Experts' corner

Alex Wilson


Alex goes over the toxicity of slow playing in the game, its negative impacts on the game, and how we can combat it.

06/06/2017 by Alex Wilson

Hey 60cards readers, I’m back with another article, but instead of talking about decks and upcoming tournaments, this time I’m here to bring up a topic that I consider one of the worst aspects of our beloved game, slow playing. If I were to ask you guys to raise your hand if you can’t stand cheaters, I’m almost certain everyone would raise their hand. TPCI has done a really good job in the last couple of years of responding to cheaters by banning them from participating in any sanctioned events. While slow playing and cheating aren’t in any way the same thing, personally it’s something I have a problem with, and closely relate to cheating. Everyone has their pet peeves--I know people that hate players who use max rarity cards, as they believe shiny cards clump up to the top of the deck. There are others who can’t stand opponents that prefer to shuffle their deck over cutting it, and some wish that flipping coins could be outright banned from events. Everyone has a problem with the game in some form or another, and mine is slow players. While I in no way intend on offending any of the players I mention in this article, I do hope that they at least take something from this article, and work on ways of speeding up their pace of play. 

Why I Bring This Up

The last two weekends I traveled to the regional championships in both Virginia and Toronto, both of which I finished with mediocre records. While most players’ goals are to finish with a winning record, I expect nothing less of myself than to win every tournament I travel to, if not at least make day two of larger events like regionals. In Virginia, I played what I thought to be the best possible deck for that tournament, and still feel that way about my deck choice. I played Mega Mewtwo with two copies of Wobbuffet and two Hex Maniac. All nine of my opponents' decks were exactly what I was prepared to play against. While I took two losses to a really close Decidueye matchup and a not-so-close mirror match, I tied with three of my opponents, which all could have just as well been wins. 

I played Mewtwo in Virginia and Rayquaza in Toronto.

My first tie of the day was with a Rayquaza player. I know the ins and outs of every Rayquaza list I find myself sitting in front of. No matter the deck I’m piloting, I feel I know how to play Rayquaza more than my opponent does, and I should win the matchup every time, especially with Mewtwo. A slow Rayquaza player, on the other hand, is not something I’ve encountered before. They took a solid ten to fifteen seconds before completing each action, even during “no-brainer” plays such as attaching a Spirit Link to a Rayquaza-EX and grabbing Hooopa-EX off an Ultra Ball. I won the first game in what felt like a thirty-minute match, and he barely pulled off the second game in a fifteen-minute match. With only a few minutes left, I quickly set up two Mewtwo with a Wobbuffet active and watched my opponent drag out a five-minute turn before time was called. While my opponent didn’t intentionally slow play, he hurt us both in that one of us could have walked away from that round with a W.

Now, I realize that a tie is better than a loss, but after only two rounds, you get thrown into an awkward bracket possibly filled with slower players, if not slower disruption decks. So, is a loss better than a tie early on in the tournament? Knowing that there’s a possibility of getting paired against a player that may not be as skilled of a player as yourself? I know I’m getting off topic and thinking outside of the realm of logic, but it’s something I can’t help but think. After one tie, to guarantee making it into day two, you are only allowed one loss at the end of the day. With regionals now reaching numbers of 650 plus players, one must finish day one of a tournament with a near-perfect record in order to move on to day two. Players with a 6-1-2 record bubbled out of day two in Virginia! (Which is insane compared to last year when 6-2-1 was guaranteed Top 32 at a regional.)

My second tie of the tournament was against a Lapras deck. What’s already a tough matchup, thanks to the disruption in Crushing and Enhanced Hammers, didn't become any easier in the slightest when playing an intentionally slow player. The first game I lost all of my energies from hammers and couldn’t catch up prior to scooping once I realized all was lost. I confidently won the second game fairly quickly. And we proceeded into game three with approximately fifteen minutes left in the round. After I knocked out his first Lapras-GX, he realized that there was no way he could win and  took his sweet precious time with every action. He would look at both his and my discard piles each turn before passing his turn. And then proceeded to begin openly stating that time should have been called by now, (as if another tie is going to help him win the tournament). Having only two prizes left on my side of the field, time was called. My opponent yelled finally, leaned back in his chair, and played Delinquent to rid me of my entire hand away into nothing. With only one turn left to top deck the Lysandre for the win, I drew an energy leaving me with another undeserving tie.

