Judge Academy is proud to be a part of your journey to becoming a certified Magic: The Gathering Judge. We have designed a curriculum to help develop your game knowledge, tournament familiarity, and interpersonal skills – all things that combine to form an effective judge and community leader.
Detailed below are the requirements to attain each level of certification through our program. If you have questions about eligibility, please refer to the appropriate page.
The Rules Advisor certification allows for a player to set themselves apart in their communities by recognizing a heightened understanding of Magic rules and interactions. This certification is perfect for a individual who wants to offer additional assistance in resolving complicated game situations or answer rules related questions from other players.
RAs are only tested on the rules of the game, but have not been tested on how to run a tournament or deal with player issues. If you are a Rules Advisor who wants to learn how to help solve issues when things go wrong, or how to run an event at your local game store, than you’ll want to start looking at Level 1.
RAs are non-paying members and not certified Judges, and therefore do not get access to Judge Benefits.
RAs will be awarded upon completion of the Magic Core Competencies track.
- Steps and Phases of a Turn
- Combat in Depth
- Casting Spell and Activating Abilities
- Keyword Actions and Abilities
- Replacement Effects and Triggered Abilities
- Layers (Focus on Layer 7)
- Priority and State Based Actions
- Detail of Different Magic Formats
- RA Exam
In addition to demonstrating sufficient knowledge of the Magic Comprehensive Rules, a Level 1 Judge understands the Customer Service skills and Regular REL policies needed to run a small store-level event such as an FNM.
Level 1 Judges are not tested on more complex sections of the rules or on Competitive REL policies. Some Level 1 Judges will be capable of floor judging a Competitive REL event unsupervised, but this is not a default expectation of the role.
The Level 1 Curriculum Includes all of the RA modules and tests, as well as the following modules:
- Fostering a Positive Environment
- Encouraging Sportsmanship
- Conflict Resolution
- Public Speaking
- Teaching Skills
- Event Promotion and Marketing
- Building Relationships with Local Game Stores
- Demoing Magic
- Building Your Judge Brand
- Being an Effective Host
- Making Announcements
- Event Logistics
- Introduction to Investigations
- Delivering a Ruling
- Magic Tournament Rules
- The JAR in Depth
Additionally, Level 1 candidates will need to complete the following 2 prerequisites before unlocking the L1 Membership in the store:
Level 2 or Level 3 Endorsement
A fully automatic system without a human checkpoint can lead to issues, so candidates will also need to get an endorsement from an L2+ (Level 2 or Level 3) Judge. They can endorse you from your profile page.
We listened to the feedback of Judges around the world, and came up with the endorsement system to help alleviate their concerns. In the past, every L1 Candidate needed to find one L2+ that was willing to help them to become Level 1. This has not changed. However, in the past, that L2+ needed to be physically present in order to interview and test the L1. That caused some high barriers to entry, and occasionally put a heavy burden on L2+ Judges, and that is something we changed about the system. Currently, the L2+ Judge endorsing you does not need to be physically present for any part of your process.
If you are looking for someone to endorse you, consider the Judges in your area. Our communication hub has forums, discord channels, and many local areas have their own Facebook groups. During normal circumstances, you can also always head to your local game store during an event to meet those that currently judge. While the process of getting an endorsement may be quick, it can take some time to get to know those in your area. Part of the benefit of requiring L1s to be responsible for finding their own endorsements is that is pushes them to start connecting with their local judge community. In both our local and global communities, judges lean on and depend on each other, and it’s important to know other judges and to be able to know where to go if you need help. Therefore, before you can become a Level 1 Judge, you need to show that you are resourceful enough to find help when you need it.
