This tournament format has been put in place at the National and World level. This format is subject to change - updates to the format have often occured close to the Nationals, so please check back for updates.
Note that this does not affect Regionals. This only effects the Nationals. We'll go over it in detail below.
The tournament is a Swiss Double Elimination tournament with a Top Cut (8, or 16 if over 64 players are qualified). an Invitation is required. Should the tournament have enough missing invitees, present Last Chance attendees will be invited based on Strength of Schedule to fill the ranks to a predetermined minimum level.
Matches are 30 minutes long. This is the standard Bushiroad WS 30 minute limit.
Matches that go to time are a Double Loss, unless a Slow Play call was upheld by a Judge, in which case only the Slow Play-called player loses.
Players are matched randomly in a Swiss Format.
Players with the same number of wins are paired off randomly against each other.
Pairing Rule A: No players play each other more than once if possible.
Pairing Rule B: Once Pairing Rule A is fulfilled, no players receiving multiple 'pair-downs' if possible.
Players with two losses at the beginning of a round are eliminated before pairing.
In the case of an odd number of uneliminated players, One 'Bye' (Win) is given to a non-eliminated player with the least number of wins.
No multiple 'Byes' per player if possible.
If there are more than the Top Cut amount of players with less than two losses, all players that have two losses are eliminated.
Steps 2-3 are repeated until there are "players with less than two losses (X-0 / Y-1)" less than or equal to the Top Cut Amount.
At this point, players are allowed to drop out of the tournament if they so choose.
All players that are not yet dropped and have one or less loss are admitted into the Top Cut.
The remaining spots in the Top Cut, if any, are then distributed according to Strength of Schedule amongst those who fit both of the following conditions:
received their second loss durnig this last Double Elimination round, and
have not dropped or received any losses due to Slow Play/Time.
Strength is determined in descending order by lack of title usage by one or more currently-higher-ranked players, lack of title usage by more than one equal-or-higher-currently-ranked players, wins plus byes, then average number of opponent's wins (with a minimum of wins per opponent equal to exactly 1/3 of the number of non-bye rounds), then average number of defeated opponent's wins, then versus match record, then random draw.
The Top Cut is a Single Elimination tournament bracket.
Seeding is determined randomly.
Matches in Top 16 and Top 8 that go to time are won by the player with the least number of cards in Level, or the least number of cards in Clock if Level is tied. Should the players have the same number of cards in Level, and in Clock, the game continues until there is a change in Level or Clock, in which case the winning player is checked again. Top 4 and Finals have no standard timeout loss. Should both players lose at the same time, active player loses. Note that matches at this point will be carefully monitored, and players attempting to abuse these rules may be given Slow Play penalties by a Judge.
There are a number of rules that we have to detail here. By coming to Nationals, you are confirming that you understand and are following these rules.
You must have a properly sleeved deck without markings. Marked cards will cause a deck check fail.
You must have proper translations. That is either A: In-sleeve HotC translation slips for all cards or B: Printed Reference Cards from the HotC website (example here, found by clicking "Reference Card" on this page here). Those are the Reference Cards from the "Reference Card" link available on each indiviual card page.
Don't make your own fancy pamphlet.
Don't just print out the textfile and stick on pictures.
Don't "recopy" the reference cards into your own format.
Don't just print out the slips and circle the ones you use.
Don't "shrink them just a bit" so you can fit them on a page.
Don't put multiple reference cards on a page all shrunk down so they might be hard for someone to read.
Don't put reference cards into the cardsleeves.
Don't improperly cut out the inserts (make sure the chunk on the bottom is cut out, etc).
Don't use improperly-sized or placed inserts (inserts that can slide around, or are placed differently on cards throughout the deck, etc).
Instructions: Reference Card link, Print Page, cut out, repeat. If something goes wrong, or you think "hey this is not readable", or any other issue, contact us via email and ask for help.
Extra Booster cards don't have foil-version Reference Cards, just print the non-foil version and let your opponent know which card is which.
