Our fantasy football draft strategies, rankings, and projections should change based on the structure of the league we’re joining. Some obvious examples include drafting for ceiling rather than floor in large-field tournaments, prioritizing WRs more in full PPR, and valuing Week 17 stacks in Best Ball Mania III. Today’s column will be looking at the differences between Best Ball Mania IV and the other tournament offerings of the past.
Best Ball Mania IV is 50% bigger, going from $10M to $15M in total prizes. It’s $25 to enter, resulting in 677,376 total entrants and 56,448 drafts. It’s the biggest fantasy football tournament of all time (again). Let’s go.
Last year, we experimented with 10% of the Best Ball Mania III prize going to a regular season (Weeks 1-14) champion. Best Ball Mania IV will have 33% of its prizes going to the regular season. That alone makes the regular season more valuable than last year, but the regular season prize structure is also much flatter in 2023, too. There will be 10,000 teams who will win at least $250 (10x their entry), with the top five scores ranging from $100k to $500k. That’s the top 1.5% of teams winning a prize before advancing to the fantasy playoffs, so upside is still king here.
This is amazing for sweating best ball. With more teams eligible for a regular season prize, we can track the best teams all year long. There will be a much better live leaderboard this year, as we look to improve the sweating experience on Underdog Fantasy. A major part of the fun of best ball is tracking teams, so adding to that experience is great news.
Secondly, because this regular season payout structure is flatter with more winners, there are now more debates on how to draft teams, which makes preparing more fun. Last year, many ignored the regular season prize because just one drafter would win. That's different now. Do you decide to draft teams built for regular season success? Do you double down on the playoffs if others chase regular season prizes? This layer of strategy didn’t exist as much in 2022, and if you disagree with how other drafters are playing this, it means your strategy is compounding bigger returns if you're right. We don’t want this game to go stale, so adding conversation pieces and not having a clear solve based on historical data is nice in my opinion.
Lastly, this smooths out some of the variance in this format for those with very high-performing teams. It can be frustrating for some to have a 99.9th percentile regular season score, just to get eliminated quickly after. Now those teams will walk away with something nice, before the chaos begins in the fantasy playoffs. There are different strategies and preferences, so it's up to you on what to prioritize.
This isn’t a major overhaul, but any difference is worth pointing out. To advance to the next round of Best Ball Mania IV, it’s 2-of-12 teams from the regular season, 1-of-16 teams from Week 15, and 1-of-16 teams from Week 16. That was 2-of-12, 1-of-10, and 1-of-16 in Best Ball Mania III. In other words, it’ll require a higher percentile score in Week 15 this year. The rest is the same. As usual, these are random, small playoff pods that each team will be advancing from. This keeps a lot of the variance that the hardcore best ball community loves.
Best Ball Mania IV finals will consist of 440 participants. Last year, it was 470. Some speculated that we’d have a much bigger finals as the overall prize grows, but there’s a nice middle ground in this range between getting more people finals tickets versus feeling like actually having a chance at 1st place with a ticket. Keeping the finals relatively small also allows for more strategy, as sneaking in a low-drafted player in the finals can actually pay dividends here. If there were 2,000 teams in the finals, that low-drafted player will be replicated multiple, multiple times. Relative uniqueness is possible with 440 finalists. That’s fun stuff.
As for the Week 17 prizes, the 1st place prize remains at 20% of the prize pool, which means a record-shattering $3 MILLION dollars.
Good luck to all who enter, and Happy Sweating!
P.S. There will be other new debates in future tournaments…
... and from tournaments you've never seen before ...