Pokémon TCG Judge Guidance July 2018

Team Compendium has consulted with Pokémon Organized Play (OP) to review various topics that Judges have asked for clarifications on. These discussions and this guidance will clarify for Judges how OP wishes certain situations to be handled. This article is meant to explain some of these best practices and to make sure the word is spread and put into practice. This article has been reviewed and approved by OP and reflects their guidance.

Impact of DPC and QPC Penalties on End of Match Resolution in Single Elimination

With the recent introduction of the Double Prize Card Penalty and the Quad Prize Card Penalty, some judges are having difficulty understanding how to apply them properly and how they affect certain situations. One of those situations is how DPC and QPC affect game resolution in Single Elimination matches when time is called and the game is incomplete after the final 3 turns. The DPC and QPC penalties will be taken into account in determining the winner of that game. So, in short, these Penalties are to be taken into account in determining the winner of any incomplete game in Single Elimination.
For example, if Player A has 3 Prizes left and Player B has 4 Prizes left, but Player A received a DPC penalty, meaning that Player B has to take 2 less prizes, for End of Game consideration, Player B is considered to only have 2 Prizes left and is the winner of that Game.
Note that per the newest Rules and Formats document, an incomplete Game 2 in Single Elimination no longer counts toward determining the winner of the match, no matter how few Prize Cards remain to be drawn by either player.

Dropped Cards

While walking the tournament floor, a Judge notices a card on the floor next to a match. It is determined that the card belongs to the deck of the player that it is next to. There are a couple of possible additional points. Either it can be determined where the card belongs in the match (identified as a benched Pokémon, or card that had been played and belongs in the discard, etc.) or it can’t be determined where exactly it belongs.

Currently, the only place that the Penalty Guidelines mention a dropped card is in section 8.3.2, Legal Deck list, Illegal Deck:

…The exception to this is if cards are simply missing from the deck. This usually happens if the player and a previous opponent are using similar sleeves, if cards get stuck in the player’s deck box, or if cards are dropped on the floor.

OP has clarified the starting penalty for Legal List, Illegal Deck (Game Loss) assumes that the dropped card was absent from the deck since the beginning of the game. Professors should continue to use their best judgment when determining whether to deescalate this penalty from Game Loss.

Perfectly acceptable circumstances for deescalating include taking into account the point at which the error was caught and the ease with which it may be reversed. Examples include any reasonable belief that the card fell innocently during the game in progress, or being able to accurately determine where the card belongs with minimal time investment. The more difficult it is to fix the problem, the more severe the penalty should be.

An appropriate basis to deescalate would be to use an assessment of the damage to the game state, similar to how penalty levels are determined in Game Play Errors. For example, if it can be determined where the card should be returned to and game state damage is zero, a deescalation to Warning could be appropriate.

If the card fell during the game but it can’t be determined exactly where the card belongs, choosing a place to put it such as the discard pile, would be the fix and DPC or QPC Penalties might be appropriate deescalation choices  rather than a Game Loss.

Judges are cautioned, however, to also be aware that a dropped card on the floor could be an opportunity for cheating and that should be taken into account. It is entirely possible that the first step to getting a desired card from the discard pile into the hand would be to “accidentally” drop it to the floor, then later “drop” cards from the hand onto the floor and pick up both them and the desired card. One should not assume cheating intent, but it is a best practice to be aware of the possibility and to consider it.

Game Play Error: Major

There are a couple of examples listed under GPE: Major that do not always fit into the definition of causing irreparable damage to the Game State.


  • Using an Ability when a card prevents its use.
  • Playing more than one Energy card in a turn without the use of an effect that allows you to.

The question comes in when the game state can be completely restored. The Energy card was played, noticed immediately, and returned to the hand.
Or, similarly, the Ability was used, the opponent stops the player from taking an action that would damage the game state, or the action is 100% rewindable (attaching an energy from the discard pile, for example).

