2018 FIFA World Cup"> clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2018 McDonald’s FIFA World Cup Fantasy: When Should You Use Your Chips?

New, comments

We’ve got three chips for the tournament: maximum captain, bench boost, and wildcard. When should you put them into play for the biggest gain?

Fantasy futbol - booster chips represented by poker chips on felt - <span data-author="-1">2018 FIFA World Cup</span>
When do you hold your chips, and when do you push them in?
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Those of you who have played formats such as the Official Premier League Fantasy game are well familiar with chip usage. However, this particular set (maximum captain, bench boost and wildcard), put together in a short, rapid-fire tournament, presents something of a venture into the unknown, particularly the max-captain, which will need some serious strategic analysis to optimize.

If you would like, please refresh your memory of the complete rules.

Those of us familiar with the Premier League fantasy were expecting not to be able to use any of the chips in combination. The McDonald’s FIFA World Cup fantasy rules do not allow you to use the two “boosters” (maximum captain and bench boost) at the same time, but you can use either one in conjunction with the wildcard. That certainly makes things more interesting, and a whole lot crazier!

So, when should you use your three chips, and when are you planning on doing so? Or did you find it impossible to wait; have you already tossed any of them into play? Let’s put on our thinking caps, our hindsight-is-20/20 eyeglasses, and our favorite national team jerseys as we try to optimize our chip usage!

~

MAXIMUM CAPTAIN (MC)

I am of two minds on this one:

  1. The competition is easier in the group stage than the knockout stage, as evidenced by Russia’s 5-0 demolition of Saudi Arabia. On top of that, the better teams tend to play more disciplined (i.e. defensive) fashion in the later rounds; we saw a thrilling 3-3 affair between Spain and Portugal in the first game, but in the knockout stage those same two teams would more likely draw 1-1 and decide the match by penalties. That points to using the MC chip in one of the group stage rounds.
  2. However, because your players’ games are spread out over so many days there is less need to use the MC chip to find the best score in the group stage. You can pick a captain for each day until you have a score you like. Of course, there’s still risk when you have an OK score in hand and want a great score tomorrow.

In the later rounds, the number of game days decreases sharply. There are four game days for the Round of 16, but only two game days each in the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals). That means more players to choose from each day, and fewer moves in each round, both factors chopping your chance of picking the highest-scoring player in that stage. That points to using the MC chip in one of the knockout stages (especially in a two-day stage).

~

THE FINAL VERDICT: Doing the math and considering our earlier strident advice, you should save the MC for a two-day stage (quarter, semi or final). Hopefully have already followed our advice to spread your player picks among days to optimize captain and substitution moves in the group stage; otherwise, you may have some difficult decisions ahead, unless of course you have made great picks who have performed brilliantly on the same day!

The right time will depend on your team make-up entering the quarter-finals plus your prior use of other chips. The unpredictability of the third place game has me leaning toward waiting until the very end if I can before I employ my MC. That’s the game where we worry most about starting line-up rotation, and I harbor a concern that one team will go all out while the other has a mind toward heading off to the beach before the domestic leagues start up.

Poll

When are you using your Maximum Captain chip?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Already used it in the first round of group stage
    (46 votes)
  • 9%
    Using it now in the second round of group stage
    (51 votes)
  • 11%
    Might use it in the third round of group stage
    (67 votes)
  • 14%
    Will use it in the 4-day Round of 16 knockout stage
    (84 votes)
  • 36%
    Will use it in 2-day Quarters or Semis; ask me again after 1st knockout
    (204 votes)
  • 10%
    Will save it for the Finals (championship + 3rd place matches)
    (60 votes)
  • 0%
    Will probably forget to use it until it collides with bench boost
    (3 votes)
  • 9%
    Undecided
    (51 votes)
566 votes total Vote Now

~

BENCH BOOST (BB)

With the bench boost there’s also a bit of a Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde thing going on:

