Today we’re going to take a look at a topic that is always relevant to competitive players: the Worlds invite structure, specifically in the United States. You’ve no doubt been witness to countless forum threads and Facebook posts about how awful/great/stressful/easy the invite and the tournament structure in general are, depending on who you talk to/when you talk to them. I intend to take a more constructive approach, and will suggest what I feel would improve a lot about the Worlds invite journey experience, while staying in line with Pokémon’s core beliefs. I hope that you will all find this information engaging, entertaining, and relevant, and I look forward to see what discussion this article spawns.
Before we begin, let me note that I’m assuming the 2014-2015 invite structure will be a carbon copy of that from 2013-2014. That is, 500 Championship Points (CP) for qualification, no auto-invite earning events besides previous year’s Worlds and current year’s US Nationals and LCQ, and the same non-CP prize structure as before. I assume that if there were plans to majorly overhaul any of this TPCi would have announced them already, and even if TPCi does make changes, this article should still be a relevant look at what myself and many others believe they could be doing better.
Speaking of, let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of the current invite structure:
- Players can mostly play on a local basis, though the number of Regionals we now have make that more difficult than in past years.
- It’s not terribly hard to earn an invite, as long as you’re willing to play lots of events and your win percentage remains decent.
- US Nationals stipends awarded to top CP earners are an incredible incentive.
- Travel is likely required to at least one Regional, as well as US Nationals and the LCQ.
- Even if you don’t intend on flying for a Regional, you must “grind” a lot of events, including a 5-weekend block of City Championships.
- No way to earn trips without top 8’ing US Nationals or top 4’ing Worlds; prize support low in general.
There are many, many more of these, but for the sake of brevity we’ll list those as the positives and negatives that I hear most often from the competitive player base, as well as the ones that I feel hold the most weight over the long term.
The following is my detailed plan for altering the invite structure to give players more of what they want, and address all of the issues listed above. Note that I do not have enough data to make a judgement at what CP totals should be changed to, but I will do my best to make suggestions. Overall this is much less about the specifics, such as each event’s CP and Best Finish Limit (BFL), and more about the overall theme of the process of earning an invitation to Worlds.
We’ll go ahead and tackle this event by event.
I am a believer that League Challenges should serve as a stepping stone into competitive play for League-only players, and therefore should not award any CP or any other relevant prizing (the current stamped promos are fine).
Since League Challenges have been introduced, I have taken a step away from the competitive side of the game in order to stream tournaments, but that hasn’t stopped me from attending plenty of local tournaments, and something I see again and again is a player who shows up for League (mind you that LCs, at least in my area, are always held at the same date/time as the League, which is a whole other issue we’ll get into later), sees that there is a tournament, and decides to play. Then in round 1 or 2, they get paired against a highly competitive tournament player, who isn’t overly friendly, doesn’t let them take things back, and overall leaves the League-only player with a case of the feel bads (or even worse, a penalty for doing something wrong).
This is neither player’s fault. As long as the competitive player has not broken any rules (including Spirit of the Game) and is being a decent human being, they haven’t done anything wrong and are only playing into the system that we’ve been given. Additionally, it’s certainly not the League player’s fault either, as they’re just trying to have a good time and get a taste of the tournament scene.
If you remove CP from these events, but keep the very minuscule prizing and Play! Points attached, I believe that League Challenges will serve their true intended purpose as a way to enfranchise casual players into the tournament scene – strapping floaties on a toddler and setting him in a kiddy pool vs. pushing him off a diving board, if you will.
Everything else can stay the same with them, the schedule, timing, etc. One thing that is infuriating about LCs is their scheduling, as we alluded to earlier, but if competitive players aren’t playing in them anyway, it won’t be too big of a deal.
With League Challenges no longer awarding Championship Points, Battle Roads have their time to shine again. My suggestions are to keep them mostly the same. A decent amount of Championship Points (maybe slightly lower?), the same rules enforcement level, and the same scheduling. This rewards the competitive player, for whom it is often easier to schedule off a block of weekends twice a year than it is to attend events randomly on weeknights, and the casual player who now has a little taste of what the tournament scene is like.
It’s pertinent that these events remain of semi-low importance so that we’re not adding more to the grind, but other than that I would like to see them remain unchanged.
Cities can remain essentially unchanged as well. I know that a number of players take issue with how many Championship Points these events reward, but I’m of the opinion that Cities rewarding CP is correct. There are a lot of Cities, aka a lot of shots to earn CP, and if you’re TPCi, you want to reward a consistently good player who is enfranchised in your tournament structure more than a player who spikes a States or a Regionals.
