A New Deal

Discussing the 2015 World Championships Invite Structure
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Ash just got the memo too.

TPCi has surprised the playerbase with the new Worlds information revealed on the official Pokémon site. I’m personally very excited to play Pokémon this season! Worlds is in an affordable location, relative to somewhere like Hawaii, and an invite is definitely within reach for any player that puts forth the effort. It’s also refreshing to see Worlds finally become a three-day event, which I feel is something that needed to happen in order to accommodate the change from single-game Swiss rounds to best-of-three Swiss rounds. There just simply isn’t enough time to complete a proper tournament in two days given the closing ceremony and streaming schedule that must take place on Sunday, so it’s good to see changes in the right direction.

Of course, no system is perfect and there will always be criticisms to major changes in the tournament structure. Several players gripe that a Worlds invite is too easy to obtain and are worried that the first day of Worlds will merely be a giant Last Chance Qualifier. While Worlds will certainly be larger than before, 300 Championship Points is still not something everyone will be able to obtain. TPCi is also attempting to reward the best and most dedicated players in theory by giving them an automatic invitation to play on the second day.

In this article, I want to break down each aspect of the new tournament structure. I want to spell out how I believe the invite structure is overall headed in the right direction, along with a few improvements that can potentially be made.

Table of Contents

Who Deserves an Invite?

I think it’s important to take a step back and take a look at the goals in mind when deciding on the invite structure for Worlds. It seems reasonable to say that the goal of Worlds is to have the best players from various regions come together and play for the title of World Champion. So then, what’s the best way to do this? There has to be some kind of system in place to determine which players are the best in each region. In the case of any competitive game, this means having a variety of tournaments throughout the year and a way to measure a player’s skill.

There truly is no perfect system because I don’t think there’s a perfect way to determine the best players in each region. Originally Pokémon tried to use an Elo system to measure a player’s skill. The major downside to this system is that many players, myself included, would sit out a major event such as Nationals in order to avoid risking losing a Worlds invite. It was hard to expect players to be willing to throw away the invite they had worked all year for if they lost the first round at Nationals. TPCi fixed this issue by switching to the Championship Point system. Now players had no reason to stop playing when they had an invite locked up. However, it gave an advantage to players that had the ability to travel to more events. Whether these players had access to more money or more time, having more opportunities to perform well would give them more Championship Points in comparison to a player of the same skill level that has less access to events.

The switch from an Elo system to the Championship Point system is indicative that TPCi wants to encourage players to keep playing Pokémon throughout the season, rather than sitting out events. I think the overall goal is thus trying to come up with a system that rewards the skilled and dedicated players, while still making an invite attainable to skilled players who can’t attend as many events. The issue under the Championship Point system is that it’s hard to make Worlds feel exclusive while also making an invite attainable to someone with fewer events available to them.

The New System

The piece of information that really shocked everyone was the decrease to 300 Championship Points for Worlds qualification. This seemed insane because Worlds was going to be huge and an invite would feel worthless. In addition, there would be no reason to keep playing after many players achieved 300 Championship Points halfway through the season. However, after reading about how Worlds was now a three-day event and that the top players from each region would receive an automatic invite to the second day, these changes started to make a lot of sense.

Worlds is now certainly more than attainable for players without the means to travel to tons of events. And the very dedicated players that have a good season all year are rewarded with an automatic invitation to the second day. It really seems like a win-win situation. Only time will tell if the amount of Championship Points or automatic invites to the second day need to be adjusted, but overall I think that this structure is ideal for everyone if TPCi continues to use the Championship Point system.

The biggest argument against this system is that a Worlds invite loses its prestige because the bar for Championship Points has been set too low. However, Worlds doesn’t even seem to lose any prestige because on paper the very skilled and dedicated players can earn an automatic invitation to the second day, which is essentially a more exclusive Worlds than last year. All the new system does is give the players with less access to events a fair chance to play in Worlds for the first time. I really don’t understand why some people feel entitled to an exclusive Worlds invite. Does a Worlds invite really mean that much less just because more people have it?

In addition to everything else, this new invite structure encourages everyone to play Pokémon! There are quite a few players that only attended a handful of events because they didn’t have the time to chase down 500 Champion Points. There were also quite a few players that tried, but gave up part way through the season because they couldn’t realistically obtain an invite. Fewer players wanted to attend League Challenges or pay the money to go to Spring Regionals if an invite wasn’t in their grasp. These players would just have to hope that they could top 8 Nationals or grind in at the Last Chance Qualifier. A bar of 300 Championship Points means that a bad run at Cities or the inability to travel to multiple Regionals won’t ruin a player’s chance at an invite. This means that players won’t give up toward the end of the season, while players that reach 300 Championship Points early on will strive to keep playing in order to get an automatic invitation to play on Saturday.

Tournament Structure

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Worlds is now a three-day event.

