Amid much fanfare, the left-leaning network revealed who would take to the stage on which night later this month.
On Tuesday, July 30, the debate stage will have Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Beto O'Rourke, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., former Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., Gov. Steve Bullock, D-Mont., former Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, and spiritual guru Marianne Williamson.
And on Wednesday, July 31, the stage will include former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Rep.Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and businessman Andrew Yang.
But it was the network's way of getting to those final lists that had many shaking their heads.
During the "draw" special, the 20 eligible candidates were split between three tiers and then divided among the tiers. Three CNN hosts then randomly selected each candidate and the night they'd appear on from two sets of boxes, one that had the candidates and one that had the debate nights.
This was meant to prevent an uneven spread of candidates, which took place with the NBC debates when Warren was placed on one stage and four of the other Democratic frontrunners, Biden, Sanders, Harris, and Buttigieg, were placed on the other.
CNN, however, was brutally mocked by viewers. Slate writer Ashley Feinberg said it the "stupidest thing I've ever seen" while others like journalist Yashar Ali joked that he had accidentally switched to the "Game Show Network."
Others called it "nonsense" and "idiotic".
Warren will be sharing the stage for the first time with two other frontrunners, Sanders and Buttigieg. Meanwhile, there will be high anticipation of a potential slugfest between Harris and Biden after the California senator went after the former vice president for his record on busing.
This will mark Gov. Bullock's first presidential debate since he was ineligible for NBC's debates last month. He will fill in the slot left vacant by Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif, who has dropped out of the race.