With the World Championships being only a month away, many first time World Championship competitors are likely wondering about what to expect when they get to the World Championship and in particular what to expect during Day 1 of the World Championship, as well as what to expect in the transition to Day 2.
I’ve been fortunate to play in two of the World Championships that have used this tournament structure. In 2015, I advanced onto Day 2 with a 5-0-1 record on Day 1 with Night March. In 2016, I dropped from Day 1 after falling to 3-2-1 in the sixth round of the tournament.
For those not familiar with the Day 1 structure of the World Championship, during Day 1, all players who finish Day 1 with an X-2 or better record advance onto the second day of the World Championship where an entirely new Swiss tournament is started.
In this article I will go over my experiences from these two tournaments, what I learned from them, and my thoughts on what to expect Day 1 based on these experiences.
In 2015, all players with a 5-2 or better record advanced to Day 2. In 2016, all players with a 6-2 or better record advanced to Day 2.
With this tournament being much smaller than the previous two years, the expectation from most players is that Day 1 will be six rounds this year, which means a 4-2 or better record will advance.
This is going to be a very low hurdle to clear, as this year the expectation will be for players do go only a single game above .500 to advance to Day 2.
As soon as a player hits the required amount of match points they are advanced to Day 2 and a removed from the tournament for the remaining rounds.
The Difficulty Level
As far as the difficulty level of the tournament is concerned, for the past two years I would rate the difficulty level of the tournament as being a little bit more difficult than the first day of a Regional Championship in the United States, but easier than Day 2 of a Regional Championship in the United States.
However, this year’s difficulty level will likely be a little bit higher than the past two years in terms of player caliber. In 2015 and 2016 there were players that got there by winning 290/300 points locally in the United States and European players that got there by winning or doing well in 10-20 person Regional Championships or doing well in very small National Championships. These players were typically very low caliber and very easy to beat. With the structure change this year, these weak players are no longer going to be in the tournament, for the most part, so you should expect to play against a competent player every round of the tournament.
I still think that Day 1 will likely be easier than Day 2 of a Regional. The reason for this is that in Day 2 of a Regional Championship you are left with players who had done something right in regards to their deck choice, decklist, metagaming, and play for that tournament, so they have something that is clearly working for them that weekend, which isn’t going to be the case for everyone during Day 1 of the World Championship.
In Day 1 of the World Championship, while almost all of the players are likely to be competent this year, many of them will make poor deck choices for the meta or build their deck in a subpar way which will make them fairly easy to beat. This is different from Day 2 of a Regional (especially the larger 600+ player ones) where all of these players have already had a day of success with their deck choice.
Playing the tie and concession game
In the two Day 1’s that I have played in I have had two ties. Both of these ties came in vastly different scenarios, one of them being in a situation where a tie was okay, while the other came in a situation where a tie was very bad.
My first tie in 2015 came in round 5 of the tournament in a Night March mirror match. Winner of the match would advance to Day 2, the loser would have two more chances to move forward in rounds 6 and 7.
The game ended up going to time and I ended up one turn short of being able to win. My deck was thinned perfectly in this game to where there was nothing that could happen that would prevent me from winning on my next turn, the only problem was that there was no next turn. No concession came from my opponent, so the match ended in a tie.
While this was frustrating, this was an appropriate tie. The game was played at decent pace, and it was just unfortunate that I ended up one turn away from a win. At 4-0 headed into the round, the tie put both of us at 4-0-1. What this meant was that if we tied our next round, to go to 4-0-2, if we hit someone else who was also 4-0-2 in the 7th round, we could then intentionally draw into Day to at 4-0-3.
Both of us actually ended up winning in round 6 to advance at 5-0-1.
The first thing to learn about the X-2 and better structure is that as long as you don’t have any losses, ties don’t become toxic until you get your 4th one. If you need 5 rounds to advance, 2-0-3 is as good as 3-2, for 6 rounds, 3-0-3 is as good as 4-2, for 7 rounds 4-0-3 is as good as 5-2, and so on.
As long as you don’t have a loss, it is okay to accept the tie.
As far as intentional draws go, if I were to start 3-0 (assuming 4-2 advances this year), I would play out the last three rounds and accept natural ties if they happen and not try to intentionally draw. If you choose to play it out, you then have 3 chances to advance to Day 2. If you intentionally draw round 4, your round 5 or 6 opponents may be unwilling or unable to intentionally draw which essentially just cost you one of your shots at advancement.
My other tie, however, represents the situation where it’s not appropriate to tie. Entering the round, both my opponent and I were 2-1 headed into the round. In the X-2 or better structure, when you already have a loss, any future ties are equivalent to a loss. Additionally, if you had picked up ties earlier in the tournament any loss later in the tournament converts these into the equivalent of losses as well.
My opponent in this round played with a very slow pace of play, especially after I had won game 1. During game 2, I had created an early game lead, but ended up in a Supporter drought after hitting my 1 Fisherman off of a Random Receiver instead of a draw Supporter. Because of my opponent’s awful pace of play, there wasn’t time to finish a game 3 and we finished in a tie, which was essentially a loss for both of us.
