Level Three Advancement and Maintenance

Historical Article

This article was written during the time between when Judge Foundry was announced and when we launched. While we’re keeping it live (for transparency and historical purposes, as well as to elucidate our philosophy), some of our policies and requirements might have changed. For the most current version of the process to advance to and maintain Level Three, see this page.

Our adventure into the new level system continues, as we discuss the first significant level redefinition in the Judge Foundry world. Feedback on L1 and L2 has continued to roll in, and we expect even more this week from the folks who will find the new Level Three a goal in the near future. You can direct any such feedback to us on JudgeApps, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter or via email

Daniel sorts lands at Grand Prix Atlanta in 2016. Photo © John Brian McCarthy
Daniel sorts lands at Grand Prix Atlanta in 2016. Photo © John Brian McCarthy


There hasn’t been commentary on the descriptions of L1 and L2, as they were mostly similar to previous versions. L3 is a brand new, however, so take a read:

Level Three Judges make up a large portion of the staff at large events. A Level Three Judge is comfortable with competitive tournament policy, and experienced with all of the tasks and teams seen at large competitive events. L3s are also comfortable leading a small team and head-judging competitive events. You might find an L3 leading one other team member as the deck checks team on a 100-player Sunday event, or head-judging the 50-player competitive event with two judges assigned to them. L3s are also good communicators, noticing problems and communicating them with the leadership around them. L3s promote L1s in their local area to L2 when they are ready for competitive events, and mentor those L1s. An L3 should start looking towards L4 when they have experience leading teams with several judges, head judging events with many floor judges, and extensive mentorship of L2 and other L3 judges. 

Level Three is one of the stepping stones that L2s have been asking for since the level redefinition in the early 2010s. There is a significant milestone for judges operating at large events that occurs when they have familiarity with all major team tasks, are confident being out on the floor on their own, and turn towards mentoring newer L2s. Tournament organizers and head judges have, for a long time, distinguished between an L2 about whom they have no information or who is new to large events, and an L2 whom they can trust to do a job. That’s now codified as L3. 

Multi-Day Events

Many terms have been used by the community to describe large events, and for the purposes of L3+ advancement, we need to define one of those specifically, and are choosing multi-day event as our keyword. Multi-day events occur at the same location across multiple days, typically feature multiple tournaments, scheduled events, on-demand events and open play. SCGCon and MagicCon clearly qualify, along with other regional events like the NRG series; enumerating all of them would be impossible. Having a single main event, or an event that is played over multiple days is not a requirement. A local game store running an RCQ-qualifier weekend with one RCQ on each of Saturday and Sunday in their store does not qualify, unless that local game store incorporates additional elements seen at large events. It’s left up to the interviewing L4+ to verify this, but feel free to inquire about specific events that might be unclear.

Minh writes down a penalty at Grand Prix Las Vegas in 2017. Photo © John Brian McCarthy
Minh writes down a penalty at Grand Prix Las Vegas in 2017. Photo © John Brian McCarthy


Candidates for Level Three need to show strength across all qualities at multi-day events. Tasks for L3 will be completed mainly at these events, but with mentorship and involvement, some could be learned at a local level at large RCQs and other single-day tournaments. As with other levels, the exam is the last part of the advancement process, and the other requirements don’t need to be completed in a prescribed order. 

To be certified for L3, a candidate must complete the following items.

1. Work Events as a Level Two Judge

This is quite the list of items to complete, but the road from L2 to L3 isn’t expected to be simple. A new L2 shouldn’t look at these as a checklist to speedrun as quickly as possible. Consider these more like a 100% completion goal after a few multi-day events, and finding a mentor with whom to work towards L3. Making sure that each of these happens is important so that candidates have all the exposure and skills needed to be ready for L3. 

Everything on this list is designed to be a learning opportunity for a judge progressing towards Level Three, and none are designed to be large roadblocks. If you see something on this list that is a massive roadblock for you, let us know, there may be a better way to arrange it. If a candidate makes it to the end of the L3 advancement path and something here is still blocking them, their mentor and the L4 interviewing them are encouraged to determine if the candidate has the skills and experience that completing the task would provide. Ongoing discussions of such accommodations are expected within the community. 

a. Work at least four multi-day events

L3s are staples at such events, and need to get in their reps. Four events is a bare minimum, and it would probably be difficult to complete all of the other requirements in just four. 

b. Be a member on a team that is assigned each of these tasks

i. Pairings

ii. End of Round

iii. Deck Checks

iv. Scheduled Events

v. On-demand Events

This is the current list of proficiencies, this will change as events change. Participation in those teams should be substantial – if a team gets sent over to side events for the last hour of the day, that doesn’t count as having experience with on-demand events. A single day on each team might not even be sufficient for some teams – many judges will take multiple days with different team leads to pick up everything.

c. Lead a small team with at least one other judge reporting to them

Many large events have Sunday competitive events that are much smaller than the main event, with just a couple teams and 3-4 total floor judges. A local 1k might also be of that size. The candidate needs exposure to team leading, but many candidates will lead many teams before getting to L3.

d. Serve as Head Judge for a side event at a multi-day event

This requirement exists to expose the candidate to the need to communicate between a scorekeeper on a stage, other judges on the floor assigned to neighboring events, and other head judges. Balancing the needs of multiple events happening simultaneously isn’t simple, so L3 candidates should get exposure to that process.

e. Work at a competitive event with at least 10 other judges, and 300 players (these may be the same, or different, events)

This is very likely to naturally happen for most candidates. Smaller multi-day events, or those without competitive main events are also common, so exposure to at least one large competitive event is required.

