NISEI’s New Organized Play Policies

Editor’s note, May 2020: This article was initially part of Replicating Perfection – System Core 2019. It has been split into its own post here for clarity and readability.

When we started this project, we were left with 50+ pages of tournament rules and floor policies spread over multiple documents. We have consolidated, clarified, and simplified these documents into a mere twenty pages, and made several changes which we believe are in the game’s best interests. You can find the complete document here. Here’s the skinny:

Proxies are allowed at all events, and we’ve made a few changes to the policy.

A “proxy” is a substitute for a card that a participant does not own or have with them, and their legality will make it much easier for people with incomplete collections to participate in Organized Play. We’ve tried to balance accessibility and minimizing the opportunity for dishonesty. Check out the doc for the full policy.

Event tiers have been simplified.

There are now just “Casual” events (GNKs, Store Champs, and most miscellaneous events) and “Competitive” events (Regionals-level and higher, all the way up to the World Championship). This greatly simplifies differences in policy between events.

Taking notes is allowed at Casual-level events.

This is huge for new players – for many, taking notes as little reminders, especially of costs to break ice or run servers, was essential, and we can now carry that accessibility into the entry-level tournament scene. We still consider memory to be a skill in some regards, so note-taking will remain illegal at Competitive events.

Tournament staff designations are simpler.

Tournament Organizer and Head Judge are the only unique positions; the rest fall under generic “tournament staff” or “judge”; the terms are largely used interchangeably. At an event, it’ll be made clear who’s who, and the previous system was much more convoluted than necessary.

Two-for-one agreements are specifically allowed.

The “241” (agreeing to forfeit the second game of a match to whoever wins the first) is a regrettable reality of the tournament scene, and banning it is absolutely unenforceable. Previously this type of agreement was neither explicitly allowed or disallowed and existed in a sort of grey area. Moving forward, you’ll be permitted to make this kind of decision with your opponent, provided you randomize who plays which side and jointly declare your two-for-one decision to a member of tournament staff.

Tournaments can have optional Tiebreaker Rounds at the Organizer’s discretion.

Often, a substantial amount of players, being tied for event points, will make or miss a top cut on Strength of Schedule alone. This situation is extremely unfortunate. A Tournament Organizer may now elect to hold shorter, single-game rounds after the normal end of Swiss but before the top cut to definitively settle who makes it and who doesn’t.

Players are again permitted to decide whether they’d like to Run or Corp first.

Previous rules demanded that players randomize who plays which side; this was ultimately unenforceable and in some cases outright nonsensical. If both players cannot agree who will play which side first, then they must randomize, as before.

We’ve removed timed wins.

They served no good purpose; at high-level play, a game win worth two points may as well be worth zero. It’d be hard to count the number of players who have missed a cut simply because they won at time, more often than not through no fault of their own. In the scenario where a player would lose at time, there is zero incentive to not concede as opposed to taking the timed loss – it only helps your Strength of Schedule.

Amalfi Swiss is now an optional tournament structure.

“Amalfi” is a system of Swiss used primarily in chess tournaments in Italy; essentially, instead of pairing players within groups based on event points, players are first ranked, and then paired with the player X places below them, where X is the number of rounds remaining in the tournament. Its primary advantage is that it often removes the incentive to intentionally draw or two-for-one by pairing players with slightly dissimilar records. Time will tell how effective it ultimately is, but it’s an easy and optional change that has the potential for major results. Have a look at the doc for the full details.

Minor changes to infractions and penalties.

As a whole, these are a bit more lenient, particularly at Casual-level events, and we’ve strived to create resolutions that are fair to both players.

The Organized Play team is also investigating several options to further rework tournament scoring and structure to reduce 241s and IDs and foster a more competitive and fair environment, but there is no shortage of research and testing to do before any major changes come to real tournaments.