"How do you start judging big events?"
That's one of the biggest questions I get asked whenever I'm working events. It doesn't matter where it is, or even what kind of event! That question always comes up. Often it's from newer judges, having just passed the RC-1 test and new to the Konami Judge Program, eager to jump right into judging a YCS. Before COVID-19 shut everything down I would have recommended that newer judges start by applying to judge at the Regional level with their local Tournament Organizer.
But now things are different. With a lack of Regional Qualifiers it's harder for judges to dip their toes into judging and cut their teeth on anything higher than a local. Remote Duels are still the only official form of organized play for the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG, and now the question that those newer judges ask me is: "How do I start judging Remote Duels?"
Today I'm going to explain some things I think new judges should at least try, as they work their way towards judging an upcoming Remote Duel Extravaganza. This isn't meant to be an all-inclusive guide or anything like that, just some hints that can help you on your journey.
Droll & Lock Bird (Alternate Art)
The first thing you need to do is make sure you have Discord installed on your computer. You won't be able to judge a tournament from your phone.
Then, I'd recommend joining as many Remote Duel Discord servers as you can. You want to expose yourself to as many servers as possible and learn their respective tournament schedules. Find the active servers and the tournaments that work with your schedule.
Lastly, reach out to the store owner and judges on the server! This is the hardest part, in my opinion: getting over those nerves of initiating contact with the people running the server. I promise you though, they're friendly! Our job as judges is to help others, and stores are all about providing good customer service. That means whenever we see people who want to start judging we try to welcome them with open arms.
There are plenty of servers out there right now, and a limited number of judges, so there's a good chance that the store will appreciate an extra hand with their tournaments. Chances are you'll work alongside the head judge helping to answer calls and deal with tardiness penalties. Your head judge has probably been doing this for a while, since Remote Duels are over half a year old at this point. Here are some of the things that you may end up doing when you're judging a remote duel local.
"Walking" the Floor: One thing I miss about judging in-person events is being able to watch multiple matches at once. Remote judging restricts you to only viewing one video chat table at a time, which is a very different experience.
In the Discord server that you're in, you'll see a series of Voice Channels labeled as tables, with pairs of Duelists sitting at each. When you're judging, your job walking the floor is to move from table to table observing all the matches in your area. It's important that you don't just hop from one to another every few seconds: you want to actually take some time to observe each table and get an idea of the gamestate.
When you hop into a table and notice that play is passing from one duelist to the other, ask them what game they're in. Getting those little bits of information is great for not only understanding the state of your area, but it also shows the duelists that you're there, present, overseeing the event and available if needed.
Getting Judge Calls: Answering a judge call can happen one of two ways: either you're at the table when it happens, or you get alerted by a discord notification from a duelist. Typically they type in the server's general discussion channel, though it can differ from store to store... The ones I actively judge at use "@Judge" and then whatever Table #.
When that happens you should leave a reaction on the post to signify to the other judges and the duelist that you're the one taking the call, and then you should head to the table in need. Upon joining the table you should always give the duelists a friendly greeting to start things off. There's nothing wrong with the greeting being casual, either. I always go with something along the lines of a, "Hey there, what's going on?"
Answering the Call: Whether you've been sitting at the table watching the events occur, or you're just arriving after noticing a judge call, it's always a good idea to get a quick understanding of what's going on. Once you've understood why a judge was called it's time to figure out what call to make.
Sometimes you might need to cite the Policy Documents, or sometimes you might need to use your knowledge of PSCT to determine the ruling. If you're taking some time to come up with your answer, let the players know that you're working on it, if you're looking up a card on the database then tell them that. Don't leave the competitors sitting in silence waiting for you, keep them informed. When you're ready to deliver the ruling, do so with confidence and certainty.
Finishing the Call: What happens here all depends on the judge call itself. Sometimes your call will be something simple that doesn't require any follow-up. Every now and then you may have to give a time extension or record a penalty. Both can be done once you've left the table. Check the Discord server to find the proper channels for recording time extensions and penalties. It's best to do this right away before you resume walking the floor, this way the important information's still fresh in your head.
Communicate with Your Team: Talk with your fellow judges! Plain and simple. Most servers have a judge voice channel going during tournaments, so join that call when you get a chance and talk with your fellow judges.
This has the potential to be the your best learning tool. Talk about the calls you took, talk about the tournament, talk about how their night's been. Having a conversation with your fellow judges will help make it easier for you to approach them for advice later on. The best part of all is that you may be working with a judge that's worked larger Remote Duel events, and they might be able to help you start working those events as well.
Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring
I've been lucky enough to be the Head Judge for two Remote Duel Extravaganzas, and let me tell you, the selection process for that type of event is a crazy thing (one that I hope to talk about in a future article!).
The people involved in the staff selection have to narrow down a list of hundreds of applicants and narrow it down to fewer than 40 judges. Only so many newer judges are taken on for each event, and you have to submit an application to be considered for a Remote Duel Extravaganza. Just like when you're applying for a job in the real world, it's important to have experience or some sort of familiarity in the field you're applying for. I highly doubt someone that's never worked in a kitchen would get hired at a five-star restaurant.
If you've never worked a Tier 3 event or higher, I definitely recommend getting some experience with Remote Duel Judging at the local level first. It'll really help prepare you for what's to come at the bigger events. I will say that there's nothing like getting selected for your first Tier 3 event, and I can't wait for you to experience it! If you ever have questions about judging, or have requests about judge related articles you'd like to see here on Infinite, feel free to send me a message on Twitter @tinymech and I'll try to get back to you as quickly as possible!