Edit 12/20/21: In a recent patch the chess timer was adjusted to help standardize the overall time players are in a match as well as introducing the first ‘penalty’. The changes are as follows:

  • Timer Length: 5 mins
  • Default Turn Penalty: 5 seconds
  • Card Penalties: Guardian Spirit -> -20 seconds

The Wizard101 PvP Chess Timer

As the seasons change, so too does PvP! In Wizard101’s Fall update, PvP is receiving a big change to the match format in the form of the Chess Timer. This new feature replaces the Notorious Dueler Diego in the role of Match Timer. Below you can find an explanation of the Chess Timer, why it’s needed, and some concerns and comments regarding what this means for Ranked 1v1 PvP.

For those familiar with its namesake, a chess timer refers to the clock used in games of chess. The clock is useful for tracking each player’s turn in an effort to make sure the game is not overly delayed by one player. The clock keeps track of two amounts of time, one for each player. A player’s clock only counts down during their turn. Player A will take their turn and Player A’s timer will count down. When Player A’s turn is over, or they make their move, Player B’s clock begins counting down. The timer ping-pongs back and forth until the match is completed or one of the clocks hits zero. This is exactly how the new PvP Chess Timer in Ranked 1v1 will behave.

Chess Timer Rules

The details for the Chess Timer were outlined in Ratbeard’s Dev Notes and the Fall Update Notes. They are as follows:

  • Each player has 10 minutes.
  • Passing results in a 10 second deduction.
  • The first player to hit 0 seconds loses.
  • The timer will only count your card selection phase.
  • This will only be deployed to rank 1v1.

Below are elements added to the UI to help the player navigate the chess timer. In the images below a yellow and red clock appear next to the opponent’s nameplate. This is to indicate that the opponent is running out of time. A clock will also appear next your own nameplate as time runs out. These are visible to both players but do not indicate the exact amount of time remaining. The yellow clock appears as the first warning. The red clock appears afterwards likely indicating 60 seconds remain.

Player Time Clock

Primary Warning Clock

Secondary Warning Clock

Diego’s Downfall

The chess timer arrives just in time to retire Diego from ranked 1v1. Diego has garnered lots of frustration from players as the AI attempts to figure out which player is truly winning the match after 30 minutes. Diego was first introduced into Ranked 1v1 in September of 2020 in a PvP-targeted game patch. The original concept for this function was to help keep 1v1 in a predictable timetable. Older players will likely remember endless matches from over the years or experiences with JADES, aka stallers. These are players who purposely entered the queue with the intention of running players out of cards, outlasting the other player’s (nonregulated) play time, or bringing the player down to zero health via shadow hit after shadow hit over the course of an hour or two. If the clock reached 00:00, Diego evaluated players to determine a winner, which has its ups and downs.

Nonetheless, Diego became a problem as players figured out how best to work around his conditions and win his favor. Most notably, players could enter the queue with no intention to win and stall the match out to 30 minutes hoping to achieve the win via Diego. In other instances, players simply just couldn’t finish matches with each other, and players could weaponize cast animations or their planning phase timer to limit the other players time when it became clear neither could secure the win by defeat. Last but not least, Diego often left players frustrated with who he picked. Making the best plays and still losing can be irritating and some players have credited this for their sparsity around the arena as of late. But with many of these issues addressed, I’m optimistic players can return to the arena for more satisfying gameplay.


Although Diego had some issues, does the chess timer correct them? By ignoring cast animations and punishing players who take longer turns, players cannot manipulate the play clock anymore. With the way the timer now handles hitting zero, players have a bit more control returned to them. While the original Diego had a hard capped 30 minute limit, the chess timer leaves room for a wider soft capped time limit. Don’t fret, there is a method to the madness! Live realm matches that went to timer have been recorded, analyzed and used to derive the 10 minutes on each players clock. That leaves matches at an estimated 30-40 minutes of gameplay.

As with any new feature, there might be an issue here or there. While Diego required offensive pressure, the chess timer does not. On one hand, this gives players free reign over their spell choice. The match will either finish via defeat or time will run out. Adding to that, certain spells no longer increase the chance of winning. *COUGH* Wings of Fate *COUGH* On the other hand, this leaves room for stalling strategies to dwindle down opponent’s timers. Offensive plays will likely take a bit more strategy and thus require more time than shield, shield, heal plays for which defensive players are notorious. At the same time, this change is good news for life wizards who have expressed a desire to exercise their main identity, healing, but felt restricted by Diego’s win criteria. Overall, the discussion regarding healing will likely shift to viability and strength as players try to make use of it without becoming undefeatable. Nonetheless the developers have planned ahead.

3 Moves Ahead

Regardless of bad actors, the dev notes mentioned a few options that act as a failsafe to handle any exploits or abuse in future matches. These options include ‘bonus increments’ and ‘time punishments’. These function to reward certain plays with more or less time based on future criteria. However, I’ve got my fingers crossed that these features are unnecessary. We ENCOURAGE players to show up to matches ready to win to help build an enjoyable, populated PvP community!

Well, look at that, my times run out! We are one step closer to 5th Age PvP. Check out other PvP changes including Meta Updates and the new Roshambo Spells!

Let us know down below what you think about the new timer and good luck in your PvP matches!

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Shadow entered the Spiral in 2010 and has since been wandering the worlds seeking adventures and challenges. He knows his way around every aspect in Wizard101 to varying degrees but has untamed enthusiasm for team pvp and difficult bosses. On rare occasions Shadow dons a pirate hat and can be found swashbuckling around the Spiral in P101.


  • While the update is decent and a timer was desperately needed, something needs to be done about losers that play for timer with Guardian Spirit (and timer players in general that can stall matches indefinitely).

    If you go first you automatically lose, if you go second you need to accurately assess that your opponent is a timer player and quickly pass within the first round otherwise you would have lost the game within the first 30 seconds.

    Removing Guardian Spirit is a huge step. The second is by limiting heal boost.

    • While both of those may certainly help lessen the power of stallers for now, that is a big limitation to life wizards who can and should be able to play with those abilities. At the moment the problem is more or less people not attempting to win by abusing these mechanics. It’s unfortunate that these players choose to do this, but nerfing the defining abilities of certain schools doesn’t fix the problem completely. I’m not sure there is a problem with healing boost or guardian spirit outside of stallers so removing those tools would not be the best solution. I hope we see more changes with future updates to fix the stalling problems that don’t necessarily interfere with the identity of defensive schools.

  • Is this going to end up turning matches into a question of “who has faster Internet”? People with poorer connections often have lag delaying them 2-5 seconds for most turns (and occasionally longer): those might really add up with the Chess timer!

    I fear that this will turn PvP into “stall strategy plus optimal Internet connection” )although the stall strategy probably will involve a lot more 0-pip spells since passing costs 10 seconds each) but, of course, I could be wrong…

    • Speaking from lots of chess-playing experience online, internet connectivity/lag really only makes a serious difference when the starting time in a game is exceptionally low (< 1 minute). Of course, wiz is radically different from chess, so take that with a grain of salt. Dirty flagging (trying to win on time regardless of the quality of your "position") is much more likely to be a danger than connection issues, which is why I wouldn't be opposed to adding increment based on principle alone (I'm not a fan of the clock even potentially being a large factor in the primary time control of a "competitive" game). Something like +5 seconds per move if time is low (< 2 mins, maybe) and you're not repeatedly casting shields/heals seems like a decent way of avoiding flagging while making it hard to stall indefinitely.

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