When to Intentionally Draw

If you intend to play in a Vintage tournament, or any WOTC event, then you will need to familiarize yourself with the important concept of intentional draws. Unlike playing on your kitchen table, matches during sanctioned tournaments are timed to keep the pace of the event reasonable. Running out of time can result in the match being recorded as a tie or draw because a clear winner wasn’t determined; however players may agree to not play and intentionally record their match as a draw. How to perform an intentional draw without breaking any rules can be found in the WOTC Tournament Policy under Section 2.4 .

So why do players intentionally draw (ID)? Since a draw still rewards a player with one match point, there can be situations where it is more advantageous to draw instead of attempting to win. What if after earning enough points from wins that you need less than a match win to guarantee a position in the Top 8 playoffs? In this scenario drawing makes sense, and since Swiss style tournaments pair players with equal records when possible, most likely your opponent will also want to draw. If you happen to refrain from losing during an event, follow the formula below for when you can start intentionally drawing the rest of the rounds.

t + q/(2R) ≤ P
t = Players who are X-0-0
q = Players who are X-1-0 or better
R = rounds left in the event
P = players making the playoffs

What does this complicated formula achieve? It isolates the amount of players in the event that can reach the necessary amount of match points to qualify for a spot in the playoffs. Typically playoffs take the top eight players after the recommended rounds of Swiss play, therefore in most cases P = 8. If the statement holds true then that makes any player who holds a record of X-0-0 (X = match wins equal to the amount of rounds completed) eligible to ID the subsequent rounds and still make the playoffs.

But math is hard, and I don’t understand what all that technical mumbo jumbo meant. No worries. Essentially what you want to do is figure out how many people could earn as many or more points than you in the next several rounds, and if that number of players is more than the amount of spots in the playoffs.  Without complicated formulas, any player can find the answer to a series of questions to deduce the answer for a given tournament.

When considering to intentionally draw into the playoffs, ask the following questions:

•    How many players hold records of X-1-0 or better?
•    Assuming all the players with a record of X-1-0 and X-0-1 play each other respectfully and that everyone plays it out (no draws), how many will be X-1-0 or better next round?
•    After answering the above sequence of questions for each remaining round, how many players should be X-1-0 or better?

This answer from the above sequence of questions represents the amount of players most likely to finish the event with the highest amount of match points, assuming that players who can intentionally draw into the playoffs agree to ID and don’t play out their matches.

After going through the thought exercise above, now you must ask yourself:

•    Starting this round, if you receive one match point each round, at the end of the tournament what will be your final score in match points?
•    Who else in the event can and will reasonably reach the same amount of match points?

This number represents your final score assuming you intentionally draw the rest of the rounds as well as account for the rest of the players that will do the same. These other players drawing into the playoffs matter,because tie breakers could determine who makes the playoffs versus just missing if people ID disadvantageously.

As long as the number of players that will have the same number of match points as you plus the amount of players that can earn more match points than you is equal to or less than the number of positions making the playoffs, then tie breakers will not matter; you can safely ID because earning one match point a round will still qualify you for a playoff seat at this point in the event.

What if you received a loss in the event and you don’t have the luxury of remaining undefeated? The formula to determine whether or not you can or cannot intentionally draw in the last round of the event (or prior to that round) would be too complicated to attempt to prove and flesh out at this time. When you find yourself in that position, the best rule of thumb is to ask similar questions as to the logic behind the formula stated above:

•    How many players are X-1-0 or better?
•    How many open slots in the top standings exist for players to jump ahead of my current score?
•    Are tiebreakers close in range or far apart? If tiebreakers are close, the fate of making the playoffs may be too difficult to predict and determined by outside forces (example: opponent’s match win percentage)
•    Who has to play? If you possess knowledge of who needs to play based on pairings, standings, and tiebreakers, this could improve your decision to intentionally draw.

In many events one or two matches of players who are X-1-0 in the last round might be able to intentionally draw based on their standings and tiebreakers. However, the decision to draw in these circumstances depends on the situation. Communicating to your opponent that it’s mutually beneficially may prove difficult, if not futile or incorrect. The best advice at that point, especially if your opponent ever refuses to ID, is to play tight and earn that playoff seat with a win.

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