Problem With Pokemon
November 30, 2000

Regarding Jason's Article: The Flawed Game of Pokemon:  http://pojo.com/CardofTheDay/110400FlawedGame.html

Allow me to preface my reply by saying that I thought Jason did an excellent job detailing some of the larger problems facing Pokemon today. A lot of players have spoken out about the unfairness of Pokemon, and Jason’s article is one of many written over the past year. You can visit any number of the internet’s top Pokemon websites and see how extensive and obvious the problem is. Writers from the all over have been sounding off, and petitioning for a long time now, but little has happened. This article, like many others, is an appeal to identify, address and resolve this issue. I’d like to detail some of my own thoughts on this matter, and discuss current and future solutions to this problem.

This article details one of the major problems in Pokemon: Luck. While random factors pertaining to Smokescreen and Status Effects are acceptable, the opening coin flip is becoming more and more important and game-breaking.. Hand disruption is becoming more problematic, because not only is it becoming more powerful, but also more acceptable.

Competitive Pokemon is growing an exceedingly fast pace. Information is being transferred about on the Internet at an alarming rate. While this main seem beneficial, there exists a significant decrease in the number of “creative” decks being played. This is NOT because players are uncreative.  It is more indicative of the unbalanced card pool currently being played.  Hand Disruption Trainers currently comprise some of the more powerful cards in today’s card pool, and refusing to play them puts a player at an extreme disadvantage.

While using powerful cards in and of itself is not problematic, the strength of these cards is verging on broken. A first turn IOR or RSA can successfully cripple an opponent beyond recovery. Bannings are an obvious solution. Magic: the Gathering, another popular product of Wizards of the Coast, actively singles out over-powered cards. A card is first identified and is put on a watch-list. Cards on the watch-list may be played as normal, but Wizards evaluates card/deck data from tournaments to analyze whether or not a card is dominating the environment. If a card is deemed to be overpowered, it is banned.

By removing the offending cards, we can systemically deal with the problem. However, the larger issue exists of acceptance and complacency. As I look over the data from the first 1200 voters, about 30% want bannings, or feel that bannings are an acceptable measure. However, another 25% DO NOT want bannings. If these powerful Trainers are considered acceptable, then the larger Pokemon playing public cannot reach a unified consensus. If some people feel that the environment is currently healthy, changes cannot and will not be made.

The Pokemon Public is the first and only measure that Wizards can use to determine the sanctity of Pokemon gaming. If the people are divided in how to best proceed with the game, we will reach an impasse. This article is an appeal to the players which do not want bannings to occur. With the amount of luck in tournament gaming, Pokemon may as well be reduced to a coin flip.  A lot of people which play in local tournaments may not be good, but when yo u get to large scale, professional tournaments, do you really want to play against 100 clones of the exact same deck? This is the direction that Pokemon is taking. It should be obvious to even most skeptical players that the optimization of certain decks will lead to an environment that supports nothing BUT those decks. Chance should not dominate a game of skill and technique. If Pokemon is to gain any respect as an intellectual and challenging game, it cannot support such a lax and indifferent attitude towards such a threat to its Legitimacy.

Wizards has made some unpopular bannings in the past in Magic, most notably Tolarian Academy and Time Spiral from Urza’s Saga. Both these cards where key component in a deck called Academy. This deck had unbridled success in the Winter of 1998, “affectionately” called Combo Winter. The deck won a large percentage of all the State Championships that year. When Wizards banned the card, people were outraged. In order to keep up with current metagame and demand for these cards, players often paid $20-$30 US for just one copy of these cards. Wizards soon implemented a “refund” plan.  For each one of the $20 cards they shipped back to Wizards, they would be given a $3.00 pack. This soured many people.

Magic is truly Wizards’ baby. From conception to its current growth, they are the sole determinants of the game’s fate. However, Pokemon is unlike Magic in this respect. Japan should be been an obvious indicator to Wizards about how the tournament scene was going to progress. Cards like Rocket Sneak Attack, Super Energy Removal, and Computer Search were singled out as very strong cards. These three, along with Item Finder are now restricted in Japan. A deck cannot use any more than one copy of these cards in their deck.

When we examine several of the popular “solutions” suggested for the current environment, many fail to bridge the gap between the players which are pro- and anti- banning players. Prop 15, while a sincere attempt to fix the problem is doomed. If every player is limited in the Trainers they may play, the game will be more dependent on who can draw the first Oak or RSA.  With only 15 Trainers, recovery will be made even more challenging!! While we should wait until the East STS is over,  many predict that the tournament will be dogged with uncreative decks of Wiggly/R Zapdos/Scyther and Hand Distruption. Even Prop 15 has come under a lot of fire for being inadequate for some, and unnecessary for others. General consensus is probably the most effective solution is getting changes brought about in the world of competitive Pokemon.

Prop 15, along with bannings and restrictions, are among the most widely accepted control measures. There is also, as Jason’s article suggest, a limitation on when Trainers can be played. As well, there was talk about allowing only two Trainer per turn. While all of these suggestions are good, the important fact remains is that dialogue is the initial step to bring about change.

At this time, I would like to propose my own solution:

Standard Deck Rules Apply. You cannot have more than 4 copies of any non-Basic Energy card.

There is one further restriction: You must follow this basic scheme:

You may have, at most, eight of any of the following Trainers:

Computer Search

Item Finder

Rocket’s Sneak Attack

Imposter Professor Oak

Super Energy Removal


What I hope to accomplish by doing this is to allow the player to pick between advancing their own strategy (that is, choosing Computer Search and Item Finder), hindering their opponent’s strategy (through RSA, IOR, and SER), or any minor combination of the two. This allows players flexibility in picking the cards they want, but limiting the total amount of these over-powered cards they can play. Eight is an arbitrary number and can be changed. I hope that this is a restriction which can both slow-down the environment, while affording creativity. People have become far to accustomed to playing these cards: weakening these cards or removing them altogether would be an unpopular and most likely anger many players.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading this. I’d appreciate any questions and comments, especially about my suggested restriction scheme. E-mail me at DoctorAndy@pokeschool.com.



November 6th, 2000