The Eighth Man

The Value of a Snitch

Performances by Villanova’s Billy Greco (left) at the Champions Series and Northeast Fantasy, where his teams turned his snitch catches into deep tournament runs, have helped start conversations about the value of a snitch in today’s game. Credit: Deanna Edmunds

On paper, quidditch is a team sport. Squads have 21 players. Seven of these athletes are participating at once, barring a penalty. A team cannot and will not win unless it excels in every area, playing with seasoned and skilled players at every position. Lose bludger control, and your team will have trouble on both the offensive and defensive sides of the field. Chasers can’t score a goal? Can’t win a game. In this way, quidditch is without a doubt a team sport.

 

Yet as the game has developed, one of those positions has become increasingly important. As the player who ends the game and earns his or her team 30 points—three times the worth of a goal—the seeker is the most important player. Years ago, this 30 point value afforded to a snitch catch was perfect. There were few teams who could stay within 30 points of the best in the world, but if they could, they would be rewarded with a chance to win the game.

 

But the game back then, even more than it is now, was undeveloped. Chaser strategy was fledgling, and the importance of beaters was grasped by very few. Teams and players were still relying on strategies from other sports they had played, instead of coming up with new tactics for this entirely new game.

 

Over the past two years, however, the sport has grown immeasurably. Larger even than the growth in the community is a tangible growth in the technical aspect of the sport. Defenses have improved, with teams playing complex defensive schemes including man-to-man, zone and combination defenses. Teams create chaser lines, and run plays out of offensive sets, leading to a more sophisticated game. The good have become better, the better have become the best, and the best…well they’ve remained where they are — excluding a few obvious exceptions.

 

The athleticism and strategy involved in quidditch has grown immensely as well, and, in the process, the teams at the top have gotten closer together. It seems like any time USC plays UCLA, Emerson plays BU, or Texas, Texas A&M, and LSU face off, the games end in snitch catches.

 

Is this a good thing? Too often, teams play entire games just to have the result come down to their seeker versus the opposing seeker. As a captain for Villanova, I believe in my team going into every single game. There are some opponents, however, that, while I believe we can possibly go up by 40 points or more, I realize that the game will most likely come down to a snitch catch.

 

Round of 32 Round of 16 Quarterfinals Semifinals Finals Total
Matches 16 8 4 2 1 31
Matches within Range 8 6 2 2 1 19
Percent within range 50 75 50 100 100 73

 

World Cup V is a great example of the importance of seekers. The chart above shows how many games in each elimination round were within 30 points when the snitch was caught. Not only did both semifinals and the finals come down to a snitch grab, but so did three quarters of the round of 16 and half of the remaining rounds. Over 73% of all games from the round of 16 onwards were won with a snitch catch.

 

There are some that say this is a good thing, as it gives the underdog a chance and makes games more exciting. The fact remains, however, that nearly three quarters of all games involving the final 16 teams were decided based on which seeker had the better game. 11 of the final 15 games were played by three chasers, two beaters, and one keeper on each team, yet they were all decided by one seeker.

 

Perhaps even more telling of the inherent issues with the current value of snitch grabs was the finals matchup of Middlebury College and the University of Florida.

 

In each of Florida’s five elimination games, the score was within 30 points when the snitch was caught. Middlebury, on the other hand, won on a snitch grab in three of their five elimination games. What’s more is that in those three games – the finals, semi-finals, and round of 16 – Middlebury was losing by either 10 or 20 points when they retrieved the snitch to win.

 

I will not argue that Middlebury wasn’t one of the best teams at World Cup V, or that they aren’t champions of the world until someone dethrones them in four months. I do wonder, however, whether a team deserves to be crowned the best solely because their seeker got hot at the right time. While it took great chaser and beater play to keep the games within range, the only thing separating the best 16 teams, 73% of the time, was whose seeker had a better game.

 

 

Potential Solutions

 

20 point snitch

The simplest of solutions involves just subtracting 10 points from the snitch value. It still ensures that the snitch matters – it remains double the value of a normal goal – but the chaser and beater play throughout the game will matter more, with less games within snitch range. Such a change would have affected three games in the Round of 16, the quarterfinal between LSU and the University of Minnesota and both of the semifinals, all of which were won by 10 points by the team that caught the snitch.

