Tournament Thresholds and Things

Friday Flyer #2: An Examination of the 19 Point Day 2 Cutoff

Seven days are all that separate North America’s player base from the first Regional Championship of the 2019 Championship Series. Of course, we’re looking at a bit longer for Europe, and Latin America is getting a head start with a Regional tomorrow—and all lag behind Oceania’s Melbourne Open. Nevertheless, for many of the people that play Pokémon, Oaks will be their first shot at the SM-on situation in a large tournament.

“What am I reading???” — Welcome to our new weekly column, where I’ll be taking every Friday to go through some smaller issue that isn’t fit for a full article and doing some other stuff. Stay tuned for our first mailbag, September 21.

pokemonscreenshots.tumblr.comSomething new this year that will probably first come into effect in Oaks is the 19 match point Day 2 cuts. Last year, we saw many events turn into 7-2 bloodbaths, where advancing to Day 2 was pretty intolerant of slip-ups and fundamentally required both some skill and a bit of luck on a given day. Especially difficult is that this Standard allowed no ties, placing more players in more situations where uncomfortable “a tie hurts both of us” situations reigned. The rules should be always followed, but it’s also good when the rules don’t place people in situations where they’re inclined to want to break them. 6-2-1 adding tolerance for that extra tie, in this sense, should help a number of aspects of tournament operation.

We’ll see if Brazil manages to get to 227 to invoke the new rules tomorrow; it strikes me as unlikely. Even so, they won’t reap the giant Day 2s we’ll be seeing in North America this season—Day 2s that will demand even more excellence out of players to make Top 8.

In a way, the burden of having a truly great run has been shifted from Saturday to Sunday. An unintended (or, at least, unobserved to date) consequence of the shift to 19 points for the Day 2 cutoff will be an increase in the match point cutoff for Top 8. This isn’t an immediately-intuitive result, and I think some have struggled with it when I’ve made the argument. Let’s try to think of it this way:

  • With 32 players starting at 21 points, there could be 16 with 24 after 1 Round, 8 with 27 after 2, etc.
  • With 60 players—and let’s say the first 32 are at 21 points going in, and the others are all at 19 for some reason—you add another 14 players with 22 match points going into Round 2, 7 at 25 after 2 Rounds, etc.—more players at a higher match point tier. You have all the 21s, plus the 19 winners. Less people that enter at 19 will matter in the end, but they still do matter. This pushes the requisite Top 8, Top 16, and Top 32 points up.

For the folks out there good at mental visuals: A Swiss tournament is basically a giant triangle. Ties can make the triangle deformed a bit along the edges, but the bigger the base, the more players there have to be at the “top” match point levels to balance the triangle out. It’s a triangle, not a ladder. We saw this effect at US Nationals with 64 players in Day 2—Top 8 in the final year required 33 points, in an era where Top 8 generally demanded more like 30-31 at Regionals. It will be a tangible difference.

It remains to be seen just how drastic the difference will be, but it will in at least some way result in it being objectively harder to Top 8 or Top 16 2-day Regional Championships this season. If Top 8 previously required 4-1-1 on Sunday, it probably requires 5-1 now (disclaimer: I haven’t math-checked that, and the numbers are mostly picked at random as I don’t know that 4-1-1 worked out for too many people last year).

In a way, there will be players who make Day 2 at Regionals that have no practical shot at making Top 8. Sure, everyone has the potential to 6-0 their way into contention, but there will be players who will just be happy to be there. An important part of the upcoming season, for some of the competitive players that like to get a bit preachy, is going to be letting them be happy to be there. We don’t have a Regionals prizing structure yet, but it would surprise me a whole lot (as in, unprecedented levels) if it comes close to paying out cash to all of Day 2. We do know that TPCi is only mandating packs to Top 64, so there is actually a world where the posted prizing could send some Day 2 players home empty-handed. (And, of course, pack prizing is region dependent anyway, as some super-nice chap at Pokémon really wanted us to know this year.)

With that in mind, the community should be prepared to let people be happy for their successes. Day 2 at Oaks, Memphis, or another large Regional is going to be an accomplishment in of itself. We’re probably going to reach a point where some are, indeed, “just happy to be there” or perhaps seeking to Top 32 or Top 16. I think it’s incumbent on the player base, for the health of the game, that such aspirations not be tainted by sneers of elitism.

In the same vein, Top 8 is going to another level of accomplishment, as the level of excellence required is going to be even higher than last year. For you, my suggestions:

  • Be cognizant of the fact that the move to 19 point cuts means Top 8 and 16 is harder.
  • Be realistic, as a result, about your goals and expectations.
  • Remember, Day 2 is likely to be an accomplishment itself this year. My fingers are crossed that TPCi figures out a way to impress that.

Pro-Tip of the Week: Shuffling your opponent’s deck every time they touch it is a nice idea, but it has two flaws: time and their right to cut it afterward. For some, time isn’t as big a deal, as they shuffle quickly. For all, though, if you believe your opponent is of such shady stature that you trust absolutely nothing, remember that them getting to cut their own deck is an opening for potential manipulation too. My best advice: vary your treatment, cutting high, low, and shuffling. (Full disclosure: I cut my own deck after any opponent shuffles it almost every time, partially to prevent any hijinks on their part, but also as my silent protest against the presumption of my possible cheating off a Max Elixir.)

Have a great weekend!

Christopher

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