4000 players are coming to GP Vegas. My lord. What does this mean for you if you're going?
There will be two types of players at GP Vegas: In one corner, you have the great unqualified masses trying to break through. In the other, much smaller corner, you have the qualified players trying to score a top 8 birth. These two groups will be playing altogether different games.
For those who are unqualified, the majority of their tournament equity is the slot they can get by going 13-2. It doesn't matter what everyone else does: Show up, win 13 of the 15 rounds, and take home a blue envelope.
But what about making the top 8, or scoring some extra cash or PT points? It'll be tough, but what'll it take?
As a baseline, one must calculate how many extra players are effectively in the field due to byes. We don't really know the answer because we've never had a GP this big, but we can guess. Assuming, as Lucas did, that there are 25% additional players, is being highly optimistic. If we base our assumptions on GP Charlotte, we will have about 40% more 3-0 players than that calculation would suggest, so I'll be using that as my baseline from which to do projections, and cutting off those who miss the second day.
At the end of 15 rounds, with no draws or scoops or pair-downs (which is NOT what will happen), things would look like this:
15-0 0 or 1 players (21% chance for an undefeated)
14-1 3 or 4 players (3.2 on average)
13-2 22 or so players (22.5 on average)
12-3 72 or so players (71.9 on average)
So, the thresholds would be: Top 8 would have about 4 players out of 22 who are 13-2, top 16 will be 13-2 or better (with about 10 out of 22 of them missing), top 32 will have about the top 5 12-3 players, some of the 12-3s will make nothing, and if you have a fourth non-win you can drop. So far, so good. It'll be slightly harsher than that due to the "paired down" clause, where somehow the player with the better record who is playing for a much bigger reward tends to win the match most of the time. Funny how that happens.
Round 15 includes the usual end-of-tournament draws. If no one has drawn, the round will start with 6-7 players at 14-1 or better given this turnout and bye level, so if they can draw they will do so, leaving only 1-2 slots for the 13-2 players, so for most players 13-2 will mean no top 8 and they'll know it well in advance; this includes anyone making day 2 with two losses, who likely isn't even live for top 16.
If you're not qualified, there's nothing to think about until after Round 13: Play to win. In Round 14, if you have exactly one loss, and you can draw now but likely can't draw next round, you'll have to choose between 25% chance of top 8 and 50% chance of missing but qualifying, against 50% chance of top 8 but 0% chance of missing and qualifying. Is a GP top 8 twice as good as qualifying? I think it is, but I do not think it is obvious. In every other case, there's nothing to think about, and in Round 15 the only time you can draw is if you'll be 13-1-1, since you need to go 13-2 to qualify and 11-3-1 gets you nothing.
If you're qualified and don't care about going 13-2, however, things are more interesting; keep in mind that this group will be small. Your goal is 13-1-1, not 13-2, so the first draw is a win. Going 12-2-1 also isn't so bad: You get top 32. Yes, 11-3-1 is still terrible, but top 64 is a very small prize with only the top 5 GPs counting for PT Point status, so it matters very little (and 12-3 was often going home with nothing anyway). In addition, if there are still matches left in your pod, if you draw then there's a 50% chance each round you'll be paired down! This means playing against a worse deck than if you'd won, and on top of that you get scoop equity depending on the situation. You won't be able to get anyone with only 2 losses to fall on their swords due to the qualification slot, unless they are qualified, but those with 3 losses or that already have a slot (and know they can't make it to top 8 anyway) should be far more pliable if it comes to that.
This raises the question: If you can take a draw in Round 11 at 9-1, and you're qualified, do you take it? It allows you to 5-0 into a probable top 8, or 4-1 into top 32. If you play and lose, you're out, and if you win you still need to go 4-0-1... and depending on the pairings, there's a decent chance that you never get that draw. Maybe it would be better to take it now. To know, you'll need to watch the number of players very closely. This projection puts 384 players into day 2; if there are much more than that, 13-1-1 from behind is no longer safe (it's still not completely safe anyway, because of unintentional draws combined with pair-downs, plus variance, and other people pondering what you're pondering) whereas if there's less, it's a safe play but 13-2 starts to get more likely (although coming from behind there is still not going to happen). The closer you get to the end, the better your information will be, and the less chances you'll have to get an ID and the less chance you pick up a real draw later, which would be a disaster once you already have one.
And of course, if you can't benefit from going 13-2, and you can ID in the last round to 12-2-1, that will get you top 32 whereas 13-2 will be somewhere between 7th and 26th, so there's a good chance you can't get to 16th anyway and there's no reason not to draw, provided you can find a willing partner for it. If your breakers are bad enough that 12-3 is likely to miss entirely, it's an easy choice, and the moment you pick up a second loss, you should start looking for an ID since it's basically a free win for you.
Most important, of course, is to enjoy being at the biggest tournament of all time, with the best set ever and in Vegas, baby, Vegas. It pains me that I won't be there.