Thoughts On the New Championship Point System

For those unaware, TPCi just released information on the Championship Points requirement for this year’s World Championships. For Masters, it seems that it will become much more difficult to qualify compared to past years. Let’s start by taking a look at what the goals are compared to last year.

Rating Zone Points Required (2013-14) Points Required (2012-13)
North America 500 CP 400 CP
Europe 500 CP 400 CP
Latin America 300 CP 200 CP
Asia Pacific 300 CP 200 CP

As you can see, the amount of points required for an invitation this season has increased by 100 across the board. After last year held the largest World Championships to date, it was a bit of a shock to see this change happen. Since the Best Finish Limits and point structures for events stayed the same, players will have to find a way to earn 100 more points than they did last year, which is a substantial change. Without a doubt, it will be much more difficult to earn an invitation to Worlds now.

Based on last season’s standings, just 30 players from North America hit the 500 mark. Of those 30, 20 players earned automatic invitations (500 points) from the previous World Championships or at their National Championships. Several others had “bonus” points from the 2012 World Championships or the Last Chance for Championship Points event at US Nationals. What can we take from this? Unless you had points from Worlds or earned an invite through Nationals, you probably didn’t reach 500 Championship Points.

Now the argument can be made that this statistic is flawed because once players hit 400 CP, there was no reason to continue trying to earn points. If they needed to hit 500, they would have kept playing, and probably somewhere around 40 players would have qualified. If that’s the projection for this year, then the amount of invites would decrease from 74 to 40 – a 46% difference. Compared to last year, it’s not unreasonable to say the field for the 2014 World Championships will be half of what it was in 2013.

Clearly TPCi knew this when changing the requirements. That brings us to the question on everyone’s mind. Why? What is the reasoning for this? Just this past season they added the Last Chance for Championship Points event at US Nationals to give players an extra opportunity to earn invitations! Now all of a sudden they’re trying to make it even more difficult, and it doesn’t seem to make sense. The purpose of this article is to analyze potential reasons for the change and how the game and its players will be affected.

Theory #1: TPCi wants Worlds to be more exclusive.

Whether you like it or not, the World Championships are an exclusive, invitation only event. When it comes down to it, it is supposed to be the ultimate tournament that determines the best of the best. In its 10 year history, the field for the event was roughly 128 players (normally enough for a Top 32 cut). The exceptions to this were the 2007 and 2013 World Championships.

For Worlds 2007, the event was limited to 64 players, the smallest field ever. When this happened, there was a huge backlash from the community. Prizes and invites were slashed in half compared to 2006, and the result was perhaps the most forgettable World Championship ever. In addition, many competitive players lost interest and stopped playing. After this, the event expanded back to its normal size in 2008, and we never saw a field this small again.

In 2013 we saw the opposite. Overall, 209 players competed at Worlds, the most ever. Sure, there were a lot of players, but not enough to make the event feel like it wasn’t a privilege to be in. The problem? It was a logistical nightmare. With the introduction of live streaming this year, TPCi wanted all divisions to play down to the Finals on the first day so that all of the Finals matches could be covered on the second day. But with eight rounds and a Top 32, the first day didn’t end until 1 AM – and they only played down to the Top 4! From a scheduling standpoint, having this many players just isn’t feasible.

This match didn't end until 1 AM.

This match didn’t end until 1 AM.

So, the first potential reason for the change is that they need to make the World Championships more exclusive. Not only does it make the event feel more important, but it allows them to finish the tournament in a timely fashion. This leads into our next topic.

Theory #2: TPCi wants to decrease attendance at events.

At first glance, this sounds downright stupid. Why would TPCi want to decrease attendance at events? Don’t they want as many people as possible to show up? Well, maybe not. With the recent growth in the Pokémon TCG, events are getting larger than ever. City Championships regularly hit over 100 players, Regional Championships are mandatory two-day events, and we even had the first two-day State Championship this year in Illinois. If events keep growing larger, how do the tournaments accommodate for all of these people? Realistically they can’t. Many Tournament Organizers have voiced their concerns over this exact subject.

