Preparing for the Judge Test: Part 2

Written by Weedmonkey on May 31, 2010

This article, as well as all other articles and coverage can be found on our coverage site. 

This is the second of a two-part series on preparing for the judge test. If you’ve jumped in here, it’s advised to go back and read the first article in order to get a complete picture.

Pre-Test Preparation

There will come a point in your diligent studying for the judge test that you feel it is time to take it. Like with any other examination (high school finals, college admission exams, DCI judge tests etc.) you should take time to prepare yourself physically and psychologically to give yourself the best opportunity to succeed.

The Physical:

- Make sure that you’re well-rested. It seems obvious, but when you’re trying to understand complex questions you need your focus to be sharp. A simple misread can potentially be the difference between a pass and a fail.

- Being comfortable can help you to relax and focus on the task at hand. If you’re going to be adjusting your position on your stiff office chair every five minutes, it might be in your best interest to move somewhere else.

- Keep distractions away from you. If your sister is singing horribly to the Spice Girls in the next room, tell her to head to the mall for a while. Similarly, if your boyfriend/girlfriend/parents show up to pester you, ask them to give you some time to yourself in order to do important business. Nothing is more important than passing the judge test. Nothing.

The Psychological:

- You know how you work best. If you need music playing, pull out the headphones (although headbanging music such as Otep might not be the best idea). If you need food, grab it.

- If you feel that you’re stressed (and there’s positive ‘pumped up’ stress in addition to negative stress), go through some relaxation techniques and get yourself grounded. One technique is to close your eyes and take deep breaths. Focus on nothing except the inhalation and exhalation of your breaths. Repeat until you feel calmer.

- Don’t try and do a last-minute cram before taking the test. Chances are you won’t learn anything new. You could also potentially harm yourself by confusing yourself with more complex areas.

Don’t feel that you have to take the judge test straight away if you don’t feel you can pass it. The judge test won’t be going anywhere – if you think it’s better to wait until tomorrow, it’ll be there waiting for you.

Exam Technique

Exam technique is just as important as preparation. It helps to ensure you can answer all questions to the best of your ability and alleviate the made five minute rush at the end of the exam.

The test at time of writing is 35 minutes in length. With ten questions, you can take three minutes per question and still have five minutes up your sleeve as a buffer in order to check your answers. If you wanted to further break down your time management you could spend one minute per question reading, one minute to figure out exactly what the test is answering and formulating an answer, and the third minute writing the answer.

One area I have observed that candidates have difficulty with is coherence. While they have a general idea of the concept the question is asking, they can’t explain it properly. Ideally, what I look for in a question is a half step beyond what a judge would answer in #judges4you – an answer that is correct and explained in a way that would make sense to a person asking that same question in the channel, while explaining the relevant concept(s) and application.

Some tips on writing answers:

- Use correct terminology. While we may understand your answer if you use informal/incorrect terminology, a player who has not been playing for a long period of time may not. Instead of using ‘bounced’, use ‘returned to its owner’s hand’.

- When in doubt, add more information. Some concepts can be complex, and thus can be difficult to explain. Giving more information means your thoughts are clearer.

- Cut the chaff. Yes, this does seem like a counterpoint to the above one. However, you can provide additional relevant information and additional irrelevant information. Irrelevant information can make your answer less coherent and make it more difficult to understand. Only provide what you need to answer the question correctly.

- Formatting your answers can help to improve clarity. This can be important for two-part questions, especially when your answer is lengthy.

Example Questions

Now to what many prospective candidates will find infinitely useful – examples of how to answer judge test questions. While many questions seem complex on the surface, often you will be able to find the solution by asking yourself the right questions.

Note that the questions contained here are not taken from the judge test themselves. These are questions I have pulled off the top of my head for demonstrative purposes only.

Here’s a common question players ask. On the judge test, it would be ranked at Easy difficulty:

Q. Andrew casts Blightning targeting Nico. When Blightning resolves, Andrew redirects the damage to Nico’s Ajani Goldmane. Does Nico still discard two cards? Why/why not?

This one is quite straightforward.

Question: What is the spell targeting?

Answer: Nico.

Knowledge of redirection effects is relevant here. However, the majority of candidates will recognize that redirection effects don’t involve the changing of targets. I would answer the question like this:

A: Nico still discards two cards. Although the damage is being redirected to Ajani, Blightning is targeting Nico.

You don’t need any more than this for this question. You have given the answer and have provided an explanation that demonstrates your knowledge.

Q. Andrew controls Leyline of the Void. Nico controls Wheel of Sun and Moon, enchanting himself. Andrew casts Terminate, targeting Nico’s Mountain Goat. Explain what happens when Terminate resolves.

This one is a bit more complex.

Question: What is the question testing?

Answer: Since both Leyline of the Void and Wheel of Sun and Moon use the word ‘instead’ in their respective static abilities you can reasonably conclude that the question is testing replacement effects.

This question you cannot draw the answer solely from the question itself – the question requires you to apply knowledge of the interaction of replacement effects. For questions that can have two possible results without asking specifically for one I would provide both (instead of assuming one thing for example).

Roo’s Answer:

A: Mountain Goat will be destroyed, and both Leyline of the Void and Wheel of Sun and Moon will attempt to replace what zone Mountain Goat goes to. As the affected object’s controller is Nico, he chooses which replacement effect to apply. Therefore, Nico can choose either to exile Mountain Goat or place it on the bottom of his library.

After the chosen replacement effect has been applied, the other replacement effect applies if applicable. This has been omitted from the answer because it doesn’t add anything to the answer.

