Tuesday, August 02, 2016

WotC's Solution to Intentional Draws and Concessions

Back in March we discussed the problem of intentional draws and concessions in Magic: the Gathering. Today, Wizards of the Coast unveiled their solution for professional Magic tournaments. It's pretty hardcore.

Click to enlarge

The Top 8 is turned into a single-elimination gauntlet, where higher seeds get to skip matches and start closer to the end.  T5-T8 need to win 4 matches, T3-T4 need to win 3 matches, and T1-T2 only need to win 2 matches.

Now, you want to get as high a seed as possible in the Swiss portion of the event as it greatly impacts your chance of winning.  It certainly aims directly at intentional draws and concessions.

In retrospect, I'm kind of amused at how timid my suggestion was. I suggested giving the higher seeds a single game in-hand, and thought that might be excessive. WotC blew right past my limits.

There are some other interesting administrative factors in this setup. The same number of matches are played [1], but there are four rounds instead of three. However a maximum of two games per round are played. Thus if you broadcasting the event, you only need to cover two games, rather than four in the first round of the traditional style. Similarly, it also means that you only need 2 judge teams to cover the finals, making it more likely that nothing will be missed rules-wise.

All in all, I'm impressed that Wizards is trying something this radical. We'll have to see how well it works in practice.

1. Technically, this mathematically obvious. 8 players, single-elimination, thus 7 players have to lose a match, no matter how you arrange the rounds. It's a old elementary school math puzzle. Given X players, how many matches do you have play to determine a winner? The answer is always X - 1.


  1. I don't think it that radical, considering that's pretty much a standard idea for a lot of sports tournaments.

    Still, for WotC, it is a bit of a surprise. Too bad it's not released in time for Gen Con, which is this week.

    1. Really? What sports is it standard in?

      Baseball has the wild-card game, but that was a extension of the playoffs. I know tennis and similar games often give the high seeds byes for the first few rounds of the tournament. But those are the first rounds, versus giving byes in the playoffs.