The recommended starting penalty for Game Play Error: Major assumes that the game state has been irreversibly confused. However, starting penalties listed in the guidelines may be escalated or deescalated due to circumstances which may include the point at which the error was caught and the ease with which the corresponding action may be reversed. If you are able to completely restore the game state with minimal time investment and full cooperation of the players (so that there is in fact no remaining confusion to the game state), these are perfectly acceptable factors in influencing the deescalation of the starting penalty. However, judges should take care that these errors could either be occurring multiple times during the event with it not being brought to the attention of the judge staff or, similarly to the draw of an extra card, these “errors” could be taken advantage by certain players to get one free extra attachment or use of an Ability with minimal consequences. Therefore, judges should be careful about deescalating and certainly track and escalate recurring errors over time.

Concessions and IDs

Concessions and Intentional Draws (IDs), while not encouraged, are a very important part of the Pokémon TCG tournament structure right now.  Players are under tremendous pressure to get those final points that they need for an invitation and there is a danger of players going over the line of what is legal and what is not legal. Going over that line can have dire consequences, specifically a disqualification (DQ). The problem exists that many judges and players are unsure about exactly what is allowed and not allowed in this area.

It is important that both judges and players have a clear understanding of where these lines are. Otherwise, what is legal to do could be met with a DQ at one event and what should not be legal to do could be allowed with no interference at another event.

What it all comes down to is that players are allowed to make a single offer.

There can be some flexibility in the wording of that offer, but it should be an offer and not a request or negotiation and not begging or pleading or demands. And what is legal as a first offer can and will be considered illegal on a second offer.

The General Event Rules state:

“If they wish, players may make a single offer to concede a match to their opponent or propose an intentional draw…”.

With this in mind, here are some examples in a table form. Basically, a player may ask to ID once and once only. Once their opponent declines, any further requests are to be penalized.

Statement First Instance Second Instance Why?
I offer to ID with you. Fine Illegal If they wish, players may make a single offer to… propose an intentional draw.
Do you want to ID? Fine Illegal If they wish, players may make a single offer to… propose an intentional draw.
Let’s ID. Fine Illegal If they wish, players may make a single offer to… propose an intentional draw.
With Draws, we have enough points to make it to top cut. Can we ID? Fine Illegal If they wish, players may make a single offer to… propose an intentional draw.
I offer to concede to you. Fine Illegal If they wish, players may make a single offer to concede a match to their opponent.
You should concede. Illegal Illegal Players are not permitted to request an opponent’s concession.
Will you concede to me? Illegal Illegal Players are not permitted to request an opponent’s concession.
I would really appreciate it if you would consider conceding to me. Illegal Illegal Players are not permitted to request an opponent’s concession.


When it comes to asking for a concession, the General Event Rules state:

“Players are not permitted to request an opponent’s concession. Repeated requests of this nature may be perceived as coercion and penalized as such.”

Just asking once is penalizable. Asking more than once constitutes coercion.

With regards attributing this to a section of the Penalty Guidelines, this falls under 8.6. Unsporting Conduct: “This group of penalties covers the inappropriate actions taken by players… at an event.” In the case of a player asking for a concession, there is a cut-and-dry escalation to Disqualification the moment the offense is repeated.
To be clear, the first request can get a Warning or Game Loss. A second request earns a DQ.

With asking to ID, it is appropriate to escalate the severity of the penalty from Minor (Warning) through Severe (Disqualification) for each time the player asks beyond the initial legal request. This should follow that player across the tournament (ie, the escalation does not start anew with each opponent they try this with).

Gentlemen’s Agreements

Gentlemen’s Agreements are outside the rules of the game regarding determining end of match, however there are limited ways that players can use them in determining a winner of an otherwise Drawn match. A common example of such an agreement is that the winner of the match would be determined by who is ahead on prizes at the time of the last turn of Game 3.
Note that there are some methods of determining a winner that are explicitly spelled out as illegal in the floor rules and penalty guidelines. For example, all manners of random determination are not legal. That would include, but are not limited to, flipping a coin or playing Rochambeau (Rock/Paper/Scissors).

