Welcome to The Judge Corner, a column designed to explain some things in that happen in the Magic Judge world and show how those things are important to you, the players. We’ll cover new mechanics, changes to rules and policy, why and how judges do deck checks, and other relevant things to help improve your play and your interactions with judges at events.
This week, I wanted to talk about something that should be relevant in any kind of tournament, from your local Friday Night Magic (FNM) all the way to your regional Magic: The Gathering Grand Prix (GP): calling for a judge.
First and foremost, judges are there for you, the player. We run events, answer questions, and help players have the best possible tournament experience. We can also help you understand other aspects of tournament operations, including how to fill out a decklist, how to read standings sheets, and how to understand your tie-breakers. In short, judges are the people that help you understand your event, and we’re there to ensure that everyone is playing by the same set of rules.
Regardless of the size and scale of your event, you should feel free to reach out to a judge with questions before your tournament begins. During the tournament, however, we have many things that we’re responsible for – posting pairings, performing deck-checks, ensuring the tournament runs smoothly – so if you have a question for us, you’ll have to call us over to your table.
To call a judge, simply raise your hand and call out, “Judge!” Say it loud enough that a judge will be able to hear you over the sound of other players talking, but not so loud that you disturb those other players. Keep your hand raised until the judge comes to your table. Calling “Judge!” alerts us that someone needs help, and raising your hand helps us find you. Without both, a judge will not be able to get to you as soon as is often necessary.
Once a judge arrives at your table, they will ask what you need. Here are a few of the many reasons why you might want to call a judge:
- There’s a problem with the match – You were assigned the wrong opponent, there’s a problem with the game, a player is missing cards, or there’s a discrepancy with life totals.
- A player is absent or tardy – This often happens at the beginning of a match; players are considered tardy when they aren’t in their seats when the round timer starts.
- There’s a problem with the game state – Maybe you aren’t sure how to resolve a spell, or the game state needs to be rectified because you forgot to do something important on your previous turn.
- You need the Oracle text of a card – When a player is playing with an older version of a card that might not have the most current wording, or they are playing with a foreign language version of a card, you may call for a judge and request the most up-to-date rules text.
- Watch the match while a player uses the restroom – Sometimes a player needs to use the restroom during a match – it happens! A judge should be called to watch the match and to give you a time extension upon your return.
- You have a question about the rules of the game – You might need clarification on layers, state-based actions, who has priority, how combat works, or how to redirect non-combat damage to Planeswalkers.
Reminder: If you’re concerned that asking your question in front of your opponent will give away too much information about your strategy, you can always ask the judge to step away from the table.
You shouldn’t be afraid to call a judge, and you should avoid asking your opponent a rules question that might affect the outcome of your game. Unlike judges, who are there for your benefit, your opponent’s objective is to win the game – and they may not even have a perfect understanding of the rules! If you’d like an official ruling, please call a judge. At worst, you’ll get confirmation that your opponent was right; at best, you’ll get the answer you were looking for and can make a more informed decision.
There’s no shame in calling a judge – it doesn’t and shouldn’t reflect on your abilities as a Magic player and your knowledge of the game. I’m a judge, and I have called a judge during an event because I, too, have forgotten something when I was under pressure. It really does happen to everyone!
Before I go, I’d like to share some important rules resources with you. These are great if you want to improve your play by brushing up on rules and policy, and they’re perfect for those situations when you’re playing Magic with friends and can’t call for a judge.
- The Magic: The Gathering Comprehensive Rules – It’s lengthy, but trust me, you can find the answer to most rules questions in here.
- The Magic: The Gathering Tournament Rules documents – This includes the Magic: The Gathering Tournament Rules and the release notes for each set.
- Gatherer – Gatherer lets you search for any card in Magic‘s rich history. Gatherer includes the Oracle Text (or most current rules text) for every card in Magic, as well as any rulings that have been made about that card.
- Ask A Magic Judge – Call a virtual judge from the comfort of your kitchen table. Ask A Magic Judge is staffed 24 hours a day with some of the best judges on the planet, ready to answer your questions and even explain their reasoning. If you’re nervous about calling a judge at a tournament, you can always ask here.
Judges are here to support you and help you play a good, fair game of Magic, win or lose. Be sure to raise your hand and call for the local judge at your next tournament. The only embarrassing question is the one you don’t ask.
Header design: Justin Treadway
Header art: “Ascended Lawmage” by Ryan Yee