The UK MTG Judges and What They Mean to You, by Jack Doyle

The UK MTG Judges and What They Mean to You (Also a super quick primer for Fate Reforged) by Jack Doyle
Image by Anna Przywecka

The UK MTG Judges and What They Mean to You (Also a super quick primer for Fate Reforged), by Jack Doyle

Hey, Magic: The Gathering readers – nice to meet you. I’m Jack Doyle, a Level 3 judge from London, and a lot of you probably know me from my presence on the floor at PTQs, as well as my involvement in the plethora of Magic and judge-related Facebook groups (mtgUK Rules & Judges Questions) that exist thanks to Manaleak’s involvement.

This article is intended to help people with what judges are, how they can help you, and who you can contact to make your voice heard. The feedback and peer-review system is strong within the judge programme itself, and I think it’s important to make sure that players have access to that. Without further ado, let’s get cracking!


Level 0 judges

It’s strange to start off an article about judging with a group of people who aren’t technically certified Magic judges. Level 0 judges are a powerful, positive force at your friendly local game store (FLGS), and some may have taken and passed the Rules Advisor exam available online at

You’ll often know this group of people as the gurus – the guys who have been playing for donkey’s years and are inundated every time they go into the shop with questions. Most of this group of people don’t know about the judge programme, aren’t particularly interested, or feel like they just want to play events and don’t really want to judge them. That’s why we have judges! While they may not be certified (yet!), they still give up their time to help, so the same level of respect should be afforded to them. Also, encourage them to take the test!


Level 1 judges

The leap between a Level 0 and a Level 1 judge is an interview with a Level 2 or higher judge, and a written exam of 25 rules and policy questions. Level 1 judges do all the real work up and down the country and even worldwide – they are often tied to a store by friendship and/or geography. Level 1 judges are capable of running FNMs and prereleases, helping out with their store’s competitive events (able to Head judge GPs/PTs, and Floor judge PTQs), and fostering positive atmosphere at all events they attend to.

Given that the Fate Reforged prereleases are just around the corner, you might see a number of judges playing and judging at the same time. At Regular REL (Rules Enforcement Level), which is the more relaxed, welcoming REL (compared to the rather strict Competitive REL that you may know from PTQs and GPTs), judges are capable of playing and judging. It’s important to stress that your needs are important to us as judges. Some want to hunker down and crush prereleases, but the majority will be available to answer your rules questions and help you resolve situations, so don’t be afraid to come chat to us.


Level 2 judges

After completing an extensive checklist, passing a difficult rules and policy exam, and having an interview with a Level 3 or higher judge (all in all, putting in a truckload of effort and time into judging), a judge can become Level 2. These guys are the familiar faces that you’ll know from PTQs, and who may travel around to help events run across the country. The newest premier event, Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifiers, or PPTQs, will require one of these guys to Head judge it, so you may see those familiar faces travelling to your local stores.

Level 2 judges are where a lot of judges put the brakes on, so to speak. The breadth of knowledge and of experience is wide among the Level 2 community, and they often are inspired and motivated by different things. Most Level 2 judges are well connected enough to direct you to wherever you need to be, and some of them have even taken a leadership role in the areas in which they live – they’re called Area Captains.

Judges should know who their Area Captain is, and there are a good few of them (too many to list without being (more) dull and boring). If you feel like you want to talk to someone about a serious issue, you can raise that with the Area Captain. Aside from the regional activity, some Level 2 judges travel to Grand Prix (there’ll be a whole lot of them at GP Liverpool) to hone their skills. If you see judges you know, be sure to chat to them.


Level 3 judges

That’s me! Level 3 judges used to be called Regional judges, and while the name has changed, the idea hasn’t. Level 3 judges in the UK are a tight-knit group, we discuss a lot of things and make decisions for the region. We decide which of our regional applicants goes to a given GP, for example, and we discuss how to make certain aspects of rules and policy better.

Level 3s in the UK can help you with pretty much any issue that you have, as well as being unparalleled experts at running Magic events. It’s almost certain, for example, that one of us will be the Head judge for the Regional PTQ in London, in April.


Senior judges

isperiaWe have two judges that fit the bill here in the UK – the first is Level 3, David Lyford-Smith (or DLS, as you may hear him referred to as), he’s the Regional Coordinator for the UK, Ireland, and South Africa (yep, South Africa, it’s something to do with time zones and them being in the middle of nowhere, but they’re cool guys) and as such is responsible for everything judgey and a lot of things Magicky in those places.

Through David go the serious issues – if you believe a judge is being completely inappropriate at events or online, for example. If you don’t know who else to talk to and you want to be sure that your issues are dealt with quickly, efficiently, and confidentially, you can contact David via the contact form:

The other senior judge that we have is Level 4, Kim Warren. She’s in charge of a bunch of things – mainly the Exemplar program (which replaced judge foils at GPs), Regular REL (, and some GPs, including GP Liverpool at the start of March, where she’ll be acting as your Head judge. She also apparently has an amateur acting career going on in Friday Nights and Walking the Planes. Because obviously. If you need to get in touch with her, I’m sure you find her on most social media. In the scope of the UK, she can act as any Level 3.


So… where should I direct my question/issue/complaining/whining?

Basically, this isn’t an easy question to answer. Each issue has its own implications, gravity, and need for confidentiality. You should talk to the judge that you’re most comfortable talking to. If you have no idea who that judge is, you can always send me an e-mail at – I’m happy to direct your issue.


The Judge Feedback Form

If you want to feed back about one of the judges that would normally be your port-of-call, or you think the issue is extremely sensitive or serious, you can use the Magic Judge Feedback Form which can be anonymous, if you choose, and can also only be seen by Level 4 and 5 judges.

