James H. and Pikkdogs Discuss Pay to Read Pokemon Sites

by James Hall ~ June 2nd, 2012.

A big hello to all you OHKOers out there.  This is Pikkdogs and James here with a different kind of article.  People have done CO-Op articles before, but they are usually interviews or debates.  This article will be more like a discussion.  Who knows if this format will work or if it will fall apart, but we decided that we wanted to try something new.

The topic of discussion today is pay-to-read Pokemon sites.  This phenomenon started a couple years ago when our buddy Adam of www.sixprizes.com started the Underground.  There are now pay-to-read articles on some other Pokemon sites as well.  While the Underground has been around for a while and has been considered a success, some still question whether it is a worthwhile service, and if the pay-to-read writers really give readers their best advice.  These and other topics shall be addressed, since this article does not lend itself to pictures I will put in pictures of Garden Gnomes, so let’s get it started.

Now we shall bring in James.  I think we shall start with your basic thoughts on pay-to –read sites.

Personally I don’t mind PTR sites or articles.  As someone who is out of College and has a busy life between work and family I do not have the time that I had before hand.  I find it nice that I can have access to people of higher knowledge, skill and strategic thinking to help keep me up to par.  Now on the flip side I can see how people can get a bit upset because not everyone has the funds to be able to do that.

                Agreed, what this topic is about on the surface is about equality and how economics affects that.  We currently live in a mostly free market capitalist system where if you have money you can do almost everything.  If you play Pokémon on a budget, you may not have the money to access all information that is out there.  As a librarian, I know that access to information and equality are big topics in the Internet Age.  These are not easy subjects to talk about, because there is no right answer, it is hard to say that poor people should be excluded from good information, though you don’t want to turn over the whole economic system just for a Pokemon site.  When we were talking about this article before we wrote it you mentioned that perhaps PTR sites violate the Spirit of the Game.  Can you elaborate on that?

Yes, I believe that this loosely falls under Learning.  Learning states that we are to help discuss what went on after a match to better prepare each other and to promote better play and community.  I believe in this as what I love about the Pokemon community is the enjoyment and respect that the majority provide.  As I stated in a comment on a previous article is that at a BattleRoads at the beginning of this season I actually coached a new person on how to beat my deck.  Now, I was having a terrible day and that match wasn’t any different so I gave up on the competitive aspect of the match and decided to help out someone new.  Now this is not expected to happen all the time.  But, if you stomp all over someone you should be able to help out and articles are a great way to share knowledge and strategy to the masses.  To withhold the knowledge from someone is again a loose strike against the Spirit of the Game.

                Agreed, but isn’t there a difference between helping someone at a tournament and giving them extra information outside of a tournament.  In my interpretation, Learning states that we should advise players after the match, although after is not a specific term, I don’t think they mean to say that we always have to provide all kinds of information at all times, just some helpful tips at appropriate times.  I don’t think that charging for articles really violates this principle.  I don’t think that the Spirit of the Game really talks about articles at all.  I say this, but the Spirit of the Game is open to interpretation, so there is no real right answer.  You have been reading these articles for a while, do you think that these articles really give you an advantage.  There is no doubt that they are better than the crap that I write, but do you think it makes that much of a difference?

                Oh, I agree, I am just regurgitating what I have heard.  To be honest all you are paying for is someone else’s time and effort in to testing different ideas.  I have nothing against it, and I did say it was a loose argument.  The articles that I have been reading are of decent quality but since I have been playing for a bit now the only thing I get out of them is the new decks and the strategy against/for them.  I see there are a lot of repeat articles out there and there are only so many times that you can talk about Eels before it gets over saturated.