Endorsements do not have to be full reviews. It can be hard for remote judges to find another judge without traveling great distances, let alone a Level 2+. At this time, the endorsement can be made at any point prior to purchasing your membership. We suggest finding someone sooner rather than later in your process, as it can sometimes add unfair pressure on the L2+ for a candidate to say “Well, I’ve already passed the test, come on!”. Passing the rules and policy tests for L1 will be enough to prove they have met the base level expectation of what it means to be a Level 1 Judge from a knowledge side. With that taken care of, the endorsement is more about who the judge is as a person, since that is a thing we can’t check electronically.
Although we ask that you put some thought into the conversation you have with the candidate, we do not expect the process to take more than 30 min or so. Below I’ve listed some example items for the endorsing Judge that they might want to discuss with the candidate, although these are just suggestions:
- Is this person a real person who is not already a certified judge?
- How did they hear about Judge Academy, and why do they want to become a judge?
- If you already knew this person, what kind of a community member are they? Are they a helpful player? Are they toxic to the community?
- If you didn’t already know this person, why did they come to you? Are there other judges in their community?
Level 1 Test
Upon completion of the modules above the Level 1 final test will become available and a score of 80% or higher will be required to pass. Once a candidate has completed all of the prerequisites, they can go to the account details tab of their profile (or www.judgeacademy.com/memberships) to become an official JA Judge and receive their certification and membership. The membership dues for all members, regardless of level, are $75 USD + tax where appropriate per year.
Level 1 Continuing Education Requirements
As rules, policies, and the state of Organized Play update and change, new or updated modules will be necessary to ensure that Level 1s stay up to date on their knowledge without a requirement to work a specific number of events. If new required courses are added in the future, judges will be notified by email and on the site itself.
Level 1s do not need to be pursuing Level 2 in order to acquire the Badges available or begin to take the L2 courses.
A Level 2 judge has been certified to run events at Competitive REL, and has higher knowledge of the rules than that of a Level 1 Judge. They are responsible for most in-store Competitive REL events, and represent the bulk of judges on the floor of a large-scale tournaments. A Beginning Level 2 will be expected to have an understanding of the Comprehensive Rules that exceeds that expected of Level 1 Judges, including which section to refer to when they are unsure.
A newer Level 2 may find themselves placed into lead roles for the first time, including head judging smaller events with other judges in their store, or possibly leading a team at a mid-sized event. Because of this, it’s important that a new Level 2 is familiar with Event Logistics concerns such as Appeals and Deck Lists/Checks, which are generally not used at Regular REL events or small events with a single Judge.
Prerequisites for Level 2 Membership:
1 – Must hold an active Level 1 certification and have completed all Level 1 Required Courses (Core Competency, Event Management, Community Building tracks)
2 – Must complete all Level 2 Required Coursework:
Advanced Comprehensive Rules
- 100s Game Concepts I
- 100s Game Concepts II
- 200s Parts of a Card
- 300s Card Types
- 400s Zones
- 500s Turn Structure
- 600s I Spells, Abilities
- 600s II Effects
- 700s Additional Rules
- 800s+900s Multiplayer + Casual
- Advanced Comprehensive Rules Test
**After Completing the Advanced Comprehensive Rules section, L1s will receive the Advanced Comprehensive Rules Badge on their profile.**
- General Philosophy and the difference between RELs
- Gameplay Errors I
- Gameplay Errors II
- Backing Up (Or Not)
- Tournament Errors I
- Tournament Errors II
- Unsporting Conduct I
- Unsporting Conduct II
- Competitive REL Policy Test
**After Completing the Competitive REL section, L1s will receive the Comp REL Badge on their profile.**
- Working with other Judges
- Handling Decklists
- Deck Checks
- Basics of Leading at Events
3 – Must have a recommendation review from judging together at a Wizards Sanctioned, In-person Competitive REL event written by a Level 2 or Level 3 Judge in the previous 12 months.
You will notice that while a specific number of events is not mandatory, you will need to work at least one Competitive Event with a Level 2 or Level 3 Judge in order to get your review. This is one of the most asked about requirements for L2s, so we want to take a moment to address this. We had a long discussion about the role of L2s and whether or not someone without prior experience should be able to go from Uncertified to Level 2 without ever having worked a Comp REL Event, or even any events at all. Our goal with this requirement was that L1s who gained the needed experience prior to the COVID pandemic would still be able to advance without lowering the bar for all L2s.
