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.

Specifically:

  • 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.

Guidance for Pokémon TCG Judges from Pokémon Organized Play From Dec 2015

Team Compendium, Pokémon Organized Play (POP) and R&D have had multiple discussions prior to the 2015 US National Championships and at the 2015 World Championships. These discussions clarified for the Judge Staff how Pokémon wishes certain situations to be handled. POP is clarifying some of these in their Penalty Guidelines, but 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 by POP and R&D and reflects their guidance.

Decklist Penalties:

The new Penalty Guidelines for the 2015-2016 season have been clarified and somewhat revised. There has been confusion in the past about best practices in this area, so don’t be surprised if the following doesn’t match up with how decklist issues have been handled in your area. This is, however, how Pokémon wants decklist issues to be handled going forward.

Previously, deck issues carried a relatively light penalty. Unless it was both an illegal list and an illegal deck, the penalty was only a Caution or a Warning. However, the “fix” to the deck problem was seen by many players as much harsher than the actual penalty. The usual fix of any mismatch between a deck and a decklist that could not be uniquely determined was the replacement of the offending card with a Basic Energy card.

Going forward, the fix of the deck will be more forgiving, however most Deck Penalties will start at Game Loss. The only exception will be Legal Deck, Legal Decklist, which will start at a Prize Loss.

If card has been listed but is unclear, the contents of the deck can be used to determine what the correct card should be. For example, if a list just says “Squirtle” but not the set or set number, then the decklist will be corrected and updated using the information from the actual Squirtle card in the deck. The player will keep the Squirtle in their deck. If the judge staff determines that a player is purposely swapping out similar cards, this penalty will be escalated to Unsporting Conduct: Cheating.

If a card is not listed at all, such as a decklist that has less than 60 cards listed, then it cannot have additional cards from the deck added to the list to bring the total up to 60. The unlisted card(s) must be replaced with Basic Energy. If the decklist lists a card but the deck contains another, then the decklist takes precedence and the deck must be corrected to match, or the non-listed card will be replaced with Basic Energy. In both of these cases, a Game Loss is the penalty.

Generally speaking, while a decklist/deck problem will earn a Game Loss, penalties can be still be escalated based on the Judge determining if any significant advantage has been gained.

Answering Players’ questions during an event:

Judges have generally been following a rule of thumb of not answering most hypothetical questions from players and waiting until the action is actually performed before ruling on what happens as a result. The reasoning for this has been a reluctance to appear or actually give guidance that could be seen as “Coaching”.

While the sentiment is laudable, feedback from Pokémon R&D and POP indicates judges have been too strict in this regard. Pokémon has instructed that players’ questions of fact and rulings on card interactions are to be given to players when requested. The only types of questions that should not be answered are advice questions, such as “should I do this or should I do that?”

If there is a choice involved and are you being asked to help choose one choice vs another, do not answer that question. Any question along the lines of “if X is done to Y, what is the result?” should be answered. Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean that we will be human calculators for players. If a player asks, “Will this attack do X damage?”, you should ask them to walk through their calculations and then either confirm or correct them. This will give them the correct answer without encouraging them to be lazy about doing the math themselves.

Deck and discard pile arrangement:

POP is concerned with clarity of the Game Play area so that judges can easily see in passing what the game state is. However, this needs to be balanced with a player’s needs to have the layout arranged in a manner that makes their gameplay smooth and easy. While the Rule Book includes a layout of the game play area, it is not meant to be enforced rigidly. It has become widely known that Pokémon allows players to switch the layout between right side and left side to make play easier for left handed players. So it is permissible for the deck and discard pile to be on the left hand size and the Prize cards on the right. The important thing is that the deck and discard pile are on one side and Prize cards (and Lost Zone) are on the other side. This gives sufficient clarity to the game state for judges to see what is going on, while also accommodating left handed players.

Similarly, Pokémon in not concerned about whether the deck and discard piles are switched in the layout. There are a number of good reasons that a Player might wish their discard pile to be further away from the table’s edge. They are still easily distinguished from each other, as one is face up and the other is face down. Do not interrupt a match to enforce a layout that does not impact the game’s clarity.

Note that the deck still needs to be orientated “north/south” with the open end of the sleeve facing away from the player as this requirement is in place to address specific cheating concerns. That has not changed.