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Guidance for Pokémon TCG Judges from Pokémon Organized Play

Friday, December 18th, 2015

Team Compendium, Pokémon Organized Play (POP) and R&D have had multiple discussions prior to the 2015 US National Championships and at the 2015 World Championships. These discussions clarified for the Judge Staff how Pokémon wishes certain situations to be handled. POP is clarifying some of these in their Penalty Guidelines, but this article is meant to explain some of these best practices and to make sure the word is spread and put into practice. This article has been reviewed by POP and R&D and reflects their guidance.


Decklist Penalties:

The new Penalty Guidelines for the 2015-2016 season have been clarified and somewhat revised. There has been confusion in the past about best practices in this area, so don’t be surprised if the following doesn’t match up with how decklist issues have been handled in your area. This is, however, how Pokémon wants decklist issues to be handled going forward.

Previously, deck issues carried a relatively light penalty. Unless it was both an illegal list and an illegal deck, the penalty was only a Caution or a Warning. However, the “fix” to the deck problem was seen by many players as much harsher than the actual penalty. The usual fix of any mismatch between a deck and a decklist that could not be uniquely determined was the replacement of the offending card with a Basic Energy card.

Going forward, the fix of the deck will be more forgiving, however most Deck Penalties will start at Game Loss. The only exception will be Legal Deck, Legal Decklist, which will start at a Prize Loss.


If card has been listed but is unclear, the contents of the deck can be used to determine what the correct card should be. For example, if a list just says “Squirtle” but not the set or set number, then the decklist will be corrected and updated using the information from the actual Squirtle card in the deck. The player will keep the Squirtle in their deck. If the judge staff determines that a player is purposely swapping out similar cards, this penalty will be escalated to Unsporting Conduct: Cheating.


If a card is not listed at all, such as a decklist that has less than 60 cards listed, then it cannot have additional cards from the deck added to the list to bring the total up to 60. The unlisted card(s) must be replaced with Basic Energy. If the decklist lists a card but the deck contains another, then the decklist takes precedence and the deck must be corrected to match, or the non-listed card will be replaced with Basic Energy. In both of these cases, a Game Loss is the penalty.


Generally speaking, while a decklist/deck problem will earn a Game Loss, penalties can be still be escalated based on the Judge determining if any significant advantage has been gained.


Answering Players’ questions during an event:


Judges have generally been following a rule of thumb of not answering most hypothetical questions from players and waiting until the action is actually performed before ruling on what happens as a result. The reasoning for this has been a reluctance to appear or actually give guidance that could be seen as “Coaching”.

While the sentiment is laudable, feedback from Pokémon R&D and POP indicates judges have been too strict in this regard. Pokémon has instructed that players’ questions of fact and rulings on card interactions are to be given to players when requested. The only types of questions that should not be answered are advice questions, such as “should I do this or should I do that?”

If there is a choice involved and are you being asked to help choose one choice vs another, do not answer that question. Any question along the lines of “if X is done to Y, what is the result?” should be answered. Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean that we will be human calculators for players. If a player asks, “Will this attack do X damage?”, you should ask them to walk through their calculations and then either confirm or correct them. This will give them the correct answer without encouraging them to be lazy about doing the math themselves.


Deck and discard pile arrangement:


POP is concerned with clarity of the Game Play area so that judges can easily see in passing what the game state is. However, this needs to be balanced with a player’s needs to have the layout arranged in a manner that makes their gameplay smooth and easy. While the Rule Book includes a layout of the game play area, it is not meant to be enforced rigidly. It has become widely known that Pokémon allows players to switch the layout between right side and left side to make play easier for left handed players. So it is permissible for the deck and discard pile to be on the left hand size and the Prize cards on the right. The important thing is that the deck and discard pile are on one side and Prize cards (and Lost Zone) are on the other side. This gives sufficient clarity to the game state for judges to see what is going on, while also accommodating left handed players.

Similarly, Pokémon in not concerned about whether the deck and discard piles are switched in the layout. There are a number of good reasons that a Player might wish their discard pile to be further away from the table’s edge. They are still easily distinguished from each other, as one is face up and the other is face down. Do not interrupt a match to enforce a layout that does not impact the game’s clarity.


Note that the deck still needs to be orientated “north/south” with the open end of the sleeve facing away from the player as this requirement is in place to address specific cheating concerns. That has not changed.

Formatted Player Responsibilities Documents

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

Seen at a recent Regionals, there were a number of requests for the “Player Responsibilities” POSTER on the pairings boards, so we’re posting them here. While they are not ‘official rulings’ they may be helpful to event organizers looking to reinforce or provide players a reference for Players Meeting announcements.

The ENVELOPE format is included for large events that pass out Promo cards and raffle tickets. Put those in the envelope and now your player has a reason to care about the player responsibilities document. It have been observed that putting out information sheets at each place in the player meeting can just result in them being shoved aside for quick games, trading and last minute deck list work… but the envelopes get picked up.


