This past weekend the fourth and final qualifier for the Limitless Invitational took place, with Taketo Seki defeating Azul Garcia Griego in the finals in a Combo Zacian V mirror match that was largely won based on Taketo playing Metal Goggles, which prevented Azul from being able to knockout Taketo’s Zacian V’s when they were attached, swinging the match into Taketo’s favor.
For the fourth qualifier, I played Spiritomb with Ultra Beasts and the tournament went well for me. I went 11-2 on day 1 and then 5-2 on day 2 for a combined record of 16-4 which put me into Top 8 as the 7th seed, where I lost to Azul 2-1.
This is the end of the road for me with the Limitless Invitational as it was my only good performance. In Qualifier #2, I played Baby Blacephalon and did okay, going 8-5, losing my win and in for Day 2. Then in Qualifier #3, I played Baby Blacephalon again and went 5-5 drop.
In this article I go over my Spiritomb/Beasts deck from Qualifier #4, reflect on the Limitless Online Series and the Players Cup, and then discuss some ideas I think can be implemented into PTCGO to improve the program.
Spiritomb with Beasts
During most of the time leading into the tournament, I thought I was going to play Blacephalon again. I had made some changes from my Qualifier #3 list, which I think improved the deck, but I started to become disillusioned with the very random nature of the deck. This isn’t that big of a deal against Tag Team and VMAX decks as you have a little time to get the deck setup and working, but where I became very frustrated was in the mirror match, which just seemed completely random who won, and since it looked like Blacephalon was going to be popular I did not want to deal with random mirror matches that I had little influence over for many of my rounds.
After becoming frustrated with Blacephalon, I looked at some other decks, and I ended up really liking the ADP/Spiritomb deck that Ross Cawthon used in previous Limitless Qualifiers. Ross had been one of the most dominant players in the Limitless Online Series, capturing 3rd, 9th, and 36th place finishes in the first three tournaments, making him the third ranked player headed into the Invitational.
On Thursday night, I decided to move away from the ADP variant towards an Ultra Beast variant as I didn’t think it added too much for what I expected to be the big three decks. Against Pikarom, the winner of Limitless #3, Baby Buzzwole is a lot more effective at dealing with the matchup than the prize gaining/damage boost of Altered Creation GX. Against Dragapult VMAX, you take the one shot against them with a 30-damage Spiritomb and a Hustle Belt, regardless of whether you used Altered Creation GX or not. Then against Baby Blacephalon, which looked like it was going to be one of the most popular decks, I found the ADP to be a liability as if it gets knocked out with Beast Bringer attached to Blacephalon, your opponent only needs two more prizes to win the game.
With this in mind, I cut out the ADP stuff, Super Scoop Ups, and the Tag Call engine in exchange for Ultra Beast Pokémon and beefed up consistency. The deck tested well on the ladder, so I decided to submit it for the tournament.
The deck performed great in the tournament and I was able to go 16-4 in Swiss and then finish in 7th place. I was able to do well as the deck has a very positive matchup against Pikarom and Baby Blacephalon, and then it has the raw strength and versatility to deal with a lot of the less popular decks that you’re bound to face in Swiss at a large tournament.
One thing worth noting with this deck is that I think it benefits greatly from playing in an open decklist format. If you don’t know what’s in your opponent’s deck, it’s impossible to play this deck optimally. The presence of cards like Mew, Galarian Zigzagoon, and Giratina, which all spread damage counters, influences how you need to place damage on your Pokémon. If you don’t know what spread threats exist in your opponent’s deck, it’s impossible to optimally place your damage counters. For this reason, I think Spiritomb was a much better play in the Limitless Online Series than it would have been in a traditional tabletop tournament.
