Internationals is now fully behind us and for most players that means either focusing on the World Championships, or taking a well-deserved break from competitive play until the next Regional. For most Europeans, that would be the Liverpool Regional Championships at the end of July, about three weeks from the moment of writing this.
During this time period, we’ll be busy covering the last few things that are there when it comes to this metagame. This time of the year has always been on the quiet side in past seasons, since other than speculating on metagames to come, most of the player base simply doesn’t have much to do.
That shouldn’t be as much the case this season, due to Liverpool and perhaps the announcement of League Cups, but nonetheless we might take this opportunity to write articles about things that aren’t just the latest decks. They could be about articles pertaining to competitive Pokémon in general, such as this one, or even about alternate fun metagames, traveling tips, you name it. In fact, if you’re wanting to see an article discuss a certain subject, you’re more than free to request it through Facebook, e-mail or in the comment section below the article.
The first general topic I’d like to discuss here is cheating and cheat prevention.
There is no question that cheating is on the uprise in the Pokémon TCG. I don’t think this is necessarily because of the increase in prize support or the type of players that are joining the Pokémon TCG as a result, but simply the growth of the game as a whole that’s causing it. While most people are not willing to compromise their own integrity to get ahead, there will always be a certain percentage of players that do. Thus, when the game grows, so does the number of cheaters, even if it’s only by a ratio of 1 cheater to 10, 20 or even 50 honest players.
Pokémon as a whole is vulnerable to people looking to take advantage, since the rules make a distinction between intent and accidents. While cheating has a harsh DQ penalty assigned to it, the way the rules are worded basically requires intent to be proven. And the harsh reality is that other than in some exceptional cases, only the cheater themselves knows what their intention was. Until then, a lot of cheating allegations have been and will be explained away by cheaters, judges and friends as accidents, sloppy play, misunderstandings, and so on.
Thankfully, as cheating has risen so has awareness of it, and I think a lot of you will be familiar with a couple of commonly given but good tips to protect yourself:
– Frequently ascertain how many cards your opponent has in hand, preferably not just by asking also by looking at their hand as it’s fanned out.
– Checking your opponent’s discard pile.
– Keeping mental notes of their limitations and whether they’ve been reached during their turn, such as using a Pokémon’s once-per-turn ability, their manual energy attachment and whether a Pokémon has been in play since the start of their turn.
– Making sure your opponent goes through the steps of their turn one by one, only taking very obvious shortcuts. I’m always alright with my opponent playing a Super Rod to put something on top of their deck, then using a Ball trainer right away to fetch what they put in before shuffling, as opposed to having them shuffle their deck every time. But if they’re playing down a whole stack of items at once and start executing their effects in hard-to-follow orders, it’s time to slow down a bit.
– Making sure your opponent keeps their hand, discard pile and deck apart. Never is there a reason for them to hold both at once. This also goes for when they’re playing a card like Trainer’s Mail or a pair of Puzzles: you should only be handling one pile at a time.
– On that note, the rules obligate all players to keep their hands and hand cards above the table at all time.
These are good tips and I encourage anyone to follow them when playing in a tournament. However, if you really want to maximize your chances of only having to play fair games in a tournament, I’d recommend trying the following.
Next time you’re playtesting with a friend, you should consider agreeing to try and cheat on each other. Try to get cards back from your discard, stack your deck before shuffling, draw extra cards and hide them, do whatever it takes!
Not as a replacement to your regular playtesting, but as a way to practice catching cheaters. You’ll find yourself much more engaged with the game and the way your opponent handles their cards if you know that they are a potential cheater. But unlike at a tournament, you’re doing it in a safe environment with not much on the line but bragging rights, so it’s a good way to learn.
Of course, there needs to be some kind of incentive to cheat and not get caught. If you simply try to draw an extra card but there’s no repercussions for it other than a quick laugh for the both of you, you’ll both simply be trying to cheat almost every turn hoping your opponent misses once. So I recommend using harsh penalties, like a proper game loss, if one player catches the other cheating. That way, your goal shifts from trying to cheat as much as possible to only trying to cheat when you truly get something out of it and you think you can get away with it – which guess what, is what real cheaters try to gauge all the time too!
Keep score of the games you play with this ruleset and see how many games are won or lost by dishonest play. I believe that we as a playerbase can only beat cheaters if we know how to think like one. Your goal of this exercise should not be to try and steal as many games from your opponent as possible: it’s much more important to try and catch them cheating. There’s a reason I didn’t call this article “Why you should cheat on your playtesting partner”.
It goes without saying that things like stacking decks or vanishing cards when your opponent is paying the restroom a visit is off limits unless agreed to otherwise. Though if you’re really wanting to be thorough you should always make sure you both start every game with 60 cards.
It would be preferable if Pokémon right now didn’t carry such low risk for cheaters, but until things change for the better in that aspect it’s best if the playerbase at least learns to catch them. The more people know how to catch a cheater, the less of them will be able to soil Pokémon events.