Five Fatal Flaws of 50+3

Pokémon, like most card games, is filled with luck. Sometimes luck is on your side, and you draw the perfect hand. Other times, luck is not so kind, and you draw an opening hand of one Squirtle and six energy cards. In a game where drawing a bad opening hand means you’ll hardly get a chance to play, it’s no surprise that the Pokémon community warmly welcomed the announcement this season that large tournaments would begin using Best 2-of-3 for Swiss rounds. Just one problem, though: They didn’t give us enough time to actually play a Best 2-of-3 series!

Simply not enough time.

Simply not enough time.

At just 50 minutes + 3 turns, with 2 minutes allowed for shuffling and set-up in-between games, 50+3 leaves a three-game series a measly average of just 15 minutes (plus one turn) per game! To point out how insufficient this is, remember that the universally accepted time limits for one-game matches have been 30 minutes + 3 turns for years, and many of these matches still exhaust their time limits. In 50+3, games are constantly cut off early. Just like interrupting an unfinished chess match, or game of Monopoly, or ending a baseball game abruptly in the 6th inning would be disappointing and unfun, Pokémon is no different. Low time limits suck fun out of the game.

Let’s take a look at five specific ways 50+3 flat out stinks.

#1: It ends nearly 1 in 5 matches in a tie.

It was of course no surprise to most of the Pokémon TCG community when these newly-introduced time limits proved inadequate at the recent Regional Championships, where nearly 1 in 5 games ended in a tie simply because players did not have enough time to finish their third game. If 1 in 5 games ending in a tie doesn’t seem like a lot to you, keep in mind that includes all matches, not just the ones that went to a third game. (Of matches that went to a third game, the percentage of ties is much higher, perhaps as high as 50%.) Additionally, of the games that did manage manage to finish in 50 minutes, many of these involved players rushing, or conceding what might have been a winnable game, in a desperate effort to preserve time. Even some games that were recorded as a win for one player would have been ties, but both players were so determined to avoid receiving 1 point that they formed some kind of agreement where one player conceded to the other.

Ties are boring. Ties are anticlimactic. Ties are a disappointing end to a 50-minute match. Even worse, ties award each player only 1 match point. (Wins award 3, losses award 0.) With only 1 point given to each player, ties are just barely better than a loss, which means they generally lower both players’ chances of making Top 8. At the recent Florida Regional Championship, for example, a player with a solid 8-1-5 (8 wins, 1 loss, 5 ties) record missed making Top 8. Ouch! Was it because the player didn’t play well enough to win the 5 matches he tied? Not necessarily! Perhaps he would have won all five of those games if he had enough time!

#2: It makes players play pointless partial games.

Picture this: You and your opponent have each won one game in your Best 2-of-3 match, and you start Game 3. Your opponent’s Genesect EX gets some quick KOs, and he takes an early lead. However, you play a well-timed N and begin a big comeback, knocking out the Genesect EX. You’re about to finish your great comeback and win the match, when time is called. After three turns, you’re one turn short of drawing your last prize card. The match is declared a tie.

These anti-climactic endings are all too common in 50+3. In fact, virtually any match that does not end in a 2-0 or 2-1 win means you and your opponent played some partial, incomplete game that counts for nothing. Talk about disappointing! Players play Pokémon because it’s fun. They travel across their countries and the world to play in tournaments because they want to have great matches. 50+3 deprives players of this opportunity. It deprives players of the exciting finishes that are naturally built into the Pokémon TCG.

#3: It encourages stalling.

For as long as the Pokémon TCG has existed, stalling has been an issue in competitive play. In a game where players have so many options on their turn, and such frequent access to their decks, there are unfortunately a lot of creative ways for players to waste time. 50+3 only exacerbates this problem by constantly creating situations where players have a huge incentive to play slowly.

Picture this scenario: You’re in Game 3 with your Blastoise/Black Kyurem EX/Keldeo EX deck. You bench a Squirtle Turn 1, and your opponent’s first turn involves attaching an energy to his active Virizion EX. On the second turn, you Rare Candy to evolve into Blastoise, and Deluge to your active Black Kyurem EX to attack with Black Ballista, knocking out your opponent’s active Virizion EX. Your opponent has no energy in play and his chances of winning this game are slim to none.

Just one problem, though: Since only completed games count, all your opponent has to do to ensure this match ends in a tie is make sure the game doesn’t finish. With only 10 minutes left, your opponent can adjust his strategy to send active non-EX Pokémon, instead of EX Pokémon, giving you only one prize card per turn, instead of two. He can play Ultra Ball and Level Ball and all kind of cards to search and shuffle his deck — anything to waste time. (All of these are legal and legitimate tactics.) And 10 minutes later, if you aren’t able to draw all six of your prize cards, this game too was in vain, and the match ends in a tie. Such disappointing outcomes are incredibly common in 50+3.

Even 200 damage can't take prizes quickly enough.

Even 200 damage can’t take prizes quickly enough.

