If the timer is activated for a round, unfinished matches will be automatically resolved once it runs out. If a match is tied on games at that point, it ends with a tie, if one player is up on individual games, they get the match win.
If check-in is activated for a round, players need to check in on their match before the check-in timer runs out. The check-in timer always starts at the same time as the round timer. If a player does not check in, their opponent is given the win for the match. If neither player checks in, the match ends with a loss for both.
In matches with more than one game, the check-in timer may give out a game loss at first, and then a match loss after some more minutes. (currently not yet available)
Round start times are always set directly by the tournament organizers and might be adjusted during the event. Pairings can be up even before the round officially starts. The check-in timer has no effect on the round timer, players can start their games as soon as they are ready and the round ends at the same time for everyone.
The following are the recommended round settings for different kinds of tournament setups.
- 30 minute round timer
- 5 minute check-in timer
- wins are worth 1 point, ties are equal to losses
Due to the lack of shuffling, games are much faster online than they are with real cards. Ties should be almost nonexistent if games are played at a regular pace, so to completely remove the advantage that could be gained by slowplay (which is difficult to identify and penalize in online tournaments), they are removed altogether and replaced by essentially double losses.
The time limit of 30 minutes with a 5 minute check-in timer guarantees at least 25 minutes of effective play time, which is on the higher end and could be slightly lower. However, while it is very unlikely that multiple games in a row all take about 20 minutes each, it is realistic for some to reach that limit. The goal with this setup is to have all matches come to a natural finish, while also giving the organizers enough time to deal with any issues that might come up during a round, and 30 total minutes usually do fine at both.
- 50 minute round timer
check-in timer: game loss after 5 minutes, match loss after 10 minutes (currently not yet available)
- wins are worth 3 points, ties are worth 1 point
This resembles the regular setup as known from Regionals and Internationals. Players are familiar with it and it works mostly fine online, so there’s not much reason for change. 50 minutes for a best-of-three match are plenty when games generally don’t take a long time, and the lack of extra turns after timeout in the online environment should be barely noticeable.
When running tournaments with this system there could be some issues with slowplay, but bigger tournaments with multiple judges might still prefer it over bo1, for the same reasons it’s used at the highest level of offline play.
Single Elimination (bo3)
As matches in single elimination need to have a winner and can’t end in a tie, it’s complicated to enforce a timer. A solution like at an offline tournament with extra turns and resolution by prize counts needs a lot of cooperation from the players and could bring up issues with slowplay. This can be mostly mitigated if there is a judge watching the game through something like discord screen share, but it is not guaranteed the players can even stream their games, and it requires a lot of active judges in the tournament which will not always be possible to provide.
Since games on PTCGO don’t typically take a lot of time, and are still limited by the in-game timer, it is very unlikely that the lack of time limit will cause significant delay to a tournament. In most cases where a match would reach a time limit like for example 60 minutes, it will already be in the final game, and cutting it short by a few minutes would be of no interest for anyone. Most of the typical logistical reasons for time limits in regular tournaments don’t apply to the online environment.