State of the Race: Understanding Magic Numbers

With the 2022 Major League Rugby season just days away, let’s take a look at each teams path to the playoffs.

See! Clear as day!

Here’s what our magic numbers tell you. Each magic number is the number of competition points a team on the left needs to go their way to guarantee a better finish than the corresponding rival across the bottom. Magic numbers are calculated as such:

Magic Number = Total Number of Competition Points Available to a Team – Total Number of Competition Points Available to a Rival + 1

Ex: We can calculate the Giltinis magic number to finish above the Gilgronis as such:

Magic Number = (5*16) – 0 + 1 = 81

The 5*16 represents the 5 competition points the Giltinis can pick up in their remaining 16 games. The 0 represents the total number of competition points dropped by the Gilgronis (even the Austin of old wasn’t bad enough to drop points before the season started). The 1 guarantees that you finish above the team instead of in a tie.

Let’s look at an old table from last year.

Note: We flipped the axes this year for easier reading. The old versions, like the one above, are read as the team on top’s magic number to beat the team on the left.

Let’s look at what each box tells us.

  • Light green boxes mark the intersection of the same team on the chart. No team can finish better than itself.
  • Light yellow boxes mark a place where the team on top can clinch the superior record without the rival team dropping any points. These teams are in complete control of their destiny.
  • Light red boxes mark a place where the team on top can clinch the superior record but will need the rival team to drop points to make it happen. These teams are not in complete control of their destiny.
  • Dark green boxes mark a place where one team has guaranteed a superior record than their rival.
  • Dark red boxes mark a place where one team has guaranteed an inferior record than their rival.

If you’re asking ‘why can’t I just use the MLR table?’, fair point. The table will show you points accumulated, and both the table and magic numbers will tell the same story at the beginning and end of a season. We prefer magic numbers for a few reasons:

  • They show the impact of having played an uneven number of games.
  • They give a better view of who is in control of their path to the playoffs and who needs help.
  • They provide a mathematical path for each team to know exactly what they need.

We’ll begin our State of the Race feature next week. At that point, the nerdy side of rugby begins.

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