2. Write two reviews 

a. Must be from events that the candidate and the other judge both worked

b. At least one review must be of a L2+ judge

c. At least one review must be from a multi-day event

d. At least one review must be from the past 12 months

e. Both reviews must have been written since the candidate advanced to L2

f. Both reviews must contain specific and actionable feedback.

These reviews are expected to be slightly higher quality than the reviews required to get L2 because it should reflect the natural progression in learning to be a good mentor. It’s notable that a lot of good feedback occurs on-the-fly at events, or quickly at the end of each day. That kind of feedback is often more impactful than an extensive written review delivered weeks later. For that reason, we encourage all judges to keep some basic notes and consider writing up a review as written documentation of the feedback delivered, rather than the feedback vessel itself. 

3. Receive a recommendation review from an L3+, evaluating at minimum the following items and affirming that the candidate is ready for Level Three

a. Technical performance 

b. Proficiency at giving a ruling 

c. Details of one Policy-related discussion

d. Understanding of the importance of player engagement 

e. Understanding of the team’s assigned tasks

f. Leadership and Mentorship skills

As with L2, these items don’t need to come from a single event, but it’s possible that they do. L3s writing such reviews should consider all of the elements required in the Work Events section. Providing feedback and data based on the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses in those roles or with those interview items will go a long way to help the interviewing L4+ to assess the candidate as ready for L3. 

4. Receive additional endorsements from other L3+ team leads or head judges

At a bare minimum, a new L3 should be endorsed by two judges: their recommender and the interviewer. Since those could be the same person, and an excellent sign of a candidate ready for L3 is leads expressing that they would want the candidate on their team again and again, additional endorsements are possible and recommended. Think of this endorsement like an agreement to put the endorser’s name down as a reference on a cover letter, except the event applied for is Level Three. The interviewer should verify these endorsements. 

As advice for candidates, asking every L3+ you interact with for an endorsement or emailing every L3+ you have worked with is not an effective way to obtain a quality endorsement. It’s recommended that you ask one or two judges at a time, and if you get a “no”, consider why you’re receiving that response before asking someone else. It may be that you need to develop your skills before L3+’s will endorse you and continuing to ask isn’t as good a use of your time as acting on the feedback.

5. Pass an interview with an L4+ Judge including at a minimum the following evaluated items:

The candidate’s mentor should help them find an L4+ judge to complete the interview. The interview need not be done in person, but if possible, finding a way to do so is strongly recommended. If the candidate or mentor can’t find an appropriate interviewer they can reach out to Judge Foundry for assistance. The community highly values certifying judges for L3, so JF leadership is motivated to provide as much assistance in facilitating interviews as it can. The interviewer doesn’t need to be a different person than the recommending judge, but if an L4 wishes to advance a judge to L3 all on their own, they are highly advised to ensure that they have at least a few outside opinions to avoid bias. 

a. Understanding of all judge tasks at large events

b. Understanding of common upgrade paths for infractions

c. Understanding of how to handle appeals

d. Understanding of backing up games

There are some skills that L2s will build while floor judging competitive events. A good understanding of each of these is needed for L3, and a conversation about each with an L4 is the best way to ensure the skill. The interviewer should consider all of the tasks that each team at a large event might encounter, and ensure that the candidate is familiar with them, and could assist a new L2 in learning them. Examples include, but aren’t limited to, proficiency in checking decks, understanding of the various parts of end of round procedure, and setting up a top 8 bracket from standings. Listing all the required skills would require an entire article of its own. 

e. Proficiency with technology tools common to multi-day events

L3s should have exposure to any scorekeeping, end of round, deck check or other judge technology tools found at large events. This extends to judge use of these tools, but doesn’t need to include using them as a scorekeeper, admin or other role. 

f. Conflict management for players and other judges

As floor judges grow, they will be trusted more to help mediate conflicts. L3s aren’t expected to be able to solve every conflict, but if two players or judges are upset about something, they shouldn’t abandon the situation entirely. 

g. Results of reflections on recommendation review 

Self-evaluation’s importance in growth increases at every level, and through the reviews received while working towards L3, many candidates will be told a lot about their weaknesses. Strong candidates will take these in stride and improve – if a candidate can’t handle criticism at all, they might not be ready for L3.

h. Understanding of how to certify a judge for L2

The standards and requirements for L2 are significantly more complicated than L1. The interviewing judge should go over the requirements with the candidate to ensure that the candidate has consistent standards for L2. Notably, the requirements for L2 have changed with Judge Foundry, and it’s important to not hold judges back from leveling up due to outdated standards. 