Your must fill out a deck list properly - correct name, correct quantity, correct FULL ID NUMBER. It can either be A: Everything in the ID Number area, or B: Everything before the space in the ID Number area (AB/W31-T01 TD is AB/W31-T01. DC3/W18-020R RRR is DC3/W18-020R.). We suggest putting everything. If you have the TD and BP (or other multiple versions) of a card, you have to label them separately and properly. If you are playing a RRR and the ID ends in an R, you have to have the R. Cards with alternate art that end with an "a" or "b" or so on must be listed separately. Cards with identical IDs but different pictures (such as EB foils vs. non-foil versions) are combined on the list, as they are the exact same ID. Don't travel all this way to lose on a deck check - Full IDs, every card, every time. If you have an SR and the ID ends in an S, the S has to be there. Deck check fail causes a game loss for the current (or next if in-between) game in Swiss, and for the Top Cut check it eliminates you from the standings.
You know and understand how to properly play, including timing and passing of optional abilities.
You must bring ID. Players will be asked to show ID to confirm their eligibility and identity.
You must not have hygiene issues, nor act in a willfully disturbing manner, that causes other players a negative experience. Ejection from the venue is removal from the tournament.
Players who receive an invite to Worlds agree to comply with all rules and regulations therein regarding event operation and decorum.
Eliminated players may go to the Free Fight area to play casual matches against people for promos.
Please note that we at Heart of the Cards take the random aspect of it very, very seriously, and will be using an atmospheric randomizer with independent verification for all random decisions / pairings / seedings.
Doesn't the 'Low Damage / Active Player Loses' rule allow the timeout system to be abused?
1. Judges will be watching for this specific instance. The way a Slow Play call works is this:
A player calls their opponent on Slow Play. This should happen if the player feels the opponent is taking too long to perform actions, or if during the "match time remaining" announcements that their match has not progressed far enough. The reason it is not allowed after the fact is that Judges cannot then watch the Match in progress to see how the situation should be handled. It is vitally important that players be mindful of the time, and is the main reason time remaining is announced in 10- and then 5- minute increments throughout every round.
The Judge watches the match to see the speed of play.
If the Judge feels one player is playing too slowly, that Judge will uphold the call. The opposing player is now under the Timeout loss condition of "Slow Play"*.
If the Judge feels they cannot uphold this decision, they will have the match continue, adding time to the match lost by the Judge action.
Note that Judges do not necessarliy add time so that any possible Slow Play up to that point has no effect. This is due to abuse in previous years. If you feel Slow Play is occuring, you must call it when it happens, not when there is only a few minutes remaining.
Via this method, Match Timeouts are greatly avoided - players should be mindful of the time their matches are taking and use the Judges properly.
2. All matches run under HotC are 30 minutes.
During the Top Cut, the Head Judge will be actively watching for any instance of Slow Play, and will not hesitate to monitor, add time, and/or give Slow Play infractions. Please play with confidence.
(*: should two players successfully call each other on Slow Play, the match will be supervised to ensure it is played through properly).
How are random decisions made fairly?
All random decisions are performed by the Heart of the Cards Head Judge. Players in any randomized list are pre-ordered in player number order (so the situation can be recreated during an audit). The judge uses an atmospheric randomizer (hosted by random.org), and all seeds for each randomization are recorded in order, including timestamp and reason. Every step of the entire process is recorded via video camera, all of which is made available to auditors to ensure fairness. Heart of the Cards and the Head Judge take this duty very, very seriously - we all love WS very much and are supremely grateful to Bushiroad for granting us the opportunity to carry out the National Selection, and take it with the utmost seriousness. This includes following all Tournament Rules and Restrictions to their utmost, to give players an authentic WGP experience.
Do you need an invite to come to Nationals?
To play in Nationals for a chance at the spot for Worlds? Yes.
To get the promos and free stuffs and meet players from all over the continent? Not at all!
Anyone can show up and play in the Free Fight area, get promos, trade and collect and have fun! Try to let us know that you are coming in advance, though, so we can make sure we have enough room - and free things - at the venue for people to enjoy! Invites have been historically obtained at Regionals, via a previous National win, and (in some rare cases) at special events across the country sponsored by conventions, groups, and retail stores.