The same situation can (and frequently does) occur when a player wins a lengthy Game 1. If Game 1 exhausts over 20 minutes (as it often will), the winner now has no incentive to play quickly in Game 2. He or she doesn’t have to win Game 2 to win the series, but rather only not lose. Even if the the player that lost Game 1 has drawn five prize cards after 50+3 expires, if that sixth prize card isn’t drawn, he or she wins the entire match, regardless of whether or not the winner of Game 1 drew a single prize in Game 2.

Judges, who of course recognize the stalling issues posed by 50+3, are now under more pressure to rush players. Some are now enforcing previously unenforced and unpopular tempo guidelines that put stress on players. However, no matter how strictly these guidelines are enforced, and no matter how quickly a player is playing, any player’s opponent can ensure a typical game does not finish in 15 or less minutes. (Most Game 3s usually begin with even less time than this!) The time limit is simply too low.

#4: It hinders creativity and deck diversity.

With so little time to play, decks based on slower strategies are at a disadvantage. Because some decks take longer to win a game than others, losing Game 1 will often lose these decks the entire series, as they won’t have enough time to finish a second game. One example of this are Hydreigon decks, which win slowly by healing Pokémon and using Sableye’s Junk Hunt over the course of many turns. With longer time limits, players would be rewarded with even more creativity and diversity that come from the large pool of cards that is currently our modified format.

#5: It creates ethical/sportsmanship dilemmas.

Imagine this: You’re in the 11th round of a Regional Championship with a 6-2-2 record (20 points), and the rumor is you’ll need at least 28 points to make Top 8. With only three rounds left, you’ll need to win all three remaining rounds to make Top 8. Your opponent, who also has 20 points, is in the same boat. After 50 minutes, you’re in an unfinished Game 3, meaning your game will end in a tie. Both you and your opponent realize that if you tie, neither of you will have a chance of making Top 8, but if one of you concedes, the winner still has a chance of making it. Is it in the spirit of the game for one of you concede so that at least one of you maintains a chance to make Top 8? Or is it against the spirit of the game, as conceding might allow a player who didn’t actually win the match to bump out of Top 8 a player that actually did win his or her matches? If one player is to concede, how do you determine who concedes? Should it be by prize lead? What if you’re tied on prizes? Or what if you’re behind in prizes, but clearly in position to win the game?

Players have resorted to RPS to decide matches.

Should we decide the winner this way?

Players who recognize a tie dooms both themselves and their opponents, but are unable to come to some agreement, sometimes even flip a coin to randomly determine the winner! (This is actually against the rules, but it’s also very difficult for judges to prevent.) As you can see, having insufficient time limits not only creates a plethora of problems, but also awkward situations that are gray areas for sportsmanship, and even problems that extend to players outside of matches being played.

To recap, 50+3 Best 2-of-3 fails because:

  1. It ends nearly 1 in 5 matches in a tie, punishing both players with not only an unsatisfying outcome, but only 1 of a possible 3 points, generally weakening both of their chances at making Top 8.
  2. It makes players play meaningless partial games, as many Game 3s (and some Game 2s) will not finish in the time limit, and thus not count as a completed game.
  3. It constantly creates situations that encourage stalling, which is difficult for judges to prevent.
  4. It weakens the competitive viability of slower decks, limiting the diversity of decks used at events.
  5. It creates awkward situations where sportsmanship and Spirit of the Game conflict.

The Solution

Best 2-of-3 isn’t the problem; the time limit is. We shouldn’t abandon Best 2-of-3, as players enjoy opportunities to come back from a loss, but we should reserve it for multi-day events, which allow enough time for players to finish a typical three-game match.

Multi-Day Events: Replace 50+3 with 75+3, and remove 1/3 of the Swiss rounds.

75 minutes + 3 turns gives players sufficient time to finish most 3-game series, which obviously should be the objective of time limits. I used 75+3 Best 2-of-3 at the Klaczynski Open in Chicago in August and received extremely positive feedback. 85-90% of matches were able to finish properly, and players said they did not feel rushed, nor were there issues of players stalling.

One-Day Events: Retain 30+3 Best-of-1 for Swiss.

While Best 2-of-3 would be nice at all events, it isn’t practical to try to fit it into one day events. One day events should maintain the same 30+3 format we’ve used successfully for years.

Additionally, the “Four Prize Rule” should be restored into all rounds (not just top cut matches) at all events. (The Four Prize Rule states that any game in which a player has drawn at least four prizes after Time+3 expires is to be considered a complete game, with a player having less prize cards remaining than his or her opponent declared the winner.) The Four Prize Rule is another weapon that works together with longer time limits to prevent both stalling and a myriad of ties and unfinished, meaningless games.

