Welcome back! This is the part of an article where I’d usually talk about where we are in the season, think about what’s coming next in the competitive circuit, and generally muse on the state of the game. But, since I did all of that last week, I’m going to dispense! Hopefully we get Regionals information for next season soon. And, hopefully we get Standard rotation information soon — my proverbial money is on an announcement of BKT-on and BLW-on, July 21, with the Burning Shadows Quarterly Announcement, but we shall see.
It’s well-noted that we’re in a bit of a lull right now. Since I gave what’s left of my PRC-GRI thoughts and talked about the Worlds invitee structure as a whole last week, today I’m left with no real other direction than to look ahead to Burning Shadows. But, first, I do wish to briefly discuss the ongoing debate in the community about the 2016/17 Top 16/Stipend/Internationals/etc. structure.
It’s a well-documented reality that this year’s point structure left some players behind, while others were the recipient of seemingly-constant support from TPCi in their international traveling exploits. The vast majority of all out-of-rating-zone travelers at International Championships this year were the beneficiary of a Top 4 trip or Top 16 travel stipend. A few players made these trips unassisted, but most had some semblance of financial assistance in doing so.
This year, the first stipends were awarded based on 2o15/16’s final CP standings. This set the top players from that season off to a booming start for 2016/17, giving them access to CP that others didn’t necessarily have. By utilizing past standings for these awards, TPCi essentially created a situation where the rich of last season were immediately in position to get richer through success in London. Combined with Worlds points (of which last year’s Top 16 all had at least 40, since they had Day 1 byes at the 2016 World Championships), 2015/16’s Top 16 was thrust into a favorable spot for the entire 2016/17 season.
Right alongside them were top finishers at Worlds 2016, and when it came time for Melbourne stipends to be awarded, a precious few 2016/17 early season high-flyers. By Brazil, a serious divide had opened up. This season, pretty much indisputably, featured a “rich-get-richer” sort of system. That’s not a judgement, but simply an assessment. Whether this is a “good” thing or not varies greatly based on the speaker’s perspective.
For the player that wasn’t grandfathered into the system, it obviously isn’t a great thing — that player is left to pay their way into the structure, hoping to crack the Top 16 at some point to receive the windfalls. (In a way, it could be argued that the original Top 16 from 2015/16 did “pay” their way into it originally, too.)
For the player that started at the top and rode the wave through this season, it obviously couldn’t get much better. Subsidized and/or free rides to the most CP-generous tournaments of the season aren’t anything most players would be looking to turn down. This put these players on the golden road to Top 16, without a doubt.
For TPCi, it seems the dual goals were:
a. Simply have as many players in the door as possible at each IC.
b. Have as many of the “top tier” players at as many International Championships as possible.
Given 12 of this year’s North American Top 16 attended 3 or more of the events, I’d say it was a success in the latter department. Whether or not they “maximize” IC attendance will really be told by the tale of this upcoming season. If we see a swell of traveling players, now that these events’ incomparable importance to the circuit is established, I’d say they’ll be on their way to reaching that goal.
But, in the meantime, it’s 100% unreasonable to expect or believe that TPCi is going to take any steps to discourage and/or prohibit attendance at International Championships. As a company, it is to their benefit when as many players attend these events as possible. Contrary to the beliefs of some, almost nobody is going to travel for the cash prizes alone (so, TPCi will not cant region-lock these events’ CP or crush their BFL).
Furthermore, the stark reality is that TPCi is probably not all that concerned that the 16 players in the Top of NA, the 22 in EU, or the 8s in APAC/LATAM, are the true “best” of their region. Expecting them to make it easier to achieve the highest tier of the game is probably unrealistic when their goal seems to be to push players toward the international scale.
Now, some suggestions, such as finessing the CP which qualify for International travel assistance (region-locking or quarter-splitting them), are potentially with merit. Splitting the points eligible for stipends by quarter could spread the wealth a bit more, and emphasize current tournament performance — a bonus for both TPCi and players.
But, on the whole, some of the discussion seen this week borders on unrealistic. TPCi is seriously unlikely to lower any BFLs or make either tier of invite at all easier for the upcoming season. Whether they should do any of the above is entirely a different discussion. I merely aim to discuss the seeming reality that it won’t happen, not the idealistic matter of whether anything “ought” to happen.
For me, and I would argue many players, it means coming to the realization the Day 2 invitation is probably out of the question barring a Chris Siakala-like Regionals run, or a dramatic finish in Anaheim. It means disconnecting Top 16 from the strict idea of the true “16 best” players — don’t get me wrong, it is truly a measure of skill nonetheless, but in a respect, it involves playing the game at another, incomparable level.
Truly, this is where the beauty of the Day 2 system lies. For anyone who is skillful enough to merit Day 2, but not economically provisioned enough to push for the Day 2 invitation, all it takes is 4 or 5 Rounds on Friday at Worlds to be back on the exact same footing as those that put all the money toward the International Travel. There are truly multiple Pokémon circuits at this point, with different requirements for chasing the pinnacle of each.
Unlike our last two sets, this one has a few cards that will see play, a handful that might, and a lot that outright won’t. Compared to some of the recent slam-dunks we’ve seen, there isn’t the plethora of high-utility options the last few sets has offered. Gardevoir-GX is an obvious contender, and trainers like Kiawe and Guzma are also likely to make splashes in both the way decks are constructed and the metagame in which those decks exist.
We have a bit of a dilemma at 6P over how to break up this coverage properly — because, the honest truth is that there isn’t some plethora of great stuff to muse over. Everyone will be bringing you their favorites over the next couple of weeks, and while we expect some duplication, we’re working to keep that to a minimum where we can. Where it does come up, I’m hopeful authors’ contrasting styles will help explore different ways to take a deck. I’m going to start us off talking about all of the Trainers in the set, then launch into a neat concept that could see play from the set but isn’t being discussed much.
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