7th Place Limitless Qualifier #4 Spiritomb/Beasts List
For those not familiar with how Spiritomb decks function, this is how they work. You place damage counters onto your Spiritomb with Spiritomb’s “Building Spite” Ability, which puts 1 damage counter on Spiritomb, and then with Jynx’s “Ominous Posture” Ability you can move damage counters off a Spiritomb, or any other Pokémon with damage counters on it, onto a different Spiritomb, allowing you to power up its damage output of its “Anguis Cry” attack. In addition to moving damage with Jynx, the deck also plays 4 Rainbow Energy, which is another way to get damage onto your Spiritomb.
I played 3 Hustle Belt, just as Ross did in his ADP/Spiritomb list. The number works out well and is generally the right amount to get you through a game. Not every attack with Spiritomb will require the added 60 damage, and for the most part, you won’t be using Hustle Belt on your Ultra Beasts. It is important to keep in mind that if your other Pokémon do end up with 30 HP or less remaining, you can attach Hustle Belt to them and get the added damage on their attacks too.
While Spiritomb is a great attacker, it’s not enough to beat all of the popular decks all by itself, so there are additional attackers that are used to help Spiritomb in various matchups. The four additional attackers I ran in my list for the weekend were Tapu Fini, and the three Ultra Beast Pokémon – Buzzwole, Nihilego, and Pheromosa & Buzzwole GX.
Tapu Fini is primarily for the Blacephalon matchup, as you’re able to hit for 100-damage for one Energy whenever they have an Ultra Beast in play. The matchup is winnable without it, but for what was going to be one of the most popular decks in the tournament, strengthening that matchup was well worth the inclusion. It is also useful in the mirror match, being able to be a good attacker if your opponent starts an Ultra Beast or puts one into play.
Buzzwole is primarily in the deck for the Pikarom matchup, being able to OHKO Pikachu & Zekrom GX, Zeraora GX, and Boltund V. It also is able to deal 240 damage to a Raichu & Alolan Raichu GX, being able to knock it out with Beast Energy attached or with some additional Shrine of Punishment damage in between turns. It can also be a good attacker in various other matchups. Against Blacephalon, it’s another one prize attacker you can trade with, and against anything playing Dedenne GX, it takes an easy knockout against that on the 4-prize turn.
Nihilego is one of my favorite cards in the format. Anyone who has followed my season this year should know how much I like this card – I used it in my Psychic Malamar deck at League Cups early in the season and then I used it in the Ultra Necrozma deck I played at most of the Expanded events I went to this season.
The card is very versatile and can be used in a variety of effective ways. The attack I copied the most with it in Qualifier #4 was Cramorant V’s “Spit Shot”, usually sniping Dedenne GXs to end the game in the Blacephalon matchup. It’s also useful for copying Zacian V’s “Brave Blade” for a OHKO (if they can’t play around the two prize turn with prize gaining). It’s also very useful against the Mewtwo & Mew GX decks, giving you an attacker with the potential to hit for weakness if your opponent doesn’t have Jirachi GX in play or a Weakness Guard Energy attached to the Mewtwo & Mew GX.
Towards the end of the week, it looked like other people were thinking about Spiritomb variants as well. There was a decent amount of chatter around the deck, both the ADP variant and the Ultra Beast variants during the week, and I played against a decent number of them during my testing on PTCGO, so I decided to play Pheromosa & Buzzwole GX. In the mirror match, which is just an exchange of OHKO’s for one prize, Pheromosa & Buzzwole GX allows you to prize gain, taking two prizes and jump ahead in the prize race.
The one last Pokémon worth noting is Mew, which is something that Ross didn’t play in his ADP variant. Mew is more important for this version of the deck for a few reasons. In the Pikachu & Zekrom GX matchup, Mew prevents your opponent from using Tag Bolt GX to get around the 4-prize Sledgehammer turn with Baby Buzzwole. In other matchups, such as the Blacephalon matchup, Mew can prevent your Dedenne GX from being knocked out by a Cramorant V’s “Spit Shot” attack. It also prevents your opponent from sniping benched Spiritomb in the matchup on turns when you’re attacking with Ultra Beast, which is important since you want your active Ultra Beasts to be knocked out as they become useless after your opponent takes their next prize.
