After my last article received the feedback that it did, I decided that I would write one in a very similar vein, this time about the actual tournament structure. To clarify, my last article was about how to improve the way that players earn invites to the World Championships, whereas this article will be focused on how to improve each single tournament. Hopefully, there is enough distinction in the topics that this article can spawn a whole new discussion, as I know tournament structure is on every competitive player’s mind basically all the time.
This article will be organized by my proposed improvements to the current tournament protocols.
55+5 and the Same Number of Rounds
50+3 is clearly not okay. From my experience in other competitive games and from talking to an array of Pokémon players, I believe that the draw system should basically only come into play when players are choosing to do so intentionally — that is, draws based on time constraints should be so rare that they’re nearly irrelevant (I’ll go on record as saying that I am in favor of IDs existing, though I don’t think it deserves a whole section to itself).
Additionally, it’s difficult to have a discussion regarding round times without also talking about the number of rounds. There are those that would prefer to have many more rounds with less time (and therefore fewer games), and there are those that would prefer fewer rounds with more time per round.
Personally, I’m not sure which is correct. It would take a lot more data than I’m privy to to truly make a “correct” decision, and I think all the above options have some weight to them.
However, I think that the best fix, where best is defined as the biggest improvement combined with the smallest change to our existing structure, would be a simple move to 55+5, keeping the same number of rounds we have now. I find that most unintentional draws happen at the tail end of games 2 or 3, where just a few more minutes or a few extra turns could’ve sealed the deal. I find that players will often speed up their play in the waning moments of the game.
Additionally, I feel that every tier 2 or above tournament (States, Regionals, Nationals, and Worlds) should require the clear displaying of a round clock. I’m aware that Pokémon has a policy of hiding time from players (though US Nationals and Worlds this year did feature the round clock prominently displayed), but I think the unintentional draw issue would be somewhat alleviated by players knowing precisely how much time was left in the round. Like I said, players will speed up during the last few minutes of the game.
To speak a bit more to the number of rounds issue, I would like to see a system put in place where it’s impossible for an X-1-1 to miss cut. I don’t know how much of an overhaul to the current tournament system that would entail, but if players had that security going in, I think the majority would end their tournaments in a much better mood.
Prizes and Championship Points Awarded Based on Match Points, not Final Standings
This is a pretty simple fix, but one that I think could improve the tournament experience of a lot of players: award any prizes based on match points rather than final standings. This system would eliminate all “I was the lowest of the X-2s and got 33rd on breakers” bad beats stories.
This doesn’t solve everything, of course. We would still need to implement a system that ensures that the top 8 is made up of at least all of the X-1-1s, but I think that awarding prizes this way would be a welcome addition.
Online Player and Decklist Registration Only
To TPCi’s credit, most PTOs have incorporated some sort of online registration system, whether Carlos Pero’s custom system or something as simple as Eventbrite, which is a very good move for speeding up tournaments and improving the player experience in general.
However, I still think there are a number of issues. For one, the fact that tournaments even offer day-of live registration is unreal to me. Promote your event for weeks before and make online preregistration available until up to 24 hours before the event and leave it be. Every time that I’ve seen TOs make an exception to this rule it’s only led to hassle and delays for everyone, for essentially no gain.
Additionally, the concept of turning in decklists seems antiquated to me. Why not just require players to email their list in 24 hours prior to the event? You can even make them include their registration confirmation code in the email to confirm their tournament eligibility.
I know that a lot of you are probably thinking that 24 hours before a tournament is unreasonable, since Pokémon players tend to decide on a final decklist mere hours or minutes before registration ends. However, I feel that if you really want to make tournaments run faster and better, the way that you’ve played Pokémon is going to have to change. Switching to this format would allow tournaments to start exactly on time, every time, with no need for a player meeting or long decklist registration lines.
Earlier Start Times and No Lunch Breaks
This is probably the most controversial of everything I’ve said in this article, but: I see no real reason why all States or Regionals level tournaments shouldn’t start at 7:00 AM. These aren’t tournaments that a majority of players are flying to, meaning there are no issues of jetlag. These tournaments are always held on weekends and are promoted months in advance, meaning players have the opportunity to put in for time off and clear their calendars.
Yes, this system would make it significantly harder on players who don’t arrive until late Friday night or had uncancelable commitments on Friday afternoons. However, considering that with nine rounds, each round taking one hour to complete, and adding an additional hour in the case of rounds going long or other unforeseen circumstances, you would have tournaments ending at 5:00 PM Saturday afternoon: plenty of time for players to eat dinner, get back to their hotel, shower, rest up, etc. for day 2.
Speaking of, starting earlier on day 2 (though 7:00 may be a little extreme) would allow players who ARE flying in to theoretically win the event, fly home, and make it back in time to get to the office Monday morning. Like I said, I think this is the most controversial of anything I’ve talked about in this article, but I also think that it is very necessary and would become the new standard once players had acclimated themselves to it.
As far as lunch breaks go, I was completely pro-lunch break until I attended the Wisconsin Regional run by Jimmy Ballard last year. Although I was streaming and not competing, it seemed that having no lunch break worked out just fine, and made the tournament run much more efficiently. There are two important factors to running an event without a lunch break, though. Firstly, you’ve got to make sure there is food on site or very close by, and secondly, do as Jimmy did in Wisconsin and have start and end times for each round, so that players know precisely how much time they have to obtain nourishment between rounds.
That’s all I’ve got for today! Before I go, I’ll leave you with two notes:
A. I am unsure how any of this would effect Junior and Senior players. I have precisely zero experience in being either a Junior or Senior player or a parent of a Junior or Senior player, so it’s not my place to say. Off the top of my head, I don’t think waking up early would be an issue for them, but submitting decklists early and moving to purely online registration may present an issue for those without readily available access to computers or smartphones.
B. None of this is perfect, it’s impossible to please everyone, and a lot of you will disagree with this. That’s fine with me! I will stand by my opinions on the issues, but the point of this article is to stir discussion, and I’d love to know how you feel about my ideas.