Judges of all types and levels belong to an international community devoted to improving themselves and the quality of the events they steward. One of the central tools judges utilize to improve themselves is attending and/or organizing judge conferences.

Back during the beginning of the judge program, judges would come together to present talks on aspects of judging as an educational tool. Typically held at game stores, large events, or conventions, early conference presentations were lectures and workshops where experienced judges presented on topics they were particularly passionate about. These events drew anywhere from a handful to hundreds of attendees and became a central feature of the judge world. Over time, judge conferences have evolved to fit the educational, research, and social needs of judges.

A judge conference is a time for judges to come together to learn from each other and build valuable social connections. At a conference, you will meet old friends, make new ones, expose yourself to innovative new judging techniques, engage in fun activities, and find yourself more excited than ever about being part of this incredible global community.

Judge Conference Information
Use these tabs to learn more about Judge Academy’s conference sponsorship program:

Judge conferences consist of planned, guided, learning opportunities. Traditionally, these are presentations or interactive workshops, but they can also be guided roleplays, mock tournaments, or some other learning environment.

One of the best parts of a conference is the chance to interact with other judges and get hands-on experience. Depending on the type of conference, you might get a chance to ask questions of the presenters, practice your deck check skills, role play a judge call, etc.

Judge Academy Sponsored Conferences

We at Judge Academy believe that one of the best ways we can strengthen our shared judge community is by helping conference organizers around the world put on great conferences by offering sponsorship. Judge Academy offers sponsorship to conferences in the form of foil promo cards which are available to any Judge Academy certified L1+ who attends a sponsored conference. We rotate the promos every 3 months, releasing 2 new promos with each wave.

Types of Conferences

Conferences can take one of two forms: Physical or Digital

Physical conferences, where judges gather in person in a specific location, are Judge Academy’s primary focus. These conferences allow for direct interaction during both presentations and downtimes that facilitates learning and helps build relationships in ways that are harder to achieve in online settings.

Digital conferences, in which attendees gather through an online video and text discussion platform such as Discord, allow judges to engage with each other across long distances. We recognize the continued utility of digital gatherings in situations where distance or safety concerns would make an in person gathering impossible, or where the goal of the conference requires bringing together people from a wide range of locations.

Conference Roles

Who will be at a judge conference? What do they do?

Spectator – Rules Advisors and other individuals without Judge Academy judge certification status may attend at the discretion of the organizer, but will not be included in conference support.

Attendee – A certified Judge Academy judge or L3 Emeritus attending a conference who does not hold any additional role at the conference.

Primary Organizer – The single point of contact for this conference with Judge Academy. This is the person responsible for distributing promos to participants after the event. There should only be 1 Primary Organizer for each conference.

Additional Event Staff – This includes any additional organizers, moderators for multi-track events, event assistants, etc. The event size chosen by the primary organizer determines the number of additional staff who can receive promos. Review Judge Academy’s sponsorship package sizes for details. 

Presenter – Presenters are expected to be prepared to deliver a quality presentation or workshop to attendees. Each organizer might have different deadlines for how early a presenter needs to have their materials prepared. In order to best manage a conference, it is recommended that organizers and staff members do not also take on the role of a presenter. If they choose to do so, they will only receive the promos support for one of these roles.

Backup Presenter – In addition to staff and presenters, an event can have one backup presenter. This is an experienced person who is ready to jump in to help present if technical issues arise or a presenter loses connection. They should either have a relevant presentation of their own prepared or have access to the other presenters’ presentations prior to the conference. Regardless of whether or not this person ends up presenting, they will be counted as a Presenter when determining support. The event size chosen by the primary organizer determines the number of additional staff who can receive promos. Review Judge Academy’s sponsorship package sizes for details. 

Community Champion – This is the Judge Academy staff person who is responsible for oversight of conference sponsorship.

Promos will be distributed primarily in packs.

