Free Shit’s Good Except Babies and Diseases…and SCG Judge Rewards

For years I have been quoted as saying that “free shit’s good except babies and diseases.” Despite what some people may think based on my derision towards the Star City Games judge rewards program, I still believe this to be true. So why such vitriol towards the program? Well let’s look at the facts. Note that I will be looking at this strictly from the standpoint of the floor judge. Results as head judge will vary, but there’s only one of them and lots of floor judges.

These Rewards Aren’t Free

What’s this? The judge rewards aren’t free? But you’re getting something for nothing, aren’t you? You are receiving some sort of benefit that was not there before, yes. However, it’s not being handed to you; you still have to earn it. The rewards only go to judges who are working long days for them, at not until a judge has worked 15 events. That means you have to work at least eight weekends for them in order to get these rewards. That means you put in considerable time and effort to earn that $25 store credit, applicable only to the most overpriced MTG store this side of Crazy Bob’s Assrape Emporium.

“But Jeebus, it’s still free! People were doing that work before and didn’t get it, that means it’s a free bonus!” Um, no it’s not, dumbass. It’s called a raise that you earned by being a loyal employee (or in this case more of a contract worker than an employee, but regardless). When you get a raise for working hard at your job do you throw your hands up in the air and yell “Free money!” for all your friends and coworkers to hear? No, because your time and hard work aren’t free and you have earned that compensation. If you got a considerable raise it’s not unrealistic that you might take your wife, girlfriend, or, far more likely for the MTG community, your neckbeard cohorts out for dinner or drinks to celebrate your extra 20% income. It is unrealistic, however, to think that you would drop to your knees and start gobbling the cock of the CEO then posting it on the internet so the world can see your love of the company’s generosity. Unless that’s how you got the raise in the first place.

Judge Rewards Aren’t a New Idea

Rewarding judges for their hard work beyond their regular compensation is a great idea. In fact, it’s such a good idea that WotC already started doing it years ago. However, when SCG starts doing it, “Oh my God! This is the greatest idea ever! Amazing!” Ironically, of all the comments I’ve seen about how brilliant this novel idea is, only one of those comments came from an actual judge. I think this speaks to the fact that players have no fucking idea what being a judge is like if they think this a big deal, but either way it’s already old hat. Oh yeah, and Wizards does it better too: and I’ll take a foil Xiahou Dun every major Wotc event over a $25 store credit every 15 major Star City events any day. Fun fact: that foil Xiahou Dun comes packaged with 13-19 other judge foils as well.

It’s Not Free, it’s a Raise. It’s Not a Raise, it’s an Insult

So we already covered that this isn’t free because you’re working for it and have to earn it. Well, it’s not even so much a raise as it is an insult. Here are the facts about judge compensation as provided to me by level 2 DCI judge Jeph Foster* (@rhythmik) who is also a really cool guy all around and has hooked me up with judge foils on multiple occasions.
*Note: The opinions and analysis in this article are not necessarily shared by Jeph. He merely provided empirical data.

  • The average Star City Games Open event lasts 12-14 hours. We’ll split the difference and call it 13.
  • Compensation per event is $150 cash or $180 store credit.
  • Judges are offered a $20 stipend for lunch.
  • When SCG stopped giving out foil promos to judges at events, compensation was raised, but they discontinued room compensation.
  • SCG does not offer travel compensation (And didn’t back when they had room compensation either)

Math time! If we figure 13 hours for the average event, judges are making $11.54 per hour. The lunch stipend is not included in this because you can’t pocket the cash, it’s just a “free” meal. I say “free” because I’m pretty sure it’s a legal obligation based on the structure of the work day and not an act of generosity, but I don’t have time to double check. In order to earn a $25 store credit, you must do this 15 times. That’s 195 hours. Which is a raise of 12.8 cents per hour. Which is a 0.01% raise. Which is a fucking insult. Oh yeah, and it’s not even a cash raise. If you want to convert it to cash, you have to buy singles from SCG’s ridiculously overpriced inventory and then sell it. So for $25 I can get, say, an Elspeth Tirel. I can then either sell it below retail cause I’m not a store or sell it at retail on ebay and lose money to fees. Currently I could expect to actually get maybe $15-16 for that in my pocket. So now we’re look at a 0.0067% raise.

