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Yu Yu Hakusho
Harry Potter
Vs. System

Otaku on Pokemon
Black & White Rule Changes
November 10, 2101

Pokémon, like most Trading Card Games, must strive to keep the essence of the game the same while changing what needs to be changed.  Usually, this is the card pool: new cards are released and old cards (at least in Pokémon) are rotated out of the format once a year, a few sets at a time.  Sometimes, though, a change in the fundamental rules happens.  Many games have done this because they simply thought they’d devised a better way to play, while others have done it because it was a clear necessity: the original rule either didn’t work with newer cards or was questionable from the beginning.


Power creep, where cards slowly become more and more powerful than their predecessors, is a bane and a blessing for a TCG.  If the game started with cards that were largely too weak for how it was meant to be played, it is often good: new stuff is actually fun and useful to play!  One aspect of Yu-Gi-Oh is a good example of this: the early sets had many completely useless cards.  Power creep was largely welcomed, at least at first, because it meant sets went from having a handful of playable cards to having a handful of unplayable cards.  The basic problem with power creep is managing it when it is needed it, and avoiding it when it isn’t.  Yu-Gi-Oh started with some cards that were insanely powerful, and even when it got rid of those cards, it never really controlled power creep so that for every problem card that game seems to ban, two more are released that year!


With Pokémon, the power creep was noticeable in how the cards slowly got better: most of it seemed to be nailing the correct damage/effect to Energy ratio.  The first few sets had some strong Pokémon in them, but for several sets afterwards, it was apparently that TPC thought these cards overpowered and so greatly increased the cost of attacks.  Later on, they seemed to realize that they had overcompensated, and at last a fairly stable design process was used.  After a few years, perhaps they felt they were tapped out of ideas or perhaps Research & Development felt it had proof they could up the ante even more.  Suddenly we had attacks that needed no Energy (though they were usually quite weak) and we had HP scores breaking most (but not all) old limits.


Both of these factors have made this latest format feel somewhat homogenous and more than a little unfair in many players’ eyes.  Given a recent release in Japan, TPC seems to think so as well.  I wanted to wait to hear what was going to officially happen with the international game, but no word has come so I’ll weigh in on what we know.  When the Pokémon Black and White cards were released, a new rule book was included.  Many big changes have occurred, but currently they only affect the Japanese players.  Please read carefully and fully as the different changes are often interconnected, and there is no good place to start.


I will begin with “Trainers” changing to “Trainer’s” and “Supporters” to “Support” cards.  This is mostly a matter of game flavor, and I kind of like it.  It felt weird playing Trainers (e.g. people), but the possessive makes it sound more like you’re the Trainer and these are your techniques and gear.  The change from “Supporter” to “Support” doesn’t bother me, but it doesn’t really make any more or less sense, even as a flavor issue.


In Japan, a new class of Trainer was introduced called “Goods” with the previous rule changes.  When we had Trainers broken up into Trainers, Supporters, and Stadiums, Japan had Goods, Supporters, and Stadiums (as is my understanding).  The latest changes reverse this to some degree: as they are all “Trainer’s” cards now.  I do not know yet if some are “Trainer’s” with “Goods” listed on them the way Trainers used to have a sub-classification like Supporter.  In Japan the cards we have that refer to “Trainers” but were printed when that term no longer included Supporters and Stadiums don’t have as many issues due to the use of “Goods”, but it looks like general rulings mean that you use the definition from when the card was made.  So something that is current and only affects Trainers (that is, not Supporters or Stadium cards) still won’t affect them when they merge.  So Vileplume from Undaunted isn’t anymore potent under the new rules.  New cards that affect Trainer’s, will affect old Trainers, Supporters, and Stadiums.


The decision to disallow Trainer’s first turn has been reversed: you may play non-Pokémon/Energy cards right away again, following the normal restrictions like needing to be able to use the effect or only one Support(er) card on your turn.  This ties in heavily to pretty much every other change, so please keep reading before jumping to any conclusions.  Clearly this rule change would favor Rare Candy use, allowing Stage 2 Pokémon with inexpensive attacks to dominate.  Except it doesn’t, because in Japan they have issued an errata, changing Rare Candy so that it behaves more or less like Pokémon Breeder: you can no longer use it the first turn a Pokémon is in play (or if it Evolved already that turn).  A few others Trainer cards have received errata that have been used to alter card text (instead of technically correcting it).


There are also a few procedural changes that I will refrain from discussing because I believe their impact will be minimal unless players decide to make it a big deal.  I have read many people’s panicked responses to that, because they then missed the next major change: in Japan they have already jumped to a Heart Gold & Soul Silver – On Modified Format.  This is very important since many cards that would have easily abused the new rulings are thus no longer legal for Modified play and hardly a concern.


The last major change this article is concerned with is that Poké-Powers and Poké-Bodies seem to be being phased out.  The two will once again be merged, but instead of becoming Pokémon Powers again they are simply called Abilities.  Abilities are not considered Pokémon Powers.  “Pokémon Power” is technically a blanket term (that sadly went underused in modern card text) referring to effects labeled as Pokémon Powers as well as Poké-Powers and Poké-Bodies.  If you aren’t quite sure you understand what that means, think of the term “fruit”.  Apples and oranges are two kinds of fruit.  If you ask for fruit, I can give you either or both and it works.  Just like the old card Goop Gas could affect the old Pokémon Powers as well as Poké-Powers and Poké-Bodies.  An attack or other effect that only affected Poké-Powers would not affect a Pokémon with a Pokémon Power or a Poké-Body, just like if I specifically requested an apple, you couldn’t meet that request by giving me an orange.  Abilities appear to be considered as separate: while they work in a similar manner to Pokémon Powers they aren’t treated as the same thing.  With the fruit analogy, they would be vegetables and not fruit.  With respect to known card effects, an attack that only did damage to something that affects Poké-Powers would not do damage to something with an Ability (nor would it affect Pokémon with Pokémon Powers or Poké-Bodies), and Goop Gas wouldn’t affect Abilities while it would still affect Pokémon Powers, Poké-Powers, and Poké-Bodies.


For the sake of length and time, I will refrain from discussing my own opinions on the changes, at least in this particular article.  Suffice to say I like some and dislike others.  Again, I merely want people to be aware that the changes have occurred but so far only in Japan.  Exactly how the changes will be implemented here is unknown still.  This is no time to panic or whine needlessly, though thoughtful, well expressed concern may be warranted.  Pokémon has had many dramatic changes, and the ones that hurt the game most tend to be what we don’t see coming or can’t believe, like unbalanced cards or when WotC suddenly eliminated 15+ play.  Rules changes and format changes usually scare players, but often improve the game or at least merely alter it.  Don’t panic, but don’t ignore what is coming.  Nothing has been said on if we are getting an early set rotation, or even if the rules will go into effect as early as they did in Japan.  While it would make international tournaments a little awkward, it is entirely possible our situation will not completely match that of Japanese players until we naturally progress to those sets.  They could ban certain cards if it was necessary.  There are plenty of options.


Thank you for reading, and remember you can express your thoughts on the message board.




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