Mind over Meta #50 - Anatomy of a Tournament Bracket

Hello everyone! We apologize for the inconsistency as of late with our schedule, but I can assure you we’re back on track! This week, a very fundamental topic that is often ignored and rarely thought about: The Bracket Mindset. Let’s get started!





When you enter a tournament, you're put into a bracket (obviously). This bracket dictates how the tournament is run, who plays against who, and when they play their match. Most brackets are split into two parts: The Winner’s Bracket, where everyone starts out, and the Loser’s Bracket, which is an “extra life” of sorts that you’re put into after losing a match in the winner’s bracket. Your placement in the Winner’s bracket is dictated by your seeding, which is the order of players in a bracket based on skill. Higher seeded players will play against lower seeded players in round one to help ensure the highest seeded players will meet later in bracket later. Seeding is based mostly on tournament results.


Seeding doesn’t always dictate exactly how a bracket will run, however. Often times, TO’s will try make sure no one plays their friends/training partners first round, as going to a tournament only to lose to someone who beats you in practice everyday is never fun. Even with this, you still won’t see huge changes in bracket, as fixing issues like this is often as simple as switching a 20th and 21st seed.




Let’s make a hypothetical scenario here: You’ve been playing for a while now, but you’re still not power ranked. You’re at the skill level where people won’t sleep on you, but people don’t exactly go around talking about how good you are. Because of this, you have decent seeding in a 35 man bracket, but it’s not high enough to give you a by into round 2. You’re round 1 match is against an okay player who you know you can beat, but round 2 is against a player in your region’s PR. You haven’t played too many games with him, but you know you’re gonna have a tough time. Where do your eyes move next: Round 3 of Winner’s Bracket or where you’ll end up in Loser’s Bracket if you lose?


The situation above can tell you a lot about a player. First off, it shows you that they like to know how their bracket is going to be like. I know people who will look at their first round, and then not look at bracket again until they get knocked out of Loser’s. Most people tend to do the opposite, but going back to the scenario we mentioned above, what kind of person are you? Are you the kind of person who plans on winning, and nothing else? Are you the kind of person who feels that they know their ability and want to see how where they end up after a match they know they’ll lose? Or are you the kind of person who looks at both options and plans ahead accordingly, figuring out how the bracket will go before it even begins?


All of these reactions to the bracket have their advantages and drawbacks. First off, if you don’t look at the bracket at all, you don’t have to worry about who you play next. You don’t have those moments where you spend 20 minutes worrying about whether or not you’ll win. But, you also don’t have those 20 minutes to study and plans against your opponent. You can’t ask another main of that character for matchup advice because you don’t know who you’re even playing against. If you look at Winner’s bracket, you’re saying that you won’t lose. This act alone can give a player a small confidence boost, but if they lose, that confidence is gone, and they may be on tilt during Loser’s. If you look at Loser’s Bracket right away, you’re setting yourself up for failure, but you won’t be on tilt in Loser’s Bracket. Finally, if you plan out both brackets, the only downside is that you may have the issue mentioned above where you worry about your next match. This downside really depends on the player and their own level of confidence.


Now, this first peek at bracket doesn’t really matter too much, but it can definitely affect your performance. The “best” reaction to bracket really depends on the player, but generally, it’s best to either not look at the bracket at all, or to plan ahead in both brackets.




No matter how you react to the bracket at first, the later bracket will go generally the same, assuming you make it that far. If you’re in Winner’s bracket, you’re sitting in a nice spot. Your opponents are getting harder and harder, but even if you lose, you’ll be put pretty far into Loser’s. Usually when you lose at this point, you also have time to wait for Loser’s Bracket to catch up, so you can stop and think about your match or maybe take a break to grab a bite to eat. If you can stay in winner’s, then you’re going to have to prepare for harder matches.


At this point in Winner’s Bracket, you may have to wait a little while to play your match. This could potentially kill your momentum, but you should take this time to go watch the match before your own and study the players.


If you lose your Winner’s match and find yourself in Loser’s, you should have some time to wait, as mentioned earlier. Take this time to relax, think about why you lost, and prepare for your next match.




A lot of players actually like being in the Loser’s Bracket more than the Winner’s Bracket later on in the bracket. Don’t take that the wrong way, Winner’s Bracket is always better since you still have Loser’s Bracket to lean on if you lose, but in terms of momentum, Loser’s bracket isn’t exactly bad. When you lose later on in Winner’s you have time to think, and then you play your first Loser’s match, feeling refreshed. Since Loser’s Bracket is dependant on who loses in Winner’s, chances are, you won’t have a lot of time between matches at this point, meaning you can jump right into your next game. A lot of players like this aspect of losers, since they can conserve momentum and carry it all the way to Grand Finals. Mango has said this on several occasions, and his recent Loser’s run at Genesis only proved this theory.




So, you’ve made it this far. Winner’s Finals, round one. Maybe you finished your last matches first, so you have the opportunity to watch your opponent’s, while maybe the opposite happened and your opponent studied you. If you just finished your loser’s final match and you’re shaky from a close game, take a few minutes to gather yourself before you play. You strike stages, do a quick button check/handwarmer and jump in.


This is likely your first 3 out of 5 set in your Bracket. It’s a big difference from 2 out of 3. Those 2 potential games can mean a lot. They can be the time they need for you or your opponent to download each other, or the time it takes for one of you to burn out. If you lose this, you still have another shot in Lose’;s, but you’re going to have to win six games in Grands if you can make it that far from Loser’s.


Speaking of Loser’s, down in Loser’s Finals, you’re either going to be the person who just lost a set, or the one coming from a Loser’s run. Naturally, it’s better to be the person coming from the Loser’s run in this situation, but there’s a reason the other person didn’t get knocked out of Winner’s until now. These two players may even have met in Winner’s bracket earlier, in which case the winner would be easy to pick out, depending on how close the first match was. Going into this match, no matter which person you are, you want to win. If you came from Winner’s Finals, you want that rematch in Grands, and if you came from a Loser’s run, you have the momentum you need to win your runback (or just the match in general).


Finally, we make it to Grands. There’s not much to say here. If you’re coming from Winner’s, you may not have the momentum, but you’ll have a much easier time then you’re opponent. You only have to win 1 set, while you’re opponent has to win 2. You’ve made it this far without losing, and chances are, you’ve already beaten your opponent earlier that day. Victory is in sight.


But what about if you’re coming from Loser’s Finals? Well, you’re obviously going to have a tough time. You have to win 6 games, and if you slip up and let your opponent win 3, you lose. You do have some advantages, however. First off, Momentum. I’ve mentioned that a lot in this article, but that’s because it’s so important. Momentum is key when going into a set where you can’t afford to lose. Secondly, you’ve had time to study your opponent, and if you already played them, you’ve had time to think about your loss so you can re-adjust your playstyle this time around.Victory isn’t exactly close, but it’s still within reach.





Although the bracket doesn’t dictate your performance, it does affect your mindset. Better players won’t be affected as much, but for some of the mid to high level players, this difference in mindset can be obvious. Despite these mindset changes, you shouldn’t let the bracket decide who wins. The players decide who wins.