Q: Andrew controls River of Tears. Nico casts Pale Moon. If Andrew plays an Island, what type(s) of mana can Andrew’s River of Tears tap for? What if Andrew doesn’t play a land before tapping River of Tears? Explain your answer for each scenario.

This question is more difficult. Like the above question, it involves replacement effects (which again you can reasonably conclude through the use of the word ‘instead’ in each card). In addition, this question is a two-part question.

If we apply the same concept we applied to the previous question, Nico chooses which replacement effect to apply in both scenarios. Therefore, in the first scenario River of Tears can tap for black or colorless, and in the second scenario it can only tap for colorless. Here is where most people will stop.

Although you will not always be able to tell a hard question at first glance, it is always a good idea to try and figure out which question on the judge test is the one that is categorized at hard. As I mentioned in the previous article, hard questions will usually require complete knowledge of a rule/concept in addition to applying it to a given scenario.

For replacement effects, self-replacement effects are applied before any other replacement effects. This means that for this case River of Tears’ self-replacement effects generates B before Pale Moon applies and changes it to colorless.

Roo’s Answer:

Q: Part 1: River of Tears produces colorless mana. As River of Tears has a self-replacement effect, it will apply and produce black mana before Pale Moon’s replacement effect applies and makes it produce colorless.

Part 2: River of Tears produces colorless mana. As River of Tears is a non-basic land, it produces colorless mana due to Pale Moon’s replacement effect.

It is questions like these where studying is important. While a successful candidate should be able to answer all very easy and easy questions correctly, having sufficient knowledge of rules and understanding where to apply them can potentially be the difference between a pass and a fail.

Q: Andrew controls Future Sight. He casts Staggershock from the top of his library targeting Nico. Is Staggershock exiled after it resolves? Why/why not?

This is another easy one.

Question: When does Rebound exile the card?
Answer: When it resolves if you have cast it from your hand.

Question: Was it cast from Andrew’s hand?

Answer: No.

There is nothing more to this question after answering those two questions.

Roo’s Answer:

A: Staggershock is not exiled. Rebound only exiles the card when it resolves if it was cast from Andrew’s hand. Since it was cast from the top of the library, it will be placed in Andrew’s graveyard when it finishes resolving.

I wanted to add a question here that involves reading the card. Especially online, players can often misunderstand mechanics without having the reminder text in front of them. Enabling it can allow players to solve some problems themselves, which helps to avoid stopping play and requiring a judge to handle a situation.

Q: Andrew controls Butcher of Malakir and two 0/1 Eldrazi Spawn tokens. Nico controls Sprouting Thrinax. Andrew casts Wrath of God. Explain what happens when it resolves.

Begin working from top to bottom. The first step is to put all creatures in the graveyard. As it is a zone-change trigger, each card going to the graveyard ‘sees’ each other creature also going. This means that Butcher of Malakir triggers three times – once for itself and twice for the Eldrazi spawn tokens. Sprouting Thrinax will also trigger. When two or more triggered abilities trigger at the same time, the active player puts their triggered abilities on the stack before the nonactive player. Therefore, the stack from top to bottom will be Sprouting Thrinax followed by the three Butcher tokens. Resolve the stack in order.

Roo’s Answer:

A: When Wrath of God resolves, all creatures will be placed into their owners’ graveyards. As it is a zone-change trigger, Butcher of Malakir will ‘see’ the other three creatures go to the graveyard. The tokens will cease to exist as a state-based action as they are now in a zone other than the battlefield. Butcher of Malakir will trigger once for itself and each Eldrazi Spawn token, and Sprouting Thrinax will trigger once. As there are multiple triggered abilities, they will be placed on the stack in APNAP order. Sprouting Thrinax will resolve first and put three Saproling tokens onto the battlefield under Nico’s control. The three Butcher triggers will then resolve one by one, and Nico will sacrifice a creature when each triggered ability resolves.

Some questions will require lengthy explanations. If you are ever to explain what happens when something occurs or during a step/phase, it is best to be completely thorough. This includes game actions such as drawing a card during the draw step or when tokens cease to exist (as in the above answer).


I hope that with this article that prospective test candidates have a clearer understanding of what judges are looking for on the judge test. While at times it can be difficult to understand what the question is asking and what concepts to apply, by asking yourself the right questions you will be able to answer what rule to apply and why.

To everyone that will be taking the judge test, I wish you the best of luck. Remember that hindsight is always 20/20, and take your time to answer questions correctly.

Until next time, may 8 be your lucky number.



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by Obnoxide on 2010-06-01 05:41 CET

Great article Roo! My number one question, having failed the judge test before, was whether i was giving enough information, or whether i was giving too much. This definately gives prospective judges a perspective of what the proctor is looking for.

by Almi on 2010-06-01 14:31 CET

I think that in the mail, judges should say "u failed here and there, u were right here and there".

It could be helpful to improve the next time.

by neckfire on 2010-06-03 00:22 CET

iv actually never received the you fail email...i did not know you even received a email.

by coboney on 2010-06-03 01:41 CET

Almi the issue with that is that then you have the answer effectively for next time meaning they need to make even more new questions constantly. Good judge test questions are a limited and time consuming resource.

by DaWorm on 2010-06-04 11:09 CET

No need to prepare.
it's easy.

by Nantuko on 2010-06-17 01:10 CET

get someone to take the test for you.

by AppleofEris on 2010-08-17 17:37 CET

Kudos for mentioning Otep.

by Pandearon on 2011-09-16 13:16 CET

Thank you for the sample juss made me realize I'm waaaay too lazy to take that kind of a test LOL

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