Pokémon Hits DreamHack! – VGC 2017 Leipzig, Germany Regional Championships Recap

Our first European tournament coverage comes to us from DreamHack Germany, which happened last weekend, along with the Georgia Regional Championships in the US. Despite being held at such a huge event, the tournament itself was not given any stream coverage (more on this later). It was a bit of a smaller tournament compared to Georgia, but there were still some cool teams and Pokémon to break into the Top Cut. Check them out below!

Results & Teams (Top 8 Cut)

1.Markus Stadter

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/143.pnghttps://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/630.png

2.Davide Carrer

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3.Baris Ackos

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4.Alexander Fijalkowski

East Sea

5.Joshua Schmidt

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/89-1.png

6.Nico Davide Cognetta

7.Andrea Di Francesco

East Sea

8.Andrea Sala

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/778.png

 

No Stream?

You’d think at an event like DreamHack, who advertised the Regional a ton on their website and their promo video, would stream the tournament knowing that it would draw a lot of viewership. That wasn’t the case, however. To be fair, Leipzig was a relatively small tournament for Masters (only 129 competitors), so that most likely would explain the lack of a stream from the local scene. I hope that Pokémon VGC events in the future will be held at events like DreamHack due to the amount of exposure Pokémon could gain as an esport from that large of an event. Hopefully if there is another event like this, DreamHack (or whoever is hosting) will recognize that there are people that would love to see Pokémon streamed with the quality they can provide.

Also, a quick note:

Since there wasn’t any significant coverage (like a stream) analyzing specific Pokémon and strategies that were used, spectators may be left in the dark. Plus, many of the “niche” Pokémon that appeared in Leipzig I’ve already covered in other pieces. In addition to some new thoughts, I’ll provide links to the pieces where certain Pokémon were covered.

The Niche Picks

Mandibuzz Image result for mandibuzz

We haven’t seen a Mandibuzz since Dallas, and this time there were two! Both in the finals! Mandibuzz could be something that jumps up in popularity since it has cut a Regional twice. It now also has a Regional win under its belt, thanks to the current third best player in the world. Markus mentioned in one of his streams that he usually brings Mandibuzz when he faces a team that is fast and without speed control. Tailwind, and speed control outside of Trick Room, haven’t seen much use in this format, and I’m not sure why. It’s most likely that most teams don’t have room for a Flying-type Pokémon, but Mandibuzz has a lot more utility than just setting up Tailwind. You can read my other thoughts on Mandibuzz here.

Snorlax  Image result for snorlax

Speaking of Pokémon who are going to jump in popularity thanks to a Regional win; here’s Snorlax again. Another Eastern trend is making its way to the Western meta game, and now I think we all know how good Snorlax can be. Here are my thoughts on Snorlax as a Pokémon.

Lapras Image result for lapras

All I’m going to say is that Lapras cut two Regionals in one weekend. I have an entire piece dedicated to why this Pokémon is good.

Final Words

In conclusion, this event should’ve been streamed. Congratulations to Markus Stadter for his win, solidifying his spot among the top players in Europe (according to Championship Points, but also you know…current 3rd in the world). The meta game looks pretty concrete for now, but we’re only three months into the season, so anything could happen. The next Regional Championships are coming up in February in Anaheim, California, where the World Championships will be held later this year.

Art of Pokemon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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TPCI Competitive Pokemon Logo

Pokésports V: Good Job TPCI, But Your Work Is Not Done

A Brand New Look

This series has sought to outline the viability of Pokémon as an eSport. Taking time to detail both the benefits from such a move, as well as the challenges the brand would face. Such things as game mechanics, tournament structure, and brand awareness have all been touched on. One major point, however, has not been sufficiently covered. Pokémon is a casual brand focused on children. Why would TPCI change that?

Pokemon Trainer Ash thinking about TPCI future

Image Courtesy of Game Freak

The Pokémon brand is indeed, at its core, focused on kids. The protagonist in the stories is always an adolescent, and growing, learning, and adapting to change are always major themes. Pokémon as a game is also indeed casual. The primary focus has always been on providing audiences with lots of marketable characters for them to become attached to. However, these two points do not detract from the ability for the Pokémon franchise to be a smash eSport success. To the contrary, they would in fact bolster Pokémon’s chances at eSports fame.