6. Pass the Level Three Policy Exam with a score of 80 or better 

The final step is to take the L3 policy exam. There is no additional rules test for L3, but the policy expectations for floor judges scale quickly, so a policy exam to raise the standard is required. The community is developing testing standards and requirements, and Judge Foundry expects robust discussion among the community about expectations and accommodations for L3 testing. 

Matthew reviews a decklist at MagicFest Indy in 2019. Photo © John Brian McCarthy
Matthew reviews a decklist at MagicFest Indy in 2019. Photo © John Brian McCarthy


Maintenance requirements continue to scale with higher levels, with L3s expected to maintain involvement with the community through working at large events. 

To maintain the Level Three certification, a judge must complete the following items each year

1. Choose one —

  • Pass the annual L2/L3 rules refresh exam
  • Pass three out of four set update quizzes throughout the year

2. Pass the annual L2/L3 policy refresh exam

The requirements for testing are the same as L2. The expectation is that L2s and L3s both need to stay up to date with changes in rules and policy. 

3. Choose two —

  • Work at least eight competitive events
  • Work at least four multi-judge events
  • Team lead at a multi-judge event
  • Create educational content (ex: article, conference presentation, video, etc.), subject to approval by an L5

L3s get a lot of flexibility with how they show their involvement. The most common choice here is most likely to be working 4 events with at least one team lead, while judges who can’t make it out to as many events might choose to create content instead. 

It’s highly suggested to get educational content ideas pre-approved by an L5 so that lots of work doesn’t get poured into an idea that might struggle to get approval post hoc. 

4. Choose one —

  • Write a self review
  • Receive an in-depth review, covering multiple events, from an L4+

The review requirement stands alone instead of being an option like it is for L2s. Some judges might have trouble writing self reviews, as it is a completely new thing for them. If an L3 has a consistent mentor with whom they are working, having that mentor document their growth is an option in lieu of the self-review.

5. Maintain membership in Judge Foundry by being up-to-date on their membership dues


Judge Foundry views Level Three as an indication to an organizer that the judge has certain skills and knowledge. The skills section re-frames the certification requirements in a way that organizers can understand what skills a judge will bring to an event. 

A certified Level Three Judge additionally demonstrates the following proficiencies:

  1. Knowledge
    1. Passed the L3 policy exam, showing the skills necessary to handle competitive event judging independently 
    2. Demonstrated understanding of upgrade paths for infractions
    3. Identified the difference between a partial fix, a simple backup and a full backup, and to describe considerations for each
    4. Distinguished between Looking at Extra Cards and Hidden Card Error
    5. Distinguished between Deck Problem and Decklist Problem
  2. Event Skills
    1. Demonstrated understanding of the tasks of all teams at competitive events. 
    2. Identified the steps needed to start a large competitive constructed tournament
    3. Performed a card count as part of an investigation
    4. Performed a deck check efficiently
  3. Leadership Skills
    1. Wrote a review with detailed and actionable feedback
    2. Developed experience leading small teams
    3. Developed experience head judging tournaments at large scale events
    4. Developed experience working at events with 10+ judges
  4. Personal Skills
    1. Demonstrated ability to positively engage with players and create a welcoming environment, even in a competitive setting
    2. Demonstrated ability to recognize and handle all Unsporting Conduct situations.
    3. Recognized and reflected on their own strengths and areas for improvement
    4. Provided feedback for improvement to judges of lower, equal, and higher experience level.
Justin directs a player to the stage at Grand Prix Atlanta in 2016. Photo © John Brian McCarthy
Justin directs a player to the stage at Grand Prix Atlanta in 2016. Photo © John Brian McCarthy


Judge levels each carry several benefits to the holder of the certification. Level Three Judges are the largest portion of staff at large events and are important mentors. They are provided additional access to contribute to Judge Foundry projects, can certify new judges, and their skills are recognized by tournament organizers as being more advanced than the expectations for Level Two Judges. There’s also one more benefit that we’re not ready to share yet – we’ll be talking about this benefit with an upcoming article in the next week or so.

Certified Level Three Judges receive the following privileges as members of Judge Foundry

  1. Use of title Level Three Judge or Judge Foundry Level Three
  2. Access to private Judge Foundry L3 resources, forums, and chats
  3. Voting in Judge Foundry leadership elections
  4. Ability to certify Level Two Judges


Many current L2s are going to read this article and immediately think “Wow, this is me, yes please make me L3!” That’s the intent. The path forward for those that feel that way is to get their ducks anvils in a row with the objective requirements from the Work Events and Write Reviews sections of the requirements, and find someone willing to write them a recommendation. That someone could even be a current L2 that they expect to advance to L3 even faster than them. 

We expect more than thirty judges to advance to Level Three by the end of Q1 2024, with even more shortly thereafter. We expect some of those judges to quickly be promoted to Level Four. When we spread out Level Two over three levels, we also want to quickly promote into the new Levels Three and Four the judges who’ve been exemplifying those qualities all along, but been categorized at Level Two. This fast-track won’t be the status quo at Judge Foundry forever, just a feature of quickly sorting out existing Level Two Judges to their appropriate level, just as we’ll quickly sort current Level Three Judges to their appropriate levels. But that’s the topic for another article…