Here are the links for the Microsoft Word documents, and the full text of the poster. Let us know your results and contribute back any improved documents to the discussion thread on the PokeGym:

Championship Player Responsibilities

Player Responsibilities: You must uphold these responsibilities throughout the event.

  • Be Friendly – make friends here, introduce yourself, shake hands.
  • Spirit of the Game – fun, fairness, honesty, respect, sportsmanship, and learning.
    Win humbly, lose graciously.
  • Deck – Must be 60 clean unmarked cards in standard format – turn in legible and matching deck list at Players Meeting.
  • Game state – Track with markers/turned cards according to rules; each player to supply own counters & markers.
  • Pace – Keep it lively, typically 10 seconds to consider game state, 15 sec search, 5 sec promote; keep pace in +3!!!
  • Call a Judge – If something is unclear or not played right; stop play & raise your hand. You may appeal any ruling to HJ.
  • Match Reporting – Winner or tied Masters players bring completed match slip to desk; double game loss for missing/late slip.
  • Swiss 2of3 – Incomplete game at time +3 doesn’t count. Score match on basis of completed games.
  • Draws – Playing at pace for a draw is a legitimate goal for a match; do not use intimidation or whining to thwart a draw.
  • Conceding match – You may offer one, but you may not ask for one. Do not use a random method to resolve a draw to a concession.
  • Food and Drink – NOT ALLOWED at/under tables. You may have a capped room-temperature water bottle on table.
  • Respect Venue – Deposit trash inside trashcans. Report problems with rest room to staff immediately. Stay in bounds.

A couple things before State, Province and Territory Championships!

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Greetings Organizers, Judges and Players of the Pokémon Trading Card Game,

The State, Province and Territory Championships are almost upon us and we’d like to make a couple things clear before they begin:

FIRST, Team Compendium has learned from TPCi R&D that Shield Energy’s reduction in damage occurs AFTER applying weakness and resistance. This is consistent with the normal pattern for damage modifying effects on defending Pokémon. You can expect an errata from  TPCi soon, and possibly a ruling Q/A published by Team Compendium in the meantime. However, we wanted to get this out there, ASAP as you’re planning your decks and informing your judges. Thanks to Pokepop and some players asking him about this effect for the catch!

SECOND, I heard from a totally awesome judge at a Regionals who was under the impression that if you make a wrong ruling at an event, you keep ruling it that way for the balance of the event. I’ve heard this from some organizers, and even heard this pitched by some players before. But, I was a little surprised to hear this had carried over into the VG side of Pokémon Organized Play, albeit as a hypothetical. I was shocked and my reaction was (mentally using June Clanton’s “really” voice) Really? REEALLLLYYY? (/June). Oh my goodness! NO you do not keep on with that wrong ruling. Absolutely not. Here’s how it goes: 1) you find out that you the HJ made a bad ruling, 2) you inform your team the right ruling, 3) you find the players affected, explain the correct ruling and apologize and 4) you make sure the ruling is made the right way the rest of the event. In bold for posterity and for those in doubt about any similar scenario that might be or might not be on the Professor exam: If you find out you made a bad ruling at an event, you make sure the right ruling is used for the rest of the event. <= that there is a period.

Sometimes a mistake is made – it might be a translation or might be a ruling, but either way you fix it before moving on.


p.s. Are you a TERRITORY event organizer or a player planning to attend a TERRITORIAL championship? We’d like to hear from you.

2014-2015 Cities Announcement Worksheet

Sunday, December 14th, 2014

For those organizing cities this fall and winter, here is an updated Cities Announcement Worksheet. It contains an outline for 3 sets of announcements… Judges meeting, Player’s Meeting and Top Cut meeting.


  • How to “play” a card.
  • How to play VS Seeker, Ultra Ball and the like without confusing your opponent.
  • Shuffling and searching – some players need to hear “your’re doing it wrong” before they earn a penalty.

What can you do with it?

  • Download it, edit it and use it in your Cities organizing.
  • Comment on it… if there is something applicable to everyone (or a correction), let us know!

Have a great City season!

–Team Compendium

PokeGym Decklist Generator now produces Standard and Expanded lists!

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

decklist The PokeGym’s Decklist Generator continues to be one of the most useful tools of its type for players. Updated and improved recently by maintainer Jimmy G, the list now does Expanded as well as Standard format lists. Responsive support for using the Generator is available in the feedback thread on the PokeGym.

The PokeGym Decklist Generator, originally conceived and maintained by Steve P, has been a standard tool for both organizers and players.

Some comments about the Generator,

“I really like it and am hoping it will alleviate an awful lot of confusion with deck lists. Particularly with newer players and parents that are learning to help their younger players.” – Mike M. Maryland Premier Tournament Organizer

“Fantastic tool that helps both players and organizers alike.” – Chris C. Perennially one of the top Masters players in California.

“A real asset to the Pokémon community.” – David M, Veteran Local Organizer.

“printed decklists are always in every way superior to [hand] written ones…” Geoff C, Canadian Premiere Tournament Organizer

Compendium BW – German!

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Team Compendium is very proud to announce our first official translation!

