Out of all the TCGs, Magic: The Gathering (MTG) has usually been viewed as having one of the better judge programs. Judge promos, compensation, and great teaching programs have made it a shining example above other card games. However, a recently unofficial announcement has cropped up at Mythic Championship IV in Barcelona. One judge at the event tweeted out about it yesterday.
There has been an announcement re: the judge programme at #MTGBarcelona.
Long story short: the Judge Programme as we know it is ending, to be replaced with a Judge Academy that will require a yearly subscription fee. Full announcement and FAQ on Monday.
— Kirsty Armstrong (@heyworstartist) July 27, 2019
If this announcement is true, judges will have to start paying an annual subscription fee and perhaps stop receiving any payment themselves. This subscription fee will likely charge for test-taking and the database of rulings all judges have access to. More foil promos are supposedly included, but this seems an extremely poor incentive. It’s almost previous Yu-Gi-Oh!-judge levels of incentive. For reference, the Yu-Gi-Oh! judge program was consistently criticized for its poor compensation. Judges were never paid for their time and travel and received compensation for events in the form of booster packs, tokens, play mats, and field centers. However, they are now going to be paid minimum wage for their time, with product as additional compensation for travel.
The changes will supposedly take effect differently for each region. An official announcement is expected on Monday, July 29.
What prompted these changes?
There have been lawsuits in the past between judges and MTG. In 2016, several were directed at the company demanding compensation for lost wages. The lawsuits state that the “work performed by judges for the benefit of Wizards is performed under close supervision and control by Wizards that creates an employer-employee relationship.” By changing the way the program operates, Wizards may be trying to dodge further lawsuits and compensating these people. It is most likely an effort to avoid having judges be employees. Employees require minimum wage, and that hurts profits.
Another, less likely alternative is Hasbro is behind the decision. With the success of Arena, this could be an attempt to further push players away from paper MTG. Whether or not this is actually true or just a rumor remains to be seen.
What do you think about this news? Should judges be paid employees, or are they just volunteers? Let us know down in the comments below!