Right, with the heavy stuff out of the way, we can focus on the fun stuff from this weekend’s prerelease. The second bit of this article is handily entitled Fate Reforged in Ten Seconds!

Walk in. Sit down. Chat to friends. TO shouts at you. Sigh. Chat to friends. TO shouts at you. Begrudgingly get up. Pay TO money. Receive prerelease pack. Temur, obviously. Bears. Bears bears bears. Open pack. Cry at crap rares. Build terrible Orzhov deck. 0-3. Cry. Go home. Sleep. Get up. Repeat.

There we go, done!



What, you want more? Jeez…

Fate Reforged Mechanics

There’s going to be some cool stuff happening at the Fate Reforged prereleases, and the mechanics are going to be at the centre of all that. Aside from the returning mechanics, prowess, delve, and ferocious, we have a couple of new things to worry about.


Bolster is pretty easy to follow – you have a number, “Bolster 2” for example. The 2 is going to be how many counters a creature is getting. First of all, you need to find the creature with the least toughness that you control. Pick it up. Wave it around. Make aeroplane noises. Put it down. Put a die on it. Make sure that die is on two. You’re done!

It’s not a difficult one, but it’s important to remember that it doesn’t target. Therefore, you can’t destroy the creature that will be bolstered to completely negate the effect – it’s just going to make the next-biggest creature slightly bigger.


Dash is a cool one. It turns all of your spells with Dash into Archwing Dragon, and that card was cool. Dragons. When you’re casting the spell, you can choose to pay its Dash cost instead of its normal mana cost. If you do that, the creature gets haste. That’s even better if it’s a dragon. Then, you can crash in for a million damage. But sadly, there is a small downside – your creature is going to go back to hand at the end of the turn. This going-back-to-hand effect is a triggered ability, it can be responded to (by killing the creature, perhaps). Sadly, if they brutally murder your hasty dragon before the trigger happens, it won’t come back from the graveyard, nor from exile.


Judges are already crying at the amount of Manifest cards in Fate Reforged. It’s going to be an absolute headache to manage – in fact, I know that fellow judge, Edd Miles, has ordered a bunch of business cards, one side with Manifest on and one side with Morph on, so as to avoid potential mess-ups that can happen when your cards are all face-down and moving about in attacks and blocks and so on.

Anyway, Manifest is very similar to Morph once it happens – often, you’re Manifesting the top card of your library. You don’t have to reveal it and you don’t have to deal with any colors, mana costs, names, or anything like that – it’s a 2/2 creature. That’s all. You can look at a Manifested creature you control whenever you like. The difference between Manifest and Morph is that you can turn a Manifested creature face-up whenever you have priority. You do this by paying its mana cost, which you have to reveal to your opponent. If the creature happens to have Morph, you can pay either its mana cost or Morph cost.

The kicker really is that you can’t turn face-up anything that’s not a creature. Surprise Lightning Bolt, or its smaller Tarkir cousin, Wild Slash, is not going to happen. Stop trying to make it happen.

Oh. Please. Please. PLEASE.

Reveal your face-down creatures before they leave the battlefield. Just as you do with unmorphed Morphs.

Modal ETB Abilities

Defiant OgreThere’s a pretty sweet cycle of commons in Fate Reforged that give a choice on what flavour of value you want to get when they enter the battlefield – Defiant Ogre offers a Shatter effect or a +1/+1 counter, Sandsteppe Outcast brings along a Spirit token or a +1/+1 counter, and so on, and so on.

There’s nothing particularly new or special about these abilities, except that when you announce which half of the ability you want to do, that’s locked in. You don’t get to change your mind if the situation changes (for example, they sacrifice their artifact in response to Defiant Ogre’s Shatter effect). If the ability can’t happen the way you’ve chosen anymore, it simply does nothing when it resolves. You don’t get to suddenly get the +1/+1 counter mode. Sorry about that.

Hybrid mana

The old Khans (which, by the way, are sweet. Yasova Dragonclaw is going to absolutely wreck me in Limited, I can feel it now) and some of the busted mythics have abilities that include hybrid mana. This, again, is an old mechanic, but it hasn’t been seen in a while. All that it means is that you can pay the cost for those abilities with either colour of mana represented by them. As an example, Soulfire Grand Master’s absolutely busted Buyback ability can be paid for by either 2UU, 2UR, or 2RR.


Where to go from here…

I hope that you guys found this article at least somewhat beneficial – I’m planning to do some more “behind the scenes” informational articles about how judges work, what kinds of things we do, the differences between judging.

If you want a specific topic covered, feel free to e-mail me at – I’m always open to ideas and feedback – especially if you think my writing’s crap. That’s the best kind of feedback (as long as there’s a comfortable level of ice cream nearby and you give some sound reasons :( ) and I value the time that people take to give it.

You may also be interested in the mtgUK Rules & Judges Questions Facebook group. Here you can ask any judging and rules related question and help will be at hand pretty much instantly.

And finally, if you have a few minutes then please fill out this short survey regarding your experience with judges handling incorrect rulings, it will really help (thanks!) – Handling incorrect rulings

Community Question: What can judges do to help improve your tournament experience?

Image by Anna Przywecka
Image by Anna Przywecka

So, until next time, I’ve been Jack, you’ve been the reader, and catch you at an event soon. I like high-fives. Just putting that out there.

Jack Doyle

The UK MTG Judges and What They Mean to You (Also a super quick primer for Fate Reforged), by Jack Doyle
Hey, mtgUK readers - nice to meet you. I’m Jack Doyle, a Level 3 judge from London, and a lot of you probably know me from my presence on the floor at PTQs, as well as my involvement in the plethora of Magic and judge-related Facebook groups (mtgUK Rules & Judges Questions) that exist thanks to Manaleak’s involvement.

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