Thanks to the stupendous translation work of PokeGym member and German Nationals & Worlds Judge, Glumanda, we now have a translation of our Compendium BW edition for use by German speaking players and judges. Many thanks to Glumanda for the hours of time and care (and brainstorming formats, etc. with TC) to make this happen.

Here is how the ongoing translation process will work:

  1. TC publishes the rulings in the Compendium Updates forum on the PokeGym.
  2. Glumanda translates these and enters them in the Compendium BW German database.
  3. He then previews the finished Compendium BW document and publishes it.

All additions and updates for the Compendium BW are tracked in the Compendium Updates logs. So, there may be a little lag between the English BW and publishing the German translation.

Team Compendium says thanks again to Glumanda and hello to our German-speaking Pokémon-Sammelkartenspiel Regelkompendium Schwarz und Weiß readers, old and new!

You can take notes on Time Walk

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

The Tournament Rules on taking notes changed for this season. They are quoted below from section 7 of the Play! Pokemon Tournament Rules.

Players are allowed to take notes during a game in respect to actions that have happened during the game. Players may take notes during a match and refer to those notes. Players may choose not to share these notes with other players, but a judge may ask to see a player’s notes and request an explanation if needed. A player’s note sheet must be blank at the start of each match. Players must be timely with their note taking and may not use devices that may send or receive messages as a note-taking device. A player may not refer to notes taken during previous rounds while the tournament is still in progress. Notes taken during a match may not be given to other players during the course of the tournament.
Because a judge may ask to see a player’s notes while a match is in progress, the use of codes, ciphers, abbreviations, or any other method of obscuring the meaning of the information is not permitted. Additionally, notes taken by a player may not contain misinformation, intended to deceive tournament staff.

We’ve removed the old rulings on note taking from the Compendium until we can replace them. One big difference is that the qualification for note taking no longer exclude taking notes on your prizes, such as may be revealed by Time Walk.

Happy time travel.


For Team Compendium

For Battle Road Playtesters – Red Armor & Defender

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Here are some official rulings from TPCi Rules Team that we’d like to get out to all you Battle Road playtesters this week.

Q. If Garchomp [C] Lv.X has Special Energy cards attached and discards all of them when using its “Dragon Rush” attack, can it do damage to a Scizor that has the “Red Armor” Poke-BODY?
A. No. First choose which two energies to discard, then do the damage (before any other effects), then you actually discard the energy at the end of the attack. So it will still be attached at the point when damage would be done, but the damage will be blocked. (Aug 19, 2010 PUI Rules Team; Sep 2, 2010 PUI Rules Team)

Red Armor is also in effect against other attacks, besides Dragon Rush, that would discard all special energy as part of the attack.

Q. If I attach Defender to Drifblim and do “Balloon Tackle”, does Defender prevent the 20 self damage from that attack?
A. Yes. Play Defender as if the damage prevention wording was printed, “Any damage done by attacks to the Pokémon Defender is attached to is reduced by 20 (after applying Weakness and Resistance).” (Aug 19, 2010 PUI Rules Team)

Defender from Undaunted appears to have been printed incorrectly; play it as per the ruling. Base Set Defender is legal for Battle Road without any reference.

Image links in Compendium LvX Updated

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

With many thanks to our friend Dave Christian (PokeGym Member – The Gorn) at, we’ve finally used the file he gave us last summer and updated the database that creates the links from the Compendium rulings to the Researching Tower images.

The result is a more complete reference when you want to look at a card for which a ruling is published in the Compendium. Thanks to Dave’s data we are up-to-date through Rising Rivals and OP9 sets.

We realize there are some gaps where there is no link to the Tower image for a card ruling. This occurs where images aren’t consistently labeled as to set (e.g. Trainer Kit Gold) or TPCi has chosen card numbers that don’t fit into our current algorithms (the Shiny Duskull for example). Also, there are one or two links that actually don’t match the ruling, where the name of the attack is the same but the attack is completely different or the name is a subset of another name.

We’re hoping to close these small gaps sometime in the future… after we update through HeartGold SoulSilver. For now, though, we’re happy to have the addtional links!

A few notes while we wait…

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Yes, we’re waiting on some big post-Worlds rulings and also Arceus is about to hit the Compendium big time. Meawhile, here are two small notes.

PDF Version. A couple months ago, we got the Acrobat version of the Compendium automated. It kicks in at midnight Pacific Time, or thereabouts. For fans of the PDF version, you can find it linked on “The Compendium” tab on this site. The iSilo version is still there, also automated. And, of course, the HTML version is also linked there and in the “Direct Link” in the sidebar of the front page of the Compendium site.

Set Up… in reverse. Back in March we received a ruling that Uxie could use its Set Up Poke-POWER with 7 or more cards in your hand. After Worlds, this was reviewed and we received a reversal at the end of September. We don’t have an update log for it yet, because we are waiting for other rulings in that batch. Note that the old ruling was asked in the context of Power Cancel, but because of the reversal, the update went under Set Up. To be clear, you may NOT use Set Up if there are 7 or more cards in your hand.

See you at Cities…