 

Kids Grow Up, Dreams Never Fade

Kids competing a Pokemon TPCI tournament

Image Courtesy of Pokemon.com

Pokémon is not precluded from eSports simply because it targets children. Considering the fact that the Pokémon brand has existed successfully for 20 years now means that it has already penetrated multiple generations of people. This ability to connect with all generations is extremely important from a marketing perspective.

World-wide, one thing that ties almost all major sports franchises together is a shared passion by all ages. This was touched on briefly in issue three, though I think its importance cannot be understated. Basketball, Baseball, Field Hockey, and both types of football are all played extensively by children. Few kids actually go on to play these sports professionally. Most do carry on a passion for their sport and competition in general. This is generally then passed down to their children and the cycle repeats itself.

Child Pokemon Trainer get TPCI trophy

Image Courtesy of Pokemon.com

There is one potentially fatal difference. Successful, traditional sports are driven by the spirit of competition and the memories that are made. By comparison, Pokémon’s fate is tied to Nintendo’s handheld consoles. One misstep by Nintendo could cause tremendous damage to the Pokémon brand. If this where to happen, what recourse would TPCI be left with? To build their own console and strike off on their own? The most likely result is a decline in the value of the brand.

Casual Is Key To Success

Some decry Pokémon as being a casual game targeting a casual audience. Why would such a game chase eSports fame? I would suggest that time and time again, the company that provides the most casual solution generally dominates their market.

Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games, or MMORPGs, are a perfect example. In the late 90’s the MMORPG market began to blossom. Games like Ultima Online. Everquest, and Final Fantasy XI, soon took center stage. Players were given incredible worlds to adventure with their friends in. Utilizing the power of the internet, this new genre of game started to command a very loyal following. MMORPGs were considered hardcore by their very nature. They took a large commitment in time and resources to accomplish anything. In fact, back then they were considered by many to be mainly for college kids and basement dwellers.

Chart showing difference between WoW and other MMORPGS

Image Courtesy of inanage.com

Everything changed when a little game called World of Warcraft was launched into the MMORPG market by Blizzard. Where successful subscription MMORPGs were lucky to have 500k subscribers in 2005, by 2010 WoW had rocketed to 12 Million subscribers. One thing drove WoW’s success, it focused its model on making MMORPGs more accessible to average people. Blizzard made MMORPGs casual. In doing so, they forever reshaped the MMORPG market.

 

The Choice Is Yours

In the end, TPCI really must decide what their goal for the franchise is. Maybe relying on Nintendo while pushing out marketable creatures for licensing revenue is what TPCI is content with. I would suggest this is an erroneous path.

Utilizing the growing eSports market to present an easy-to-access competitive product, wrapped in a Pokémon package, could provide a WoW-effect. Bringing in tons of new fans and changing eSports, and Pokémon, forever. Finally, no more would The Pokémon Company’s destiny be tied to Nintendo. In fact, at that point, TPCI could feasibly design their own system specifically to cater to competitive play. The only question is, does TPCI want to define an industry while taking back their destiny?

Pokemon Wobuffet using Destiny Bond on Hoot Hoot

Follow me on Twitter: @aeroashwind

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The Power of the Sun! – VGC 2017 Athens, GA Regional Championships Recap

Athens, Georgia is the first of two Regionals that we’ll be covering from last weekend, and boy was there a lot. I think what Athens showed us is that the meta game seems to be settling, Pokémon wise, but the amount of new and innovative techs seem limitless in this format.

Let’s take a look at what teams performed the best:

Results & Teams (Top 16 Cut)

1. Paul Chua

Alola Form

2. Joohwan Kim

3. Ian McLaughlin

East Sea

4. Alvin Hidayat

Alola Form

5. Wolfe Glick

Alola Form

6. Louis Milich

Alola Formhttps://i1.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/73.pngAlola Form

7. Rajan Bal

Alola Form

8. Chuppa Cross

9. Brain Youm

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/794.pngAlola Formhttps://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/28-1.pngAlola Form

10. Jackson Hambrick

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11. Diana Bros

12. Josse Calzado

Alola FormAlola Form

13. Edward Glover

Alola Form

14. Mike Suleski

Alola Formhttps://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/91.png

15. Chris Danzo

Alola Form

16. Janice Lee

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Pokémon Sprite Images courtesy of Game Freak

Same Pokémon, New Techs

We saw a lot of similar Pokémon choices and team compositions in Athens, but it seemed like almost every Pokémon was run differently. There are standard Pokémon, but the move sets for each one have tons of variation. Here are some highlights of some cool, new move and item choices that made it deep in the tournament.

