Earlier today, Pokemon released some of the information for the 2019 competitive Pokemon season. This information included a number of minor, but significant changes to the tournament structure. As of right now, we still only have partial information for the 2019 structure, with more information, such as the number of Championship Points needed to qualify for the World Championship and the prizes for Regional Championships not yet released.
The four changes to the tournament structure for 2019 announced so far are:
- League Challenges have been separated off from League Cups and now have their own Best Finish Limit, which is a BFL of 2 per season. (Season appears to mean what quarter meant the past two tournament seasons).
- Regional Championships/Special Events now have a Best Finish Limit of 8.
- Travel Awards for International Championships will be the top performers in a specified qualification period instead of being chosen from the Top 4/Top 16 performers of the cumaltive season.
- The order of the International Championships has been changed.
In this article, I go over what I think these changes will mean for the circuit headed forward and then to close things out, I will give my prediction for how many points will be needed to qualify for the World Championship along with my reasoning for that number.
League Challenges Become Important Again
In the previous two seasons, League Challenges and League Cups shared a Best Finish Limit of 2 per a quarter. This season they will both have their own separate Best Finish Limits of 2 per a season. League Challenges will have the same Championship Point structure as pictured below.
With four seasons throughout the season and a BFL of 2, that means there is an additional 120 Championship Points available for players to earn through League Challenges for this season.
Side Note: Naming these seasons seems like a very poor choice! Season has traditionally referred to the entire tournament year leading up to the World Championship.
Overall, I think that adding relevant points back to League Challenges are a positive change. As they were, League Challenges were essentially dying tournaments, so Pokemon was forced to make some change if they hoped to increase attendance at these events.
From the looks of it, Pokemon is taking a two pronged approach to increasing attendance at League Challenges. They are giving players an incentive to attend by making them have meaningful points towards a World Championship invite as well as awarding better champion promo cards that players would actually want, such as Malamar and Magcargo.
I am wary, however, of League Challenges having an increasing presence on the circuit if Pokemon doesn’t fix the lack of availability of local events for some player bases. It is already a pain in many areas to deal with the scarcity of League Cups, so having to add attending another scarce event series to the competitive docket potentially could be something that discourages players from wanting to participate in organized play.
While there exists a small, but delusional portion of the player base who thinks it’s reasonable to expect players to make weekly multi hour road trips to “local events”, I think anyone not in a Cup rich area can recognize what a headache adding renewed relevance on League Challenges could be for the competitive player base.
For example, here is what the next month of Premier Events looks like for my area, St. Louis, the 21st largest metro area in the United States.
As you can see, there are actually no local Premier Events in my area in the next month. The closest tournaments are about 1 1/2 hours away, while most of these events are a 3-4 hour drive. I don’t think it’s reasonable for Pokemon to expect players to make these road trips every weekend in order to attend the local event series.
To make matters worse, some of these events are even on weekdays, and it’s even more unreasonable to expect players to make these road trips during the work and school week.
While St. Louis is one of the largest player bases in the United States, if this season follows the history of past seasons, then it will receive 2 League Cups per a
quarter season this year.
For a circuit that puts more focus on local events to work, TPCI really needs to go through their data, and make sure that each player base is getting a quantity of League Cups appropriate to their size. If there isn’t a lot of stores available to run these tournaments in a given area, as is the case in St. Louis, the simple solution to this problem is to allow top performing stores to run additional League Cups and League Challenges each
I think a lack of local events is a real problem that TPCI needs to address and something that may come back to bite them if they don’t do anything about it. If a new player in a major metro area looks at the event locator and sees the closest event as being 84 miles away they will probably come to the conclusion that there aren’t local Pokemon events in their area and that they shouldn’t try to start playing competitively.
As for more experienced players, the constant unreasonable travel will surely burn them out in due time and lead them down the path of quitting playing the game competitively.
Moving on from that tangent, one last important note on this is that the League Challenge / League Cup
quarters seasons don’t share the same time frames. The time frames making up these quarters seasons is listed below.
Best Finish Limits Return for Regional Championships
The next big change, as seen from the image below, is that Regional Championships and Special Events now have a shared Best Finish Limit of 8. Last season, there was no Best Finish Limit on these events.
There is a lot of disagreement as to whether this will actually change anything, and what I would say to that is that we will have to wait and see. I don’t think there is enough information available to determine whether Best Finish Limits will change the standings very much, and the sample size of two seasons in the cash era, all with slightly different structures isn’t something you can draw definitive conclusions from.
My guess is that with Best Finish Limits, whether or not they will have an impact will be variable from season to season.
I think one thing it does do is allow the very top performers to get a break from the grind. When a player reaches a certain caliber of finishes at events they will be essentially “safe” in their Top 4 or Top 16 ranking, knowing that it would take very low probability events for them to be displaced.
I do think there is still something Pokemon can do about players attending foreign Special Events, at least as it pertains to the Top 16 chase. (I don’t think anyone cares if a player spikes 8 foreign Special Events to get a Day 1 invite).
