2020 Dr. Mario Championship: I Signed Up For It

Since 2017, the Dr. Mario Championship (DrMC) took place at Replay FX in Pittsburgh. Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, there was no feasible way to hold an in-person tournament this year. So the organizers decided to hold an online tournament for the 2020 DrMC.

To make the tournament possible, players played NES Dr. Mario using the Nintendo Switch Online Service. It was far from perfect in terms of connectivity, but the organizers did not have a choice if they wanted to make 2020 DrMC happen.

At first, I was hesitant to enter the tournament mainly because I did not know if it fit my schedule. But once Chris Bidwell (tournament organizer) started revealing their tentative schedule for the event, I saw that I could fit it in my schedule. So I ended up signing up for it.

To sign up, I joined their Discord Channel. And then gave Bidwell my Discord Name, Nintendo Switch Friend Code, etc.  It was definitely easier to join when I did not have to travel to Pittsburgh.

My Qualifying Strategy for the 2020 Dr. Mario Championship

The qualifying rounds were the same as past tournaments. You get placed in a pool of 4 players and play 2 games against each other to determine the pool winner and your ranking. Each game in qualifying was played at Level 11/Medium Speed. Pool Winners got a guaranteed spot in the playoffs, while everyone else entered based on their ranking. For more details, check out the official rules.

For the online tournament, Bidwell scheduled four 3-hour blocks of time for qualifying. Which were:

  • Saturday, August 1st: 9 PM – 12 AM EDT
  • Sunday, August 2nd: 10 AM – 1 PM EDT
  • Sunday, August 2nd: 4 PM – 7 PM EDT
  • Wednesday, August 5th: 7 PM – 10 PM EDT

My strategy for making the playoffs was to join the later blocks. The idea behind this was to wait for the top performing players to join the first block and win their pool. And hope that they do not show up in future blocks so I do not have to face them.

So I skipped the first block, which took place on Saturday night, for the reasons that I just said. The second block took place on Sunday morning, which I could not attend because I had something to do that morning.

After the second block ended, it was revealed that both Dr. Mario Champions (Packie and Heather Ito) had won their pool. Which meant there was a good chance they would not join a new pool, and I would not have to face them in future qualifying blocks.

Joining my first Dr. Mario Championship qualifier

In the past several months, I have been doing solo speedruns of Dr. Mario but I never played a versus mode match competitively (as in, I never played against someone that was good at the game) So I was very nervous when I joined the third block. (This block took place on Sunday late afternoon.)

I checked in to play in this block, by sending a message in the Dr. Mario Discord channel. I was placed in Pool T, where I went up playing against Rae2point, Andy G (last years semi-finalist), and jkh_07.

My first 2 games were against Rae2point. In the first game, my opponent won by a good margin. In the second game, I topped out early and lost.

My First 2020 Dr Mario Championship Qualifying Game
My first qualifying game, where Rae2Point0 defeats me by clearing all the viruses while I had 12 viruses left.
Second Dr. Mario Championship Qualifying Game against Rae2point0
My second game against Rae2point0, where I top out and lose. As shown with the Red Virus laughing at me from my board on the right.

My second match up was against Andy G who defeated me in both games. There was no surprise to that, he is a really good player. So much for my strategy of trying to avoid elite players, but it was an honor to play against him. The other 2 players were still finishing off their 2 games, so I was able to have a nice conversation with Andy.

My last games of the pool were against jkh_07. He ended up winning Game 1, while I won Game 2 after he topped out early.

At the end of the pool, Andy G won all of his games and won the pool. I only won 1 out of the 6 games I played, so I needed to practice playing Dr. Mario against other opponents.

What I learned from playing Dr. Mario against other players

Playing Dr. Mario against another player was different from playing by yourself.

The garbage blocks that your opponent sends can really slow you down and potentially cause you to top out. This was true in my second game against Rae as the early garbage that I received caused me to top out early.

