Timer change causing controversy amid VGC 17 rule announcement

Only eight days before the first major event of the season, The Pokémon Company International finally released the rules for the 2017 Video Game Championship series. However, players have primarily focused their attention on the new timer rules and the addition of “Sudden Death.”

Players knew the timer would be different with the introduction of “My Time.” Many worried that stalling strategies would run rampant since players can only time-out by running down their own 10-minute clock, resulting in obscenely long tournament durations.

In an attempt to address this potential problem, TPCI limited rounds to a 50-minute maximum. In theory, this ensured the maximum round duration was similar to previous seasons (45 minutes). However, players pointed out many uncertainties created by the new rule’s application.

To start, individual games no longer have an in-game time-restriction. That means a single game in a best of three series could last for the entire round under certain circumstances. With Substitute/Leech Seed Celesteela running around, dragging a game out to 50 minutes is far from impossible. And, when time is called, players only have three turns to finish the game.

If a clear winner isn’t decided by that point, judges will determine the winner based on which player has the most remaining Pokémon. If that is tied, judges will calculate which team has the highest ratio of total remaining HP. In the unlikely occasion that doesn’t settle it, the player with the highest actual HP remaining wins. And, if by the most miniscule chance things are still even, the game is a draw.

The other new scenario these rules created addresses what to do if each player has won a game by a round’s conclusion before the third game could start. In that case, players follow the new “Sudden Death” rules. Basically, if a player ends their turn with more Pokémon than their opponent, that player wins.

Within minutes of the rules’ release, players started expressing their concern on Twitter. The general consensus seemed to be that Sudden Death was a poor way of deciding a winner, and that the new timer rules might be exploited by talented players looking for easy wins at the cost of long, boring matches.

Many also expressed their concerns about the extra burden this system places on judges, who used to be able to rely on the game to calculate which player had the highest remaining HP ratio automatically.

Regardless of concerns, it remains to be seen whether timer-exploitation is something players and organizers need to actually worry about. The London International Championship, which begins on December 9, will be the first opportunity to put these concerns to the test. London’s Head Judge, Jen Badamo, emphasized on Twitter that, at the least, judges will be prepared to handle the new timer rules.

Most of the other rules remain unchanged from last year, aside from which Pokémon are legal to use during events. The only Pokémon usable during VGC 17 must be in the Alola-Dex and have the Gen 7 “clover” mark. While that rules Pokémon from previous generations out of competition, players may be able to use Pokémon transferred from digital versions of Pokémon Red, Blue & Yellow.

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