Event Structure

Last month we talked about the types of players that you are likely to see at your events as well as some of the types of prizes that you can offer to attract those players. This week we’ll look over event structure and how each way to run your event has benefits and drawbacks for you and your players.

Step Three – How to Structure Your Event?

There are lots of different ways to structure your events, and it is important to decide on your priorities as well as your target audience before picking one. Both single elimination and a set number of rounds of Swiss pairings will give you a predictable schedule, but they play to different crowds and goals. A full Swiss event with rounds based on attendance, like a Pro Tour Qualifier or Grand Prix Trial, has advantages for all kinds of players since a casual player can play all day regardless of record while a competitive player gets the win they want. It’s all about what you want to accomplish with the event, so let’s break down each type of structure:

Single (or Double) Elimination

Once you lose one (or two) matches, you are eliminated from the event. Great structure for small events with a set number of players.

  • (+) Winner takes all appeals to competitive players.

  • (+) Works best for events with specific numbers of players—4, 8, 16, 32—which allow for perfect brackets.

  • (+) Prizing very clear when used with a perfect bracket.

  • (-) Being eliminated quickly is a turn off for players who just want to play.

  • (-) Can result in a lot of byes when used in an open-entry event.

I find that single elimination is best used for on-demand events with a set number of players, such as drafts and “win-a-box” events. The structure is simple and familiar, but it is not a good fit for an event that does not have a set number of participants. We use this structure for all of our eight-player events at StarCityGames.com Open Series and Grand Prix.

Set Number of Swiss Rounds

Play a set number of rounds against players with similar records. Casual appeal and logistically easy at the cost of having a “winner.”

  • (+) Predictable timing—each round is about one hour of play time.

  • (+) Allows for accurate prediction of per-player prizing when awarding by record regardless of attendance.

  • (+) Handles any number of players easily.

  • (-) Does not necessarily provide a “winner.”

  • (-) Does not work well with prizes based on standing.

This is a great format for Friday Night Magic, Prereleases, and weekly events. Players know coming in about how long they are committing to the event, and the structure can handle any number of players while staying within a targeted pack-per-player prize structure. We use this structure for all of our scheduled side events at StarCityGames.com Open Series as well as for most of our FNM and Prerelease events at the Star City Game Center.

Full Swiss Rounds – Top 8 Optional

Play a number of rounds against players with similar records based on attendance to determine a winner. The Top 8 playoff (if used) is played as a single-elimination bracket, with pairing based on standings in Constructed events and random pairings in Limited events. Combines the competitive appeal of single elimination with the casual appeal of Swiss rounds at the cost of time.

  • (+) Provides a clear “winner” and full standings.

  • (+) Allows for a Top 8 bracket if desired.

  • (+) Handles any number of players easily.

  • (-) Requires attendance to be known before setting up prizes on a “per-player” model.

  • (-) Pre-set prizes can become very high (or very low) per player based on attendance.

  • (-) Open-ended timing.

This structure is mandated for some larger events. Swiss rounds, when based on attendance, are designed to ensure that all players with zero or one losses make the Top 8. When players think of a bigger tournament, this is the structure that they expect, which makes this the perfect structure to use for a showcase event. StarCityGames.com Invitational Qualifiers, PTQs, and GPTs all require that you use this structure, but it can also work well for an independent weekend event.

That should give you a good background in the available structures for your events. Make sure to join us next month when we’ll figure out how much prizes you’re giving out per player at an event with a set number of Swiss rounds before you even know how many players are coming!