Gentlemen’s Agreements are not enforceable by judges in any manner.

However, if they are started in the same way as agreements to ID, then they would be permissible. Judges should use the same guidelines in treating requests for these as they use for IDs.

So, for example, stating “Neither of us will make Cut if we tie. Can we agree that whoever is ahead on prizes at the end will win if the game is incomplete?” would be acceptable to state one time and one time only to an opponent.
This is not a random determination and it follows the format of suggesting an ID.  But if either player chooses to not abide by the terms of the Gentleman’s Agreement, the judge must remain impartial and is not responsible for enforcing the agreement.

Updates to Pokemon Rules and Resources for the new 2019 Season (effective immediately!)

Pokemon Organized Play updated a number of documents on their Rules and Resources page today.

They can be found here: https://www.pokemon.com/us/play-pokemon/about/tournaments-rules-and-resources/

They also have a summary of the MAJOR changes in an article here:

But that does not cover all of the changes that you should be aware of, so for the convenience of Players and Judges, we are going to summarize the updates here along with some clarifying commentary (in Bold Italic)

TCG Penalty Guidelines

Section 2.1 Deviating from Recommended Penalties – Clarification of existing rule
“The penalties for infractions are simply recommendations and may be increased or decreased in severity based on circumstances, which may include the point at which the error was caught and the ease with which the corresponding action may be reversed.”
Note: While this is a good thing to keep in mind at all times, it is specifically referring to examples given in GPE Major for playing more than one energy in a turn or using an Ability when it cannot be used. The standard penalties for these assume some irreversible damage to the game state, so if the action can be rewound without damage, they can be deescalated.
NOTE that the penalty for drawing an extra card should NOT be deescalated in this way. It was moved from GPE Minor to Major on purpose specifically to incur the more severe penalty.

General Event Rules

Section 4: Age Divisions – Update to age divisions for 2019 season
Note: This does not apply to the World Championships held in August 2018
Note: Those age groups are: Junior (born in 2008 or later), Senior (born in 2004, 2005, 2006, or 2007), and Masters (born in 2003 or earlier).

Section 7.3.1: Time Extensions – Rule change
“In addition to the above, judges are responsible for ensuring that players are not disadvantaged due to time lost as a result of a ruling or penalty. Judges may issue time extensions of a length corresponding to the time taken to resolve the issue.”
Note: A little history on this. This used to be the rule years ago. It was changed to only rulings taking “+3” when event time was being impacted by long round turnarounds at large events. Now that automation has improved that turnaround and events are moving faster, OP is moving back to giving a 1 for 1 time extension.

Section 9: Note Taking – Clarification of existing rule
“A player’s note sheet must be completely free of text, handwritten or otherwise, at the start of each match.”
Note: This indicates that players having notepaper with lines or other graphics are fine as long as they are not pre-preprinted notes. Some judges were getting a bit exuberant and penalizing players for using lined paper.

Section 11.1: Conceding a Match  – Clarification of existing rule
“The option of an intentional draw (ID) is exclusive to TCG tournaments. Video Game competitors may not agree to an ID.”

TCG Rules and Formats

Section 3: Card Sleeves – Clarification of existing rule
“We expect players to use their best judgment when determining which sleeves to use with their deck. Pokémon Organized Play strongly recommends the use of sleeves with an opaque back. Using clear sleeves, or declining to use sleeves at all, may expose imperfections on the back of the card itself that could contribute to a Marked Card situation.”
Note: For those not aware, a player was DQ’d and subsequently banned for just this situation. Word to the wise: Don’t use clear sleeves.