Tapu Koko 

Fairium Z: Paul Chua’s winning team featured a Z Crystal on Tapu Koko, but not a very common one. The Fairium Z allows Tapu Koko to use Twinkle Tackle (my favorite name for any move) which gives Tapu Koko a super strong Fairy-type move to deal big damage to pretty much anything it can’t KO with a Terrain-boosted Thunderbolt.

Nature Power: Wait, Tapu Koko can use Moonblast? Well if Misty Terrain is up, Nature Power allows it to do just that! We saw this strategy from players who paired Tapu Koko and Tapu Fini together, allowing Tapu Koko’s Nature Power to either be Moonblast or Thunderbolt, depending on which Terrain was set up. Seems like finding stronger Fairy-type moves for Tapu Koko is becoming a trend.

Hidden Power Fire: It beats Kartana. That’s probably what Alvin Hidayat was going for. It did help in his game versus Joohwan, where it managed to KO his Lilligant in the sun, but unfortunately that didn’t seem to be enough.

Porygon2 

Return/Frustration: I honestly thought Porygon2 was about as standard as a Pokémon could get, but somehow we have a new attacking option for it. A Porygon2 with the Download ability seems to rarely get Special Attack boosts, so why not run a physical attack? Not many Pokémon in this format excel in the Defense stat, so a +1 Return (or Frustration if your Porygon hates you) actually does a good amount of damage, even when Porygon2 is Intimidated. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Return (or Frustration) become the new standard for Porygon2.

Alolan Muk Alola Form

Imprison: Alolan Muk is a Pokémon that made a huge imapct in Athens, and Imprison was present on a few of its move sets. Imprison basically blocks your opponent from using any moves known by the user of Imprison. So not only can you completely shut down opposing Muks (which is nice since I think we all know how annoying Muk can be for some teams to deal with), but it can also prevent your opponent’s other Pokémon from using Protect. Muk’s third move slot differs a lot on different teams, but now Imprison makes that third move choice much more difficult.

The Sun Rises into Top Cut, but Sets in Finals

Image result for torkoal crying gif

Image courtesy of the Pokémon anime

Joohwan Kim (or “Sun Dude” as he’s known in the community) made an amazing run with a very unique team, featuring VGC 2017’s sole Drought user: Torkoal. This team was full of tricks, including things like Groundium Z, Gyarados with Taunt, Bulldoze Torkoal, Choice Scarf Tapu Bulu, and a Grassinium Z Lilligant with Hidden Power Fire…just to name a few.

Lilligant: The Centerpiece

Players that know Joohwan know he is a huge fan File:549Lilligant.pngof Lilligant, and who better
to innovate with it than Joohwan. Contrary to the typical Lilligant and Torkoal
strategy, Joohwan’s combination did not feature After You on Lilligant, or Eruption on Torkoal. Joohwan’s Lilligant focused mainly on offense, with it holding a Z Crystal and having Hidden Power Fire. To help make sure it can fire off Sleep Powders, Joohwan had both Tapus whose Terrains allow status conditions in order to counter the ever present Electric and Misty Terrains. Lilligant demolished a fair amount of Kartana with its sun-boosted Hidden Power and was able to score a bunch of surprise knock-outs with Bloom Doom.

This team was meant to make sure Lilligant was able to thrive, and it succeeded all the way up until the Finals. Joohwan definitely fought his way through a ton of teams with Tapu Koko, Arcanine, and Muk, but Paul was able to effectively preserve his best Pokémon for the match up. Second place is still a great finish for such a unique team, and I’m certain this will inspire future Torkoal and Lilligant users to achieve similar levels of creativity.

The Niche Picks

Athens brought us a few new Pokémon in Top Cut, but some of them seem like the epitome of “niche”.

Incineroar File:727Incineroar.png

If only the Hidden Abilities for Alola’s starters were released…Intimidate on Incineroar would probably allow it to rival Arcanine for usage. This wrestling cat is a bit of an odd pick for a Fire-type, but it does have a lot of cool moves to make use of. Fake Out, Snarl, Roar, Swords Dance, and even two solid STAB moves in Flare Blitz and Darkest Lariat allow Incineroar to function as an attacker with support options.

