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06.14.04  If I Were the DCI - Part II

Who Needs Top 8?

So, now that we got over the first big hump towards changing the DCI, it’s all going to be much easier. If you can grasp something as radically different as there not being any more draws in this game you know and love, then anything I say from here on out should be easy to handle.


That being said, its time to get rid of this whole “Top 8” thing. It takes up three hours of extra time I could use sleeping, and doesn’t really change much now that we have no draws. With no draws, let’s remove the thing people were trying to draw in to.


I’m not saying the top 8 has to go everywhere. At certain high level events, the Top 8 is very good public relations. It’s exciting to watch the top 8 of the Pro Tour. The chaff has been cut the wheat, and its time to see the best of the best play it out for the ultimate prize of winning the Pro Tour! It’s exciting. I get chills just thinking about it, although admittedly it may be the Bailey’s I am drinking right now.


I think the lowest level I would like to see a Top 8 would be a Grand Prix, and to be honest, I would only want that because a Grand Prix is a two day event, and if you are going to have a cut to day two, you may as well have a cut to Top 8. Note I didn’t say it have anything to do with the integrity or functionality of the event, because it doesn’t. A Grand Prix would run just fine as straight Swiss. But people are there for two days, they want so exciting conclusion beyond “that was the last round, let’s hand out the prizes.” Most importantly, Grand Prix are the lowest level of event that Wizards does live coverage of on the website, and as I said before, Top 8’s are exciting.


But seriously, at a Pro Tour Qualifier level, why do we need a top 8? While there is some customer satisfaction to take into account here, it really is mostly perception that keeps top 8’s at low level events. At this level though, I want integrity and timeliness, and not having a top 8 is good for that.


There’s several arguments against getting rid of the top 8, so let me change strategy somewhat and outline the arguments I have heard, and discuss them.



1.         “If I get mana screwed once, I am out.”


This is probably my favorite argument… TO POOP ON! This is such a false argument; I don’t see how people can say it with a straight face. If you lose one game to mana screw, YOU WIN THE NEXT TWO! This is why we have matches in Magic. Its not so you can show of your cool sideboard technology. We have matches to minimize the “luck of the draw” and to give you the ability to come back from a mana screwed game. It’s the entire purpose of you playing a best out of three match. In fact, I’d argue that if you were truly the best player, you should be able to easily lose one game EVERY ROUND to mana screw, and still be just fine. You have two more games to smash your opponents face every time.


In short, matches are to make sure you get over a mana screw game, there is no need to have ANOTHER fail safe in case this happens, like a top 8. If you lose twice in a three game span due to mana screw, you are either playing to few lands, or have no idea how to shuffle.



2.         Straight Swiss will place more emphasis on the luck of the pairing


This is a good one. I should save this for last, because it has the most merit. If you are in a situation where one match loss will make it so that you are unable to win the Pro Tour Qualifier Invitation, the concern of running into the “one deck” that can stomp your deck is very high. Someone is going to play the guy running the "hoser" deck round one, and you really don’t want it to be you. Not to mention overall, the guy who plays a good player round one has a disadvantage over a guy who plays a new player round one.


Well, first, let me say that the intent of a “single slot event” such as a Pro Tour is to find the best player, playing the best deck. In the latter example, if you can not beat the good player in round one, you’re not going to beat him in round four either, and you still won’t win the invite, so the argument is moot. In the argument of the “hoser” deck being out there, well, first there has to be a “hoser” deck. Second, someone has to be playing it. Third, they have to end up playing you. This is a long string of coincidences I am willing to put up with as a part of the “luck” of the game. Why? Because I do not see this as any less fair than a guy going undefeated through the Swiss, then losing to a random guy who drew into the top 8, sneaking in at eight place with his random rogue deck, and beating the truly undefeated player through some random occurrence. So, removing the top eight really seems to even out in the whole “luck of the pairing” factor, being neither more nor less luck based.



3.         Playing more rounds means the better player wins.


This is not an argument for a Top 8. This is an argument for Round Robin. Seriously, if you want the most rounds to determine the best player, make everyone play everyone, and then the best record wins. That is a valid argument for more rounds means the better player wins. Top 8 simply means the guy who already proved himself the best player, by being the lone undefeated player, now has to win a second single elimination tournament against the bitter “second place finishers” who couldn’t quite beat him in the main event. That doesn’t seem very fair to me. I could see an argument for a Final Countdown, which Decipher does in their events right now, but the fact that a Swiss triangle does not always come out to “two players left above the rest” makes it difficult to implement.



4.         Why play in a Single Elimination event?


Well, the event still isn’t single elimination. Just because you can’t win first prize after you lose doesn’t mean you can’t keep playing. You can still play in all of the Swiss rounds for points. At some level though, you are right, this is not fair to the players. So I propose we make it fair for the players. If they are going to pay $20-$30 to play in an event, they should get their money’s worth in playing time and prize opportunity. Although I will be going over this a lot more in a later chapter about how Wizards interacts with tournament organizers, my quick answer is, we need to change the prize structure to what I call “top heavy minus one.” First place gets the invite, the scholarship, the three byes, whatever the main prize is, and that’s it. Second place gets “the rest” of what would normally go to first. Maybe its what is now used as the travel award money? Maybe it’s just a butt load of product of some sort? In any case, its something that makes it worth a player to say, “Well, I lost once, but I can still win X. I should stay in”



5.         “I don’t want to place all my luck in a Sealed Deck.”


Well, this one is pretty had to argue. Basically this is a player saying that they are good enough to make top 8 with a bad card pool, but they can’t go undefeated if the cards themselves just aren’t there. This is valid, but this is not an argument for a top 8. This is an argument AGAINST Sealed deck format, and something else I’ll be tackling in a future article, where I attempt to redefine the Pro Tour and Pro Tour Qualifier formats.



So, Swiss for these events maintains the integrity of the event. In some ways it is even better at picking the “best player.” Without the ability to draw, the top 8 becomes that much less appealing, and really just uses up more time, and in some cases more product for no real benefit. The reality is, it’s just not worth having.


Tune in next week, when I once again don the flame retardant suit and tell you my next step if I ran the DCI….




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