It occurred to me recently that I hadn’t written an article since before the US National Championships! With Worlds coming up and a new season upon us shortly after that, I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone. I didn’t do too hot at Nationals so my report is going to be short and sweet, and after that we’ll go over what adjustments I think should be made for the 2012-2013 competitive TCG season.
As I said, my Nationals run was pretty poor. I ended up finishing 5-4 with Mew Prime/Accelgor DEX. Ross Cawthon gave me the decklist so I don’t feel comfortable giving it out, but it was pretty much standard with a few key choices that ended up giving it added consistency. Even though I did poorly, I think Mew/Accelgor was probably the best deck for the tournament.
It was pretty much the only hard lock deck available (Vanilluxe NVI is a soft lock as you have no answer after you’ve KO’d them, and even the Mew version relies very very heavily on flips), and I think it was just under the radar enough that few were expecting to play against it/knew how to play against it, and even fewer went so far as to tech against it.
Additionally, it wasn’t as soft against Espeon DEX or Unown CURE techs as Vanilluxe or some of the other lock decks because it had access to Chandelure NVI. Although a well-timed Unown CURE can still lead to a blowout, Espeon essentially only allows the opponent to get one free turn, assuming you get Chandelure online in a reasonable amount of time.
Overall, my losses can mostly be equated to luck and not testing enough against Klinklang. I lost to Klinklang twice (once to our National champion John Roberts II, who is a great player and an even better guy. See you in Kona homie!), and although I’m assured it was a bad matchup, I still feel as if I could’ve played a little bit smarter against it had I put more focus on it during testing (to be fair, I drew completely dead vs. JR2).
Outside of my two Gear Grind losses, one I can’t remember at all (Indianapolis does crazy things to a person), and one was to Vanilluxe, which is usually not the worst matchup in the world, but he got out both Vanilluxes early, and I didn’t have the Chandelure to answer the Slippery Sole Vanilluxe, which pretty much means game over.
Outside of the tournament itself though, I had an absolute blast. I thought long and hard about it and I still like Worlds more, but Nationals is definitely a great time and I’m going to do everything in my power to never have to miss it again. Speaking of, I have a few thanks and shout outs to give. I promise that after this we’ll skip ahead to the actual Pokémon-related content!
Adam Capriola, for letting me stay in his incredibly nice room. We were casually texting one night and he asked where I was staying, and upon hearing that I wasn’t sure yet immediately offered Amelia Bottemiller and me a bed. One of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life, I definitely owe a lot to Adam. I promise when I win Worlds I won’t ask for a raise. ;)
Michael Wijaya for flying me out. Again, out of the kindness of his heart, Michael offered to buy me a plane ticket to Indianapolis. Another ridiculously nice person who I’m blessed to know.
June Clanton, Chris Clanton, David Nelson, and Niki Nelson for letting me stay in their hotel rooms on the days that Adam wasn’t available. The Northwest really is the best. :D
Tyler Ninomura and Ross Cawthon for hooking me up with a deck and testing it with me. Tyler has a bigger impact on my Pokémon career than he’ll ever know, and I’m lucky to have people like him and Ross around me.
Trevor Whiton for being there for me before and during the tournament, as always. Also for getting third at the Professor Cup.
There are too many others to name. If I met you at Nats, you know who you are. In specific I’d like to give a shout out to Jay Hornung and our glorious leader John Kettler for their spectacular finishes. Great job guys, and see you in Hawaii!
Now to get to the meat of the article. 2011-2012 was a big year for Pokémon. They introduced Championship Points, Play Points, added a third State Championship and a second Regional Championship, did away with some prize support, added some prize support, and overall just shook up organized play a great deal.
The purpose of this article is to go over the changes that TPCi made, give constructive criticism on them, and give suggestions for what I think the majority of players would like to see for the 2012-2013 season. I guess you could kind of call this an open letter, and personally I hope that someone from TPCi reads this article and takes it to heart.
I would also be more than willing to discuss any of the subjects talked about in this article with any employees of TPCi whenever (maybe in Hawaii, eh?) and think that opening up a discussion like that would be an amazing move for them and would show that they really do care about what their fans think (which they’ve proven time and time again, don’t get me wrong).
As is typical with my articles, I want you, the reader to be involved as well. If you agree or disagree with something I have to say, please feel free to post a well-written comment and let me know how you felt. I’m just one player and while I obviously think my ideas are correct, some of you may disagree and I think regardless, if TPCi is to read this and let it affect their thought process, they should be making changes based on what the majority of players want, not just one guy who writes for a website.