By implementing entry fees and making it more difficult to earn an invitation to the World Championships, perhaps TPCi is trying to deter casual (and maybe even some competitive) players from entering these premier events. If event sizes continued to grow, TOs would have to find larger venues, and events would run too late. How often have we seen tournaments go past midnight? I’ve had to play the Finals of tournaments at IHOP, a hotel lobby, and even someone’s dimly lit hotel room. The problem would only get worse if nothing changed.

Is this a positive direction to take competitive play? Probably not. Is it necessary? Perhaps. With the maximum top cut size being reduced to Top 8 this season, it seems clear that time constraints were a major concern heading into 2014. Other card games, like Yu-Gi-Oh!, have had similar problems. However, their solution is to stop playing when a tournament reaches Top 4, and all four players receive the same prizes. Maybe that’s a solution to consider in the future.

Theory #3: TPCi wants competitive players to attend more events.

With the announcement that players potentially can attend nine Regional Championships this season, wouldn’t it make sense for TPCi to encourage competitive players to attend as many as possible? With the increased requirement, you’re almost forced to go to as many Regionals as you can to try to get those points. Again, entry fees are a factor. The more events you attend, the more money you spend. Even though overall attendance may be down, they’ll be getting money out of the competitive players that do whatever it takes to earn that invitation. We can’t rule this possibility out either.

Since the initial community reaction to this news has been almost completely negative, I wanted to begin by providing reasons why the change may have happened from TPCi’s viewpoint. All of it is pure speculation and in no way fact, but it seems reasonable. Of course, there are two sides to the story here. Now that I’ve provided reasons why the change may have happened, let’s move on to the next subject.

How are competitive players affected? Well, this is a complicated question. For every competitive player, the big goal is to qualify for the World Championships. With the increased number of points required for that invite, the goal becomes much more difficult to attain. Let’s look at some potential ramifications of this.

Problem #1: It’s impractical to qualify for Worlds.

Even though 209 players qualified for last year’s World Championships, it wasn’t easy to earn an invitation in most places. For example, players from Mexico have a difficult time earning Championship Points because there simply aren’t enough events. Many felt that 400 was out of reach since there are no Regional Championships. Now that the requirement is 500 CP, in Mexico it’s nearly impossible to earn enough points unless you do well at the National Championships. Even if you win 6 League Challenges (90), 4 City Championships (200), and 2 State Championships (200), you’re 10 points short. Keep in mind that winning this many tournaments is practically unheard of, and it’s still not enough. Some European countries and areas of Canada will suffer the same fate. Latin America and Asia Pacific may struggle, too.

In the US, many players who earned their invites did it near the end of the season through Battle Roads. Yes, that means a lot of them struggled to reach 400 Championship Points. In fact, our current World Champion, Jason Klaczynski, failed to reach that goal despite playing in every tournament possible. The most legendary player in the history of the game still had to qualify through the Last Chance Qualifier! If that’s the case, imagine how difficult it will be to reach 500 CP. To put it into perspective, you could win 3 League Challenges (45), 2 City Championships (100), 2 State Championships (200), and 1 Regional Championship (120), but you’d still have only 465 points. In order to earn your invitation, you’ll need a nearly perfect season (or an automatic invite at Nationals). Seeing how difficult it is, we can look at the next problem.

Our World Champion didn't even get to 400 CP!

Our World Champion didn’t even get 400 CP!

Problem #2: It’s not worth playing competitively anymore.

The Pokémon TCG has never been a game where you can make money, but now it may be just too expensive to play competitively given the difficulty of earning an invitation. In order to have a chance at qualifying, you’ll need to attend lots of events. On average, a competitive player in the US needs to attend 10 League Challenges, 8 City Championships, 3 State Championships, and 3 Regional Championships to have a realistic shot of earning an invitation; that’s a lot of traveling. In addition to taking up tons of time, it also costs money to go to these events. Even if you do attend all of these events, you have to do well at just about all of them. If you don’t, you won’t reach 500 CP. When you also factor in the entry fees for tournaments this season, lots of players won’t bother investing the time and money when the odds of success are so low.

