The old Magic: The Gathering judge program is completely gone as of Oct. 1, but what’s replacing it? Judge Academy, a brand new “company,” has been founded to take its place. Let’s take a look at what this all means.
A new company
The new Judge Academy is marketing itself as a “company” that is hiring itself out to Wizards of the Coast. I say “company” in quotations because it seemingly won’t be paying judges at all. It appears the only people making money off the service will be the staff and founders: Tim Shields, Nicolette Apraez, Megan Holden, Kyle Knudson, Chris Pompeo, Eric Reasoner, along with the following 10 regional managers.
- Canada – Kaitlin McLachlan, Level 2
- Japan – Ron Foster
- USA-West – Chris Higashi, Level 2, (USA-Northwest/Southwest)
- USA-South – Nicholas Zitomer, Level 3 (USA-South/Southeast)
- USA-East – Eric Dustin Brown, Level 3 (USA-Northeast/MidAtlantic)
- USA-Midwest – Eric Levine, Level 3 (USA-North/Central/Great Lakes)
- Europe-South – Cristiana Dionisio, Level 3 (PT, ES, IT, MT, GR)
- Europe-North – Jack Doyle, Level 3 (UK, IE, DK, EE, FI, IS, LV, LT, NO, SE)
- Europe-Central – Stefan Ladstätter, Level 3 (AT, DE, CH, CZ, HU, PL, SK, SI)
- Europe-West – Sophie Pagès, Level 3 (FR, BE, LU, NL)
The update will not be worldwide at launch due to the scope of the project.
Changes for judges
All judges will get to keep their level moving into the transition. However, in order to maintain your judge level, you must pay the following yearly subscription fee(s):
- Rules Advisors – Free or $50 (paying gives access to game “accessories”)
- Level 1 – $100
- Level 2 – $200
- Level 3 – $400
The following rewards will be given based on the tier of subscription you buy:
- Level 1 Judges will receive Judge Foils and other considerations.
- Level 2 Judges will receive additional Judge Foils and other considerations.
- Level 3 Judges will receive additional Judge Foils and other considerations.
In order to gain level 1, you must take several tests, watch online lessons, and also shadow a level 2-or-higher judge at events. However, despite this being a company, judges within Judge Academy are not considered employees. They are not paid, they do not receive benefits, and compensation outside of promos is not provided for their time. Judge Academy is a service to judges and Wizards of the Coast, providing training for judges and then providing said judges to WOTC for events.
As Judge Academy is now a service, it is also looking to work for other games. Keyforge looks to be the first client. Judges within Judge Academy can become level 1 Keyforge judges with their fee.
Why the change?
In the FAQ provided by Judge Academy, they say “…one of the biggest challenges is finding the resources to continue to make necessary improvements. We believe that it will be easier for a single entity to be able to secure the resources to allow this community to be able to continue on a path that we all can be proud of.”
However, it is extremely easy to argue the Magic Judge Apps site did just that, providing an excellent resource for judges to learn through and be trained in.
This change looks extremely negative for judges. A paid subscription looks like it will create a sense of exclusivity. A VIP club for judges you can farm money off of should not be the goal. Rather, you should encourage the average player to learn more about the game and be interested in becoming a judge. Paying $100 a year just to work for free and maybe get some foils does not inspire someone to become a judge by any stretch.
What do you think of the changes? Is the Judge Academy a great new program, or nothing more than a paywall? Let us know down in the comments below!