Section 9.1 Tiebreaker Games – Rule change
“If both players take their last Prize card (or Knock Out their opponent’s last Pokémon) at the same time, and no other win conditions have been met, players must determine the winner of that game by engaging in a Tiebreaker Game. The players should set up as though they were playing a normal game, including setting up 6 Prize cards and flipping a coin to decide who goes first. The winner of the Tiebreaker Game is the player who takes a Prize card first.”
Note: This is a MAJOR RULE CHANGE! Previously players played a Sudden Death Game as described in the regular Rule Book. This change was obviously made to correct situations where a card has a more powerful effect with just one prize left than it would normally have at the beginning of a game.
While not mentioned in the rules update, if both players take prizes at the same time, the game would continue until such time as one player is ahead on prizes. Also remember that all effect have to resolve and all prizes taken from those resolutions before checking game state and checking how many prizes remain.
FINAL NOTE: The coin flip works the same way as the flip at the beginning of the match. The winner of the flip gets to choose who goes first.

Sections 9.3.2 & 9.3.3: Determining the Outcome of an Unresolved [Single Elimination] Match – Clarification of existing rule Note: Document incorrectly tags 9.2.2 and 9.2.3
“The current game continues, starting with any between-turns effects that take place after the last completed turn, if necessary, until one player has fewer Prize cards remaining than the other, or one player satisfies any other win condition that would result in their winning the game outright.”

Section 9.3.3 Determining the Outcome of an Unresolved [Single Elimination] Best of 3 Match – Rule change
“If the last turn ends during game 2, the winner of game 1 wins the match.”
Note: This is a MAJOR RULE CHANGE! This eliminates the whole “if one player has taken 4 or more prizes” determination. It should eliminate a lot of confusion among players and newer judges.

VG Rules and Formats

Section 3.4: Match Resolution – New rule
“A player who selects the Run option is electing to forfeit the game. Should both players select the Run option during the same turn, the game will be recorded as having no winner.”

Section 3.4.2 & 3.4.3: Resolving Best of 3 Matches (Swiss & Elim) – Clarification of existing rule
“The criteria listed should be used, in order, to determine the outcome of a game that is unresolved after the final turn has ended.”

Section Team Error Minor – Rule change
“In all cases, the offending Pokémon or held item should be prohibited from play in addition to applying the appropriate penalty as described below. In events tethered by local distribution:
Should the Pokémon or held item described on the team list is immediately available, the player should be given the opportunity to add the correct Pokémon to their team. Otherwise, the removed Pokémon may not be replaced. In events tethered by QR Code: Should the player be unable to present the correct Pokémon or held item so that it may be added to the team, the offending Pokémon should instead be prohibited from use for the remainder of the tournament rather than removed.”

Section Team Error Minor – Clarification of existing rule
“At the start of each round, the player’s opponents should be informed of the Pokémon that is prohibited.”

Tournament Sanctioning Regulations

Section 4: Minimum Number of Players – Clarification of existing rule
“To remain sanctioned, a tournament must have at least 8 participating players. Of those players, at least 8 must complete 2 or more rounds.”
Note: This is a clarification that is good to see in writing. This has already been in effect as there have been tournaments reported where players dropping after Round 1 brought the total number of players below 8 and the tournament was therefore invalidated. Organizers (and Players) should be aware of this and inform players if their dropping early will cause the entire tournament to be invalidated!

Section 5: Organizer Presence – Added Section
Note: It was not always required that the Organizer be present at the event. There were (and maybe still are) TOs that sub out the actual running of many of their events to judges that act as the organizer on site. It seems that this is no longer allowed.

Tournament Operation Procedures

Section 3.1.1
Update to age divisions for 2019 season
Note: Those age groups are: Junior (born in 2008 or later), Senior (born in 2004, 2005, 2006, or 2007), and Masters (born in 2003 or earlier).

Section 3.3.5:  Determining the Number of Rounds Needed – Rule change
“Every player with 19 or more match points or the Top 32 ranked players, whichever is greater, makes Day Two of Swiss rounds.”
Note: Major Tournament Change!

Get Your FAQ for SM05 – Ultra Prism

PokeGym members and Pokemon Community, the FAQ for the new Sun & Moon set, Ultra Prism, has been released. Download your copy and alert your local judges to have a copy ready for the Prereleases starting this weekend.

Note that this only covers rulings needed for the Prerelease. Other rulings will be coming soon, but this is what you need for this weekend!
Download from the link below.