For this week’s Waypoint Weekly, we’re talking game tournaments. Tournaments of course can showcase a player’s skill, knowledge, and mastery of a game, as well as their ability to perform well under pressure. But for this topic we’re not discussing your average everyday tournaments, specifically, I want to hear about the weirder ones. Have you ever watched or participated in a tournament with a non-standard structure or with non-traditional rulesets? If so, what were they? Did it require a different type of skill that you normally wouldn’t associate with that game? Seperately, if you could set up your own fantasy tournament and you could make the rule parameters whatever you wanted, what would you come up with? (it doesn’t have to be a for a competitive game or even a game with multiplayer)
Magic: the Gathering tournaments usually are a series of best-of-three one-on-ones with rounds of Swiss* proportional to the tournament size and followed by top cut* for a sufficiently large tournament.
Trying to do that when playing Magic’s Commander variant, though? A whole different ballgame.
Magic’s Commander variant is (optimally) a four-player game. As such, the winner is the last one standing and the second-place person is the second-to-last one standing. These two players are considered the “winners” of the table and proceed to a “winner” table and the other players go to a “loser” table. This proceeds until a winner is ultimately decided (winner of top table is 1st, runner up at top table is 2nd, winner of runner up table is 3rd), although things can get rather hairy when you have decks that can declare a winner without producing individual losers (a Laboratory Maniac/Demonic Consultation combo, for example, which would cause the other three players to lose simultaneously).
A friend of mine and I attended a local Commander tournament full of people we had never met before. There was some identity confusion and so I wound up at the winner table (I died rapidly Game 1) and he wound up at the loser table, but both the tournament organizer and my friend decided that it wasn’t a big deal. I wound up winning at the main table (good for a $50 gift card thanks to a local sponsor) and my friend won the loser table.
Commander’s an interesting Magic format for a lot of reasons but the meta layer of diplomacy that gets added to it is not something you get in 1-1. A whole lot of “I will deal with that problem card if you don’t attack me,” non-aggression pacts, picking on the new guy because he has a Field of the Dead and a Life from the Loam, etc. I honestly found it a little irritating just how much politicking was going on given that there was money involved (part of the reason I think Commander-for-money is a bad idea in the first place), but I also think that the financial disparities of Commander can create major power disparities (Mox Diamond was not a $600 card when I bought it, I can assure you) that you kinda have to address somehow when there’s money.
Swiss: Three points for a win, one for a tie, zero for a loss. The bye (odd number of players so someone lacks an opponent) is a win. Winners play winners, losers play losers until the appropriate number of rounds have been played (ceiling(log2(n)) where n is the number of players).
Top cut: For a sufficiently large or important tournament, after Swiss has been completed, the Top 4/8/16/32 players battle it out in single elimination for the top prize.
Wow, that’s kinda wild to think about on-the-fly temporary alliances and politicking going on in an in-person card game I’ve never heard of that kind of thing before and know next-to-nothing about Magic, but it also seems like it’d be fun to watch.
Elder Dragon Hijinx on YouTube produces some good Commander content, if you’re curious, but I’m not sure how easily parsed their games would be without a pretty firm base knowledge of Magic.
I’m also a little sore about Commander politicking because all of those alliances are usually against me lol.
For my serious answer here, the Unbeatable (a rhythm game) discord recently held a tournament that was a lowest score tournament. You had to play a set of songs back to back and try to get the lowest total score you could. If that wasn’t tricky enough, they threw in a couple of extra parameters to make it more spicy 1) if you failed a song, you automatically lost and 2) you also to had to try to maintain the highest note combo you could. (I’m thinking this latter rule was added to prevent people from optimizing where they could learn to hit every Xth note just to stay alive and purposely miss all others). If you did miss a note at any point and dropped your combo, X number of points per missed note would be added to your total score at the end. Like a lot of other rhythm games out there, you don’t just get points for hitting a note, you get more points the more accurate your timing (i.e. the closer you are to hitting the note when it aligns perfectly with the hit zone). So for anyone who’s played a rhythm game, you can probably imagine how hard it is to hit every note with intentionally bad timing when the intuitive thing is to hit a note in time with music.
For my fantasy tourneys I have a few ideas, all very troll-y lol
A fighting game tournament where every action a character can do (jump, duck, special attack, etc.) is written down and placed in a hat and players take turns drawing from the hat which decides actions what actions they’re not allowed to use in the following match.
Inverted shooter tournament–Take some first or third person shooter with a traditional deathmatch mode. Split into three rounds. Round 1) players have to play with X and Y invert settings set to the opposite of what they usually use (if they play regular, they must played invert and vice versa). Round 2) They can revert their looks settings to what they usually are, but have to now hold the entire controller upside down. Round 3) Regular look settings, controller held like normal, but the tv or monitor they’re playing on is upside down
Rube Goldberg tournament where players play a series of matches across different games, where the final winner decides a very simple rule change at the end. For example, a Mario Kart race where the winner of the race decides the course and starting hole # for a 3-hole Mario Golf match. The winner of that then picks the map in a Halo deathmatch. And finally the winner of that gets to pick the stage for the first round of a regular, no-weird-rules Smash tournament (which is the actual tournament everyone’s there to play)
Oh I’ve always wanted to do a variation of the Rube Goldberg tournament but I’m not competitively viable enough at enough games to do it lol
LAN events used to have some fun stuff once the sun went down. Had a friend win a CPU+motherboard from a 256 person single elimination RPS tournament. Think that was the same year they did a paper airplane competition.