For most players, 400 CP was a difficult – yet attainable – goal. Everyone had a shot at making Worlds if they played enough and had an above average season. 500, though? As outlined above, even an incredible season with multiple wins at major events may not be enough to reach that plateau. When you set the bar too high, people won’t even try. Instead of simply losing attendance at events, Pokémon ends up losing players completely. It may seem like a silly jump to say that a higher Championship Point requirement leads to losing players, but think about it. If you don’t think you have a good chance of earning the invite, you won’t play the entire season. If you aren’t planning on playing the entire season, why play at all if there are entry fees now? Surely some players will quit because of this change. The only question is, how many?

Problem #3: New players have less incentive to join the game.

If there’s one thing Pokémon has done right in the past few years, it’s drawing in new players. Say what you want about the state of the game, but there’s no denying that a simpler format is appealing for new players who want to jump into the competitive scene. Recently the message has been that everyone has a chance to succeed. Even if it’s your first year, you can win tournaments and qualify for the World Championships. For example, James Good qualified and finished 3rd at the World Championships in his rookie season. Aspiring players can look at this and see that they have a realistic chance of winning right away.

Well, that appeal goes away a little with this change. Just one look at the system tells new players that they don’t have much of a chance. Simple math will tell you how many events you’ll need to win to qualify, and it’s not a pretty equation. Instead of welcoming new players, the more difficult requirement may make players change their mind about playing competitively at all. Effectively there is a big barrier for entering competitive play now. If you were trying to pick a new card game to play, would you choose Pokémon after seeing how difficult it is to succeed? I don’t think I would.

Leading up to this announcement, TPCi made tons of great changes to advance the game. Overall, entry fees and increased prizes for Masters were great ideas. On top of that, best-of-three for Swiss was a welcomed change. Honestly we were looking at one of the most promising years in the history of the Pokémon TCG. But now does it really matter? When it comes down to it, the major appeal for players is getting the opportunity to play in the World Championships. If that’s not in reach, players start to quit because the big draw is gone. As a result, the great advances go to waste. In a way, it’s like one step forward and two steps back.

How does this affect the game? Without a doubt, I expect attendance to fall significantly this season, which is disappointing given how much the game has grown lately. Even the most loyal players will have trouble justifying playing this season beyond a love for the game. Who realistically can expect to get 500 Championship Points? If you can’t, you probably won’t play competitively. Where’s the incentive? Sure, the game will survive and continue, but the change seems like it will have a negative effect overall.

Then again, maybe the change won’t be that bad. Maybe this is all just an overreaction. But the potential outcomes of this change are scary. As someone who loves this game, I don’t want to see it go backwards again. We’re at a point where the Pokémon TCG can be expanding big time. Hopefully it doesn’t end up deflating instead.

27 responses to “Thoughts On the New Championship Point System”

  1. Duane Schonberg

    You played a finals at an Ihop? Lol

    1. Kyle Sucevich

      Yup! We actually moved from the tournament venue to a spaghetti restaurant, and then we had to move to IHOP when that place closed.

  2. Duane Schonberg

    I do agree that people will be showing up less. Or they are trying to get people to play in both the vgc and tcg events. So people who don’t cut play in the vgc making their numbers bigger is all I can think of

  3. Steven Stoyer

    This is very disappointing for me because I’ve been playing for years but this is the first year I was going to play competitively. I’ve been reading articles and building meta archetypes because I want to have a chance to do well at these tournaments and possibly go to worlds. Now worlds is out of reach. I’m not going to be able to go to a ton of events because I simply can’t afford to. So with this new structure worlds just isn’t happening.

  4. Derrick Krenke

    We’ve done Battle Roads finals at a Panera Bread restaurant also.

    I played through Winter Regionals last season, and after having a disappointing cities marathon run and losing in the 9th round of swiss to bubble cut, I stopped playing for the season and just judged Spring Regionals instead.

    I was going to strive to be extremely competitive this season again and figured I would have an awesome chance. With increased prize support and a bit of effort, I easily could have managed one of those travel awards to Nationals, I figured. Great motivation to play.

