Hey everyone, Kenny Wisdom here again. This is probably my favorite time of the year to be a Pokémon player. Regionals are all wrapped up, and all that remains are the two biggest (and in my opinion best) events of the year: The North American International, and the World Championship. These next couple of months are extremely fun because the “hustle and bustle” of the season is over, but the pressure is still on to perform at the highest stakes events. I’m really excited for what these two events have to offer, and I know we at 6P have some excellent coverage planned.
Because I won’t be playing in either the International or the World Championship, I’m going to leave breaking the format for those tournaments up to my fellow writers. Instead, we’re going to focus on the future: the 2018-2019 season.
Earning an Invite
I know from the feedback I’ve received over the years that a number of you are basically checked out on this season. Maybe you’re a less experienced player who is just getting a taste for the scene, or maybe you came up a little short on your invite. Either way, your sights are set on next year. It’s my hope that this section will provide some helpful advice on how best to achieve your goal of qualifying for the World Championship. Two disclaimers:
- Who knows what decisions TPCi is going to make regarding the invite structure for next year. All of the advice I’m going to give here is based on a system that is more or less identical to this season’s. If the structure is changed significantly, I’m confident that much of this advice will apply regardless, but I can’t guarantee that.
- I don’t know your exact situation or goals, so I’m going to be speaking in a general sense, using information I’ve gathered from being involved in Pokémon for the last decade. Hopefully you can take something from it no matter what you wish to accomplish.
First things first: What does it take to qualify for the World Championship? While I don’t have any data in front of me (I’m no Schemanske, after all), I think it’s reasonable to assume you’ll need to attend a pretty heavy schedule of events to earn an invitation. If I were planning my season out, based on living in the Pacific Northwest (not ideal), and based on the 2017-2018 season requirements (also likely not ideal), I would expect my schedule to look something like this:
All “local” League Cups (until BFLs are filled)
Santa Clara Regionals
North American Internationals
This is what I would consider the average player’s reasonable schedule, with maybe another Regional depending on their location. Let’s break it down a little bit further.
While many have strong opinions on League Cups, there’s no denying that they’re a powerful tool for any player looking to qualify for Worlds. While it’s unlikely (though possible!) to earn an invitation solely off of Cups, they are going to make up a significant amount of points for the average player.
The biggest piece of advice I have for you regarding League Cups is to attend them. That may sound silly, but I’ve found that it’s very easy to justify skipping Q1 League Cups, expecting that you’ll be able to grind a bunch of them later in the year, or that they won’t actually matter because you’ll perform so well at Regionals. While both of those statements could come true, that’s not the sort of thing you should rely on. In fact, I would almost argue it’s the opposite. You want to front load your League Cups, that way you don’t feel the pressure as much later in the season. It’s going to feel a lot better to lock your invite up through good Regionals and Cups finishes in the first half of the season, than to only have the former and have to scramble to win Cups before the cutoff.
The other piece of advice I have is to be vigilant and stay tuned in to when Cups are happening. This is pretty easy in Washington State as they’re typically up pretty early on Pokémon.com and there are multiple Facebook groups to track this sort of thing, but I’ve heard horror stories from poorly organized areas. Bookmark the Event Locator page on the official website, check in to your local game store’s calendars, whatever you have to do.
Lastly, I know that the number of available League Cups vary wildly depending on your area, which is my biggest gripe with them. In Washington, we seem to have an above average number of them, with half a dozen stores throughout the state holding them on a regular basis. Just a few hours north in Oregon, however, it’s the complete opposite, with very few League Cups scheduled in the Portland area, and a pretty small number throughout the state as a whole. While there’s not a lot you can do to really influence this, if you’re someone who lives in an area devoid of Cups, I’d recommend adding a Regional or two onto the above list.
All of the Regionals I listed above are what I consider to be my “local” Regionals. I live an hour south of Seattle, and all of these events are within cheap flight ($200~) or reasonable driving (12 hour) distance. While I do have a lot of qualms with the idea that one should expect to have to take multiple flights throughout the course of a single season, this is the world we live in now, and I don’t imagine it’ll change anytime soon.
I’m not sure what advice I can give you about Regionals that you haven’t already heard before. They’re the primary focus of our game’s competitive scene right now, and I expect them to be for the foreseeable future. While League Cups are important to pad your total here and there, Regionals are very likely going to make up the majority of your Championship Points for the season, and you’ll very likely attend fewer of them than you will Cups, so treat them with the utmost importance.
I’d like to stress that you don’t necessarily need a deep run at a Regional in order to see success over a season. While the goal should always be to go as far in the event as possible, there are many less-than-stellar finishes than will help you earn your invite. One of my closest friends, Sorina Radu, has nearly earned an invite by falling just short of the second day of competition in every Regional she’s competed in, so it’s not just the big, flashy finishes that matter.
I’m telling you this because I think it’s important to stay focused on playing your best regardless of what your record is. Sorina wouldn’t be as close to the invite as she is if she had simply stopped caring once she had been eliminated from Day 2 contention. In order to qualify for Worlds, you need to play good Pokémon, whether you’re 0-2 or 8-0.