The trainer engine is pretty standard for a Spiritomb deck. The only thing a little bit different is that I played a full 4 count of Marnie, instead of 2, which seemed like the standard number headed into the event. The early game disruption can win you matchups you normally don’t win and this gives you a solid number of draw Supporters to prevent you from dead drawing.
I found Shrine of Punishment useful for me this weekend, having played against 6 Tag Team decks in Swiss, but it’s a debatable card for future tournaments depending on what the meta shifts to. It’s not needed to beat Pikarom (but it definitely improves the matchup), and the more the meta shifts towards Pokémon V and Pokémon VMAX, the less useful it becomes.
I found 2 Great Catcher to be very solid throughout the weekend. I originally made sure to include a second Great Catcher in the deck to increase my odds of being able to find it in the early game against ADP decks as I wanted to drag ADPs up active after the first Energy attachment to them so that I could get a hit in on them to setup a knockout the turn immediately after your opponent uses “Altered Creation GX”. Beyond those matchups, it is also very useful in most matchups for dragging up Dedenne GX or Oricorio GX for easy two prize knockouts.
Tool Scrapper is a key inclusion for this meta, being able to remove cards like Metal Frying Pan, Metal Goggles, and Big Charm that can deny knockouts, as well as being able to remove cards like Escape Board and Spell Tag that see some play.
I went with Ordinary Rod over Lana’s Fishing Rod as generally I found the 3 Hustle Belt to be enough for a game, and typically there were multiple Pokémon that I wanted to get back from the discard pile. A common pairing would be an attacker plus Dedenne GX to put that back in the deck to give myself a searchable draw out that can help draw me into the cards I need to finish out the game.
Then for the Energy, I ended up playing 10 Energy, with 4 Rainbow Energy, 4 Aurora Energy, 1 Beast Energy, and 1 Darkness Energy. I liked the high Energy count as I rarely whiffed Energy to attack, it’s nice to be a little on the high end as it lets you discard Energy with Professor’s Research in pursuit of Rainbow Energy, Hustle Belt, or the desired Ultra Beast attacker, without being punished for it.
First, here is how my matchups played out during Swiss of the tournament.
- Baby Blacephalon – 6-0
- Dragapult VMAX – 1-2
- Spiritomb/Ultra Beasts – 2-0
- Galarian Obstagoon – 1-0
- Gardevoir & Sylveon GX – 0-1
- Pikachu & Zekrom GX – 1-0
- Mewtwo & Mew GX (Solburst Version) – 1-0
- Combo Zacian V – 1-0 (plus 1-2 in Top 8)
- Green’s Reshizard – 1-0
- ADP/Zacian V – 1-0
- Cinccino Mill – 1-0
- Mewtwo & Mew/Malamar – 0-1
Next, here is my approach to the big matchups with the deck.
Pikarom – Favorable
This matchup is pretty favorable. You will generally sacrifice a Jirachi in the active spot the first Full Blitz of the game, since you won’t have significant damage in play on Spiritomb yet, so save those Spiritomb for later in the game and try to get a second Jirachi into play to replace the first one as your pivot.
You will want to get Mew into play pretty early in this matchup. If possible, wait to play it down until after the first knockout to prevent it from preemptively getting knocked out. Mew prevents your opponent from being able to skip the 4-prize Sledgehammer turn, which you use to take a big OHKO.
After that, just trade big damage blows with your Spiritomb. Get Shrine of Punishment in play to build up damage, softening their GX Pokémon for knockouts, and then take the remaining knockouts you need to draw your remaining prize cards, which should be pretty easy.
Nihilego is also a good attacker in the matchup, being able to hit for 200 damage with Full Blitz GX when the Pikarom is down to 2-prizes, which can become 230 damage if you also find the Beast Energy.
Always go second in this matchup. If you start a lone Pokémon, you will probably get donked if you go first, and the early turns in this matchup are mostly about establishing your board, getting Mew into play, and funneling the Pikarom into the 4-prize Sledgehammer.
