Facts gathered and analysis on tournaments in SWGOH

From my observations (and data gathered with guildmates), tournaments are quite easy to understand, yet it's difficult to claim a good spot. In this article, I'll quickly recap the tournament format, will provide some figures about rewards and players, and finally will list a few things to try getting better rewards.
(disclaimer, this is correct at the time of writing, the tournament format may change anytime without notice)

Basics

Grind your way up

Tournaments are providing nice rewards : characters or ships that are not yet fully released.
Basically you will need to fight a lot of squads to score points, while other players are doing the same.
Unlike arena, you can't "lock" a player if you fight him, you don't have any timer between battles. You spend ally points to play the same characters again, and try to earn as much tournament points as possible. The player with the most points will receive the best prizes.

The defensive squad

The first thing asked when joining a tournament, is to set up a defensive squad. Those characters will be "locked in" to prevent you from giving your opponents (preferably guildmates that join at the same time as you) some easy teams to fight. It's an answer to bad player behaviour, and won't matter much for you.
What's important to know is that your defensive characters can be use offensively.

So put your worst squad in defense to be kind with your fellow gamers. (Do I need to point the irony here ?)

Advanced concepts

  • A tournament is bucket, that can be filled with 5000 players.
  • If a bucket is full when a player joins, a new tournament bucket will be created.
  • There will be changes in a few weeks about how players are affected : as for now any level 80 to 85 will join the current bucket. But in a near future, level 85 will play together, and we can suppose there will be a new level 80 to 84 bracket. (see dev comments in this post)
  • Since tournaments are during 24h, your timezone is taken into account : even if you don't join a tournament right after its start, it will end exactly 24h after the official starting time. (Note that in the past some tournaments lasted 3 days. I had a time zone issue the day I joined very early in the morning. This is no more the case -for the time being-)

If you read between the lines, you will quickly state the following :

"If I join in the last hour, in a brand new tournament, my opponents won't have a lot of points because the bucket is fresh, and I may secure a good spot"

You're mostly right, I'll talk about this later in this article.

Let's check some numbers first

Rewards !

0,02%

0,02% is the proportion of players that will have the best prize in a tournament. In other words 1 in 5000. Thank you General Grievious Captain Obvious.
Let's see more interesting data; using the Tie Fighter Advanced's tournament as reference (because sometimes rewards are not spread exactly the same way).

0,50 %

0,50 % is the percentage of players who will share the best rewards. That's 25 players.
"Best rewards" is something to ponder. That's the limit where most characters will be activated (4 stars characters). 3 stars characters are activated with top 100 rewards. 100 players represents 2% of the players of a tournament.

Rewards breakdown

There are 330 shards in any character or ship. (They're called blueprints, but it's working the same way). Even if there's credits, training droids or gear in the rewards, what the players are looking after are the (unreleased and powerful) new characters.
The first prize is a full 7* character or ship (330 shards). But shards in rewards are dropping quickly in quantity...
Being 6th, and you're already down to 30% of the max prize ! (100 shards).
And it's getting less and less rewarding (full details in the next part) :

  • The 2nd receives 79% of a full character
  • The 3rd receives 70 %
  • The 4th receives 52 %
  • The 5th receives 44%
  • 6th to 10th receives 30%
  • 11th to 25th receives 24%
  • 26th to 100th receives 18%
  • 101th to 200th receives 8%
  • 201th to 500th receives 6%
  • ... down to the last rank getting a mere 2%

More facts

Only 4 players will have half or more of a 7* character.
If you score 5th twice, you won't be able to activate the 7th star. Being top 5 is being in the top 0,10% of players. A 7 star character requires some real work...

WORSE OF ALL If the rewards includes a character activation (and you already have that character) : you will receive only half the shards of a new character.

Let's see it from another way : 98% of the player base will have at best 8% of the max reward.

Let's call Captain Obvious again :

A top prize is very difficult top get

Thank you Captain.

More data

For those who want all the details.
Rewards Breakdown

Let's get to work, is there anything you can do to get better results ?

Things that works (more or less)

Basics

(sponsored by Captain Obvious)

  • Save some ally points ! You need to be able to play many, many matches. If you can't spend 150,000 ally points, you'll have issues to get to a high rank
  • Adapt your squads to opponents : don't throw your top arena squad to defeat Resistance Pilot, Talia and a CUP (Coruscant Police Officer).
  • Have some time in front of you : 2 hours at least are required if you wish to work your way up (or 1 intensive hour, we'll get into it in the next part)
  • Have a deep roster : the more characters able to win fights, the more battles you can play before having to use ally points.

In fact, that's the most important : when multiple squads can be used again for a few ally points, you will get an edge over players who need to throw 5K ally points per fight.
That doesn't mean you won't spend ally points. But you'll be more efficient, and for the same quantity of ally points spent, you'll have a better score.

Advanced Tips

First of all : players with very deep rosters, heavy playtime, whale-sized wallets will usually trust the best spots most of the time. Deal with it.
In fact, if your A-squad cannot defeat most of the meta-teams, don't bother playing for Top 25.
If you think you got what it takes, here are some theories. Results may vary because you can't predict how competitive your tournament will be. However, based on the way tournament works, there are different approaches that can give you some edge :

  • The Long Run Method : You try to join in the first hours and wait to let more players join your bucket and start scoring. You don't care if you start at the bottom of the ladder, what counts is how many points you will get. To begin your climb, use all your alternative squads to defeat the lowest enemies. You'll get points with squads that can't compete with the best arena teams, optimizing the usage of your roster this way.
    In the last hours of the tournament send your best squad to grind up.
    This method requires some matches early on, and a long push in the last hours. It's time consuming, but optimizes your roster.
    You may try to use some reverse psychology to select your entry hour. Joining at a time where daddies are taking their morning coffee while doing their dailies might put you in a bracket less competitive than the opening bucket that impatient players joined in the very first seconds...
    RLE (Real Life Example) : I joined my last tournament around 21:30 (it started at 16:00), threw a few fights, then really progressed my way up to rank 29 between 10am to 4pm for the duration of the tournament. (not playing fulltime, don't be afraid).
    I couldn't reach Top 25 because I couldn't catch up in the last minutes with these score. Starting your grind too late will cause you troubles because most of the top players are not stopping grinding, they know you're coming for them and they won't let you.

  • The Sprint Method : You may try to join in the last one or two hours before the end. If you land in a "new" bucket, with few players and low scores : start grinding. Play non stop to progress as fast as possible, and stay with the leaders. A squad that kills fast (without dying too much) will let you follow the rhythm.
    RLE : (not from me, but different guildmates) Some F2P gamers ranked top 10 (I even saw a Rank 1) by joining in the last hours. What matters is the luck to be in a new bucket, and obviously a good squad to keep up with the opponent.

Key factors

There might be other ways to achieve good results. But what matters all the time is :

  • the strength of your roster
  • the time you're able to spend
  • the quantity of ally points available.

But don't forget : invest your time wisely, spending 2 intensive hours to receive 8% of a character might not be the best deal (and that means being top 200...).

This article was made with the help of Captain Obvious. Thank you Captain Obvious !