I partially blame myself for this one--literally one more turn could have won me the game. While I played as fast as I could even in game one, I can’t help but think what would have happened had I have called over a judge after he made it clear that he was intentionally slow playing. Unfortunately, there’s something inside of me that can’t help but try to be everyone’s friend. Even when someone is rude to me, oddishly (Pokemon pun) I’m still as friendly as could be. So, at the time I didn’t feel it was necessary to call over a judge for someone who I thought I had beat. Calling a judge is a topic I’ll get back to in a bit.

"Wake me up when time's called..."

My third tie of the day knocked me out of contention for day two, for at the time my record going into round eight was 4-1-2. This tie however I’m not at all upset over as I played a friend of mine, Mike Fouchet. He was piloting Turbo Darkrai and played it very well--I won the first game, he won the second game, and time was called in game three while we each had six prizes left. The only thing I want to bring up here is revisiting a topic that many have shared their opinions on. Fifty minutes for a best of three series is not long enough to decide a true winner! Next season, I would be the happiest person in the world if TPCI extends rounds by ten, or even just five minutes. Ties can still be possible, allowing IDs, but not as many players can intentionally stall for a tie in a fifty-five or sixty-minute series. 

While I didn’t tie with a single player in Toronto, I still ran into two players that I suspected were intentionally slow playing. Both were playing Giratina/Seismitoad, which are already naturally slow decks, and present annoying obstacles for M Rayquaza-EX. But one of which was a new player who had to read every card in his hand although he had already played seven rounds with the deck that day.

How Slow Playing Hurts Us

Similar to the topic on whether a player truly “earned” their world’s invite after multiple friends scooped to them in a single tournament, I feel forcing a tie with a player who obviously had you beat is just as “honest.” Most good players, like I consider myself, put a lot of time and effort into practicing for tournaments, knowing that they have a good chance at earning money and increasing their championship point total. The unfortunate part about tournaments, is that big named players are the least of my worries, it’s the slower, random quad-hammer, Giratina, Silent Lab, Suiccune decks that tend to cause the most problems. While every player has the right to participate in a tournament, and steal a tie if they need to, it really sucks to see that they knocked a great respectable player out of a tournament, then proceed to lose every round afterwards. It’s a tricky topic, like I said, every person has the right to play and take wins and ties, after all, we’re all trying to be the best like no one ever was right? Tournaments can be compared to Mario Kart for some of the better players in the game. You might be the best in the race, but a single random blue shell can put you in the bottom tables, where you then have to claw your way out of a bombardment of red shells, bananas, bob-bombs, and boomerangs. 

Tips for Playing Slow Players

The official rules state that each player is given fifteen seconds between each action. If you think your opponent is taking too long in between certain plays, begin counting in your head how long it’s taking them to play out each action. If they’re reaching the fifteen second mark, the best possible thing to do is to be verbal about your concern for time. Politely say something like, “I don’t mean to be rude, but can you please pick up your pace, we’re not given a whole lot of time after all,” or something more casual like “Don’t forget about time man.” If they seem to not care, and continue to play at a slower pace than they should, now’s the time to start taking it seriously. While still being polite, tell them that if they continue to play slow, you’ll have to call over a judge. DON’T BE AFRAID TO CALL A JUDGE, especially if they’re intentionally slowing playing you into a tie. Money and your world’s invitation are on the line, your opponent is cheating and you deserve the win, ‘nough said. Picking up your own pace of play can also help compensate for the time wasted on your opponents end. Just be careful not to make any misplays in doing this, still try to think out each play perfectly. And while I don’t at all condone this behavior, being openly rude to an opponent who has little concern for you after you’ve been polite might be the answer. After all, you may notify a judge, but they’re responsible for multiple tables of players, they can’t put all of their focus on one match in particular for too long.

