as well. Friends will form the core for a few other social features that will launch at the same time.

Messaging and Inbox

Judges use many ways to communicate with each other and having a messaging system built into our site has been a goal since our launch day. We are adding that functionality to Judge Academy to help keep everyone connected. You will be able to set your preferences to who can message you (friends-only or everyone).

Activity Feed

Once you are Friends with another Judge Academy member you will be able to keep track of significant events in their Judging lives. Did your friend level up? Cheer them on! Are they going to judge an upcoming event? Maybe you’d like to go with them! There will of course be privacy settings for this information as well.

Judge Development

Skill Endorsement System

One of the things judges have missed was the ability to compliment each other publicly on the skills and talents they have mastered. Writing a full on review for someone is one way to do this, but we are expanding your options with skill endorsement. You’ll be able to hype other judges with the click of a ‘thumbs up’ button on the appropriate skill and it will be visible on a user’s profile with a list of all the other judges who endorsed their abilities.

Judge Resume Creator

We wanted Judges to have another way to collect and display their achievements. Each profile will feature an automatic Judge Resume builder. You’ll be able to choose the items you’d like to feature and the system will craft both a digital document and an attractive, exportable PDF that features the individual items that make you proud.

Judge Projects and Project Management Tools

Judge Projects

One of the most requested items we have heard of is a way for judges to organize and work on Judge Projects, a feature we are excited to be including in this launch. Judge Projects are a fairly open-ended concept. They can be short term tasks or long ongoing efforts. At their core they are groups of judges coming together to work towards a shared goal, usually to help the overall judge community in some way.

There have been numerous complications including organizational, legal and logistical that needed to be addressed before Judge Academy could fully incorporate Projects. However after a large amount of research and development, we have worked out a way to launch a robust system for projects. Looking to the field of software, the Open Source model provided the framework that Judge Projects could be built on.

Judge Projects are independently organized. JA cannot direct, manage or control the projects, but we can set up features to help! Here’s what you need to know about Judge Projects:

  1. Judge Projects are initiated by judges, meaning members of the judge community will determine what projects they want to start.
  2. Judge Projects are judge directed, meaning the creator of a project has control over the management of that project. For example, Judge Academy will not require a project lead to add or remove specific judges from their project.
  3. Judge Projects can be privately-owned or community-owned, but are never owned by Judge Academy. All work for community-owned projects will be done under the Creative Commons license.
  4. Judge Projects will have full access to the PM Tools, such as a project timeline and calendar, task lists, and even tools like Gantt charts. Judges are free to use the project management tools for both individually-owned and fully-private projects.
  5. Judge Projects are not compensated by Judge Academy. Judges are free to participate in projects, judge academy will not recruit, assign, require, or compensate judges for the projects they participate in. As always, if Judge Academy requires specific work to be done by someone not on our staff, we will contract with those individuals.

PM Tools

Judge Academy will be deploying a suite of management tools to assist with both Judge Projects and to aid in the planning and execution of events. These tools will allow users to manage their projects in whichever way is most effective for them – task lists, kanban boards, Gantt charts, or calendars.

Project owners and teams can be notified of upcoming deadlines, see what tasks need to be done at any particular time, share files between each other, and set milestones for their projects. Also, if you are participating in multiple projects, the system will collect all of your to-do items in a handy report to help keep everything on track!

New Feature Beta Testing

Over the next 2 months, we’ll be implementing a number of changes to the Judge Academy website. In addition to a graphics overhaul, there are changes to the functionality and workflow of many portions of the site, including creating and staffing events and conferences. In our first preview (beginning later this week) we will be specifically testing the event creation, listing, and search features.

If you are interested in exploring these, or any other new features before they make their appearance to the world, please fill out the form here, and we will send out a more complete calendar and any instructions at the appropriate time.

Tournament Organizer Program

Judge Academy believes that one of the most impactful things we can do to help judges is to help level up Tournament Organizers.

In addition to a Tournament Organizer Persona, 2022 will start to see the evolution of a Skill Tree specifically for organizers. Our goal is to make Organized Play better, and this involves everything from casual in store play to highly competitive events. As the landscape of Organized Play changes, our goal is to equip stores and other organizers with the information they need to make their events the best they can be, giving players, judges, and Wizards peace of mind in knowing upcoming events will be successful.

This knowledge starts with ensuring that current TOs know Judge Academy best practices around staffing levels, the importance of using certified judges, and an organizer’s roles and responsibilities at events. Those basic classes and our updated event/staffing system will be available to anyone with a Tournament Organizer Persona on their account.

However, we will also have a paid JA Organizer option meant to help Organizers continue to grow and improve their events. Those members will also have access to:

  • Additional member-only educational micro modules (~5-10min videos) covering a variety of topics to help stores such as store marketing, social media, prize structuring, etc.
  • Our suite of new Project Management tools to help plan and organizer larger events as they return.
  • We are working on implementing many features to help businesses interact with Judge Academy like company pages, management of your staff lists, and sharing of event duties and project software between accounts.

Ultimately, our long term goal is to work with Wizards and the WPN to create an entire level system for Organizers. We aim to help them navigate everything from a brand new store gaining WPN Status, to an established store running their first premier event, or beginning their own small or large event series. This new TO level system will focus on continuing education and helping stores keep up to date on new software, requirements, event initiatives and other changes to the landscape of Organized Play.