Baby Blacephalon – Favorable
This is my favorite matchup for this deck. The matchup is essentially a trade of one prize attackers exchanging OHKO’s. You want to go second in this matchup to avoid the potential of a donk, but also to try to take a turn 1 knockout. A 20-damage Spiritomb can OHKO a Jirachi, and you can of course bring out Tapu Fini to OHKO Blacephalon.
It’s a solid idea to put Mew on your bench in this matchup. What could happen without Mew, is when you do something like attack with Buzzwole on the 4-prize turn, your opponent can start using Cramorant to snipe the benched Spiritomb you are building up, and if you whiff a Switch, the Buzzwole will be stuck active not doing any significant damage, wasting a turn of attack.
Nihilego is solid for copying Cramorant V to snipe benched Dedenne GX or Oricorio GX (which can be knocked out with Shrine of Punishment in play). Great Catcher is also very good for bringing up the benched GX Pokémon for two prize knockouts to jump ahead in the prize trade.
While in Baby Blacephalon mirror matches it’s not uncommon to see players be able to successfully keep the GX Pokémon out of play, since this list plays 4 Marnie and is constantly able to disrupt their hand, it’s near impossible for them to avoid putting their GX Pokémon into play.
Dragapult VMAX – Unfavorable
This matchup is less dreadful than the other unfavorable matchups, but it’s never been one that I enjoyed playing against. Things can get out of hand super quickly with Dragapult VMAX being able to snipe the bench, knocking out any Spiritomb there or your pivots thanks to Galarian Zigzagoon and Giratina spreading damage, and being able to spread more damage after being picked up with Scoop Up Net.
The theory of the matchup is pretty simple – get 3 damage counters and a Hustle Belt on your Spiritomb and you OHKO Dragapult VMAX. Do this two times, and you win the game. It’s a simple idea, but you still have to draw all the cards to pull it off, and with your pivots being knocked out and being hit with Marnie and Reset Stamp, this can be difficult to do.
A Rainbow Energy, Building Spite, and one damage counter moved with Jynx is the simplest path to 3 damage, but double Jynx is another option. Putting Pheromosa & Buzzwole GX into play along with Shrine of Punishment can be a good source of damage counters to move over to your Spiritomb.
I prefer to go first in this matchup. This allows you to try to chase down a Dragapult V on your second turn with Boss’s Orders or Phione, or just knockout the active one if they start it and can’t remove it from the active spot on turn one. Then after you get that knockout, you can try to target down the next Dragapult V that they attach Energy to, to try to prevent Dragapult VMAX from getting going. If the chase down strategy fails, you still are able to fall back into knocking out two Dragapult VMAX to win the game.
Combo Zacian V – Unfavorable
This is a pretty tough matchup as you can see from my Top 8 match against Azul, as the Jirachi Prism Star lets the deck take two prizes on your non-GX Pokémon and the deck has a solid amount of one prize attackers, such as Jirachi and Dusk Mane Necrozma, which can be used to knockout Spiritomb.
In this matchup I like going first. It gives you an extra turn to build damage on your Spiritomb.
When the Jirachi Prism Star hits the bench, it’s typically a good idea to use a Boss’s Orders on it and knock it out. This requires having it in hand though, so it’s very random whether you can pull it off or not.
If your opponent only includes 1 Oranguru or 1 Mr. Mime in their deck, then you can knockout one of those and it will have the same effect of shutting down the prize gaining combo if they’re not playing recovery. While both finalists played 2 Oranguru, Taketo only played 1 Mr. Mime while Azul played 2, so it’s a tossup which count people will go with moving forward.
You want to keep Dedenne GX out of play if possible as it’s an easy two prize knockout for Zacian V.
Nihilego can be solid for knocking out a Zacian V late game if they play a second one, but if Zacian V isn’t in play, there probably isn’t a good attack for you to copy with it in play. You also have to be careful about having Ultra Beast in play, as then Tapu Fini can be used to attack you for 1 Energy.