  1. In the group stage, we only have €100m to spend, but that goes up to €105m at the start of the knockout stages. We also get unlimited transfers in this window, so theoretically we should be able to field strong teams, right? That would point to saving this boost for later.
  2. Then again, will you need to upgrade at forward to one of the expensive stars because your budget option didn't make it through the group stage? Along the same lines, did your mid-priced keeper wash out, and now you have to go with David De Gea or Rui Patricio, blowing a major chunk of that extra dough in only two or three moves for your starting line-up? Are you keeping your cheap (knocked out) enablers — dead weight, guaranteed zeroes — so that you can afford the new starters?
  3. On top of that, when you get to the finals round, you’re likely going to want to front-load your teams with likely starters, and disregard the bench entirely — or will you use all of those late-stage free transfers to lock-in 15 starters? (Hint: The same four teams that played in the semis will play again in the finals)
  4. Furthermore, when we get to the knockout rounds, extra time becomes a factor (other than the penalty kicks that break a draw after 120 minutes). Sure, you could see a boon for your offensive stars. But I’m actually a bit more worried about losing clean sheets from the keeper and defender(s). A goal and/or assist may well come from a substitute entry (think Mario Gotze in the 2014 World Cup final) not on my team, whereas any lost clean sheet(s) in a nil-nil affair is extremely likely to hurt my fantasy team (again, recall Argentina in the 2014 final), and any extra goal or two allowed could make a small dent. Reasoning along those lines points toward using it earlier, in the group stage.

~

THE FINAL VERDICT: Here’s where the strategic use of multiple chips (stacking chips, so to speak) matters. If you think that you can craft a strong, deep team for the Round of 16, that may be a good time to use the BB. Perhaps even the quarterfinals, but I worry about pushing it too far. Just make sure that you don’t collide the optimum BB with the optimum max-captain. At some point you hope to have an embarrassment of riches when you use what chip is best for a stage rather than worrying about what stage is best for a chip.

Poll

When are you using the Bench Boost chip?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Already used it in the first round of the group stage
    (18 votes)
  • 6%
    Am using it now in the second round of the group stage
    (33 votes)
  • 13%
    Will use it in the third round of the group stage
    (70 votes)
  • 50%
    Will use it in the Round of 16 knockout stage
    (265 votes)
  • 10%
    Will use it in the Quarterfinals
    (54 votes)
  • 3%
    Will use it in the Semifinals
    (18 votes)
  • 1%
    Will use it in the Finals
    (10 votes)
  • 8%
    Not sure yet
    (47 votes)
  • 2%
    What’s a bench boost?
    (11 votes)
526 votes total Vote Now

~

WILDCARD

Basically you get three wildcards with free, unlimited substitutions. You’ve already enjoyed the first before day one of the tournament, and by day two of the first round of the group-stage, you may already have longed for it. After that, you have two: the automatic one prior to the Round of 16 knockout stage, and the chip that you can use in any other round.

Let’s take a look at the number of free transfers you get per round:

GROUP STAGE: 1 before round 2, and 1 before round 3

BEFORE ROUND OF 16: Unlimited

BEFORE QUARTERFINALS: 3

BEFORE SEMIFINALS: 5

BEFORE FINALS: 5

Should the above influence our thinking? How can it not? Having only one free transfer between rounds in the group stage certainly isn’t much. Ditto for only getting three before the quarterfinals after half of your picks have been trashed (upsets happen). This has been a fairly erratic World Cup so far, so is there any reason to expect that things will suddently go conventional at that point?

Either of the early bottlencks may make the most sense for your wildcard, especially if your teams are already in trouble. Then again, how worried might you be about the teams you load up on in the quarters or semis crashing out and leaving you to take a rash of -4 penalties to make extra transfers toward the end?

~

THE FINAL VERDICT: Ultimately, the wildcard has a fairly strong “wait to use it when you need it” vibe. This World Cup has already had a rash of unpredictability to it in the group stage, and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue once we hit the knockout rounds.

If you don’t want to wait, though, using it before the third round of the group stage actually makes a lot of sense. That could be a prime time to drop stars from teams that have qualified and may be rested. You can load up on those from teams that actually have something to play for, while sprinkling in stars from teams that are out but will start against and feast on weak competition. And then you’ll have the unlimited free transfers between stages so you can recover. Could the short-term gain outweigh the long-term protection?

Poll

When are you using the Wildcard chip?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Am using it now in the second round
    (83 votes)
  • 43%
    Will use it in the third round
    (250 votes)
  • 22%
    Will use it in the Quarterfinals
    (131 votes)
  • 7%
    Will use it in the Semifinals
    (46 votes)
  • 1%
    Will use it in the Finals
    (11 votes)
  • 9%
    Not sure yet
    (53 votes)
  • 1%
    I will never use it, but I will beat you anyway!
    (7 votes)
581 votes total Vote Now

~

So after all of that thinking and scheming, what’s your take on all of these chips? Have you planned out your strategy and tactics yet? Have you used any already? Or are they all up in the air, depending on how things shake out? After you answer the poll questions, be sure to let us know your thoughts (and actions) in the comments!