    Then they announce that players are capable of playing in multiple Regionals in the fall, winter, and spring. At this point, I’m doubting the fact that I can get in the top 100 championship points in North America before Nationals since I’m a poor college student who not only cannot afford to travel to multiple Regionals in consecutive weekends, but I also couldn’t afford to take off of work that many weekends in a row.

    And now this announcement of needing to have 500 CP for the season. I figured that 400 CP would still be obtainable for a player like me even playing in 3 Regionals, 3 States, and 10-12 Cities (since our area won’t be having any league challenges most likely since the Madison, WI league leader is not even a professor and is not allowed to run tournaments). I’m good enough to win 4 cities if I have a decent run. And I could top a couple Regionals and States. That plus a few CPs from Nationals or a CP LCQ after Nats would be plenty good enough for me to earn an invite at 400 CP.

    500 CP is completely unobtainable for a player like me. The players that reach this threshold aren’t even going to necessarily be the best players in the US. They’ll be the richest players who are able to go to all 9 Regionals weekends, giving them the best chance to win. Even decent players subjected to the most possibilities to capitalize will do just that, but even the best players given limited possibilities won’t have a chance to succeed with this structure.

    I don’t normally comment on anything like this, but I was thoroughly disappointed when this was announced. I was looking so forward to this upcoming season. And now knowing that my only chance to make it into Worlds this year will be to grind in? That’s truly unfortunate. I’m a skilled enough player to earn an invite in the proper conditions, but I don’t have that much money to throw at tournaments to make the conditions swing in my favor like that.

  5. Tojax

    Honestly, this makes me much more indifferent to bringing OP to Poland. For the last year, we’ve been doing quite a lot to try and get premier events organized, to no avail. Now, I really don’t care, since it would change nothing about our scene. Tournaments would still be paid (and I doubt the increase in prizes would be considerable) and an invite would still be impossible to get. I’d rather then just keep our unofficial tournaments going, and maybe just go to the ECC if I want to play something big. Oh well.

  6. Isaac Soto

    Great article and insight, appreciate all these new articles you guys are posting, keep up the good work!

  7. Raiionthelion

    Didn’t they announce that a second set of tournaments featuring a BLW-on format would start this winter? Maybe the number of tournaments available are going to be beefed up. Regardless you still have to attend them and do well to qualify which can still be very expensive but it does balance it out a bit and give a chance for people to hit the 500

  8. Jason P. Annichiarico

    An interesting thought is that qualifying can in fact become easier due to this change. By making the point requirement so high, forcing competitive players to put an insane amount of time in which leads to them quitting, you make it easier for the players that stick around to win tournaments. For example, in my area I have some insane competition: Jimmy O’B, Sam Chen, Dylan Bryan, the Diaz Bros, David Shoyket, Darrell Moreno, Tyler Zikorus (when he plays), and others. If half of those players quit due to the changes, the competition gets significantly easier, opening the door for more tournament wins and an invite.

  9. khit

    personally I live in canada and I had planned it all out, I was gonna go to every battle road and hope to get lucky at a regionals… now, seeing as how every tournament that isn’t a battle road is at least two hours away, I won’t be playing competitively this season.

  10. John Orgel

    In the one year that worlds was closer to me than Nationals pokemon had to ruin my chance of getting a worlds invite. I don’t really feel like playing now. This just stinks.

