Note: Many threads lately have featured spirited discussions about the current state of the format. While I know that many people have differing opinions on that issue - as well as decisions that Play! Pokemon (P!P) makes concerning said format - I'm asking that posters please try to keep the discussion civil and constructive. Just think twice before posting something like "If you don't like the game, just stop playing" or "SP sucks, this game sucks, everything sucks, blah blah blah." Like I said, if we can keep the discussion civil, purposeful, and hopefully not pessimistic, that would be awesome. Thanks! Can P!P Dodge a Bullet? I can assume that as long as new sets for the Pokemon TCG have been in production, it's always been a challenge for those who control Pokemon's competitive (tournament) scene to accomodate the delay in set releases that exists between Japan and the rest of the world. Cards get shuffled around (examples: Majestic Dawn, Triumphant), formats get bruised every now and then, and the whole ordeal probably requires much planning to strike a fine balance between proper business decisions and the health of the game itself. Lately, however, I've been wondering to myself just how P!P is planning on tackling the release of Black & White in the world outside of Japan. For those who are unaware that there are some issues with the release of Black & White for our modified format (currently MD-on), let me go over those issues: The release of Black & White in Japan prompted a change in the gameplay rules. While the new rules in Japan's format work quite well, those same rules - when applied to our own modified format - may present many unique challenges to organized play that will result in a terribly unhealthy format. With one of the new rules being that players can use trainers, supporters, and stadiums on the first turn, many have mentioned Sableye SF and Uxie LA as being able to easily achieve wins on the first turn without the opponent ever getting a turn. The presence of Seeker in the format also allows these cards/decks to win even if the opponent has a Pokemon on the bench. Even Gastly, which would normally prevent the opponent from playing trainers, falls hard to an opponent going first. Before the player can say "Pitch Dark," they've lost to a Pokemon Collector for an Unown Q, Unown D, and Sableye. And of course, all players unfamiliar with Sableye should look it up and read its unbelievable Poke-Body in such a format with such rules! Some of the cards in Black & White are simply not meant for an MD-on format. Even if we don't shift to the new Black & White rules, I'm sure there are many combos out there that threaten an already troubled format, one of the most obvious is that of Pokemon Catcher and Max Potion with Gyarados. Pokemon Catcher, a reprint of Base Set's Gust of Wind, gives even more power to a 130/150 HP Pokemon that can already hit for up to 110 damage for no energy. Max Potion, which removes all damage from a Pokemon after discarding all of that Pokemon's energy, is also a possibility with Gyarados. Though many people will talk about how VileGar is capable of taking on Gyarados, there's always the threat that the entire format will start revolving around two or three decks. Or, since Sableye commonly finds its place in Gyarados builds, perhaps the deck is only a couple of Special Darks away from being the uncontested "best deck in format" (this I mention with the idea that we end up adopting the Black & White rules). No matter what, there's a huge level of uncertainty about what the Black & White cards will do to an MD-on format; I can definitely say, however, that people aren't looking to slow down their strategies with the new Black & White cards. If Black & White gets released without any sort of rotation from the world outside of Japan, it will only further the rift that has suddenly grown concerning the different ways in which the world plays the Pokemon TCG competitively. The decision by P!P to open up the card pool was, in my opinion, a welcome one. Leaving the format at DP-on one season and MD-on the next seems to me an active decision to somehow parallel Japan's format. In the past, there have been times when Japan was playing with more sets than we were. As a result, the way we played the Pokemon TCG felt "watered down," leaving many strong combos (like Gardevoir/Gallade) to go on unchallenged during a season. Unfortunately, a larger card pool right now does very little to advance the game. Many of the most recent sets have been entirely disregarded save a handful of cards because of the unbearable strength of sets prior to HGSS. It seems clear to me that HGSS-on sets were produced in an attempt to drastically slow the game down and return eventually to an era of setup decks again (yes, many speed decks are currently performing well in Japan; I feel this will change with the next couple of B&W sets, just like the Diamond & Pearl release saw a momentary rise in speed decks before Secret Wonders/Great Encounters was released). This slowing of the format won't be felt