Season XI of the Champion Ladder started last Wednesday (Nov 29th) on all platforms. Official announcement.
We've received a lot of feedback about a tweak to the rules on PC/Mac. The Champion Ladder on PC/Mac is here, updated every season. For season XI, we have tweaked the rule concerning the "wildcard" teams, who are the eight teams qualified for the Champion Cup, in addition to the top team from each race.
In season 10, we qualified the "wildcards" as the eight second-highest ranked teams (maximum of one wildcard per race).
In season 11, we have changed this rule to qualify as "wildcard" the eight second-highest teams from a pool of set races that changes each season. This pool of eight "wildcard" races would cover all 24 teams over three seasons.
We received a lot of questions about the logic behind this change, I'll try to explain why we're interested in it.
Why did we change the wildcard rule?
Let's talk about the goals of the Champion Ladder:
- To provide a matchmaking environment where there are fewer concessions.
- To create a competition among each race to get to the playoffs.
- To provide a diverse, safe and fun environment.
Points one and two are easy enough, and I think we've largely done that. Hardest to achieve is the third. Diversity in match-making environments has traditionally been very skewed. It has always and will always be the case: bash teams will always be played more in general.
In order to achieve that team diversity that we would like, there is a need to incentivise playing different races for people who would otherwise not do so. The best way to do that is to structure the Ladder part of the competition which provides the playoff spots accordingly. There are a number of ways to do that.
If we're purely looking for the "best coach", we could simply take all the matches a coach plays regardless of race and rank them by that. The problem here is that it is a strong incentive to play the strongest teams: Who would play as 'flings, even for one match, if every match counts? It's a huge disincentive to diversity.
So we need to look at "best teams". We could do that as simply the top 32 of the ladder, but again we'd see a lack of diversity of the races likely to qualify.
So we take "the best team in each race". This makes the ladder competition intra-race rather than inter-race, and it's important to remember that is the principle that we are working with. Even if you're 'flings, you're competing with other 'fling teams rather than with WE for the playoff spot, and if you want to try a different team than your primary attempt to qualify then you can do so. Seems like the best solution: it also gets around any need for seeding since the ladder is not between races but within them.
So assuming we take the "best team in each race" route, we need to work out how to do the wildcard thing. Wildcards matter as every one that each race gets is a 100% increase in the chance of qualifying. It's effectively another eight places on top of the 24 already going to qualify, and as the number of wildcard slots increases, the more value they have in the overall competition. With eight wildcard slots the chances of a top-two or top-three performing race getting one of those slots increase considerably relative to when there are three such slots. That, again, does not help with diversity.
So how do we choose them? For the same reasons as for why we chose "best team in each race" it's better to preselect the eight races rather than have them fall out of what would effectively be an eight-team "best team" qualifier, even if we limit it to one per race. This is an intra-race tournament, not an inter-race tournament. The inter-race tournament is the playoffs.
Furthermore, if we pre-select the races and cycle through all 24 then we have a "three-season era" over which period every race has four teams qualify for the playoffs.
We understand that having a qualified team ranked 90th on the general leaderboard and a team ranked 20th, not qualified seems weird, but it already happens with the season 10 rules. It's because of the intra-race competition on the ladder.
The other argument is that it "forces" people to play other races. It's an incentive, but it is not forced. Nobody can force anyone to play any team they do not want to play.
What do we do now?
As explained in the official announcement, we'll switch back to the season 10 "wildcard" rules for season 11 and now apply a minimum delay of two weeks before a new season to announce any rule changes.
We've opened this topic to explain the logic behind this contested change. Please tell us what you think of a potential tweak to this rule, but also what we could do to improve the Champion Ladder! We don't expect a sudden agreement with the wildcard change, but it's important to open a dialogue about it - what we should have done earlier.
Please keep in mind that we're looking for constructive criticism. Ad-hominem attacks won't help us shape a better competition.
Looking forward your comments,