Four Things I Learned from the Klaczynski Open

ash ketchum sleeping asleep tired
Me, sick and bedridden.

Happy September everyone! I hope you were able to close out August on a better note than I. As of writing this I’ve been sick with an upper respiratory infection over the Labor Day weekend.

As bad as this may sound I was at least provided the opportunity to watch all the Swiss and Top Cut rounds of the Klaczynski Open, Pokémon’s first large-scale unsanctioned event with the winner getting a case of Plasma Blast, a nice trophy, the 15th anniversary Pikachu set, a Top Cut playmat, and an invitation to the Top Cut Invitational where they will get the rights to battle the best of the best from all over the world.

This event featured new stylings that mirrored what we can expect to see in the future of our sanctioned events including best-of-three matches in Swiss with a 75 minute time limit and a top cut of eight with 90 minute best-of-three quarter and semi-finals.

The tournament organizer, Jason Klaczynski, decided to deviate from the norm and went with an untimed best-of-five to determine the winner. I for one love watching and playing Pokémon, but watching Ross Cawthon (notoriously the game’s slowest player) play in a finals match that took three and a half hours was excruciating. There was even a bathroom break allotted before finishing the final round.

ross cawthon meme untimed finals

That being said, those that stuck around till the end of the match were given a gem of a game with Lex D’Andrea, a 13 year old (no, that is not a typo) from New Jersey, taking the event undefeated. Lex played Darkrai/Garbodor and Ross played a surprisingly standard Blastoise list.

I will not go into much detail about the event because I know that The Top Cut will do a fabulous job of putting all the matches I watched on YouTube with stellar commentary from Kyle “Pooka” Sucevich.

One thing that I do want to reflect upon is what I learned from watching upwards of 12 hours of Pokémon this weekend. This event gave the viewer a unique opportunity to scout out what will be popular going into League Championships and Regionals at the end of October.

1. Genesect is not as bad as we thought it was.

genesect-ex-plasma-blast-plb-97-full-art
Proved it’s metal. Proved its mettle.

Ever since the Megalo Cannon translations were released people were crazy about this combo. The sheer power of Genesect EX when paired with G Booster was insane. Hitting for 200 damage for the cost of 2 Grass and a Colorless Energy was only rivaled by its inherent synergy with Virizion EX, a card that prevents all Status Conditions on Pokémon with Grass Energy attached. In theory, this would be the best deck in the whole format.

Move forward to Plasma Blast’s release and players are soon discovering that Genesect is not as good as the hype had lead us to believe. Sure, doing 200 damage is amazing, but as soon as your opponent gets rid of your Genesect you are left with not much to work with. A Genesect player has to put so many resources into setting up a Genesect EX that when it gets knocked out the number of turns it takes to set up another attacker is not cost-effective.

Against a deck like Darkrai or Plasma, where they were able to stream attackers, Genesect is not able to keep up. After realizing that the formula Genesect EX + Virizion EX = BDIF was no longer the case many players began to give up on the deck.

But not Henry Prior. I don’t think he was the first one to rationalize that Genesect needed a secondary attacker or that Drifblim could be that partner, but he was the first person I’ve seen with the gusto to run a heavy 4-4 Drifblim line with an equal mix of Drifblim DRX and Drifblim PLB. He was also able to make a consistent list that could set up under the pressure of Darkrai and Blastoise.

As a 6P Underground member I have access to a deck list similar to the one that Henry ran at the Klaczynski Open and I don’t think he would want me sharing it here. Needless to say, Henry’s list is really good, but can still be improved. Henry’s deck ran really well against Plasma and Blastoise, but lost in both Swiss and the top cut to the eventual winner Lex running Darkrai/Garbodor.

The deck may have benefited from a harder Darkrai counter, like Landorus EX or Terrakion BCR, but this would mean sacrificing the consistency that made this deck so potent. As this season progresses it will be interesting to see how this deck develops, especially if Energy Switch is re-released in Legendary Treasures.

2. Darkrai/Garbodor is the deck to beat.

trubbish-dragons-exalted-drx-53
Not so trashy after all.

Darkrai was one of the only top tier decks to suffer with the rotation to NXD-on and the release of Plasma Blast. With the rotation of Energy Switch, the release of Virizion EX to weaken the all powerful Hypnotoxic Laser, and the release of Silver Bangle, Darkrai seemed to be cut off at the knees. Many began to wonder if this would be the first time since the sinister Pokémon was released that it would not be a featured deck at the top tables of big tournaments.

