Getting to Level 2

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The letter F!or getting to my level 2, I had to work very hard.
I made lots of mistakes during the time I was preparing for it, because there were no Levels 2 in the nearby areas to ask for help, and I didn't find any article that fit into this case.
Some time passed, but with help of various fellow judges and my mentors, during the international events I went, I finally acomplished my goal.
After that, I was asking myself "what does a level2 really do?", or what should I do for improving myself as a level2, and that was a little quiz I made in GP Strasbourg (France) and PT San Diego (US), where I received lots of different points of view and ideas for improving from judges all around the world.

So, this article should be like that, "if I had to pass the level 2 again, what should I do?" and once there, continue learning and having fun, because this is all about.

The Beginning

One of the most common mistakes of judges who have been recently promoted to Level 1, is to think that once you've just reach that point, the next step is to immediately work towards Level 2. This is not an ideal thought for a judge to have about the judge program and the promotion between various levels. Being promoted to Level 2 doesn't only mean that you know more or have more experience than the other judges or deserve to be at this level, but that you want to be more involved in the community and the judge program. This means working for the judge program, in various tournaments and outside of them. In order to do that, you should first think about knowing your own community, the judges and players of your area, and your tournament organizers. These are things that can't be done in just one day.

While preparing for the Level 2 exam is necessary, you have to do more than just that and think about going beyond what a Level 1 might do. When I first thought about it, I was judging the tournaments in my city, I was used to judging the PTQs in the nearby areas, and I had been to a couple of Grand Prix events. I was also studying the Comprehensive Rules a bit, but no the other documents, as I had lot of experience because of all the tournaments I went to, I thought that I knew the Universal Tournament Rules, Magic Floor Rules and Penalty Guidelines well enough (but it's always good to review...). From the DCI webpage, I saw that I had reached the prerequisites for being a Level 2 judge, and that I had experience to simply take and pass the exam... at least that is what I thought. The reality was that I didn't pass, as I was too confident and not experienced enough. I thought that it would be just like certifying to be a Level 1 judge, but a little bit harder, and I was wrong. However, I had nobody to tell me that I was prepared, and only had myself to determine if I was ready. But I learned some great things about my failure. I know that even if I had passed the exam, I wouldn't have been promoted to Level 2, simply because I was so unprepared.

If you are thinking about Level 2, then keep in mind that even if you think you've fulfilled the prerequisites, this doesn't automatically mean that you'll be promoted. You must think about doing something more for the program and community. More importantly, you should already be doing those things. Don't wait for these things to come to you, because they won't. Move forward and catch them, go for them. Let your fellow judges know about you, about your intentions, about the work that is about to be done... and don't forget to ask for help. There's a great number of judges waiting for you to ask them for help to prepare you for Level 2... so just ask. Find your mentor (or mentors) and do your work.

The Differences

Regarding knowledge and understanding the of Comprehensive Rules, a Level 2 judge could be the same as a Level 1. That is, a Level 2 judge is someone that knows how the rules of Magic work and the community is aware of that.
In fact, the community is giving the Level 2 judge some more weight into the magic community, making him a reference (in areas where there are no L3). Because of that, the level 2 must think about working hard and reviewing from time to time the rules, so that the community can count on him.

A Level 1 judge is more focused on running tournaments in his own city or area. For example, in-store tournaments of 8 to 16 people, Prerelease events, etc. A Level 2 judge may work more Premiere events (such as Grand Prix Trials or Pro Tour Qualifiers) or even at some international events. A Level 2 will also head judge more events, so he should have more experience from working at more competitive events. Partly this is due to having the recognition of the players and the judge community. But the basic idea is that a Level 2 judge is being recognized as a leader.

As a result, there is an attitude change between a Level 1 judge and a Level 2 judge when it comes to events. By being the leader, the Level 2 judge must be ready to do more things for the community.

Think about reviewing the work done by your fellow judges after every tournament, take te time to talk to them and share opinions. As a Level 2, you're expected to know the right way to:

  • Give feedback to the L3+ judges you work with, let them know that they are doing well or if anything could be done in a different way.
  • Prepare your local players to the high level tournaments with some articles about Frequent Asked Questions, procedurals, etc.
The level 2 is becoming a reference of the area.

The Motivation

Level 1s are very important to the community. They are frequently the first and only judge that the players get to know, so they serve as the "face" that players know (usually in store tournaments or Prereleases) ... But one thing that you should keep in mind, is that there isn't an obligation to go from Level 1 to Level 2. If you are happy doing what you do in your area by running store tournaments, Prereleases, or giving a hand with local PTQs, this is fine. Likewise, the time that you may spend in helping the community may be limited as well. There's no specific requirement to begin working towards Level 2, which is something that I felt during the first two years of being a Level 1. I worked at my local tournaments, I had some fun running them, and sometimes I got some magic product for me as compensation, sweet!

