Season 41 - Newsletter Part 1

Rules Update

July 13, 2020 / by SamE

Hello everyone,

First, a big thanks to everyone who attended our League Scaling Town Hall last month. The moderators have had some vigorous debates and will be adopting many of the suggestions that were made there, starting in Season 42. You can see the exact rules changes and rewordings in our Rules Changelog, but I’ll also summarize them here.

Here are the rules changes that came about as a result of the Tier Scaling Town Hall.

  • We will be maintaining the Season 41 thresholds to determine the number of tiers going forward. As a quick synopsis, every third tier transition will feature the same number of divisions with second-place promotions from the lower tier, just as in C and D. There are also some limits on the bottom tier sizes that enforce that the largest tier is around 25% of the entire League. In the future, though, we will only publish the transition scheme that assumes that the League will maintain its size. If it dramatically changes, the moderators reserve the right to adjust the number of tiers and move players around accordingly.
  • Highly-rated new players can now trigger 7-player divisions, if they exceed the following stringent level thresholds for Season 41: 62+ for C, 60+ for D, 56+ for E, 53+ for F, 51+ for G, 48+ for H, and 44+ for I. These 7-player divisions, unlike the ones formed for returning players, will feature three demotions, like the 7-player divisions in the E tier in the special circumstances of Season 39. Note that this is merely a guarantee that the actual cutoffs will be at least this generous; in most seasons, they will be a bit lower than this. We will post these maximum thresholds every season in a Newsletter like this.
  • Starting in Season 42, players who were placed as new in the previous season but vastly improved their level and also promoted will have the opportunity to be replaced if their levels exceed these same stringent thresholds for a level beyond the one they would otherwise be promoting to. These “superpromotions” will likely be fairly rare but are intended to help out players who improve rapidly given the how long it takes to promote within the new 10-tier system.
  • As an experiment in Seasons 42 and 43, we will be adding a Practice Tier for players with fewer than 30 rated games played. The purpose of this tier is for players to get those rated games in so they can enter the regular tier system as new players with enough experience to have an accurate rating. We will evaluate this system and extend it to future seasons if it is working well.

We also have several other, more minor changes to make:

  • Unofficial timers, like the browser extension made by League player Gasku, are now explicitly allowed, if both players agree on appropriate settings and settle how to handle glitches and lag between them.
  • Players are now officially not allowed to consult outside resources such as strategy guides during a match. (Many players will find this rule obvious, but it wasn’t explicitly in the rules before this.)
  • Head-to-head tiebreakers are now applied iteratively. In other words, as before, if more than two players are tied head-to-head, all results between them are compared to order them. But if two or more (but not all) players are tied among that subset, then the tiebreakers among that subset are compared.
  • Play-in matches will be conducted slightly differently, with up to a 48-hour delay between contacting the players and giving them their opponents, in order to give the top-seeded players any byes resulting from a lack of responsiveness.
  • We will be polling a few suggestions from players in the Returning Form for Season 42, on the topics of 4-game matches, requests for expansion restrictions, and the VP counter. These may result in tier-specific rules if we notice a large trend in players’ opinions at different tiers, most obviously for the expansion question.

Moderator Churn

With the continued growth of the League, we have recruited four new moderators for Season 41:

amoffett11, catmom (formerly known as sequoiac), Rozyroz, and tracer.

This will be the first season moderating for the first three; tracer moderated previously from Seasons 28 to 34. We also would like to thank H.exe, who has become too busy to moderate for Season 41. With one departure and the four newcomers, we now have a robust team of 18 moderators! It’s become a big enough group that we currently have split our discussions into no fewer than 10 mods-only Discord channels to focus on different aspects of the League, like our new website!

