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Introducing… Guillotine Leagues

“Let them eat Case (Keenum)” – Paul Charchian, ruefully.

I’ve got a crazy new gameplay format to share with you: The Guillotine League. I haven’t been this enthused about a new way to play since introducing Empire Leagues five years ago. Read on.

Here’s How a Guillotine League Works

At the end of each week of the NFL season, two things happen:

  • The bottom scoring team from that week gets eliminated from the league
  • That team’s roster is dropped into the free agent pool.

At the end of the season, the last team standing wins.

Simple, right? Awesome, right?

Yes, That’s Awesome

The incredibly compelling part of a Guillotine League is the weekly waiver wire. Every week, fantastic players will end up hitting free agency. Will you blow big bucks when an elite player hits free agency? Do you hold back money, knowing that each week, increasingly good rosters are going to get eliminated? Will you bid wildly in your difficult bye weeks?

Here’s an example from the 2017 season: In Week 1, Le’Veon Bell posted his worst game of the year, a scoreless 32 rushing yards and 15 receiving yards. It’s very possible that Bell’s team was eliminated in Week 1. How much of your blind bidding budget do you spend on Bell? Almost all of it, knowing that Bell could be your starting running back for the rest of the year? None of it, knowing that next week another good running back will likely end up hitting the waiver wire?

Recommended Rules

Guillotine effect: At the end of each week, the bottom scoring team is eliminated, and his/her roster is exposed to free agency.

League size: 17 teams, which provides for a 16-week season. You can play with less, with a shorter season.

Scoring system: Whatever you like.

Roster size: Avoid the temptation to allow large rosters—much of the strategy comes into figuring out who to drop.

Schedule: There is no schedule, and nobody plays head to head.

Waiver Wire: Although technically you could play it with any waiver wire format, you really want to use free agent blind bidding so everyone is bidding on all of the dropped superstars.

Division: There is no need for more than one division.

Starting lineup: Use whatever you’d like, but avoid the temptation to allow for large starting lineups—much of the strategy comes from figuring out which of your superstars you’ll start.

Prizing: I recommend a winner-takes-all approach to the prizing, since every other owner has been chopped.

Where can I play?: If you already have 16 other friends who want to play, I recommend, which has the customization to support this kind of format. Here are the directions to set up your own Guillotine league on MFL. If you want to play, but don’t know 16 other people willing to risk their neck, use our matchmaking service,

Let me know what you think of the Guillotine League idea by hitting me up at @paulcharchian on Twitter.

Introducing… The Empire League

Note: Originally Published August 4, 2012

The term “dynasty” in dynasty leagues is a misnomer. What happens when a dynasty is achieved in a dynasty league? Nothing!

That ends now.

I’ve created a new kind of league, a league that actually ends when someone actually has a dynasty. It’s called an Empire League.

What’s an Empire League? It’s a dynasty league with two unique twists:

1) Each year, half the pot goes to the year’s winners, and the other half is set aside in a rolling Emperor pot.

2) When someone wins an Empire League in consecutive years, they win the rolling Emperor pot. And the league disbands.

I can hear what you’re thinking: “Disbands?!? Oh, no! That’s just wrong!”

First, every league will come to an end eventually, right? Disinterest could end it. A dispute could end it. A freak dirigible accident could end it.

Why not prescribe the end of your league on your own terms? And is there a better way, than by crowning the ultimate champion?

And when it disbands, if the owners want to keep playing, they can just start fresh the next year with the same owners. And, everyone would draft/auction new dynasty rosters.

The strategic ramifications alone will make The Empire league a fascinating one. Imagine what happens when you win the first time. You’re going to be a marked owner the following season. Everyone will be gunning for you, doing anything possible to keep you from a second victory. Would anyone dare trade a good player to you? Free agent bidding would be furious and competitive. Even the last-place team is going to make moves designed explicitly to defeat you and make your repeat run impossible.

Draft strategy would also be fascinating. Do you play it as if it’s a two-year league and attempt to win it all in the first two years? Or do you assume it’s going to last at least 4-5 years and take a longer-term approach and build with young players that will potentially allow you to win two seasons in a row at some point down the road. And if you do manage to repeat? The pot could be huge, and who doesn’t want to be crowned the Emperor of their league?

For just one example of how the Emperor Pot could grow, assume a 10-person league with $150 entry fee, with $75 going to the Emperor Pot each season. You’ve got $750 in the pot for the current year, plus an additional $750 going to the Emperor Pot each season. If someone manages to repeat in years 5 and 6, they’ll take home the single season champion’s portion for each of those years, plus a whopping $4,500 for becoming the Emperor!

Thinking of starting an Empire League? Don’t do anything until you read this follow-up article “The Empire League Strikes Back.”