2019 United States Judge Program

Judges and judge candidates,

On behalf of Force of Will, thank you for being strong representatives of our game and for all the time you put into making our game great. We wished to show our appreciation today by explaining next year’s program in some detail so that you could see some of the progress being made, with future articles fully explicating it.

We know that our former judge programs have been lacking in several areas, and we wish to correct these concerns out of respect for those who work tirelessly to promote our game. As a result, here are some of these changes:

New Leveling System

First, one major concern of judges worldwide was that only one level existed. No progress could be made after one had passed the exam, and there was no opportunity for someone who could not make a prior year’s Grand Prix to become a judge. This has been fixed with a new judge leveling system that will be implemented based on the following general criteria:

> There will be three judge levels: Levels 0, 1, and 2.
> A judge’s level indicates a reasonable expectation that they can Head Judge any event of the same level or lower as their status. This status also constitutes evidence that they have the capability to Floor Judge any event that is equal to or lower than their status + one level.

For further clarity:

Level 0: Can Head Judge Level 0 events and can floor judge Level 1 or lower events

Level 1: Can Head Judge Level 1 or lower events and can floor judge Level 2 or lower events. They also gain access to the Worldwide Judges group if they wish to inquire about card interactions/rulings and policies.

Level 2: Can Head Judge Level 2 or lower events and can floor judge Level 3 or lower events. They also gain access to the Worldwide Judges group if they wish to inquire about card interactions/rulings and policies.

With this information, the obvious next question is what level each event is. While individual regions may have alternative names for their events and other events may be added in the future, the following guide may be used for the United States region in general:

Level 0: Local-level events, Ruler League,  ARG State Championships, etc.
Level 1: ARG Circuit Series, Large Tournaments (e.g. 5k’s), etc.
Level 2: World Grand Prix Qualifiers, Grand Prix Tournaments 
Level 3: World Grand Prix

There are further level-specific policies that will be discussed at length in future articles, and there are certain exemptions to these guides, like Tournament Organizers (TOs) having the right to allow lower-level judges to judge an event as needed (such as a Level 0 floor judging a WGPQ), but this is the basic information to start off with.

Judge Exam

Level 0 Exam
To correspond with the three levels, we now also have three separate exams for judges. We’ll start off this discussion with the Level 0 exam, which will be offered online and once per quarter. There will be mechanisms in place to avoid abuse of the exam, so please do your best earnestly! 

This exam will mostly focus on a judge’s basic ability to understand and apply the rules within the New Frontiers setting; it will definitely be easy for anyone who has the capacity to pass the Level 1 exam, so it is a good gateway to gauge one’s own abilities before taking a swing at the harder exam.

Level 1 Exam
The Level 1 exam goes much further in-depth into a player’s ability to understand card mechanics, testing on both the New Frontiers and Wanderer formats. It also adds five questions on our Floor Rules and Penalty Guidelines found here, (http://www.fowtcg.com/docs/rules/floor) to ensure that our WGPQ judges can adequately apply penalties and policy violations. Many of these questions test a judge’s ability to adapt their knowledge of the rules to specific situations, and this exam is much more difficult than the Level 0 exam as a result.

Attending and judging a WGPQ or GP is still a requirement of the exam, as one’s performance as a floor judge is part of what is being tested. In addition, each floor judge at a WGPQ will be interviewed by the Head Judge of that event. This Head Judge will send their overview of the event and of each individual to the Judge Council (details coming in the next section) and to the company directly. If you pass the exam and interview, you will become a Level 1 judge.

Our Level 1 exam has been completed and is in the editing process, and we will begin offering the exam the weekend of the first WGPQ of the 2018-2019 season. 

Level 2 Exam
The Level 2 judge exam will be a new exam style that is being introduced in the upcoming year. This exam will allow current Level 1 judges to gain the opportunity to Head Judge a World Grand Prix Qualifier and to be subsequently promoted to a Level 2 judge.

