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.
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
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.
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