  • Promo packs will be two card packs for digital events, or four card packs for in-person events.This reflects the increased time and input that goes into attending a physical conference.
  • Two card packs include the two most recently released promos. Four card packs include those two, along with two other promos from a previous wave.

 

Allocation

Great conferences wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of the presenters, organizers, and everyone else who helps make them happen. Our conference support aims to recognize that work, and encourage more people to turn their own ideas into presentations and conferences for others to learn from.

Updated Promo Policies for 2022

Attendee
Every certified JA Judge or L3 Emeritus who fulfills the organizers requirements for attendance will receive 1 promo pack.

  • We expect attendees to be present and engaged at the conferences they attend. Organizers will each have their own attendance or participation requirements, and may set other expectations on the event page. Judges who apply and are accepted to an event are expected to follow the expectations set by the organizer in order to receive support.
  • The organizer is responsible for setting and enforcing attendance expectations with attendees. This might include feedback requests, attendance checks, sign-in sheets, or another method of tracking participation. Exceptions to this should be agreed upon with the conference organizer ahead of time.

Presenter
Every presenter will receive a pack for presenting. This will be in addition to the pack most presenters will receive for attending. This pack is given as a thank you for the completed act of presenting at the conference. A person who creates a presentation but is unable to present it will not receive a presenter pack, but is welcome to give that same presentation at a later conference.

  • A presenter should be a certified L1+, but exceptions can be made when the presenter is not certified, but can offer a unique perspective that is important to the learning goals of the conference. Examples include a TO who can talk about their expectations from a judge, an expert in public speaking or some other skill judges frequently use, or things like that.
  • If a presenter or event staff person is not able to attend the event, or is not a certified JA Judge or L3 emeritus, they will not receive a pack for attendance. For instance, if a presenter can only take part during their presentation they will receive a single pack  for presenting, but not the pack for attendance.

Organizer
The conference organizer will receive two packs in addition to the pack they receive for attendance.

Staff
Additional event staff will receive a pack for their staff work in addition to the pack they receive for attendance.

Preview Promo
As further recognition, presenters, staff, and organizers will also receive a previewed Judge Academy Promo. Those previewed promos will ONLY be available to conference staff and presenters until the End of Year Celebration conferences.

L3 Bonus
Conferences give judges the chance to learn, not only from the presenters, but from their fellow attendees as well. To recognize the added benefit they bring to a conference through their active participation, L3s who qualify as having attended will receive an additional attendee pack.

Venue
An organizer may request a promo pack to be given to the venue that hosts the conference as a thank you.

Distribution Policies

The primary organizer of a conference is responsible for the distribution of promos.

  • Physical conference promos will be distributed directly to attendees at the event.
  • Physical conference promos that arrive to the organizer after the day of the event will be distributed by mail by the conference organizer.
  • Digital conference promos will be distributed by mail by the conference organizer.

Just as each community of judges is different, we expect each judge conference to be a little different from the others. As a conference organizer, you know best how to serve the needs of your particular community of judges. These guidelines outline our general expectations of the conferences we sponsor, but as long as you stay within those guidelines, you are encouraged to make your particular conference your own. For more information, feel free to read our Conference FAQ or reach out to other judges in the community. (Discord is a great resource!)

Before You Apply

Before you apply for a conference, it is important to ask yourself a few questions. You will need to answer many of these on your application, and the others should guide you throughout your process.

Why do I want to hold a conference? 
Every conference should start with a clear idea of who or what your focus will be. Your conference can be about a particular part of the rules or focus on community building in a particular area or taking advantage of a group of judges coming together for a specific event. Our application criteria can help guide your decision. With so many conference applications coming in, we are hoping to see conference proposals that go beyond just having a conference because your area hasn’t had one this quarter.  

When and where do I want to hold my event?
Make sure you have a venue that can host it. We recommend having a few possible dates, in case your initial choice overlaps with other events previously scheduled. We also recommend applying at least two months in advance, especially for physical conferences where you want to distribute promos at your event. Also decide if your event will be held in a physical or digital format. 