This is your chance to let your feelings be known, and I hope that every one of you who is passionate about these subjects takes this opportunity to share your thoughts.
Topic 1: Championship Points and The Grind
pokemon-paradijs.comI don’t think I’m in the minority when I say that I think Championship Points are a net positive for the game. They reward consistent performance without punishing players for one bad match/tournament. They are a clear, traceable indication of who did well, at what events, and during which season, and overall I think they are a significantly better tool for rankings than Elo.
With that being said, they’re not without their problems. They only reward you for top cutting, meaning that X-1 or X-2 bubbling can often lead you rewarded with nothing, whereas under the Elo system you at least would’ve gotten some amount of points.
Additionally, and I think most importantly, they encourage what my friends and I have come to refer to as “the grind.” Whereas under the old system one could incredibly well at a small number of events and lock up an invite, with CP you’re forced to compete in as many events as possible, because if you don’t someone else will.
I know that there are exceptions to this rule, and that you can still get an invite simply by Top 8ing US Nationals or Top 4ing Worlds from the previous year, but those examples are few and far between. Unless your name is Jay Hornung or Tom Dolezal, you better be prepared to go to two Cities every weekend (and that’s not even considering marathons!) for eight straight weeks if you plan to lock up that invite.
pokemon-paradijs.comAs I said in the first paragraph, though, I don’t want Championship Points to be done away with and I don’t think they’re a positive for the game. I simply think that there need to be some adjustments made to how the points are given out, what they mean, and what the best finish limits are for each event.
Please keep in mind while reading this next section that these are all rough estimates and examples. I could see the points being skewed slightly in any of the presentations below and I think it would probably be fine, I’m just giving a suggestion based on what I know about CP.
Firstly, I think that both the number of points being given out at each event and the best finish limits should probably look something like this…(I’m only going to cite the points given for first place, as the subsequent places and their respective point totals matter much less and are influenced by kicker points and such)
BFL: 4 (when combined with Regionals)
BFL: 4 (when combined with States)
BFL: 1 (obviously)
BFL: 1 (obviously)
The most important bits here are the changes to Battle Roads and Cities. The only other changes are to give two additional points to a Regional winner, which I’m not even sure will be correct now that there will be three Regionals per year, therefore making them more and more like States. Still, Regionals will probably always be bigger than States to some extent, so throwing a few extra points to Regionals can’t hurt.
I also think it’s very important, in the case of Regionals specifically, to give out as many points as possible to the T32 and beyond. Topping an 8 or 9 round Regionals is no easy feat and should be rewarded much more heavily than it is now.
On to Battle Roads, you want to keep them at a low point total and a low best finish limit because you need them to be casual events. TPCi has said that they intend Battle Roads to be smaller, more new-player friendly tournaments, and not incentivizing competitive players is just the way to do this.
Competitive players will still show up to some events to try and get the needed points, but given that there are ten weeks of Battle Roads and any given player only need win two to reach the BFL, there are going to be a lot of soft Battle Roads that newer, less experienced players will be able to feel at ease during and maybe even win.
Another possibility that I’ve been throwing around is to completely eliminate CPs from Battle Roads. This would be a pretty big change to the system as it stands, but would lessen the grind for competitive players a ton, and truly position Battle Roads as the beginner tournament, where you can expect few competitive players to show up, and even fewer to be invested in the outcomes of their matches, try to angle shoot you, etc.
Not completely sure how this would be implemented, but off the top of my head it doesn’t seem too negative.
Cities are interesting. From speaking with players I know that there exists a large portion of the player base that believes Cities are far too heavily weighted and that either Cities should be worth less or States should be worth a lot more. I’m here to tell you that those people are wrong.
I know it’s easy to make the argument that States are much harder than Cities and that getting second at a States should give you more than winning a Cities, but a similar (and better) argument can be made that putting in consistent work at Cities deserves to be rewarded more heavily than getting lucky and crushing one States.
Overall, you want to reward consistency at a small level, and I would be willing to bet that there would be a lot more bitterness around CP had Cities been worth any less than 5 or 6 points. I agree that they’re not perfect, which is why I’ve advised a change of – 1 CP and – 1 to the BFL, but any more extreme and I think you’re tilting the scales too much in the wrong direction.
A Point Cutoff
Lastly, I think that in order to fully succeed with these plans, Pokémon needs to set a number of Championship Points required to qualify for Worlds, rather than a number of people. I realize that this could cause problems if too many or too few players are invited, but I’m certain that the minds at Pokémon can come up with something that works, given that they’ve had a year to prepare.
