SPEs, am I right?

Where is the best place in the country to set yourself up the best way for a Day Two invite? This isn’t a question that many people ask themselves. Few, if any, will decide where to live solely for Pokemon.

The answer, by the way, is Florida. And not why you might think. The fact is that a lot of the people in the top sixteen race are attending every single Regionals. Last year, that was not the case, but that seems to be the norm this year. In addition, players need to dedicate weekends to cups and fly to ICs as well. However, there are some special tournaments that happen throughout the year that can make or break someone’s day two race.

Let me tell a quick story about something that happened in the Day Two race last year. To set the scene, Drew Bennett was fighting for a spot in the T16 in North America. On June 17th, there was a Special Event at the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio, and at that point in the race, Drew really needed some points. However, if he was looking at flight prices, he would have noticed something interesting. It would actually be cheaper for him to fly to Mexico City than Columbus. So in this scenario, this player wasn’t even trying to get “easier” points, he was just making the fiscally responsible choice. The rest is history. Drew flew down to Mexico City, made the two hour drive up to Querétaro, and won the event.

There were 14 Masters, which meant that Drew probably went 3-1 or better to make top four where he won and went on to the finals to win there. This meant that he could have gotten 160 CP by winning 5 matches.

Meanwhile, on that same day, 100 Masters battled it out at the same level of tournament in Columbus. Seena Ghaziaskar could have made it into cut with a record of 5-1-1 and won his quarterfinal, his semifinal, and final match. This is 8 wins, and also won him the same 160 CP.

I want to stress that what Drew did was in no way wrong or even unfair. It was cheaper for him to go to the Mexican Special Event, and it was simply much easier for him to earn those points.

The following weekend, Igor Costa flew to a Special Event in Mexico City with only nine Masters and won the event as well. However, due to his T4 run at the NAIC shortly after, that tournament had not effect on his Day Two ranking. The Querétaro event, however, did.

Drew finished with only 12 CP more than the player ranked 17th. Without SPE Querétaro, he would not have finished in the top 16.

Here is a list of the attendance of all the SPEs last year in North and South America:

As you can see, Mexico had the smallest events that were easily accessible. Chile and Argentina both can cost more than $1000 to fly to from the U.S., so those aren’t really relevant in this specific conversation. Any Special Events within the U.S. or Canada aren’t unfair, as anyone can access those realistically.

Applying this to the 2017-2018 season
I don’t think attendances at this year’s Mexican Special Events will be anywhere near as small as they were last year. Last year, those events were announced very last minute because TPCi chose to authorize them extremely last minute. However this year, the Cancún Special Event was announced very, very much in advance (if attendance suffers it will be because of competing with Regionals on the same day). It is in late May, and two SPEs inside of Mexico City have already been announced. With so much advance notice, I expect these tournaments to have attendances of over fifty players, putting them on a significantly higher level than they were at least year.

However, Latin America significantly changed their strategy for handing out Special Events this year. Last year, there were only Special Events in Argentina, Chile, and Mexico. But this year, the number of countries with Special Events has nearly tripled. Here is a list at the time of writing this:

Again, Chile and Argentina are irrelevant. New countries got SPEs, such as Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia, but those are also especially cost-prohibitive to attend.

The big new ones are Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia. Those events are within the price range of many Day Two players, especially those who live in Florida. Looking at Google Flights, the best price I see FLL-GYE (Florida to Ecuador) for $271. I see MCO-BOG (Orlando to Colombia) for $299. I see FLL-LIM (Florida to Perú) for $278. These are affordable flights. If I were in Florida, I would be all over these. There was a Special Event in each one of these countries this year, and it is much easier to get points at one of these events than at an American Regionals. Costa Mesa Regionals required a record of 10-3-1 to make Top Eight and get 100 points. In Ecuador, you could do the same thing by going 3-1-1. In Peru, it was a perfect cut where every 4-2 made top eight.

So why weren’t the Americans there? The system is a bit wonky currently in that you can’t search for Special Events on the Event Locator. They were searchable for a short time but now the tag doesn’t work. So to find a Special Event, the organizer has to promote it well or you need to know someone who is searching through every. single. event on Pokemon.com (that’s me). The Peruvian and Ecuadorian events happened on the same day as an American Regionals, but the Colombian event doesn’t intersect with anything.

It depends on how organizers promote their events to Americans, but also there can be some unpredictability in general when it comes to Latin American events. The Paraguay SPE had a tentative date for a while leading up to the event. I registered for the Ecuadorian event, but a player and the TO reached out to me saying that they were considering changing the event date. If that had happened, and I hadn’t already been in touch with the local scene, that would have been very bad.

Applying this to the 2018-2019 season

This isn't going away. If the season stays like it is, and the Peru and Ecuador organizers join Colombia in scheduling their events so that they don't conflict with US Regionals, what happened in Colombia is going to repeat three times over next year. This is not a one-of.

In terms of “easy” points, the problem solves itself through economics. This year, there were only two Americans in Colombia. Next year, since people know about the event, there will be more. There won't be as many points to go around and it'll balance out. Last year, the Mexico SPEs had low attendances and this year, they'll have high attendances for this reason.

The only people who have an advantage are those who can navigate Pokemon.com well enough to find these events. Colombia is barely more expensive to get to than Mexico City. The difference is only how much information is available.

I don't know what an optimal solution is. We can't region lock Tier Two tournaments because that's not fair to players who live close to a border (Pablo can come to our Regionals, so we can come to his even though it's a different region).

I'm tempted to say, slash the point totals in half because some of these events are small. But the fact of the matter is that many of these events are BIG. It's not fair to the 150 person SPE in Prague or the 180 person SPE in Chile to slash their points.

You can't just get rid of these tournaments either. In Ecuador and Colombia, these tournaments absolutely invigorated the local community.

I don't know what the solution is. But I know there's a problem.


Popular posts from this blog

Did we just fix SPEs?

According to Joe, I have Zero Integrity and Don't Deserve Respect as a Competitor

Why SixPrizes Hated Me Circa 2011