I Thought Everyone Cared About EV?

What’s the EV on being a judge at these events? If you work both events, you get $300 per weekend, for two 13 hour days. Minus travel expenses. Minus room expenses. So what does that make the EV on an event if you have to fly to it, $0 or less to work your ass off? I’d rather give a dude a hand job in an alley and get the $25 cash then have to dedicate 8 weekends to that. Good thing those expenses aren’t legally relevant too, because these are slave wages that people who travel to judge are making. “So just don’t travel, Jeebus! Quit being a bitch!” Fine, I won’t travel. I’ll just judge the events in Boston (Sure I could drive to New York easily, but that’s a lot of gas and I’d have to pay for a hotel overnight) and bust my ass for two extremely long days to make $300. I mean, there’s no EV on these events if I actually have to travel, so I’ll just earn my rewards here in the greatest city in America.

Wait, how many open weekends are in each city per year, two? I’m just eight years away from getting that Elspeth for only 140% of what it’s worth!

Thank You, Star City

Thank you for showing your judges how much you care by creating this program. Thank you for making the points retroactive and publishing the lisst so we can see that almost none of the judges have actually earned anything after a full year of opens. Thank you giving me absolutely no reason to travel around the country working for you to earn this pittance. But most importantly, thank you for showing us all that, like most “financial experts”, Jon Medina can be bought. His orgasmic response to this program which he’s clearly smart enough to know is insulting and meaningless is proof that he has sold his soul and (theoretically) good name to laud the greatness of whatever worthless tripe comes out of SCG. What happened to you, man? You used to be cool.

At this point I can only assume that Star City Games is run by an evil sorceress, and the only way to disrupt her hypnotic spell on the rest of the Magic community is to bake the hall in the candle of her brain…whatever that means.


  1. Jes Golbez says:

    1. Have you judged a SCG Open before? I’m curious where you get the compensation # from, since I never saw it published before.

    2. Even with their regular “wages”, the judge program rewards did seem laughably low, from first glance. 15 events just to get a small bit of credit? Look, I understand the idea of the program, but, as you said, even the seasoned judges aren’t getting much of anything out of this extra program.

    3. Does SCG need many out-of-city judges for these events? There ought to be enough around in the local area to cover the events.

    4. Judges have never done this for the money, or they wouldn’t bother at all.

  2. Mikey Brown says:

    the problem with this argument, Jeebus is that its premised on a pretty crucial misapprehension. Namely, that the imposition of these rewards is tantamount to a raise. I’m very much of the opinion that your fervor is borne out of the way in which you wrongly conceive of them.

    this is not a raise but a bonus. Is my employer obligated to provide me with a bonus if I sell x thousand units in a given period? No, manifestly not. Does he? yes. Is my employer obligated to offer me a share incentive plan? No, manifestly not. Does he? yes. Now, this share option is only available after a certain period of service and that bonus is only given if I hit certain targets in excess of what is normally expected of me to be given my normal wage. My employer is incentivising me to stay on with the company, work hard, and go beyond what is expected of me. In return, I receive certain benefits. If my employer suddenly announces tomorrow that each employee who has worked with the company for 5 years, will get bought a new suit upon that milestone, am I getting a raise? In common parlance is that ever going to be considered a raise? to call that a raise is to deprive the word of its meaning. A raise is more money in your pay packet each month- viz an augmentation in salary.