  11. Nancy D'Andrea

    Rant up ahead: It is the cost factor that is bothering me. And no, I don’t mean a $20 entrance fee. I am talking about the cost it will take to get Lex to various events throughout the year. Sure, I will go to Philly and New England since those are doable. But everything else involves a plane, long car ride (price of gas anyone??) or, God forbid, another Amtrak ride. Lex got 354 points last year and that was after making top 8 at one Regional and top 4 at another and playing at every possible tournament that our family schedule allowed. 450 points is very tough for seniors and 500 for masters is just painful. Yes, painful is a good word for it.
    Oh, and btw, I know why they held the LCQ at Nationals on Sunday…. the main reason was to give people at the tournament another change to PLAY a tournament at Nationals. Pokemon got a complaint the year before that after swiss rounds at Nats is over, many of the players didn’t want to do league play or the 8/16-man tournaments. They wanted a regular tournament to be offered. So, the LCQ was born at Nats. And the prize, the points. While I think some people enjoyed the LCQ, I think many were upset when they let in people that even if they won, they couldn’t get their invite. I personally asked about this and they reconfirmed that the LCQ was about having a tournament to attend and not so much about the points. Yeah, tell that to all those kids I saw crying along the walls of the convention center hallways. It was a horrible way to end a tournament like Nats. The league play and other options were a lot nicer and gave a sense of community to the tournament. Spirit of the Game folks! TCPi is not getting any love right now. Hopefully some adjustments will be made in the future.

    1. Jacob Dudzik

      i agree with you, btw congrats on lex wining the ko cant wait to see him at Philly

  12. Pikabruce

    Theory #4: Pokémon is a children’s game and for Nintendo the primary emphasis must always be on children first. The official tournaments have become too top-heavy with older players. By instituting master’s tournament fees and raising the CP requirements for senior and master players, it should correct some of that age imbalance and nudge it back toward a younger average.

    1. RamTurmoil

      The new X&Y card set is going to introduce a new pokemon type – the “Fairy” type, the colour of which is pink. At the same time they are introducing specially marketed “For Girls” beginners sets and gift boxes. So what Pikabruce says is surely true. Here in Japan, in particular, Nintendo pushes hard to differentiate itself as a family brand. Globally you can see it through their product line. If they lose 5000 adult players but gain 100000 kids, they won’t be so unhappy, I think. The future of “serious” pokemon competition for adults is surely in the hands of independents like Klaczynski Open or Top Cut Invitational.

  13. FrankieD

    Kyle touched upon the idea of rising costs due to larger attendance size, but the reality is this: T.O’s get paid for each person coming to their events from TPCI–at Battle Roads it was $5 a person, Cities $10 each, States and Regionals $20 a player, and with more and more players showing up, TPCI could not afford to keep writing checks to T.O’s come these events! Pokemon TCG is a VERY affordable card game–TPCI, I’m sure, was losing money because there
    isn’t much need to update our decks as quick as new expansions comes out. Look
    at Darkrai last season: it won so many events, and an older variant of Darkai
    won worlds—all with no reverse holos, and full of promos!

  14. Andrew Mahone

    Great article and insight Kyle. Thanks for putting what most players are thinking and feeling into coherent and respectable thoughts. They should have you run this show man!

  15. ImBlue

    Maybe I’m weird, but I see a lot of opportunity here. With the ‘official’ Pokemon tournaments becoming so difficult to afford and attend, independent tournaments have a lot of potential to attract those competitors who won’t be able to go to events hosted by TPCi. People will still want to play the game, and smaller, cheaper events like the Klaczynski Open will be able to bring in players who simply aren’t able to afford or make it to things like Nationals and Worlds. I know that I’d much rather participate in a local, independent tournament than try to slog up the current TPCi ladder of points. If someone were to arrange one, I’d be more motivated to go to it than before. Of course, we’ll still need people like Jason Klaczynski to actually get them started, but there will likely be a much larger crowd of people willing to participate in independent tournaments rather than the official events as long as those independent tournaments are open like the KO.

    Now, will this necessarily occur, and will we actually see a rise in independent circuits in the Pokemon TCG? I don’t know, but if people become dissatisfied with the official TPCi events then these circuits are more likely to succeed now than ever.

  16. RaNd0m

    This is the WotC 15+ debacle all over again…

    I was really looking forward to this season. Last year I felt like I made some major strides, and while I was short of a Worlds qualification, I knew I’d have a good shot this year given the way I’ve improved my game. But 500 points? Needing to go to 9 regionals weekends to really have a shot? Needing to spend hundreds of dollars on entry fees? I have a job that often results in me working weekends, and this literally eliminates me from contention unless I miraculously qualify at nationals next year.

