Proposal for Wildcard Reform

With new Wildcard rule that each regional will get one additional Wildcard, I figured now would be a good time to share a proposal I’ve been working on for a little while regarding how Wildcards are awarded.

In brief,** the process of distributing Wildcards can be improved by awarding them based on a District Points ranking**, which encompasses all parts of the competition (qualification rank, alliance selection, playoffs, and awards). This not only does a better job of recognizing successful teams but also eliminates the possibility for Wildcards to be wasted, which occurs with the current when there are more Wildcards than finalists who can receive them.

ProposalforWildcardReform.pdf (76.8 KB)

ProposalforWildcardReform.pdf (76.8 KB)

How often do you estimate this will generate results that are different than the current system? It seems like the finalist captain and first pick would still usually be the first two teams.

Do you know of any cases where the altered order would have made a difference? What’s the largest number of wildcards that’s ever been given out at an event?

While I’m not sure of the largest number of wildcards given out at an event, I do know for a fact a couple of regionals W3 - W6 waste 1-2 wildcards at events. I know for a fact for the past 2 years some wild cards have been wasted at the minneapolis regionals.

Given this rule change it increases the likelihood of wildcards being wasted since every regional will have at least one.

Keep in mind that HOF teams already generate 1 wildcard if they qualify to champs already and along with this rule change if a HOF team wins a regional, that certain regional will have 2 wildcards (even if that HOF team is competing in an early W1 or W2 regional). Say this HOF team is attending multiple events and is going to compete in a later regional, this increases the chances of them attending a regional with other teams that have qualified to champs already. This overall increases the likelihood of wildcards being wasted. This is just an example of how even this small rule change can have a huge impact IMO. I do think something like this proposal will make a positive impact making sure wildcards won’t be wasted, but FIRST unfortunately said there will be no other changes to the system.

They could move the wasted wildcards to the next week, distributing them equally until Week 6, when they would just become Waitlist slots.

At the 2016 Tech Valley Regional, the entire finalist alliance, including a backup robot made it to the championship event via the wildcard system. This included 1665, a competent backup robot whose defense was necessary to make it to the finals, but I doubt anyone would say they were more worthy of a championship bid than, for example, the captain of the third seeded alliance, 5236, or their first selection (and winner of the quality award), 2791.

Similarly, at the 2016 Finger Lakes Regional, the 1 seed was upset in the semifinals, despite having the two best scoring robots at the event, and 2791 yet again did not get a bid to championships.

Now I’m using the example of 2791, because I know them well, and they’re a team that this regularly happens to. 2791 has missed championships by the tightest of margins at two regionals in 2012, one in 2013, and two in 2016, while also fielding a tremendously competitive robot in 2014.

Essentially this would come into play whenever a regional would generate enough wild cards to bring along the finalist alliance’s third robot, or whenever a wild card slot is wasted, it could instead just go to the next team with the most points.

Including here as it’s relevant… Here’s the breakdown of wildcard slots at each regional from 2016 (excl Ontario):

It’s good to see some data. Looking at the 48 events in your spreadsheet it looks like there were 57 wildcards given out, so it’s already averaging more than 1 per event. That’s really interesting. My team has never been to an event where there were any wildcards.

I updated my wildcard spreadsheet to add info about “Burned” wildcards. These are Wildcards generated that could not be given out because the finalist alliance had already received a bid to CMP. (Either by earlier event, other award, or getting a WC)

Only 4 events generated burned WCs under the '16 rules, not surprisingly mostly later events. There were, however, two events that generated 4 wildcards, and at Lone Star two of those were burned.

All in all under the '16 rules, we used 57 WCs and burned 5.

Under the '17 rules (thus far) we would have used 88 wildcards and burned at least* 22.

(* - If a team would have gotten a WC under the 2017 rules in an earlier event that is not reflected in the burned total. Thus, this is a minimum number without going through and recalculating WC generation regional-by-regional for the 2017 rules. The spreadsheet calculates the 2017 WC generation as a simple +1.)

What’s clear is that the 2016 rules did not have a material effect on the number of teams that “lost” out due to burned wildcards (92% of WCs used), but if we used the 2017 rules that would change with only about 80% of WCs being used.

Put another way, ~41% of the newly generated WC slots would be burned under the 2017 rules as they are.

If you want to look into this more, you can use the MN State Championship rankings, which are based on district points (for the teams first event):

Combine that with the wild card slots, and you’ll at least have something to look at. The only thing it doesn’t give you is the points for a team’s second event, which may throw things off a little.

I think looking at “Burned” wildcards is contrary to the point of the exercise. As Frank pointed out, the goal of adding an additional wildcard to each regional is to increase the participation of Regional teams at the Championship event. As shown in your awesome spreadsheet, 31 more Regional teams will be able to move forward that previously would not have. So what if the wildcards are burned - maybe that’s factored into the reasons why FIRST added it (maybe they wanted ~30 more Regional teams and not ~50 more Regional teams). It also, in my opinion, increases the “fairness” of the wildcard system for early Regionals that would not have otherwise benefitted from wildcard-generating teams from previous performance in attendance - at least, in the circles I run in we typically scoff at the Wildcard system because the later Regionals in the season are the ones that benefit from it mostly. #WildcardBlues #EarlyRegionalsMatter


Not directly, no, but an interesting view of what will happen under the 2017 rules as listed at this point… It’s also something that came up at NYTVR when all 4 members of the finalist alliance were announced as eligible for CMP. (It wasn’t clear until we did some digging as to why, and initial thoughts questioned if there should have been more.)

