The New Rating System: Why You Should Like It

Hey there, SixPrizers. This is Scizorliscious. I found out, as many of you undoubtedly did, about the new rating system a few days ago. This is big news for the competitive Pokémon Trading Card Game community as a whole, as it completely redesigns the way points are distributed at different events.

The Old System

If you’re familiar with the old rating system, you should be fine with just skipping over this section. Basically, the old system Pokémon used for rating its players was ELO, a rating system originally designed for chess. The way it worked was that each player, at the beginning of each season, started at exactly 1600 points.

At every event, points would be gained or lost for winning or losing matches, respectively. However, losing against a lower-rated player would lose you more points than losing against a high-rated player. Similarly, a win against a high-rated player would gain you more points than a win against a low-rated player.

Pokémon used ELO Rating System! It's not very effective...

Once this idea’s actually implemented, it’s not hard to see why this system was abandoned. In fact, it’s a wonder it didn’t happen sooner. What ends up happening is a variety of things that aren’t healthy for the game:

  • Players with high ratings can’t change their ratings positively very much at all. Going to a tournament to boost one’s rating becomes much more difficult with a high rating, which seems counter-intuitive for the purposes of the rating system.
  • Because of this, players would drop from a tournament after going X-0. Losing just one game could be disastrous on a rating, so players would exit tournaments to avoid losing any games. This takes away from some of the competitiveness in the game – with the top players (the ones concerned with ratings) not at the top tables, it doesn’t give tournament results as much credibility, and hurts players’ resistances after losing to a player who would later drop.
  • Pokémon is a game with luck. Chess is not. While the ELO system was fine for chess because a high-rated player was very unlikely to lose against a lower-rated player, the same isn’t necessarily true for Pokémon. A high-rated player could get a bad hand. Or he could be donked. Or just be playing a good player who hasn’t gone to many tournaments. Any number of things could happen that would mess with the accuracy of the ratings and cause tables to be flipped.

The New Rating System

Pokémon announced this system less than a week ago. The information is accurate as of September 20, but as the website says, it is subject to change. Here’s how it works:

Each player starts at 0 points and gains points for doing well at tournaments. The number of points depends on the size of the tournament, the importance of the tournament, and how well the player did.
The all-new Championship Points: No table-flipping required.

The full description is on this page, so I’m not going to waste my time explaining the full amount of points someone will receive for each tournament, just some specific notes I think should be mentioned.

Players will most likely only get points by making Top Cut. Going X-2 or similar and not making top cut, therefore, will get someone the same amount of points as losing every game (0).

Another reason a lot of players were not in favor of a rating system change before it was announced was that it would likely have been to something similar to what we have now. The argument was that some players had the resources to go to many tournaments, and that points would end up being given out more based on time and money than should be.

However, players are limited to the amount of tournaments of each type they can get points from – for example, a player attending, say, twenty-three different Battle Roads will still only get points from his ro her eight best Battle Roads finishes. This way, so long as players invested in the game can go to at least eight Battle Roads, they have the possibility to gain no less points than players who can go to many Battle Roads.

Why It’s Good For the Game

While many players don’t like the fact that mediocre tournament placement will receive the same reward as an awful one, one has to remember that the Championship Points are for Worlds invites.

I guess dropping in Nationals just to get to Worlds was pretty ironic, huh?

Someone that can’t make it to Top Cut at a Battle Road probably shouldn’t be going to Worlds, so this system makes sense in that respect.

While players that can go to a number of tournaments above the “Best Finish Limits” do have a slight advantage in that it is more likely to do well in just eight of those, players who are worried about points should be able to do well enough in the tournaments they do go to so that that doesn’t matter.

Players who are more worried about an invite to Worlds will also be more likely to go to more tournaments, so there will be very few problems with this being the case. It’s doubtful that anyone who does not deserve to get into Worlds will get in based on rating – in fact, it’s much more likely for the opposite to be true, what with so few spots at Worlds for the number of players there are. This Best Finish Limit is high enough such that players who are truly serious about the game will have a greater chance to have a higher rating than those who aren’t.