Blaze seems like a sub-par ability (it kind of is) but if Incineroar gets down to low enough HP and is able to get a Fire-type attack off, it can be devastating. Unfortunately we never got to see Ian Mclaughlin’s Incineroar on stream, but according to the commentators it did apparently have Taunt…that’s all we know.

Snorlax   File:143Snorlax.png

Another Trick Room counter. A pretty good one I’ll have to admit. Snorlax actually has a decent match-up against most Trick Room sweepers, being that a lot of them are physical attackers, and don’t appreciate taking either a Return or High Horsepower.

Snorlax also (like our good pal Muk) gets access to Gluttony which further adds to Snorlax’s phenomenal bulk. Not to mention that you can also boost your Attack with either Curse or Belly Drum to increase your threat status. Definitely not a Pokémon to sleep on.

BuzzwoleFile:794Buzzwole.png

Still waiting on Guzzlord’s Top Cut appearance, but honestly I’m kind of surprised that Buzzwole managed to make it first. Unfortunately we weren’t able to see Brian Youm’s Buzzwole do anything but Protect and perish to a Dazzling Gleam from Chuppa’s Tapu Koko.

My guess would be that the most common items would be either Fightinium Z or Assault Vest. Buzzwole gets some cool coverage options like Poison Jab and Ice Punch and a ton of Fighting moves to choose from. I don’t think we’ll see Buzzwole in Top Cut too often, but it was nice to see another Ultra Beast for a change.

Tentacruel File:073Tentacruel.png

I don’t even know what to say about this one. This monstrosity was piloted by Louis Milich who actually managed to get all the way to Top 8. With a Tentacruel.

I guess Tentacruel has a decent match-up against the Tapu Pokémon (with the exception of Tapu Koko in Electric Terrain) with its high Special Defense and Poison-typing. Alvin’s Tentacruel carried the Poisonium Z, which I’m assuming was to ensure a KO on any Tapu since Tentacruel’s Special Attack isn’t the greatest.

Is Tentacruel a new bulky Water-type to be reckoned with? Who knows. Could just be a one time thing.

Cloyster File:091Cloyster.png

We saw Cloyster once on stream, and it immediately fainted to a Nihilego Sludge Bomb. But, thanks to a PasteBin, courtesy of Mike himself, we do know that he was running Life Orb with a ton of bulk and Shell Smash.

I guess if left unchecked, Cloyster could run through an unprepared team. Skill Link allowing Cloyster’s multi-hit moves to hit 5 times every time give it some pretty good attacking power. It just seems like it needs to be set up to be effective with such a low Speed stat. Maybe there’s potential here and Mike was the only one to notice it.

There were many other cool Pokémon in Top Cut, but I primarily focused on the ones that were featured alongside standard Pokémon, as well as ones we actually got to see on stream. I would’ve touched on Mimikyu if it hadn’t already won a Regional, and I would’ve said some things about Jackson’s Alolan Golem if I knew what it did. To be honest, exploring Jackson’s team could be a whole other article entirely. I’ll leave it here, but definitely consider trying some of these Pokémon out if you want to learn more about them!

Final Thoughts

To conclude, I would once again like to give a big shout out to @PokeCenter_VGC for streaming the tournament for all of us at home. Also, have to give props to Bryan Wood (@KantoCastBlue) for a great debut on commentary, alongside returning commentator Adam Dorricott (@Dozzalon). Congratulations to Paul Chua for his Regional win, netting him $3000 and 200 more Championship Points, putting him at 386 overall. We still have one more Regional to recap from Leipzig and plenty more to cover in the future! Make sure to come back soon to see what won big at Leipzig! Thanks for reading!

Art of Pokemon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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Pokésports Pokemon esports logo

Pokésports IV: Pokémon Can Put The Everyone In eSports

The eSport For Everyone

Pokémon 20th anniversary logo

With the wide reach of its 20 year old brand, Pokémon not only attracts young and old alike, it gives them all places to play competitively. Currently, officially sanctioned Tournaments are divided into three groupings based on age. Due to this, all ages can compete against like minded fans for glory. Being able to entertain the entire family unit is very important. Just like kids have their favorite Quarterback or Goalie, kids being able to cling to a Pokémon or Trainer is crucial for future widespread success as an eSport.

Other eSports have also tried to reach out to a wider audience. League of Legends, most notably, is being played competitively in High School and College circuits. This type of forward thinking is fantastic! eSports are much more cost effective to pick up for a school then traditional sports. Building a venue and buying equipment can be very costly endeavors. However, eSports provide the same type of team building and competition, but in a much more feasible package. This can especially become appealing for schools such as charter schools and other private schools.

