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If I Ran the DCI - Part 1:  No More Draws



Yesterday I ran a tournament for the Marvel VS Trading Card Game. The event was their version of a PTQ, called a Pro Circuit Qualifier. Its their first season running this event, but the people who work for Upper Deck now have years of experience in event running, mainly old Wizards of the Coast employees who have moved on to Upper Deck.

It has been interesting to see what they are doing now that they have the freedom to create their own Organized Play system.


Wizards is also continuously refining their organized play guidelines, and it got me to thinking. I have been running events for a long time now, and hopefully in my years of experience, I have learned a bit about running events, and what works and doesn’t. So, as a mental exercise, I have begun thinking about what I would do if I had the same opportunity, to start from scratch in creating an organized play system.


The original idea didn’t last long, as I realized that a large part of the things I like in Organized Play are already in Wizard’s Organized Play program. So I modified my ideas to “what would I change in Wizard’s Organized Play” and the ideas got more and more concrete. This article is the first in a series, and will talk about the different things I would change if I ran the DCI. In some cases the individual ideas tie into other weeks (like this weeks article will tie in very closely with next weeks), so, be patient if some of these things seem to not make sense.


That’s not to say I don’t want feedback, on the contrary, I want a lot of feedback. But if you do choose to reply, please at least give me different ideas or rationale, instead of just “that idea sucks.”


That being said, let’s jump right in with the first change I would make: the removal of Draws. This is one Upper Deck got right in my opinion. No draws, intentional or otherwise. You are matched up against an opponent, and you beat them, or you do not beat them. You do not decide to leave the field of battle, go your separate ways to meet again another time.


Implementing a no draw policy is simple. Using the no draw rules from Single Elimination matches is just as effective in Swiss matches. For those of you that don’t know the rule, here it is from the Magic Floor Rules:


117.            Determining a Match Winner

In Swiss rounds, the winner of a match is the player with the most game wins in the match. If both players have equal game wins, then the match is a draw.


In single-elimination rounds, matches may not end in a draw. After the normal end-of-match procedure is finished, the player with more game wins is the winner of the match. If both players in a single-elimination tournament have equal game wins when the normal end-of-match procedure is finished, the player with the highest life total becomes the winner of the current game in progress. In the event the players have equal life totals (or are between games and the game wins are tied), the game/match should continue until the first life total change that results in one player having a higher life total than the other.


Simple enough. Many people will argue that this method of determining a Match Winner favors aggressive, faster decks and players. My response to this is simply “No Duh.” Tournament Magic is all about beating your opponent IN THE ALLOTTED TIME. If your deck cannot beat your opponent within the time limit, you are not playing a good TOURNAMENT Magic deck. I am not saying its not a good deck, and won’t win. But it’s not a deck you should bring to a tournament. A tournament has a time limit for each round. You are WELL INFORMED about this time limit. If you bring a deck that cannot beat your opponent in the time required, this is your fault, not the fault of the game or the event. If you play slow, learn to play faster. If your argument is that you cannot control the speed of which your opponent plays, I disagree. There is no reason for you to not raise you hand and call a judge when you feel your opponent is playing slow, and ask that they be watched for slow play.


So, now that we agree that you can use the method from 117 to determine a match winner, why should we have draws at all? We have completely taken care of unintentional draws, which only leaves intentional draws.


I had a friend who phrased what is probably the most popular argument for Intentional Draws into four succinct words: “It Rewards Good Players.” The idea is simple, a good player will go 4-0 in a 6 round event, and then because they were “good enough” to win their first four rounds, they want to be able to draw in to the top 8. There are so many flaws to this argument; I can’t even begin to get into them all.


But I’ll try.


My biggest argument here is that players do not exclusively use the Intentional Draw rule in the scenario described. If two players on a team meet in round one, they will often draw so as to not knock out their friend. This happens all the time, and is in no way fair to the players. Friends helping friends by giving them free points in no way establishes a level playing field. Someone should not be able to get into the top eight because they have more people willing to draw with them than the next guy. This argument of course also extends to players “scooping” to other players, but that is another subject entirely, and not for this article.


In the above scenario, the Intentional Draw did not reward the good players. It rewarded the players with good match ups. The early rounds are the rounds where you are just as likely to play Joe Scrub as you are Johnny Magic Pro. Being 4-0 in an event is not the accomplishment of a Good Player. It is the accomplishment of a guy who got lucky in his match ups, beat a few random scrubs, and now wants to draw in instead of having to play against the actual GOOD People he is likely to meet in the 4-0 brackets. To better phrase it, it rewards the average players who have had good match ups.


In all fairness, it may in fact penalize the good player who happened to actually have to play another good player in the early rounds, and now sits at 3-1.  An Intentional Draw by other people means that he now cannot lose another match or he will not make top eight, as opposed to other situations where he may have a chance. Let me show you with an example for a 44-player event. Here is the Swiss triangle:



                                                            22                    22                                                       

                                                11                    22                    11                                           

                                    6                      16                    17                    5                                 

                        3                      11                    17                    11                    2                     

            2                      7                      14                    14                    6                      1         

1                      5                      10                    14                    10                    3                      1



So, at the end of Swiss, there should be six people guaranteed in, and two out of ten will fight it out in the 4-2 brackets. This is how it should be. Now, let’s say that two of the three 4-0 people draw in round five. They have just removed the possibility of losing the next two rounds (five and six), and landing in the 4-2 bracket with the good player at 3-1 who just happened to lose a round earlier. So, with NO other draws occurring, all of a sudden we have at the end of 6 rounds, one undefeated, two people at 4-1-1, and three people at 5-1, so still six people and a bunch of other’s fighting it out at 4-2. The problem here is there is that the people who drew get in to the top 8 for free, when the 3-1 guy has to battle it out, all because he had to play a good player, where the other guys got lucky in their pairings.  Of course we know that’s not really what happens either. What really happens is that more draws occur in the next round. In Round Five there is one person at 5-0, two at 4-0-1 and six at 4-1. The top 3 people will all draw, and everyone in the next six will draw, except the guy who thinks his tie breakers won’t get him in, or who has to play down. So suddenly eight of the top eight are filled (the three top guys, and the five 4-1’s that drew), with the only guy capable of knocking someone out of the top eight being the 4-1 that had to play down, if he wins. Now, there are no slots open for the guy who goes 3-2, when there were supposed to be two


In short, intentional draws ruin the integrity of the event. The Swiss triangle should accurately show how the event should end up, but never does due to draws. Removing draws from the system brings the event back to how it should be, the best players rising to the top after ALL the rounds have been played, not the guys at X-0 halfway through the event trying to slip into the top eight. Some people may argue that having ten people fighting for the last two slots in the above example being even more random than draws. I have to disagree. It is at this point that you need to place faith in the tiebreakers used in the system. For Wizards events, the first tiebreaker is “Opponent Match Percentage,” or, how tough were the people you had to play against. If nothing, I would say this fully supports the idea that a No Draw Swiss system would still let the cream rise to the top. There is of course still some level of randomness because you can control how tough the people you play against are only marginally (by winning more often), but it’s far better than allowing draws when situations arrive where two people drawing can be penalize ten people.

Tune in next week for my next “big change” I would do if I ran the DCI. It ties in closely with this first one, so keep that in mind.


Have a great week!


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