What we’ll also start to see in the future is that people won’t drop from tournaments to protect ratings. Now that all that matters is going as far as possible into the tournament, the Top Cut will be a better representation of the top decks at any given tournament, and also add to the competitiveness of the events. Plus, we’ll get to see the best players actually compete at Nationals, States, Provincials, and Regionals rather than drop and leave the Top Cut to players who don’t have a high enough rating to secure a Worlds spot.

In addition to these benefits, luck will also have a much lower impact on the game. Losing one game, so long as one makes Top Cut, won’t matter. That one bad hand or that one bad matchup at a tournament won’t affect a player as adversely as before. This means the points will be not only more precise than before, but also a better representation of who is fit for Worlds as a whole.
No, not that type of kicker.

The weight this system puts on larger tournaments is also really nice. Battle Roads and Cities won’t matter as much, but you can get points from more of them, while tournaments like Nationals and Regionals will offer more points, but less opportunities to go to these tournaments.

In addition to different tournaments offering different amounts of points, larger tournaments of the same type will also give more points. For example, coming seventh at a City Championship will normally give no points. However, if the age division (Masters, Seniors, or Juniors) in the tournament has thirty-two or more players (known as a “Kicker” for reasons unbeknownst to me), it will give three points. This more accurately ascribes points than before.

In Conclusion…

This new rating system is a very positive change for the game. It should lead to a better distribution of points than before as well as a better tournament setting. I know I’ll enjoy the change immensely. This will be one of the best years Pokémon has had in a while because of this change.

All we need now is for the first-turn rule to revert to what it was and P!P will be on a roll.

Until next time…


Reader Interactions

30 replies

  1. Jak Stewart-Armstead

    Good things about the new system are that it encourages play and removes any incentive to drop or sit out tournaments. That’s really welcome and Pokemon deserves a lot of credit for re-thinking the system.

    BUT . . .

    The point system is very flawed right now.

    1. Winning your quota of 8 BRs gives you more points than winning Nats – What??? How does that even begin to reflect the achievement of a Nats win?
    2. Tournaments with restricted top cut (like BRs) can mean that someone goes X-1, misses the cut on Resistance (maybe they got unlucky and were paired down) and get precisely nothing. At least with the old system, they could console themselves with a rankings boost.

    3. Tournaments with large top cuts . . . someone bubbling in at X-3 and losing in the cut gets the same points as someone going X-0 and losing. Again, no reward for a superior performance.

    4. Beating a high ranking player now comes with the same potential for reward as beating someone with a theme deck.

    HOWEVER . . .

    Pokemon have said they are prepared to look at and revise the system as needed, so I do have hope that these problems can be addressed.

    Also, having ANY requirement to play at Nats (other than residency) is BS.

    • David Griggs  → Jak

      I’m pretty sure the only requirement to play at Nats is going to be to have a Play Point (participate in a previous event) because of all the issues they had with the huge number of people who just entered for the t-shirt.

      • Jak Stewart-Armstead  → David

        Yeah, that’s my understanding too.

        Even so, I think the principle of Nats being open to everyone is more important than free t-shirts.

    • Aron Figaro  → Jak

      They were lumping VGC and TCG together in their post about Nats requirements. VGC Nats has always been invitational. I’m hoping that’s what they were talking about, though I would have liked to see it be open this year. If TCG Nats is invitational, that’s total BS and will really hurt the community. US Nats is the party of the year!

      The real problem with the new points system is the Swiss system. If they want to use the new points system as-is, double elimination would be the better approach by far, with more side events for people who bomb out.

      • Paul Hornak  → Aron

        As a VGC player I feel I can chime in here. While VGC has been invitational only up to this point, from what I can gather from our new rules (which includes 2 BYEs for regional winners), VGC Nationals will be an open event similar to TCG of years past and I don’t imagine they will change the TCG from that format.

    • mike newman  → Jak

      1. Winning EIGHT Battle Roads is much easier said than done. Winning a tournament 1/8th the size of Nationals 8 different times should award you more points than winning Nationals. Not to mention, if you win Nationals, the points don’t matter. If Nationals wins didn’t automatically earn Worlds invites, I’d be on your side here, but if someone wins (WINS) 8 BR’s, I think they deserve the same chance at going to World’s as someone who hits a bunch of lucky matchups at one tournament and wins Nationals, securing their invite.
      2. I don’t think there’s much that can be done about that. If you get unlucky at one tourney and get paired down, suck’s to suck. However, if you get unlucky and got donked twice at Nats and your rating is on the verge of missing Worlds, you’re gonna drop. I think we’re just dealing with the lesser of two evils.

