Swords, Shields, and the Iron Law of Pods

Written by Father Dougal on February 23 2020

Hi Everybody!


I’m gonna take a break from the “who to pick” stuff and talk some about the strategy of picking players. 

Does that mean no TLAs in this one? 

Yes it does

Whoo hoo!!

Squeakity Squeak!!

(Much celebratory dancing and carrying on) 


Now that you have that out of your systems, We’ll start with PODs. Meaning, what is a POD anyways? Seems like there is more than one definition, and it is hard to talk about stuff when people think something means different things. 

Some people use POD to mean players with low ownership and just that. I think that is the most useful definition. Low ownership without regard to quality. Other people mean a player they are taking because of low ownership, and not because of him being the best available player. I think that kind of POD is a bad idea. You are taking a worse player with low ownership because a lot of other managers own better players. That’s crazy. 

What if I pick a player because he is just low to the ground? Like Caleb Daniel. He’s low to the ground, and I am low to the ground, so he is my favorite player. 

Um, I think that just makes him your favorite player. 


The Iron Law of Pods:  “The earlier and better a POD, the less time they remain a POD.”

Pretty obviously, if a player with low ownership starts doing really well, people are going to bring him in. The longer he does well the more people will bring him in, until he is no longer low owned.  Rowan Marshall from last year is a good example. By the end of the year, lots and lots of people owned him, because he was one of the highest scoring forwards. So the people who jumped on him early didn’t get the advantage of owning him while other people didn’t for very long. They did for a while, but not all season by far. The real advantage of getting him early was getting him much cheaper. While more and more owners started getting his points as the season went on, they all had to pay more for those points, and that was an advantage that stayed. 

What about someone who was low owned but correctly priced? 

Then you are at a disadvantage to all the people who spent the same money on bargains, and even with people who spent the same money on other correctly priced players, no matter what their ownership. Also, if you start with a bargain and other people have to use a trade to get him in, you are up a trade, and maybe money too. 

It’s always bargains with you, isn’t it?

Well, yeah, making better use of resources is what the game is all about. Bargains are better than full pricers who are better than over-pricers. 

Oh oh! Overpricers is my cue to segue into the next part, right ?! 

Yes, thank you. Very smooth segue.

 The Inverse Law of Pods:  “The worse a POD performs, the longer he stays a POD.”

This is easy. Say you started last season with Angus Brayshaw. You paid for a 97 average and he produced an 83 average. He was one of those dreaded overpricers. Therefore, people did not bring him in and he remained a POD all season. In fact as the season went on, he became more and more of a POD as many of his owners traded him out. This gets back to my point that you want good players, not different players.  

Which leads to Swords and Shields?


Did you see how that time I did the segue without mentioning I was doing the segue ?

…Yes, I did. Well done little dude, have a pumpkin seed. 

So, swords and shields. During the Fantasy Premier League season this year, all the pundits started talking about Swords and Shields. I have no idea who actually came up with the idea, so I can’t give credit, but it wasn’t me. Anyways:

Swords are players who help you pull ahead of your competition. Usually that is because you own them but it can be because you don’t own them. Offensive players.

Shields are players who you have because they are highly owned and have the potential to  put you behind the competition if they do well. Defensive players.

In FPL, with only 11 players on the field at once, and with only a few of them being high priced, high scorers, the concept works more clearly than in Supercoach where we have 22 players on the field and there are usually smaller differences between the top scorers and the near to top scorers. 

So are swords and PODs are not the same? 

Right.  If a player has low ownership but is not good, then he is not a sword. And a player who is scoring well but not low ownership is still a sword.  Unless he is so highly owned that he is really a shield. 

At what point does a sword become a shield?

Um, that’s not really well defined. Partly because it depends on who you are competing with. If you are in the top ten you can look and see who the other players have and know from that. I mean, if a player is 51% or more owned, and scoring well, then he is a shield if you own him. Cripps for example, is 52% owned, at least right now. If you fear his having another early season pile O points, and you own him to avoid falling behind, shield.  I took him to be  sword, but as it turns out, shield.  The idea is to get good players, whatever you call them. 

