Swiss format has long been used in other competitive tournaments from chess to Magic: The Gathering to Yu-Gi-Oh. The Swiss format matches players against each other with similar records. For example, if a player wins their first match, they will be put up against someone who also won their first match. Similarly, a player that lost their first match will be against someone else who lost their first match. Later on in a tournament, you will see players with records of 3-2 (three wins, and two losses) against other players that are 3-2.
Why would we want to use Swiss Format?
The primary reasons for using Swiss format, as I see it, is that there will be more games, and generally more accurate standings. Throughout the entire tournament, no player will get eliminated, even if they lose every match. The final rankings of the players are more accurate as well. Because in Hearthstone sometimes a match is decided on luck (E.G. a lucky draw or a bag Ragnaros shot), a player could advance in an elimination tournament with an inferior deck or worse plays. With the Swiss format however, that player might still have that lucky win, but unless their luck holds up for five or six matches, their final score will still reflect their skill level. The same goes for the player that unluckily lost their first match. Instead of being eliminated from the tournament right away, they still have the chance to make their way through the standings to a fairly high ranking.
A more specific advantage to this format as it relates to Hearthstone is that it favours more balanced decks. You won’t be seeing many decks that rely on a hard-to-pull-off combo, or decks that have a below average win-rate. These decks can be fun to see, and can be strong in one or two games, but over the course of potentially dozens of games, they fall short. This leads to stronger matches against stronger decks.
What are the disadvantages to Swiss format?
The final match between top players may not be as exciting as in other tournaments. It is possible that the final match doesn’t even matter, in that one player has such a great lead he cannot possibly lose. Another disadvantage is that the rankings for players in the middle aren’t as meaningful. The top players and bottom players are fairly representative, but all of the players in the middle could be of extremely varying skills.
This summer the Swiss Format was introduced into the group stages at Dreamhack. There were 7 rounds, and only the top 8 would advance to the next stage. Because of the Swiss format, that means one player that went 7-0 (Hawkeye), and seven that went 6-1. You could only afford to lose one match if you wanted to advance. If you lost two or more games, you were out. That sounds awfully familiar to a double-elimination tournament to me.
Dreamhack Summer 2015 Winner: TiddlerCelestial
Is this the future?
I think we can expect to see a lot more Swiss formats in Hearthstone tournaments. Even though a double elimination format would have accomplished the same thing in the group stages of Dreamhack, and it would have been a lot easier, there wouldn’t have been near as many games, and the downtime between games would have been shorter. This format allows more players to participate for longer in tournaments.
Recently I was knocked out of a fireside gathering tournament first round. I was disappointed, not that I lost, but because I only got to play one series. I think Swiss format is a great thing for getting more players into the professional scene and in ensuring that skill levels are better-reflected in tournament results. I may not ever be a professional player, but I invest time in practising for amateur tournaments so would much prefer to play a multiple series.