The Format is not Flat!: Playing VGC 2016 Events using Normal Rules

Hi everyone. This is just a small article regarding playing VGC 2016 at untethered events. Aside from Nationals, all Australian VGC events are ‘untethered’ – that is our Battle Boxes have not been locked by software and battles are through PSS in-game and not the Live Tournament interface. While this has not been a major issue in the past as the rules of previous VGC seasons have closely conformed to the Flat Battle Ruleset available in-game, the addition of ‘restricted’ legendaries in VGC 2016 has meant that this is no longer an option for untethered tournaments.

Feedback from The Pokémon Company International (TPCi) has indicated it is unlikely a patch will be deployed to change this and therefore future untethered events will be played using the Normal Battle available in-game through the PSS. While there are some similarities between the Normal and Flat/VGC 2016 rulesets, there are also some fundamental differences that affect how VGC 2016 can be played. The purpose of this article is to highlight these differences, and what exactly they mean for players competing in untethered events.

Note: Unless I specifically indicate otherwise, assume Flat Battle Rules = VGC 2016 Rules

Comparison of Rules

Ruleset Normal Battles Flat Battles VGC 2016
Pokémon Level All Pokémon set to Lv50 Pokémon above Lv50 set to Lv50 Pokémon above Lv50 set to Lv50
Pokémon Selected 2 or More 4 Pokémon 4 Pokémon
Item Clause No Yes Yes
Species Clause No Yes Yes
Time Limits Battles: 60 Min

Move Selection: 90s

Battles: 60 Min

Move Selection: 90s

Battles: 15 Min
Move Selection: 45s
Team Preview Yes – 100s Yes – 100s Yes – 90s
Pokémon Level

In Normal Battles, ALL Pokémon are set to Lv50, unlike Flat Battles where only Pokémon above Lv50 are set to Lv50. What this means from a battling standpoint is that strategies that rely on under-levelled Pokémon (Lv49 Primals, FEAR, Lv1 Aron etc.) cannot be used. Considering how uncommon these strategies are, it is unlikely that this will have an impact on the majority of players.

Pokémon Selected

Another major difference is between Normal & Flat Battles is how many Pokémon can be selected. In Flat Battles, you MUST bring 4 Pokémon (the game itself will not start the battle until 4 Pokémon are selected). In Normal Battles, you need only select a minimum of two Pokémon and can select up to 6 Pokémon.

Official VGC rules state that players must select 4 Pokémon to battle with. While official guidelines have yet to be published, statements from TPCi have indicated that any player who does not bring 4 Pokémon to a match will be punished with a game loss.

Source: Nugget Bridge, Post 173

Item Clause

The Item Clause has been a staple of nearly all official formats and simply states, “no two Pokémon can hold the same item.” While Item Clause is an official rule for VGC 2016 it is not automatically enforced by the game software for Normal Battles. This does leave players the option of abusing the lack of enforcement and breaking Item Clause, since it is not always possible to identify what Item a Pokémon is holding.

While not directly a part of Item Clause do note that the ‘Soul Dew” item is banned under the VGC 2016 rules. As with Item Clause however, Normal Battles will not restrict Pokémon from holding Soul Dew.

Species Clause

Like the Item Clause, the Species clause has been a mainstay of nearly all official formats and simply states “A player cannot have two Pokémon with the same National Pokédex number on a team.” Again, this is not enforced by the game software for Normal Battles though Team Preview will easily allow for a player to identify if their opponent is breaking the Species Clause.

Due to the lack of in-game options available to enforce the Item and Species clauses for untethered events, players are encouraged by TPCi to remain vigilant for possible rule breaches while playing. If you have proof that your opponent has violated the rules do not hesitate to call over a judge.

Time Limits

The time limits for Normal & Flat Battles are identical with 60-minute matches and 90 seconds for move selection. This does differ from the official VGC Rules however, which states time limits of 15-minute battles and 45 seconds for move selection. At past untethered events, judges have manually enforced the 15min time limit for battle and this is unlikely to change in the future. The 45-second move selection limit is less likely to be enforced, however it is good etiquette (not to mention good practice) to try and keep to the 45-second limit. Also, events with multiple judges may assign a judge to observe each match and enforce the 45-second timer. In such cases, if there have been multiple breaches of the 45sec limit, the judge will normally award a game loss to the offending player.

Team Preview

All modes have Team Preview, the only difference being that Team Preview for Normal and Flat Battles lasts for 100 seconds, while for VGC2016 it only lasts for 90 seconds.

The consequences for timing out during Team Preview for Normal battles can lead to a game loss being awarded to players. In the past if a player timed out in team preview for Flat Battles, the game automatically picked the players first 4 Pokémon (by team order) and sent them into battle. For Normal Battles however, the mechanics is slightly different:

Condition Result Likely Consequence
Time Out: No Pokémon Selected Only the first 2 Pokémon (by team order) are selected Game Loss
Time Out: 1 Pokémon Selected Selected Pokémon will be brought plus the first available Pokémon by team order (2 Pokémon Total) Game Loss
Time Out: 2 or more Pokémon Selected All selected Pokémon will be brought in the order they were selected. Game Loss (If the number of Pokémon selected does not equal 4).


As you can see, the consequences of timing out during Team Preview can be punishing. As a result make sure you take extra care when selecting your team and always be aware of the timer.

That concludes this article on the differences between Normal & Flat Battles and how it can affect you when playing at VGC2016 events. For more information on the actual VGC2016 rules you can visit Alternatively you can check out our article on the new rules here, which also contains some useful links for team building and getting started in the new format.

About RoeySK

VGC15 Nationals Champion, 2x Worlds Competitor & novice TCG player. Hails from a coastal town on the SW Victorian Coast. Process Engineer & Lifeguard in real life, ardent supporter of round-ball football and strong believer that Han shot first.


  1. Worth noting that the official rule document says the time limit for untethered events is 20 min not 15 min, differing from the time limit for tethered events. On Nugget Bridge, AlphaZealot explicitly mentioned that this was increased “in order to replicate the expected lower limit of potential turns”.

    • Thanks dude, I’ll pass this onto the author for a potential revision to the article. Good one picking that up.

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