 

Accessible But Not Accessible

Pokémon finds itself in a unique position to exploit these facets of the new and emerging eSports market. One fatal flaw really stands in its way, accessibility. While the Pokémon franchise is totally accessible from a gameplay standpoint, it has a long way to go from a hardware standpoint.

Diagram showing steps to install a capture card into a 3DS

Image courtesy of 3DSHACKS

Fact is, the main series of Pokémon games can only be played on a 3DS, or one of the DS spinoff consoles. This alone means that anyone who is interested in playing Pokémon competitively must invest in a 3DS, even if they have no interest in any other game on the console. Furthermore, the 3DS prevents Trainers from being able to stream or compile otherwise interesting content related to the games without hacking or modding their console. Such restrictions really put a stranglehold on the competitive community.

Contrast that with the ease and openness of most of the popular eSports out there currently. DOTA and LOL both provide play with a free to play PC client, with modest minimum requirements. Pair that with the ease of streaming gameplay and hosting content such as Let’s Plays. Letting passionate fans share their experiences helps to spread the energy of the competitive community. This usually results in new people chasing a dream of playing in the top tier.

 

It All Comes Back To Money

Pokémon tournament trophies.

Image courtesy of Nintendo Life

Promoting a successful sport comes down to one thing, money. Providing enticing rewards provokes competition. This draws competitors, which can bring in viewership, which can then be marketed. Pokémon fails utterly and completely on this point, compared to DOTA’s million dollar prize pools. Such as the DOTA International 2016 where the winning team took home a prize of over nine million dollars. While Miguel Marti de la Torre, who took place at Pokémon’s European International, won a measly five thousand dollars.

That disparity in winnings just cannot stand if Pokémon is to be taken seriously as an eSport. There is no doubt that Pokémon is a lucrative brand, TPCI should open it up and share it with the fans. Maybe turn the World Champion into a figurehead of the Pokémon brand for a year. Let Trainers share their passion with their friends, and just make loving competitive Pokémon easier all around.

In the age of viral marketing, Pokémon’s place on such a restricted console really hurts it. Couple that with a lack of substantial rewards for the work it takes to compete and it is not hard to see why so many shun competitive Pokémon.

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Pokémon Squirtle giving a thumbs up

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Pokésports pokemon sports crest

Pokésports III: Pokémon Look to Sports, Turn to Teams

Pikachu and The Patriots

Pikachu and other Pokémon huddle during sports.

Everybody has heard of Pokémon. This single fact cannot be understated. Creating a cultural brand is something that requires time, hard work, and a lot of luck. Once a brand becomes a part of a culture though, its impact can be hard to measure. Think Coca-Cola, Google, and the major sports leagues. One thing these brands have in common is they all command tremendous strength in their respective markets.

The NFL, NBA, and other sports leagues are so successful due to the fact that they have managed to become ingrained into society. Kids play sports for their schools team, get scholarships to go to college, and eventually go to the pros. Billions of dollars in TV contracts and merchandising, as well as fans young and old chanting the names of local teams. This is the phenomenon of a cultural brand, and this is the exact thing Pokémon has at its disposal.

 

Money Money Money

Team Rocket's James pets a Persian while sitting surrounded by money.Sports are serious business. Year after year, the NFL Super Bowl brings in over 100,000 viewers, counting only home viewership, and in 2016 charged $5,000,000 per 30 second ad. In addition, the NFL’s 2015 revenue was 11.8 billion dollars, while the NBA’s was 4.7 billion dollars. Compare that to Pokémon’s 2015 revenue of 2.1 billion dollars. Using the sport model, TPCI could supercharge their money making potential and change generations to come.

A majority of sports revenue comes from TV contracts. Just look at the NFL, it is by far the most lucrative sports league in the world. Almost two thirds of its over 10 billion dollar income comes from TV revenue. That is around seven billion dollars from TV alone. Earning the rest from a variety of things, such as merchandising, ticket sales, and sponsorship deals. Pokémon’s TV show, on the other hand, has been falling in popularity. Like all markets, competition eventually comes along, and in the case of Pokémon, Yokai Watch has begun to slowly unravel its brand.

