Level Five

This page will be kept up to date with the definition of a Level Five Judge. To read about the philosophy of Level Five as of Judge Foundry’s launch, check out this blog post.


Level Five Judges are regional and national leaders at events. An L5 is an expert in policy philosophy, investigations, and event logistics. They are prepared to head-judge tournaments with a few hundred players, and several teams of judges, potentially with complex expectations from the tournament organizer, coverage, or other specialized tournament logistics. L5s guide tournament policy and define and innovate how tasks are done at large events. L5s are highly involved in their regional and the national community, mentoring judges for L3, L4, and L5. Alone, an L5 is capable of identifying a new L1 with promise, mentoring them through L2, L3, and L4. 


To be promoted to Level Five, a candidate must complete the following requirements. Unlike the processes for Levels 1-3, these requirements occur in a prescribed order.

Experience as an L4

These requirements may be completed in any order.

  1. Work Events as a Level Four Judge
    1. Work at least six multi-day events
    2. Lead teams with five or more judges
    3. Shadow, for the purpose of providing feedback and evaluation, an L2 or L3 team lead on a team with other judges
    4. Serve as head judge for the main event at a multi-day event
    5. Serve as a support judge, or a head judge with a support judge, or one of multiple head judges for a single tournament.
  2. Choose three. You may choose the same mode more than once.
    1. Write a review as an L4, in the previous year
      1. Must be from events that the candidate and the other judge both worked
      2. Each review must contain detailed and actionable feedback.
    2. Participate as a panel member for a Level Four panel, in the previous year
    3. Perform a Level Three advancement interview, in the previous year
      1. Regardless of result, a review documenting the interview is required

Recommendation Review

After completing at least those requirements, candidates for L4 have two routes to advancement. 

  1. Choose one  —
    1. Receive one L5 recommendation from an L5 judge that wasn’t the recommender for L4. 
      1. The recommendation should document strengths, weaknesses, and evaluate each quality category. 
      2. Information on the candidate’s skills in each quality are required, but evaluating each quality on the scale from “exceeds expectations” to “deficient” is not.
    2. Write a self-evaluation review 
      • i. The recommendation should document strengths, weaknesses, and evaluate each quality category. 
      • ii. Self-evaluation on the candidate’s skills in each quality is required, but evaluating each quality on the scale from “exceeds expectations” to ”deficient” is not.
  2. Submit the recommendation/review, checklist, and other supporting reviews to the Advancement Coordinator
    1. Supporting reviews might be, but aren’t limited to:
      1. Additional recommendations, or recommendations from the L4 recommender
      2. Endorsements from Tournament Organizers
      3. A self review, if one wasn’t submitted
    2. There is no limit to supporting reviews, but applicants are cautioned that excessive supporting documents are likely to dilute the important information. 
  3. The application will be assessed by an approved L5 panel lead, and the Advancement Coordinator, who may advance them to the L5 panel process, or return the review to the candidate with feedback. 
    1. The Advancement Coordinator may, at their discretion, refer the decision to advance a candidate to a committee of 3 randomly chosen L5s volunteers to assist with the decision. In the case of a returned application that was not referred to committee, the applicant may request their application be reviewed by such committee. 

Exam and Practical

After being approved for the L5 panel process:

  • If the candidate has passed all Advanced Update Quizzes in the previous 24 months, they are not required to retake the Advanced Rules/Policy Exam.
  • Otherwise, once they are approved for the panel process, they may take the exam. They must complete the exam with a score of 70% or higher before a panel can occur.
  • After being approved for the L5 panel process, the Advancement Coordinator will choose an L5 approved to lead L5 panels as the panel lead. The panel lead and coordinator then choose at least one additional panelist. 

The assigned panel lead may request that the candidate complete a L5 practical assessment. The assessment happens at a multi-day event where an evaluator and the candidate are both on staff. The evaluator observes the candidate’s proficiencies, leadership, and success at the event and writes a review assessing the candidate. The evaluator provides the review to the panel lead. 

The review should cover a broad range of skills expected from a Level Five Judge, including, but not limited to:

  1. Pre-event communication
  2. Preparation for team or head judge tasks
  3. Communication with other judges, leads, and head judges
  4. Success at team tasks
  5. Mentorship

Evaluators are strongly encouraged to include any assessment or feedback relevant to the L4 skillset. 

Pre-Panel Interview

The Advanced Testing Manager, candidate, panel lead, and panelists will coordinate an appropriate time and venue for the panel. In-person panels are highly recommended, but online panels may be considered in circumstances where an in-person panel would be extremely difficult to schedule. 

