Another year of MLG’s Pro Circuit brings with it new changes to the League's innovative bracket system. With each iteration, MLG finds new ways to pack more thrilling matches and pro play into the three-day span of a Live Competition.
2011's primary change comes in the form of Pool Play. This change brings more of everything we’ve come to love about MLG Events: more opportunities to watch world class players in action, more chances for up-and-coming teams to take on Pro Circuit veterans, more highlights, more storylines, and more drama. In this article, we give a more detailed explanation of the changes implemented for the 2011 Pro Circuit, with a complete rundown of the new Pool Play process.
Disclaimer: In this explanation we use the term “teams” for convenience. As StarCraft 2 is an individual competition, any use of the word team can be replaced with “player”.
The Pro Circuit's Open Bracket pits a massive field of competitors (for example, up to 208 teams for Halo: Reach, up to 272 players for StarCraft 2) against each other in a double elimination tournament structure. Round by round, teams are eliminated, until four undefeated teams and 12 teams with one loss each remain. The four undefeated teams are given Championship Bracket seeds 17-20 and are placed into pool play. The remaining 12 Open Bracket teams are given seeds 21-32, and are placed in Rounds 1 and 2 of the Championship Bracket Losers Bracket.
The Pro Circuit Championship Bracket is a 32-team, double elimination tournament, with a team’s starting round within the bracket determined by their performance in either the Open Bracket or Pool Play. Four teams (Pool winners) start play in the Winners Bracket, and 28 teams start play from various rounds in the Losers Bracket. Essentially, the better a team has performed in the Open Bracket or Pool Play, the fewer rounds needed to reach the Championship Match and ultimately win a Pro Circuit title. Note that regardless of starting position in the Championship Bracket, any of the 32 Championship Bracket teams could go on to win the Dallas crown. More details regarding Championship Bracket placement are provided below.
Championship Bracket competition begins with Pool Play. There are four pools, each containing five teams. Within each pool are four teams seeded between 1st and 16th, and one undefeated team from the Open Bracket. Pool play consists of each team playing a match against each other team in the pool in a round-robin format.
To illustrate the pool play process, we walk through Pool A from the Dallas Halo: Reach competition. The four teams currently in Pool A are (1) Final Boss, (8) Classic, (9) Impact, and (16) Carbon. The fifth and final spot in Pool A will be filled by an undefeated team from the Open Bracket. With five teams playing against each other team, Pool A will consist of ten total matches.
Although the fifth team in the pool will not be known until Friday night when the Open Winners Bracket concludes, Pool Play matches between the other four teams will kick off on Friday. One of the most exciting aspects of the new Championship Bracket structure will be watching all the top-seeded teams in action from the moment doors open at each Pro Circuit tournament. As seen in the first table, Final Boss, Classic, Impact and Carbon will play the first six matches against each other while the Open Bracket is being played.
After pool play Matches 1 through 6 finish, a preliminary ranking will be taken to determine the order of Matches 7 through 10. In this example, Final Boss takes the top rank with an undefeated record, followed by Classic, Impact and Carbon. Meanwhile, the Open Bracket will have concluded, and imaginary yet heroic squad "LANd Practice" has emerged undefeated and will enter Pool A.
LANd Practice will play against the four other Pool A teams from weakest to strongest, as determined by the rankings after Match 6. In this example, that means LANd Practice will first play against winless Carbon in Match 7. Playing the teams in order from weakest to strongest will give LANd Practice the opportunity to build on the momentum established by their undefeated Open Bracket run, as they face a gauntlet of increasingly difficult opponents. It also rewards the teams who are on top of the pool by giving them more time to rest on Saturday morning.
The pool system gives undefeated Open Bracket teams the unique opportunity of testing their skills against some of the top teams of the Pro Circuit. Even if LANd Practice were to lose against Carbon, Impact and Classic, they would still get a crack at Pro Circuit juggernauts Final Boss. It's a luxury Open Bracket squads have not had in the past, and could provide valuable tournament experience for teams hoping to bring their game to the next level.
In our pretend scenario, LANd Practice have a rough start to their pool play experience with losses against Carbon and Impact, but manage to turn things around with an unexpected win against Classic.
After 10 matches, the final pool rankings are computed. In this example, Final Boss win the pool with an undefeated record, but there are two ties yet to be sorted out. Classic and Impact tie for second with two wins each, and Carbon and LANd Practice tie for fourth with one win each. In the event of a tie, we turn to the first tie breaker: head-to-head record.
In this case, Classic beat Impact in pool play, earning Classic the 2nd seed. Additionally, since Carbon beat LANd Practice, Carbon takes the 4th seed.
With final pool rankings determined, each team is assigned to a round of the Championship Bracket. Final Boss enter at the Winners Bracket Semifinals, and the other teams enter at various rounds of the Losers Bracket.
The diagram to the left gives a complete picture of the Pro Circuit Championship Bracket. As always, any team that loses in the Winners Bracket is sent to the Losers Bracket. Any team that loses a match in the Losers Bracket is eliminated from the tournament. Play continues until only one team remains!