 

25 points snitch

A slightly more unique solution, this brings about a series of changes within the sport. First of all, the snitch retains its importance, giving whichever team catches it the victory, so long as the game is within 20 points either way. A 30 point lead, however, in this scenario, results in a team being out of snitch range. The difference between a 30 and 40 point lead between two great teams is monumental – as far as one-goal differentials go – and this provides, once again, for added importance outside of the seeker game. This rule change does sacrifice overtime, unfortunately, which could be seen as a major loss of excitement.

 

30 point snitch, no snitch in overtime

The purpose in changing the snitch value is to ensure that the play of the entire team before the snitch catch remains important. Six out of seven players aren’t seekers, and they deserve to be significant. If the snitch value stays the same, teams will still win if they catch the snitch in a game that is within 20 points, while the game will be forced into overtime if a seeker nabs the snitch while his team is down 30. With this small change, taking the snitch out of overtime, the value of other players in 30 point games increases. Five minutes of quaffle play would determine the winner, and overtime would be put in the hands of six players, instead of just one.

 

Don’t like our solutions? The Eighth Man wants to hear your ideas as well! Sound off online and in the comments on some possible solutions to this problem, or let us know if you disagree with the snitch currently being worth too much!

26 Comments

  1. David Hoops

    December 5, 2012 at 12:30 am

    My thoughts- I’m perfectly okay with the game the way it is. The World Cup being brought down to “whoever’s seeker happens to be hot” reminds me a ton of March Madness, where the regular season’s best team rarely wins when a 6 or 7 seed catches fire from long range for 2 or 3 straight games. Maybe the “best” team may not always win, but it creates an extremely exciting setting for spectators, as well as players. Your team may not be on the level of Texas A&M, Miami, or one of the other teams constantly placed at the top of the rankings. That’s perfectly okay- it might only take solid on-field play plus a little seeking magic for your team to take home the title.

  2. Chris Beesley

    December 5, 2012 at 12:45 am

    I really disagree with the premise. Seekers are responsible for snatching the snitch, but hardly act alone. Beaters were constantly involved with snitch/seeker play in World Cup, so it’s not like 1/7 of the team on the field is winning or losing the game. It’s usually closer to half.

    Further, the only reason some teams do gain a lead toward the end of the game in quaffle points is because the dynamics of quaffle play change dramatically if one, two, or three bludgers are removed to beat seekers. Florida certainly took advantage of this in their matchup with Middlebury since they trailed most of the game. They ended up losing because their beaters did not stay with the Middlebury seeker at all times.

    25-50% of matches is probably the right number to decide by snitch snatch. If you include pool play games from World Cup V, we are probably around that value.

    When teams are more-or-less even, playing for 15-20+ minutes within snitch range, it should come down to a snatch, in my opinion.

    If your team happens to lose often to snitch snatches, the solution is not always to get a better seeker. With the introduction of the seeker floor, it is possible to be so dominant in the rest of the game that the seeker position is completely irrelevant. (Ironically, since the rule was introduced due to quick snatches making the six other positions irrelevant.)

    [Notes: I agree that snitch snatches too often decide overtimes, but I otherwise love our overtime rules. I also think the notion that the rules of quidditch (invented out of thin air a few short years ago) are set in stone is ridiculous — including the value of the snitch. I just don’t want to de-value it any further after dropping it from 150 to 50 to 30. Finally, this is all obviously my opinion as a quidditch fan/former player, not representing the RDT or my behavior as a referee.]

  3. Alex Browne

    December 5, 2012 at 12:47 am

    A fourth solution, and one that I’ve been thinking about recently, is a snitch that increases in value as time passes. For example, for the first ten minutes, it’s worth 10 points, for the next 10 minutes its wort 20 points, and after twenty minutes of gameplay have elapsed, it could be worth either 25 or 30 points (depending on how fond you are of overtimes). This keeps earlier snitch catches from drastically changing the final score by being too highly valued early on.

  4. Quidditch Troll

    December 5, 2012 at 12:57 am

    This article blindly overlooks the importance of beaters in preventing the opposing team’s snitch grab.

    “Too often, teams play entire games just to have the result come down to their seeker versus the opposing seeker.”

    No, it’s the opposing seeker and their beaters, versus your seeker and your beaters. And not crediting your chasers for staying within snitch range of your opponent is rather declasse.

    Solution? Keep the game the same, and work on developing your own narrow perspective of it.

  5. Irvin Badassilisk

    December 5, 2012 at 1:00 am

    By and large, I don’t mind the come-down-to-Snitch aspect of things – because that preserves the spirit from the books, and it is more exciting. I do agree with the no-snitch-in-overtime though, because currently all the other players are rendered moot in overtime. Has there ever been an overtime where one team pulled away by 40 points?