While it cannot be argued that Darkrai lost a lot of its power, the innovation of players prevailed as Darkrai proved itself to be a contender at the Klaczynski Open. The secret to Darkrai’s success was that it had found a new partner to help. We’ve always known that Sableye was Darkrai’s best friend, but, with the release of Float Stone, some crafty players began to run Garbodor with Darkrai.

What sounds like a bad idea (Why would you want to turn off Darkrai’s Dark Cloak Ability?) really begins to make sense upon reflection. Garbodor slows down the pace of play immensely to where you can truly abuse Sableye’s Junk Hunt and set up a Darkrai without the need of Energy Switch. The goal changes from setting up that T2 Darkrai to disrupting your opponent with Enhanced Hammers, Lasers, and Catchers until you have the board position to wipe them clean.

This changes the Blastoise matchup (depending on how many Tool Scrappers the Blastoise player runs) from unfavorable to a near auto-win, and tilts both the Plasma and Genesect matchups more in your favor.

I think that Darkrai/Garbodor is much more skill-intensive than a standard build of Darkrai as you have to know when to attack, when to Junk Hunt, and when to activate Garbotoxin. One thing that the Klaczynski Open showed us is that this deck isn’t going anywhere and is sure to be with us for quite some time. The inclusion of more Tool Scrapper in decks is sure to help in this matchup, but it’s no guarantee to victory. There is one game in which Lex D’Andrea was playing against a Blastoise deck that played 3 Tool Scrappers and still came out on top.

3. Blastoise is still scary.

blastoise wartortle squirtle anime
SO SCARY!!!

The other slightly surprising tidbit that was gained from watching the KO was that Blastoise/Keldeo/Black Kyurem can still go the distance. This deck was known to be good after Worlds (obligatory shout out to 3rd place finisher and teammate James Good) and going into the next season, but some argued that Virizion/Genesect would just run through this deck. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Granted, if the Virizion/Genesect does KO the only Blastoise on the field and there are no means to get another one out, the Blastoise player can be hindered immensely.

The one thing that Blastoise does better than any deck is rapidly power up heavy hitters. The focus in recent format has been using Black Kyurem EX to OHKO EX attackers and Virizion/Genesect mainly runs these to get the job done. I’d say that the bigger concern would be Darkrai/Garbodor as it can take away the Abilities that make Blastoise so powerful.

Blastoise made quite a showing at the KO due to the tournament’s rule of allowing any type of Tropical Beach (including the promo found in Ross Cawthon’s World Champion deck that Ross ended up including in his own deck) and the best-of-three format.

While Ross ran a very simple list we did get to see one other list in The Top Cut’s coverage of the event. In Round 5, Ross Cawthon got paired against the man that handed him one of his few losses in the 2011 World Championship, Josh “J-Wittz” Wittenkeller. Josh ran a much more “fancy” version of the deck including the consistency tech of Jirachi EX paired with the almost absurd ACE SPEC choice of Scoop Up Cyclone.

Jirachi EX, with his Stellar Guidance Ability allows you to search for a Supporter when you play Jirachi from you hand to your bench. This card played a big role in the final game when J-Wittz started with 2 Ultra Ball and no Supporter. Sadly, Jirachi EX was prized (such is the nature of the game), but this card did give Josh an out to a zero-Supporter hand.

Scoop Up Cyclone should not be that outrageous to not warrant play as it gives the Blastoise player much more in the way of outs and synergy in pairing Blastoise’s Deluge and Keldeo’s Rush In Abilities. In the words of Kyle Sucevich, “It’s like playing Max Potion except you get to heal off all the damage and keep all the Energy.”

One other thing to note is the heavy lines of Tropical Beach used in the Blastoise decks of this tournament. There was not a single Blastoise player that I saw that used less than three Tropical Beach in their deck. While the more relaxed rules on the Tropical Beach meant an increase in play I would not consider playing Blastoise without the inclusion of 3 Tropical Beach.

I do realize the absurdity of this statement (I myself only have 2 of these $120+ cards), but I believe it to be true. You need that added draw power turn one and no other card does it quite like Beach. Darkrai has Sableye and Blastoise has Tropical Beach.