Unlike Pokémon, Yokai Watch has not established itself as a cultural brand. Pokémon can use this advantage. If it can pivot into eSports, TPCI could aim to achieve monetization similar to the NFL. Though unlike the NFL, Pokémon would be able to work on a global scale. Assuming Pokémon could achieve success as an eSport, it is safe to assume TV revenue alone would surpass anything TPCI has ever seen. Just imagine families across the world sitting down throughout the week to watch their favorite Trainers battle it out.

 

Generation Game

Think about it, a child throwing a baseball with their father, and that same family playing Pokémon GO together are practically interchangeable today. This is why Pokémon’s transition into a major eSport is a serious proposition. Just like traditional sports, parents are passing down a passion for Pokémon to their children. Due to the multi-generational connection of the brand, there are plenty of potential fans worldwide. A proverbial fire is ready to be started.

The spark that sets the blaze just needs to be created by TPCI. Between changes to gameplay and tournament structure, along with rethinking broadcasting and viewability, TPCI has some work to do in order to make Pokémon a successful eSport. However, Pokémon could achieve unparalleled competitive market advantage if they are up to the challenge. Memorable Pokémon and awesome Trainers won’t be enough though, one key component is needed to help turn Pokémon into an eSports success: Teams.

Pokémon Team Skull posing together

Pokémon could benefit from teams in a plethora of ways. Teams offer better opportunities for sponsorships, and visibility at professional events. Teams can also practice together and help each other get stronger. When 5 people enter a tournament as a team, if one of them wins, the team wins. This mentality could change the scope of competitive Pokémon. More buy-in could be expected from both players and sponsors. Hobby shops could set up competitive teams and act as local anchors of fandom. Maybe one day even schools and universities could employ their own competitive Pokémon Trainers.

There Can Only Be One

Pokémon Machoke and his Trainer practice together.

At the end of the day, as the eSports market grows, one or two brands will stand above the rest. Pokémon could be that brand. TPCI just needs to refine Pokémon’s model, while at the same time exploiting its place as a cultural brand. Many of the eSports brands, such as League, DOTA, and CS:GO, have a lot brand awareness building to do, but they are growing fast. TPCI does not have forever to act. Should Pokémon not make the move, it may slowly start to cede its market share to competitors such as Yokai Watch.

Pokémon could potentially become not only the most successful eSport, but the most successful sport in the world. Many of the factors needed for such a success are in Pokémon’s favor. The eSports market has many new brands blooming and Pokémon must be poised for battle, or be prepared for mediocrity.

 

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Need to catch up on a previous issue?

Team Rocket blasting off again.

All images courtesy of Game Freak

 

Let’s Talk About the New Timer

Congratulations TPCI. You got rid of timer stalling, but you might’ve created something worse.

Pokémon Sun and Moon brought a ton of changes to battle mechanics, with most of them being for the better. However, one of the most controversial additions comes to us in the form of “Your Time,” or basically the new version of the in-game battle timer.

What is “Your Time”?

The new iteration of the in-game, in-battle timer. But what makes it different?

The description of “Your Time” on the official Pokémon Sun and Moon website reads as follows:

“A new system being introduced to the battle time settings is “Your Time.” When using this method of time accounting, players will have a maximum of 60 seconds each turn to select a move or Pokémon, and they will also each be awarded 10 minutes of “Your Time.” Under these rules, if a player runs out of their 10 minutes before the battle ends, that player loses the match. This will mean matches can be decided more quickly than in the past, allowing players to enjoy thrilling battles.”

“Thrilling” is hardly the word I would use for battles under this new timer, but I’ll get to that in a bit. Now we pretty much have a chess timer. Each player gets a total of 10 minutes for decision-making for the entire battle, but you still only have 60 seconds a turn for move selection. Only now, there is no timer for the battle itself, and if one player’s time runs out, they lose. I don’t care what TPCI tells you with this description of “Your Time”; battles being decided “more quickly” is the literal opposite of what it does.

Battles DON’T Happen “more quickly”

In fact, sometimes individual battles can take up to an HOUR to finish. Since the battle itself isn’t on a timer, the battle ending is entirely based on either a player losing all of their Pokémon, or a player’s individual time running out.

Let me put this into perspective.

