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American Ninja Warrior will ask competitors to choose between obstacles on the course

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In both the Qualifiers and Semifinals, the Ninjas will need to pick between two obstacles as they face “Split-Decision.”

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

This is huge. Season 13 of American Ninja Warrior will usher in a game-changing alteration to the course. Ninjas, pay attention.

On both the Qualifying and Semifinals courses, the Ninjas will face “Split-Decision,” a point on the course where they will have to pick between two different obstacles.

Here’s how it will work. During their runs, the Ninjas will come to a point where the course splits and they must select the obstacle to their right or to the left. There will be a time factor in this. They’ll need to decide quickly.

In Qualifying...

“Split-Decision” will occur at the point on the course where the Ninjas would usually find a balance obstacle. This time around, they’ll need to pick between two different balance obstacles.

In Semifinals...

“Split-Decision” will occur in position nine on the course. Usually, this is a brutal upper-body obstacle specifically designed to be a huge barrier between the Ninjas and the buzzer. Now, the Ninjas can face that type of upper-body test, or they can try their luck at an incredibly difficult balance obstacle.

Additionally, we’re hearing that the balance obstacles for season 13 are getting an overhaul. There will be some significant new designs, as well as the return of some of the more (ahem) “memorable” balance obstacles from past seasons. Take from that what you will...

Here’s what that means...

It means A LOT.

“Split-Decision” introduces a true mental obstacle to the course. Sure, Ninjas have faced the decision of the Mega Wall before, but the choice was relatively inconsequential. No matter the outcome, the Ninja had a strong chance of advancing to the next round.

This new twist means the Ninjas will hold their fates in their hands. If they fall on “Split-Decision,” they’ll always wonder if things would have been different had they made another choice. If they make the right decision, it could open the doors to the later stages of the competition that would have otherwise been closed to them.

In the Qualifiers, having the choice between balance obstacles could be a blessing or a curse. If a Ninja has a bad history with one balance obstacle, they could avoid it. But the other obstacle could be just as tricky, if not worse. Balance obstacles are always a dice game. Now there’s even more mental pressure.

In the Semifinals, again, “Split-Decision” could go either way. If a competitor’s grip strength is fried, they have the potential to still advance to obstacle 10 if they can tap into their balance skills. However, if a Ninja’s energy is sapped and they’re not confident in their balance, it’s game over.

For viewers, this is added suspense and excitement. For the Ninjas, this means they need to go into their runs with more mental clarity and confidence than ever before.

Season 13 of American Ninja Warrior debuts on Monday, May 31 at 8 pm on NBC.