Lastly, Pheromosa & Buzzwole GX is a solid attacker in the matchup, being able to take two prizes on a Jirachi as well as tank a hit for you. If your opponent uses Slap against you to knockout a Spiritomb, you should look to try to get a Beast Game GX off immediately after. Pheromosa & Buzzwole GX is also unique in that it can’t be one shot in the matchup, but you have to be careful, because even a two shot against it could be devastating if not timed well.
ADP Variants – Tossup
This matchup is largely dependent on knocking out the ADP the turn after they use “Altered Creation GX”. I made sure to include 2 copies of Great Catcher to make it easier to pull up the ADP and hit into it to start the game.
You will want to go first in this matchup. This gives you an extra turn to build up damage and to find your gust effect to drag up the ADP. If you can get the first hit into the ADP, then it’s a pretty easy two shot. From there, against the Zacian variant you need knockout a Zacian V and then a non-GX to finish out the game.
Against the Spiritomb variant, you want to do the same thing and drag up the ADP and knock it out the turn after Altered Creation GX. Then you need to knockout a Spiritomb and then use Beast Game GX on another to take your six prizes. If they try to circumvent using Altered Creation GX, you can treat the matchup like a mirror match which you’re better positioned to win.
Galarian Obstagoon – Unfavorable
This matchup is super unfavorable as this is an all Basic attacker deck, meaning once they get setup, you’re pretty much locked out of the game if they play properly. In addition to that, they spread damage which can knockout your attacking Spiritomb with Galarian Obstagoon’s “Untamed Shout” Ability, accelerating the pace of the game.
With that in mind, in this matchup you want to go second to limit the amount of draw your opponent will open the game with and then try to get a Marnie on turn 1 and hope they dead draw, as that’s really your best shot at winning.
Spiritomb – Mirror Match
This is similar to the Baby Blacephalon matchup, in that it’s just a trade of non-GX Pokémon. You want to trade non-GX Pokémon and then use your Pheromosa & Buzzwole GX to swing the matchup into your favor.
Avoid playing down Dedenne GX if possible as that’s another way for someone to jump ahead in the prize race.
When your opponent goes down to two prizes make sure not to attack with a Spiritomb, as then your opponent can just use Beast Game GX to win the game. Nihilego is naturally a good attacker in this spot, and it will force your opponent to have a Boss’s Orders to end the game.
Phione can also be used in some situations to end the game, but it often won’t be good enough. If the opponent has a Baby Buzzwole on the bench, they can move that active and deny a Beast Game GX knockout and even if they only have Jynx on the bench as a bulkier Pokémon that still forces needing the Beast Energy to end the game.
In this matchup you want to go second as you generally will be able to take the first knockout when doing so.
This pretty much sums up my thoughts on my version of the deck. It’s a pretty straightforward version of the deck and it worked very well for the weekend and was a lot of fun to play. I think this weekend was about the perfect time in the development of the meta to play this deck, and now with the rise of Combo Zacian V to the top of the format, supplanting Blacephalon and Pikarom (your two best matchups), things may be tough for Spiritomb. If people find something to push Combo Zacian V from the top than things may cycle around to Spiritomb being a good meta call again.
I’d recommend also taking a look at the results for Qualifier #4 to look at all of the different Spiritomb lists. There are a lot of them that made Day 2, and there is a lot of uniqueness among the builds. In other builds, the thing I like most is the Scoop Up Net since it gives you another way to accelerate the damage buildup on your Spiritomb.
The one card I don’t get that I saw in other lists was Blacephalon GX. I never found it difficult to take a final prize with the deck. Oftentimes you’re taking a multi-prize knockout to end the game, but if you’re not, you can use cards like Boss’s Orders, Phione, or Great Catcher to bring something easier to knockout into the active spot if you can’t knockout the active.