Rules Meeting Minutes

  1. Scaling Town Hall
    1. Surprise Promotions/Demotions
      • Motion to publish only the most likely transition scheme, with a caveat somewhere appropriate in the rules that the moderators can change the transition scheme if the number of players changes dramatically.
        • YES (unanimous)
      • A solid majority of players, especially in the most affected tiers, didn't seem to care about unexpected promotions OR demotions. We will officially mention this possibility in the rules to cover unexpected growth or decline.
    2. Flex Divisions for New Players
      • Motion to introduce flexible division sizes for highly-rated new players.
        • YES (2 dissenting)
      • This issue might not arise again, but we would like to avoid situations like happened with highly-rated players being placed in Season 40's E and F simply because there was no room for them higher. The best solution seems to be to create temporary 7-player divisions.
      • Dissent (alibby1152): First, my usual dissent with flex divisions. (1) Flex divisions place an additional burden on players, forcing a sixth match into the same window for others to play five. (2) Imbalanced divisions within a tier puts players on unequal footing when it comes to promotion and demotion. (3) There's no forcing back to 6 player divisions, so there's no assurance that flex divisions wouldn't persist from season to season. Flex divisions were introduced to allow players to return to the tier they left, not stretch tiers for new players. I don't want to see the list of exceptions grow for introducing additional 7 player divisions.
    3. Demotions from Flex Divisions
      • Should we be demoting 5th-place finishers from 7-player divisions created by placing highly-rated new players? (Can vote for two of (1) (2) and (3).) 1) Yes, demote them. (Need to get the divisions down to 6 ASAP.) 2) No, let them stay. (Need to balance with 6-player divisions in the same tier.) 3) Let them stay if and only if they win as much as they lose. (That's the case that hurts the most.) A) No preference.
        • Option 1 (5 dissenting)
      • Unlike 7-player divisions for returning players, these 7-player divisions are only truly necessary when the League grows. In that case, if the League stays at the new size, we need to adjust the strength of the tiers. The best way to do this is to move more people downwards, rather than keep 7-player divisions at that tier ad infinitum.
      • Dissent (Earl): Players who are sorted into a 7-player division may feel bad about the 3/7 chance to demote. Additionally, it will be confusing for players who have to track whether they are in a 7-player division because of a returning player - where the two lowest demote - or whether they are in a 7-player division because of a new player - where the three lowest demote. It's going to feel bad when some 5th place finishers demote and others do not, and the only difference is the reason for the extra player being in their division.
      • Dissent (nottoobad): Either all 5th place finishers in 7-player divisions should demote, or none should. Differentiating based on returning vs new players makes no sense to me, as both groups are players that take up space in divisions.
      • Dissent (truffles): I favor consistent and simple system that is easy to explain to players. Having conditional 5th place demotions is confusing based on new or returning status.
    4. Public Cutoffs for Flex Divisions
      • Motion to make the cutoffs that would trigger 7-player divisions fixed and public at the time of signups (starting with those for Season 42).
        • YES (1 dissenting)
      • Introducing a 7-player division is an imposition on the players who play in it, especially since more of them will demote. On the other hand, not doing so for a highly-rated player introduces an imposition on the division that they get placed in, as they will likely dominate. Given these competing interests, we want to be transparent about the criteria for choosing one or the other solution.
      • Dissent (volfied): It's best to give the moderators the flexibility they need to make things fit together nicely. This public cutoff just further ties their hands.
    5. Super-Promotions
      • Motion to allow players who were just placed as New in the current season (based on their ladder level) and who promoted to request to be re-placed as if they were a new player, applying the stricter cutoffs (for 7-player divisions).
        • YES (unanimous)
      • With ten tiers going forward, promoting from a misplacement will take longer than usual. If you improve even more rapidly than the two-month pace of League seasons, we want to offer you the opportunity to prove yourself at a higher tier, provided that you took care of business in the division you were assigned to, and meet the more stringent level thresholds we will be publishing for 7-player divisions.
    6. Practice Tier
      • Motion to, on an experimental basis for Seasons 42 and 43, introduce a Practice Tier populated by players with fewer than 30 rated games on their account. Games in that tier would be required to be rated, and players who return after that season would be placed into the main tiers based on their resulting ladder rating.
        • YES (5 dissenting)
      • Some players are better than their level suggests because they have insufficiently many rated games. Some just don't like playing random opponents on ladder just to level up into the appropriate tier. These players would be well-served by playing in a Practice Tier (all games rated) first, then being placed into the pyramid. The results of the practice tier matter, since the games must be rated, but they don't translate to outcomes via the ordinal position like in other tiers. All of this said, we are curious whether we will have enough players to form this tier and split by timezone appropriately.
      • Dissent (nottoobad): This does not sound enjoyable for players or mods. If a player new to Dominion online has to go through this 2-month hoop before joining the actual league structure, I suspect most will simply pass on the opportunity or drop out during their practive season. Additionally, putting all of the players with the most uncertainty in the same group doesn't sound enjoyable if any of those players are not properly ranked-- and if they all are already properly ranked, what's the point of a practice tier? The system works as-is, especially given the new ability for super-promotions.