                Yeah, I guess they are a good thing to read, but not necessarily required.  There is the argument that you will get some good lists for testing, but you will never get the best juicy secrets.  The case that supports that argument is the “Jwittz Controversy of 2011.”  For those of you who don’t know, Jwittz wrote an Underground article giving lists for the ten best decks to run before U.S. Nationals 2011.  None of those decks were Yanmega/Magnezone, which was quickly becoming a good deck.  Jwittz and his brother then went to Nationals and they both ran this deck.  After Nationals ended and Yanmega/Magnezone did well, people accused Jwittz of trying to bury information about a deck that he was going to run for his own benefit.  This is not a bad thing, and Jwittz did give us a good excuse, but the fact that people were paying Jwittz for Underground articles made them wonder what exactly they were paying for.  This started a long discussion of whether writers that are being paid to write will give you the best information that they have, or if they will just hide the good stuff and give you whatever they feel is safe for you to know.  Writers came to the defense of JWittz saying that writers have an obligation to their testing partners more than the readers.   Do you think that writers that are being paid to write will ever not hide their good stuff?

I don’t feel that is right to expect someone to divulge everything just because you pay them a small fee.  If they are working on a secret deck they do not need to release info about it.  People need to realize that you are cheaply paying for people’s time and what they test for.  No one can write an article and you will be able to win Nationals with it, so If people are so worried about not getting the best info then they need to actually take the time and do their own research.  I also don’t think that writers are owned by their readers.

                Could you tell Ed that last part.  Seriously though, then what are people really paying for with these sites then.  If the writers can keep their best stuff to themselves to give themselves an advantage, why pay for info from them?  Adam initially built up Underground as a way to get the best from testing without having to actually spend the time testing.  This wouldn’t work if people keep the best decks secret.  Are pay-to-read sites really worth it if you know you are getting someone’s second best stuff?

Don’t get me wrong.  I feel they are actually really good for people new to the game and wanting to start getting competitive and try to catch up.  I believe they also help give insight to younger players and I think that that alone helps move the game strategy along better.  Also, as I said before, for those of us who have busy lives but do enjoy competitive Pokemon, it keeps us in the loop and going.  I think it is wrong to expect a competitive player to give out all their info that they have accumulated over hours and hours of testing for just a couple of hundred dollars at most.  That is like your boss coming to you and expecting you to give 1000% while paying you less than minimum wage.  I feel the error comes from having writers state their opinion on good decks to run during a certain tournament.  If we would stop stating opinions there couldn’t be any issues.  If all that was provided was a deck list and average win rate with a certain amount of games against the multitude of decks it would be up to the reader to actually choose or maybe come up with a way around the majority of them.

                That would mean kind of redefining Pay-To-Read articles as not a be-all end-all to being good at the game, to just something to supplement the testing that you normally do.  This is fine, but people should know it is not something that covers all aspects of the game; you still need to do your own work at testing.  Some people may think that it is the best players sharing their best stuff, but that’s not what it has been so far.  Which is fine, just people should just know what it is.


Well, that’s all we have to talk about.  Goodnight James and everybody.  If you have some thoughts about pay to read sites, please leave them in the comments section.


Category: James H. vs Pikkdogs | Tags:
  • Anonymous

    I don’t think J-Wittz had the right to do that, with all due respect to him. If it were a free article or a video he put out, he would be entitled to, but trying to hide something completely from paying customers is cheating the customers out, and I don’t believe he had the right to do that. You should at least mention the deck even if you don’t give out every last detail, and it wasn’t right of him to cheat the paying Underground customers that way.

    • My only response to that that I have is that readers don’t own the author.  If they have a secret deck they are working on then they have a right to withhold it.  Now they do not however have the right to mislead their readers into picking certain decks.  That is an issue.  It could have been handled better.

      • Anonymous

        They are allowed to withhold a secret deck, but not a Tier One deck.

        • Could you please elaborate?

          • Anonymous

            If they have a rogue deck that they wish to play competitively (i.e. Ross Cawthorn) they are allowed to not talk about that in their articles by all means.

            If they want to play a Tier One deck, they should still talk about it. They don’t have to say “this is what I will be playing”, but they should say some of the basic stuff about it and mention it, which J-Wittz didn’t do.