Here’s a more detailed look at the time limits I’m proposing, and how they would be used in our current tournament structure:

Regional Championships

Regional Championships would remain two-day events, but with 75+3 replacing 50+3 for the Best 2-of-3 Swiss rounds. These longer time limits fit easily into a two-day Regional Championship by decreasing the total amount of rounds at the event. Specifically, Regional Championships currently allow for a maximum of 15 rounds. Going from 50 to 75 minutes per round increases time limits by 33%, so we respond in kind by cutting 33% of the rounds, leaving the amount of playtime exactly the same. Though the playtime would be the same, having less rounds will end the tournament about two hours earlier, as there’s now less work for the staff to do in-between rounds. Some of this saved time can be used to give top cut matches 15 extra minutes, just to ensure these important matches are not decided by time limits. Regional Championships would now have a maximum of 10 rounds of Swiss, instead of 15.

Less rounds = less stress on judges.

Less rounds = less stress on judges.

The only potential issue with decreasing the amount of rounds at an event is it sometimes creates situations where players with exceptional records (such as 7-1, or 8-1) miss Top 8. The beauty of Regionals, though is that since it is a two-day event, we can still play enough rounds to ensure all X-1 players are guaranteed to make Top 8. Even with as many as 384 players in a division (a number no Regionals tournament has hit this season), 9 rounds is sufficient to ensure all 8-1’s make Top 8. Realistically, 7-1-1s would almost always make the cut, too. Though players at 6-2 would usually miss at the largest events, remember that the extra match time gives skilled players a greater chance at winning their matches and achieving a strong record.

City Championships

While having Best 2-of-3 for Swiss rounds at all events would be nice, it isn’t practical in one-day events, like City Championships, as cutting rounds from these tournaments would not allow us enough rounds; we would end up with spectacular records like 4-1 (or even 5-1) missing Top 8. (We need those extra rounds to ensure all X-1 records make Top 8.) Besides, no one wants to stay at a card shop until midnight to crown a City Champion, and because of that, it’s appropriate to leave City Championships as they were for years: Best-of-1 Swiss, with a Top 8 cut.

State Championships

State Championships are the trickiest tournament to fix, and one where opinions will differ the most. Many players don’t like States being extended to two days, but if they’re left as one day events, there isn’t enough time for Best 2-of-3 Swiss. And if there isn’t enough time for Best 2-of-3 Swiss, State Championships will be nothing more than a City Championship with better prizes, so why even call them State Championships? (Even adding a few rounds of 30+3 Swiss would cause some State Championships to go past midnight.)

Has Pokémon outgrown State Championships?

Has Pokémon outgrown State Championships?

Here is where you must be wondering if I’m going to propose that States be one-day or two-day events. The reality is there are other solutions to State Championships: they can be eliminated entirely, and instead replaced with more one-day City Championships and two-day Regional Championships. The Pokémon season would be simplified to: League Challenges, City Championships, Regional Championships, National Championships, World Championships. (Do we really need another type of Championship in addition to all of these, anyway?) This gives players that like one-day tournaments more one-day tournaments, and players that like two-day tournaments more two-day tournaments, a compromise that satisfies both sides.

U.S. National Championships

While smaller National Championships can mimic the Regionals format I proposed above, U.S. National Championships are unique in that they are allotted three days, which gives the event more options. If attendance remained similar to last year’s event, current proposals would have us expect 15 rounds of 50+3 Best 2-of-3 for Swiss, cutting to Top 8. Such time limits would allow the tournament to finish comfortably in two days, even though the event has been allotted three days over the past three years. It would certainly be wasteful to not make use of the three days the event runs, and in order to take advantage of these three days, we should extend round time limits for Best-of-3 Swiss from 50+3 to 75+3. 14 rounds is sufficient for this event, ensuring anyone that finishes 12-2 or better is guaranteed a spot in Top 8. Players could play seven rounds of Swiss on both Day 1 & Day 2, and Day 3 would be reserved for Top 8.

Why not use Best-of-1 with more rounds instead of Best 2-of-3?

Some players suggest that instead of playing Best-of-3 for Swiss at large events, players should play Best-of-1, but with more rounds than would be played under Best 2-of-3. While Best-of-1 with more rounds offers one advantage over Best 2-of-3, which is that it allows you to play against more opponents, it also has huge downsides, the most significant being that it makes such inefficient use of time. Specifically, a Best 2-of-3 match uses about 95 minutes for one three-game round to be played to the next. (At large events, about 20 additional minutes are typically used to finish +3 turns, input all match results into the tournament software, post pairings, and seat players for the next round.)

However, in order for this same amount of games (three) to occur in a Best-of-1 with a 30+3 time limit, we will use roughly 150 minutes — nearly one hour more! The fact that the 20-minute downtime now happens after three matches instead of one adds 60 minutes of “dead time” to the event, which is 60 minutes that players aren’t playing Pokémon. Not only are players spending less time playing Pokémon, but the staff becomes overwhelmed, too, as they now have more matches to report and input, and more pairings to post. (And you can bet there’s a higher chance of computer mishaps and re-pairs, too!)

More rounds = more opportunities for computer errors.

More rounds = more opportunities for computer errors.