4. Seniors can hang with (and beat) Masters.

mr.-fuji-fossil-fo-58
#seniorsmasterrace

If there is one thing that this tournament proved more than anything else it is that Seniors are on level with Masters in this game. There were two age divisions, one for 14 and under, and one for 15 and older. In the older age division there was a total of 129 players and out of these players 5 were under the age of 15.

These players went against recommendations and participated in the older age division in a class of competition that rivaled that of a state or regional level tournament. Out of these 5 “Seniors” four made it into the Top 8, and one, Lex D’Andrea, won the whole tournament.

After facing these facts you have to humble yourself (if you are a Master) and come to the conclusion that Seniors are just as good as the Masters. This has been a long-time coming as the trend of young Masters bucking the stigma of there being a “learning curve” in the transition to the highest level has been evident in the past few years as those who have recently aged up have gone on to win Worlds (Igor Costa and David Cohen) two of the last three years.

Indeed, all we have to do is look at the Japanese age divisions that use 13 years of age as the line of demarcation. They obviously realize the potential of these younger players and have acted as they see fit. I do not want to model the Japanese in this regard, but I would like for some actions to be taken. I think it is time that we get rid of the idea that Seniors are not an accurate representation of the game state when analyzing tournament results and that they should get more than the next-to-none coverage that they have now.

Conclusion

I really enjoyed watching the Klaczynski Open and would like to thank The Top Cut (especially Pooka) for their great coverage of the event and Jason Klaczynski for facilitating this landmark in our game’s history. I hope that this will be incentive for the game to grow in subsequent years into something that rivals Magic: The Gathering, but never loses its sense of fair play and fun.

I would like to thank Alex Hill and Josh Wittenkeller for their contributions to this article in the fact checking process. The Klaczynski Open has replaced what would normally be a downtime in the Pokémon season and has reinvigorated me and I’m sure many of you who have read this article.

//.

  • Arjun Khadse

    I have a feeling all the seniors in the world will like this article, but why not? Seniors kept getting put down as a “lower class”, but Lex, the Croxtons, and Xander proved them wrong. They should be happy.
    Great article overall! The version of Virizion/Genesect that Henry used was seen in Japan earlier.
    This is going to be one interesting season.

  • Blah

    Pretty much everything that Arjun said. Seniors should be treated just like the rest of the community, and they have clearly proven that they can be just as good as everyone else. Great article, I liked the ideas that you have that came out of the KO.

    I would like to note one thing though; I’m not sure I agree that Darkrai/Garbodor is “the deck” to beat. It has a lot of issues with time with the current rules (whereas it has a much nicer 75 minutes per round at the KO) and it was an exceptionally good metagame call at the KO where people weren’t fully expecting it and didn’t have optimal lists to beat it.

    I think my point here is to not jump to conclusions; it was only one tournament, and the format of the tournament itself was somewhat different. It surely is a powerful deck that will see play, but I feel like crowning it as the main deck to beat might be overhyping it right now.

  • Hunter Mason

    Dat meme.

  • John Orgel

    Blah: Where I would normally agree with you that it is too early to judge a deck as being the BDIF or deck to beat from one tournament (and for all intensive purposes, I could totally misjudge the strength of this deck), I think Lex showed us the true power of this deck.

    Where many versions sought to disrupt their opponent until the win condition was just a formality (looking at Team Hovercats’ Deck) the emphasis was more on Sableye. Lex was one of the first I’ve seen to blend the two halves to make a more attacking strategy that I don’t think will be effected by time. Will just have to wait and find out.

  • Caleb Shuler

    10/10 on the Ross pic

  • John Orgel

    I wish I could take credit…

  • Blah

    That’s a fine point, the offensive version may very well not have an issue with time like the Sableye oriented version does. I do still think that time is a major issue for the deck, but it’s possible it could fight through it given fast plays and various other factors. I suppose Fall Regionals will let us know (I think the main point I’m getting at, which is more directed at the community than you, is to not assume something is BDIF instantly without testing it for yourself. Decks to well at single tournaments all the time, I don’t think the hype for this should be greater than any of those other decks). I don’t want to end on a negative note; I enjoyed the article and agreed with many of your points (I don’t want to be that guy who just hates on everything the article has to offer because I disagree with something >_<)

  • Alex Snape

    Nice article, although the only thing I disagree with is Darkrai/Garbodor being the deck to beat. It is amazing in Top Cut, but with only 50 minute swiss, it will struggle.