10 minutes is 600 seconds. A player can input a move quickly in about two seconds (for this I’m using the fastest time I’ve seen a move selected). That allows for up to 300 turns for a full 10 minutes. That is insane. Even with three minutes left on the timer, where the rest of the battle has allowed for 20-30 seconds a turn to make a decision, you’re still looking at about 90 turns. This more than doubles what a 15 minute battle timer would have allowed. Combine that with move animations, abilities activating, and even Grassy Terrain giving each Pokémon a recovery animation. You could be in for a long battle. Just imagine how agonizing that must be from a spectator’s perspective.

How the Meta Game Has Adjusted

The Great Celesteela Leech Seed Wars

Let me start off with an anecdote about my very first game on the Pokémon Sun “Championship Battles” ladder on Battle Spot.Celesteela

The members of my own as well as my opponent’s team don’t really matter, other than the fact that we both
had Celesteela. Wouldn’t you know it, the game comes down to both of our Celesteela in a Leech Seed, Substitute stall war. Fortunately, my opponent was nice enough to forfeit when it became obvious his Celesteela would lose this stalemate, after almost 30 minutes of clicking nothing but Substitute and Protect.

It seems almost hilariously fitting how they would change the timer to be this way, in a game where they introduce a Pokémon that shows exactly why this timer was a bad idea. Celesteela is one of the most popular Pokémon in competitive play, and is most likely to survive the longest in battle due to its amazing defenses and access to Leech Seed. So naturally, Celesteela stall wars happen way too often. However, Celesteela isn’t the only problem here.

A Toxic Meta Game

Porygon2

Toxic has become almost a staple on any defensive Pokémon that can learn it (the most popular right now being
Porygon2 and Gastrodon). What’s worse is they both get access to Recover. So while these two fire weak attacks at each other, either one can just Recover to heal all of the damage. Since Toxic inflicts the “badly poisoned” status, which stacks damage every turn, it makes it necessary to win if you ever get into a situation like this.

Minimize?

Chansey

Also, Minimize is now technically a “viable” strategy since you can’t stall time to beat it. Luckily, this “strategy” has not had any major success…yet. Just saying, if you see a Chansey, get rid of it immediately.

The New “Sudden Death” Rule

In a best of three, if game three cannot be completed before time is called, the match will now be decided by Sudden Death. In the official Play! Pokémon rules for VGC, Sudden Death is detailed as follows:

“During Sudden Death, players begin a new game. Players are required to gain an advantage in number of remaining Pokémon over their opponent. Tournament staff will evaluate the game at the end of each turn to determine if an advantage has been gained. After each turn has been completed, the tournament staff will determine the number of Pokémon that each player has remaining.

  • If both players have the same number of Pokémon remaining at the end of the turn, the game continues for another turn.
  • If a player has more remaining Pokémon than the opponent at the end of any turn, that player wins the game.”

So basically, the first player to end the turn with more Pokémon than their opponent wins the set. Many players feel that this is a not a good way to decide games, especially after having to go through two games that took 50 minutes to complete. Not to mention if you happen to lose in Sudden Death due to a critical hit or losing a speed tie, it makes the outcome of the game appear more dependent on chance rather than skill. I don’t think this happens very often, but this scenario could be handled better.

So…Why Make This Change to the Timer?

Honestly, I’m not sure what demanded this change. The popular belief among players is this change was TPCI’s response to people complaining about “timer-stalling” as a win condition. This was primarily a spectator complaint, after seeing this strategy being used on stream at the 2016 Pokémon World Championships.

A Few Words on “Timer-Stalling”

Timer stalling was never a dedicated strategy, and really wasn’t viable due to the faster nature of Double Battles. If a battle happened to come down to the final minutes, the player with the better end-game position could use the timer as a way of safely securing victory.

Rather than being a cheap, unsportsmanlike strategy, it shows a player’s skill of time management, which really only players at the top level can pull-off effectively. Now, instead of spectators complaining about having to sit through a battle taking a maximum of 15 minutes, they get to watch battles that could take as long as an hour.

What This Means Going Forward

For now, it looks like the new timer and the new rule changes are here to stay. TPCI has never made a real drastic rule or in-game change in the middle of a format, and I think this time will be no different.

Just the fact that the staff in charge of battle mechanics would make a change this detrimental to the game really lowers my confidence in Pokémon’s knowledge about their competitive scene. This change didn’t solve much at all, and if anything only encouraged stalling now without a timer to punish it. Hopefully, in the next game or format, TPCI will learn to respond to community concerns and seriously consider the rules and game mechanics they are subjecting their players to. Perhaps after doing some research on how they could make them ideal.

 

Art of Pokémon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

 

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