Naming a certain point limit would be positive mainly because it would allow players to know for sure whether they were safe or unsafe. I saw many players rack their brains at Nats trying to track down the records of all the people that could possibly pass them, the people they needed to pass, etc. While this isn’t necessarily a negative, I think that eliminating that kind of stress can only be good for the game.
Naming a certain number of CP also allows one idea that I haven’t seen discussed elsewhere: Byes for the LCQ based on CP. To paint a picture of what I’m talking about, I would envision something like this (mind you that these numbers are pretty much completely made up, so don’t read too much into that…)
50 CP – Worlds Invite
45 CP – Three Byes at LCQ
30 CP – Two Byes at LCQ
20 CP – One Bye at LCQ
This system would reward players who are good and have worked hard, but couldn’t quite get there, lessening the “all or nothing” sting of the CP system. It also does what the CP system was originally intended to do — encourage players to play Pokémon! I skipped nearly all of Spring BRs because I couldn’t qualify through CP, but if I could’ve potentially earned by second bye or whatever, I certainly would’ve put more of a focus on those tournaments, as would have a lot of other players I know.
Topic 2: Dwindling Prize Support
It should be no surprise to anyone that Pokémon’s prize support is pretty bad. There are countless examples of similarly-sized tournaments in other games that have 5× the prizes that Pokémon does. Throughout all of this, the argument from the other side is that Pokémon events are free, and that we as players should feel grateful that we even get anything for playing in a tournament that costs us nothing to enter.
While it’s true that all of the other games that offer the big prizes (Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh, WoW) charge for tournament entry, it’s not as if that’s a negative. If anything, that is a positive, and something that Pokémon should adapt to immediately. I know that this, more than any other subject spoken about in this article, is probably going to inspire the most disagreement, so allow me to lay out my exact plans.
Like with the Championship Point subject, these have all been thought about deeply, but could also be adjusted a little and work just fine. Heck, there are probably even topics I hadn’t thought of, which is why I’m opening up discussion to the readers!
1. Only Masters would ever get charged.
I agree with Pokémon’s philosophy that kids are what drives the game, and we need the younger age divisions to continue to get everything for free. If done right, not only would charging for Masters increase prizes for Masters while leaving Jrs/Srs exactly the same, but it would also encourage Jrs/Srs to want to be Masters.
Imagine a States tournament where all of the nicer, more expensive prizes for Masters are displayed, the Masters tournament is roped off, and there is a feature match (whether filmed or not) every round. The goal here would be to enfranchise Juniors and Seniors deep into the game and have them looking forward to the day when they can become “famous” through Pokémon.
2. Only States and above tournaments would be pay tournaments.
Battle Roads, as the introductory event, need to stay free. Charging for Cities, while not an insane idea, would be a net negative due to the sheer amount that a competitive player has to attend, and the fact that in terms of size, frequency, and location, they’re not all that much different from Battle Roads.
My rough idea would be to charge $5 for States, $10 for Regionals, $15 for Nationals, and $15 for the LCQ. While these numbers might seem a little high, please keep in mind that a Magic The Gathering Grand Prix (open events that are most comparable to our Regionals, although they’re often the size of our Nationals), often charge $25 to $30 for entry.
Moving on, the benefits of having paid tournaments are plentiful. Here are a few examples that I think best represent the overwhelming positives of this system…
Prize support would be increased.
This one is pretty obvious, and doesn’t really need to be spoken about much, but obviously if you charge for tournaments you need to increase the prize support to make it worth it to the players. For example, a States tournament with 150 Masters would net $1,500 in entry fees.
I don’t believe that 100% of this money would go toward prize support as there are also things on the TO side of the game that could be improved (as much as we players sometimes don’t like to admit it), but an extra $1,000 or even $750 in prizes would go a long way, particularly if a plan that I will outline a little later on is followed.
Tournaments would mean more.
I haven’t seen this discussed a lot in the community, but in order for Pokémon to grow as a game, it’s going to need to start making it worth it for people to pick the game up competitive. Magic did this in a big way by putting a focus on pro players. For a short time Pro Player tokens (for use in games of Magic) were given out, with stats on the back like a baseball card.
Although I don’t expect Pokémon to go this far, I do think that the level of player prestige could be upped. If you create drama, tension, and stories in your game by making your players into celebrities, you not only draw people in, but also make them want to aspire to greatness.
Being able to say “I won $X at a Pokémon tournament, and then was interviewed by the Pokémon company and had my deck tech featured on the front page of Pokémon.com for a week” is a pretty neat thing, regardless of whether you care about fame or not.
