The ins and outs of pro VGC and TCG tournaments.
The 2017 Pokemon World Championships are just around the corner, from August 18-20. The competition will be streamed live online so trainers all around the world can tune in to see who is the very best, like no one ever was. With a prize pool of $500,000, expect competition to be fierce and exciting.
Watching competitive Pokemon is a bit different than playing with your friends in the living room. There are special rules that only come into play in tournaments, and different strategies that might look strange if you aren’t into the competitive scene yourself. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered with our guide to everything you need to know when watching both competitive video game (VGC) and trading card game (TCG) matches.
Let’s start with the Pokemon VGC.
The 2017 Pokemon VGC World Champion will walk away with $10,000 and an automatic invite to next year’s World Championships. The expert commentators do a fantastic job at energetically narrating each players’ thought process during matches, which are broadcast online, but there are a few details you should know going in.
Pokemon Team Rules
Competitive players must first consider the six Pokemon they’ll bring with them to a tournament above all. In the Pokemon VGC 2017 format, only Pokemon obtained in the Alola region of Pokemon Sun and Moon can be used. This means a Weavile obtained in Pokemon X or Y, but transferred to Pokemon Sun or Moon, can’t be used even though Weavile are native to Alola. You can tell if a Pokemon originated from Alola by the black clover on its summary screen.
This doesn’t sound like it would be a big deal, but Weavile caught or bred in Alola have no way of using one of its best moves in previous generations: Knock-Off, a Dark-type attack that renders an opponent’s held item useless. This may be disappointing for some with Pokemon that were battle-ready prior to the start of the season, but it has encouraged new strategies and the usage of Pokemon never-before-seen in the competitive circuit.
There can also be no duplicate Pokemon or duplicate held items on a team, and though Mega Evolutions were a huge part of the 2016 season, you won’t be seeing any at the 2017 Pokemon VGC World Championships. Instead, expect Pokemon to hold Z-Crystals, held items which activate incredibly hard-hitting Z-Moves to take down potent threats. Most commonly, you’ll see a Tapu Koko with Gigavolt Havok, or Garchomp with Tectonic Rage.
Last but not least, very powerful “uber-tier” Legendary and Mythical Pokemon, like Lunala, Solgaleo, and Necrozma, are not allowed. The Fairy-type Tapus and strange Ultra Beasts, however, are permitted on teams with no limits. All Pokemon are auto-leveled to 50 to promote an even playing field.
At the start of each day at a tournament, every participant must declare each of their six Pokemon on a Team Sheet, complete with what items they will hold, abilities they have, and moves they know. If any of the declared information is wrong, the player will not be allowed to use that Pokemon. For example, if I declare my Snorlax is holding Leftovers, but is actually holding a Figy Berry, I will not be able to use it in battle that day.
Official Battle Format & How to Win
Pokemon battles in the video game are pretty simple on the surface: A player wins when all of their opponent’s Pokemon have fainted. This is far and above the usual resolution of a match.
If both players’ last Pokemon faint on the last turn, the player whose Pokemon fainted last wins. This is to prevent players from using a move like Explosion, which knocks out the user, as a last-ditch effort to win. The user of Explosion will always faint first.
Though the single battle format is the most common in the core Pokemon games – and most often used in the Pokemon anime – the official tournament format uses double battles. This is not only because they’re generally faster-paced games, but because it forces players to choose teams with synergy in mind, instead of just the strongest Pokemon out there.
In these double battles, players choose four Pokemon from their party to use during a 90-second team preview screen, which allows players to see each others’ six Pokemon (but not move sets or held items). The first two Pokemon they choose will appear on the battlefield as their active Pokemon, with the other two safely in their Poke Balls, awaiting to be switched into battle. The two that weren’t chosen at all will not appear during the battle.
Items like Full Restores will also never be used in battle, as only items held by Pokemon are allowed in competitive play.
Once a battle starts, here’s an example of what you’ll see.
This timer counts down whenever a player is choosing a move, and pauses when it is no longer their turn. If a player uses all 10 minutes of this time during a battle, it will count as a loss. Previous seasons only had total battle time, which would end the battle for both players.
Separate from the “your time” counter, players have 45 seconds to choose moves on their turn. If nothing is chosen in time, the turn is missed and the opponent gets to move. If a player were to use all 45 seconds each turn, they would run out of their time in 13 turns.
These Poke Balls represent the Pokemon on a player’s team. If a Poke Ball is grayed out, that means that Pokemon has been knocked out and can no longer battle. From this, we can see the player on the left, Phillip, has only three Pokemon left, while Nicholas has all four.
This bar tells you the name of a Pokemon, its gender if it has one, and how much health it has left. In this screenshot, we can see that not only is Phillip down a Pokemon, but his Kartana is very close to fainting as well. Nicholas is ahead in this battle.
Trainers play best two out of three, so if a trainer wins two battles in a row, they win the match.
On top of the “player time” and “move time” mechanics, there is also a total “match time” of 50 minutes, which encompasses all three battles. If that time limit is met in a battle, the players have three more full turns to finish the match. There are a few more nuanced rules in case of unlikely occurrences, but these are the basics.
If a player earns enough wins during the “Swiss Rounds” of the first two days of the Pokemon World Championships, they’ll earn a spot in the “Top Cut” on Saturday evening. If they battle well enough that night, they’ll participate in the finals match for their age division on Sunday.
How to Compete in the Pokemon World Championships
To compete in the Pokemon VGC World Championships 2017, players must have earned enough Championship Points (CP) at other tournaments throughout the season. Depending on the age of the player and the region they’re from, this can be anywhere from 100 CP to 500 CP.
Though it’s too late to earn CP for the 2017 Pokemon World Championships, it isn’t too late to find tournaments and Pokemon Leagues near you to start working towards the 2018 season. Local events pay out 15 CP for first place, while less often, larger events pay out hundreds of CP, sometimes along with cash prizes. Check out the Play! Pokemon website for more information on how to get involved, and our Beginner’s Guide to Competitive Pokemon for a primer into what the pros do to train their best Pokemon. It’s a surprisingly arduous process.
For more on the TCG side of the Pokemon World Championships, continue reading!