Once you feel that it could be fun and educational to run tournaments outside your city, try to work as a head judge in competitive events. Consider working at international events in order to meet experienced foreign judges, especially once you know a number of judges in your country. If you are curious about the philosophy of how the rules work,judging philosophy, or you're thinking that the methods used in your area should be improved, then you can meet other judges to learn from. This helps you to improve yourself as a judge, and gives you knowledge and concepts from other areas that you can adopt.

If anything above is an example of some of the thoughts you have currently, or is an example of what you are starting to do as a judge, then perhaps you should think about working towards the next level.

The Work To Do

Below is some of the things I found helpful to start doing, as a result of my attempt to certify for Level 2:

1.) Communicate with players: Assist players when needed, making sure to be diplomatic and neutral. Help them when they have doubts about how something works, or when trying to resolve a situation that they don't understand. Make players feel comfortable when calling for a judge. You should also begin to understand the investigation procedure, in talking to the affected players and gaining an understanding of their problem. This is important in knowing how the problem can be addressed and that this is the proper resolution of the problem. Especially to keep the problem from being repeated. Take special notice of delicate situations, to make certain that the players understand what is going on and really try to help them to understand why it is being handled this way. As you judge at more tournaments, you're gain more experience to help you better accomplish this.

2.) Communicate with judges: One of the best and quickest ways to learn is from an experienced Level 2 or higher judge. Ask them questions you may have, explanations on how certain rules or policies work, anecdotes about their own experience. In every tournament that you go to, take care to meet all the judges you work with. Have a chat with them between rounds or during the day, and talk about what's happened during the tournament. Make sure to review judges if you have feedback for them, tell them how are they doing their work, what could be improved, and ask for feedback from judges. Take some time to know the community and know with what are you working with in your area.

3.) Read all the official documents of the DCI, and make summaries of some sections. Translate other section in order to make sure you memorize them. Make sure you understand all the characteristics of a card and try to relate them to concrete points of the comprehensive rules.

4.) Read every published judge article. There you will find information that isn't included in the documents of the DCI, like procedurals, rules philosophy, and lots of experiences from other judges from all around the world.

5.) Use the Judge Center to create practice exams in order to assess your rules knowledge and help better your understanding of the rules.

6.) Search online forums for questions, and try to figure out the answer before looking at the official resolution (Ask the Judge, Saturday Rules School, MTGRULES-L, etc).

The Improvement

If you've done all these things, and been promoted to Level 2, then there are still things to do.

As you were working towards Level 2, you probably learned a number of things. Especially from those things that I listed above. All of these were important in becoming a leader within your community. But even then, you can still improve upon those things you know and make yourself a better judge and leader. I've broken this down into three sections:

1.) Improving study habits: You must continue to study the rules and all the official documents of the DCI. Prepare for tournaments by reading the appropriate FAQs, or searching related articles about common mistakes or questions. It can be a good idea to help in some online forum, by helping people with their questions on certain rules or situations. You can also try to contribute to the Judge Center, by creating questions based on what happens during a tournament. Develop your investigation skills, and how you communicate with procedures. Learning from high level judges in order to gain an understanding of the reasons for policy and procedures beyond just what is written in the comprehensive rules.

2.) Organization: As a head judge, you should be aware of the procedures involved in different kinds of tournaments and the various formats. You should also be conscious about delegating tasks to your floor judges. Make sure to clearly explain what they should be doing, as part of the mentoring process. Make sure new judges understand how some basic tournament procedures work. Think in advance about what could happen during the tournament, to anticipate possible problems. If you are a floor judge, make sure you are capable of accomplishing your assigned tasks, and what the proper procedures are. Try to support the head judge as much as possible, especially if you have experiences that you can share.

3.) Community: Since you are now an Area Judge, you need to keep working within your area. Make sure you know yourself, in terms of strengths and weaknesses. Ask for feedback from other judges, and try to give a review of every judge you work with. This helps develop yourself and your community. Try to know every judge who is local to you, and what their strengths and weaknesses are, so you can help them grow as judges. Provide mentorship to Level 0s and Level 1s, and offer feedback to your local Level 3. Share your knowledge with fellow judges by writing articles. And share experiences and thoughts with the judge list. This can even be done for your players, to make sure they've been educated on what are the correct procedures during a tournament.

In Closing

If your local area is now too small for you, and you want to work far beyond those limits, and you're interested in improving your community, you are in a good way for the level 2.

Remember that the Level 2 is becoming a leader, that's why you should think about working in your leadership skills, because the Level 2 is not only ment to know about the Magic Rules or Policys, etc.

Take the time to talk to the other judges you meet in the tournaments, and try to learn about each of them.. one of the purposes of the community, is to make friends and share with them a great hobby that is, Magic The Gathering.

To my mentors, thanks for your ideas.
To Brian and Carlos, my editors, thanks for your time.
To all the judges in the GP and PT, thanks for your knowledge.

If you want to share some opinions, please contact me at judge.dci@gmail.com
Thanks

Niko.

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