          • Anonymous

            well the problem is, what seperates a rogue from a tier 1?  Yesterday’s rogues become tomorrow’s Tier 1’s.  So you can’t really seperate it that way. 

          • I do not believe yesterday’s Rogue decks will always become tomorrow’s Tier 1 decks, even though relatively recent decks like Gyarados, and The Truth became viable archetypes in following formats. Still, Yanmega/Magnezone at the time of Nationals 2011 was a Tier 1 deck.

            Yet, the general discussion was centered around decks like Reshiram (Emboar/Typhlosion), Stage 1 Rush, ZPS, Magneboar, and Donchamp. Now, it is important to note that the guys in The Top Cut and HeyTrainer (IIRC) were discussing Yanmega/Magnezone as a viable deck archetype for Nationals and Worlds. Still, at that time, those sites were not as popular as they are today.

            Now I understand that hiding lists and withholding information on a decklist is part of a competitive TCG; but  at the same time, if a deck is Tier 1 (or heaven forbid, Tier 0 :s), then it must and should be shared with the community. This is why I do not understand why P!P does not publish the winning decklists from all premiere events. A ‘secret deck’ is really only secret until it hits the tables at an event.

            Sites like Poke’Gym do take the time to create “What won  ‘Event X'” threads which is great, but I really feel that this is something that P!P should post on an official site. This way, the format is very clearly defined for all players who wish to participate in a modified tournament.

            One of the objections to this that I have heard a lot of people mention is that the number of ‘netdeckers’ will increase. Sure they will, and with how relatively simple this format is right now with very linear decks that would open up the field for a newcomer to the game to topic cut an event. However, testing will not go out the window as the better players  will be able to adapt to the metagame and develop new decks.

            Now I come to my stance on the issue of PTR sites. I do not support them in a game like Pokemon for a couple of reasons:

            1: This game in it’s current state does not have the prize support from which one could become a ‘Professional’ such as in a game like Poker, WOW TCG, or MTG. Thus, the exclusivity of a PTR site in my mind, does more to stifle the growth of a game up to the ‘Professional’ level.

            2: PTR sites will claim ownership to the information. When  that information is mainly on the general metagame, then it essentially and needlessly, turns a public park into private property.  For a game like Pokemon which saw a soft reboot with the HGSS-BLW rotation, this will restrict the game to relatively small number of people (insert Michel’s ‘Iron Law of Oligarchy reference).

            Sorry for the long post but I feel very strongly about this issue.

          • Anonymous

            If a deck was previously unheard of, it qualifies as Rogue.

          • The common definition for a rogue deck that I have seen is any deck that either counters a Tier 1 deck(s) or common strategies within a format. Not all unheard of decks are truly rogue.

        • how so? people who write ptrs don’t HAVE to release their lists. they have every right to withold it. the goal of writing is to please the author, not the audience. if it pleases the author to not share their list, i see no reason why they have to.

          • Anonymous

            They don’t have to share their list, but they should at least mention the deck, which J-Wittz didn’t do.

  • i honestly don’t mind propokemon ptrs just because i can get them free, but i’ve never been able to see a whole 6p ptr so i really have nothing i could say about that. i really actually like the quality of propokemon articles, especially brit pybas’.

  • Ed

    I have no problem with the PTR content.  If a site can pull it off, that’s great for them.  It probably means that they have consistently high quality content.  Otherwise, I assume people would quit paying and tell everyone else to steer clear.

    I think SixPrizes and ProPokemon are both great resources.  I think the writers get something for their time, and the readers get the benefit of spending less time testing themselves.  In fact, the most benefit probably comes to the player that doesn’t realistically have top quality testing partners/decks.

    Having said all that, it’s not something I’d pay for.  It has nothing to do with the content.  I just don’t generally pay for information.  I can’t see paying $15 per month to do better at battle roads.  I think I can piece together high quality info on my own, and it’ll take me plenty of time to do it.

    Okay, I gotta go.  I hope to write a report of how Zoroark did today, but it might have to wait until Monday or so.