I found myself focusing more on creating combos than I was with clearing viruses.

From that first pool, I realized that you have to be quick in creating combos in the beginning. Once I started having early garbage thrown at me, it was hard for me to recover if I did not make much progress in my game.

The next block would be on Wednesday early evening, so I had 3 days to practice Dr. Mario against other players online. The Dr. Mario Championship discord had a channel where players can organize friendly matches against each other. This helped me get more comfortable playing 2 player mode.

Joining the Last Block of the Qualifying Round

Once the 4th and final block opened, I checked in and was placed in Pool V. In this pool, I was going up against Silver, LilacWafers, and jibosh. I ended up sharing wins between all of the competitors, which gave a 50% win rate. This was the only pool I was able to stream, you can check it out here.

A little anecdote, Silver started the second game quickly so I ended up checking my stream to write down the scores from the first game.

My results from that last pool did not give me a good chance to qualify for the playoffs, so I checked in again to join a new pool. This time, I was placed in Pool AA where I fought against jkh_07, fwubs, and DM+. I did better in this pool as I won all my games against everyone, except DM+. This gave me a 67% win rate. DM+ won all the games and became the Pool Winner.

I personally believed that I was going to make the playoffs with the win rate I had, so I did not join any other pool. Also, I was mentally exhausted from playing in 2 pools from that last block. So it was time for me to take a break from playing competitively.

Final Qualifying Results Revealed

2020 Dr Mario Championship standing
The Top 32 players were seeded and placed on the Playoff Brackets.

Once the qualifying results were revealed, I saw that I made the playoffs. I did it, I get to compete in my first Dr. Mario Tournament and brag about it in this article that you are reading right now.

As the #25 seed, I would face the #8 seed which turned out to be DM+. The same guy that defeated me in the qualifiers. So, I was pretty much toast in the first round but I was already happy to be in the playoffs.

I was also curious about who 2019 Dr. Mario Champion, Heather Ito (seriousproducer), would face in the first round as she was the #28 seed which meant she would face a tough opponent. As it turned out, she would face 2-time Dr. Mario Champion, Packie (#5 seed), in the first round. This would be an interesting match to see. I always wanted to see Heather and Packie face each other at the tournament, but I did not think it would happen in the first round.

For some extra stats, a total of 48 people signed up for the tournament. Only 42 had participated in the qualifying.

Originally, the 2020 DrMC patches were going to be sent to the 32 players that made the playoffs. But it turned out that Bidwell had enough for the 42 players that participated in the qualifying rounds. So everyone that played got a nice souvenir. I will show it to you later on in a random unboxing video.

Playoff Format for the 2020 Dr. Mario Championship

Before I signed up, I thought this was going to be a single-elimination tournament. But it was announced that the playoffs were going to be a modified double-elimination format in the early rounds. With the Top 8 being a single-elimination tournament.

So I get to have 2 people defeating me before I get knocked out of the tournament. And write more content on this article.

You can check out the playoff rules here. The rules are confusing. (So if you do NOT want to read it, just skip to the next heading.)

For the first rounds, players are distributed among 8 separate (modified) 4-player double-elimination brackets. These brackets are different from a normal double-elimination bracket. For this tournament, the winners of both the winner’s bracket and loser’s bracket do NOT face each other. Instead, the winner of the winner’s bracket advances to the “Top 8”. (There’s actually 9 spots, I will explain later.) And the winner of the loser’s bracket moves on to an 8-player LOSER’S Bracket.

In the 8-player LOSER’S Bracket, the players compete head to head in a single-elimination tournament for the 9th spot in the “Top 8”. And that’s how there are 9 spots.

The winner of the LOSER’S Bracket faces the lowest seed in the “Top 8” in a play in match. Where the winner of the LOSER’S Bracket has to win 4 games to move on to the Quarter-Finals, while their opponent just needs to win 3 games to advance.

