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!