Another advantage Best 2-of-3 has over Best-of-1 with more rounds is that it does not penalize a player that loses a single unlucky game as long as he or she wins the series. Win nearly all of your matches and you’re set to make Top 8, even if all of those wins were won 2 games to 1. Compare this to playing Best-of-1, where if you’re only winning 2 out of 3 of each of your matches, you’re going to fall well short of Top 8. Best 2-of-3 decreases the variance involved in players’ records, which is a fancy way of saying players’ records will be more likely to represent their true skill level. Best 2-of-3 benefits better players, who do not have to fear taking a match loss because of one unlucky game.

Comparisons of Old Tournaments vs New Tournaments

Here are some specific examples of how my proposals would change the structure of premier events. High attendance is assumed at all events for these examples.

City Championships (1-day event)
Current: 8 Rounds Best-of-1 Swiss (30+3), 60/75+3 Top 8
Suggested: 8 Rounds Best-of-1 Swiss (30+3), 75+3 Top 8

City Championships remain as is. They are designed to finish earlier than larger events, and thus, their Swiss round time limits should not be increased. However, 75 minutes should be used for top cut whenever possible.

Regional Championships (2-day event)
Current: 14 Rounds Best-of-3 Swiss (50+3), 75+3 Top 8
Suggested: 9 Rounds Best-of-3 Swiss (75+3), 90+3 Top 8

Regional Championships are large two-day events that can afford allowing players to play Best 2-of-3 in Swiss. The Swiss time limits are increased from 50 minutes to 75 minutes, but the tournament stays on pace (and actually saves time) by removing roughly one-third of its Swiss rounds.

U.S. National Championships (3-day event)
Current: 15 Rounds Best-of-3 Swiss (50+3), 75+3 Top 8
Suggested: 14 Rounds Best-of-3 Swiss (75+3), 90+3 Top 8

I like these ideas! What can I do?

Your voice matters! If you, like me, want to see 50+3 replaced with time limits that actually allow players to complete their matches, make sure your voice is heard! One of the best places to voice your thoughts is on the PokéGym forums, which are browsed by higher-ups on the Play! Pokémon team. You can also share these ideas with your local Premier Tournament Organizers, who communicate regularly with the Play! Pokémon team. Though we can’t know when 50+3 will be replaced, one thing is certain: if players don’t speak up, 50+3 will linger around much longer than we’d like it to.

44 responses to “Five Fatal Flaws of 50+3”

  1. timewarp27

    Fewer rounds* haha. Excellent article Jason, I fully agree with everything on here!

  2. MagicErk

    amazing article hopefully they take a real look at his and really think about making these kinda changes to improve the gameplay of pokemon

  3. Matthew H

    Thank You for posting this Jason. I agree completely with what you wrote in here. For this entire season (except for a few league challenges where I ran Virizion/Genesect) I’ve been running a Darkrai/Garbodor deck. During City Championships and League Challenges I was having extreme success. Top cutting 3/4 Cities getting 2nd place twice. During the 30+3 best of one swiss rounds I felt that I had enough time to play the game the way I wanted to based off the situation placed in front of me and get the win most of the time. However when I went to the Regional Championships down in Salem, Oregon. I found that I was playing the clock more than my opponent. I didn’t feel that I had time to do what Darkrai/Garbodor did best. Slow your opponent down and allow them to exhaust their resources. Then go in with Darkrai and take your last prizes at the exact right moment. Whether that be after a well timed N or when the poison damage from laserbank has added to a point where one Night Spear would knock all of your opponents energy off the board. Or maybe even after your opponent made an error. However the thing you need with this is time. Time to sit back, junk hunt, and wait for those moments. The decks high comeback potential comes from the fact that the deck can last. Reusing resources and exhausting your opponent. At Regionals this wasnt the case. I had one loss that was strictly due to being overrun by the speed my opponents deck ran and the fact that he was a good player and did know what he was doing. However, I had a loss that I had to play the clock not my opponent due to a slight miscalculation towards the end of a 40 min game one on my part causing me to lose. Which left me NO time to even think about completing another game without a donk. As well as 3 ties in the event allowed for a mediocre finish. I feel that it limits my deck choice especially sense I started playing at the beginning of the BW-DRX format and cannot afford Tropical Beach. The time constraints restrict my ability to run my deck the way I like to. Making it so I feel that Im battling the clock not my opponent

  4. 777

    So much logic and reasoning used in this article by Jason and it was an amazing read. Instead of writing an essay on why I agree with everything presented here, i’ll just say that this was a well thought out and written with countless points that deserve merit. Its too bad that Pokemon doesn’t fully recognize the value of players such as Jason and Kyle and pay them to offer suggestions like this as consultants. The game would be so much better with their advice (like in this article) than what they currently have going.