      • Dissent (Apostolosoruler): I don't get the point of a Practice Tier. I find it quite an unworkable solution that would not favour the players being there.
    7. Expansion Profile
      • Motion to retain going forward the tier scaling described in Proposal B, which has an average of 25% of players in its largest tier.
        • YES (unanimous)
      • We strongly considered Proposal E, which averages 20% of the players in its largest tier. However, at Season 41 numbers, that would involve adding two more tiers (going to L), and we decided that even more change in that respect would just add extra confusion just for slightly smaller tiers.
  2. Suggestions from moderators
    1. Rules Questions
      • Motion to split up the rules question in the onboarding into multiple more concrete questions (to be hashed out later).
        • YES (unanimous)
      • Since Season 27, we have simply asked every signup to describe the rules for us, receiving everything from single sentences to multi-page essays. It's been a helpful criterion for checking that people have read the rules, but with the introduction of the rules quiz in the signup form, many have balked at this additional requirement. We decided it would be best to convert it into a series of short, specific questions, like "How do you schedule your matches?"
    2. Iterative Tiebreakers
      • Motion to add "applied iteratively" to the H2H tiebreaker.
        • YES (unanimous)
      • See an example of this in Season 39 Division D3. missouriben, Spiraler, and Sharapopovamaria all tied with 10.5 wins, so the first tiebreaker looked at their wins among the group. missouriben and Spiraler had 6.5 wins among the group, but the tiebreaker stopped there and didn't look into their wins in the head-to-head, going to a play-in match. This was counterintuitive to at least some moderators, and wouldn't be difficult to implement, so we'll go ahead and iteratively break head-to-head ties.
    3. 4-Game Matches
      • Motion to defer 4-game matches for lower tiers to another miscellaneous town hall.
        • WITHDRAWN
      • We don't know how popular shorter matches would be, especially in the lower tiers. This was withdrawn in favor of moving this to a Returning Form question instead.
    4. Play-In Seeding
      • Motion to "re-seed" play-in matches after we find out who responds within 48 hours, giving byes to the top players.
        • YES (unanimous)
      • We decide play-in match pairings by seed, with the first seed playing the last seed, and so on. However, pairing up players before they express availability can result in some relatively unfairly easy wins. Instead, we will first contact everyone asking for availabiility, and only after everyone responds or 48 hours passes do we pair them up, giving byes (straight free promotions) to the top seeds.
    5. Outside Resources
      • Motion to prohibit consulting outside sources like strategy articles in the middle of a game (unless both players agree otherwise).
        • YES (unanimous)
      • This apparently wasn't in the rules, but it should be clear. You can't consult anything talking about Dominion strategy in the middle of a match, unless you and your opponent agree.
    6. Timer
      • Motion to officially designate not playing with a timer as the default and recommended play style, but specify that both players can agree to do so if they can agree on appropriate settings. If you do play with a timer, you agree to bear the consequences of any glitches or lag.
        • YES (unanimous)
      • Timers were the most popular upcoming Town Hall topic. Currently there is a timer add-on for the most common browsers that can keep track of timing and issue penalties, like ending one's turn, for exceeding that. Some players are still experimenting with the settings, and if you'd like to agree on a timer setting for a League match, you are now officially allowed to. However, since this is just a browser extension, we take no responsibility for weird behavior during a League game played with a timer and have no expectations of universality until the timer is client-integrated.
    7. Misc Returning Form Questions
      • Motion to add these miscellaneous questions to the next Returning Form: 1) Allowing someone in your tier to request that the pool of cards be restricted to the base set and at most one expansion of each player's choosing. (Such restrictions would apply across sessions of games.) 2) VP counter off. 3) Lowering the number of games per match to 4 for your tier.
        • YES (unanimous)
      • These are various suggestions by players that we would like to poll the community about. Even if most would be unpopular, we want to get solid numbers to be able to point to should anyone raise the question again.
    8. Semi-Random Seeding
      • Motion to table discussion of adding randomness to the seeding to the next Rules Meeting.
        • YES (unanimous)
      • There are issues with the public randomness necessary for this sort of thing; on the scale of the League, that would take a long time to process everything. But if a better idea arises, we'll look into it.
    9. Results Form
      • Motion to rename the Results form to "Your username" and "Your opponent's username" instead of "Player 1" and "Player 2".
        • YES (unanimous)
      • This would remove the confusion of a handful of players that they need to report every game. It would also more closely match the calendar form.
  3. Post-Meeting Motions
    1. Transition Scheme Uncertainty
      • Motion to choose the more favorable of the two announced transition schemes for G in S40 -> S41: FGGHHI.
        • YES (unanimous)
      • Of the two transition schemes we announced (indicated by the bold/italics of some letters in the published transition scheme), the favorable one was meant for low numbers (and relatively small I and J tiers) and the less favorable one was meant for high numbers (and relatively large I and J tiers). While the League does appear to be growing yet again, we are not reaching the numbers that would max out the sizes of the I and J tiers, so can afford the more favorable transition scheme for the G tier.
      • Motion to additionally keep 4th place finishers in Season 40 H divisions in I rather than J.
        • YES (unanimous)
      • The players who are joining in Season 41 appear to be even lower level than those that joined in Season 40 (on average), indicating that a large number of them should slot into the J tier. This leaves some room in the I tier that we think would be more appropriate to fill with 4th place finishers in the current H tier than a large number of additional new players.