How large will my event be? / How much support do I want to ask for?
Consider things like space limits at the venue and how many judges similar events have gotten in attendance numbers. Remember that bigger is NOT better. We want conferences to be interactive, not just a series of lectures to passive listeners.
With this information, decide what size conference you want to apply for using the chart below:

Our Application Criteria

Factors for Consideration

We would love to accept every application we receive, but that is sadly not possible. Below are the criteria we use when evaluating applications, which can hopefully guide you in crafting your own conference proposals.

One of the first things we look at is what other conferences have already been approved in the same region or area as the new proposal, and around the same time. We do not have specific limits on how many conferences a particular area can host in a particular time frame, but we want to space out conferences in terms of area and schedule. This helps to avoid overcrowding the schedule, and to ensure our resources are being widely distributed throughout the global judge community. 

We also look at the theme and learning goal of the conference. We take a number of factors into consideration, but we focus on three things in particular:

  • Topic Selection
    Is this a topic that has recently been covered in the same general area? If one area holds a conference on phases of combat, we are unlikely to approve a conference on a similar topic a month or two later in that same geographic area.
  • Uniqueness
    We are more likely to approve conferences that cover newer ground, or that take a different approach to a particular part of judging than one might often see at conferences. 
  • Involvement
    We favor conferences that take advantage of the unique opportunities created by bringing people together in real time, in person or in a chat room. Workshops with hands-on learning opportunities, mock tournaments, presentations that focus on discussion instead of just one person lecturing, panel discussions that allow judges to hear a range of perspectives on how to approach an issue in judging – these are all great ways to take advantage of the conference format.

Lastly, we look at the conference organizers themselves, especially their past history running conferences. If an organizer had challenges with a past conference, or we have received negative feedback we will likely want to see improvement from that organizer before sponsoring their conferences again.

Remember: Judge Academy wants the conferences you put on to be great. If you have an idea you want to discuss or questions on how to make something happen, there is a big community of passionate folks who have been organizing conferences a long time. Reach out to your fellow judges! A great place to start is the Judge Academy Discord.

Conferences at Large Events

Big events like Regional Championships and CommandFests can bring a number of judges together, and provide a great opportunity for a conference. We are happy to support these when possible. 

Our first choice is to partner with the tournament/event organizer (TO) themselves, or a judge they have chosen to work with for this purpose. Coordinating with the TO on things like use of event space or ensuring the conference schedule integrates with the event schedule can make the event planning a lot easier. Anyone who wishes to run a conference in conjunction with a large event should check with that event TO first. 

COVID Safety

Covid continues to be a concern, in ways that vary greatly from one area to the next. 

For physical conferences, organizers are responsible for complying with any and all local or venue-specific rules, regulations, and guidelines. Organizers may also impose their own restrictions on any conference they are hosting (for example – requiring masks or proof of vaccination to attend).

The Application

Once you have a clear idea of what your conference will be like, the next step is to apply by filling out our Conference Sponsorship Request Form.

Acceptance is not guaranteed until your specific application has been approved.

Informal discussions with JA staff or submitted plans for a series of events do not constitute official approval for any individual event.

We strongly recommend that you wait until your application for sponsorship has been approved before announcing your event or soliciting applications. If you do announce your event before being approved you must make clear that your event has not yet been approved and promos may not be available.

We strongly encourage organizers to submit their applications as far in advance as possible. The conference application process can take up to two weeks from submission till decision about approval, with promos sent out after your application is approved. 

We will endeavor to get promos to organizers before their physical events when possible. The complexity of shipping, particularly across borders, means that we cannot predict when packages will arrive, but we recommend expecting about 4 weeks from application approval to receipt of your promos, and 6-8 weeks or more if an international border will be crossed.