  6. David Gilbert

    December 5, 2012 at 1:15 am

    Really don’t like the notion of modifying the snitch for regulation play. The fact that there’s always an element that gives under dogs a fighting chance helps make quidditch what it is. In the end I feel like it’d make seekers less valuable when, in all honesty, a seeker should be a pivotal player not just a possible boost. Snitch value keeps powerhouse teams honest and on their toes, and makes quidditch exciting! However, I do see the reasoning behind elimating the snitch for over time.

    Interesting read though…

  7. Doug Whiston

    December 5, 2012 at 1:42 am

    I wholeheartedly support a reduction of points that a snitch is worth. In too many exciting games I’ve watched, it’s been a thrill to watch chasers battle it out, making good tackles and REALLY athletics plays only to all be quietly erased by a snitch catch. We cannot altogether take the seeker factor out of the game, but I feel quidditch needs to move to a more chaser-oriented game. The actions of the majority of the players (6/7) can be easily erased by the power of ONE seeker. More modern quidditch places greater emphasis on a strong beater and chaser defense. With greater roles of defense in the game, there is not the need for huge 30 point swings anymore. You don’t see shootouts anymore, defenses are on the rise! It is a disproportionate system that undervalues the importance of good chasers, beaters, and keepers. Take for instance if two teams run into each other that have stellar defenses but only average offenses, it would be a low scoring game determined by the seeker, and not by the whole team. The whole team should be responsible for wins and losses. Chasers and keepers should have the sole burden of putting points up and playing defense. Beaters should have the responsibility of controlling the pace at which their team plays and contribute to defense. Finally seekers should be the X Factor, they are less than 15% of the team; they are still VERY important as they determine how the game ends and a 15 or 20 system still shows that they can close out games, but not so much that it trumps the 85% of the other quidditch players.

  8. Mason Kuzmich

    December 5, 2012 at 1:49 am

    So get a better seeker! Train them! Too often teams treat seekers like they don’t matter. And that’s the fault of the teams. Your suggestions all involve making the seeker less important. Stop thinking like fucking chasers and consider the fact that other position exist.

    Slightly drunk, so I apologize if this comes across badly. But some seekers train heavily to beat other seekers. Don’t try to make them irrelevant just because you think your position is more important.

    • Dan Miller

      December 5, 2012 at 11:47 am

      I think the article is saying the opposite actually, that now seekers are being trained better, and are more skilled, and that the more evenly skilled they become, the more of a coin toss the game becomes.

    • blackler

      December 5, 2012 at 7:13 pm

      and they thought the snitches were drinking polyjuice potion this whole time…

    • Jillian Joyce

      December 8, 2012 at 4:16 pm

      His seeker is Billy Greco, so I think he understands the importance of seekers lol

  9. Jackson Maher

    December 5, 2012 at 2:04 am

    Preach. I’m really glad that someone recognizes that this is a real issue. As a chaser, coming down to the snitch is great when you win and devastating when you lose. The most intense and hard-fought games nearly always come down to a snitch grab and for someone who hasn’t even been on the field for a majority of the game to show up and determine the fate of the rest of the players that have been playing their hearts out just seems unfair and diminishes what those 6 players who aren’t seekers have been doing the whole game.

  10. Anonymous

    December 5, 2012 at 5:05 am

    I find that the game would be no better if the rules regarding the snitch change. I personally find 30 pts a reasonable score for the snitch grab and lessening this number decreases the value of a team’s seeker. With a snitch of lesser value, I feel teams will put their strongest seekers in at chaser, beater, or keeper and put a player of lesser skill at seeker because the catch would be worth less points. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that a bad snitch can impact the outcome of important games and thus, snitch certification should be more available. But decreasing the value of the snitch decreases the value of the seeker and in my opinion, every position should have equal importance.

  11. Michele Clabassi

    December 5, 2012 at 5:57 am

    I have to say, I didn’t expect the percentage to be that high, but I agree with basically everything that was said.
    I am just not sure about the snitch losing value, since over here in Italy we had a team expressing doubts about the snitch being worth too few points. Of course this comes from quidditch being in its first year for us, and they seemed to want a 150-points snitch to begin with…! 😛

    The no-snitch-in-overtime solution seems to fit perfectly though, and maybe making the seeker floor a little longer, too. This would also be good for small teams that don’t have (many) players entirely committed to being seekers: having, say, 10 minutes before running off to find the snitch, gives them plenty of time to play in other roles.