    On a side note, I sometimes wonder what the TopCut would be like if it just Kyle and Jason teaming up and writing consistent articles that were so informative and brilliant like this one. I would actually be willing to pay a small fee to access them. I’ve lost any respect that i had for the other “members” (and I use that term loosely) of the TopCut because of their severe lack of participation on the site. Kyle has done everything and he deserves all of the credit. For example, Pram wins a regionals and can’t even find the time to write up an article on it? Instead, we are left with Kyle doing his analysis on it without a word from Pram on this site. What? I don’t know the other members and i’m sure they have lives outside of Pokemon…but Kyle does too and look at how much time and effort he puts into this. The other members haven’t even done anything on here in 3-4 months at least beside the couple of times that they appeared on the actual show to talk for a few minutes. Why is this? I don’t get it. Why don’t they do more? I’m not trying to bash them or derail the comments section of this fantastic article by Jason, but looking at the TopCut and the potential it would have with only Kyle and Jason (if he would be willing to join, mabye for some $$$ incentives), I can’t help but to think what Kyle must be thinking at times. He does everything here and does a fantastic job….why should there even be other members if they contribute nothing? Surely he has asked himself this question. Just my opinion here.

    1. 777

      To add onto this and prove my point even further 2 months later….

      Shout out to Pram for winning VA States and not saying anything about it or writing a report on here.

  5. Stephen Clouse

    Good thoughts, Jason, but I feel like there’s a flaw in the reasoning against running more single-game rounds — namely, that the round turn times are the same for BO1 and BO3.

    I can speak strongly from experience here, as I was in charge of running TOM for Masters TCG at St. Louis Regionals a couple weeks ago. Comparing to last year, where we had roughly the same number of Masters players, rounds didn’t take nearly as long to turn. The difference is due to the format:

    1. More matches going to time in general (generally ending in ties or wins based on G1). The BO3 format pretty much forces this.
    2. Donks. In a BO1 format, that would be it. In BO3, you then proceed to a G2 (or maybe a G3), which probably doesn’t end quickly, and ends up going to time.
    3. 15-20 minute games. Like donks, these end reasonably in BO1, but in BO3 the match play format forces these to time (again).

    Those factors result in a massive wave of ties/G1 wins, all coming in after time has been called. That is pretty much impossible to manage sanely with the way TOM works presently. In one round, with roughly 160 live tables, 70 went to time — almost half! That’s pretty much a guarantee that it’s going to take 30 minutes minimum to turn the round if you don’t want errors. (The errors from trying to rush things became evident later on in the day.)

    With BO1 we may have the same number of players and matches, but results come in at a much more even pace overall. This grants a lot more leeway on the staff side to spot-check and verify results as we go (thus avoiding time-costly re-pairs) and just generally keep things managed properly.

    So yes, there are more “down periods” with extra BO1 rounds, but those down periods are shorter (probably 10-15 minutes compared to 20-30) so the overall impact on the event is lessened. A BO1 with extra rounds format might take roughly the same amount of time in the end, but I think it would *feel* smoother on all fronts and be far less prone to issues.

    1. 777

      “2. Donks. In a BO1 format, that would be it. In BO3, you then proceed to a G2 (or maybe a G3), which probably doesn’t end quickly, and ends up going to time.”

      In this format with the new rule changes, how often do you see donks? I have yet to lose a game to a donk now that the first person can’t attack. I have played thousands of matches (including on ptcgo) and it has yet to happen.

      With how the game is shaping up and what the rule changes have done to matches, a BO1 tournament as Jason described at certain levels seems like a very viable option now. In the past format, I would have agreed with you…but not now.

      Theres other points in your post that I would dispute, butt the donks part has me a little confused.

      1. Obama

        The only donks I see are Thundurus donks on lone piplups. I’ve seen at least 8 this season.

        1. WartortleIstKrieg666

          what about laser on eggs donks? they’re great.

          1. James

            or laser on new people using decks with tynamo? that’s fun.

      2. Stephen Clouse

        Sorry, I’m using “donk” in a more general sense — any very short game where someone gets facerolled. Not necessarily a T1 win.

        In any case, the argument still holds — you had a very short game that would have been recorded in the first five minutes of the round in BO1, but now it drags into a G2/G3 match and often winds up with the rest of the flood at round end.

        You’re right that T1 donks are a thing of the past with the XY rules, but the shift to BO3 at high-level events was mainly designed to smooth out the donk factor — which no longer really exists. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a shift in tournament policy that was a year late to the party in addressing its original issue. A few years back we had 40 minute Swiss to deal with Gardevoir/Gallade taking excruciatingly long turns, but the change didn’t come until after the rotation had caused GG to fade from dominance.

        14-15 rounds of BO1. in my opinion, accomplishes the same result as 8-9 rounds of BO3 without creating the logistical issues.

        1. Jeff C

          The one thing you didn’t address to go along with your counter is that Jason was also talking about extending games to 75 minutes. I think that would have helped tremendously for getting a true winner on BO3 games. I was also a judge at this year’s Regs in St Louis. I would have played masters but the time limit issue really soured me on wanting to play knowing that I had to play a slower deck since I don’t have access to Beaches to use in one of the two premiere decks…

          I agree with Jason’s stance on this honestly…

          1. Stephen Clouse

            Players keep forgetting that the stated goal of 50/BO3 is NOT to play two or three games, it’s to guarantee getting one solid (i.e., non-donk) game in. Which is part of why I really dislike it. It’s created this ridiculous expectation in every player’s mind that you’re intended to get two or three games crammed into the match. That just straight doesn’t work with Pokémon.