    SCG is merely doing what that employer in my example is doing. they are offering additional incentives to hard working, loyal judges. you even agree that its a good thing to do this. Sure, the system isn’t as lucrative for judges as my example of a free card and yes, SCG cards are overpriced but I don’t see why, on balance, any augmentation of a judge’s benefits is not a good thing, worthy of praise. Sure, Medina may be a sellout and may have overegged the pudding, but when you compare this new programme to the status quo, it is a massive improvement. Sure, I actually think its moderately compelling to say that judges deserve better. they almost certainly do, Jeebus, but SCG is at least taking a positive step to say to judges that they do appreciate what they do and that rewards above normal compensation are warranted. In my book, that deserves at least a modicum of praise, Jeebus.

    • Dr. Jeebus says:

      Even as a bonus, the amount is insulting. They deserve to be berated rather than praised. They are worse for introducing this program than they were without it. Why? Because the bonus is ludicrously minuscule. It’s as they they sat around and decided that the judges deserved appreciation, but only their most faithful judges deserved anything, and even then they didn’t deserve anything good.

      • Mikey Brown says:

        I guess my main problem is that we actually we agree that these rewards aren’t very good. In fact, I just had another look at the page and its very easy to conclude that they are underwhelming. Where we disgree though is about what these constitute in the eyes of the recipient. I just cant see it as an insult. An insult to my eyes would be complete inaction. Look, I’m sure that when you were a kid you got birthday presents as a kid you got stuff you didn’t really want or need and we’re probably disappointed. However, did you turn round to Auntie Mabel and scream “you miserable old crone what the fuck would I want with a fucking piece of shit book on the breeding habits of Japanese macaques?”. these rewards aren’t even as bad as that as they do at least give judges things they want like store credit for their EDH stuff and flights to events. Judges love EDH and they love judging. Anything that helps them do that, on the whole, and its obvious I’m generalising a little, is likely to be received by them on the whole as a good thing. Now, its pretty fucking obvious that you are not placated by these things but if you consider how they will be perceived by judges at large, losing your shit in this way, seems massively out of proportion. Now look, I follow you on twitter and listen to your casts because it is funny that you go on rants like this which lack a sense of perspective, but they are funniest when they ring true. on this, I just think that you miss the mark. We have a saying in England that something “is better than a kick in the teeth” when its obviously good but its awesomeness is marginal. At the very least, at the absolute worse case, these are better than a kick in the teeth. you reacting like this reeks not only of sense of entitlement that I don’t think is warranted and of straight up ungratefulness. Now, I know I’m not gonna persuade because its not in your nature to back down when you feel strongly about somethiing, but I implore you to at least think again.

  3. Dave S says:

    Just stay asleep, and let frog go.

    In one aspect the 25$ sounds good, but your breakdown just makes it sound as though the truth is plain and simple profit margining. But that’s just normal SSG. Attracting flies with s***t piles.

    Good article.

  4. GJT says:

    I think one of the biggest issues with your argument Jeebs is the assumption people judge to make “money” and alot of the time this simply isn’t true. Yes if componsation wasn’t offered most people would attend as judges but this is because nearly all judges use their componstion to break even on an event, so after 8 events making a tiny bit each trip I get a bonus hey I’ve come away with a tiny bit to show for my time, made lots of friends within the community and most likely had a huge laugh, seems like a good thing to me.

    • Dr. Jeebus says:

      If this is true, this blows my fucking mind. I didn’t become a judge for riches and glory, but if I work 26 hours in 2 days I sure as fuck expect to be paid for it beyond breaking even on my out of pocket expenses.

  5. Kevin Binswanger says:

    Sheldon likes to say that as judges, our time is worth something. We are highly skilled labor. If you don’t like the compensation offered by a TO, you shouldn’t work for them.
    And personally I feel that the compensation offered by SCG is pretty darn good.
    I don’t understand being upset at getting more for what people already do.

  6. Pearlie says:

    If you wish for to grow your familiarity just keep visiting this site and be updated with
    the most up-to-date gossip posted here.

Leave a Reply