The aim of this document is to provide guidance for judges and Organizers running digital events using Pokémon TCG Online. Most of the rules and guidelines from other documents still apply and staff is required to follow these where possible. You can find these rules HERE.
This document addresses those issues that are specific to digital events and require special handling, not covered in those documents.
Eligibility for Pokémon Team Challenge
Country restrictions: only players from the following countries are eligible to participate: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guernsey, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Jersey, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States (including Puerto Rico) and Uruguay.
Age restrictions: only players from the Masters division are eligible to participate. This means you need to be born in 2004 or earlier to be allowed to play. Players from Brazil must be 18 years or older to be allowed to play. Players under 16 from other countries (AR, AU, BO, CL, CO, CR, DO, EC, SV, DE, GT, GG, IE, LU, MX, NL, NZ, NI, PY, PE, PL, CH, UY) will need parental consent, which will be handled as part of the signup process. Players in the Junior or Senior divisions are not eligible.
Other eligibility restrictions: suspended players are not allowed to participate in the Pokémon Team Challenge. This includes all players suspended from any Play! Pokémon tournaments for any game.
Players are expected to be able to communicate with both their opponent and the staff during a digital event, within a reasonable time. This will require the presence of the player on the communication platform offered by the Organizer as well as attention of the player to any received direct messages or notifications. Discord is recommended for this, but the choice is ultimately up to the store.
During the early rounds of the playoffs, one of the two stores should provide the communication platform, with both TOs present as well as all team members. As a third option, tournamentcenter will make a neutral Discord server available.
During the top 32 and later rounds of the playoffs, matches will be organized by tournamentcenter via Discord.
If a player does not reply to staff within a reasonable time, a decision may need to be made using incomplete information, often to the player’s disadvantage. In addition, a penalty for Tardiness may be applied after ten minutes.
Online behavior etiquette
Play! Pokémon events are enjoyed for their atmosphere of friendly competition and good sportsmanship. The objective for every Play! Pokémon tournament is that every participant has fun while also playing at their best.
We want everyone who participates in Play! Pokémon events to keep these principles in mind—fun, fairness, honesty, respect, sportsmanship, and learning. Together, these principles make up our Spirit of the Game.
Adherence to the Spirit of the Game helps to ensure that all participants have an enjoyable experience. This spirit should guide the conduct of players as well as that of the tournament judges as they interpret and enforce the rules.
This is true for digital events as well as tabletop events.
Electronic decklist submission and use
If a digital event requires the use of decklists, they will need to be provided electronically. The Organizer will typically instate a deadline for submission. Not meeting this deadline should be treated as Tardiness if there is no published metagame. If the event’s metagame is publicly available before the list is submitted however, the player should not be permitted to participate.
Some digital events will use the “open decklist” option, which allows players access to the decklist of their opponent before and during the game. This is done as a way of ensuring players play with their originally submitted deck throughout the entire event. If a player notices a discrepancy, they should report it to the event staff. Verified discrepancies are handled through the normal procedures for these types of problems.
Failure to connect to opponent
In order to play a match, players need to connect with their opponent inside the game client. If the players fail to make this happen within a reasonable time (usually 10 minutes after the round has started), they should not start their match anymore and instead notify staff. Staff will investigate which player was causing the issue. That player will lose the current round and be dropped from the event unless they can remedy the issue before the next round. If staff is not able to identify which player caused the issue, both players will lose the match instead.
Missing results at the end of the round
If the round time is up, and there are unreported matches, staff should reach out to those players using the advertised communication platform to find out if the players are still in their match or have forgotten to submit a result.
If neither player replies within a reasonable time, the match should be recorded as a draw. Reasonable time in this case usually means 5 minutes after the end of the round or 5 minutes after asking the question, whichever comes later.
If the players answer but have not yet finished their match, they should be given a deadline by which to finish their match before it will be considered a draw. This deadline is usually 10 minutes after the end of the round or 10 minutes after contact was sought by staff, whichever comes later, with any additional time granted to the match added to that time.
Tournament Organizers hold no control over a player’s hardware or internet connection. As such, they cannot be held responsible when a player disconnects from the server inside the game client. As it is easy to simulate a disconnection, the player is considered to be responsible. Any damage to the game, including games or matches being cancelled, will result in a ruling to the disadvantage of the disconnected player. This applies to all involuntary disconnections, with the exclusion of overall system downtime.
In case of overall system downtime of the Pokémon TCG Online system due to scheduled or unscheduled maintenance, this will be made clear in the game client. The TO is encouraged to avoid scheduling matches during an announced maintenance window, or reschedule any matches that were ongoing when an unannounced maintenance window starts.
Software bugs and exploits
Tournament Organizers hold no control over software bugs in the game client. As far as tournament results are concerned, any rules as they are implemented by the game client will be considered legal outcomes, even if those differ from documented rules.
If a player knowingly abuses a software bug, they will be penalized. Exploiting bugs on purpose to gain an advantage is considered cheating. A list of known bugs can be found here (shortly).
While attending a Play! Pokémon tournament, some players may be instructed to play a match that will be featured, projected, or broadcast (streamed) live to a large audience and/or to online viewers. In order to provide the necessary footage to stream gameplay, players may be asked to share their screen with the Organizer. Players must comply with the Organizer’s directions regarding the way players will share their screen with the Organizers. Organizers are encouraged to document before the event whether this will happen and in what way players will share their screen.
For top 4 playoff matches in the team versus team portion of the Pokémon Team Challenge, players will be required to share their game screen via Discord. For that, the player needs to have a stable internet connection with enough bandwidth and computer able to handle these tasks. This will require players to use a computer version of the game, rather than play on tablet.
Players are reminded that, by entering or remaining at a sanctioned Play! Pokémon event, they agree to abide by the information stipulated under the Publishing Tournament Information section (2.6.) of the Play! Pokémon Tournament Rules Handbook. Players are not permitted to voluntarily decline participating in a streamed match. In exceptional circumstances, the Organizer may at their own discretion decide that it is in the best interests of all involved that the chosen match not be streamed. However, it should be noted that this consideration is reserved for truly uncommon circumstances, wherein a serious detriment may occur to the players’ ability to participate fully in that match.
Where players believe that their individual circumstances may make it prohibitively difficult for them to appear on stream, they should make every effort to inform the Organizer prior to the day of the event. Rules infractions committed during streamed matches that are not immediately addressed may be identified and penalized upon subsequent review of match footage.
Additionally, certain kinds of penalties, especially those related to unacceptable behavior or language, may be escalated when the infraction occurs during a streamed match.
Outside assistance generally follows the same rules as outlined in other policy documents, with a few notable exceptions:
If a player is streaming their own games, they are themselves responsible for ensuring they do not receive any outside assistance. This can be achieved in several ways, for example by not allowing viewers to chat (or chat only using emotes), or by having a 5 minute delay between their game and their stream. If a player makes no efforts to stop them from receiving outside assistance from their viewers, Outside Assistance penalties will be applied as though the player has actively requested help.
Players are not allowed to watch the stream of their opponent if they are streaming, including when a delay is in place. Doing so will result in that player receiving Outside Assistance penalties.
Some events may explicitly allow outside assistance from team members to encourage team building and team play. Those events will make that explicitly clear and will only allow exceptions to the regular outside assistance rules for team members of the player.