Basically if you own a player because you are afraid not to own him, shield. 

And this is helpful why? 

For one thing, it helps us know why players are in our teams. Every player should be in our teams for a clear reason. That’s why I find the sword idea useful. They are the guys who are going to score you points. Keepers hopefully. Not guys you plan to make money from and sell. Cows are not swords. 

Oh my, thank you for enlightening me. Here I was, in danger of confusing cows and swords, and you have set me straight. The fleshy, dull ones are cows and the metal, pointy ones are swords?

I think any player who gives you a competitive advantage in points  is a sword, even if they are also a cow. Like Liberatore last season.  

Huh, I have been well and properly challenged by the hamster. Ok, I think you are sort of right, in that an advantage of cows who score points is the points as well as the cash. I think of them as really good cows, as opposed to cows who make money but not points. Because they are not on the field, or at least should not be on the field outside of emergencies.  Bad cows, of course, don’t make money. So, for me, cows are not swords. Swords are players you plan to keep. Bargains can be swords, those are the best kind. 

In return for a pumpkin seed, I will accept your reasoning. 

Which gets us to the last bit. 

The Rusty Curse of Pods:  “After you trade out an under-performing POD, he will most likely start doing well.”

Ok, so not a real rule, but you just know it will happen. Leading us to make bad fear-based decisions.  The best antidote to that is data, so before deciding to bring a POD in or out, be sure to look at their, say, past history, current situation and maybe if they have been lucky or not. 

In and out?

Oh yes. Getting over excited about early hot or cold  starts leads to things like trading out Dunkley or Oliver for Boak after rounds 4-5 last season. 

Well, I have babbled at length. I think the difference between Swords and PODs is important. We can talk about wanting to find swords, which is clearly good, instead of trying to find PODs, which, as Mr Brayshaw shows us, may or may not be good. 


So Swords and Shields?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...


Thanks for reading!


Leave a comment / Scroll to bottom

19 thoughts on “Swords, Shields, and the Iron Law of Pods”

  1. I played FPL before I ever played supercoach. It’s a lot more unforgiving for mistakes. In SC we need to make as few mistakes as possible. Or just less than the other people! Which is a bit obvious, this is a timely read considering this is when we get carried away with pre season bolters. Thanks FD


  2. Makes a lot of sense, I’ve been terming them “Blockers” in my head, when I take a high % owned player that is a known quantity, so it’s the same thing as a shield.

    The more i read and learn about supercoach, the more the cycling/peloton analogy works, when you deploy your pod is when you try and make your break from the pack. If you do it when everyone else has low trades, they can’t adjust to you.


  3. I feel like Whitfield is a shield. I really don’t want any to select him because his low durability means he is overpriced. However, the number of points I lose early while he is on the park is difficult to ignore. And if he does get 20+ games in, your season is gone right there.


    1. He’s a very good example. You might not want to own him, but you feel like you have to. Not taking him is a bet that he will somehow not hurt you.


  4. You lost me here FD. I dont really believe in PODs. You get a player bcoz you believe they will be great, or break out. Very often we get it wrong. Getting it wrong alone or alongside 50% others is still bad. Getting it right with 50% other is still great .
    I am a serious FPL player and the Sword and shield works better there because of 3 main reasons:

    1. In Supercoach you know Grundy and Gawn will score you 100+ bar injury. In FPL your captain who costs the most is not even Garantee to score. They can actually score blank and another cheapie score double figures. Thats why you need safety in numbers. Even Mo Salah scores blanks, so you check the most owned player in the top 10 FPL players, And you have to get them bcoz otherwise your direct competition gets away from you.

    2. In Supercoach a player named will likely play a whole game. In FPL, they can be rotated, worse come in for the last 10 minutes and stuff you up. Aguero is the dealiest striker in the league yet you are not sure he will play. He gets a hat trick you are laughing; If he blanks you dont want to be the only one who has him.. specially if Mane/Kane/Salah/Vardy gets the Hat trick and you havent captain them.