Tips for Saving Time

This can help both slow players, and those who are already a fairly quick thinker. There are many ways to improve your pace of play, first of which is using shortcuts. If you play a Trainers’ Mail, and grab an Ultra Ball, knowing that you’ll then play said Ultra Ball, rather than shuffling your deck than playing it, just play the Ultra Ball and save a lot of time. Shuffling takes up more time than many realize, the less shuffling that’s involved in a match, the better for time’s sake. Cutting is also another small-time saver, especially if you’re the kind of person that prefers to shuffle your opponent’ deck every time it’s offered to you. Choosing to cut your opponent’s deck rather than shuffling can save a lot of time, and if time is growing thin, choosing to not cut your opponent’s deck so that they can quickly move on with their turn is another time saver. 

Another thing I see in a lot of players is waiting for a response from their opponent when playing a card. What I mean is some players will play a card like Professor Sycamore, or an N, and then look at their opponent as if they need their approval to continue with their turn. Or when playing Max Elixir, rather than saving time by grabbing an energy and attaching it immediately to a benched Pokemon, some players grab an energy and show it to their opponent… There is literally no point in doing this, everyone knows what Max Elixir allows the player to do, and it’s obvious whether you grab an energy or not, there’s no need to show it to your opponent, shaving off those few seconds can go a long way.

Fun fact, Deoxys Speed Forme is the fastest Pokemon. WWDD; What would Deoxys do?

Yet another annoying thing I see players do is at the beginning of their turn, they draw a card from their deck and slowly slide it across their mat before looking at it. Why add suspense, please just draw the card and put it in your hand.

Discarding every card in your hand one at a time after playing a Professor Sycamore also takes more time than should be taken. The card says to discard your hand, you don’t have to show each card to your opponent. It’s not at all rude to play Sycamore, then put your entire hand in your discard pile. If your opponent wants to know what you discarded, at any time they have the right to look through your discard pile. You can also think of it as a possible advantage, if your opponent chooses not to look at your discard pile, they have less knowledge of the board state than if you openly showed them everything. You might have discarded your last energy, if they see that, they know of an extra win condition. Or if your discarded a secret tech card like Karen or Delinquent, they won’t be expecting it if they choose not to look at what you discarded.

Pile shuffling in between games is another huge waste of time. Some prefer pile shuffling, but arguably it adds no additional amount of randomization that riffle shuffling already provides. When I first sit down across from my opponent, I pile shuffle once, and riffle close to ten times. After the first and second games however, you’ll never see me pile shuffle. Like I just said, riffle shuffling is just as effective and saves so much time.

Time's short, make the most of it.

Closing Thoughts

There’s a fine line between thinking out a turn, playing slow, and intentionally slow playing. Slow playing is not at all okay, and is unhealthy for our game. Players who deserved the win go home empty handed, and the players that forced the tie usually earned nothing from it, dragging their opponent down with them. I’d love to see the community be more openly against slow playing, though I’d love it even more if TPCI gave us more time, or just got rid of ties all together like the good old days. After these last two weekends, I’m definitely setting some time aside to improve the way I play, so I can play at a faster pace when time is growing thin. I’d love it if everyone takes a little something from this article, even if it’s knowing when to call a judge over to your table. (Seriously, don’t be scared, money’s on the line, just be the bigger person.)

Thanks for sitting through another one of my articles! I’d love for some feedback, this is the first time I’ve strayed away from talking about decks and meta plays. So, let me know what you think. My next article will hit shortly before Madison Regionals in the first week of June. There, I’ll talk about the decks I’m considering playing and what I expect to play against in the tournament. 

Until next time guys!

[+10] okko

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