            Extending time limits just causes players to play slower. We already learned that when we had 40-minute Swiss. More time doesn’t solve any issues, it exacerbates them.

          2. Jeff C

            I’m sorry but that argument just doesn’t fly.. The real issue is the matter of ties. They need to better address these.

          3. Stephen Clouse

            Saying my argument doesn’t fly without giving a reason also doesn’t fly. I gave you the stated goal of BO3 as given by TPCI. I’ve also been running high-level events for five years. I’m fairly certain the burden of proof lies on your end.

      3. The Vhampster

        Yeah, there aren’t many donk decks. I tried one on PTCGO with Combee and Latias ex. Didn’t work out so well. When we get Miltank and Butterfree in the Charizard set, MAYBE we will have some donks. Not likely though. not with the rule changes you mention

  6. Tash Solangi

    Love the Article! One thing I would add… my son is a junior and for a 9 year old these many rounds wears on him a great deal, and the games become unwatchable and unplayable on their part. I know they are training to be seniors and masters, but I would want the tournament setups to allow for the differences of ages so that they actually are playing good games of Pokemon, vice matches being determined with who doesn’t make mental mistakes. These kids, at a younger age, don’t have the endurance to keep going for that many hours, and definitely don’t have the stamina to keep going at high level. Thank you so much for writing this article… I’m a PokeDad just trying to help my son with Pokemon… knowing the rules, strategies and nuances are important

  7. Adam Capriola

    This was an interesting read, Jason. There are a few points I want to touch on…

    #1: It ends nearly 1 in 5 matches in a tie.

    I’m curious if there is any hard data showing whether ties increased or decreased from Fall (when the new system was first introduced) to Winter Regionals. My hunch would be that the player base has made adjustments and the proportion of ties is going down, but I don’t know. I would hope TPCi is crunching the numbers. What percentage of ties do you think is acceptable, by the way?

    Also, I don’t think ties are as inherently “boring” and “anticlimactic” and “disappointing” as you make them out to be.

    #3: It encourages stalling.

    On the same token, it could also be argued that the current time limit encourages players to play faster to avoid ties, which I think is healthy for the game. (I’m guessing in a perfect world you’d prefer no time limit and best-of-100 rounds so you could win every tournament, but time constraints can force more misplays, adding variance and allowing for upsets. Variance is necessary and keeps the game interesting.)

    #4: It hinders creativity and deck diversity.

    I don’t think that’s a real strong point. I’m sure there’s a sweet spot at which the most number of decks are viable, but too long of a time limit could also hinder creativity and deck diversity. It goes both ways.

    Regional Championships (2-day event)
    Current: 14 Rounds Best-of-3 Swiss (50+3), 75+3 Top 8
    Suggested: 9 Rounds Best-of-3 Swiss (75+3), 90+3 Top 8

    How many rounds happen on Day 1 with your proposal? 6? And then all players have to come back the next day to play 3 more rounds before Top 8? I think there might be logistical issues with that depending on how PTOs want side events and whatnot run on Day 2.

    I see where you’re coming from and you make some good arguments. I don’t think the current system is that flawed though. It does a decent job at letting skill shine while also providing entertainment value for more casual players.

    1. Jeff C

      As to point 2, I agree that ties don’t serve much purpose when each player is only getting 1 point. If they want to encourage ties then the the point structure should change then. Watching a 50+3 minute game end in a tie is very unsatisfying in the way things stand now in pokemon. You are not really rewarded for your effort for playing so long of a match. You play almost an hour and get rewarded with 1 point if you tie???… Does that really sound like a good thing to you??

      1. Alastair Cadmus

        on the topic of stalling… the other player can still stall, whether or not you have a fast deck.

  8. pokejav

    I agree with Jason’s insightful comments. His advice should be seriously considered by those making the rules. I don’t post on PokeGym, but there must be a way for them to hear out the players. I hope that happens.

  9. Crawdaunt

    I agree with most everything said here, but not necessarily with the specific proposals on how to solve things.

    In particular, I remember a Kenny Wisdom article commenting that most rounds that ended in a tie could have been finished off with only a few more turns. Rather than arbitrarily suggesting that 50+3 be adjusted to 75+3, I feel a more conservative time increase would be adequate.

    Heck, I’d say 55+5 would do great, especially if the 4-prize ruling was re-introduced. I personally don’t see a problem with the 4-prize ruling as a legitimate win condition. If players reach a point where they might draw, at that point in the game they would then have 5 turns to try and leave themselves ahead in the prize trade. It’s the same skill-set players draw on to win games all the time, the only difference is re-defining the endpoint.

  10. Skyler Knopp

    Amazing article Jason, and an enjoyable read. Your writing is one of the main reasons I started playing Pokemon. I especially enjoyed and felt enlightened by your proposal to do away with States entirely, and replace it with more Cities and Regionals.

  11. James

    Amazing article.