Promo Distribution

The primary organizer is responsible for the distribution of conference promos after the event. It is up to the organizer to decide how to determine who qualifies as having attended the event. Conference Organizers may choose to require a feedback form or other deliverable, or a requirement to attend x number of seminars. These requirements should be clear on the event page when applications open and must be repeated during the event itself.

Conferences that do not offer support for all attendees should make sure that information is clear on the Event page when applications open. This includes any publicity for an event that has not yet been officially approved for sponsorship.

So that all attendance numbers, roles, and levels can be verified, all judges will need to apply to the event or be added by the organizer via the Judge Academy Events Portal in order to receive promo support.

For physical conferences, the expectation is that Judge Academy sponsorship promos will be distributed in person at the event itself. If that is not possible, the organizer is responsible for finding another means of distribution.

For digital conferences, the conference organizer is responsible for distributing sponsorship promos after the event.  

In person distribution (in person conferences) or mailing distribution (digital conferences) are the expected methods of distribution, but conference organizers are welcome to make other arrangements when all parties involved are in agreement. Example: An organizer may arrange with some attendees to give them their promos by hand if they are both going to be at an upcoming event together.

In order to distribute promos remotely, you may need to collect address or other personal information from attendees. That information should not be shared with anyone else without the attendee’s permission. Be sure to set exact deadlines with attendees so they have enough time to get you the information you need to ship out promos.

Organizers are expected to mail promo support to all eligible participants within 2 weeks of receipt of the promos from Judge Academy. Please note that while basic shipping of promos should always be free, some organizers may choose to offer Tracking or other Methods of shipping to attendees, and some of these options may come at an additional charge.

If promos are lost or damaged when distributed from the conference organizer to the attendees, the conference organizer is responsible for replacing them.

The package conference organizers receive will contain extras for this specific purpose.

Organizers: If Your Application Has Been

Approved

Below are the steps you’ll want to follow to make sure you put together a great conference:

Step 1: Announce the Conference
To learn how to create an event on Judge Academy checkout our walkthrough. The initial announcement about your conference should contain as much information as possible:

  • Date and location of conference.
  • Estimated start and end times. (Participants need to know this in order to plan their day!)
  • Event link for registration, and registration deadline.
  • Make it clear whether participants will receive promos. (i.e. is this a Judge Academy sponsored conference?)
  • Information on seminars/presenters that you have already confirmed.
  • Describe your event’s target audience. Are there any restrictions on who can apply, such as L2+ only, a specific region, etc.?
  • Call for presenters. Let people who are interested in presenting at your conference know who to contact to express their interest, and what expectations you have for them.
  • Language. Some Conferences are run in a language other than English. Some conferences may even have seminars in several different languages.

Step 2: Presenters and Reviewing Content
You can start recruiting presenters or conference leaders even before announcing the conference to the general public. Posting a general call for presenters is common practice, but you might also contact individual judges who are specialists in a particular topic or known for being skilled presenters.

Content for conferences should be finalized at least 2 weeks prior to the event. Presentations that lack preparation negatively affect conference attendees and can undermine the hard work that other presenters may invest in your event. As a conference organizer, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are providing attendees with a positive experience.

Step 3: Planning the Conference Schedule
Once you have your final list of topics and presenters, you should start planning the schedule. Each session is usually about 40-50 minutes long. A common setup is to allow 60 minutes per session: 40-45 minutes for the presentation, 10 for questions, and 5-10 for a break. That said, many organizers have found success using different set-ups, so there is always room for innovation! All Judge Academy requires is that your conference contains at least 4 hours of educational content. 

You should consider a break for lunch in the middle of the day if the conference is going to be particularly lengthy. Don’t forget to allow some time at the beginning to give people a chance to work out any technology issues before the official conference start time. Lastly, since one of the goals is to have judges build connections with each other, consider having some time for introductions, an icebreaker, or other ways to encourage judges to get to know each other.