Once the play-in match is over, the 8 remaining players compete in a Single-Elimination Tournament to determine the 2020 Dr. Mario Champion.

Competing in my first Dr. Mario Championship Playoff

Who were my competitors?

I was placed in Bracket B which featured DM+ (#8 seed), Vince Clemente (#9 seed and 2017 finalist), JohnNash4th (#24 seed), and me (Wingfryer #25 seed). Bidwell had each sub-bracket schedule a time to start the matches as all the players in the sub-bracket must agree to meet in the Discord Voice Chat so that we could play Round 1 and 2 consecutively.

Luckily, everyone in my bracket were able to quickly agree to compete on Friday evening, August 7th. I personally did not want to wait until the weekend to compete in my sub bracket, I was already anxious throughout Friday to compete in my first Dr. Mario Tournament.

The Matches Begin, The Pressure is On.

So on Friday evening, everyone in my bracket joined the Voice Chat and we made sure we friended each other on the Nintendo Switch. Bidwell joined to keep score of the games and announce the matchups.

In the first round, I was facing DM+ in a best of 5 match at Level 14/Medium speed. Just like my games against him in qualifying, he dominated the match with a clean sweep. In those 3 games, he would clear his board while I was struggling to clean my board. Like I said before, the garbage you get in multiplayer can really slow you down.

While I was getting swept, Vince and JohnNash4th were competing against each other. You can watch it here.

But basically, they both shared early top out in the first 4 games. Finally, Vince cleared his board on Game 5 and moved on to the next round. There match ended early with the early top outs.

With the first round done, I faced off against JohnNash4th in the Loser’s bracket in a sudden death game at Level 8/Medium Speed. You can check it out here.

In that match, JohnNash4th defeated me by clearing his board before me while I had 5 viruses remaining. And that was the end of my journey at the 2020 Dr. Mario Championship.

My sudden death Dr Mario Championship match against JohnNash12th
The moment my 2020 Dr. Mario Championship journey came to an end. With JohnNash4th (left board) clearing all of his viruses.

What happened to my Sub-Bracket competitors?

In the Second Round of the Winner’s Bracket, DM+ defeated Vince, 3 games to 1. This meant that DM+ won the bracket and advanced to the Top 8.

Vince would now have to face off against JohnNash4th in the second round of the Loser’s Bracket. This intense sudden-death match can be viewed here.

This match was also a close one. JohnNash4th was able to defeat Vince by clearing his board before Vince could clear his 2 remaining viruses. I should not have stayed in the voice chat, because I said that they were giving everyone a heart attack after the game ended. Anyways, JohnNash4th advanced to a special 8-player LOSER’S BRACKET.

And that was the end of my Sub-Bracket. At first, I was sad that the journey was over. But I later realized that it was more of a relief because I did not have to plan my weekend for any future brackets. Now, I can just continue to be a spectator.

In the Top 8 LOSER’S Bracket, JohnNash4th defeated Rae2point0 in Round 1. In Round 2, his run came to an end after being defeated by sa77y.

Final Thoughts

My main goal for signing up for the 2020 Dr. Mario Championship was to qualify, which I was able to accomplish. Now I can tell people that I was in the tournament. This year, we had to play Dr. Mario on the Nintendo Switch.

The Nintendo Switch online service was far from perfect. One time, I got disconnected in a qualifying game and had to start over. But other than that, I did not have too many problems with lag.

This year, I got to talk to my competitors in the Discord chat. And whenever the next in-person tournament will be, I look forward to meeting the competitors in person.

Watch the 2020 DrMC Top 8 LIVE on Sunday, September 13th at 4 PM EDT on the Classic Tetris Twitch Channel. Be sure to follow DrMC on Twitter and join their Discord channel for up to date information.

(Update 5/25/2021: Check out the rest of the 2020 DrMC here, where DM+ faced off against Snipe06.)

Thank you for reading my article. And here is my random attempt at an unboxing video for the prizes I got for participating in the tournament.

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