Reflections on the Limitless Online Series
First, it should be said that everyone on the Limitless team involved with the planning and execution of this tournament series should be very proud of the job they did. They successfully brought the big event experience to an online environment and even figured out a way to stream the tournament with commentators so people could also enjoy the tournament from an entertainment standpoint.
The tournaments gave people something fun to do across the four weekends of qualifiers and added a sense of normalcy within the card game in a time when the Championship Series is cancelled. These tournaments had massive influence on the metagame, and we saw a lot of content produced around them from meta forecasts and deck profiles to recorded games and live streams.
Something that really struck me during the series is how much better of a viewing experience PTCGO provides than the tabletop game. I think that being able to view the game from one of the players’ point of view allows for a better viewing experience as viewers and commentators can fully see what a player is working with in their hand and deck.
One of the big moments of the series was this past weekend with Azul streaming his entire tournament run on twitch.tv/azulgg, peaking at more than 1,500 viewers during the finals, in addition to all the people watching the finals on the Limitless Stream. I think it’s very good for the growth of the game for fans to be able to watch their favorite streamers playing in tournaments in real time, and really helps build the E-Sports element of the game. The tournaments add real stakes to the games being played, making it a more compelling viewing experience than just streaming the PTCGO Ladder.
Another big moment from the series was the return of Kyle “Pooka” Sucevich to Pokémon competitive play. For those that don’t know Pooka, he was one of Pokémon’s biggest content creators producing content for The Top Cut, a group that was one of the first to really push for the streaming of Pokémon TCG tournaments, and then Kyle really pushed PTCGO gameplay himself as well. In addition to that, he is considered one of the best players to ever play the game and is a former US National Champion.
In 2015, Kyle took a job at Pokémon and that ended his competitive playing career as employees of the company are not allowed to play in their events. However, since this tournament series isn’t run by Pokémon, he was allowed to play in it and so for the first time in 5 years people got to see Kyle play in a competitive environment and he did quite well, finishing 28th place in Qualifier #3.
These tournaments also gave players who may not typically get to go to big events a chance to play in multiple big events. Traveling to International Championships and Regional Championships can be very expensive, so being able to play in similar tournaments from the comfort of your home allowed players that may not be able to typically show off their skill at big events do so in this series.
It was very cool having the International/World Championship type experience re-created online with players from all over the world participating in it. Even with the competitive community becoming more globalized with the International Championships, Japan has still remained kind of separate from the rest of us, with us only really playing together at the World Championship outside of a few Japanese players playing in the International Championships. It was a lot of fun having the Japanese players competing in these tournaments and they really showed off how strong of players they are, winning two of the qualifiers.
The last big thing from the tournament series was that it acted as a test case for what Best of 1 Swiss with additional Swiss rounds would look like in a tournament environment. I thought that the tournament format worked very well, and I really enjoyed staying alive in the tournament until picking up a fifth loss. I also did not miss Best of 3, 50 minutes at all. I like match play as it reduces variance, but as I wrote last year, there are some major problems with Pokémon’s version of it that largely stems from 50 minutes not being enough time to play three games of Pokémon.
I also really liked the open decklist format of the tournament. It made games feel more strategic as you knew all the options your opponent had at their disposal, so you could really make correct strategic decisions instead of having to make guesses about what your opponent might be able to do. Given that the decklists were hosted on RK9 Labs, I would imagine it wouldn’t be too hard to add a link to an opponent’s decklist into the online pairings for future tabletop tournaments if TPCI ever wanted to run open decklist tournaments.
Thoughts on the Players Cup
This month Pokémon is hosting their first online tournament series, the Players Cup, and I thought it would be worth sharing my thoughts on this.
I personally will not be playing in the Players Cup as I do not have a sufficient amount of tournament tickets to be able to compete. I am not a new player to PTCGO, I have almost 10,000 games played on the platform, but like many players I use my event tickets to get packs of the new sets when they come out as the in game tournaments have been the best way to obtain new cards ever since events were introduced into the game.