Step 4: Promos & Feedback Forms
At the end of your event, or soon after, you will need to distribute promos. You will likely have extras after distribution. Hold on to those for a while as replacements just in case any promos are lost in the mail or damaged on the way to your attendees. 

It is important to gather feedback to help you plan a better conference next time, and to help presenters improve their presentation skills. Judge Academy does not mandate the use of feedback forms for sponsored events, though we strongly encourage organizers to collect feedback via whatever method best suits their needs. Many organizers have created before/after topic quizzes, virtual hand raises, or other ways to ensure their attendees stay engaged in the presentations.

You are welcome to use this Feedback Form Template, although you can feel free to use your own or find other ways to encourage and facilitate feedback. Our experience has shown that mandatory or anonymous feedback is not as constructive, and highly suggest ensuring that either the presenter (or you) have a way to reach out to the attendee if clarifications or more information is needed. You can also share our Judge Academy Conference Feedback form, instead of (or in addition to) your own. 

Step 5: Last Steps
Once you have confirmed that all promos have been delivered, you will need to fill out the Sponsorship Return Form and mail the extra promos back to us at the Judge Academy office. (This form is still in the works and will be available very soon.)

If you tried something new, or learned something, or have anything else you want to share with organizers, post about it on the judge-conferences channel on the Judge Academy Discord.

Denied

Don’t panic! Talk to your community about what can be done to improve your application. Reach out to experienced conference organizers for their advice, revamp your conference application, then try again as soon as you think you’re ready! The conversation is always ongoing in the judge-conferences channel on the Judge Academy Discord.

These are questions we are frequently asked. Judge Academy staff members will continually update this list.

If you still have questions after reading these, consider reaching out to other judges who have organized conferences, or posting in the judge-conference channel on the Judge Academy Discord, or in any other online judge community you are a part of. 

General Questions

What exactly is Judge Academy’s (JA) role in terms of conferences?
We at Judge Academy don’t run or organize judge conferences. That is up to you as a potential organizer, and you don’t need our approval to hold an unsponsored conference. What JA can offer is sponsorship. If your conference is sponsored by us, we will send out promo cards for you to distribute to your attendees. We have guidelines for what kind of conferences we will or won’t sponsor, and what we expect from the conferences we do sponsor, and organizers who fail to meet those guidelines may not be approved for future events.

How do you evaluate a conference and if you want to sponsor that organizer’s conferences again in the future?
The best judges of how well a conference goes are the attendees, and so our primary means of evaluation is the feedback we get. Every time someone fills out a conference feedback form after attending a conference, it helps us get a better idea of what went well and what could be improved. We also take into account how the organizer carried out what they intended, how well the promos were distributed, and other factors. The feedback we collect is for our own use in evaluating conferences and organizers. If you have feedback you want to share with the organizer or other presenters, please feel free to contact them directly.

Planning Questions

How long does a conference have to be to get sponsorship?
The standard is at least four hours of educational time. That doesn’t have to only be presentations; having a lunch break where people break up into small groups to discuss relevant topics or listen to a panel discussion while they eat, holding games or contests that help people learn, anything like that can qualify. One of our goals is to make conferences as accessible as possible, so we are open to making adjustments or exceptions as needed, like circumstances where four hours in a row wouldn’t be possible. That being said, our expectation is for four educational hours unless specifically approved by Judge Academy staff.

Can I charge money for my conference to help cover food/location/the cool thing I want to hand out, etc.?
As a general rule we discourage charging money, but you are welcome to do so if you believe it is absolutely necessary. You can also keep the event free, but offer a low stress way for people to make donations if they wish. What you cannot do is tie the distribution of promos to a cost. Every person who attends your event and fulfills the attendance requirements you set gets promos.

How should I communicate information about the event to my attendees?
All announcements or other relevant information should be posted on the Judge Academy page for your specific event. Using a Discord to facilitate further communication is great, but please remember that not all your attendees will use Discord.

