Judge Academy, in partnership with Wizards of the Coast, will open an online training center for organized play Judges on October 1, 2019 in the US, Canada, Japan, and Europe. Tim Shields, owner of Cascade Games LLC., founded this new initiative, and the Judge Program Manager is longtime Magic: The Gathering Judge Nicolette Apraez. [note -- this paragraph was corrected on 7/30/2019 to accurately reflect the ownership of Judge Academy. -- ed.]

The mission of Judge Academy is to train staff for organized play, offering coursework to new and established judges for a fee.  Rules Advisors and Judges will have to complete online coursework in order to become or stay certified to judge organized play events.  As they complete more courses and judge more events, Judges can upgrade their status from the lowest judging level, a Rules Advisor, all the way up to a Level 3 Judge.

Initially, the Judge Academy will train Judges for WOTC's Magic: The Gathering and Asmodee's KeyForge, but is in talks with other tabletop and e-sports companies to add more clients.

The two biggest changes coming with the Judge Academy are the professional development requirements and annual membership fees for Judges. Prior to the Judge Academy, once a person entered the Judge program, they were not required to do professional development to maintain their current status beyond run events. Now, to remain in good standing a Judge is required to complete "upkeep requirements," and good standing lasts one calendar year from the point it was last achieved.

The other major change is the fees; judges will now need to pay a fee based on their level to maintain their status:

  • Rules Advisor: Free or $50
  • Level 1: $100
  • Level 2: $200
  • Level 3: $400

Judge membership fees will help pay the structural costs of the Judge Academy as well as supporting "community initiatives."  As an incentive to join up and pay memberships fees upon the opening of the Judge Academy, Judges who complete the membership requirements by November 1, 2019 will be sent extra Judge Foils. The next four Magic: The Gathering Judge Foils are scheduled to be: Chalice of the Void, Monastery Mentor, Reflecting Pool, and Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow.

Membership fees will raise the cost of being an official organized play Judge, and it is unclear how that will effect retailers who depend on Rules Advisors and Judges to run events in their stores.