All about tiebreakers in the Pokémon TCG

Xander Pero
May 25, 2021

Everyone knows that standings are based on who has the most match points, but what happens when people have the same number of match points? There are a series of tiebreakers that determine who ends up above one another on final standings. Some are more known than others. In this article, I'll go over the different tiebreakers and how they are calculated.

Here's a breakdown of the tiebreaker hierarchy. Tiebreakers are considered from the top down; the first tiebreaker is used, then if the tie remains, the next tiebreaker is considered. This goes all the way down the list.

  1. Late Penalty
  2. Opponent's Resistance
  3. Opponent's Opponent's Resistance
  4. Head-to-Head
  5. Random

The zeroth tiebreaker, as I like to call it, is the Late Penalty. If someone shows up late, then that person will appear below all others with the same number of match points.

Opponent's Resistance and Opponent's Opponent's Resistance are the two most known tiebreakers, and for good reason: they always appear in final standings. These numbers are calculated by summing your opponent's score and then taking the average of all opponents. These rules dictate the calculation of resistance:

  • A win is counted as 1, a tie is counted as 0.5, and a loss 0.
  • The resistance for a single opponent is determined as the sum of these values divided by the number of rounds. For example, if an opponent finished 3–1–1, their contribution is (1 + 1 + 1 + 0.5 + 0) / 5 = 70%.
  • An opponent cannot contribute less than 25%. If the calculated score is less than 25%, it defaults to 25%.
  • Byes are not factored into any calculation. If you received a Bye in Round 1 of a three-round tournament, your Opponent's Resistance would be calculated from your Round 2 and Round 3 opponents. In another scenario, if one of your opponents received a Bye and finished 2-1, then they would contribute a 1-1 score (50%) to your Opponent's Resistance.
  • The resistance score of a dropped opponent is determined by their final record. If they dropped at 1-2, their resistance score is 33.3%.
  • Your overall Opponent's Resistance is the average of these scores. If the resistance scores are 35%, 50%, 60%, and 75%, then your Opponent's Resistance is 55%.

"Opponent's Opponent's Resistance" works in a similar manner but takes the average of your opponent's "Opponent's Resistance"—exactly as the name suggests.

In large tournaments, tiebreakers usually never get past these two. And in most cases, Opponent's Resistance is enough. That's because there are many more possible scores with each additional round. Think of all the possible records with nine rounds, then compare that with only three rounds. Now factor in nine opponents vs. three opponents, and you'll see how drastically precise nine rounds are in comparison with three rounds.

The next tiebreaker is called Head-to-Head. This comes into effect when two players are tied and have played each other in the tournament. The winner from that match is placed above the loser. If these players tied, then Head-to-Head wouldn't come into effect.

The final tiebreaker is a random choice. If all other tiebreakers have been exhausted and the tie remains, the order is resolved randomly.

How this applies to Team Challenge

Now that I've broken down the different tiebreakers, you might be wondering: "why does this matter if you said that Opponent's Resistance is usually enough?" Well, it's usually enough for large tournaments. Team Challenge tournaments very rarely have more than three rounds, simply because there are so many stores to play for. And with so many tournaments happening, at least some are bound to reach the end of the tiebreaker hierarchy.

One such combination that reaches the random tiebreaker is a four-player tournament with three rounds and these final records: 2–1, 2–1, 2–1, 0–3. In this case, three players are tied for first place with six match points each. All their Opponent's Resistance scores are the same because they all have 2–1, 2–1, and a 0–3 as the final scores of their opponents. Likewise, their Opponent's Opponent's Resistance scores are also the same. Head-to-Head doesn’t matter, either, because there are more than two players tied. Therefore, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd are all determined randomly.

This is one example; keep in mind there are more that invoke Head-to-Head or even random determination.


Hopefully this article cleared up any confusion you might've had regarding tiebreakers in the Pokémon TCG. Keep these in mind when you see the results of your next tournament!