Worlds has now become a three-day event at the cost of axing the Last Chance Qualifier. I believe that a three-day event was necessary as many players were unhappy only cutting to a top 8 with such a large turnout this past year. Previously, there simply wasn’t time to play a second day of Swiss rounds between the streaming schedule and the closing. The new structure moves in the right direction by fixing this issue and allowing players to play more rounds, which, on paper, helps make the top 8 feel more legitimate.

I don’t believe the Last Chance Qualifier is necessary under the new system. Under the old system, there were a handful of players that would attempt to grind in the day before Worlds. Some of these players fell just short of a Worlds invite or gave up part way through the season due to not having a chance at 500 Championship Points. With a lower bar in place for Championship Points, it’s realistic to believe that these players can now get their invites.

Then there are more casual players, usually friends or relatives of Worlds competitors. I don’t think these players show up solely to make it through the last Chance Qualifier. I hope that Pokémon has various side events and coverage to keep spectators entertained. Then there’s always a small group of players that try and obtain the minimum number of Play! Points and grind into Worlds. They want to play in Worlds while playing the least amount of Pokémon possible. While it’s possible that these players simply don’t have many weekends off, I think it’s evident between the introduction of Championship Points and Play! Points that TPCi wants to encourage and reward players that attend events year round.

The other change to the tournament structure that everybody was pleased with is the substantial increase in scholarship money. I think with the increase in entry fees it’s good for the players to see some of that money being put back into the game. It also helps Pokémon feel like a more legitimate game as its prizes become more comparable to other competitive card games. I hope that over time the Pokémon community continues to grow and the prizes eventually rival a game like Magic. It’s certainly not something that will happen in the next couple of years, but it’s a possibility if TPCi continues to make changes in the right direction.

Other Concerns

Some players are concerned that scooping, or intentionally conceding to another player, will have a more significant impact with the bar for Championship Points set lower. For example, if a player gets 100 Championship Points throughout the season via various concessions, it only got them a fifth of the way to an invite under the old system. Under the new system, these players are already a third of the way there, making it a lot more significant. Unfortunately, scooping is never going to be completely preventable. You simply can’t prevent somebody’s friend or relative from conceding to them or force anybody to play optimally. TPCi took steps in the right direction by prohibiting players from asking for concessions. It was disappointing to see somebody who feels entitled to a Worlds invite asking for a concession nearly every round. It puts the other person in an awkward situation and sometimes they even do concede because it doesn’t mean that much to them if they win the event.

Players scoop to someone when they value the happiness of their opponent more than the prizes or Championship Points that are on the line. The only real way to stop more people from scooping is to make the prizes more enticing to everyone. More attainable invites will hopefully make the Championship Points matter to more players. Hopefully the prize support will also continue to grow if the game continues in a positive direction.

From what I’ve noticed, more players receive concessions at League Challenges and City Championships. This is because larger events have more significant prizes that are worth playing for. However, League Challenges and City Championships are worth a disproportionate amount of Championship Points and not a ton of prize support. I think that a potential solution could be to cut Championship Points from League Challenges and add a small increase in the amount of packs for City Championships. This would help keep League Challenges more casual tournaments, rather than some of the six round League Challenges I have attended. In addition, the small increase in prizes would hopefully encourage players not playing for Championship Points to play to win the prizes at stake.

I’m optimistic that TPCi is already considering removing Championship Points from League Challenges. On the official Pokémon site they no longer have Championship Points listed as prizes under 2015 League Challenges, so I’m hoping this a hint at a change they’re planning on making in the future, rather than a mistake on their website.

Update: It has been clarified that League Challenges do award Championship Points.

The other complaint I’ve heard from people that are very happy with the announcement regarding Worlds is that they wish it was announced sooner. While it’s nice to see TPCi moving the game in the right direction, many players might not have flown to three Fall Regionals if they knew that they only needed 300 Championship Points. As somebody who could only afford to attend one Regionals regardless, I understand that it’s a significant amount of money for a lot of players to spend. In the future, it would be nice to see TPCi be timelier in their announcements with regards to these issues. While it’s understandable that they still may have been finalizing details after Worlds was over and couldn’t announce the location, I think that it’s only fair to the players to release major changes to the invite structure before the first series of major events. Otherwise, you have a playerbase attending events and making travel accommodations under the false assumption that the system would be the same as last year.

Conclusion

I hope you all enjoyed this article as I certainly enjoyed writing about what I consider to be overall exciting . I’m sure some of you are equally excited to play this season, while others are still disappointed that Worlds will be too large and Friday will feel like a Last Chance Qualifier with a Championship Point requirement. I encourage everyone to share their opinions and wish everyone who is striving to achieve an invite this season the best of luck! There are plenty of excellent articles to help you prepare for City Championships and I plan to write more strategic articles as the season progresses!

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