In addition to the schedule I’ve suggested above, I’d recommend everyone try to attend at least one non-local Regional (or International, but more on that later) if one can be done cheaply/efficiently. For instance, tickets from Seattle to Dallas during their Regional weekend this year bounced between $150 and $200 for months. If you’re gunning for the invite, you can’t really afford to pass deals like that up.
I don’t want to go to off topic here, but the best way to stay on top of this sort of thing is to set up flight alerts on your travel site of choice (I like Kayak) for the dates of each event. I would personally just set up alerts for every Regional in your rating zone, but I’ll admit that may be a little extreme.
Internationals are amazing events, both for the atmosphere they offer and the prizes at stake. In fact, if it’s at all feasible for you from a time and money standpoint (let’s not forget how long International flights can be), I’d argue that you should focus on attending each International, even at the cost of a Regional or two. With so many big name players attending every Regional/International/SPE anyway, the competition is never that much harder, and the points awarded are much higher.
That being said, I’m going to assume that most can’t afford the multiple days off of work and four figures in flights that it would cost to attend multiple Internationals outside of your rating zone. If that’s the case, I think you’re fine to just attend the one in your zone and make sure you prepare for it and generally take it more seriously than an average Regional.
I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about SPEs because there seems to be no rhyme or reason to where or when they’ll appear, but I would generally treat them similarly to Regionals, though I do value Regionals more highly, just because of the cash prizes they offer.
I won’t say this plan is perfect, but it is the approach I would take if I were looking to qualify next season. Any less effort than this what I’ve outlined is risky, and anymore is outside of the time/money/energy range for a lot of you, I expect. As always, if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments, and I’ll do my best to address them ASAP.
Next, I’d like to take a look at some of my hopes for the next season of competitive play, and touch on a few of the topics that have been written about here on 6P lately.
Improving The Event Structure
I’ve had countless conversations over the past few seasons, mostly with struggling competitive players and families, about how difficult it is, from a time and money standpoint, to earn an invite in the current era. The season schedule I posted earlier would require dozens of weekends, and thousands of dollars in flights. This, to me, and many others, is unreasonable.
I started playing competitively at 19, and I can safely say that I would’ve been priced out of the tournament scene if things were then as they are now. Even now, I would have to think long and hard about how much I was willing to invest to earn an invite. I think this is the case for all but the most successful of players, and that’s a shame. I hate the idea that people are priced out of the game that has given me so much, and, whether I like it or not, has largely defined my adulthood.
So how do we solve it? I think it starts with a greater focus on local events. While I know that giving North America even more Regionals is likely not a reasonable option, and no one likes grinding League Cups all season long, I find myself wondering if there is a middle ground we can reach. Maybe each state/region can hold a single SPE every quarter, with adjusted CP pay outs, acting similarly to the old State Championships? Having even one or two more events to attend that don’t require getting on an airplane would go a long way.
Given TPCi’s current direction, I think that is probably the only realistic event-based answer. However, the event structure wouldn’t have to be adjusted if we just adjusted what it took to qualify for Worlds in the first place, which brings me to:
Improving The Invite Structure
While I think all of Brit’s ideas are sound, I’m most on board with lowering the qualification requirement to 300 Championship Points for all divisions. This would make it a little easier for the average player to earn an invite, while at the same time preserving the top 16 race that has been a staple of the last couple of seasons (and that I think is overall a positive for the game).
I’d like to stress that I don’t necessarily think qualifying for Worlds needs to be easier, but I do think it needs to require less travel, and this seems like the easiest way to accomplish that. Leave point payouts the same, but reduce the requirements, and players will naturally need to attend fewer events.
Another structure that really interests me is making the Internationals invite-only, and making Worlds a super exclusive event. I’m imagining something along the lines of Internationals requiring 200 CP to enter, with Regionals top 8 finishers automatically qualifying for them (and perhaps a greater number of flights/stipends given out as well, though I would have to do the math on that). Regionals now serve less of a role in the season, and are mostly seen as qualifier events for the Internationals. The winner of each International, as well as Top X from each rating zone, qualifying for an extremely small (32 players? 16?) World Championship.
This would make Worlds a truly prestigious event, and the Internationals would more or less take the place of the World Championship as we know it. I think this could be great for the game, as the prizes for Worlds could be much higher, as could the production qualify of the stream. That being said, this seems to go directly against TPCi’s vision of the game at this point, so I wouldn’t hold my breath for this sort of thing to be implemented anytime soon.
I largely agree with everything Christopher wrote about in his latest piece on the subject, and as usual, he said it much better than I could’ve.
I would like to see some way of preventing NA players from traveling around the world to prey on the Special Events of other rating zones, but every solution I come up with just creates more problems. I’ll leave it to the minds at TPCi to figure out how to solve that one.
I hope you enjoyed this look into the future, and as always, I hope you found value in my advice. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you in Columbus.