In my junior year of high school, a friend of mine dragged me into a library, handed me a deck, and taught me how to play magic. Back then life seemed so simple. Wake up go to class, go to club meetings, do homework, go to sleep, wake up, repeat. A lot has happened in five years. I’ve become a better player, I’ve gotten certified, and now I’m going to law school. As of writing this article, I have been accepted to both the University of La Verne college of law and the University of the Pacific McGeorge school of law. I haven’t decided yet which I should go to. One of the ways I got into law school was the DCI judge program.
I started judging at GP LA. As there were no certified judges in my area at the time, I was forced to fend for myself. While I didn’t pass on my first attempt, I learned a lot fro judges like John Shannon, Eli Shiffrin, Riki Hayashi and a whole host of other judges. If you’re wondering how the judge program helped get me into law school, I’ll explain.
First taught me how to formulate arguments. Often times you have to give unpopular rulings. Simply ruling and not having the ability to back it is no good. There are times in which simply quoting rules does not effectively end the discussion. The ability to formulate a logical response was something that the LSAT (law school admission test currently the second hardest test of my life) taught me and something the DCI judge program has allowed me to apply. Take for example this situation. I had just given a game loss for deck deck list mismatch when a player side boarded incorrectly and presented 61 cards and had a 14 card sideboard. He at the time didn’t believe he deserved a game loss as to him it was minor. My argument was as follows, first he had already shuffled and counted his deck which means that he should have know the exact number of cards in his deck. This is due to the fact that this is a competitive level event that requires that players know all rules to a level that is greater than that of regular, but not at the extent that is required for professional. Now the problem is not that he has 61 cards, but its that he presented the deck with 61. If he had for example pile shuffled and discovered 61, he could at that time fix the error. But by presenting the deck to his opponent, he had implied that the deck was both legal and correct for this current game. The idea is this, if was doing this intentionally, then its cheating which is governed by a different set of penalties. However I determined that this was unintentional. The reason why we judges issue game losses is for a variety of reasons. One of which is the potential for advantage. Drawing extra cards for example is a good example. If a player has in fact drawn an extra card and both players cannot agree on exactly which is the extra card, then what is the fix above regular. Simply removing a random card creates the possibility that the player would keep the extra card while losing a card that he or she would like to get rid of. The same principal holds for our current situation. By presenting a 61 card deck with only 14 cards in his sideboard creates the potential for advantage. If the game had gone on and the sideboard was discovered to be short a card part way through, how do we fix this without ending the game? Now I managed to convey this point in a simple and effective manner which made the player accept it.
Another skill I’ve learned from my time as a judge is the ability to take in and process large amounts of complex information over a short period of time. For example walking up to an illegal game state, as a judge I have to figure out everything fairly quickly in order not to delay the tournament. One example from a GPT at PT San Diego this past weekend involved hypergenesis and mistbind clique. When the hypergenesis player went off, he did so on his turn. He put into play a Bogarden Hellkite and an Angel of Despair. His opponent had a sower of temptation on the board with another hellkite. Player A had assigned targets to all of his triggers including two damage to the sower of temptation and player B had put a mistbind clique into play. Both player passed priority onto the stack and we began to resolve triggers. The question arose when player B championed his sower with his clique. I had just arrived when the triggers were being resolved. I had only a few seconds to quickly figure out the problem as there were now several cards in the graveyard, multiple creatures in play and pending triggers. One thing the LSAT tests is information gathering and processing. There are no trick questions on the LSAT. Every answers is there and there is nothing you need to know to pass. Instead, you need to have the ability to take in all of the information they give you and use it to find answers. Having analyzed both complex game states as well as the questions of the judges tests, walking into the LSAT felt almost natural.
The final thing the judge program has given me isn’t a skill. Its a host of good friends. By judging, I’ve met people from all over the world. One of the first judges that I learned from was Eli Shiffrin from Arizona. My first interaction was when I was answering a question at GP LA last year. Player A had tapped 1 blue mana and had put a Gigadrowse onto the battlefield. He sat there and didn’t say anything. He then tapped some more mana and then declared his targets and his replication. Player B wanted to know if this was legal. Having never judged a tournament in my life I had no idea what to do. Eli walked by and I attempted to defer to him. He stopped me and the first thing he did was clarify replicate and then told me to make a ruling. I ruled that since no targets were declared before Player A tapped the extra mana, he hadn’t finished casting the spell and as such could continue to pay alternate and additional costs. After the GP, I kept in touch with Eli constantly pestering him with questions about rulings and tournament procedure. He was always ready to answer a questions and help me improve my judging. When I starting writing personal statements for Law school, the first topic I wrote about was how I became certified. When I needed I edited, the first person I turned to was Eli. I had followed Cranial Insertion for years and I knew that if he edited it, it would help me greatly.
I haven’t decided which law school I should attend, but I know that my ability to judge will most likely be hampered. However I think its a fair tradeoff.
I’d like to say thank you to all the judges, players, and tournament organizers who taught me how to judge, listened to my rulings, and let me volunteer for tournaments. If it wasn’t for you guys, I wouldn’t be where I was today.
That’s all for now and remember, when in doubt, give a shout.