The panel lead may choose to implement the pre-panel interview. The panel lead may lead the interview themselves, request that a panelist do so, or request that the Advancement Coordinator appoint a pre-panel interviewer. 

The pre-panel interview is a long-form conversation about the candidate’s skills, knowledge, and opinions. Generally, the interview lead provides multiple open-ended questions for the candidate to respond to, and subsequently the interviewer may ask for additional responses, pose additional questions or ask for clarification. This is usually done via written responses to the interview questions, but the option to complete the interview via in-person chat or online interview is also available. 

The contents of the pre-panel interview, notes from the interviewer, and an evaluation from the interviewer are provided to the panel lead and panelists.

Panel Interview

The Testing Manager, candidate, panel lead and panelists will coordinate an appropriate time and venue for the panel. In-person panels are highly recommended, but online panels may be considered in circumstances where an in-person panel would be extremely difficult to schedule. 

The panel is a group interview where the panel asks questions of the candidate to assess them in each quality. The questions will vary, depending on the candidate’s known strengths and weaknesses. 

The panel lead will assess the candidate in each of the 4 quality categories, including each subcategory. 

Each category will be evaluated and assessed on this scale.

  1. Exceeds Expectations
  2. Meets Expectations
  3. Area for Improvement
  4. Deficient

Candidates who are evaluated by the panel lead during the panel to meet expectations in a majority of categories, with no deficiencies, are promoted to Level Five at the panel.

L5 panels are additionally regulated by the Level Five Panel and Testing Guide, maintained by existing L5s. Portions of the requirements are included here as examples. Generally, the L5 process is designed to assess whether the candidate: 

  1. Is capable and comfortable head-judging a competitive event with 300+ players and large teams of judges.
  2. Is capable and comfortable team-leading a team with 5 judges at a multi-day event
  3. Is an expert in the logistics and philosophy of large events
  4. Is capable and comfortable mentoring judges to become L4 and L5, including writing recommendations. 
  5. Has extensive personal skills that enable head-judging, team-leading, mentorship, and participation in the community

Level Five Judge Qualities

This is a brief description of how an L5 candidate might be evaluated on each quality. This is not exhaustive, but serves to give examples of how candidates might be evaluated and what general expectations are. 