Attendance would go up.
pokemon-paradijs.comI guess this is more of a positive for TOs and for TPCi than anyone else, but I have no doubt in my mind that attendance would increase steadily. Any backlash that would occur would be immediately outweighed by the number of competitive card game players who now find Pokémon worth it to play, with it’s increased prize support and upped level of player prestige.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about card gamers, it’s that they love gambling. Opening packs is essentially gambling, entering a tournament where you’re paying money is gambling, pretty much every thing you do as a TCG player is investing time, money, and energy and hoping that your skill and luck make it all value out for you. Give MTG, Yu Gi Oh, and WoW players more opportunities to gamble, win prizes, and play card games and they’ll come. Trust me.
Pokémon is also missing out in a big way by not giving out any intangible prizes. If the cost of scholarships, flights, packs, trophies, etc. is most of the reason why prize support hasn’t been increased, why not give players things are are free or virtually free? There are quite a few examples of this, including PTCGO packs (it would cost Pokémon literally nothing to ship each Regionals winner 500 online packs), alternate art promos and playmats (that is a cost, but not a substantial one), but the one example I’d really like to talk about is a “VIP package” of sorts.
This idea would entail receiving some sort of ID card that you could bring to tournaments for extra bonuses. Things like static seating so that you don’t have to worry about finding your seat, a VIP line that allows you to skip over everyone else in registration, even things like a more comfortable chair to sit in during your games, and cheaper or free registration to all pay tournaments. Something that costs Pokémon little to nothing, but feels like an important prize.
Now that I’ve touched on the main points of this article, let me round this one out by touching on some quick topics that I feel need to be addressed.
Topic 3: LIGHTNING ROUND
For those who don’t know, The Top Cut was not allowed to film any feature matches on Day 1 or 2-of US Nationals, and was only allowed to film certain top cut matches, not including the finals. I’m not sure everyone is realizing how insane this is. The finals of the biggest Pokémon tournament of all-time, featuring a new player with a fairly unique rogue deck that few believed in vs. a veteran player (whose brother took second in 2010) with what many considered to be the best deck is forever lost to history.
This is a huge problem, and there is no doubt in my mind that Pokémon is making a huge mistake by not allowing The Top Cut to film whatever they want. Wizards of the Coast spends who knows how much money filming one feature match every round of each Pro Tour as well as doing interviews with big name players, hiring commentators, making highlight packages, etc. The fact that there are trustworthy, well-respected players who are willing to do this service for free and being turned down is ludicrous.
I don’t know what the problem is, but if it has anything to do with manpower, please hire someone (like me! ;)) who can handle this sort of thing for you. The game cannot and will not grow without increased coverage.
Establishing a Hall of Fame.
As a fan of statistics and legacies and numbers, this might just be a personal dream for me, but I would love for Pokémon to establish some sort of hall of fame. I know that at Worlds they have the screens set-up in the walkways with the face of everyone who’s ever made it to the final table at Worlds, but that’s not enough. A hall of fame, along with increased coverage, is a way to give players something to look forward to, increase player prestige and fame, and get new players interested in the game. This is a topic I’ve thought a lot about, and this is the story I think you can tell…
This year in Hawaii (in my opinion you need to kind of slowroll the HOF so you can have a steady stream of inductees in future years) you announce that there’s going to be a Pokémon HOF next year, and that it’s already been decided that the first inductees will be Jason Klacynzski and Tsuguyoshi Yamato.
I don’t think anyone out there would argue against the inclusion of these two, and you can then set up a highlight reel package talking about how Jason and Yamato are the most decorated of the American and Japanese players, show some footage of them winning Worlds, do quick interviews with their friends, themselves, and Pokémon staff, and reveal even more footage and have a full ceremony in San Diego in 2013.
From there announce that there will be 2-3 inductees every two years, and have a ceremony for them at Worlds every year. Giving out some sort of HOF ring would be neat, but is not necessary, and you can get into what the benefits of being in the HOF are later. For now, just establish one and get the ball rolling.
I admit that this is probably the least important element addressed in this article, although it is very important to me personally and I think that it would prove to be an incredible success if it were to be implemented.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. With my work and testing schedule I doubt I’ll get around to writing another article before the World Championship, but maybe I can do another mailbag segment or something. Regardless, I hope you like what you’ve read and as always I’d love to hear feedback and would love even more to hear what you guys think needs to change in the future!
As competitive players we are who matters most when developing organized play, and thus it’s our responsibility to make sure that are voices are heard.
See you in Kona!