Patrick Hoban: The Intentional Draw

hobanWelcome back everyone. This time of the year is always an exciting time because of the WCQs all around the world. This past weekend one of the largest WCQs took place; the European Championship.  I’d like to start off by giving a big congratulations to Chris Bountaloudis for winning the European Championship with his Spellbook deck!

While I’m sure this won’t be the cheating scandal that everyone will be talking about after this weekend, I would like to bring to light a highly exploitable tournament policy currently in place; the draw. In this article I’d like to point out what is wrong with the current system and make suggestions upon how it may be improved.

The best place to start is with how draws can occur and what they mean. Currently Yu-Gi-Oh allows for draws during the swiss portion of a tournament. A draw will occur if both players are equal in game wins and time is called before the third game starts or if both players are equal in game wins and both players life points are the same after 5 additional turns of play. If you get a draw, you will receive 1 point. If you get a win, you will receive 3 points. If you get a loss, you will receive 0 points. Intentional drawing is not allowed under the current system is a violation of tournament policy and will result in a disqualification for cheating.

Why Would A Player Want to Draw?

The first thing you should ask yourself is “are draws beneficial?” At most events, the answer is no. Many times several players with a record of x-2 will miss the top 32 cut (I know all too well), therefore if you have a record of x-2-1, you will almost certainly miss the top 32 cut at any given YCS. This means that at most events, a draw is simply a loss that will give you better tiebreakers than all of the other people with the same amount of “losses.”

If this is the case, why would people ever want to intentionally draw if all they are ever going to do is screw themselves over by doing so? While the average YCS structure of 11 rounds of swiss with a cut to top 32 may not favor a drawing system, some tournament structures do. Let’s take a look at a couple of tournament structures that favored these draws.

The first tournament I want to look at is YCS San Diego. The structure of this tournament was 9 rounds of swiss day 1 with a sealed deck and then 5 rounds of swiss day 2 with a constructed deck. In order to make day 2 you needed 19 points or a record of 6-2-1. If you made day 2, your record was cleared and you started fresh for day 2. In this scenario, a draw would essentially count as a win. It didn’t matter what place you finished in, you just needed to make the cut and doing so with a draw was good enough.

The next tournament I want to look at is the Oceanic WCQ. The structure of this tournament was 7 rounds of swiss with a cut to top 16. This type of structure also favors anyone with a draw. Let’s take a look back to how SJCs that were a cut to top 16 played out. Usually, there would be 1 undefeated, roughly 7 x-1s, and roughly 8 x-2s. Well remember what I said ties were? They were essentially losses that gave you better tiebreakers than all the other people with the same number of losses. That means that if you went x-1-1, you pretty much went x-2, but had higher tiebreakers than all the real x-2s. If someone were to be x-1 going into the last round and know this, they could offer an intentional tie with the opponent and they would both finish x-1-1, higher than all the x-2s and place in top 16.

The next question we should ask is “does this really happen?” Well, unfortunately, the answer is yes. Let’s take a look at how the Oceanic WCQ played out. Click here. There were a whopping 16 people that finished with a record of x-1-1, 10 of which had a tie in the very last round.

The last tournament I want to take a look at is this weekend’s European Championship. The structure of this tournament was 11 rounds of swiss with a cut to top 64. This is almost surely the same structure as the North American WCQ in a couple of weeks. The problem with this is that the single elimination portion of the tournament doesn’t need to be that big. You’re taking a regular YCS-sized event and doubling the amount of people that top. In a traditional YCS, the majority of the people that go x-2 will make it with only a couple of missing. By doubling the size, you make sure that all the x-2s make it (which is likely a good thing), but you also make it so that any x-2-1s also make it. This again, turns a draw into a win as it doesn’t matter what place you finish. Once the top cut comes, 1st place and 64th place mean nothing and it’s single elimination regardless of your previous record. This again gives people a great incentive to intentionally draw.

Again, you should ask, does this happen in an actual tournament with this structure? Again, the answer is yes. Click here. These are the standings for this weekend’s European Championship. 37 of the people that made top 64 had at least 1 draw. That’s an insane number.

The Problems

One thing that has to be clarified is that draws can happen legitimately and do quite often. I’m simply stating that it’s not a coincidence that 10 people drew their last rounds at Oceanics or that there were 37 people with draws in top 64.

Another problem with the drawing system is that it hurts the people that legitimately drew. Let’s take a look back at the Oceanic WCQ. Click here. It’s unlikely that the people who finished in 18th, 19th, and 20th who drew rounds 6, 4, and 1 respectively intentionally drew. What’s the problem? They finished 18th, 19th, and 20th. By taking a draw at an early round in the tournament, your tiebreakers are going to be inherently worse as everyone you beat after that has less incentive to continue playing and will drop and you will lose them as tiebreaker points. This means that everyone who intentionally drew later in the tournament is going to have better tiebreakers than everyone who unintentionally drew.

Let’s take a look back at San Diego again. Click here. At this tournament, 0 x-2s made top 32. Why? All of the draws. If draws were not allowed, there would be about 128 people that would make it to day 2 with a record of x-2. Instead, 158 people were allowed to play in day 2, many of which were because of intentional draws. This hurt anybody who went x-2 on day 2’s chances of making top 32 as there was an inflated number of people in the tournament. This means that the people who are choosing to not cheat are going to be the ones that are getting hurt the most.

The Solution

The obvious solution would be to allow intentional draws. I disagree with this solution. If intentional draws are allowed, everyone will draw the last round of the tournament, effectively shortening the tournament by 1 round. As I mentioned above, this hurts people who legitimately drew as they will have worse tiebreakers.

The upside to allowing intentional draws is that it rewards for doing well. If you’re playing a 9 round tournament with a cut to top 8 and you start off 7-0, you could draw your last 2 rounds to finish 7-0-2 which would put you above all 7-1-1s and 7-2s and almost ensure your top.

Another downside to allowing intentional draws is this loophole. Let’s say we have another tournament with the same structure as San Diego where your record is wiped clean for day 2 and you just need 19 points. Instead of going 6-2 and intentionally drawing your last round, you could start off by drawing your first 3 rounds. This puts you at x-0-3 and gives you 3 points. Now you will be paired against all the x-3s, which theoretically would be the worst people in the tournament. When you win, you’ll be playing against the 1-3s. Then the 2-3s. All you have to do at that point is win 6 in a row, but you’re winning 6 in a row against the worst people in the tournament to guarantee yourself a spot in day 2. This is because 6-0-3 is still 19 points which is all you need for day 2.

Because of these things, I think Konami should get rid of the draw system altogether. It encourages cheating and harms the people who aren’t willing to cheat. Even if intentional draws are allowed, they are still easily exploited and would hurt anybody that legitimately drew. I think it is important for people to be aware of this issue going into the North American WCQ as it has proven to be rampant in other parts of the world. Hopefully Konami will change their policy on this easily exploited issue. Until then all we can do is raise awareness. Lastly, let me know if you think intentional draws should be allowed, if they should keep the system the way it currently is, or if they should do away with draws altogether in the comment section. Until next time, play hard or go home!

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Latest posts by Patrick Hoban (see all)