2023 NRG Series Championship Structure

The finale of the 2023 NRG Series (our EIGHTH year) is upon us! The top-performing players will convene at Nerd Rage Gaming in Buffalo Grove, IL on January 6-7, 2024 to compete for $25,000 and the big trophy.  NRG is proud to be sending our Champs winner to the Pro Tour (conveniently taking place in Chicago)! The Championship will utilize Standard, Pioneer, and Modern to winnow the field and eventually determine a winner. Both days will feature full coverage broadcast on Twitch.

Qualified Players

The image is titled 2023 Championship Qualified Players. The $25,000 prize pool is mentioned, besides the dates (January 6-7, 2024). Each player is named and pictured in the chronological order they qualified.

“We are the Champions, My Friend.”

  • (1) 2022 NRG Series Champion: Raja Sulaiman
  • (6) $10,000 Showdown Winners: Stephen Dykman, Daniel Weiser, Matthew Hoey, Kyle Gonzales, Jonathan Hobbs, Fletcher Johnson
  • (3) $10,000 Team Showdown Winners: Eric Burghardt, Matthew Weiss, Grayson Nemets
  • (6) 2023 Leaderboard At-Large Finishers: Theodore Jung, Will Kowalczyk, Benjamin Ungar, Cris Smith, Ryan Hayes, Derrick Davis

What is Champs?

Before going further, let’s address why this event doesn’t look like every other event on the calendar. Our 16 competitors (in addition to over 1300 players) battled all year to get here. To make a sports analogy, the regular season is over. We are in the playoffs now.  The NRG Champs event is an exhibition event, it’s not just another X rounds of swiss pairings with a cut to the top.  Each Stage will put the players to the test, and not everyone can advance. The NRG Championship was designed so that every match counts! Let’s get into it.

Championship Specific Rules

Decklists (Standard, Pioneer & Modern) will be due on or before Wednesday, January 3rd by 11:59 PM. Decklists will be open for the entire tournament to allow for in-depth coverage of deck selection and sideboarding discussions, and to remove the burden of scouting. Decklists will be made public as each format begins play.

Players cannot draw. Round timers will be extended to 55 minutes to help matches come to their natural conclusion. Should time expire, players will have the normal 5-turn extension before entering Sudden Death¹.

Since the NRG Champs competitors are playing round-robin, some modifications to traditional swiss tiebreakers will be used. Specifically, ties will be broken in the following order:

  1. Total match points in Stage One
  2. Head-to-head result vs. other player(s) involved in the tie²
  3. Fewest number of games lost³
  4. NRG Series leaderboard ranking

Stage One:
To kick off the weekend, the 16 players will be split into two pods of eight. As is tradition at the NRG Series, the MVP (Stephen Dykman) will have the opportunity to swap any two players between pods. This effectively allows the MVP to avoid facing one chosen player during round-robin play. We’ve had some interesting swaps over the past few years so we’re excited to see how this year’s decision is made!

Stage One will consist of seven rounds split between our three tournament formats. Each player will play against every member of their pod once. They’ll start with 2 rounds each of Pioneer and Standard. After lunch, the stage will finish with 3 rounds of Modern. The order of battle within the pod will be randomly determined ahead of time but not shared with the players.  Once pods are drawn up, they will know who they will face on the day, but not necessarily in what format.

Upon conclusion of group play, the two lowest ranked players in each pod will be eliminated in 13th-16th place. As a reward for excellence, the top two finishers in each pod will automatically advance to Stage Three, allowing them to skip the evening portion. The remaining eight players will proceed to Stage Two.

Stage Two
This will consist of the eight players that finished 3rd-6th during Stage One. Stage Two is double elimination, seeded based on Stage One results. The format of each match will be determined by the players. The higher seed will have first veto and the play/draw option. The lower seed player has second veto, thus locking in the format. (For example, Andy is the top seed and vetoes Standard. Natalie, the lower seed, vetoes Modern. So, the match between Andy and Natalie is Pioneer, with Andy having the play/draw option.)  In the case where two players with the same seed play, a random method will be used to determine play/draw choice.

In the first round, each 3rd seed will play against the 6th seed from the other pod, and the 4th seed will play the opposite 5th seed. Following this the players will play a match against someone who achieved the same result, winners facing winners and losers squaring off with losers. A second loss here will eliminate a player from the tournament in 11th-12th place, while a second win advances them to Stage Three. The third and final round of Stage Three will feature only the four players whose fate has yet to be decided. The losers will be eliminated in 9th-10th place and the winners will advance.

Stage Two Summary: 3rd through 6th place players from Stage One will play until they acquire 2 wins (securing Stage Three) or 2 losses (eliminating them from the event).

Stage Three
We return on Sunday morning with our final eight players — the top two from each pod in Stage One, and the four survivors of Stage Two.  The players will be reseeded based on their Stage Two results, with the players who took no losses assigned as 3rd seeds and the players who took 1 loss as 4th seeds. 

Stage Three will be structured the same way as Stage Two: three rounds in a double-elimination bracket. If a player wins two matches before they lose two matches, they advance to Stage Four; otherwise they will be eliminated in either 5th-6th or 7th-8th. As before, a player’s seed will determine play/draw during this stage and who vetoes a format first. Lunch will be provided after Stage Three to all competitors, whether or not they’ve been eliminated.

Stage Four

Four players remain. Seeding will be determined by combined match losses in Stages 2 and 3, with further ties broken by the system outlined above. Matches are now untimed. Here is the structure for Stage Four:

  • Match 1: Higher seed picks a format and gets their choice of play/draw in Game 1.
  • Match 2: Lower seed chooses either of the remaining two formats and gets their choice of play/draw in Game 1.
  • Match 3 (when necessary): The remaining format with the higher seed choosing play/draw in Game 1.

The players able to win in two formats will reach the Finals, which will have an identical structure. In the finals the player able to win two matches will be crowned the 2023 NRG Series Champion, take home $5,000, be headed to the Pro Tour, and have the right to return to the 2024 NRG Championship to defend their title.

Prize Pool

Place Cash Prize Invite
1st $6,000 2024 #NRGChamp & ProTour Chicago
2nd $3,000
3rd/4th $2,000
5th/6th $1,500
7th/8th $1,250
9th/10th $1,000
11th/12th $800
13th-16th $400 + $100 per Stage One match win

We’re happy to be bringing you two full days of live stream and social media coverage from #NRGCHAMP hosted at Nerd Rage Gaming. Our video coverage on twitch.tv/NRGSeries will bring you all the action from Stage One and Two on Saturday starting at 10 AM (CT). We’ll be back at 10 AM on Sunday, where we’ll crown our Champion. Stay tuned to social media for additional updates from the floor and follow the #NRGCHAMP hashtag on X!


¹ In single-elimination rounds, matches may not end in a draw. If both players have equal game wins at the end of additional turns, the player with the highest life total wins the current game. In the event players have equal life totals (or are between games and the game wins are tied), the game/match continues with an additional state-based action: if a player does not have the highest life total, they lose the game.

² In the case of a three (or more) way tie, head-to-head will only be applied if a player has won against all the other players within the tie

³ If needed the head-to-head and fewest game losses tiebreakers may be applied iteratively to determine placement within a multi-way tie.

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Libby L

Libby is the Events and Judge Manager for the Nerd Rage Gaming Series. His love for hot dogs is only matched by his love for supreme event experiences.
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