A lot of people ask me about proper interactions with a judge. In this article, we are going to discuss some of the finer points of a judge call. There have been many people who I have talked to who do not know when and why to appeal a judge’s ruling. Even worse, they do not know when to call a judge on their opponent. As a rule of thumb, judge calls are a free roll, so there is no reason not to call them. Even if you might be wrong, its better to have a judge give you the answer then your opponent. Furthermore, calling a judge on a cheater does NOT make you a tattle-tale or anything negative. If you went to time in your last round, you are allowed to ask a judge for a bathroom break.
If you are playing in a Grand Prix and someone accidentally flips over cards, or sees the second card down during the draw phase, what should happen? You auto call the judge. Even if you did the violating. If you are the one who missed their trigger or what ever instance needs a judge, call it on yourself. Calling the judge on yourself can reduce an infraction down to a warning. This is a tip that was given to me after I was on the circuit for some time.
Now in the instance you think your opponent is cheating, even a little bit: You pause game state, call a judge, and speak with him away from the table. Explain how you believe your opponent is cheating, and then let the judge do his due diligence. He will then interview the other player, and make a judgement call. It is imperative to mention again calling a judge does not make you a bad person, or a wimp. It means you are doing the right thing. Cheaters need to be punished. You are also allowed to call a judge and ask him to watch the game for slow play. These are things allowed to you if at any point you think your opponent might be doing something disingenuous.
Now for the primary attraction, when do you appeal the floor judge? This is something I personally have had trouble with in the past. I typically believe that a Level 1 judge knows their stuff, they do not. They are effectively guessing as to what they think is the correct judgement. They are not infallible, the are wrong more often then is right. Prior to me knowing the correct answer, a judge ruled that I could use Vines of Vastwood targeting my opponent’s Spellskite to my advantage. He specifically ruled that once I resolve Vines, I am then free to pump my creatures without fear of the redirect. After discussing with others, I became suspicious of this ruling. I went to the head judge for clarification, he told me the floor judge was wrong. In this instance, I assumed he was correct and it cost my opponent the match. This is not right. Always appeal the rulings if they were not explained clearly enough or the judge stumbles for even a second. There is literally no reason to let your match ride on an incorrect ruling. Another instance of a miss play on my part with a judge was not in my favor. My opponent has Archangel Avacyn and I attacked into his plants. He blocked and his creatures died, triggering Avacyn. He has a fleet of plants and knight allys, he “forgets” to flip Avacyn as it is highly detrimental to him. I have lethal that survives the three points of damage and he can put me at 2 with a six point swing from Avacyn and her flip damage. So I call the judge, my opponent is a well known pro, the judge rules that I do not get the option of whether that trigger goes on the stack or not. Which I asked, “Don’t I get the option? As that is how missed triggers have been ruled in the past.” The judge sternly says no. So we proceed, and I lost because he casts Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and gives +1/+1 to his guys then emblems a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Swinging for lethal with his plants and knights. Moral of this story, no matter who the opponent and unless it is the head judge, IF IT DOESN’T FEEL RIGHT APPEAL IT!
I really cannot stress enough how important it is to know your rights as a player. When the judge does come over if the call is against you, you MUST take over the conversation and tell the judge exactly what happened from your perspective. As Magic: the Gathering players, we are typically socially awkward, and generally quiet people. In this instance, we need to speak up for ourselves. Players like Jarvis Yu are extremely talented at manipulating a judge call into his favor because he knows all the judge lingo and the correct things to say. This is terrifying because as a non competitive player against Jarvis Yu you expect fairness. This is often not true, judges can be swayed, they are human and subject to influence. Especially newer level ones who are just as shell shocked about being involved with a pro as you are. Appeal that ruling and have the head judge come over and talk to YOU away form the table. If nothing else, the head judge will not have any biased towards any pro or non-pro. I know this paragraph might be controversial, but it needs to be put out there.
Last note I would like to leave on, the judges are there to protect your rights as a player. Remember that just because your sitting across from a pro, no matter what caliber, even Gerry Thompson misses Avacyn Triggers. Call the judge, and ensure that you are getting the correct rulings.
P.S. I ran the fanny pack at Grand Prix Pittsburgh. It is truly the winning line. No back pain, no heavy anything. My fatigue levels were significantly lower and I did not feel the need to drink energy drinks or coffee. I am further advocating for the era of the fanny pack. It is the wave of the future. Camping Fanny seems to be the best because of size and pouches.