What is a Waterfall Bracket?

By: The Dark Gentleman and David “Shears” Shears

Intro: Waterfall bracket is an exciting tournament format designed by the Smash 64 League. The two main purposes of a Waterfall bracket (WTF, for short) are to provide players of all skill levels the chance to play as many competitive matches as possible and to prove their skill. This is achieved by creating multiple skill divisions within an event, which provides players with exposure to competitors of higher skill, as well as matches against other players of equal experience. The step by step process of a WTF is described below.

Placement Pools: The first phase of a Waterfall bracket is known as “Placement Pools”. Every participant in the tournament, from a first time competitor to a long time champion, must play in Placement Pools. During this phase, a set number of participants (usually 5-8 people) battle amongst each other in a Round Robin pool. This means that each player competes against every other player in their pool. These pools are seeded to include a mix of talent, from top to bottom. Beginners will have an opportunity to compete against others near their skill level, as well as a couple of advanced players, and one elite player. No players are eliminated from the tournament during this phase. Instead, they are placed into a Division relative to their performance in Placement Pools.

Lets Go WTF
The full glorious WTF layout of Let’s Go! View the full bracket here!

Divisions: After Placement Pools are complete, the divisional brackets begin. Divisions are designed to create mini-pools that contain players of relatively equal skill, based upon their performance in the initial phase. The winners of each division move up into the next highest phase, while the losers are eliminated from the tournament. Even a player who starts in the lowest division can go on to win the entire tournament! Waterfall brackets can contain multiple divisions, or levels, depending on the size of the event. For this explanation, we will discuss a WTF with 4 divisions. However, at a larger tournament there can be more divisions added.

Division 4 (beginner): Players that had a losing, or lower score in Placement Pools will next compete in Division 4. This division is advised to be played using another set of Round Robin pools, though Double Elimination is a suitable alternative. However, unlike Placement Pools, the Division 4 pool typically only contains beginners, or those of lower skill. This gives the players in Division 4 the chance to win a pool against people of relatively equal skill, and advance to Division 3. In a normal Waterfall bracket, the top 2 players from every Division 4 pool advance, while the rest are eliminated.

Division 3 (intermediate): After Division 4 is complete, Division 3 pools are set up.
These pools contain a mix of

WTF illustration
An illustration of how WTF works

competitors who had decent records in placement pools, as well as the addition of the players who won in Division 4. Division 3 is usually also played through Round Robin pools, though again, Double Elimination can be used instead. Normally, the top 2 players from their Division 3 pools advance, while the rest are eliminated from the tournament.

Division 2 (advanced): After Division 3 is complete, Division 2 pools are set up. These pools contain a mix of competitors who had above average records in placement pools, as well as the addition of the players who won in Division 3. Division 2 is usually also played through Round Robin pools, though again, Double Elimination can be used instead. Normally, the top 2 players from their Division 2 pools advance, while the rest
are eliminated from the tournament.

Division 1 (elite): Division 1 is comprised of the players who came in first in Placement Pools, as well as the winners of Division 2 who get to advance to the final stage. Division 1 is suggested to be played as a Double Elimination bracket. Competitors are eliminated from Division 1 after losing twice. The champion of Division 1 is the winner of the entire tournament.

Banner Image: Division 3 winners at Keystoned, the inaugural WTF tournament. Picture credit: Moosh

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2 thoughts on “What is a Waterfall Bracket?

  1. This is pretty interesting. Definitely going to keep this in mind the next time we set up a Smash tournament here in our office! (o^.^)b
    That said, would you like to share your articles in our FB group? We’re a growing community of gaming bloggers and we’re always looking for more great writers to share their work and discuss all things gaming. Just search for “Game Bloggers United” on Facebook.

    Like

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