Sunday, October 7, 2018

The NOVA Open Format

Hey folks! Truthiness here, back after a longer than intended break following the NOVA Open. I'll dive into a true AAR of my personal experience in the near future. I wanted to start, however, by talking about the NOVA Open's unique structure for its Star Wars Armada tournament.

The standard structure for high level tournaments are pretty familiar by now. For Euros, GENCON, Worlds, and various other Nationals, you typically have four or five rounds of swiss followed by a cut, usually to the top four at most. This is often a problem in and of itself. Such a small cut means that if you find yourself in a close game, you're effectively both out of the running. After the cut, those four players then play single elimination games where the MoV just doesn't matter. Win by a single squadron kill? Congrats, you're moving on. This has been widely panned by the larger community, and for good reason in my opinion. It makes for some very boring games and some very conservative tactics. It stands in stark contrast to how Armada is usually played, where the extent of your victory matters.

Actual footage of Q coming up with the idea for NOVA Open's format. True story.
Starting last year, NOVA decided to do something a little different. Two time North American champ, Quyhn "Q" Nguyen, was the T.O. His dislike for single elimination is fairly well known (search for 4+4=Q on the forums). NOVA's cut had always been a bit larger, opting for a cut to eight since the Armada tournament's inception. After discussing it with the top eight, they elected to do three swiss rounds instead of three single elimination rounds. Though I wasn't there, I'm told it was overwhelmingly popular. They elected to do the same thing this year. Now that I've experienced it first hand, I love it too. I'd like to see other high level Armada events do the same.

Before I go further into the "why," though, let me spell out exactly how the NOVA Open works. Like Worlds has some years, NOVA has a split day one. The top two from each day is guaranteed a spot in the top cut. After those four are set, the next four from the combined standings make the cut. That could potentially mean two from day 1A and six from day 1B make the cut. In practice, I don't think it has ever been more than a 5/3 split. This year it ended up being an even 4/4 split. The top eight, rather than grinding themselves in sudden death, then play three rounds of swiss. As with any other swiss, the top tournament points wins the day.
The primary benefit is the cut games are much more exciting. You can't count on 6-5 wins to advance you to the next round. Just like normal swiss rounds, you have to go for the throat if you want to win it all. If you look at Adam's experience on day two, you'll see the results that this system punishes the most. He won all three of his games: 6-5, 6-5, 7-4 if I remember correctly. He ended up in third. His second game, in particular, he played very conservative and didn't even end up on the top table despite the win. I know Alex and I were going full tilt to make sure Adam didn't jump over us. Jason came back up to the number two spot despite losing to me in the second round. And really, if you lose the eventual winner earlier in the cut, shouldn't you have a chance to be in the top two?

The secondary benefit is that nobody is out of the running because of a 1 point loss. If you win big, you're right back in it. Alex was the perfect example of this at NOVA. She lost an absolutely slug match against Jeremy. In a normal cut that would have been it for her. At NOVA, however, she had the opportunity to make a comeback, which she did in dramatic fashion, beating Ron 9-2 and bouncing back up to the top table. Had she beaten me, she likely would have won it all. This extends to the first day as well. By having an expanded cut, and more rounds on day one, players have a chance to bounce back.

So what do you think? Do you like Armada's existing structure, or are you in my boat of preferring something different?

1 comment:

  1. This was my first major tournament outside of store events. I felt like I even had a chance going into the middle and end rounds. Great experience and awesome format. Everyone on all 3 days was fully engaged and had good chances to place high. I would love to see all events use this format.