    It’s hard to say it’s worth it anymore. I held off on purchasing Plasma Blast stuff for this reason, and now I don’t know if I’m going to play going forward. I’m really disappointed because I think the game is at an incredible place, and this just seems needless to me.

  17. Ian Asplund (Raen)

    This change also basically makes it impossible for ANY fantastic player from really difficult areas to ever get an invite. For example, where I am from originally, Utah, there are a lot of great players. Why haven’t you heard of them? Well, it’s because there are enough good players that the top % of them win an even amount of points, roughly. As such, nobody really gets their invites, because there are too many really strong players who all win an event or 2 each, but don’t dominate the whole season. With the raise of points to 500, I don’t think any Utahns in Masters will get an invite this year, despite them being really fantastic.

    This is also a problem in the Midwest and the Northeast, and it’s terribly frustrating.

    I think this may be the opportunity we need to ditch TPCi and move to an independent tournament circuit. (Not that that fixes the money problems with competing. I have no chance to earn an invite with my budget constraints, but I also probably couldn’t attend independent tournaments that are far away all the time)

  18. Pikabruce
  19. Adam Capriola

    Great article Kyle. Here are a few of my thoughts…

    1. There are still reasons to attend tournaments (increased prizes, friendly atmosphere, organized competition) but I know “the goal” for a lot of people is to qualify for Worlds. I think it might be lost on TPCi how much that goal means to people, and making it seemingly out of reach without a major commitment to the game is disappointing to many.

    Monetary prizes don’t necessarily compare to getting an opportunity to prove you’re the very best (like no one ever was).

    2. @Pikabruce:disqus pointed out that TPCi is striving for a 128 player World Championship. I would think with the growth the game has seen since Worlds 2004 (the first WC held by the company) that an increase in attendance (say to 256 players) should be considered.

    3. I would like to see the reintroduction of automatic invite tournaments outside of Nationals and the LCQ (à la Gym Challenges of the past). I know that “one shot” type tournaments didn’t necessarily encourage players to populate smaller events in the past, but perhaps they could enforce a Play Point or Championship Point requirement for entry.

    That would give players a reason to play during the year to be eligible for those types of events (which could be held in the spring/summer), and I feel most people would be happy they’d at least have some tangible chance to earn an invite, even if that chance is slim.

    Of course the number of invites divvied out would need to increase for this type of additional tournament to be added.

    4. Overall I’m kind of worried about how the player base is taking this news. I think as a community we’re known to overreact, but the vibe I’m getting so far isn’t good.

  20. Alex Snape

    We should all go on strike! Nobody enter a single tournament, and than WAM! They have to decrease it! ( Joking )

  21. Kyle B

    I think it may actually be more logical and statistically more likely to gain an invite by attending and playing in the grinder this year. I for one was already happy to see the World’s location being D.C, as it works way better for me than say San Diego when we tried grinding in last time, and I think it may just overall be a better and more cost effective option now than playing the entire season competitively.

    On a side note, I agree with the idea of independent tournaments getting a nice opportunity to arise here. Maybe it’s time to start thinking about planning the tournament you guys want to run Kyle, Ben did promise it would happen eventually…

  22. moriarty

    this is the beginning of the end… sell ur pokemon stock now

  23. hypnotoxic

    I started playing on PTCGO in November of 2012. I have never been to a premier tournament, but was planning on giving it a shot this October. I have to say this news is making me rethink playing tournaments IRL.

    I know that PTCGO has plans for getting online tournaments going in October, and it would be awesome if they allowed us to earn up to 100 CP (or even more) through these tournaments. Somehow I highly doubt that, but I would love to hear your opinions on the idea.

  24. C-Dub

    I already wrote out what I think the solution is to this on Crimz’s latest blog about the CP point increase. But to summarize it here too, i’d say just organize a boycott of the events this season and play some non sanctioned events. Send them a message by doing this and buying minimal amounts of singles. It would work if a few figure heads (such as Kyle and Jason) led this action and made it clear that things must change. 500 CP is ridiculous.