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In an effort to 'fix' some unforeen problems and also complaints from various Magic the Gathering player groups Wizards of the Coast announced that the ELO ratings system adopted when the game was in it's infancy as a way of rating or ranking players would be replaced by another system. Wizards named the new system Planeswalker Points and you can read the announcement here.
Wizards of the Coast Planeswalker points announcement.
Years ago when the game was growing up very fast WOTC had players sign up for a DCI or Duelist Convocation International number. Then each player would have his or her rating tracked through tournaments using this number. If you won you generally gained points. If you lost you subsequently lost points. Who you played made a big difference in how many points a player could gain or lose based on your opponents rating.
So lets step back a bit and look at the ELO system and what it is and how it came to be. Back in the late 50's a chess player by the name of Arpad Elo introduced his own system to replace the Harkness rating system chess used at the time, basically from 1950 to 1960. Arpad Elo was an avid chess player and also an American Physics professor. He was born in Hungary but moved to the US in 1913 when a child. The Harkness rating system was slightly flawed and would result in ratings that many considered to be inaccurate. The USCF contacted Elo to devise a new system based more on statisical probabilities rather than simple tournament wins and losses against the competition present. The USCF adopted his system in 1960 and the International governing body of Chess, the FIDE, adopted it in 1970 for world wide rankings of chess players.
The way the system works is each player in each match played is given a statistical probability of winning the match. If you are rated 1800 and your opponent is rated 1600 then statistically you should win most of the time, say 9 out of 10 for simplicity sake. The math is quite complex and not really the point here. Given that you should win 9 out of 10 matches you should not be rewarded for beating an inferior opponent. Therefor you might gain 1 or 2 points. However your opponent is in exactly the opposite position. He should win only 1 out 10 matches against you. So if he loses he should not suffer a substantial points loss either. However should the unlikely occur he would gain significant points and you would lose the same points. It's kind of like gambling. You are risking 10 or 12 points to gain 1 or 2. However since you are clearly the better player the chances are you will prevail and your opponent will not. He or she on the other hand risks 1 or 2 points to gain 10 or 12.
Many game systems use the ELO ratings. Even the NCAA Bowl Championship Series uses for season rankings and it is included in determining who goes to the National Championship game. Guess that might be reason enough to change right there. Many other games use the system to this day including Scrabble and many online games like World of Warcraft. World of Warcraft did eventually abandon the system and adopted Microsofts TrueSkill system when it became apparent it was more appropriate for video or online games. Despite the fact that the ELO system is not really appropriate in determining a rating in games where luck is a factor, like trading card games for instance, many games adapt it or a modified version to rate their players. And this is where the problem really began.
Part 2 of this analysis of the new system will be forthcoming in the next few days. Stay tuned.
If you want to check out your own Planeswalker ranking you can go to the
Offical Planeswalker Points Site.
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