However, before I get into the specifics of the exam, allow me to preface by introducing our new Judge Council. This Council will be made up of a small, odd-numbered group of Level 2 judges in the United States who will be in charge of any regional-specific concerns. In addition to other responsibilities, they also have the authority to pick WGPQ Head Judges for the upcoming season, based on geographical proximity and capability to judge. Only Level 1 and Level 2 judges may be chosen by the Judge Council in this regard.

This chosen Head Judge will have their travel and hotel compensated for by the company. (There will be additional compensation, but judge compensation will have its own article in the future, so please stay tuned for that!)

If this Head Judge is already a Level 2 judge, they merely need to show up for the tournament during set-up the morning of Day 1, as instructed by the tournament’s TO. However, if the Head Judge is a Level 1 judge, they will need to take the Level 2 exam and interview on Friday night. This will be graded immediately the same night and reported to the prospective Head Judge before they leave the building.

If passed, they will become the Head Judge for the tournament as normal and, if everything goes well, subsequently become a Level 2 judge. If, for whatever reason, they are unable to pass the Level 2 exam, they will still be allowed to floor judge or stream judge the tournament, but the exam’s proctor (who will be on-site and is a Level 2 judge) will step in to Head Judge the WGPQ or GP.

As for the exam format itself, you will be tested in a much different fashion than the Level 1 or Level 0 exams. The Level 2 exam will test skills that Head Judges are required to have as well as the ability to adapt rules and/or policies to extreme situations. We prefer not to divulge many details regarding this exam in order to preserve its effectiveness, but we promise that if you are ready to Head Judge a WGPQ, it will show through the exam.

Level Retention

All judges of Level 1 or higher status must judge a WGPQ in some capacity once per year in order to maintain their status. In addition, all current Level 1 judges must retest in the 2018-2019 season to retain their Level 1 status. (Passing the Level 2 exam in the 2018-2019 season will satisfy this requirement).

We have heard your complaints about the size of the country relative to where many judges live, and as a result, we are planning to dramatically increase the number of World Grand Prix Qualifiers in the United States in order to provide better judging opportunities and greater geographical breadth to solve this issue. Please stay tuned for that announcement later on as well!

If a Level 1 or Level 2 judge does not retain their status over the course of a season, their Worldwide Judges group access will be revoked, but they will still be considered an official Level 0 judge. In addition, no Level 0 judge can be stripped of their title outside of discipline issues. To state in an alternative manner, your Level 0 status can never expire.

Professionalism Guidelines

To correspond with our new system, we will also be implementing professionalism standards both in-person and for social media. While we will release guidelines in-depth at a later date, it is important to remember that your standing as a judge reflects your representation of the company. Furthermore, the higher your leveled status, the more courteous your behavior will be expected to be.

These guidelines refer to public behavior and will be more lenient regarding personal social media pages, but the company still reserves the right to institute discipline in extreme cases.

While we will publish an article that will give a fairly thorough description of these guidelines, do keep in mind that professionalism is largely common sense. Pushing the limitations of acceptable behavior should not be a goal for any judge. That being said, the following discipline system will be used and voted on by your peers on the Judge Council based on the degree of the offense relative to your judge level (though the company reserves the right to step in in extreme cases):

Small or moderate offenses: Single Warning
Large offenses: Double Warning (Two Warnings)
Extreme cases or Accumulation of Three Warnings: Automatic Stripping of Judge Status

In addition, if a Level 2 judge is involved, demotion to Level 1 status will also be an option for Large or harsher offenses, at the discretion of the Judge Council. If the investigated judge is a member of the Judge Council, they are required to recuse themselves from the vote. If this causes a deadlock within the Council due to even numbers, the company will step in as the deciding vote.


Thank you for reading this first sneak peek at our upcoming judge program. We recognize that judge compensation is still the largest concern for our judges, especially in the United States due to travel expenses, but we ask for your patience while we finalize details in that regard, as financial issues are quite complicated. In the meantime, we wished to show you that we are working hard on improving your program.

Once again, Force of Will would like to extend our sincerest appreciation for the hard work all of our judges put into making our tournaments a smooth and pleasant experience for our players. We look forward to working closely with you all in the future.

Force of Will Co.