Now, “pre-COVID” is quite a long time ago, so why is it still 12 months? A lot can change about a person’s skill sets, strengths, weaknesses, and motivations in a year. Most judges will not feel comfortable recommending someone and discussing how they did at an event they worked on over a year ago, so we did not want to set the baseline any further out than that. Anything older than 12 months will be looked at on a case by case basis, but is considered an exception to policy, so it needs JA Approval. If you are an L2 Candidate and a Level 2 or Level 3 wants to submit a review from an event that was over 12 months ago, please have them contact us for approval and permissions.
4 – Level 2 Exam
Upon completion of the modules above the candidate can schedule their L2 Exam. This will be an open book, timed online test. There will be paper testing available as needed. If you need a paper test or any other accommodations, please let us know.
L2 Continuing Education Requirements
Without a specific number of events required to remain active (just as with L1), and as rules, policies, and the state of Organized Play update and change, new or updated modules will be necessary to ensure that Level 2s stay up to date on their knowledge. This will include regular update exam for L2s. If new required courses or update exams are added in the future, judges will be notified by email and on the site itself. We are still debating whether or not to do something like add a special badge if you are “Up to date on all changes”. Update exams will be published with a deadline of at least one month after they become available. They are not intended to re-test L2s on basic knowledge, but rather ensure that they are aware of and up to date on anything that has changed recently.
Level 2 Advanced Badges and Level 3
Premier judges are experts in the field and the leaders of Premier Organized Play. They are the leaders on the floor of large competitive events, run many other Premier Events, and share their expertise and knowledge with other judges. They are involved with the global program at Judge Academy, and you will often see them participating in and/or leading program projects, discussions, etc.
Becoming Level 3 is a demanding process that requires the candidate to demonstrate exceptional commitment, skill, knowledge, and diplomacy. It is a substantial achievement and the highest recognized level of Magic Judge.
The L3 process is more involved, and therefore I’ve displayed the process in a Step by Step picture below. There are two Badges on your way to L3. One that does not expire (TL on Sides at a large event) and one that does (Badge to TL on Large Event D2).
Now that all of the base classes for Level 3 have been uploaded, you’ll find extra modules at the bottom of each Pillar, which contains spots for the Pillar-specific self-review, and the Level 3 Recommendations. The full Level 3 Advancement Process will open at the start of 2022. However, in the meantime, Steps 1-4 Below can all be completed by anyone wanting to begin or continue their process.
As we mentioned previously, candidates will need a Self-Review and 2 Recommendations in each of the first 5 Pillars approved before attempting the practical for their Side Events Lead Badge at a Large Tournament or Convention (~410+ players). For those who may have already had experience in a similar role, we will be processing Waivers for the practical (you will still be required to complete the modules and reviews). To get the waiver, you’ll need a sign-off from 2 TOs for previous performance as Swiss or Overall Side Events Lead. The form for Sign-offs by TOs is available here.
Once you are ready to either schedule your practical, or ready to apply for a waiver, you can do so through the Sides Lead Badge Application Linked Here.
Once you have the Side Events Lead Badge, you’ll need the Self Reviews and 2 Recommendations for the last two pillars (Penalty and Policy Philosophy and Investigations) in order to take the L3 Preliminary Exam, which will be available online in January 2022.
After you have passed the L3 Preliminary Exam, and you are prepared, you can request to schedule an Investigations and Policy Interview, to earn your Day 2 Team Lead Badge. This badge expires after one year and is required for proceeding in the L3 process.
Self Review and Recommendation Expiration
Both judges and judging are ever-evolving, and an accurate analysis may become inaccurate over time, which is why fundamental elements of the L3 advancement process expire. Any self-review written as part of the L3 process is valid for one year after approval. Any recommendation is written as part of the L3 process is valid for two years. Validity is checked based on the date of submission for a practical evaluation: steps 4, 6, or 8.