      3. Frankly, making Top Cut is making Top Cut. If the guy who went X-3 got donked twice, and lost to a bad matchup, there’s just as good a chance the guy who went X-0 played his best matchup twice and donked someone. There is WAY too much luck in this game for “superior performance” to be taken into consideration.

      4. Yep.

      As for Nats, David hit the nail on the head. If you can’t make it to ONE Battle Road
      in your own hometown, I don’t want to see you at Nats either.

      • Jak Stewart-Armstead  → mike

        1. Depending on where you live, getting 14+ points from BRs is definitely easier than winning a Nats. If the points from Nats don’t matter, why give any to the winners? The fact that they are giving points for Nats and Worlds, even with an invite, suggests they will carry over in some way, so should still do a better job of reflecting the achievement.

        2 & 3. At least ELO went some way toward reflecting achievement in individual matches in a luck based system. Even something far from perfect is better than nothing.

        As for Nats, I don’t think it’s for you or I or anyone to say who we do or do not want attending (as long as they are in good standing). That’s why I support an open Nats.

        • DrMime  → Jak

          I think that with BRs being worth more points, more people will go, and winning them will become more difficult. I’m not TPCi, but I think this was their goal–to increase the value of BRs relative to Nats. It sounds like you disagree with those values, and that’s cool. But I don’t think it makes them logically flawed, it just means you differ with TPCi on what the point system should look like. You say smaller tournaments shouldn’t add up to more points than a larger tournament. Why not? There are no mathematical rules here, just values.

          I do think it’s for TPCi to say who should attend Nats–it’s their tournament–but I appreciate what you’re saying here. I would also like Nats to be as open as it can be. Again, I’m not TPCi, but I’m sure they balanced a number of competing interests–openness, cost, avoiding immediate drops from the tournament for shirts, and the symbolism of the event to the community. We’ll have to see how this one turns out, especially because it’s not yet clear where the Play!Points bar will be set.

        • Jak Stewart-Armstead  → DrMime

          I guess if TPCI wanted BRs to become more important, that’s fair enough. But the result is that they will lose some of their ‘fun entry-level tournament for local players’ status as people use them to chase those 16 points.

          Obviously TPCI have the right to choose who they want to be at Nats. I just don’t feel comfortable as a player saying that a certain group of people (new players, players who only want to go to Nats) shouldn’t be there. I want everyone to come who wants to.

    • Steven Nilsen  → Jak

      Sounds like BR just got more weight and I can respect that.  BR is cool.  I should play this next one as my first tourney… there you go, what’s the value of my opinion?  Not much now.

      Maybe they want to tool down Nats so it is logistically easier to manage?

    • Mike v  → Jak

      i like what you said the system is very unfair . do you think they will change it? cause i dont wanna waste my time traveling just to recieve nothing if i lose on the bubble

      • Jak Stewart-Armstead  → Mike

        I don’t think the system is ‘very unfair’, I just think it will need tweaking. It’s good that TPCI has tried to fix things because the way the old system was being abused wasn’t great either.

        I just have a few reservations about the system that I wanted to bring up. For example, if BRs are going to increase in importance (and size), they should have the top cut extended from 4.

        The other thing I would like is more information. Once we know what the World’s invite structure is, and what the Play Points needed for Nats, that might put some fears to rest. The sooner that happens, the better.

        • Stephen Mills  → Jak

          I agree, knowing the Worlds and Nats invite structures will help give perspective on the system.

          The new system will need tweaking, but it’s still a great system, and as close to perfect as we could have reasonably expected.

    • Stephen Mills  → Jak

      I agree with a lot of what you have said.

      Obviously, there’s no system that’s perfect. Nothing will please everyone. 