  • Ziggmiceter

    Seniors coming to the comments section like I expected. A senior winning and doing well at the KO is great, and certain Seniors are better than masters. That doesn’t mean they aren’t still a much lesser division than Masters.

  • hypnotoxic

    Certainly with the 50 minute best of 3 format Darkrai/Garbodor will have issues with time, but I believe people are going to have to learn to play (and shuffle) faster in general. To completely rule out a slower deck is probably smart, but people will adjust their playing speed to the best of their ability. Lets just hope that’s enough, because a game without control decks and setup decks is going to be very stale.

    With Darkrai variants winning worlds and the Klaczynski Open (even though the Garbodor version is quite different), you can’t deny it is a force to be reckoned with. It will be interesting to see how many people tech up for this deck. With the heavy usage of tools in most decks, it would not surprise me if 3 scrappers become prevalent, especially in decks that do not utilize Skyla.

  • Samuel Moro Jacques

    Awesome article!
    #seniorsmasterrace

  • Joshua Myles Lim

    Congratz to Lex. He’s proven that Seniors are about as good as the masters. I hope Pooka will be making an invitational for seniors

  • baby_mario

    No.

    He proved that HE was about as good as Masters on that day. I dunno how it proves anything about the Seniors who weren’t there or did badly.

  • Jon Walquist

    Yeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaahhhhh! Seniors! Good job all five of you.

  • Player1

    Everyone and their mother is hopping on the Darkrai/Garb train. Buyers for these cards are all over the place and it’s a hilarious sight. It was a nice surprise for this tournament, even though yes some did casually run this deck here and there before. Agree with the comments above me discussing time, damage output, tool scrapper, etc. Not the deck to beat, not BDIF, just a nice deck to work on and see how it handles later. I keep forgetting how fast people jump ship from one deck to another over and over throughout the year. Kind of sad. Solid meme.

  • John Orgel

    I agree, one individual’s actions cannot account for a whole group. But it was not just Lex that did well that day. This new crop of players from Seniors and new Masters has really made quite an impression on me. I really bought into the whole “Seniors are far worse than Masters” mantra and when I was matched up against a younger player in a tournament I would be anticipating a win. I can no longer do that with the confidence that ignorance allows.

  • owilson2

    pfft

  • Lucas Rodolfo De Oliveira Rosa

    Actually no. HE proved that he was BETTER than Masters on that day – he won the whole thing UNDEFEATED.

    Don’t forget that 5 Seniors took that path, 4 managed to get above the cut. Seniors really proved they are as good as Masters.

  • Kpiplup

    Four Seniors out of the 2361 that were registered in the OP system last year showed that they made good deck choices and played well.

    This shows that SOME Seniors are capable of success at a Masters level. This proves NOTHING about the division itself.

  • J.j. Koosh

    The problem is that “Seniors Division” is such a broad mix. From the 10 to 15 year range there is really such a big change for most people, and while the top (usually older) seniors, are definitely very good the Division is brought down by the fact that their competition includes allot of those younger, less experienced and often with less access to the best cards. So the results of the division are skewed.

  • baby_mario

    Again . . . THOSE Seniors showed they were as good (or better) as Masters on that day.

    I dunno how you make make a logical jump to apply it to all Seniors. You can’t take one person’s achievement and spread the credit around hundreds of people who weren’t even there. It makes no sense.

  • Joshua Myles Lim

    look how lex plays. He plays it offensively. don’t be a hater of the deck lol

  • Chris C

    Some people are putting 4 Tropical Beach in Blastoise decks. I thought it was overkill-what do you think?

  • Joshua Twilley

    i think part of the reason that the senior age devision (not all) is intimidated by master devision is because the “age line” implies that your age determines your skill level. i have only one friend i play pokemon with on a regular basis with that is my age. the others are all 10 years older then me, and i am 15. i am not saying i am better then other players my age (because i’m not) but it does make me work harder to keep up. it’s like my band teacher says “if the music is not a challenge to play. you make no progress” so i encourage other players my age to play often with people older then you so that you can excel!

  • John Orgel

    I really wish it was… 4 may be more than is necessary (there may be a drop off in stadium usage as laser/virbank comes out of vogue) but a minimum of 3 is needed to ensure a fast set up. Getting beach t1 ensure a much more explosive t2 and is one of the only ways that Blastoise can keep up with the speed of other decks.