  12. Ivan

    Very Good Article! Hope They Make The Rules For Time Just Like as You Said

  13. European

    It is a article written well about ones opinion wich is partially understandable. Gratz for that. Just to bad some things are not supported by actual facts. 50min rounds actually aren’t that bad. In facts the number of people overall making it to the final 3 turns is actually lower than last year with 30min game play. Also slower decks still have good chances of winning if piloted by good players. Otherwise Flygon, Dragonite and Darkrai/Garbodor (wich is not that slow but also not really fast) would never have the chance to win. And in both USA and EU it has plenty of winnings and topqualifications.
    Also players just shouldn’t abuse the system as they do. That would make the tournaments overall more fun. Ties can be really horrible and yes, the system is not perfect (like the only complete games count rule) It would be better if every match counted. That would give a slimmer chance on ties and a severe penalty for intentional draw would also be right on the spot.
    Conceding so that someone can get in instead of both players missing it is a personal choice. But if neither will be in dont cry about it, just better luck next time. If your so focust on winning than having a lot of fun, you can be really a really dull person to put it friendly.

    Although I do have a question. Is this only based on american tournaments or on america and EU? Because it is pretty important to know about both.

    Also @ the top cut:
    I rarely see any analyses or reports or anything from the higher european players lika Sami Sekkoum, Gawein Wagner, David Hochman, Esa Juntunen (although he is kind of out of pokemon niw i believe) and that kind of people from EU. It would be nice to actually hear some european commentary.

    1. Fellow European


  14. ryanvergel

    I agree with everything, but diverge with the opinion that 30m>75m

    More opponents=more decks=less matchup dependence on tournament outcome

    I feel if there were more 50-50 matchups, or if we could sustain 50-50 matchups for a long period of time, 75 *might* be good, but 30minutes is better in a format where your rayboar matchup with VG is abyssmal, then your darkrai matchup is amazing, and then you play mirror and flip a coin.

    I think shorter rounds, but more of them, make matchups less defining.

  15. gible

    i think seniors and juniors should get more time as usually there are less of us causing long waiting time after an unfinished game. We also have to wait til the end of the masters top cut to get our winnings at most cities.

    the long waiting time also adds more snooping time. After the first round of a 1 day event

    most people know who’s playing what they’re playing hydrygon or garboder with darkrai or what odd techs they play.

  16. Michael Katsouris

    I agree and have a different solution that I think makes a lot of sense, based on a sudden death style. Best of three, 50 minutes, Game1: 6 prizes, Game2: 4 prizes, Game3: 2 prizes.

  17. Alec Smith

    I agree that more time is needed. I play 2/3 games with my friends, and they frequently go over an hour. It’s certainly much different than Yugioh (which my group just quit to play Pokemon) where 2/3 matches are almost always done in around 20-30 minutes.

    I sort of agree with getting rid of States, but I feel like it would be weird not to have that type of event when other games have events that are similar (like YCS in Yugioh). But, Pokemon is its own thing, and ultimately it should do what is best for itself and not copy other games.

  18. nabeel

    Reading this reminded me that there is another reason to do away with State Championships and just replace with more City Championships. State Championships give point advantages based on where you live in the U.S.

    Of course living in a big city is always likely to make getting to Pokemon events easier, but at the very least cities hold more people, so the easiness is offset by the fact that more people have access to those events. This is true for Cities, and Regionals, but is not true for states.

    That is because state boundaries are a political, not a population based. That means that California & Texas, which hold 1/5th of the population of the entire country and take upwards of eight hours to drive across, get to have two state tournaments. While the Northeast, which holds just 1/6th of the population and takes a similar amount of time to drive across, has at least 6-9 states.

    That gives people living in the Northeast a much higher chance of getting the requisite points that someone living in Texas or California. While there will always be a little disparity based on location this one feels particularly over the top. I’d much rather see more City championships, with a 50+3 format, and a couple more regionals.

  19. SeriouslyConfusedTrainer

    Just a question: the community IS aware that we used this format for tournaments all the way up until the release of Black and White, yes? Because we had no problems back then, but now it’s apparently an issue?

  20. Alastair Cadmus

    For the record, the format as a whole right now is wrong. The fact that big-hitting decks get the best records due to fast games, and the stalling factor makes the game almost obsolete, because those who want to play in tournaments for fun no longer get the luxury of a stress-free environment, and the people who like to make different decks that can win just do not have a chance because of all the stress that is put on them… these things make the game unattractive to newer and/or more creating players, decreasing the population, and hurting the franchise (to talk business).

    Your article was great. I do not know why the officials do not take your advice and change some of the rules. But somehow I still think that the next format will introduce new strategy and diversity known back in 2010… Or at least I hope. Thanks for the article!

    P.S. I just happen to be a rogue player interested in states. I play Reshiboar.