      1. Winning eight BRs is a large achievement. I agree that winning Nats is tougher depending on your area; however, this still makes sense. Imagine someone who wins eight BRs: should he or she go to Worlds? Almost anyone who has the ability to do that is, at least in my eyes, qualified to go to Worlds. Same with Nationals. The weighting of the points may be a bit off, but I feel like they accurately reflect skill at the very least much more than before.
      2. I know what you’re saying. It could end up being a problem. But I feel as though the perspective of “If you want to get to Worlds, you have to make Top Cut in these events” still stands. If you go X-1 and miss cut, it’s probably a pretty small tournament.

      3. For tournaments with large Top Cuts, the same idea applies. While going X-0 and losing is better than X-3, if you go X-0 and lose Round 1 of Top Cut, you probably lost against someone who didn’t do too well in Swiss.

      4. Right, except we won’t see theme decks in Top Cut, and that’s where it matters. 

      There’s always luck in the game, no matter what the rating system is. This system will probably be tweaked and such until they find a good balance, but it’s far better than what we had before.

  2. Mike v

     hello everyone good article . i was just wondering i top 8 a batlle road 4-2 . i would of top cut if i didnt lose my last . there were 49 people. does that mean i dont get anything. the only way you get points if you top cut regionals cities or battle roads?

      • Mike v  → Anonymous

         i dont understand that i keep trying to understand it please tell me in your words im new and im also a underground member. so it would be helpfull

        • Jak Stewart-Armstead  → Mike

          If you come 1st you get 2 points

          If you come 2nd you get 1 point

          If you come 3rd/4th and there are more than 32 players in your age division you get 1 point

          If you come 5th -8th and there are more than 64 players in your age division you get 1 point

          Otherwise you get zero points.

          Is that clear now?

        • Mike v  → Jak

          wow honestly i dont like this system 1-8 should always get points but 1st and second should get more
          theres no point of playing there is no prizes or rewarded points. i mean i like the game alot but its like not worth it. it should be like yugioh . 5$ a person and if you top 8 a major  tournaments u get an invite and good prizes . but thank you baby mario.

        • Will Beers  → Mike

          Praying to Arceus I never hear the phrase “it should be like yugioh” applied to the Pokémon TCG ever again…

  3. barryfken

    Thanks for clarifying the new system. Hopefully it will clear away some of the decks that Players copy off the internet just for a tournament.

  4. Anonymous

    So what about areas where there are not that many players?  If only 1 or 2 Seniors show up for a BR and someone gets 2 Championship points how does that make them a good player?

    I mean I like the new system, but there are some flaws.  Playing in a BR where there are 45 players is way tougher than an area with only 8…nothing is perfect, but I think this will be better, just not sure…

    • Stephen Mills  → Anonymous

      Right, nothing’s perfect. People in an area with less players will generally get more points, and that can’t really be helped with this system. 

  5. Chris Barrieau

    baby_mario stated that there are requirements to get into Nationals: 
    “Also, having ANY requirement to play at Nats (other than residency) is BS.”

    How can you find what these requirements are? Are there any other requirements for anything besides the World Championships that I should be aware of? If so, how do I find them? 

  6. Joshua Hall

    They are trying to increase the player base by adding incentive to go to more tournaments.  Fine, that’s great.  However, there are many players who simply can’t go to the smaller tournaments because of scheduling and workload.  Now, I can always try to make room and request off for something like states or regionals, but for battle roads and cities?  No way!  The older system gave players a chance to earn an invite to worlds even when they didn’t have the time to run to every small tournament.

    I’ve been playing this game for almost 15 years, and I can walk into a big tournament and have a chance every time with a small bit of testing.  Most “veterans” can.  NOW the only thing to look forward to is a small chance at scholarship money, as the chance for a trip to worlds is null and void unless I ace every states, regionals, and nats.  Honestly, Battle Roads and Cities are a joke to the larger tournaments, but their worth has just skyrocketed.

    • Stephen Mills  → theo

      They haven’t said anything regarding that. What I’d assume is that either
      a) there’s a certain amount of spots open; if there are x spots to get in by rating, the people with the top x ratings will get in, or
      b) there’s a points threshold one must reach to get the invite.
      But again, they haven’t really confirmed anything.

  7. theo Seeds

    I still don’t think that high ranking players will go to nats if they
    have alerady achieved x points that you need for a worlds invite (if
    that’s the case) just to save $$$. The solution is to make nats first.

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