After the longest July in recent memory, The Pokémon Company International (TPCI) has released some of the information regarding the circuit for the upcoming VGC 2019 season. It includes a few important changes from last year, but also maintains some problems many players hoped would be fixed.
2019 Changes at a Glance
- There are now three “Series” for locals, as opposed to four.
- Premier Challenges earn more CP. Now 30 for a win as opposed to 15.
- Regionals/Specials now have a best finish limit of eight.
- Internationals in a new order. Europe switches with Latin America.
- European Internationals will be in Germany.
- Travel Awards have new, shorter qualification periods, reducing the “snowball.”
In terms of Premier Challenges (PC) and Midseason Showdowns (MSS) there have been two key changes. The first is that the number of series has been reduced from four to three. In 2018, there were Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer series. This season, there will be three:
- Sun Series: September 4 2018 – January 7 2019
- Moon Series: January 8 2019 – April 1 2019
- Ultra Series: April 2 2019 – June 23 2019
The best finish limits (BFLs) for each series remain the same; two for PCs and two for MSSs. This means the effective season BFL for each has been reduced from eight to six.
However, the Championship Point payout for PCs has been significantly increased. The irrelevance of PCs last season (and how that hurts local scenes) was often discussed, and it seems TPCI took notice. Winning a PC now rewards 30 CP instead of 15.
Overall, with some simple math, we see these two changes lower the possible amount of CP earned at local events, but only slightly. Maxing out BFLs with wins in 2018 would get you 520 CP, while in 2019 it earns 480 CP.
This was the only change to the CP payout structure. Every other type of event remains the same.
Regionals / Internationals
Major tournaments will also have a few changes this season. Regionals now have a BFL of eight. A return to best finish limits on Regionals is something many in the community have been advocating, as last years unlimited BLF made it nearly impossible to chase travel awards without a sizable wallet. While we now have a BFL, people have been quick to point out that it is laughably high. No one in North America, Europe, or Oceania had nine or more regional finishes, and only two players had eight. The BFL for Internationals remains at four.
Internationals have gotten two major changes. Firstly, the order regions get Internationals has changed. For the past two years, it has been
- Latin America
- North America
However, this season the order is:
This is good news for European players. Hosting the first Internationals of the season, even before the format switch, meant their most important event was their first. A poor performance at EUIC caused many to abandon the season.
Additionally, the 2019 European International will take place in Germany after being in London the past two seasons.
The largest change from the announced information was an update to the Travel Award system. Over the past two seasons, many would agree one of biggest problems with the circuit was the Travel Awards and the “snowball.” Travel Awards and Stipends to each International were given to the top CP earners over the entire season to date. Therefore, the players with the most CP would get free travel to the next international, getting the best chance to earn even more CP. This continued over all four internationals, with the gap between travel award winners growing larger and larger (hence, “snowball”) until they received Day 2 Worlds Invites. To illustrate this point, only two players were within 200 CP (a regional win) of the Top 8 in North America.
This season, the snowball is being cut into four qualification periods. The travel awards for each International will be given to the top CP earners for a limited period of time, independent from the periods for the other Internationals.
Of course, Travel award winners will still have an advantage in receiving the next award, as they will get free travel to an International that pays out CP for the next qualification period. But, this advantage will not “snowball” as it has in the past.
Notably, the qualification periods for Travel Awards are NOT the same as the series for BFLs. This means players vying for travel would benefit from filling up BFLs twice. For example, a player might win two MSS in February, during the “Moon” series and during the qualification period for European Internationals. Then, in March, the qualification period will change to North American Internationals, but remain in the Moon series. So, this player has filled their BFLs for their Worlds invite, but would benefit from two more wins towards their NAIC travel award.
This seems to be a positive change. However, the way TPCI has decided to implement it has upset many, especially 2018 Worlds Day 2 players. This change will also affect Travel Awards to the first International of the season in November, meaning the top CP earners between only April 30 – July 8 will receive the awards. In the past, travel to the first International was given to the CP leaders over the entire previous season. This means that many Day 2 players who thought they would be getting awards to the Latin America Internationals will not be getting them. Whether or not this is unfair is a matter of opinion, but the fact we are learning this information after the period in question has passed does not sit well with most players.
What Didn’t Change
- Top 8 cut can still miss CP at locals
One problem with last year’s circuit was the numbers needed for a Top 8 cut and the kicker for Top 8 CP payout were not the same. For tournaments with 16-23 participants, players who Top Cut but lost in Top 8 got no CP. This has not been fixed for the 2019 season.
- TPCI is still bad at communicating
The VGC community has a love-hate relationship with the Pokémon Company International. They put on and are the reason we have events for Pokémon, the game we love, but some poor decisions and poor communication has been often annoying and sometimes infuriating. This seems to be continuing. TPCI announced we would get this 2019 circuit information in “late July” but it was not posted until August 10.
What We Still Don’t Know
- CP Bar for Worlds
This is important information for any player hoping to compete in the 2019 World Championships. The past three seasons have seen three different requirements to earn a Worlds invite, and we are still waiting to see whether the bar will remain at 2018 levels or be changed again. Last year the requirements were released along with the other circuit information, so hopefully we will know soon.
- Locations and Dates for Internationals
We know the exact date and location for the Latin American International in November, but not for Oceania, Europe, or North America. This is par for the course, as this information has been historically released as the tournament in question approaches.
- The VGC 2019 Format
Another piece of information the whole community is anxiously awaiting is the ruleset we will be using for the 2019 season. The 2018 format was not released until early October 2017, so we will most likely have to sit tight for this one.
Overall, the changes for the 2019 season have been a step in the right direction, but they are far from perfect, and there are still many problems players wish would be addressed. However, a small step forward is better than none at all, and we will have to wait and see if any more of the community’s concerns will be answered. For now, good luck to everyone at this year’s World Championships and in the upcoming 2019 season!