As an exception, the time between March 2020 to March 2022 is not considered for the purposes of expiration, due to the impact of COVID-19. For example, a self-review written in October 2019 will be valid until October 2022. A recommendation written in January 2020 would be valid until January 2024.
The full L3 Process is below:
If you have ANY questions about where you are in the process, and what you should be doing moving forward, PLEASE reach out to me at Advancement@JudgeAcademy.com so we can open a dialogue and find a solution that works for you.
Level 3 Advanced Certifications
L3 Evaluation Lead Badge:
If you are interested in becoming an L3 Evaluation Lead, there is a process to do so.
First, since you are expected to evaluate candidates based on the 7 Pillars within Judge Academy’s L3 process, you will be required to take and pass the L3 courses to be an Evaluation Interview member/observer.
To become an L3 Evaluation Lead, you must have participated in at least 3 Evaluations or Panels. Then, you will be contracted with another Evaluation Lead serving in the Observer role. After you have submitted the L3 Evaluation, your experience will be reviewed for approval.
If you have former Panel Lead experience and wish to get the L3 Evaluation Lead badge, we’d love to help! We still ask that you complete the necessary L3 modules on Judgeacademy.com, in order to ensure that you are up to date and current, and to understand what has been taught/expected of Level 3s through the process. Once you have completed all of the Level 3 modules, please email Advancement@JudgeAcademy.com.
Large Tournament Head Judge Badge:
While we test L3s on Team Leading at a Large Event, and expect all Level 3s to be able to Head Judge mid-sized events (L3s recommended as HJ for events over 226 players), there will be events that occur that are larger, more logistically complicated, or have high enough prizes on the line that the level of experience needed of a Head Judge to ensure all appeals, investigations, round turnovers and breaks are handled appropriately is not necessarily expected of all Level 3s.
For events 410+ players, 2 day events with over 10+ rounds, or specialty invitations and other elite prizes, we have created an additional badge available for Level 3s. Requirements are below:
- Hold an active L3 Certification.
- Complete all required L3 modules.
- Serve as Team Lead at a Large Event for each of the following, submitting a short event-based self review after each event. If you are in a Head Judge or Appeals Judge role, you may write a review of a team lead for a given task to cover this requirement.
- Paper -OR- Pairings AND Slips
- Stage -OR- End of Round
- Deck Lists -OR- Deck Checks
- Endorsements from 2 LTHJs to attempt the LTHJ Practicum
- Passing L3P Exam within the last 6 months.
Once Steps 1-5 are completed, you’ll be able to schedule your Practicum, where you will serve as an Appeals Judge for a Large Tournament.
After the first event (your LTHJ Practicum) you will need an assessment/recommendation from the Head Judge of the event. Regardless if you receive your recommendation or not, you’ll complete an event-based self review covering both areas you excelled in, and those areas that need improvement, including any steps you plan to take to improve those skills before the next practical.
After receiving a successful Practicum Review, you’ll be awarded the LTHJ Badge. It is our recommendation that new Large Tournament Head Judges continue to serve as appeals judges 1-2 more times before acting as a sole or Primary Head Judge, as they continue to grow and tone their skills in their new role.
If you previously held a Grand Prix Head Judge Certification, and are interested in obtaining your Large Tournament Head Judge Badge please let us know! We still ask that you complete the necessary L3 modules on Judgeacademy.com, in order to ensure that you are up to date and current, and to understand what has been taught/expected of those L3s serving as your Team Leads.
We also ask for a general self-review to help internalize what pillars/skills may have become rusty and how you plan to work towards polishing those skills as an LTHJ.
Once you have completed all of the Level 3 modules, please email Advancement@JudgeAcademy.com to express your interest and to receive the appropriate links/forms needed.