If my conference is digital, do I need to limit who can attend by region?
Our focus is on regional and local events, and there are a couple of reasons for that. First, one of the best parts of a conference is the ability for judges to meet and build connections with each other. Judging is an international community, but since most judges will work primarily with other judges in their area, we want to focus on fostering those connections. Secondly, we’ve now reached a point where we have organizers stepping forward in every region to cover a wide range of topics, with the perspective and context that is most relevant to that area. Many times, when we get a proposal to do a global conference on a particular topic, we are already working with organizers to create events in their area on the same topic. Long story short, while we are potentially open to sponsoring conferences that are open to all or most regions, unless there is a very strong case for why this particular topic needs to have such a broad audience, our preference will be to sponsor conferences that are focused to a particular region, or at most, a few neighboring ones.

Can I hold a hybrid (physical and digital) conference? 
We have had a few experiments with hybrid conferences, with varied success. Given the advantages of physical conferences and the fact that not everyone will be able to attend, we are open to people trying out different ways of making this work, but there are a few things to keep in mind: Attendees will receive promos according to how they participate- 4 card packs for those who attend physically, and 2 card packs for digital attendees. The conference organizer will be responsible for tracking both kinds of attendance and sending out promos to those who take part digitally. Conference organizers will also need to ensure that digital attendees are able to participate by having someone monitor the online chat and relay digital attendees’ questions and comments to the presenter.

Can presenters cover games other than Magic that judges may be involved in running?
There are a number of topics and issues that MTG judges deal with that also come up in other games, and we welcome the chance for judges to improve their own skill and understanding by hearing different perspectives. A presentation that covers a general topic such as how to deal with children at your event using examples from both Magic and other games would be welcome. But all content should be relevant to Magic judges, so a presentation on the rules of a different game would not qualify as the kind of educational content we expect from a Magic judge conference we sponsor. You are welcome to have a presentation that focuses on a different game before or after the main part of the conference, or to have one that runs concurrently with MTG content, but your attendees should have the option to spend the entire conference in Magic-focused presentations.

Similarly, judges from other game communities are welcome to attend your conference, but are still subject to the same guidelines about eligibility for promos as for any other conference.

Can I include a panel discussion as part of my conference? If so, do the panelists count as presenters?
Panel discussions can be a wonderful part of a conference, and a great way to take advantage of having people together in the same place, whether in person or online. If you believe this will result in having more presenters, you will need to indicate that during the initial application form submission.

Can I run a mock tournament? If I do, who can I list as a presenter? 
Mock tournaments make for great conferences! If you have some judges who are there primarily to mentor and help others learn from the experience, those are good folks to consider as presenters, though it should not exceed the number of presenters who are approved for your size of event. Make it clear to everyone involved ahead of time who will be considered a presenter during a mock tournament to avoid bad feelings and misunderstandings later on.

Promo Questions

Can I offer a promo pack to a local game store (LGS) as thanks for hosting our conference?
Absolutely! Holding conferences at game stores is a great way to strengthen ties between judges and stores, and we are happy to support that with our sponsorship.

A person claims to have attended my digital conference but I do not believe they were present or participated. (Example: A person was signed into the conference zoom, but was unresponsive and did not interact with the conference in any way.) Do I have to give them promos?
As the event organizer, you have final say on what constitutes attendance for your particular event, and who has or hasn’t met those requirements. It is also your responsibility to make clear to your attendees what those requirements are.

Conference Application Form
Conference Feedback Form
Sponsorship Return Form (Coming Soon)

Current Judge Academy Promo Cards
2022 Quarter 3 / July – September

Training Grounds

Training-Grounds

Smothering Tithe

Smothering-Tithe

Presenter Exclusive Preview:
Growing Rites of Itlimoc / Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun

Front Face

Growing-Rites

Back Face

Itlimoc-Crade

Past Judge Academy Promo Cards

2022

2021

2020