The one major change I would make is to break up the scheduling into two three-week blocks. Under my new format, I think the tournament schedule would look a bit like this…
Sept.: BRs all month
Oct.: Regionals for three weeks
Nov.: Cities for three weeks
Jan.: Cities for three weeks
Feb.: Regionals for three weeks
Mar.: States for three weeks
May: Regionals for three weeks
I believe that this mostly minor change will relieve some of the fatigue that players feel under the current system. I could also see making them three two-week blocks in Nov./Dec./Jan.; either is probably fine.
States can remain entirely unchanged except for one factor that we’ll get into in just a moment.
Regionals can remain mostly the same, though I would like to see every Regional Champion earn an invitation to the World Championship. Of 14 2013-2014 North American Regional Championships that I can find information for, 11 of the 14 champions earned Worlds qualifications, and I don’t know that there are any Regional Champions who anyone would say is strictly undeserving of an invite. This would serve as a way to lessen the grind of playing out an entire season, and would take some of the stress off of Tournament Organizers, who now have a built in high-value prize associated with their event.
National and World Championships
Nationals and Worlds can both remain the same, as they have very little to do with the overall invite structure in any given year.
New Types of Invites
Now, these changes I’ve suggested, while plentiful, are overall pretty minor. Schedule a few events differently, change some CP totals, add a few handful of invites here or there. The biggest changes I would like to see fall into two categories (that I made up) – Achievement Invites and Legacy Invites.
Achievement Invites would be invites based on accomplishing specific goals throughout one season. Here are examples of what I would like to see…
- Win 6 Cities, get an invite
- Top 8 three Regionals, get an invite
- Top 4 any combination of 3 States and Regionals, get an invite
- Top 16 any combination of 6 States and Regionals, get an invite
- Have a 75% match win percentage at Cities and higher, get an invite
These are just examples of a few that may or may not work, and that all would likely need some fine tuning (for instance, the match win percentage achievement would have to have some sort of minimum matches play attached), but I believe that something like this could reward those players who just fall short of an invite but have done well consistently throughout the year, or more importantly, those players who are very good but don’t necessary have the time/energy to play an entire season (note that most of these still require you to play quite a bit).
Legacy Invites are similar to Achievement Invites (note that there are probably more flavorful names for these, but I’m not a flavor scientist), except for that they look at a longer period than just a single season. Here a few examples…
- Top 16 three World Championships, get an invite
- For every five years of Worlds qualifications, get an invite
- Earn 1,200 CP over three years without earning an invite, get an invite
- Top 16 five National Championships, get an invite
- Have a 70% win percentage at Worlds over three years, get an invite
Again, these are just a handful of examples that would likely need to be edited and/or looked at more carefully, but I truly believe that implementing a system such as this one is going to be essential to keeping older players enfranchised in Pokémon as they grow up and have to maintain careers/a family/children/etc. No matter how good you are at Pokémon, it’s going to be difficult for any 35-year-old man or woman with a spouse and child to disappear every weekend in November and December to play Pokémon all day.
Additionally, this would reduce a lot of the feel-bad moments that come with getting 9th-16th place at a large tournament, or ending up just a few dozen Points short of an invite time and time again.
That is the gist of what I have to say today. Very briefly, I’m going to leave you with a more radical approach to the World Championship, which is not as well thought out and heavily based on the contemporary Magic: The Gathering World Championship. I don’t believe in this one nearly as much, but it’s an interesting thought experiment and I think, under the right circumstances, it could work out just fine:
Worlds as we know it no longer exists, and instead is replaced by a 16-player World Championship that is focused on only inviting the players who have performed the absolute best that year.
However, you can’t only have one big event that all of your players are trying to qualify for and that less than 1% actually do, so to supplement Worlds you have Gym Challenges, events held a few times a year around the world with Nationals-level prizing, including invites to the World Championships. You can cut back on the total number of smaller tournaments, and have States and Regionals qualify players for Gym Challenges.
The invitees for the 16-player World Championship would probably look something like this…
Last year’s World Champion
The player with the most Championship Points this year
Champion of NA Gym Challenge
Champion of EU Gym Challenge
Champion of Asian Gym Challenge
U.S. National Champion
Japanese National Champion
UK National Champion
#1 in CP in NA
#2 in CP in NA
#1 in CP in Japan
#2 in CP in Japan
#1 in CP in EU
#2 in CP in EU
#1 in CP in APAC
#2 in CP in APAC
This system has obvious issues – it leaves out some regions entirely, has a lot of biases for some regions, etc., etc., but nevertheless I think that it could work with some tweaking. The biggest change that this would have for the game is that Worlds would no longer be the goal, Gym Challenges would instead be the big event, and World would be the icing on the cake for the best of the best.
That’s all I’ve got for you today. Please share this article and let myself and others know how you feel about all of these ideas, and suggest some of your own! I’m sure there’s a ton I’ve forgotten about, left out, or otherwise haven’t considered, so I’d love to hear from all of you!