Improving Tie Breakers in Events

Something that has always confused me in TCGs is how we run events today with hundreds or even thousands of people the same way we used to run events with just a couple dozen. We play some Swiss rounds based on the number of players and then cut to the top 8 players because it squares a bracket nicely.

Because of the way this is done we often have spots in these single elimination rounds being decided by tie breakers which are determined by the strength of opponents played in the event. Because no one has any control over who they play, this makes tie breakers random. Because TCGs have enough variance in them I personally would love to see some methods tried that could reduce this often frustrating variance Today I would like to talk about one possible alternative method.

We start by playing a number of Swiss rounds based on our event size. We would use the current round thresholds minus one. So, for example, with 65-128 players we would play six rounds of Swiss. At the end of swiss we do a single elimination cut with all the players who finished with an X-1 record or better.

Because we are cutting based on record, we will often not have a perfectly square amount of players. Now we use tie breakers from the event to square the bracket by handing out byes to the players with the best records. For example, if we had a 125 player event we would likely have 14 players who are 5-1 or better after six rounds. This means we would need to hand out two byes in the first round of single elimination, so the players who finished first and second after the swiss would get a bye.

Folks who are familiar with brackets will note this creates an additional round of single elimination when we have nine or more players who finish X-1 or better. This is fine though because we removed a round from the Swiss portion of the event. This means events are at most the same length as we are used to them being for the players who make the top cut, while also being shorter for a majority of the people playing.

While I think my suggested method here would likely be an improvement over the current system which we have been using for ages, I would not be surprised if there are even better solutions out there. I just find it surprising, and kind of annoying, that we have been using the same tournament format for decades without ever exploring other options.

A Short Thank You

I probably do not mention it enough, but I appreciate the silent majority of TCG players that are reasonable people. I love meeting people, shaking hands, and damaging, err, signing stuff at events.

Sites like reddit giving a loud microphone to the vocal minority is frustrating, but perspective is important.

I just want to say thank you for supporting my content. Whether you are a subscriber on twitch channel or just someone who reads my articles every week – thanks. You make doing what I do worth doing.