    • Correct.  PTRs are not for everyone.

  • Anonymous

    PTRs are just fine. If people want to buy them, great.

    Since you brought it up, it was a much bigger deal than just Jwittz. Several UG authors knew that PrimeTime was one of the best deck but none of them said anything about it. That was a huge problem because they know (if not they are not the sharpest tool) they are a huge part in crafting the meta when new sets/ rotations occur.

    The other problem was that a couple of th UG writers almost bragged (or it came off as bragging) about having prior knowledge of the deck. Several said something like, “I’ve known about Yanmega Magnezone for 5 weeks now.”

    • If people are relying on UG authors to craft the metagame for them then we deserved what happened with PrimeTime.  That just means we are lazy and will follow what a few individuals will say.

      • At that time many people were relying on them for information especially if they were outside of the ‘elite’ testing circles. John Kettler did mentioned in a post on HT, that he was not actively trying to mislead anyone on the format but was told not to divulge information on the deck before it’s debut.

  • Random

    Garden gnomes? Well, at least it‘s not another article full of Noozles…

    • Ed

      When I saw ’em, I was thinkin’ TROLL the whole time.  Maybe that’s a reference to the nature of the article. :)

      • i didn’t think the article was trolling at all. i liked the gnomes (i’m a monster! rawr!) with the m16 and ak-47

        • Ed

          You ought to watch Gnomeo and Juliet.  :)

          • no. i’ve seen the trailers. no

          • Ed

            Well, I’ve seen the movie (most of it anyway).  It’s not as bad as you might think.  You’d probably have better choices to fill your time, but it probably wouldn’t be anywhere near the worst movie you’ve seen.

          • nothing could be worse than where the wild things are (the movie). still won’t watch gnomeo and juliet though.

          • Anonymous

            I haven’t seen “Where the Wild Things Are” (which by the way sounds like a porn), but it must be 100 times better than “Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist.”  I almost shot myself after seeing that movie. 

          • Ed

            Movies I’ve (somewhat) recently seen that were supposed to be good but almost resulted in suicide include.

            Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
            Oldboy (2003)

            Both came highly recommended, and the people that recommended them have been put on my list of “if they recommend a movie, don’t watch it” list.  It’s not so much that you (or anyone else) shouldn’t see these movies, but I now know who’s recommendations to negate.

            I started watching
            The Man from Nowhere (2010)
            and then was told that it was recommended by the guy that recommended Oldboy, and I had to stop the movie.  I may need some independent research before I start watching again.

          • Anonymous

            I always wanted to see the scott pilgrim one, I hoped it was good anyway. 

          • Ed

            You might like it, but don’t try to get me to watch it with you.

          •  The Man from Nowhere is one of my favorite movies but it is very graphic in terms of violence and subject matter (human trafficking and illegal organ harvesting). It does have some very well done fight scenes.

          • Ed

            Watch Oldboy and then tell me what you think.  I’ll then know whether to use your recommendation or negate it.  :)

            And to be fair, I only got about 3 min into Man From Nowhere, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch a whole movie that night, anyway.

  • @TheFlav:disqus :
     I watched a bit of Old Boy (2003) but I will not be finishing that movie. Revenge stories are fine but Old Boy is very twisted with a sick sense of humor. The Man from Nowhere is nothing like Old Boy. Actually, the Man from Nowhere is closer to Taken, except TMFN is better in my opinion. Cha Tae-sik isn’t out for revenge as much as he wants to save a little girl from getting killed, which he takes very seriously because his wife and unborn child were murdered. He just happens to end up killing a bunch of guys because that is what he was trained to do when he was a Special Forces operator for the South Koreans. Though if you want an action movie without the graphic subject matter, Ip Man/ Ip Man 2, and Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior and Ong Bak 2 might be better.

    • Ed

      Good info, Josiah.  This actually makes me want to watch TMFN.  Now, I just have to convince my wife that she should watch it.  :)