  • Game Knowledge
    • Rules
      • Tested by the Advanced Rules/Policy Exam
      • With the exception of sections 801-809 and 811, the entire Comprehensive Rules may be included on this exam. Candidates should have a clear understanding of the rules of the game and be able to articulate its building blocks from memory
    • Tournament Policy Application
      • Tested by the Advanced Rules/Policy Exam
      • The entire MTR, IPG, and JAR may be included on this exam. Candidates should be able to answer questions about infractions, penalties and remedies from memory, including application to situations not directly described in examples, and to select the most applicable of each for described situations
      • Knowledge of the Digital MTR or other community supplemental tournament policy will not be tested
    • Tournament Policy Philosophy
      • The candidate must show expert understanding of the underlying philosophies that inform the MTR, IPG, and JAR 
      • The candidate must be able to explain the philosophy behind specific sections or lines of tournament policy, to reinforce why a particular ruling is correct philosophically.
      • A deficient candidate can only repeat the text of policy and cannot explain to a less-experienced judge why policy is designed the way it is. This candidate demonstrates this by deviating not by conscious choice but by failing to understand the appropriate policy or how to apply it to a situation. 
  • Event Skills
    • Tournament Operations Proficiency
      • The candidate shows expert knowledge of each team and task utilized at large tournaments and can be assigned to lead any team with any number of team members.
      • The candidate can run end of round for or distribute product to a tournament with hundreds of players.
      • The candidate can articulate the advantages of multiple methods of handling Limited decklists and can provide a plan for resolving missing lists in a timely manner.
      • The candidate understands the needs of a video coverage team, how to support them, and balance the integrity and needs of the tournament with coverage.
      • A deficient candidate might only be proficient in one or two teams, and may not be able to substitute on the day of an event for a team lead who is unexpectedly unavailable.
    • Tournament Operations Philosophy
      • The candidate shows expert knowledge of tournament philosophy and can provide solutions to problems caused by technology failures, logistics difficulties, or new procedures.
      • An exemplary candidate can describe past historical methods of accomplishing a team’s tasks and when it might be appropriate to fall back to those methods.
      • A deficient candidate can only repeat procedures they saw other team leads perform and cannot improvise new solutions that best fit a given problem.
    • Investigations
      • The candidate can perform a card count in any format, can make a determination with a reasonable degree of certainty, can explain that situation to players, and can do these things in a reasonable amount of time.
      • The candidate can provide floor judges with some questions to ask a player after a deck problem is discovered to determine if the Head Judge should be involved.
      • The candidate can balance an active investigation with other competing priorities as the head judge, delegating as necessary to both ensure tournament integrity and timeliness.
      • A deficient candidate may only ask questions that they have seen used in other investigations or may approach an investigation without a clear plan to determine the truth of a situation.
  • Leadership Skills
    • Team and Event Coordination
      • The candidate communicates appropriately with head judges, team leads, and other judges in preparation for and at events
      • The candidate demonstrates understanding of the communications needs of large tournaments, having the ability to coordinate all of the communication needed to head-judge a main event, or provide detailed and accurate instructions while leading a team of five judges with varying experience levels.
      • A deficient candidate may isolate themselves as a team lead, have difficulty communicating with other leads, be unable to delegate tasks, or be unable to teach tasks.
      • A deficient candidate may also be unable to manage a team while maintaining team morale and mentorship.
    • Mentorship
      • The candidate is capable of mentoring judges to achieve Level Four.
      • The candidate understands the definitions of all Judge Foundry levels, and is able to appropriately evaluate judges based on those definitions.
      • A deficient candidate may be unable to identify any meaningful weaknesses in their peers or unable to provide critical feedback.
      • A deficient candidate might not understand the requirements for L4 or L5, and might not be able to participate meaningfully in evaluating a candidate.
  • Personal Skills
    • Conflict Management
      • The candidate is capable of handling conflict whether it involves themselves or is between other judges.
      • A strong candidate is trusted by their peers and the community as a mediator to solve conflicts amicably.
      • A deficient candidate may avoid conflicts in ways that are detrimental to themselves or be unprepared to deal with a conflict between players.
    • Diplomacy
      • The candidate is mature, trustworthy, amiable, and well respected by their peers
      • A strong candidate is trusted by their peers to be the person talking when a difficult situation is anticipated and to take that situation in stride 
      • A deficient candidate may have trouble working with others, or often fail to maintain decorum, diplomacy, and tact, either in person or online.
      • A deficient candidate may have accumulated a trail of other judges who don’t like working with them and is unable to resolve any of the issues that created this rift.
    • Self-Evaluation
      • The candidate articulates their strengths and weaknesses with examples and evaluates themselves accurately.
      • The candidate articulates a plan to improve in their weaker qualities.
      • A deficient candidate’s self-reflection lacks accuracy or depth, and the candidate may not put effort into actively improving where they are struggling.
    • Maturity
      • The candidate is understanding of others, punctual, and understands and embodies professionalism.
      • A deficient candidate may be often regarded as negative, tardy, irritating, difficult to work with, and might favor complaining about a problem over and over rather than trying to find a solution.
    • Stress Management
      • The candidate is capable of dealing with stress and understands how they operate in a stressful environment.
      • A deficient candidate may fold under pressure or actively avoid stressful situations that they would be expected to address.
    • Teamwork
      • The candidate works well with a team and knows their place within leadership structures as they change event-to event.
      • An excellent candidate thrives as a team member, bringing up the morale and teamwork of the entire team, while making their team look good.
      • A deficient candidate might have trouble taking directions or trying new things that a lead asks them to do. They might also attempt to take over from an inexperienced lead instead of helping them grow.


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

  1. Choose one
    • Pass three advanced set update quizzes since the previous maintenance period
    • Pass an Advanced Rules Practice and Advanced Policy Practice test
  2. Choose three —
    • Lead a total of 30 judges as a Team Lead at events
    • Head-judge an event with at least twelve judges
    • Work at least six multi-day events
    • Serve on one or more advancement panels
    • Lead a core project
    • Create educational content (ex: article, conference presentation, video, etc.), subject to approval
  3. Write a self-review
  4. Maintain membership in Judge Foundry by being up-to-date on their membership dues


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

  1. Use of title Level Five Judge or Judge Foundry Level Five
  2. Access to private Judge Foundry L5 resources, forums, and chats
  3. Ability to participate in Judge Foundry projects restricted to L5
  4. Voting in Judge Foundry leadership elections
  5. Right to run for a election to the Judge Foundry Board
  6. Access to Advanced Update Quizzes
  7. Ability to serve on Panels
  8. Ability to certify judges
  9. Ability to promote judges to Levels Two and Three


3/24: Updated update quiz requirement from “three out of four” to “three” (Philosophy)