It’s somewhat more relivant under the proposal here because this would ensure a distribution of all wildcards under the points model and not artificially cap the number of potential wildcard recipients at three.

If the rest of your argument truly reflects FIRST’s intentions, they want more representation, but not that much more, than they could tweak the proposal here to cap at x wildcards per regional.

I’ve ran the number for this year’s regionals (excluding Ontario) using both the extra 2017 wildcard and District Points for awarding all of them. Here is what I got:

Some stats:
Total wildcards awarded: 116
Maximum wildcards awarded at one event: 5
Average wildcards awarded: 2.42

Using bdaroz’s calculation of 88 wildcards awarded using current 2017 rules, this means that my proposal would save 28 burned wildcards.

Where can I read about this new plan to add a wildcard to each regional? Maybe I missed a post or email about it.

The FRC Blog. It’s in the batch of changes in the 8/17 post, right under the changes to the Championship subdivisions.

You’re correct there; the bonus you get for advancing through each around of eliminations is a fairly large percentage of the total points one earns at an event. The biggest difference comes after this point, instead of the 2nd pick of the finalist alliance getting a wildcard, it would be more likely to go to captains and first picks of a semifinalist alliance, and then to those of the quarterfinalist alliance, with a bias towards those on the higher seeded alliances.

If the goal is to ensure the most competitive robots at the event are going to the championship, I believe this is a worthy change to make. Of course, we don’t know for sure that this is HQ’s priority. We do know that they want to create avenues for traditionally less competitive teams (e.g. 2nd picks) to progress their season and that the sense of accomplishment can be a transformative experience.

Currently the wildcard system rewards playing late regionals over early regionals. “Burned” wildcards could be reallocated to alleviate this.

If a team generates a wildcard that goes unused, retroactively create a wildcard at the earliest event where that team qualified for Championship and generated the least wildcards.

‘Hypothetical Scenarios’
Hypothetical Team A

Event 1: Regional Winner
Event 2: Regional Winner (wildcard used immediately)
Event 3: Regional Winner (wildcard unused)

A realistic scenario. Here the wildcard from Event 3 goes to Event 1, because Team A generated the least wildcards at Event 1.

Hypothetical Pre-qualified Team B

Event 1: Regional Winner and Regional Chairman’s Award (2 wildcards used immediately)
Event 2: Regional Winner (wildcard unused)
Event 3: No awards
Event 4: Regional Winner (wildcard used immediately)
Event 5: Regional Winner (wildcard unused)

An unrealistic scenario for demonstration. Here the wildcard from Event 2 goes to Event 1, because Events 3-5 don’t exist at that time. The wildcard from Event 5 goes to Event 4 because Event 4 has 1 wildcard from this team compared to 3 at Event 1. Event 2 also has only 1 wildcard, but is ignored because a wildcard already went unused at that event. Event 3 is ignored because Team B did not qualify there.[/spoiler]

The problem with this comes down to expectations and bag and tag. A team leaving a week 1 regions that has no more events, may not bag their robot or prepare for champs in any way. Then, over a month later (here in MN it’s likely a week 1/week 6 difference, with how out events are scheduled) we give them a “retroactive” wild card? Not only is their robot now illegal for having been unbagged all that time, they probably aren’t prepared for it financially either. It just introduced a whole lot of uncertainty into the equation for teams.

The current system makes sure teams know what to expect when they leave their event. For regionals, you know if you earned a spot or not before you leave the venue. For districts, hopefully you’ll have a good feel for your odds of making it to the district championship, although that can be a little up in the air (but you should know if it’s definite, borderline, or no way). Teams on the waitlist know they are on the waitlist and are planning for the eventuality of getting selected.

Any team that is eligible for (and has intentions on accepting) a retroactive wildcard has to bag their robot after their final event is a simple solution for this. Doesn’t help with last minute travel plans, but that’s the same as if you qualified at a late regional anyway.

The problem with your argument is that it assumes nobody planned for something that would be known to exist. That’s an easy problem to solve and it wouldn’t affect many teams, especially when assuming that wildcards can still only go to the Finalist Alliance. I’m ignoring the District Points idea because I think actual districts will happen before that sort of change is made.

Basically, if a team is on the Finalist Alliance in their last event, have the head inspector tell them to bag their robot and keep an eye out, just in case. You’d know which teams could possibly get you a spot and where they’ll be competing in the future, so you’d have a good idea what your chances might be.

Teams that qualify in Week 6 have to deal with the sudden cost of Champs as well, so having a couple weeks to prepare would be significantly easier if anything. If you don’t end up qualifying you can just save the money for next year. Also, many companies will offer conditional donations/grants (eg. $5000 if you qualify for Championships).

I think the benefit of this is worth the effort in communication that is required. Instead of qualifying some unknown quantity from the waitlist or letting wildcards fall all the way to Semifinalists at late regionals, you get to qualify a Finalist.

I think this is the biggest thing that is fixed with the new wildcards being alotted to each regional. Early regionals will now have at least one wildcard, and later regionals that already had a lot of wildcards aren’t getting any more.