by anyone but Japan unless we have some sort of large rotation. Consequently, B&W sets will probably continue to give us very little to work with unless sets prior to HGSS are rotated away. With the release of Black & White, Japan has changed the way that Rare Candy works. With another indication that they want the game slowed down, Rare Candy can only be used when a player's Pokemon has been in play for at least one turn. For our modified format, this change is momentous, providing many players with yet another reason to never use anything above a Basic Pokemon in competitive play. Broken Time-Space will be the only viable alternative, meaning that Dialga G, a card released in early 2009, would gain even more power. The Health of the Format In the midst of all this talk about the future of our game, we should remember a few things. First of all, the Pokemon TCG is healthiest when it lines up with the way Japan plays the game. This is for fairly obvious reasons, as they can see the effect each set has on the game and make counters when needed to "overpowered" combos. When we deviate from that model, things get messy. Many people have commented before on this phenomenon, and I don't think it's something to be overlooked. Simply put, we should desire a format that parallels that of Japan. It keeps unintended combos from dominating a format and promotes a healthy format overall. One of the most surprising things I as a player have seen is the relative uselessness of recent sets. I have been completely discouraged from attending Pre-Releases as of late simply because the sets don't offer anything new and refreshing to the format. As I mentioned before, a very small handful of cards from HGSS-on sets have seen competitive play; otherwise, most people stick to SP's and SF's (Gyarados, Gengar, Machamp). To me, a healthy format is something in which multiple strategies can be implemented to be successful at the game, not just the mechanics of those same 3-5 Pokemon from almost 10 sets ago. Japan has realized this and made their necessary move by going HGSS-on. In hindsight, it actually makes a lot of sense, as it's something they've been preparing for (with their HGSS sets) for quite some time. "Hey, Where'd My Binder Go?" The last thing I want to say is this. Nobody who plays this game likes looking at an entire binder's worth of cards and labeling them as "unplayable" because of a card rotation. Trust me, I know. I've been playing this game for over five years, so I know the pain a rotation causes. With the way our format has gone recently, and with the multiple challenges that the release of Black & White presents, it's no surprise that we're due for a card rotation. Whether P!P will enact this rotation during our season or not remains to be seen (though I for one would appreciate an early indication about where our game is going). However, there's a lot to be happy about with a rotation. I for one look forward to going through my HGSS sets and seeing combos that I previously shrugged off in the face of a speed-infested format. I look forward to going once more to a Pre-Release and marvelling at cards that have the potential to change the format (and no, not just a single card in an entire set like Lost World). I look forward to having an opponent ask me which way he or she flips their active Pokemon when they're asleep rather than just frown and dump their benched Wartortle into the discard when I attach another Double Colorless Energy to my Garchomp C X. I also look forward to playing the game as Japan - the very creators of the Pokemon TCG - plays it. I don't want to move further and further away from their meticulously crafted format. And finally, I look forward to the multiple strategies, combos, and ideas that have been mysteriously absent from this game for so long. It used to be that each new set offered a whole list of new ideas. As it is right now, each set offers us maybe a new deck, maybe (HGSS=Jumpluff, Undaunted=VileGar, Call of Legends=LostGar). After States... In my opinion, this looks to be one of the most challenging years in recent history for P!P. They have many careful things to consider while still preserving the health of the format. Japan went through a massive card rotation recently for a reason - something P!P has to look at seriously if they want to help direct the Pokemon TCG once again to a healthy level. Among other things, they also have to look at the business of things. Though the game is currently growing, one must wonder how much the release of one "boring" set after the other is hampering the development of the competitive scene. What incentive do players have to go to a Pre-Release like the one for Call of Legends, which featured no new Primes or Legend Pokemon and was capable of only coughing up a single card - Lost World - to actually change the format in a significant way? How will newcomers look at the release of B&W-on sets when SP decks continue to win tournaments? These are some of the questions I'm sure P!P is asking themselves. I for one look forward to how they respond.