    3. in FPL PODs are great in the very begining. Pukki party. Then everyone jumps on the band wagon and they are not anymore. There is no difference whatsoever between them and another who scores exactly the same. And because the total trades are not limited there is no trades disadvantage. You have one trade a week plus your chips, in SC 30 and no more, so a bad trade is a wasted trade.

    To conclude, in both games you make a call on a player, either by personal conviction or following the band wagon, but it better be good. FPL is more forgiving bcoz you can trade the player out and back in 10 times without penalty. Supercoach doesnt forgive. It will cost you a trade and money too sometimes. Plus you have 30 trades and thats it. In FPL 11 different players a week can give you the same total. In Supercoach you need to pick the same top 6-10 in each position, otherwise you are roasted, doesnt matter how clever or knowledgeable you are.

    A Sword is better than a shield. I got that. Is Docherty a
    TU Sword
    TD Shield


    1. I also think you should just take great players and don’t like the whole POD thing. That’s one reason I like the idea of swords. Close to the same idea but clearer and means taking good players.

      I agree with your FPL points. I have played that for a long time. I had to unlearn some things from it my first year or three playing Supercoach.

      The lack of player movement in and out of teams I call the Hotel California effect. Hoping to write about it in the pre-season this year rather than in the middle like I have in the past.


  5. I’ve never liked the idea of “must get POD’s”. If anything, history probably says I tend towards Shields, with the occasional lucky Sword. Having a POD for the sake of having a POD seems a risk you introduce unnecessarily. I hope the Swords and Shields terminology and philosophy catches on, thanks for introducing it to me, as it helps explain why I do what I do (and maybe avoid clangers).


  6. Hey guys, first time long time. Is there a name for a mid priced player that you field for the duel purpose of points and to make money. Think libba or rocky last year.


  7. Great piece FD. Have never been one for a POD, but I have always been partial to identifying ‘underpriced’ Swords.

    A premo POD is likely a spud in disguise.
    Swords can likely win you the thing and good shields should keep you with the leading pack.

    Further, given that we all have 30 players, the chances of two teams (apart from TECHLeague) being the same is almost zero. Even if you pick ALL the most common players. This actually makes the whole notion of picking PODs a moot point. Irrelevant. To explain …

    Say you start with Grundy @ 65.5%. That means 34.5% of teams don’t have him. Now you pick Whitfield @ 58.3%. Of those 65.5% who have Grundy, 41.7% then won’t have Whitfield. So, only 38.2% of players have both. Now take Cripps @ 51.6% ownership. Of your 38.2% who have both Grundy and Whitfield, only 51.6% of those also have Cripps. So, that suggests only 19.7% have all three!?
    Of course this is basic and crude probability and most ‘seasoned SuperCoaches’ will likely have all three, but it proves the point, that when you get down to your 30th pick, you are likely on the way to picking a unique team. Picking PODs for the sake of it is then likely both irrelevant and more importantly, a bad idea. The majority don’t want them because they study that player’s stats and history and see them as a risk. You should too. If through your research you uncover a player who you think might be a Sword, that is different. If you can build in a plan to deal with all scenarios if you start him, even better.


      1. I think PODs (swords) are often chosen over shields because the coin has landed heads and not tails.

        It’s often which lucky ba#*ard Murphy likes the best after all the analysts and predictions have been decided as to which is really the best option.

        ie injuries and roll change would be the majority of downfalls,
        -so Father Dougal, be nice to your hamster, he(?) might put in a good word for us.


  8. First article back for the year and it’s this doozy – thanks for taking the time FD!

    I like the terminology compared to PODs but really, the PODs theory is flawed. Other posts have pointed out good reasons why but another one is this: who is this a POD from? Where do the coaches that picked that player rank?

    Say a player has 50% ownership but most of those picks are by casual or bad coaches (i.e., low ranking) – a POD is definitely something you want. On the other hand, if a player has 20% ownership and it’s the top 20% of coaches (unrealistic, but just to illustrate my point), then you don’t want a POD (that player would be a shield).



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *