Recent Rule Changes – Good, Bad, and Ugly

Recently there’s been a lot of shakeup in the Pokémon TCG scene. In the past few weeks we’ve heard about a new round structure, new rules for the Swiss best-of-three rounds, and some rule changes going into effect on November 8th. Since so much is happening at once, I figured it would be best to discuss everything that’s happening. Instead of simply giving my opinion, I want to take a broader look at each topic and weigh the positives and negatives – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let’s start with the ones that impact the upcoming Fall Regionals.

Swiss rounds are best-of-three, 50 minutes + 3 turns. The result can be win, lose, or tie.


In the upcoming season, all Swiss rounds at States, Regionals, Nationals, and Worlds will be best-of-three, 50 minutes + 3 turns. In the past, they were single game, 30 minutes + 3 turns. Unlike top cut matches, ties are a possibility in the Swiss rounds. Here’s how the situations will be handled.

Game 1
• If the last turn ends during game 1, the match results in a tie.
• If time is called after game 1 has been resolved but before the starting player for a Sudden Death game has been determined, the match results in a tie.
• If time is called after the game 1 winner has been determined but before the starting player for game 2 has been determined, the winner of game 1 wins the match.

Game 2
• If the last turn ends during game 2, the winner of game 1 wins the match.
• If time is called after game 2 has been resolved but before the starting player for a Sudden Death game has been determined, the winner of game 1 wins the match.
• If time is called after the game 2 winner has been determined but before the starting player for game 3 has been determined, the match results in a tie.

Game 3
• If the last turn ends during game 3, the match results in a tie.
• If time is called after game 3 has been resolved but before the starting player for a Sudden Death game has been determined, the match results in a tie.

To put it in simpler terms, the match will end in a tie unless all three games complete or only the first game completes. If the third extra turn (after time is called) finishes in the first or third game and a winner is not determined, the match ends in a tie. If the same scenario happens in the second game, the player who won the first game is the winner of the match. This is different from the rules in top cut matches where any game with 4 or more prizes taken by a player counts as a complete game. Either a game ends or it doesn’t; there is no winning on prizes in Swiss rounds.

The Good: The impact of first turn wins is lessened. Instead of losing the round completely, you have an opportunity to win the next two games or play for a draw. Nobody likes losing before drawing a card. At the very least, you should be able to play out one full game. In general, best-of-three reduces variance and luck by giving players the opportunity to play out more games.

The Bad: It’s very easy to tie. Any time a series goes to the third game, odds are the match ends in a tie because playing three games of Pokémon takes a long time. Players are used to winning and losing. Ties make things messy. In addition, intentional draws are a necessary byproduct of having draws at all, which is something that many people don’t like.

The Ugly: 50 minutes is not nearly enough time for a best-of-three. Therefore, playing the clock becomes just as important as playing the game itself. Because of the low time limit, there’s going to be a lot of rushed play, stalling, and unsatisfying results; that’s a lot of pressure to put on players in an already stressful environment. Lots of matches will end in ties, which punishes both players by giving one point instead of three points for a win. On top of it all, the system is confusing because it differs from the one for top cut matches, which counts any game as complete as long as one player has taken 4 or more prizes. The system seems to struggle with deciding a winner. Instead of 50 minute Bo3 rounds, perhaps keeping 30 minute Bo1 rounds and just using the extra time for additional rounds is a better option.

Overall Impact – Ugly: With an insufficient time limit, best-of-three is a disaster waiting to happen. If there’s not enough time for a series to play out, a single game is better. To reduce the impact of “cheap” wins, just add more Swiss rounds. At first glance, it seems like there will be lots of ties this season.

Maximum top cut size is 8. Instead of large cuts, more Swiss rounds will be played.


For this season, the maximum top cut size is 8 no matter how large the event is. To replace the extra single elimination rounds, more Swiss rounds will be played to find more accurate standings. Depending on attendance, up to 15 rounds can be played. At most, 9 rounds will be played on the first day of two-day events, and up to 6 rounds will be played on the next day. However, only the Top 32 players will advance to the second day. For full information on determining the number of rounds, look at this link.

The Good: More Swiss rounds equates to less impact of a single bad matchup or unlucky game. With only a Top 8, making the cut becomes more prestigious. Under the previous system, it’s almost as if two separate tournaments were being played at each major event. If you made it past the initial Swiss rounds, you then had to get through a bunch of single elimination rounds. Consider an event like US Nationals. If a player went undefeated through the Swiss rounds (9-0) and then lost immediately in Top 128, it resulted in a 65th place finish. Doesn’t sound very fair, does it? Now strong finishes in the Swiss rounds will result in at least a Top 8 finish, which means a lot more than a Top 128 result.

The Bad: It becomes much more difficult to make top cut. If you want to win the event, you’ll need to perform extremely well in the Swiss rounds. In the two day events, most players won’t get to participate in all of the Swiss rounds. Players who start off with too many losses don’t have an opportunity to play out the rest of the rounds (on day two) in order to get Championship Points.

The Ugly: Events like State Championships get hit hard. Imagine playing in a State Championship with 200+ players. According to the guidelines, the highest amount of rounds you can play is eight, and it still cuts to a Top 8. Compare that to last year, where the same number of rounds would happen – but with a Top 16. Effectively we are losing a round at these tournaments, meaning there is no room for error. Even players with just one loss may miss the Top 8 if attendance is high enough.

Overall Impact – Good: Of all the changes, this is one of the best. More Swiss rounds over a bigger cut certainly is the way to go at tournaments. Magic: The Gathering, the most successful competitive TCG in the world, has been using this system for years. Sure, some people will dislike how difficult it is to make the cut at events now, but it’s supposed to be that way! Perhaps the only problem with this change is the fact that the time limit is too low, which will cause illegitimate results in Swiss rounds.

Now that we’ve covered the changes to the tournament structure, let’s move on to the rule changes that are happening with Pokémon X & Y! The following rules go into effect on November 8th.

The player going first cannot attack on the first turn.


Since the release of Black & White, there was no restriction on the player going first. Previously we’ve seen limitations such as no Trainers, no Supporter, or no drawing a card on the first turn. For the first time ever, the player going first will not be able to attack, period. Even if the attack doesn’t do damage, it cannot be used. In addition, players will flip a coin to decide who goes first before hands are drawn. The winner of the flip can choose to go first or second.

The Good: No more first turn wins! Finally there’s no pressure of starting with a lone Pokémon and having it Knocked Out before you can draw a card. Hands down, this was one of the worst aspects of the Pokémon TCG, and it’s gone now. As long as you don’t start with a 30 HP Pokémon against a Hypnotoxic Laser + Virbank City Gym, you’re going to be able to take a turn at least. Finally going first has some drawback.

The Bad: Aggressive decks take a big hit by not being able to attack on the first turn. In particular, Team Plasma decks are no longer able to use Thundurus EX’s Raiden Knuckle or Kyurem’s Frost Spear while going first. Also, “support” attacks such as Emolga’s Call for Family or Sableye’s Junk Hunt become much weaker if they can’t be used on the first turn.

The Ugly: Since you can’t attack going first, the best (well, only) thing you can do is use Tropical Beach to fill your hand with more cards. Therefore, an already expensive card will rise in price even further. People complained about how difficult it was to obtain this card before, and it’s only getting worse. Most likely, those without access to it will be at a disadvantage.

Overall Impact – Good: Awesome change. First turn wins were a plague in the Pokémon TCG, and we finally have a cure. On top of that, the strength of going first is lessened a bit. In almost all cases, it’s still better to go first, but it’s not a complete advantage like it was before. Yes, the increased strength of Tropical Beach will lead to the card being more expensive, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay to eliminate first turn wins from the game.

Pokémon Catcher now requires a coin flip, effectively turning it into Pokémon Reversal.


In a surprising move, Pokémon Catcher has received an errata. Like Pokémon Reversal in the past, now you must flip a coin in order to use its effect. If Heads, the card plays as normal. If Tails, the card fails. All versions of Pokémon Catcher will be played as if they have this updated text. (You still must use Pokémon Catcher and not Pokémon Reversal, though.)

The Good: Pokémon Catcher (Gust of Wind) is one of the most broken cards in the history of the Pokémon TCG. No Benched Pokémon was safe while it was around. Aggressive decks could keep pressure on for the entirety of a game with no drawback. Perhaps setup decks will have an opportunity to thrive again. For the past two years, Pokémon Catcher has defined the game. Because of its existence, decks had to be changed accordingly. With its errata, there probably will be more diversity in decklists and deck concepts.

The Bad: It’s another hit for aggressive decks. When you combine no first turn attacks with this, they really do lose a lot of steam. Again, Team Plasma decks relied on being able to put on pressure. Without access to a reliable Catcher, decks will be able to withstand that pressure much easier. In the Pokémon TCG the healthy formats have had a balance between aggressive decks and setup decks. Now the scales seem to be tipped in favor of the setup decks.

The Ugly: Coin flips are back. Just because Catcher is on a coin flip doesn’t mean people won’t play it. If you played during the time of Pokémon Reversal + Junk Arm, you know how silly games can become. Nobody likes games being decided by coin flips. With this change, we may see just that. An added element of luck has been reinstated in the game.

Overall Impact – Neutral: In some ways, the change is pretty bad. Pokémon Reversal isn’t much healthier for the game than Pokémon Catcher. On the other hand, Catcher did stifle creativity quite a bit. At the very least, it was becoming a stale mechanic after two years of dominance. The change is neither good nor bad, but it will impact the way the game is played.

Professor Juniper and Professor Sycamore cannot be played in the same deck.


The new Supporter card, Professor Sycamore, has the exact same effect as Professor Juniper. Therefore, you can play one or the other in your deck, but not both. To clarify, even combining them to play a total of four of them is not allowed. You must pick one or the other.

The Good: Professor Juniper/Sycamore is one of the strongest draw cards we’ve ever seen. It would be pretty silly if you could play eight of them in a deck. For the foreseeable future, you get to pick which generation’s Professor you like better – five or six?

The Bad: This is confusing! I’d be willing to bet that at least one person shows up to a major event trying to play both. In particular, this is confusing for Junior and Senior players that may not be as connected to the online resources as older players are. Why introduce such confusion amid all the other changes?

The Ugly: Really? They couldn’t come up with a different effect? Professor Sycamore seems downright lazy for the card development team. Most players feel like we don’t have too many strong draw Supporters as it is, and then they just reprint one we already have? I don’t see why they couldn’t reprint past Supporter effects that are out of the format, such as Professor Oak’s New Theory. Even a reprint of Professor Elm from Neo Genesis wouldn’t have been bad!

Overall Impact – Neutral: Honestly this isn’t a big deal, but it’s just confusing. In terms of gameplay, it doesn’t really affect anything.

We have a lot of changes coming up for this season, and they’re all happening quickly. What do you guys think about everything? Will they affect your decision on whether or not to play this season? Leave your thoughts down in the comments. Thanks for reading!

37 responses to “Recent Rule Changes – Good, Bad, and Ugly”

  1. Johnathon the Zombie

    I like turtles.

  2. Michael Adam McNulty

    I LOVE the new Pokemon Catcher/First turn attack rules. It gives rogue/tier 3/Stage 2 decks a fighting chance. I also think that all these rules will help bring in more diverse decks instead of the same 3/4 decks you see everyone using ALL the time!

    1. no/

      LOL! “Yeah now that one card has been changed the entire metagame is gonna open up!” -Yeah right, even if this changed what cards were played at all, it would still be the same 3-4 decks, just with a few techs in place of catcher

      1. Michael Adam McNulty

        I guess you missed the part where first turn donks are out along WITH the new catcher rule. Not being able to attack first turn gives decks that run stage 1 and stage 2 Pokemon time to set up, slowing down aggressive builds. DERP. Catcher has been the LEAD card in the metagame since it’s release, knocking out easy EX, basics, stage 1, stage 2, and bench sitters, ruining any chance at running a successful deck of any of those types. Learn to read the whole comment, moron.

    2. C-Dub

      I agree. With this rule change i’m going back to playing my flygon deck that I started playing when boundries crossed came out and I got back into the ptcg since the good ole days in base set. I ended up having had to adopt a different, aggressive deck after losing too many games from donks, slow set ups against aggressive decks that overwhelmed me, and my celebi constantly getting catcher/ko’d for 2 prizes. I loved that deck but catcher really did deter me from playing it.

      1. Deathbydragon

        I’m sorry, but I don’t think the new rules will really help your deck run better. Though flygon is a fun card, and an interesting idea, come on, it was on bad deck Monday, you can’t exactly call it competitive. I love playing rougue decks, but never get large win ratios, and not getting donked turn 1 will not make it so your deck is not overpowered but high powered pressure decks.

        Also I believe that the catcher rule is just the nail in blasiose’s coffin. Blastoise’s worst matchup is undoubtably going to be a genesect virizion deck, with it’s ability to 1HKO anything of its field (except maybe suicune) without even using it’s ace spec. Genesect virizion is not really hurt by the catcher rule, having a perfectly convenient ability to do the job just as well, and though blastoise was not the heaviest catcher user, it definatly benefited from a well timed KO.

        But even if you don’t run genesect virizion, this is bad for blastoise. TDK decks will likely just tech in a genesect for the catcher ability (it is plasma after all) purhaps replacing their lone absol, this A) rendering the whole point of killing catcher useless, and B) making sure that genesect is in almost every deck that runs plasma energy for any reason, and can thus attack if it gets it’s

        1. LarryAlberto

          Black Kyurem EX kos Virizion AND Genesect, and most VirGen decks play 3-4 Colress Machines, meaning a lot of the time they won’t have the Plasma Energy to attach, or would rather attach a Grass Energy. And a lot of VirGen decks play Drifblim, which is useless against Blastoise. Plasma decks try to power up Kyurem to ko Black Kyurem EX, not Red Signal and KOing Blastoise. Also, I seriously doubt Plasma will start running Genesect, I’m sure some will, but not enough to be concerned. If anything, Blastoise gets stronger, as it doesn’t try to attack first turn, and it can’t get donked. Also, Catcher being a flip makes it HARDER to target Blastoise, not easier. I personally believe that Blastoise is here to stay. A lot of people are still unsure whether VirGen will be good or not, meaning it will probably be the least played of the tier 1 decks.

      2. Deathbydragon


    3. Teiamat

      well i dont know if you played in the SP era but then the metagame consisted of pretty much 1/2 decks now with BW we got 3/4 maybe with XY we can get 6-8. :)

      side not XY megas are prob going to be based off of basic stage 2 EX pokemon like the new Blastoise/venasour are basic EX with mega cards stepping up from there.

  3. Joshua Jacob Prince

    the catcher thing is a bit of a bummer. ive played ho oh ex since day one, so i know (and im sure pooka does too) how much coin flips suck. HTL (hypnotoxiclaser) already has some games coming down to a flip of a coin, and thats already gotten irratating. stage 2 decks like blastoise get such a HUGE advantage in this upcoming season. in my opinion, the didnt balance the game out, but more tipped the scales the other way. plasma loses so much early game pressure and not being able to guarentee a catcher KO a blastoise thats dumping energy onto a black kyurem every turn is going to hurt.

  4. Raen (Ian Asplund)

    Good analysis! You mostly articulated my thoughts.

    However, I really think the increased power of Tropical Beach to be a bigger problem than you make it out to be. With the new changes to the tournament structure, you HAVE to perform at the very highest level to succeed. If that ends up meaning you have to run Beach, that will shut a lot of players who are good and have seen success but cant afford Beach out of the running entirely, myself included. Im honestly really nervous about it.

  5. tlamb

    so if you win game one and dont finish game two you just win? that doesnt sound fair if your opponent plays slow intentionally.

    1. Joe Munger

      I think the way Pooka said that made it confusing. It’s still + 3 turns after time runs out. However, for the second game to count it someone has to be winning after the 3 turns. If the second game is tied after +3 the winner of the first game wins the match.

      1. Kyle Sucevich

        No, the second game has to be completed by the end of the three turns. It doesn’t matter who is winning. The game MUST be complete for it to count. Incomplete games do not count in Swiss – not the first, second, or the third.

        1. Joe Munger

          So you could stall the second game out if you won the first game? That is weak. You can’t play 3 games in 50 minutes, and good luck playing two with the new first turn and catcher rules. SMH

          1. Kyle Sucevich

            Yes, exactly. The clock is going to play a huge role in every match.

          2. Joe Munger

            Sorry, I didn’t read that part of your article thoroughly before answering his question. I just read it and you made it pretty clear how it works. Great read! Yeah, most matches will be decided by the game one winner IMO. People will need to learn to scoop quickly in game one if things look bad so they can hope to play for a tie.

  6. poetlarsen

    the first turn no attacking rule isn’t in for the regionals, right?

    1. Joe Munger


  7. Deathbydragon

    Changing pokemon catchers definitely makes red signal more powerful…

  8. Deathbydragon

    I mean genesect verizion is not the best deck out there, but it was ok, now it’s the only deck that runs guaranteed catchers, in the form of plasma energy. That definitely makes it better than plasma (unless they decide to tech in a genesect for the ability, which is a possibility) and probably better than darkrai, though junk hunt allows you to grab 2 catchers, which should just about even out.

  9. Deathbydragon

    With darkrai you have to use your attack for the turn junk hunting for the same effect that red signal garentees.

  10. Deathbydragon

    One thing I think is not really that big of a deal is the price of beach. Remember, it works for both players, so even if you don’t run it, your opponent might, and if they do, you can use it. I’ve play tested with and without beach, and found that it makes almost no difference to my ability to win, just decide to go second. Plus most decks can’t fit 4 cards into them, especially a stadium that lots of other people are going to be playing. What, is plasma going to try to play without virbank, just to draw cards on the first turn? Not a chance. I think the only decks that will end up running beach are ones that run it right now, set up based decks like blastoise.

  11. Joe Munger

    I don’t understand who thinks we don’t have strong draw cards. When has Pokemon ever had draw cards as strong we do now? Juniper, Colress, N, and Bianca. That is a lot of card drawing! Am I missing something?

    I like the first turn rule because it gives setup decks a chance to get some setup, but I don’t like the Catcher flip. How we have two cards that can drastically effect the outcomes of games based on luck(Laser and Catcher). I would have rather seen the card rotated or banned they turned into Reversal. Now close games between good players will likely be decided by who flips heads on their Catchers. Why couldn’t they just leave it alone?

    This is what you guys get for complaining about Catcher being broken. I have never understood that opinion. It has been around since Base Set. It keeps games from dragging on and players from hiding damaged Pokemon on the bench. As far as I’m concerned we should always have a card with this effect just like we have Switch.

    I’m also glad the Juniper effect will be around through X and Y. It is another card I feel should just stay in the format. Same effect as the original Professor Oak and it just helps decks get setup. Simple but very effective.

    1. Mekkah

      Our draw cards right now are very, very strong, but there are two problems with them.
      a) They promote all-in play / have risk elements. Pretty much all of them force you to play your hand out unless you want to be suboptimal, and sometimes you can be forced into doing things you don’t want to (Juniper away a bad hand, benching a liabilty for Colress or to draw more with Bianca, etc). I would prefer to see more cards like Professor Oak’s New Theory, or even a straight draw card like Holon Adventurer (it would have to draw more to be on equal footing though).

      b) They are not Pokemon. People want something like Claydol that stabilizes them until the opponent goes after the Claydol. Right now all you can do to have access to more cards every turn is hope your next 6-7 cards have one of those supporters. A lot of the time in this format, you lose because you hit a brick wall.

      1. Joe Munger

        We do have cards like Electrode and Musharna that allow you to see extra cards. If you don’t like the risk or Colress or Bianca you can always go with straight draw(Cheren). Before the BW-On rotation when PONT was still in the format most players were still it as their third supporter. Choosing to run higher counts of N and Juniper. I agree that a card like PONT would be a nice alternative to Colress and Bianca as your third supporter, but It would be the third choice. You can’t beat getting to see 7 new cards.

        1. Anon

          While bench sitters will no doubt benefit. My biggest worry is Garbodor becoming too strong. This will force players either to play it, or play a more linear deck that won’t crumble against it. I’m aware of Tool-Scrapper, but its hard to know if that will be enough to deal with over a long series of tournaments. Personally, I’m more in favour of Pokémon based search over draw. However, I do agree with Joe’s point that the game punishes players too severely for experiencing supporter droughts, and that the Supporter cards are too similar in nature. All of this without even addressing the damage ratios, and cheap energy acceleration problems the game has.

          1. Joe Munger

            I would have to agree that Garbodor is hindering some of the variety we might see otherwise with the new rule changes. Decks like Weavile, Empoleon, Flareon, Trubbish and Garchomp all get a big boost from the new rules if only Garbodor wasn’t there to shut down all their abilities. Tool Scrapper isn’t enough and you have to flip to Catcher them out. Almost PTCGi….almost. I do think they are preparing for X and Y more than they are trying to make this format perfect.

      2. Kyle Sucevich

        To add onto this, there simply isn’t any variety in the Supporters. Every deck runs Professor Juniper and N. From there, you have to pick from the “other” Supporters: Skyla, Colress, and Bianca. At this point, most people have ruled out Bianca, so it’s a pick between Skyla and Colress. Random Receiver is an option for some decks, too, but that’s about it. Cheren, Ghetsis, and Hugh are very weak compared to the others.

        Compare this to past formats, where we had several options. Decks could run things like Pokémon Collector, Twins, Judge, Professor Oak’s New Theory, and more. All of these had different effects on the game, not just “draw X number of cards.” Players would prefer to have options while building decks, not be forced down a path of similar Supporters each time.

        1. Joe Munger

          I think they have to change things up with the supporters to fit the format. The BW format was a format based around big basic Pokemon, so the supporters we have available make sense. When you are playing 170 hp basics you don’t want to use a card like Pokemon Collector or Twins. Those cards where around to fit a format based around stage one and two Pokemon. I’m sure the X and Y format will bring us plenty of new supporters as well.

          1. Mekkah

            “I’m sure X and Y will bring us plenty of new supporters”

            I wish I could be this optimistic, but this carbon copy of Professor Juniper indicates in the opposite direction.

        2. Joe Munger

          We have Hooligans Jim & Cas, Pooka! Recognize!

  12. Twan

    Yup manlin catcher a flip just made Blastoise BDIF and makes stage 2 decks good in general.

    1. Eric Broffel

      Maybe we’ll see some creativity again.

  13. theron blodgett

    I see the new first turn rule taking away donks but I don’t see how it destroys any momentum fast decks have. if the scenario was plasma vs blastoise and plasma went first every game then yes early game pressure eliminated. however flip it. have blastoise go first and plasma go second. plasma gets to attack its first turn and begin its pressure as normal.
    to summarise we have traded players wanting to go first for players wanting to go second now.

    1. :o

      Going first is still 100% better for both players lol
      Even if Plasma gets off an attack the first turn it is allowed to, the Blastoise player will always have had an own turn before that. If Plasma doesn’t go first, that will be it’s first turn. However, if it does, it will have already had a turn before that one to attach energy, play a supporter etc..
      Nobody is going to want to go second.

  14. Brad

    I still see the First turn rule flawed. I predict we will see T1 second player donking the first player. Decks that setup fast will always setup fast and strike hard.