    1. C-Dub

      I don’t know why you think the next format will introduce strategy and diversity. Despite the losses of rotation, Yveltal EX is absurdly OP and will continue to be overwhelmingly good for a very long time. Even if a good lighting set comes out that can hit its weakness, Yveltal EX dark decks have the Shadow Circle stadium to negate that. Plus its an extremely fast and hard hitting card with no abilities that attacks for large amounts of damage for 2 energy.

      The format is even faster now and even more boring to me. Its like they knew that 50 minutes wasn’t fast enough so they decided to come up with another OP big basic dark EX to utilize all the support it has (and will continue to have) that any noob or idiot can utilize in an ultra-aggro deck that is really good and really fast.

      1. joshua prince

        this guy knows whats going on ^ it makes me sad that all the fun, strategic complex decks are almost non existent. i thought there was a glimer of hope for x and y, but with yveltal ex and muscle band out, theres almost no point in trying to be creative. i get so tired of seeing the same 3-4 decks at events with 200-300 people. you would think a pool of players that large would be diverse enough to have different playstyles, but it is not. so when yer short on time…stupidly op big basic decks will almost ALWAYS come out on top and decks that require a brain to pilot will fall though the cracks… R.I.P. the old days of pokemon tcg.

        1. 777

          I agree with the above posts. Yveltal has/is going to choke off any current or future decks that require serious thought and decisions to make other than agro-rushing your opponent or rare candy/OHKO/SER t2-t3 – repeat.

          I have been playing a rougish psychic deck for a while now that uses more than one of each Mewtwo EX and Sigilyph with safeguard and I can NOT beat any sort of Yveltal deck consistently. I used to have a 50/50 or so matchup with Darkrai decks because I could trade blows with them and slug it out without being decimated quickly or instantly. Now, I just get owned by a 2-3 energy Yveltal. My two energy Mewtwo gets knocked out in one attack a lot now by the following combination: A 3 energy Yveltal EX with dark claw/muscle band and Laserbank….thats 170 damage done for 3 energy! And it can be 3 dark that they accelerated out of nowhere via dark patch or its an energy switch followed by a DCE attachment, it doesn’t matter! 3 energy for 170 in what seems to be an easy combo for them to put together with all the support dark has AND did I mention a 130 hp basic with a one energy attack that does 30 for one alone and acts as dark patch? Unreal.

          So like C-Dub mentioned, any noob or idiot can throw in 3 of Yveltal and 3 Yveltal EX in a dark deck or some deck that has rainbow/prisms and just rush you right out of the game. Playing against these dumbed down rush Yveltal decks has really taken the fun out of the game for me. With how OP Yveltal is and will be, it might just be my cue to exit the game altogether instead of trying to find a way around getting jacked for 100-150 damage t2-3 as they are able to power up 2 more Yveltals on the bench. And they’re coming out with tins in March? Great, so now any average joe and stack a few energy on Yveltal, use laserbank, and think that they are so skillful at the game. lol Just lol.

  21. Will

    would 55 minutes best of 3 suffice? like i know games would still end in ties but it could decrease the amount by a good bit. also what if they enter game 3 when time is called whoever has the least amount of prizes wins

  22. Deathbydragon

    In general, I agree with what you are saying. Best of 3 matches are great for larger tournaments, where so much is on the line. It is such a bummer to miss top cut because of one bad start, and best of 3 takes the pressure out of each game, meaning you aren’t scrambling for a win. I also agree that ties suck. Though time definately is an issue, I don’t think it’s the main one. Most games for me finished within the 50 minutes. I just don’t think ties are needed at all, go back to the way ties were resolved before, by prizes, or even sudden death.

    I disagree, however, that states should be eliminated. State tournaments are fun, somewhat more accessible high level tournaments. Though people do travel, for the people who don’t, states is pretty much the climax of their season.

  23. The Vhampster

    I completely agree with Jason K’s argument. I found it very awkward when I was volunteering at States I had a flood of people near the end handing me match slips that ended in a tie. I also never play competitively because I am the slow and steady type. I’d rather just volunteer and keep my pride in the decks I make, like Combee/Latias ex. Not the baloney that is metagame.

  24. flaw

    I don’t understand why the pokemon tcg cant handle 50 minute BO3 rounds. In magic and yugioh rounds are typically 40 mins with 6turns of time(0-5) and those games have to take side decking into account, yet the tie ratio is much smaller.

    1. Kyle Sucevich

      Pokémon games simply take longer than other card games. Even if something works for Magic or YuGiOh, it doesn’t mean that it works for Pokémon.

  25. rsX354st

    Honestly, on the topic of stalling, that isn’t too large of an issue. If you’re playing at a standard pace, and you feel that your opponent is intentionally stalling, inform them that they seem to be playing relatively slowly, and ask them to increase their pace slightly. If they continue to play slow, request a judges attention for the game. Is it the ‘best’ thing to do? Probably not. But it will help ensure that neither player plays slowly.

    I can’t say that I’m in love with 50/3, but it’s honestly not a horrible system either. It’s a nice change of pace, especially considering just how fast the format has become.

  26. Lugia

    In Japan the Pokémon company people and staff ask players whether they like the direction the game is going, so they can make new rule changes.