I am not exactly sure why he was playing so slow, but I think he might have been angling to try to get a concession in an incomplete game 3. However, I think if your opponent slow plays you into a tie, then you should not offer a concession no matter what the situation as you should not let your opponent scumbag their way into a concession.
Obviously a tie does no good for any player once a loss has already been picked up, so I think the correct move is for all players to go into Day 1 with the mindset of conceding to their opponent if they are in a losing situation in game 3 and their opponent played with proper pace.
Given the tournament structure, conceding doesn’t take anything away from anyone, so all you are doing by conceding is giving someone else more opportunity at no cost to yourself, as in the one loss situation, the tie is essentially a loss anyhow.
However, even if you are in a winning position and your opponent is not outright offering a concession, you should not ask for one or try to pressure your opponent into giving you one. This is against the rules and can result in you being disqualified from the tournament. While this can be frustrating, it’s important to play by the tournament rules and also to remember that you can always guarantee yourself a win by actually winning the match.
To sum this up, here are my thoughts concerning ties and concessions in Day 1.
- Play with a fast pace of play to avoid ties.
- Ties are okay to accept as long as you have not lost yet.
- As soon as you lose, you should concede if you are in a losing position in game 3.
- If you are in a winning position, your opponent should be the one conceding to you.
- Don’t offer a concession if your opponent slow played against you, was a jerk, or you are the player in the winning position.
- Don’t ask for a concession or try to pressure your opponent into giving one.
- Don’t try to intentionally draw into Day 2 if you start X-0 and need 1 more win to advance, take the maximum amount of shots at advancing that you can.
What Decks People Bring and Test
You should expect that the metagame for the tournament will be very advanced with most players in the tournament uncovering the top few decks to see play. There is so much talent in the tournament, that most of the top decks for the tournament will be uncovered and played by multiple testing circles.
In 2015, I determined Night March was the best play for the tournament. When I showed up to my room at Worlds, all three other people in the room were planning on playing Night March as well, although none of us talked with each other about playing it. Similarly in 2016, I determined that Greninja was the best play for the tournament, our group played it, and so did a ton of other groups.
For the majority of ideas, especially already established metagame decks, you should expect almost every other testing group for the World Championship to be running through these same ideas.
Deck Choices – Day 1/Day 2 Divide
A common question that is brought up in the community in regards to the World Championship is whether or not something is a good play for Day 1, a good play for Day 2, or a good play for both. In the two World Championships I have played in with this structure, the concept of playing a different deck Day 2 than a player played Day 1 isn’t something that is actually practiced.
The vast majority of players that advance to Day 2 of the tournament play the same deck that they used during Day 1 of the tournament.
There is a good reason for this. If you don’t make it through Day 1, then you don’t get a chance to win it in Days 2 and 3, so players are always going to be inclined to put their best foot forward during Day 1. Additionally, if a player advances to Day 2, they will by the nature of this act have been successful with whichever deck they played which will give them confidence in the deck, which adds another factor that would make a player not switch decks.
Secrecy isn’t too big of a factor as well. As long as you are not streamed, almost no one will know what you played to make it through to Day 2, and even if you are streamed, no one will probably care unless you’re playing something super spicy. Most players that make Day 2 at the World Championship (whether by Top 16 or Day 1 advancement) will probably have a sizable ego, so they likely are going to believe that whatever they’re concocting is the best thing in the room, even if the actual best thing in the room is put on display and it’s not their thing, so all these large egos can let some of the best decks slide under the radar.
If a deck does extremely well on Day 1, you can typically expect a little extra counter play on Day 2, but this doesn’t tend to have much impact. Night March was great for pushing players through to Day 2 during 2015, players brought some pretty hard counters to it during Day 2 (I know because I spent most of my Day 2 losing to these counter decks), but that didn’t stop Night March from getting 3rd place and 8th place at this World Championship. Sketchy counter decks are unlikely to derail the top contenders, as these counter decks typically have poor consistency or have poor matchups against other top tier decks.
In 2016, Greninja was great for pushing players into Day 2, other players knew that headed into Day 2, but that didn’t stop Greninja from doing well as it finished 2nd and 5th in the tournament.
I think the best move players can make when preparing for the Day 1/Day 2 split is to plan on playing the same deck for both days. Players should figure out what they think is the best deck in format, play that deck and try to do well both days with it.
If a player advances to Day 2 with their deck, they should try to figure out if there are some minor 1-2 card changes that they can make to fix any problems they saw come up in Day 1 or to better suit it for the metagame rather than try to play a completely different deck.
The only time I would look into playing a different deck is if you show up to Day 1, your deck is terrible for the metagame and you only advance because you get very lucky.
Day 1 of the World Championship can be very daunting for players experiencing it for the first time, but it’s important for them to understand that it’s a just a tournament not too dissimilar from a Regional Championship. The most important thing that players who have never played in Day 1 of a World Championship to do is familiarize themselves with the unique tournament structure and understand what that means for them as they navigate their way through the tournament.
The last thing players should do is remember to have fun. Worst case scenario is that you bomb out of Day 1 and sign up for the Anaheim Open. If you miss registration from that, the new worst case scenario is that you can cheer on your friends that are doing well and have some fun with friends in Anaheim, maybe go to Disney Land or something.