  12. Tyler Rafferty

    December 5, 2012 at 9:59 am

    I expect many aspects of quidditch to continue to grow and change as quidditch grows.

    Having said that, I am fine with the snitch being 30 or 25 points. Many teams include a beater in the snitch game. This beater radically affects the other beaters, chasers, and keepers. The snitch being worth what it is adds enough strategy to where I believe it contributes to the team aspect through strategy rather than lowering the point value of the snitch forcing seekers to play defensively more often.

  13. Derik Ashwinder

    December 5, 2012 at 10:11 am

    A bit conflicted by this. It can seem like the other players are unimportant. It can be kind of deflating when you pour everything you have into keeping the game within 30 but your Seeker doesn’t get the Snitch. However, this is definitely truer to the books. It does give underdogs and teams with a hot Seeker a chance which is really cool, again like March Madness. Also, there may be an analog in football. A defense can play real well but can’t do anything if the QB throws the game away. But something definitely needs to be done with OT. Maybe a two minute seeker floor?

  14. Taylor Crawford

    December 5, 2012 at 10:36 am

    This is a good analysis of the importance of the snitch that makes a strong case for changing the weight of a snitch grab, however, it doesn’t highlight the importance of the other positions at crunch time (snitch on pitch).
    When the snitch is on pitch (especially a difficult one) the whole strategy of the game must change if you are looking to win. Much like the 2-minute drill in football, you have to adjust your game plan at every position to ensure victory. The beaters have to change their strategy from marking chasers to keeping their opponent from getting the snitch. By moving the beater game over to the snitch, this puts added pressure on chasers/keepers to play defense to keep them within the points needed to win.
    On the surface it looks as if the seeker game is a solo determinant for victory, but in reality the importance of a snitch catch is weighted upon how well a team performed under pressure and it is often a strong team effort that determines victory.

  15. Snowman

    December 5, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    As someone who was stuck playing defensive seeker for 38 minutes while my team played catch up, I think the current system is great. The snitch on the pitch represents a fundamental shift in strategy in a close game. If a team is down but within snitch range beaters break off to the seekers freeing up chaser to put up points and extend the game (this happened between MSU and BGSU at Ohio Cup last year; neck and neck until their beaters were distracted by our seeker which allowed us to pull away by 40 before getting the grab on top of that) Yes the snitch grab is of crucial importance, but it is not more important than any other position.

  16. Chris Seto

    December 5, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    YEAH OP IS JUST MAD CUZ HIS TEAM GOT A CRAP SEEKER.

    On a serious note, I agree that snitch play involves all players – beaters go after seekers, and quaffle players have to cope with the absence of the beaters. However, my big problem is with snitches and overtime. Thirty points is a big lead in quidditch, one that currently leaves your team vulnerable to defeat. I’ve been on both sides of a two-snatch overtime comeback, and both times the result felt cruel and unjust, even when my team won.

    When a game goes into overtime, the value of seekers doubles. Suddenly, a seeker has the opportunity to catch a snitch twice in a single match and make a 60 point swing that is grossly disproportionate to the impact of the other six players on the field.

    I would be fine with a 25 point snitch – teams down by 20 can still win outright but teams up by 30 aren’t in immediate danger. Another attractive option to me is simply reducing the value of a snitch in overtime. I propose a 15 point value in this scenario; overtime lasts half of the common 10 minute seeker floor, so halving the value of an overtime snitch catch seems intuitive. A snatch would remain more valuable than a goal, and the uneven value circumvents the possibility of sudden death if the snitch is caught during the already dramatic period of regular overtime. Keeping the snitch in overtime rather than eliminating it altogether allows us to retain the frenetic intensity of juggling quaffle play and snitch play, and a 15 point overtime snitch seems a balanced way to do so.

  17. Conor Murphy

    December 6, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    A point that I have not seen mentioned is defensive seeker play – how many of these game were outside of a snitch pull when the snitch returned to the pitch, but were within a snitch pull when the game ended? One of my favorite aspects of the game is watching a seeker team up with and defend a snitch. Even if a team is up by more than 40 points, their seeker has to evade beaters, get around a defending seeker, and then still pull the snitch to end the game. I feel that this aspect evens out the importance of the positions – If you have strong chasers but a weak seeker, you keep the score outside of a snitch pull until your seeker gets lucky, but if you have weak chasers but a strong seeker, he can defend until your team is able to get within a snitch pull, then turn around and finish the game.
    I feel that any more than 30 points for the snitch would make the snitch too important, but any less, and we would see less of an endgame shift in strategy and more mercy snitch pulls by losing teams.