It’s deeply disappointing to be excluded from being able to participate in the Players Cup as I am both an active player of Play Pokémon Events as well as PTCGO, which means I should be the target audience for this event. However, I am happy that they are taking steps to add competitive play to the online game and hope they can make it an experience everyone can participate in with their second attempt.
I think the mess of the initial qualification method for the tournament is a result of there not being any good way to do it already programmed into the game and they didn’t have the time or resources to program something new into the game that would work better.
The crux of the problem is that it appears all of their point systems give you points simply for playing a game, win or lose, and then give more points if you win the game. This means that people who have access to play non-stop have an inherent advantage. While this is a problem with both Versus Points and Tournament Rep, I believe they went with Tournament Rep specifically because of this issue as the event tickets act as a limiting factor preventing from everyone in the game just trying to spam as many games as possible.
Beyond the initial qualification system, I do like most of everything else about the tournament. The only other thing that doesn’t make sense to me is why so many countries in the Oceania rating zone aren’t eligible to compete in it.
The double elimination brackets are a solid way to run a tournament once you get it down to a more manageable number of players and something we already see in some other organizers’ online tournaments. Separating these into separate regions so players can play at more natural times for their time zones was also a great decision.
The prize of a travel award to an International Championship of your choice is also a great choice for a prize.
The Players Cup Kickoff Invitational is also a great idea. It’s should be good content for them to stream on Twitch and having a play-in tournament for one of the spots in the Championship was a good way to involve players in an Invitational connected to the Championship.
While I won’t be doing the Pokémon TCG, I am going to try to register for the Pokken DX Online Qualifier, although I am not sure how difficult that will be to get into since it says that registration will be capped at only 128 players.
I would also add that players with event tickets should not be discouraged from participating in it if they have the means to do so. The prizes are pretty great, and it is a fun experience for all with the resources needed to play in it.
PTCGO Improvement Ideas
Finally, I wanted to go over my wish list for features that I would like to see added into PTCGO that I think would make it a better game. There’s a lot more that they could do with the game, but these are the simple ideas to add to the game that I think would really help the program take off as a major E-Sport game.
1. Competitive Ladder – This game needs a competitive ladder with ranks that go up and down based on whether you win or lose. This is a staple in most online games, from other digital card games to fighting games, it’s in a lot of games. This would give the game a proper feeder system into invitational tournaments based on rank and would give players a good measure of their skill level in the game.
A competitive ladder being introduced into the game also necessitates the introduction of a casual play ladder, as we’ve seen in other games. I think this would probably increase the quality of life of the game for more casual players as they can enjoy playing the game more so against other casual players and rogue decks instead of just continuously getting smashed by meta decks like they may experience on the current ladder.
2. Old Format Rules – Pokémon players love playing old formats, so I believe the developers should build into the game, at the very least, the Black and White, XY, and Sun & Moon rulesets as well as the old versions of cards that have been given an errata. If for technical reasons a card cannot have its text changed depending on ruleset, a simple workaround would be to create new versions of the card tied to the old text that are only legal in those formats and just give locked copies of those cards into players accounts.
3. Retro Ladder – With the old rulesets now in the game, there should be a competitive ladder to play these formats in. The way this ladder works is that every three weeks when the ladder resets it would change to a different old format. Right now, Heart Gold Soul Silver through Black and White is the oldest format we can go back and play based on the sets programmed into the game. I think people would enjoy this more than Legacy, and it might re-engage people who stopped playing the game if they see a format they liked hit the ladder.
4. Classic Ladder – In addition to the Retro Ladder, building on players’ love for playing old formats you release Base Set on PTCGO and then every 3 months you release a new set and advance this format, and then follow the format rotations and bans that were used at the time. There are 42 sets prior to release prior to Heart Gold and Soul Silver, so this would give roughly 10-years of fresh content added into the game mode.
I would suggest releasing this at the midway point between current releases. I think this could really help the game blow up as casual fans absolutely love Base Set and I think it could build proper hype for the game.