As it stands right now, at the end of the season (and perhaps earlier in the season going forward) players start going to foreign Special Events across the World hoping to score some easier points to close out a Day 2 invite.
Now there are two main issues with this.
- These events aren’t really comparable to US Regional Championships, yet they count for the same amount of Championship Points.
- Attending this foreign Special Event marathon costs multiple thousands of dollars and may force a player to take time off work or school to attend.
I think these events counting for points as they do currently discourages a lot of players from wanting to take that next step and compete for the Day 2 invite. If these events were nerfed or had more restrictions, I think we would see more players try to compete for the Day 2 invite instead of just looking to get to 400 and chill (or whatever the new qualification number is).
I can see, however, why TPCI wants players to be able to get points from these events. For example, if a player happens to be traveling in Europe, unrelated to Pokemon, and is able to attend a Special Event while over there, and then performs well, it would be upsetting for that event not to count for them.
I think there is probably a good compromise solution for these events. What I would propose is that players would have a Best Finish Limit of 1 for Special Events outside of their home rating zone for the Day 2 invite. I think Regional Championships, however, are substantive enough events that a player can have points for those count up to the BFL of 8.
The New Travel Award Qualification System
For this season, instead of Travel Awards being determined from the rankings for the entire season, they will instead be set from the Championship Points that players earn over a specified qualification period. The qualification periods are listed below.
I think this is going to be a very positive change. This should allow for more players to get the opportunity to have travel assistance to play internationally than we have seen the past few seasons.
This will help eliminate the snowball effect some. In previous seasons, what would happen is that the players who did well at the early events would get the initial trips and stipends for the 2nd International Championship (with the first being the lowest cost one in Europe), and then they would continually have more points than everyone else throughout the season as the International Championships were so point rich that people not attending them didn’t have much of a shot. With the cost to travel somewhere like Australia being so immense, players without travel awards weren’t attending in significant numbers.
This doesn’t completely eliminate the snowball effect, as those who don’t attend an International in a qualification period will be at a disadvantage to those that do, but what it does do is prevent a player from sitting on an ever growing pile of snow, and instead, players will have to go out and find some more snow at the International Championships they are competing in to replace their melting snow. I think this is a necessary evil, as it makes sense for Pokemon to want the top finishers from their largest tournaments to be present at their next showcase event.
One real cool thing about this change is that it allows players to interact with the circuit in new ways. For example, there might be a player who doesn’t want to play out the entire season, but would like to have some big reward for their play. This player might also like to see some kangaroos in the wild.
This player could go try hard from from July 9th through November 18th, and then if they perform well enough they might be able to win that trip and get the opportunity to party with their kangaroo friends.
The other thing it does is it encourages players to play all year. In previous seasons, there was an attendance dip in the later stages of the season. With this new structure, assuming they keep this moving forward, players will have strong incentive to show up to the events at the end of the season, as if they do well, they will have a good jump on next season with a travel award for the first International Championship of the new season.
Pokemon did ruffle some feathers with the change, however, as the travel awards for the Latin American International Championship are based off a qualification period and not the Top 16 after NAIC as was the case in previous seasons.
I think it would have been better if they kept the status quo headed into the first International Championship, as this was never announced until now, so players may have chosen to behave differently had they known this change was coming.
The Shuffling Up of International Championships
The last change was that the International Championship schedule was shuffled up. Europe moved from being the first International Championship of the season to being third, and Latin America moved from third to first.
I’m pretty pumped up about this change. Traveling to Brazil and Australia were always trips that were too costly to go to without a travel award, while Europe was always the most reasonably priced for me to attend.
I like that Europe is planned to be in April this season as it gives more time to actually plan a trip out for it this season, so I’m hopeful that I will actually be able to get a trip planned for my first foreign International Championship this season.
World Championship Invite Threshold Prediction
As for the invite threshold, my optimistic prediction would be 450 Championship Points. This is a middle ground threshold that takes into account the added points from League Challenges, while also taking into account the scarcity of these events in many areas. This invite threshold would be, in my opinion, essentially leaving the difficulty level unchanged.
The highest I could see them going is 500 points. This would be, what I consider, a raising of the difficulty level for an invite. This threshold would expect players to achieve 83% point fulfillment at League Challenges, expecting an average League Challenge point total of 12.5 Championship Points, which would mean that for a 400 points player from last season, they would expect this player to also be able to finish on average better than 2nd place at the League Challenges they have finishes for, while also filling out all eight finishes.
I’ve seen some numbers like 600 Championship Points tossed around, but I would be shocked if we see that. I think Pokemon’s goal with the threshold would be summed up as just challenging enough. With rising entry fees at both the Regional and local levels, I think they would be playing with fire if they set it as high as 600 Championship Points.
This concludes the first part of my reactions to the 2019 season information. In part 2, I will cover the remaining information as it’s revealed. Information still outstanding is the number of Championship Points required for a Day 1 invite to the 2019 World Championship, the prize payouts for Regional Championships and International Championships, and what the travel awards entail.