  18. Sparty

    December 6, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    In the books (which the game is based off of) the snitch was the ENTIRE game being worth 150 points. I like that the snitch is still important, but it is reduced enough to make the rest of the game matter.

  19. Ali

    December 7, 2012 at 12:58 am

    I came to quidditch purely because of Potter. (So much because of Potter that I didn’t even take into account the fact that it was a sport and my athletic abilities left off at a middle school volleyball tryout until this year…) I say this because it was a hard enough pill for me to swallow that the snitch is 30 points instead of 150. The snitch is inherently important. The seeker is inherently important. Having a hot seeker at just the right moment is inherently important to the game.

    I realize that quidditch has evolved over the years and is no longer a few Harry Potter fans running around wearing capes and riding Swiffers, but the thing that makes quidditch unique is that element of adaptation. We didn’t invent the game, we adapted it. And I think that it retained its core elements throughout that adaptation. The snitch is a game-ender and a game-winner. Relegating it to one role or the other undermines the entire role of the snitch itself.

    I think that a quaffle-determined overtime is a good idea. Clearly the two teams are pretty evenly matched if they’ve ended up in overtime, so judging them on their seekers’ ability a second time doesn’t compare the two teams as a whole.

    It’s the team’s responsibility to take the snitch out of the equation. Snitch grabs contribute to a team’s overall ranking, but the fact is, its the chasers’ and beaters’ responsibilities to control the snitch range. A good team will be able to play to their own strengths and keep their seeker in the best position possible.

    It’s not the snitch’s fault that it’s so powerful. It doesn’t want to be punished for being worth more points. Toaster Strudel, anyone?

  20. Cameron Wong

    December 11, 2012 at 2:01 am

    As a seeker, I see the position linked to the team as a whole. Getting a catch is hugely dependent on the strength of the beaters. I know that I wouldn’t have been able to make a lot of my catches without the help of my beaters.

    That said, overtime snitches are definitely a problem. Overtime suddenly becomes about only the seekers and beaters. I’m in favor of a no seeker 5 minute overtime, but retaining the 30 point snitch worth.

  21. Alex T

    December 13, 2012 at 1:11 am

    Two things:

    1. Since the games most affected by the snitch catch are the semifinal + games, maybe there should be a special modifier to the snitch score in those games? It might fix the problem right out. Also, 25 points seems VERY reasonable. Having watched many great games of quidditch with very dynamic chasing come down to the capture of a fallible game ball is a bit depressing, and decreasing those games will increase the watchability of high-level quidditch, as well as reemphasize the importance of having very strong chasers.

    2. Even though we make the snitch catch seem like an almost random act, there is great skill in catching and defending it. As a seeker on the offensive, you have to contend not only with the snitch’s speed and wrestling prowess but also with the other team’s seeker and beater’s, who should by all means be all over you. It’s no easy feat to catch it. However, to reduce variance the most the first thing to do is to make sure the snitch is top notch. The difference in catching a good snitch versus catching a great snitch is momentous, and as the game goes longer the chasers get more and more opportunities to prove what team is truly superior (as more “data” is gathered the data points will converge on the true mean) and so unless the game is very tight, chaser play might decide it.

    TL;DR -> 25 points for a snitch catch seems extremely reasonable, and allows for the higher level chasing to be more in the spotlight. Seeking isn’t a walk in the park, but to make these games as fair as possible the Snitch should be as good as possible, no matter how subjective that sounds.

  22. Dre Clements

    February 7, 2013 at 1:00 am

    Every one makes a good argument for/against the snitch and it’s value, but this is the game so train better and come up with better strategies. For instance, in overtime the solution is not to take out the snitch simply because it’s too difficult to maintain a 40point lead, with a simple change in strategy one could protect the snitch until they had a 40point lead. Though a team can still lose this way, the blame rests on the team not executing rather than the snitch being worth too many points

  23. Mark

    February 27, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    I think I like overtime a bit too much to support a 25 point snitch, but I can see people’s issue with 30 points possibly being too much once the game reaches overtime. I don’t like the addition of a seeker floor here, because without seeker play overtime loses a lot of its frantic energy. However reducing the point total of the snitch in overtime does have some appeal.

    Another idea that may not be possible yet, is to automatically sub in a fresh snitch for overtime. Then only the highest quality of seeker play would be able to catch the snitch before goal differential begins to creep back into the picture.

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