5. Build and Battle Mode – This would be an event mode on PTCGO that does 8-man pods, as the current tournaments do, but you would play the tournament with a deck that you build off of your pulls from a Build and Battle Box, just as you would in a pre-release. This would add limited play to PTCGO for the first time. Entry fees for these tournaments could cost something like 1,000 coins or 16 event tickets.
The code cards in Build and Battle Boxes could also give free entry into one of these events, giving players more incentive to attend their local pre-release tournaments.
6. Friend Mode – In this mode, you would be able to create a temporary code that you can send to a friend that they put into their PTCGO client that allows you to play with them using the decks you have built in your PTCGO account. This would be similar to the download play that we saw on the Nintendo DS that let you play multiplayer with players that didn’t have their own game cartridge. This would be great for letting people be able to play the game with friends which would make it easier to get new people into playing the game. It would also be great for partners to play with each other and for parents to be able to play with their children.
7. Introduction of Wild Cards
These should be familiar to anyone that plays Magic Arena, but for those not familiar wild cards are cards that can be redeemed for any card of that rarity. In Arena, there are wild cards for all rarities of cards, common, uncommons, rares, and mythic rares. These wild cards sometimes are the card you pull in a pack, and then every 6 packs you open you also get an extra rare or mythic wild card.
These are great to have in the game as they allow you to get the exact cards you need to build your decks. It would be great to see these added into PTCGO to help players build the decks they want to.
8. Pay to Play Options
As it is right now, there is no way to obtain cards directly in the game once you’re out of coins or event tickets. Once those resources are exhausted, the only way to get more cards is to play more to gain more of those resources, or to obtain code cards and enter those codes for packs. There should be ways within the game itself to pay for cards. There are a few different ways to get this done.
The first is to allow players to buy packs. There were micro transactions in the game years ago in the form of gems, but this wasn’t worldwide, and the price of gems was very overpriced. Something like 50 cents USD seems like a more appropriate price for a digital pack in the game, especially without the introduction of something like wild cards to ensure a minimum value of the packs you’re opening like in Magic Arena.
It may not be the best idea to go down the microtransactions pathway, however. With laws differing from country to country, online booster packs that you have to pay for may violate gambling laws in some countries, and with more focus on the exploitative nature of loot boxes in other games, laws may spread to more countries outright banning this from even being an option.
What I think would be a better option is a subscription service in which you pay a monthly fee to have access to all cards as well as other perks that come with membership, such as free event tickets, gold coins, card sleeves, deck boxes, flip coins, and avatar items.
Here is what I would suggest for the price points for subscriptions, and the core content of each subscription level.
* $9.99 – Access to all Standard Format cards.
* $9.99 – Access to all Classic Format cards.
* $19.99 – Access to all Standard and Expanded Format Cards.
* $29.99 – Access to all Standard, Expanded, Retro, and Classic Format Cards.
By going with the subscription model, players who wish to still do the free-to-play collection model, supplementing their collection with codes from tabletop products they buy could still do so, but players that don’t want to deal with all the hassle that goes into that could skip it while still supporting the game financially.
9. Spectator Mode – A spectator mode would make it easier for tournament broadcasts to be put together. While there are workarounds, as we’ve seen with the Limitless Series being able to stream through Discord, a built in spectator mode for the game would make it much easier for streams of online tournaments to happen.
There’s a lot of other features and game modes that could also be added to PTCGO, but to avoid getting too into the weeds, I just wanted to cover the big ones I’d like to see them prioritize getting into the game that I think would really improve it and help grow the game’s player base.
While PTCGO is a far from perfect program, it’s still a very solid way to play the Pokémon TCG online. Even with its imperfections, I still enjoy playing on it, but I do hope to see the company invest more money and resources into developing the program to be more suitable for competitive play and have more advanced features.
The past month or so of playing in the Limitless Qualifiers have been a great experience and I look forward to seeing who takes down the Invitational. I’ve really enjoyed the online tournament experience and look forward to participating in more during the time of tabletop being shut down and hope they stick around even after tabletop resumes.